November 02, 2005

29

J.C. and Sam were both happy to remind me that I am still a year older than they are, and one year closer to 30. Meh and Whatever. Most creative people don't hit their peak until 40 anyway. As long as their friends still give them hell for it, things will be fine.

Anyway, one year ago I wrote a weepy little spam-rant about the election results, making some people laugh, some cry, and some wonder how the hell I found their email addresses. I won't do that again. I will note that the president is at 35% and slipping, and the Big Dick is at a flaccid 19%. Oh, how time hurts us all.

I can't decide if it's cool or not to have a car that shares the nickname of a man under indictment for lying like a whiny little punk. At least my car isn't on crutches yet. Libby can rot in hell.

October 17, 2005

Boston


I am a bitchy traveler, and I am ashamed of it. Still, our jaunt to Beantown was not ruined by me, oh no. Em was resolved to Have Fun, and so we did:

Day 1
Well, I mostly skipped this one. Jetlagged as hell, I stayed at Lis’ new pad in Back Bay, reading about the joyful origins of Australian history, while Em and Lis walked around the neighborhood. I don’t remember what they did. I do remember seeing the Padres eliminated from the postseason right before I zonked out cold on the plane to Logan.

Day 2
All the art museums are open for free on Columbus Day and so we take in a fair few, especially the Museum of Fine Art which is in the midst of an assault from a crazy philanthropist who dumped the America’s Cup boats on the front lawn. Then we hit Fenway, but got the short tour as the old yard was under repair- 3000 new seats were being shoved in. Later that night, we had the distinct pleasure of watching the Yankees lose- and end their season- while we drank beer in a Boston bar. Everyone was an Angel fan that night.

Day 3
Took the T up to Cambridge and loitered around Harvard and such. Oh, almost forgot- Em’s introduction to Boston’s public transport was seeing a rat on the tracks as soon as she walked in. We also took a walk around Lis’ school, BU, and cruised by Berklee, where I saw tons of more talented musicians than myself. This town is full of college kids- I’d forgotten that there were about 200 or so colleges here.

Day 4
The inevitable Duck Tour gave us a Zodiac-eye view of the city from the Charles River, and we also bounced through Beacon Hill and enjoyed Boston traffic without actually having to drive in it. People drive like freaks here. We also endure some Christian Science hoo-ha later for the sake of stepping into the Mapparium, a giant, hollow, lit-up globe.

Day 5
Actually a continuation of Day 4, since I failed to sleep before catching our 5am cab to Logan. Experienced a truly heinous feeling while stuck in my seat, dead tired, and unable to sleep while flying over Wyoming and Utah. Then I drove like a bastard back home and pathetically passed out. Did I mention I’m a shitty traveler? Of course I had fun. I just wish we hadn’t taken red-eyes.

October 05, 2005

Designer/Wordsmith/Rockstar



Keir DuBois has been steadily destroying his own credibility in print and pixel for over a decade. As Chief Creative Officer at BBM&D Strategic Branding in Ventura, CA, Keir gets paid to be awesome by producing and managing graphic design and web development projects until his brain bleeds. His colleagues have declined to comment on Keir’s mercurial creative fits (and propensity to speak in the third person), and yet humor him anyway.

A recovering music journalist, he has written unnecessarily opinionated spew for both the UCSB Daily Nexus and the Santa Barbara Independent. Abusing the English language in writing has allowed Keir to further inflate his ego despite the fact that he is constantly becoming older, fatter, and balder than he once was.

Keir has also helped several obscure local rock bands inflict themselves upon the world via his allegedly clever lyrics and gloriously rudimentary bass guitar skills. Plus there’s all that random geography trivia to show off. No, seriously. I mean, can you draw a map of the world, freehand? Keir can do that.

September 28, 2005

Gimme Indie Rock

For someone who blabbers on about his own ridiculously ameteur musical history (see a few posts below), I don't talk a lot about other people's bands anymore. There are 2 reasons for this- one, I used to be (as many young white suburbanite males are) a real nasty, opinionated asshole when it came to music fandom & criticism. This snobbery came despite a still-enduring appreciation for '90s U2 as well as an inability to truly slug it out with other music snobs. The other reason was that I didn't like being that guy after a while, which was easy to feel once I started making my own music and throwing it out there in the world for other people to judge (and oh, they have, for both good and ill). So this is sort of a compromise- let me show off my two favorite indie rock releases from the past year or so (loosely, since I belatedly found one from 2004), from SoCal-area bands that I'm only tangentially connected to. Both these records are great works, great listens, and I recommend them highly to music fans anywhere.

