Log in

No account? Create an account

Why Can't We Be Friends?

Why Can't We Be Friends?

How the Yahoo-Google breakup is so high school


By Jessica Fromm
Judging from many Silicon Valley bloggers’ reactions to last week’s Google/Yahoo drama, you’d think they were watching an episode of The Hills rather than reporting on a huge corporate business deal gone sour.

Tech-news outlets tracked the end of the ad-partnership deal like a soap opera, the breakup of a high-school clique or a messy celebrity love triangle. Blog headlines read more Perez Hilton then Wall Street Journal: “Google and Yahoo: The Trouble with Trusting Frenemies.”

“News Flash: Google Was Never Yahoo's Friend.” “Yahoo Explains ‘The Break-Up.’” “The Google and Yahoo Marriage Is Dead.” “Yahoo, on the Rebound, Wants Microsoft.” And my personal favorite: “Yahoo Girding Itself For Tsunami of Penis Enlargement Ads.”


In fact, Silicon Valley, like a high school cafeteria, is fraught with a social strata of cliques made up of queen bees and wanna-be’s, losers, posers and, yes, frenemies. Facebook would be the wily, trendy new freshman that’s still figuring out what table to sit at. Google would be the confident, popular Junior using every means at her disposal to continue her reign as queen. Microsoft would be the magnetic, occasionally abusive jock boyfriend.
And then there’s Yahoo, the indecisive but cocky Senior.

In Silicon Valley, all the free frapps and treadmill time can’t disguise the fact that tech companies are in for a world of pain in the upcoming year as the economy continues to crumble. Though Google and Yahoo’s ad sharing relationship is over, they’re still in for a similarly long, rough ride.


Urban Dictionary, the tome of all contemporary truth, defines “frenemy” as: “Someone who is both friend and enemy, a relationship that is both mutually beneficial or dependent while being competitive, fraught with risk and mistrust.”
Such was the brief relationship between Silicon Valley paragons Yahoo and Google. For their short but heavily debated friendship, they were type of buddies who’d share lip-gloss, but stab each other in the back if they get the chance.
The two search engines announcement of a possible internet ad-sharing deal last June received a mixed reception. Some investors and advertisers were apprehensive about the potential for a “Goohoo” or “Yahoogle” duopoly, an alliance that might leave online advertisers fewer alternatives.

But like Britney and Kevin, Google and Yahoo’s relationship never really looked like it would work in the first place. Getting Mom and Dad’s approval (the Justice Department in this case) was a long shot from the beginning of the liaison.

Other analysts believed the whole affair would be unhealthy for Yahoo after a couple years anyway. Google would undoubtedly grow tired of Yahoo’s dithering, setting out for greener pastures with the TV and couch (metaphorically speaking). Yahoo would be left behind eventually, a purpley shadow of itself.

Of course, Google only became Yahoo’s friend when it started to look like Yahoo was about to hook up with Microsoft. In May 2008, Yahoo founder Jerry Yang participated in a series of meetings with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. But Yang held out, and Microsoft walked away. That’s when Google swooped in.

But Google knows how to play hardball with the best of them, and it’s quite possible that CEO Eric Schmidt’s interest was not purely chivalrous. By keeping close to Yahoo, Google could continue to dominate the market, keeping Yahoo always second best.

If the deal had become consummated, Yahoo might have had to become more reliant on Google, thereby significantly limiting real competition.

Throughout the halls of Silicon Valley, people stared whispering about a duopoly.
In the end, perhaps Yahoo was too high maintenance for Google. Clearly, all the scrutiny from the Federal Government didn’t help. Still, perhaps Google was a user all along.

In the high school of Silicon Valley, Googlers are the cool, popular rich kids you want to hate. But, you just can’t. Why? Because Googlers are so damn good at what they do, pretty damn decent, actually, and so damn cute.

Google’s Mountain View campus itself seems more like a fancy private school than a corporate headquarters. Decked out in colorful bursts of blue, red, yellow and green, Googleplex (as it is called) is bursting with activity at lunchtime.

The 8,000-plus people working on the campus daily are predominately young, fit and casually dressed. Wandering from bright posh coffee-and-juice bars to gourmet cafeterias, they wear jeans, sneakers and crocs. Employees convene at the numerous lounge areas in the their high-tech home, tapping away on laptops with their ear buds in, exactly like college students at the library.

They’re also a very international set. Walking through the Googleplex hallways, you can hear Hindi, French, Spanish and English being spoken.

The perks Google offers its employees are the stuff of legend: gourmet food and aerobic kick-boxing classes, film series, guest lectures (Barrack Obama was a recent speaker), hobbyist gatherings (fire-stick twirling, anyone?), shuttle-bus service, and on-site oil changes, haircuts, laundry and medical checkups.

Scattered around the campus are a fleet of light blue cruisers, company bikes that anybody can just pick up and ride around on. There’s even a financial incentive for buying a hybrid car, which employees obviously take advantage of: out of ten cars parked in one row of the Google employee parking lot one day last week, six were hybrids.

Claire Stapleton, Public Affairs Googler, says that the Friday company town hall-style meeting with top executives Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt, exemplify what is Googlesque.
“We call it TGIF, and it’s sort of a cool cultural thing that says a lot about Google in that anything can get up and ask anything they want, Stapleton says. “Sometimes it’s really mundane questions, like ‘Why don’t we have smart water in the micro kitchen’ or whatever, but sometimes there are really interesting and probing questions about strategy or transparency. It’s basically just trying to get in the minds of the leadership.”

