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Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things, 8/20/07: Bay Area Flavor

| Mon Aug. 20, 2007 11:25 PM EDT

Ah, San Francisco: cold, dirty, expensive, and impossible to get around in. But, our mayor is so dreamy! Take that, Boise! Also, lately, lots of good music is coming from all sides of the Bay, and some of it lands in my always-worldly Top Ten this week. I know you don't need them because of the fog, but why not put your stunna shades on anyway, it's for fun.

Talib Kweli10. Talib Kweli feat. Justin Timberlake – "The Nature" (from Eardrum, out 8/21 on Warner)
(grab an mp3 from The Scramble Network)
Kweli may not have qualified for MTV's recent "Top 10 Hottest MCs" list (that controversially ranked Lil Wayne #1, and Kanye ahead of Fiddy!) but he's a towering hip-hop figure nonetheless. This mellow, soulful track gets a little "Lite FM" when Trousersnake pops in for the chorus, but Kweli's flow is perfectly calibrated, intense without shouting. Plus when the beat kicks back in at 4:23, wow.

Tarentel9. Tarentel – "Everybody F***s with Somebody" (from Ghetto Beats on the Surface of the Sun, CD version just released on Temporary Residence)
(stream at Aquarius Records' site)
Boy, "Sunshine" could have been such an awesome movie, but it had to turn into "Zombies in Space" instead. Dammit! Anyway, San Francisco avant-rockers Tarentel aren't fooling around with their title, and unlike some of their previous instrumental work, this isn't dreamy: it's dense, skittering, Krautrock-y, like Battles only less concerned with "songs," if you can believe it.

Foreign Born8. Foreign Born – "Union Hall" (from On the Wing Now, out 8/21 on Dim Mak)
(grab an mp3 at BiBaBiDi)
This band originally came from San Francisco, although they're in LA now, so I suppose I shouldn't count them. Either way, the four-piece gain infinite points by prominently featuring an autoharp here. I love me some autoharp. The track starts off restrained, in Jesus & Mary Chain territory, and then erupts into a Band of Horses-style chorus. Check them out at a free show at the Echo in LA tomorrow night.

Nyles Lannon7. Nyles Lannon – "Slipping" (from Pressure, out 9/18 on Badman)
(listen on his MySpace)
Hey, just a few weeks ago I featured Bay Area band Film School in the top ten; now here's a—chuckle!—Film School graduate. Har!!! Ahem... he used to be in Film School. Is this thing on? Sheesh. Well, where his former bandmates have moved into a swirlier, almost goth-y direction, Lannon's reference points are more like The White Album, psychedelic and complex.

Modeselektor6. Modeselektor feat. Thom Yorke – "The White Flash" (From Happy Birthday out in September on BPitch Control)
(mp3 via Beep Beep Beep)
On Yorke's solo LP, the electronic backing tracks seemed resistant to easy grooves—they were hypnotic, but you couldn't really dance to them. Here, Berlin duo Modeselector retains the experimental vibe, but adds a solid, if dubby, beat. Yorke's vocals devolve into a chant of "you have all the time in the world," and even though this track clocks in at 7:30, you kind of wish you did.

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Mother Jones Contributing Writer Julia Whitty Speaks in SF Tomorrow

| Mon Aug. 20, 2007 9:07 PM EDT

Bay Area residents: don't miss author, filmmaker, and Mother Jones contributing writer and blogger Julia Whitty ("Gone," May/June 2007). She'll be speaking tomorrow at the California Academy of Sciences about "wonders and warnings from the oceans." Time: 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Location: 875 Howard Street, between 4th and 5th Streets. Admission price: $8 for non-members.

FTC Continues Whole Foods Fight

| Mon Aug. 20, 2007 8:00 PM EDT

As we blogged last week, the Federal Trade Commission's injunction to stop Whole Foods' $565 million merger with fomer competitor, Wild Oats, was denied. Whole Foods was set to merge with Wild Oats as early as today. Not so fast. Friday, the FTC appealed the denial and requested that the judge delay the merger.

Whole Foods is "confident that the merger will be allowed to proceed" and I'm sure the organic grocer feels pretty good about stock prices too. Whole Foods shares jumped 7% after the appeal was announced.

Add 'Probable Flooding' to the List of Dangers in Iraq

| Mon Aug. 20, 2007 5:34 PM EDT

Scariest headline of the day comes from Army Times: "Iraqi Dam Expected To Burst, Engulf City, Air Base Any Day."

And they're completely serious. You can read the entire article at the link (it's about Mosul), but here's just one of the many quotes.

Almost every conversation in Mosul — over card games, coffee or even out on patrol — leads to speculation about when the dam will finally go.

Jeepers.

Mother Jones Contributing Writer Julia Whitty Speaks in SF Tomorrow

| Mon Aug. 20, 2007 5:31 PM EDT

Bay Area residents: don't miss author, filmmaker, and Mother Jones contributing writer and blogger Julia Whitty ("Gone," May/June 2007). She'll be speaking tomorrow at the California Academy of Sciences about "wonders and warnings from the oceans." Time: 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Location: 875 Howard Street, between 4th and 5th Streets. Admission price: $8 for non-members.