"Terrors Of The Deep" by Bodie
Bodie are doomed to be hailing from the O.C., just like me, but they don't let that get to them. In fact, this album has more of the great things I associate with Southern California beach towns in its songs, more than probably intended by the band. Big spaces are evoked, but not excessively- more like the slow bobbing of a lifeboat at night ("Twilights") or the mellow scalding of sunsets on paradise ("Holdin' Out"). Seems like sea & sky figure highly in the disc's collective psyche, or at least some large expanse of space- empty or not. I've always liked that in any kind of music, but reverb and echo on guitars (and basses!) is still my favorite sound, and there's lots of that to go around here. As a lyricist I should also say that the song lyrics aren't slouchers either- but not in a ten dollar word sorta way- more like the right word or phrase for the right feeling at the right point in the song. One of my favorite lines in the lyrics is "my door closes tight, but it locks from the inside", from "Don't Feel Good To Be Left Alone". As a designer, I love the cover art. So yeah, for a roots-rock band with mildly psychedelic tendencies (sorry, had to hack a description out somewhere), Bodie made one tight, focused album. Don't know much more about them, but I do know that my brother works with the band's singer, and that's how I got turned on to this album, and right now that's enough for me.

"Volcano And Heart" by The Coral Sea
They might not know or care to hear this, but I liked the name they used to have- "Rey", first name of this Santa Barbara band's frontman Rey Villalobos (brother to Gina, she of last year's great indie-roots-rock album). I know they've switched band members a bit over the years (Rey and James Garza go back a bit, though, I think), and hopefully the change was for a good reason. Rey (the band) released the rock-ish "Secret" EP 3 years ago, and Rey (the multitalented frontman) released a solo album called "Rey Means King" in '03 that easily bested the EP but for some reason is no longer available to the wide world, before forming a combo called the Coral Sea that includes himself, bassist Garza, guitarist Duncan Wright (my editor from the days at the Independent), and multipercussionist extraordinaire Matt Talmage. The moody, mellow-to-monstrous reverb-tinged epics on "Volcano And Heart" seem to be the next logical step from "Rey Means King" (indeed, piano-driven "Yesterday/Tomorrow" appears on both albums), but the kicker on the new disc is the layered string arrangements that beef up many of the songs. The high point for me is "In This Moment's Time", a careening, swirling vortex of a tune that I had the pleasure of hearing on KCSB the week of the album's release. Rey's voice is in a high, fragile register for most of the record, but he's only ever overwhelmed by the band on a few occasions, and even then it serves the intensity of the song. Duncan's guitar tones mostly ring instead of crunch, but I'm more attracted to that sort of playing anyway, so thats a plus for me as well. This album seems to have been a major effort by everyone involved, but I say it paid off in spades (and continues to- their live show is great as well). It's a good, strong piece of work. Oh, good cover art here as well.

September 26, 2005

Ed Is Dead

Yep, the big blue beast called Edgar, the car I learned to drive in, the co-mascot of Honey White, was finally towed out of my life last Friday. That's him right next to Bryn's old '81 green monster. Ed the Volvo had been sitting idle and unregistered (from a failed smog check), collecting dust from the farm field next door, for two months, while I biked to work. Once I got ahold of Lis' Jetta Ed's days were certainly numbered, but I think ditching the Volvo had been a virtual certainty ever since he unceremoniously died on the 101 in San Jose last October, trying to get home from the studio where the band made our latest CD. That and Em was tired of giving her Honda Trevor all the heavy road-trip work since then. Mostly, though, it's all my fault, for the single pathetic reason that it was the outward manifestation of my inability to perform even the most basic auto maintenance.

The car's best years were gone before I ever got it, but it's been in my family since 1988, its year of issue. My grandpa bought it for my grandma after her lima-bean-green colored Volvo wagon crapped out at around my 11th birthday. I didn't see it too much unil five of six years later, when it came to my mom, who drove it into the ground driving her three kids everywhere. Much to the chagrin of Nick, Jon, and Kevin, I was not in fact the first of the four of us to get my driver's license, but (I think) the last. I didn't legally drive the big blue Volvo til I was about 17 and a half. About five months of total freedom followed, but it ended when I got grounded (for the only time) after conspiring with the three above-mentioned guys to throw the infamous New Year's 1995 party during our senior year of high school. My girlfriend at the time wasn't amused, I'll bet, that she had to drive me everywhere for a bit, or at least until I got my first job at the Saddleback bookstore after I finished high school. I drove that car to work almost every day, but ironically it was Bryn who pushed the thing to 90 on the freeway one time, as he came to get me from work.