A pretty, 23-year-old brunette, Stapleton’s eyes light up as she proudly mentions that she’s made personalized name cards for all the new Google employees to wear, inscribed with their names and interesting personal facts (example: ‘I’m the world’s fastest rubrics cube solver’). Twenty minutes later, she’s chugging down a large glass of violently green wheat-grass juice in one of Google’s numerous campus eateries.

Dan Ratner, a mechanical engineer on Google’s street-view team, says he joined the company three years ago after working at a corporate start up for a number of years. Like most Google employees, Ratner is well spoken and chipper as all hell. In his early ’30s, he sports a scruffy beard, a brown company T-shirt and cargo pants. Ratner says that after working at Google, he’s shocked at how people actually survive in the typical office work environment.

“I still can’t believe people do that, when they put people in cubicles and deprive them of sunlight. It’s hard to be a human being, day-in-and-day-out for eight hours, to kind of feel normal in that setting. Google does a great job of trying to keep you connected to all those things, and that way you have a better chance to be balanced.”

Listening to Stapleton and Ratner chat excitedly about who is organizing a bike ride tomorrow and which campus cafe is serving Matzo Ball soup today, you wonder: With all these extracurricular distractions, does Google have trouble keeping employees in their seats to do their work?

“I find it actually easier having this stuff around me, to not have that urge that I had at my previous job to be like ‘Eh, I want to go home,’” Ratner says.

“The thing is, if there was some required desk time, I don’t think people would stand for it,” Stapleton says. “It’s always shocking to me when people say that their company blocks sites, social networking sites or whatever. As the empowered person I feel like I am within this company, I’d fell like, ‘Why are you doing that, don’t you trust me with your time?’”

According to a Nov. 9 article in the San Jose Mercury News, Google has been quietly trimming its contractor workforce for months. Though many of Silicon Valley’s major tech companies have large cash reserves to keep them out of survival mode, there is no hiding that economic conditions for the tech industry look worse than they did a few months ago. Three weeks ago, Yahoo announced that it was laying off 1,500 workers, about 10 percent of its overall workforce.

Realistically, companies must pay attention to the bottom line when the financial picture doesn’t seem as bright. If Google’s recent back out on the Yahoo ad deal showed anything, it is that the company is, in fact, not a public service company.

If a Googler and a Yahoo run into each other at a bar, what do they say? Do the claws come out?
“It’s Silicon Valley, so we’re very competitive,” Ratner reports, “but on the other hand very cooperative. I think that’s just sort of Silicon Valley culture, cooperation and competition, the balance of that is struck here.”

“I’m sure we feel like we share a mutual sense of what we do in the world, to try and push the envelope with technology and try and touch people’s lives.”

On the Yahoo Sunnyvale campus, there is still a sense of that ol’Silicon Valley casual comradery, but it’s more subdued.

Instead of popping colors and interesting architecture, there’s stale fountains and lawn art. While Google has a self-contained campus like feel, Yahoo is a big, silver corporate fortress on a street with cars rushing by.

Aleem [not his real name], a longtime Yahoo Internet security sector employee, agrees that Silicon Valley high tech employees share a sense of being in the same boat. In his 50s, Aleem speaks in a soft Hindi accent and wears a neatly pressed light blue button-down shirt, loose- fitting khakis and comfortable looking leather shoes.

“I think we have healthy competition, but in general a lot of participation,” he says. “Silicon Valley is a small community, and you run in to the same people a lot. You see people working at different places over the years. It happens, it revolves. They come and go, it is very common. We bump into each other at forums and conventions, places like that, we talk. But there is not a problem.”

“I think, we are not that different. The founders of Google and Yahoo, they came from the same schools.”

However, Aleem mentions that the recent Google/Yahoo spilt has affected employee moral at Yahoo.

“You know, lately when that deal fell out, we’ve had a lot of mixed press for that,” he says. “The market conditions, they cause struggles. It does affect moral across the board.”
Yahoo is not stingy with the employee perks¬in fact, Yahoo helped invent laid-back Silicon Valley corpoate culture.

Still, while many of the perks are there, if not to the innovative scale of Google.
Aleem says that Yahoo is a fun place to work, listing the Friday beer bash, on-site gourmet coffee café’s and featured speakers as some of the best aspects of his jobsite. “It’s a very intellectually stimulating environment.” he says.

Basketball and beach volleyball courts are positioned at the far end of the long lawn between the main buildings. In the late afternoon, two employees in their ‘40s toss a football around, and in break rooms, people play foosball and ping pong. A bearded employee with hair past his shoulders and a labret piercing sits in the courtyard eating lunch on one of the cement planters, his Yahoo badge hanging from his belt.

In Aleem’s view, Yahoo has been around the block for a while and is a more experienced, established company, which shows.

“People kind of characterize it as having a very yuppie, Internet culture,” he says. “We are more mature, I think, but in a good way. We are not a three-year-old company like Facebook, where it is like all college people. Here, people are not in their teens. We’ve been here over 10 years, we have more experience. It’s kind of like we have been there, done that.”

The thing about high school cliques, though, is that clique members usually see themselves as showing outstanding originality and individuality. One clique member will always have to be the center of attention, the leader, while others will always be the followers.

Google may be the big man on campus right now, but things change. Once one of the brightest stars at the dawn of the Internet, Yahoo has become one of Silicon Valley’s walking wounded.

So, in the great game of Silicon Valley search engine Duopoly, it’s looks like we’re back to square one, waiting to see what player will role the dice next.




When it comes to rock and roll, San Jose has always been eclipsed by the psychedelic swirl of San Francisco.

San Jose is like the perpetually un-cool Jan to San Francisco’s distinguished hippy-dippy Marcia. Like an awkward, nerdy, overachieving teenager, the San Jose music scene has never gotten the recognition it deserves.

