Government monitoring of something as innocuous as a local music web forum may sound like fodder for the X Files, Art Bell or militia chili cook-off banter, but the truth became painfully evident to users of the San Diego Punk message board (forum.thepunkboard.com) last week.
Turns out Big Brother is watching.
The message board's proprietor, Josh Tays, said a representative of the United States Secret Service contacted him on Jan. 23. Tays refused to give information regarding the specific post or user, but it's safe to assume that a threat-real or imagined-was made against the President or other high ranking public official.
"They told me I could give them certain information [about the user] voluntarily or they could get a subpoena, whatever I was most comfortable with," Tays explained. Tays wasn't too comfortable with either option but complied with authorities.
Tays then posted to the board, warning users to be careful of what they say-which, of course, just incited more inflammatory material.
Tays then opted to lock the board down. "I'd rather just delete it all and be done with it, but I don't want to run the risk of interfering with these people-obstructing justice or tampering with evidence or anything like that," he said.
The Secret Service has yet to contact Tays again as they said they would, nor did they share how they came across the alleged threat.
Tays believes someone reported the comments to authorities, but the government has been accused of using arms like Project Echelon, which monitors Internet communications, or a program called Carnivore, which hits internet service providers and scours e-mails and the 'net for certain key words. (For critical info, visit www.echelonwatch.org or stopcarnivore.org).
After this episode, Tays is washing his hands of the message board:
"The thing's a constant pain in the ass, just dealing with people bitching about the way you run it. Now that it's become a legal issue and I've found myself in a really uncomfortable situation, I'm done with it."
The board is by far the most active local site of its kind. It has several thousand registered users (plus thousands more "lurkers," people who read but do not register or post). Tays said it has received as many as 300,000 hits in a single day.
The board has also proven an invaluable resource for local music and the community far beyond the realm of punk. Sure, asinine topics like "What I Had for Lunch Today" or "Who on the Board Have You Nailed?" are commonplace. But it was also through the board that bands were formed, equipment was bought and sold, shows were booked, parties were planned and friendships were solidified.
More than a few lasting relationships have been created or destroyed due in part to the board. It has also proven effective in more serious situations, like in the case of missing persons and last year's devastating fires.
On the flipside, it's likely productivity is now soaring at certain office workplaces of devout boardies, for whom the cyber-interaction and constant banter is akin to crack addiction.
Free Radio 96.9 FM has inherited the link from the board and set up shelter for the users. 96.9 message board moderator and DJ Bob Ugly said that since doing so, the station's forums have jumped from 2,000 to 20,000 hits a day. Tays said that due to its nature (feedback for a criminal organization), the Pirate board is much better equipped to handle future situations like this-unlike the old board, it does not log users IP addresses.
Another forum-this one replicating the look and style of the original forum, has been set up at www.salvationarmory.com.
Editor's note: Of course, now that we printed it, the nonprofit will likely contact them and threaten to sue.
A new spin on the term "infusion'
"I'm cooking up fresh beats in my kitchen," laughs Junior, proprietor of downtown bar Landlord Jims (1546 Broadway). Since the establishment doesn't have a cabaret license, no entertainment is allowed, including a DJ.
"We're working on getting a license, but in the meantime I wanted to see if there was some way to get around the system," the owner says, explaining his one-of-a-kind solution. "I set up a closed-circuit TV system in my kitchen, located in an apartment upstairs, and connected it to the bar."
So beginning at 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, patrons can watch a variety of DJs spinning and even make requests using the bar phone. Callers can also enter to win the normal music-bar prizes like CDs and T-shirts.
"We mostly spin funk, soul, rare grooves and that sort of thing, but if somebody wants to hear Rocket From The Crypt or whatever, we'll put it on," says Junior. "I am deejaying and trying to set the mood, but it is my kitchen. So there is always a slight chance you might catch me doing the dishes."
Voz Alta Project, a Latino literary performance space and gallery, has relocated to 1544 Broadway in downtown's East Village. The new location allows for a larger stage and expanded seating, as well as improved parking access. Jazz fans will want to check out trumpet player Bill Caballero's Latin Jam every Thursday, but the club will also feature politically charged rock and, especially, poetry. The emphasis on spoken word is no surprise considering one of the venue's directors is The Taco Shop Poets' Adrian Arcancibia, whose band of culinary Latino poets just released a new album titled Intersections.
Videobeat, an online source for vintage rock 'n' roll on DVD, has recently added a number of rare San Diego-related items. Among the gems are Gary Puckett's appearance on ABC-TV's Music Scene in 1969, Elvis Presley's 1956 appearance on the Milton Berle Show aboard the U.S.S. Hancock in San Diego Harbor and, most impressively, the 1965 episode of the Beverly Hillbillies, featuring a young, pre-Three Dog Night Cory Wells with his Clairemont band, The Enemies.
Members of San Diego-based art collectives Radioactive Future and Funerals of Distinction make an appearance on the Feb. 8 episode of WB-TV's The Surreal Life (9 p.m.), unveiling works inspired by Tammy Faye Bakker at a Long Beach Gallery.
Noise Ratchet's Joel Hosler and his bride Tiffany Hosler become the latest reality TV stars this month on The Learning Channel's wedding series For Better Or Worse. The pair's friends and family were given $5,000 and a week to put together a wedding, with the ensuing mayhem filmed and set to air Feb. 11, at 8 p.m.