The car stayed with my mom until about 2001, or maybe a bit earlier, but it wasn't actually signed over to me til spring 2002, by which time it had already driven up and down the state many times, adding to the steady wear and tear it had already endured. I promptly forced it to do much, much more, all for the sake of rock and roll- or, more accurately, my own ignorant, selfish willpower. It never really had a name- sometimes it was "the big blue beast", but only when Bryn's was "the big green monster", but it was forever christened Edgar one night in Isla Vista after someone wrote "Edgar Sucks" on its dirty windows. Probably just a neighborhood kid, but that didn't matter- the car now had a name, and, unfortunately, a mission: To Suck Like No Volvo Has Ever Sucked Before.


Yes, my volvo and Bryn's were the inspiration for Billy's cover design on the first Honey White CD, but the car quickly became undependable, and to someone like me who knows fuckall about cars and their workings, this was Unforgivable. Oh sure, I was to blame, but hey, I've learned my lesson, and if a car can last from '88-'05 with only a dozen or so instances of total, absoulute failure, then it's earned the right to either a jalopied rebirth or a merciful junkyard demolition. Emily even sang it a song once it was gone:

"good bye edgar,
good bye edgar,
good bye edgar,
he will suck no more"

Which is cute, but I still think it's just cause she's glad Trevor won't be handling all the hard work now. It's almost too bad that my sister's- now my- Jetta was already well known as Scooter, cause we could surely have some good names for it. Funnily enough, though, it is now the Jetta that bears the license plate frame which reads "Honey White: My Band Rocks".

September 18, 2005

Two Days at Chavez Ravine

Rob's adventures in Cubland prompted another Dubious baseball post, however insubstantial (and nothing really to do with Em and I seeing an Angel game last night). No, this one concerns the Dodgers, currently in the dumper and way behind my Padres (as Ted likes to say). The above photo is from last year when we saw L.A. win their only playoff game in a losing effort to St. Louis (who of course went on to lose the World Series to Boston). It was the only Dodger home game of the series and the place was going absolutely apeshit. Jose Lima pitched a great game and Shaun Green hit two home runs (so, of course this year they were traded to other teams). Though the vibe at the stadium was pretty ecstatic, there were already hints of the thug-fest it would become this year. Cardinals fans were abused without mercy by the hometown crowd, and were often escorted out for their own protection.

Anyway, it was a great game and reminded me that I hadn't been to a Dodger game since 1996, when coincidentally I also saw a playoff game, this time against Atlanta (who won, then went on to lose to the Yankees in the World Series). I went to the game with two of my friends from UCSB, Anny and Elizabeth, who were blissfully ignorant of the danger their Brave-rooting placed us in (notice my weak "I hope we get out of here alive" smile in the above photo). I actually remember very little about that game, but 8 years is a long stretch between Dodger games for someone like me who grew up and then went to school in Southern California.

So yeah, the Angel game was pretty dull last night til Garrett Anderson and Miguel Cabrera made it interesting (and, as Matt said, similar to 2002) in the 8th. We also listened to the wild and crazy Padre game on the radio on the way home, where the Pads came back to beat Washington in extra innings on the strength of a Khalil Greene grand slam and Ramon Hernandez walkoff 3-run blast.

Next time we gotta find a way to get one of those free givaway binders. Maybe kidnap a junior high student or something.

September 09, 2005

Nerdy Self-Obsessed Music Stuff


And now for something completely different. With my machine relatively paralyzed by creating backup of the tons and tons of GB worth of my musical history, I have little to do but yak all about it. Not really such a big deal, except that my dvd burner can only work up to 2x speed, which means almost all of the dvd-r stuff now available is out of my league. Now that I've found discs slow enough for the thing, I'm backing up all the Honey White and Mojo Wire stuff I can, often so I can toss the mounds of random CDs clogging the playroom.

One of the more interesting things I unearthed is the original backups for Honey White's debut CD, a 5-song demo/E.P. from 3 years ago. We recorded it at a home studio, digitally onto a Roland VS-2480, the hyper-evolved version of my own Roland VS-890 (which is what I use to record shows and rehearsals). Anyway, all the backup material can only be read by a VS-2480, so it's basically useless unless we find one lying around somewhere, which is doubtful. As a counter-example, the backup for this year's album (which you see on this blog) is readily accessible as it was done with Pro Tools. It's stored on an external drive here at my place, and Brian has a copy also. Not to mention the 500 copies we pressed of the actual release. So no, there probably won't be a 30-year remastered, rejiggered version of the "My Band Rocks!" E.P., which shouldn't really make anyone shed any tears.