Most people identify San Francisco and Los Angeles as being California’s principle musical locales. However, many hugely successful musicians and bands have emerged from the bars, nightclubs and roller rinks of San Jose.

From San Jose’s garage rock heyday in the 1960s with bands like Chocolate Watchband, Count 5 and Syndicate of Sound, to the Doobie Brothers in the 1970s, to more recent acts like Smash Mouth, Trapt, Papa Roach and Strata, over the years San Jose has been a spawning ground for popular music. Still, few citizens recognize San Jose as not just the center of Silicon Valley, but also the abode of a rich rock and roll legacy that reverberates throughout our musical community today.

Though the local rock circuit has fallen on tough times in recent years, an increasing collective of enthusiastic bands and dedicated natives are working to change the city’s musically maladroit image into the esteemed status that it ought to have.


Photobucket The Count Fives biggest hit, 'Psychotic Reaction.'

Few can dispute that the heyday for the San Jose rock scene took place between 1964 and 1968. During this time, San Jose was a prolific tumult of garage rock activity.

Beatlemania hit the Bay Area hard. It’s no surprise that thousands of young men catapulted themselves into rock and roll after seeing the fervor produced by women when those four mod mop-tops played on screen.
While San Francisco to the north emerged as capital of the more adult hippy psychedelic lifestyle, live music around San Jose had a distinct youthful flavor of it’s own.

South Bay music in the 1960s was centered on San Jose's teeming teen dance halls, and bands like the Chocolate Watchband, Syndicate of Sound and Count 5 were at the forefront these happenings.
Without the infestation of DJs or the strict venue laws that San Jose enforces today, teen dance clubs sprang up everywhere. Roller-skating rinks, vacant halls, churches and teen centers were converted into dance venues for the 18 and under set to dance, dance dance.

“Bands had a lot more opportunities to play, there were a lot of teen night clubs. Every town had a teen spot for bands to play. We played major halls, old nightclubs, banquet halls, roller skate arenas…” said Tim Abbott, guitarist and satirist for the popular ‘60s San Jose garage band the Chocolate Watchband.
With so many available venues, local garage bands had a place to play and hone their skills every night somewhere around the South Bay.

“It was constant, always five nights a week, everybody was busy,” said Abbott.
“There would be outdoor festivals during the day, five or six amazing bands one after another. Everybody would be drinking and smoking ganja, going crazy, being fee and loose. We were constantly bouncing around the bay area, it was crazy.”

Musically, though many San Jose ‘60s bands played with and were influenced by their trippy neighbors up north, San Jose garage rock clearly reflected its primarily teenage audience.
While San Francisco’s 1960s rock tunes emphasized more on mind-bending solos, San Jose's garage rock stayed decidedly more song based, concentrating on danceable beats.

“Their music had short, punchy songs, two and a half to three minutes. It was supposed to be danceable,” said Paul Kauppila, a San Jose music buff and contributor to Popular Music and Society.
In San Francisco, the use of drugs like marijuana and LSD were far more rampant in the city then in the South Bay, though they did exist. As such, San Jose’s music was for dancing and trying to pick-up girls, while San Francisco’s music was more for tripping.

This polarization of North vs. South was also obvious in the types of venues bands were booked to play. San Francisco bands tended to play auditoriums in the city, while San Jose bands were more likely to play teen events and dance halls.


Photobucket The Chocolate Watchband in the movie "Riot of Sunset Strip."

With the mainstream success of San Francisco psychedelic bands like Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, a certain air of condescension started to emerge from the city music scene towards San Jose bands.
“There was snobbery in San Francisco, that was the thing, to them we were just a bunch of guys from suburbia,” said Abbott.

“You know, they were looking at us as just a middle or opening band, never a headliner. The first time the Watchband got the opportunity to meet (concert promoter) Bill Graham, he was like ‘Yeah, a San Jose band? I don’t want to see them,’ you know, in earshot,” he said.

In the Popular Music & Society article “The Sound of the Suburbs,” by Paul Kauppila, Ned Torney of the Chocolate Watchband also mentions of the bands first meeting with Graham.

“We went to audition for Bill Graham to try and get into the Fillmore. And we could hear him while we were standing outside his office door, talking to his secretary. Soon as he found out we were from San Jose, he tells her, ‘Tell them I've gone to Los Angeles.’ So we went over to see Chet Helms. He listened to us, and we played the Avalon that weekend with Bo Diddley and Quicksilver, who also liked us a lot. And the moral of that, I guess, just bears out Ned's Golden Rule: ‘Never tell anyone you're from San Jose.’”


Photobucket The Chocolate Watchband during their heyday.

The three highest-profile San Jose garage rock bands during the mid-1960s were the Chocolate Watchband, the Syndicate of Sound and Count 5.

Though extremely popular in San Jose during the 1960’s, The Chocolate Watchband is most notable for gaining a dedicated cult following since their heyday between 1965 and 1968. Their first and most notable LP, “No Way Out,” was released in 1967.

The Chocolate Watchband’s sound was heavily influence by the Rolling Stones. Though the band did dabble in psychedelic elements in their music, they had a much more direct, modish R&B sound then the San Francisco "jam" bands of the time.
Dave Aguilar, the band’s lead singer, was widely known for his dynamic stage presence. He had distinct, snarling vocals and strong song writing skills to match.
According to Kauppila’s article, although, unlike the Count Five and the Syndicate of Sound, the Watchband did not have any substantial national hits, they have remained the group with the highest current profile among the three.

“The underground network of ‘60s garage music fans and writers that sprang up in later years helped to raise their visibility as an important "cult" band. Reports from the era when the band was active indicate that they were one of the most popular and successful of the San Jose scene,” said Kauppila.