See you there!

Merv Griffin Was Gay and Everyone Is Freaking Out

| Mon Aug. 20, 2007 3:49 PM EDT

Merv and his horse
In another depressing sign of just how uncomfortable America continues to be with all things queer, the Hollywood Reporter's "outing" of host and producer Merv Griffin is sending shock waves through the industry and the press. On Friday, the Reporter printed a story in its online edition headlined "Merv Griffin Died a Closeted Homosexual." Then, apparently buckling under pressure from "Hollywood titans, advertisers, and lawyers" (reports Michelangelo Signorile on his blog), they pulled the story, which has since reappeared under the new title, "Griffin Never Revealed Man Behind the Curtain," with significant revisions. (See the blog Queer Two Cents for an outline of the revisions, Canada.com for a reprint of the original story, and Towleroad for a timeline of the events). Reuters picked up the story and just as quickly dropped it, saying it "did not meet our standards for news." (See this page, where the Reuters story apparently was at one point.)

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Chamillionaire, Cultural Pundit

| Mon Aug. 20, 2007 3:30 PM EDT

If you're interested in a hip-hop take on faux news, global warming, and America's culture wars, check out Chamillionaire's "Evening News." It's pretty excellent. Chamillionaire, who's always had a lot to say about swearing in rap music (see below), announced earlier this month that he's going cuss-free.

What's Your Walkability Score?

| Mon Aug. 20, 2007 2:10 PM EDT

Bragging about your neighborhood's through-the-roof property values is, like, SO late nineties. These days, one-upmanship is all about establishing eco cred. Luckily, there's a handy new website, Walk Score: Just enter in your address, and the site instantly calculates your home's "walkability score," on a scale of 1-100. The principle is pretty simple: If you can walk to the supermarket and your favorite restaurant, for example, you can expect a high rating. If you have to get in your car just to get the newspaper at the end of your driveway, though, don't expect any walkability bragging rights.

But is walkability always a good thing? Crosscut Seattle's David Brewster isn't so sure:

And does walkability work? Sightline cites research showing that residents of compact areas (homes mixed with stores and services, and a street network designed for walking and strolling) are less likely to be obese, suffer fewer chronic illnesses, and may breathe cleaner air than suburbanites by being farther from the "pollution tunnel" of busy highways.
Such claims are probably true in a broad sense, but there are interesting complexities in the new science of walkability. All those nifty shops in walkable neighborhoods, for instance, are signs of gentrification, which normally drives density downward by replacing working class families with wealthier singles. Transit stations normally do not help bring more density, since many are surrounded by parking lots or have such high property values that neighborhood services can't pay the rent. Another paradox is that really charming walkable neighborhoods soon line up the pitchforks to oppose increased residential densification in any form.


Dr. Dre Suing Label; Madonna Leaving Hers?

| Mon Aug. 20, 2007 1:52 PM EDT

Dre and Madge
Two stories today prove just how relevant (and helpful!) record labels are nowadays. First, Dr. Dre is suing the defunct Death Row Records over rights and royalties from his 1992 album The Chronic. Dre handed over rights to the seminal album in exchange for royalty payments, which he now alleges he has never received. Death Row filed for bankruptcy in 2006, raising the shameful possibility that one of the greatest albums of all time will be auctioned off to pay for, I dunno, an outstanding debt to OfficeMax.

In other "record labels are awesome" news, NME is reporting that Madonna is considering leaving Warner Music, where she's been under contract since 1982. Where does she want to go? Another label, perhaps? Nope: Live Nation, the venue owner and event producers. Perhaps she's realized that today's music business model is all about live performances, for someone like Madonna especially: her eight Wembley shows in 2006 grossed over 20 million dollars.

FOX News Fundraises for Giuliani

| Mon Aug. 20, 2007 12:38 PM EDT

Here's your fair and balanced news story of the day. According to the Daily News, Sean Hannity recently introduced Rudy Giuliani at a closed-door, $250-per-head fundraiser in New York City, committing what many at real journalism outfits would call an unpardonable ethical sin. Even for FOX, this blurs the lines between its standard journalism-cum-advocacy and outright advocacy. The defense from FOX's senior vice-president of programming? "Sean is not a journalist — Sean is a conservative commentator." That's true, he's not a journalist. In fact, FOX News talking heads are proudly anti-journalist.

The Hannity-Giuliani nexis should surprise no one. Hannity's crush on Rudy is well-documented.

The Hotline, a political journal, has noted that through July 15, Giuliani had enjoyed 115 minutes of free face time on Fox - more than half of that on "Hannity & Colmes." His airtime on Fox was 25% higher than any other Republican candidate, data show.

Fair. And. Balanced. No doubt about it. If I was Mitt Romney, I'd be pissed.