Other more irritating revelations concern the lack of Mojo Wire backup material. I've found a few discs of mp3 backup, but not much else. This isn't necessarily bad, since the Mojo stuff was all mostly on cassette tapes, and we got the best of that before the tapes got themselves lost in our various moves around Isla Vista. Still, considering the amount of crap we have for Honey White after 3.5 years of existence, it's a shame that the Mojo Wire's 5 years are preserved so poorly. The world at large might not care, but I do. Guys in bands tend to have special places in their hearts for the first band they were ever in, no matter how much that band may have sucked.

The Mojo Wire didn't suck all the time, though. To say they did is kind of insulting, actually, since at the time we definitely didn't think so- it was too much fun to worry about what other people thought if they didn't like us. There were actually 3 different lineups in 5 years, and much of it was quite good considering the various circumstances under which the recording was done (such as near-total ignorance about recording techniques). Funny thing is, the first Mojo album was very bluesy-surfy, and much of the recording that we did for those songs was done so poorly that we actually got pretty close, without even knowing or trying, to what original blues or surf recordings sounded like back in the 50s/early 60s- the days before stereo, when one microphone was all there was to do the job. Tinny, weak-sounding stuff, but hey, very unique. When we dropped "Battery Acid Blues" in late 1997 in Isla Vista, it was totally different from anything being played there at the time (ska, punk, jam bands) and different from the wider music world at large. That goes double for the 3rd Mojo Wire album, which, because of when and how we made it, is still real special to me even though some of it is damn nigh unlistenable.

As you may have guessed I'm the archivist for all this band stuff. It's so valuable to me though, more than anything I've ever been paid to do, and that's including the graphic design work I've been doing in recent years. That's why the websites are up for the bands, still, even (and especially) the ones that aren't active anymore. Hell, Bryn and Adam have been jamming again down in OC, so really, whenever they play together the Mojo Wire ain't dead. I'm really glad the Honey White guys agree that this is still a great thing to do despite the physical distance between all of us- since getting together to play is hard to do these days, it's really a big deal when we rehearse, let alone play a show.

Don't know where I was going with all this but I thought in light of all the negativity I've been spouting recently I ought to mention the things that really make me feel happy to be alive. Playing bass guitar and writing lyrics for my bands over the last 10 years is definitely on that list.

Well, that and it gives me great opportunities to make a public fool of myself. It's only rock & roll after all.

August 22, 2005

Sean Goes To Africa, Continued


Not content with the fame that goes with having a Honey White song named for him, our buddy Sean Blaschke is in the early stages of a cross-continental drive across Africa, after 2 years working for the Peace Corps in the Gambian bush and 1 year working in the capital. Now he and Tuuli and some friends are barreling across the Sahara in what looks like a Stingray, and even better, he's blogging it. Sean's mass emails from the bush over the past few years have been vividly Hunter Thompson-esque, so I figured I should give the man and his crew some publicity.

They have a flickr group for all their photo-documentation...

August 04, 2005

Eat Spam and Die


Which is, of course, Klingon for All Your Ohio Are... oh, never mind. This whole thing is way too meta and web-geeky, but the sheer stupidity of the argument has to be gutchecked, and roly-poly ass-kicker Steve Gilliard is just the man to do it.

Paul Hackett's failed bid to unseat Brunhilde of the Cincinnatti Yahoos provided the latest spark for another binge of hysteria on Kos. Now, I'm a regular visitor to that site and I like the Kos hysterics, cause really, what's more fun than watching otherwise smart people go totally apeshit at other people who they'll never meet face to face? Lots of things, sure, but I'm not talking about important stuff- just spam.

Mostly the flap had to do with people freaking out about other people freaking out about spamming their friends and relatives with emails begging everyone to support a candidate for a congressional district that was entirely irrelevant to 99.9% of the country. Never mind that Hackett has big brass forged-in-Iraq ones and called the President a sonofabitch. Never mind that the race was much closer than it should have been. Hackett's problem was that he basically asked people to mass email anyone they could in support of his campaign.

Now, I'm sure we've all been recipients of some form or another of Crackpot Republican Email Forwards. Those are funny, harmless, and of course totally untrue. What bores me these days are the MoveOn emails I keep getting even though I've marked them all over the place as junk. Not just those, but anything from Nancy Pelosi or random hacks at the DCCC. Why? Because I already know this stuff, and I'm not going to forward it to other people just so I can feel like I've been a good little pseudo-activist.