“We were just into playing, trying to make records, playing music and enjoying the fans,” said Abbott.
“Looking back, I wonder how crazy was it that I didn’t have a camera the whole time. I mean, we opened for the Doors, there I was sitting next to Jim Morrison, but it was like ‘Oh, this will go on forever.’ We didn’t think about it like that,” he said.

Photobucket The Chocolate Watchband's album cover for "No Way Out."

Unfortunately though, according to Kauppila’s article, people who saw the Chocolate Watchband play in the ‘60s also comment that the band represented on their records had almost nothing to do with the band they saw live.

This was mainly because, like many bands during the 1960s, the Chocolate Watchband were victims of exploitation by their management. When their first LP “No Way Out” was released, the band was shocked to find that much of the material on the record was not their own.
Without their knowledge or consent, Aguilar's vocals had been replaced by session musicians on many of the tracks under the eye of their manager, Ed Cobb. Also, new instrumental numbers were added that the band had taken no part in.

“We were a bunch of kids, we didn’t know better. We were like ‘who cares, we’re having fun, just let us have a little money and a limo and groupies.’ For awhile it fun, then we started thinking ‘this is a bad deal here,’” said Abbott.
“There was also exploitation as far as the money goes. We were making peanuts while our manager was driving a Lincoln Continental. That happened with so many groups, the management was making the big money. There was a lot of manipulation,” he said

Their managerial conflict, along with frequent lineup changes and creative differences eventually led to the bands demise in late 1968.
Around that time, the San Jose rock scene also imploded.
“Towards the end, things started to go really sideways. There were troubles, violence, and the drug culture got real deep. A lot of places shut down,” said Abbott.


Photobucket A common sight at the Blank Club.

San Jose has changed a great deal over the years. Apricot orchards have given away to hermetically sealed high tech buildings. Equally as contrasting, the once distinctively inventive and widespread rock music sphere in the South Bay during the 19’60s has fallen on tough times.

During the late ‘80s to mid-1990s San Jose did have a somewhat successful live music draw. Made up of spots like the Cactus Club, The Red Light District, Marsugi's, Ajax and F/X, many famous touring bands played San Jose when they were still trying to make a name for themselves.
Kurt Cobain and Nirvana played the Cactus Club in February of 1990, and bands like Smash Mouth, Trapt, Papa Roach and Insolence got their start in San Jose.

Because nightlife in San Jose was usually on a drop-in type basis, on any given night people that were hanging out downtown could check out a number of venues and be guaranteed live rock and roll.
However, the South Bay’s once illustrious musical glow has slowly deteriorated, and even compared to ten years ago, it is in an extremely dim state.

With the closing of the all ages Cactus Club in 2002, for a number of years San Jose music seemed dead in the water, with downtown nightlife becoming a land of ultra lounges and DJ’s.
Local musicians, bands, and anyone left in the rock scene agree that a proper all ages club, where kids can go see bands and adults can drink at the bar, is what the city needs most.

In Metro Silicon Valley’s article “Manic Man,” Jonny Manak, San Jose's multi-instrumental punk rock hired gun, said "We need to have the best of both worlds, like the Cactus Club used to be. Now it's sort of regressed and the kids are just saying, 'Fuck it, let's go play gigs in a video arcade or a church.' It's become the kids versus the over-21 people and vice versa. There's no crossover."

Though a few venues, like the Blank Club, JJ's Blues and Johnny V's, have been struggling to keep live rock and roll alive in the South Bay, there are still hundreds of bands all over the valley who want to play in a legitimate venue and have nowhere to go.

Eric Bateman, drummer for Manchester School, a local San Jose band that is a regular on the downtown circuit and was voted Best Local Band 2007 by the Metro San Jose 2007, said that “the scene isn't as strong as it could be…that's not to say that there aren't any good bands here, we've played with plenty of them. The scene could just use that one extra thing to push it over the edge. The ones that do exist are smaller and music isn't the main focus. We need more venues dedicated to live music like The Blank Club, which has been very good to us.”

Photobucket Manchester School at the Blank Club

Tim Abbot said he has noticed the negative changes that have taken place in the San Jose music scene over the years.
“The biggest difference today is that there’s no place for bands to play anymore, and nobody is doing the teen club thing for under 21. Back then, that was amazing, every city had teen nightclubs. It’s completely different now. Everybody’s sitting at home watching TV, and cities don’t want it because it’s trouble,” he said.

“I know guys in younger groups just dying to play. These guys can’t get out of the garage. They have no place to go because bands around here don’t get a lot of respect. There are so few opportunities for bands, and the owners, managers, promoters, they know it in San Jose,” said Abbott.

Furthermore, it is no easier for current San Jose bands to get respect at shows in San Francisco then it was 40 years ago.
In a recent Metro Silicon Valley article, Stefan Meissner, the co-lead singer for the San Jose ska-punk band Whiskey Avengers said "It's been really tough trying to break into the San Francisco scene. Down south is a lot different… Every time we play there we get a great response… But up here, they'll tell you straight up if you're good or not.”

Even with all their local success, Manchester School has found it hard to extend their band’s popularity to San Francisco.
Their travels north so far have yielded mixed results, though the band has never had a problem attracting a crowd in the south bay.

The fact is that if any up and coming band hopes to rise to commercial success, they have to conquer San Francisco’s audiences first.
"It's a much bigger pond in the city," said Manchester School bassist Eric Scharer in an October Metro Silicon Valley article. "That's one thing that's nice about San Jose—we're a bigger fish here. We've played in San Francisco a few times—getting a response is sort of a crapshoot, but we hope to play there more."


pinup Poster for PinUp Productions.

However, there is hope for San Jose live music. With a live auditory supply on every corner, the masses are starting to organize. As Lawrence Grossberg writes in his article “Another Boring Day in Paradise,” “the audience is empowered by and empowers the musical apparatus.”

PinUp Productions, a homegrown booking team started by local community college student Andrew Kutsenda, has put itself to the task of establishing all-ages shows all around the South Bay. Just like the young San Jose rock and roll enthusiasts of the 19’60s, PinUp Productions is known for booking local bands at unusual venues, like Nickel City, a San Jose arcade, and San Jose Skate, a run down Blossom Valley roller-skating rink.

“We came in at a time where San Jose was really hurting for all-ages venues," Kutsenda said in a recent Metro Silicon Valley article. “There was nowhere else to play and by default we started doing shows weekly, and from there started getting a small staff together, started doing shows at Nickel City, and it's just kind of grown since then. Starting in December we're doing four shows a week. I mean, I don't know anyone [locally] that comes close to that."

PinUp Productions’ most recent major project was the full-fledged December opening of the Nova Hall on North 27th Street in San Jose. Nova Hall is the first major all ages venue San Jose has seen in a long time. It has been booking loads of local rock talent, particularly on Friday nights, since it’s opening.

Things are looking up for the realm of San Jose live rock and roll. Though it has a long way to go, hopefully with a growing quantity of promising bands and recently operational venues, San Jose’s live music scene will finally get the national recognition it deserves.

Just like Jan Brady, in the future there will be no more “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” for San Jose rock.



**Nickel City
1711 Branham Lane
San Jose, CA 95118

Yes, it’s an arcade, and a grungy one at that. Drag in a few amps, and the small birthday party room in back becomes a venue for an array of local teen bands. On band night’s you’ll see a lot of 14-year-olds with lip rings, tight pants and meticulously layered shags that mommy bought them. On weekends the arcade is packed with kids and unshaven men in sweatpants with Big Mac stained wifebeaters.

The bad news is that there is a $2 charge to get into the arcade, and usually a $5-$10 charge to get into the back room. On the plus side, if you get board you can ditch the show and enjoy crushing a 9-year-old’s dreams on the air hockey table.

**Britannia Arms, Downtown San Jose
173 W. Santa Clara St
San Jose (South Bay/Silicon Valley)

The Britannia Arms Downtown is your classic neighborhood pub. With a fully stocked selection of liquor, tap beer and English food (including the good old standard, fish ’n’ chips,) this local bar offers live music on weekends and karaoke throughout the week. Though always busy on the weekends, watch out for before and after HP Pavilion events, when the downtown location becomes a sea of people. 21+
“My personal favorite show was one at The Britannia Arms downtown. The crowd was really into us, we had people coming in off the street and dancing, and we couldn't have left the place without playing an encore. That one was a lot of fun.”
- Eric Bateman, drummer for Manchester School, elected by Metro Silicon Valley readers as the Best Local Band 2007.

**The Nova Hall
37 N 27th Street
San Jose, CA 95116

This local venue is the latest development by PinUp Productions founder Andrew Kutsenda. Though the 37 North 27th Street location has been used sporadically in the past for concerts, it is know officially open and features a full bar.
The Nova Hall is all ages and consistently books multiple band lineups on Friday nights, so try and catch gig after work if you can.

**Blank Club
44 S. Almaden Ave
San Jose (South Bay/Silicon Valley)

If you want to get your mosh and thrash on in downtown San Jose, the Blank Club is where you want to be. In fact, it’s the only place left in town where you can catch both local and national punk and rockabilly sets.
It’s also a great local bar, and they even offer punk rock karaoke, because, you know, that’s so hardcore. 21+

**Johnny V's
31 E. Santa Clara St.,
San Jose, CA 95123

Though small in size, Johnny V's is easily one of the best bang-for-buck and drink-to-drunk ratios of any bar in downtown San Jose. It is also dedicated to booking local live talent of the punk-hardcore-metal varieties.

Though they like to keep their musical variety local, this is the type of venue where you can see five bands for $5 so you can blow the rest of your paycheck ruining your liver. 21+

Other Rock-out Worthy Bay Area Venues:

Santa Cruz:

**Blue Lagoon
923 Pacific Ave.,
Santa Cruz

**The Catalyst
1011 Pacific Ave.
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

San Francisco:

**The Great American Music Hall
859 O'Farrell Street
San Francisco, CA 94109

**Café Du Nord
170 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114

(***Much of the information in this article is sourced from Metro Silicon Valley: http://www.metroactive.com/metro/. Check it out, they are a super-cool newspaper!)


When I first saw the trailer for Enchanted, the movie looked like a giant, sparkly stinker. The fish-out-of water concept of a fictional character being magically brought to the real world has been done cinematically a million times, largely to disappointing results. I will never get back the hour and a half of my life that I lost to Fat Albert.

However, with a gossamer touch and squishy sugar heart, somehow Disney was able to pull this fairytale off.
Enchanted’s storyline centers on Giselle, an animated princess who is plucked from her magical animated land of Andelasia by an evil queen, and is banished to cynical present-day Manhattan as a real person. Hilarity ensues as Giselle tries to survive in the not so musically or kindness inclined real world, waiting for her prince to come and save her.

It’s astonishing that Enchanted remains so light, frothy and undeniably likable, even though the audience knows from the beginning what’s going to happen. What makes this part-animation, part live-action film succeed is the fact that there is absolutely nothing mean-spirited about it. Enchanted could very easily have been played for satire with it’s simple romantic story, six musical numbers, singing, dancing and comedy.

Instead, the Kevin Lima directed film is less of a parody and more of a homage to classic Disney animated films. Enchanted hooks you in with the classically whimsical Disney motifs (castles, evil queens and cutesy animal sidekicks,) but presents them in a surprising way you don’t expect that keeps you waiting more.

Much of the films success rests on the shoulders of Amy Adams, the talented actress that plays the persistently chipper princess Giselle. She is made out to be a perfect mix of Disney princesses Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.


Giselle is all endearing naiveté and refreshing enthusiasm as she frolics around central park with flowers and wind in her hair, just like a cartoon brought to life. Adams embodies this character beautifully and obviously understands what being a Disney princess is all about. Her beaming performance is even enough to balance out Patrick Dempsey’s bland portrayal of Robert, a divorce lawyer that comes to Giselle’s aid.

Though there will never, ever be another Julie Andrews, Adams comes close to capturing the same sort of positively and zeal that is Andrews signature, even if her singing voice doesn’t quite match up. Coincidently, Andrews is also the films narrator.

James Marsden, best known for playing Cyclops in the X-Men movies, is spot on as the brave but peacockish Prince Edward, and Susan Sarandon is all high collars and raised eyebrows as evil sorceress queen Nirissa.

The look of the film is also intentionally cartoonish. Many plot devices and camera shots are obviously lifted from old Disney cartoons, and the scenes’ colors pop like candy. With the Disney consumerist machine in full force for this movie, I wouldn’t be surprised that next Halloween, every little girl will be wearing Giselle’s signature sea-green floral princess dress.

Another highlight of Enchanted its stellar soundtrack. Created by acclaimed composer Alan Menken and lyricist Stephen Schwartz, much of the movies score harks back to traditional Disney themes. Yet, that doesn’t make the songs any less agreeable or original, and the film’s melodies tie neatly into the storyline.

For example, "Happy Working Song" is a parody of Disney Princess’s frequent duets with cutesy animals, except in Giselle’s rendition it’s rats, pigeons, cockroaches and other New York City fauna that are doing her musical bidding.

The “That’s How You Know” Central park sequence is a full blown extravaganza of musical theater, complete with carriage rides, balloons, confetti and hundreds of dancing and singing extras.

Overall, Enchanted is about romance of it all. With its prevailing bubblyness, formidability upbeat soundtrack and all-star cast, Enchanted succeeds at achieving it’s happily ever after.


Life is messy and unfair for the characters in “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere,” a collection of eight short stories by ZZ Packer. Much like reality, the people in her book don’t always do the right thing or make the best decisions. Their lives are frequently filled with farces, resentment and absurdity.

Whether it be a 14-year-old runaway church girl in the ghetto, or a broke post grad American stranded in Japan, the authors’ fiction focuses mainly on the perspective of outsiders, people on the outskirts. Though not a light read, Packer earnestly draws you into the personal world of her characters, making “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere” a book that will stay with you.

Primarily set in modern times, tense race relations and themes of prejudice are brought up in every one of her stories. Many of the author’s characters seem to be struggling with a distrust or loss of maternal figures, and the charade of religion is an often a significant part of their world.

Additionally, most of her miniature plots have a distinctively female voice and a fabulous eye for telling details. Packer’s writing bursts with unexpected, relatable description. With her vivid insight and mordant humor, it wouldn’t be surprising if many of her stories are in one way or another auto-biographical. Though not pretentious or flowery in her language, the images conjured up by the author’s prose will stick with you for days.

She frequently opts to describe the color of her characters skin, whether it be comparing it to strawberry and vanilla ice cream, good scotch or a paper bag. The title story, “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere,” is about a young African American woman and possible lesbian who begins isolating herself while attending a prestigious university. Demonstrating her eye for detail, Packer describes Large Black women in the story as wearing “…their fat like mink coats.”

Photobucket ZZ Packer

In “Brownies,” the opener story of the book, Packer examines the flipside of the modern day discrimination card and the African American experience. She follows the scheming of a troop of girl scouts who want to pick a fight with a “Caucasian” troop. “Brownies” also contains the most traditional story arch in “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere,” with a lead-up, surprise climax and contemplative ending. Most the author’s short stories seem to have less structured formats or complete endings.

“Speaking in Tongues,” is Packers strongest short story in the book. The story centers on naive runaway church girl looking for her drug addict mother in the ghettos of Atlanta. Alone and broke, she gets picked up by a pimp and her world starts spinning out of control. Both raw and unexpectedly insightful, Packer never forgets that the narrative is being told from the perspective of a young woman who is seeing the darker aspects of the world through a pair of fresh, inexperienced eyes.

Also well written is “Geese,” which convincingly captures the Tokyo style racism the main character encounters while stranded in Japan.

Her description of foreign bigotry is an interesting contrast for Packer, in comparison with the American brand of racism prevalent throughout the other seven stories. Also, the description of a desperate group of oddball characters trapped in the tiny Japanese apartment in “Geese” is simultaneously stereotypic and spot on. Passages like “Petra and Zoltan loved each other in the dangerous Eastern European way of hard, sobbing sex and furniture pounding fights,” demonstrates her point well.

“Ant of the Self,” written from the perspective of a young man dealing with his wily, mooching dead beat father, is the only story in the book that is significantly lacking. Packer never full breaks away from her distinctive female voice, which makes the overall narrative unconvincing. Though it deals with many of the same racial and parental issues as the other stories, being the only male perspective in the book also makes it feel out of place.

Overall, “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere” is a strongly written, engaging read for those that enjoy short fiction. For longer, more compressive narrative fiction, you may want to look elsewhere.


Without the reek of formaldehyde or need to snap on rubber gloves, Body Worlds 2 & the Three Pound Gem, an exhibition currently showing at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, lets the general public experience dissecting and examining the fundamental elements of the human body.
But, you know, without all the mess.

Dr. Gunther von Hagens’ exhibit contains 20 whole human plastinates (donated human corpses that have gone through the doctor’s patented process of Plastination) and more than 200 real body parts. It is an opportunity for those not in the medical profession to see the bare complexities and awesomeness of the human body, stripped to its basics.

Though the exhibit contains elements that are undeniably creative and artistic, in general the primary mission of Body Worlds 2 is its intended educational value, not aesthetics.

As a native of Germany, Dr. von Hagens’ primary purpose in inventing Plastination was not to create art. He wanted to spread knowledge about the human body, invite contemplation and encourage health education.

Dr. von Hagens process of Plastination essentially sucks all the moisture and fat out of cells and supplants it with polymer. Therefore, the organic material that makes up the human body can be preserved, posed and exhibited in open air without decaying.

Laid out like a dynamic three-dimensional textbook, Body Worlds 2 demonstrates anatomy as the foundation of the body. The human body’s vascular, digestive, nervous, and locomotive systems are organized for visitors to study.

The humanity shown in Dr. von Hagens’ plastinates is complex, thought provoking, and oftentimes playful and humorous.


Instead of lying clinically inert on slabs, Dr. von Hagens’ preserved bodies are individually titled and staged in athletic or dramatic postures. They display names like “Yoga Lady,” “Man at Leisure” and “Flying Skier.” Each unique body is tastefully presented, and tells a story through its pose and creative state of dissection.
The preservation of each specimen is painstaking.

The bodies are most often skinless, with muscles, ligaments, bones and various organs filleted for optimum display. Many show intricate spider webs of fragile twine-like nerves and blood vessels branching from one area of the body to another.

In addition, the exhibit contains an all-encompassing message of health awareness. Many of the most common diseases and conditions that affect the human body are explained. Shown alongside most of the preserved healthy organs are others mutilated by disease.

The stark difference between a healthy pink lung and the shriveled, black tar-stained lungs of a smoker is one of the most affecting examples.

Body Worlds 2 also includes information on how the human body functions from the time we are conceived, through childhood, adolescence, adulthood and finally, the realities of old age. The heart of the exhibit isn’t just the physical body, but the consciousness and potential that lies within each person.

Body Worlds 2 isn’t presented as a collection of accurately assembled anatomical models, nor is it human bodies used as purely artistic mediums. Instead, Body Worlds 2 & the Three Pound Gem is an enlightening scientific exhibit that shows human life and all its vulnerabilities, displayed in an artful manner.


Article, layout and design by Jessica Fromm:
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Dirty Pretty Things Aug. 9 at Slim's in San Francisco

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Of course they were all sober....

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Carl had his right arm in a Union Jack scarf sling the whole night because of the mysterious broken collar bone incident (which I’m sure had nothing to do with any crazy Taiwanese underage prostitute sex…)

Despite the set back, Josh from The Paddington’s filled in for him nicely (he must be like 8 ft tall or something, he seemed to tower over everybody on stage.)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Oh, and Scissors For Lefty, the opening band, were pretty great. Hooky indie-pop+elfy looking lead singer=potential? I hope they stick with the good melodic song stretches and sack the butterfingered keyboardist.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Pictures from BFD!

The Yeah yeah yeah’s
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Karen O is batshit crazy...I LOVE her...
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Wolfmother, fro's in the wind... Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Wolfmother’s “Woman” + moshpit = whirlwind of ecstatic ciaos.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Richard from Hard-fi.
He's a total freak’n chav...rediculouse, but I still like them. I think it's all about that one breakdown in the "Hard to Beat" video where he looks into the camera and goes "Goooodnesss"...yeah, you know what I'm talking about.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Damian Kulash from OKGo.
He looks like he's trying to be Mick Jagger circa 1968, and totally steals his moves too. It’s like watching an impersonater sing powerpop.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting



Santa Cruz Psychedelic Band Wants to Jam Your Face Off

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

By Jessica Fromm
Arts and Entertainment Editor
Gavilan Press Newspaper

As the self-proclaimed ‘flannel warriors’ of Santa Cruz, California, the psychedelic band Mammatus have one thing on their minds: to be the most epic, insane, loud, head pounding mind-trip rock and roll experiences you’ve ever seen or heard.

“If you want to see some metal, dude, some dudes rocking out as hard as they can, come see Mammatus, man. We’ll jam your face off!” declares Mammatus guitarist Mike Donofrio.

With their first full-length album now released in the US by San Francisco-based Holy Mountain Records, brothers Nicky (guitar and vocals) and Aaron Emert (drums), along with Chris Freels (bass) and Mike Donofrio (guitar) are a psychedelic rock force to be reckoned with.

“We appeal to those that want to trip out. Those who want to get blown and be able to bang their heads for an hour at a time, without having to give to much heed to the ‘popyness’ of it,” said Aaron Emert.

They tote a heavy, massive sound that conjures both Black Sabbath and classic psychedelic acts like Hawkwind, but with definite space to jam.

“Far out, interstellar Rock and Roll that’s loud, heavy, and to the max all the time. We don’t have much room for subtletly,” is what Aaron describes their sound as.

Mammatus finds most of their musical inspiration in nature and fantasy, what they call “wizerdness,” which can be seen in their unusual choice for a band name (mammatus are actually a rare type of cloud formation.)

“It [or music] all goes back to reflecting the beauty we see all around us. It’s like a symphony devoted to the earth, to the planet and heavens, it’s all one, its all the same,” said Aaron. “[Our songs are] all an allegorical tale, of a mage, a wizard who’s a dragon slayer who rides in a boat that he built himself and has sewn with many spells. It’s his path through a fictional world where he fights dragons and encounters evil wizards and spirits and overcomes all of them using magic and sword play.”

“In our music, we try to have an organic kind of feel,” said Mike.
“We get the skeleton of a song and we just play it over and over again, let it evolve and kind of change itself naturally.”

Growing up in rural Felton, California, brothers Aaron and Nicky gained an appreciation for the natural world early in life, a fact they see profoundly influencing their music today.

“We lived right across the street from Henry Cowell Redwood State Park. Most of our time was spent in the forest, and in the ocean. I think everything we do is, number one, inspired by our love of our natural surroundings. I don’t think we’ll ever leave this area, because it’s part of us, more than anything. The hugeness, the vastness, the wildness of it all, we reflect that, by our music. Its only way I know how to communicate thoughts and things” said Aaron.

One thing Mammatus members defiantly don’t want to be called is revivalist.

“We don’t want to be put into some pigeon hole, as a ‘revivalist band.’ I want to appeal to everyone. I want party boys to like it, I want hipsters to like it, anyone that comes to a show. I don’t want people to think we’re trying to be anything” says Aaron.

With fantasy and massiveness being a main focus of Mammatus, it’s no surprise that the band members have been known to wear costumes and have light shows included in their stage performances.

“We wear robes and stuff sometimes, we get into the fantasy appeal, the wizardness” said Aaron.

“Our shows are really loud and triumphantly wacky” said Mike. “In Santa Cruz, people actually watch the shows, which doesn’t always happen in other places.”
Mammatus are currently setting out on their second US tour, this time with fellow Santa Cruz band Residual Echos.

“The main reason we’re going out [on tour] is because we got asked to play this festival in Montreal. We’re going all the way out to New York, Boston and Canada,” said Aaron.

Rocket Records, located in London, also released Mammatus’ self-titled album to audiences on the other side of the pond, where they hope to grow a fan base. But for right now, they’re just trying to get noticed outside of Santa Cruz.

“The biggest step for us is getting more attention in the Bay Area, rather then just in Santa Cruz. From the Bay Area we could go onto a national level,” said Aaron.
“Mammatus” the album hit record stores on March 28, and is available for order online at www.midheaven.com.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Official website: http://www.mammatus.org/
Myspace at http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=7761442
Opera San Jose Review

Photobucket Christopher Bengochea as Werther.

By Jessica Fromm

When I was a kid, Werthers were gold wrapped caramel candies that my grandma used to sneak me during mass.

I remember my grandma, while pretending to look for a Kleenex, would fish shiny candies out of the bottom of her purse as Father Dan droned on and on during homely. Eyeing my mother to making sure she wasn’t looking, my grandma would press one Werthers into my palm, giving me a look that said “shh, this is our little secret.”

This is a sweet story.

Werther, Opera San Jose's new epic production, is not a sweet story. In fact, like most operas, its story is wholly depressing.

Jules Massenet’s Werther is based on Goethe’s best selling novella The Sorrows of Young Werther, a book apparently so gloomy that it prompted a wave of copycat suicides across Europe in the early 1800s.

Fortunately though, Opera San Jose's production of Werther won’t make you want to commit . During it’s dress rehearsal performance on Nov. 14 at the California Theater, the highly tragic musical romantic triangle featured passion-filled solos, a magnificent string-heavy orchestra and vibrant bursts of emotion.

The story line of Werther is relatively straightforward. Werther, a young antisocial poet, falls hard for Charlotte, a beautiful country girl. Charlotte is engaged to Albert, a man she promised her dying mother she’d marry. Charlotte, feeling restrained by duty, marries Albert and rejects Werther. Werther pleads with Charlotte to leave her husband, but she refuses. Consumed by his heartbreak, Werther kills himself.

Though I am new to the highly romantic and passion filled tale of Werther, I couldn’t help but feel a bit antagonistic towards the sentiments of the opera’s characters.

Charlotte’s lament and later remorse over her situation came across as whiney to me. However, I still felt a tad sorry for her for getting involved with such a tormented, romantically self-immolation prone schmuck like Werther. Also, it seemed odd to me that Charlottes well-armed husband Albert was so self-effacing with Werther, a man that he knew was perusing his wife.

At any rate, the highlight of Opera San Jose’s Werther was the immensely talented Croatian mezzo-soprano Tahana Herceg, who played Charlotte. Also known for her work with Opera Santa Barbara, Herceg was able to sing her way through all Charlotte’s complicated arias without sounding strained or dry.

Tenor Christopher Bengochea was also stirring, though not astonishing, as Werther. Jillian Boye, as Charlotte’s sister Sophie, sang in a bright, airy soprano, and was especially impressive in delivering her high note stretches.

Though the score did not contain any immediately familiar melodies, the orchestra’s delivery was beautifully textured, and the use of a rumbling pipe organ during the church scene was a nice surprise. The Vivance Youth Chorus added a cute, though foreboding touch with their carols of “Noel, Noel, Noel.”

The costuming of Werther was immaculate, with characters Charlotte and Sophie ambling about on stage wearing gorgeously detailed Regency period gowns. The character of Werther was dressed appropriately somber, with a high color, black breeches and waistcoat. The California Theater’s set featured a series of birch trees on either side of the stage and various furniture scattered about. Movable screens were raised and lowered to represent the house, tavern and church scenes.

Alas, though Opera San Jose's Werther may not be a uplifting story, it is packed with talent, beautiful production and absorbing emotion.