SusanG on Kos says tough shit, you poser, we're just gonna have to annoy some people or nothing's gonna change! Well, Sue, then I'm not the guy to do it. I sent out a weepy post-election email that I thought people would be sympathetic to and when some weren't (as I should have known were I thinking), I did that oh-so-liberal thing called empathy and reversed roles, coming to the conclusion that I looked way too passionately interested in this stuff to be let outside among the public. Aside from how lazily judgemental that shows me to be, I don't mind the world knowing this. Everyone who received that email now knows that I'm a pathetically weeping loser who freaks out when dipshit candidates like Kerry ruin my 28th birthday by losing elections to dipshit Republicans like the President. Which is, you know, great for altering that whole "Democrats are pussies" meme.

On the other hand, I got a note back from 2d Lt Clemente, which was one of the most bittersweet and funniest things I've read since, well, since the last thing like that he said in high school. On the other other hand, I got a note back from my high school girlfriend, who now probably feels even better about dumping me 9 years ago, saying pretty much that I was too stupid to breathe and I hated America and didn't I know Michael Moore was fat and all that other wingnut crap- all punches that I had to grin and take because I was dumb enough to expose myself, once again, as a Hypersensitive Prick. The few others who responded to me as well (uh, those who didn't offer terse replies like "yeah, it sucks, man"), upon reflection, also seemed to be overly sensitive types. We all had a good cry.

Nah, we didn't, really.

Jesus, that's a long way from a now irrelevant election result in Ohio. Point is, I guess, that if I'm not going to sell candy bars for Little League (which I loved playing), if I'm not going to cold-call clubs to book band gigs, and if I'm not willing to do all the other interactive shit that seems to be required to get people to care about anything at all, then no, I'm not going to spam anyone with political email anymore. It was like my first hangover- once is fucking enough, thanks, and I'm not going to embarrass myself like that again. Call me a poser- I don't care. I did jack shit last year when it came to actual political involvement. I only went to one rally, and that was across the street and I got to hang around with teachers and tell the city that our Austrian-American governor is an asshole.

I'm not doing political email anymore. Well, unless the Rude One keeps up his brilliance. Everyone ought to read that stuff.

Anyway- the moral of the story is Spam Bad, Ohio Lame, Keir Poser.

But you already knew that, right? What the fuck else is new?

July 31, 2005

Young Prince Is Crowned


Yep, Ryno's in Cooperstown. Here's his classy induction speech (via Tony The Great Podcaster).

Ryne Sandberg was my favorite player when I was in little league. I was never on a team that had a Cub uniform, though. One year I was even a Cardinal. I don't know who to apologize to about that.

Today Emily saw a photo of Sandberg at his induction and another from his playing days and she said "you guys even look a bit alike too." She didn't specify how but that wasn't really necessary. Did I mention she's a keeper?

Now I wish I could find those damn baseball cards. No no, my mom didn't toss them, like so many moms did of my dad's generation. I think they just got lost in the recent move from I.V. to Ventura...

Next (and this is for J.C.): Paging Mr. Gwynn...

July 27, 2005

I'm Stupid, Part XXVIII


So I was checking around for some info on U2's Oslo set and I come across this on a great French fansite:

01. Vertigo 02. 11 O'Clock Tick Tock 03. Electric Co. 04. Elevation 05. Last Night On Earth 06. Beautiful Day 07. Until The End Of The World 08. Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses 09. City Of Blinding Lights 10. Miracle Drug 11. Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own 12. Love And Peace Or Else 13. Staring At The Sun 14. Fast Cars 15. Miss Sarajevo 16. Please 17. Where The Streets Have No Name 18. One

Rappel : 19. Ultraviolet 20. The Fly 21. Crumbs From Your Table 22. All Because of You 23. Electrical Storm 24. Vertigo

...which I immediately posted a few other places and went "wow!" Granted, I had some caveats there like "if this is for real" and stuff but if I could actually read French I'd have known it was a joke set. First time I've fallen for something like this.

Oh well.

Update:
I should have explained why this set caught my eye- and why I'm such a sucker. Please & Staring At The Sun are two Pop album songs that were played occassionally on the Elevation tour. Ultraviolet and Last Night On Earth were great workhorses from Zoo TV and PopMart respectively that have not been played since their respective tours and have no logical reason to be brought out now (though the band has un-mothballed Zoo Station). Fast Cars, Electrical Storm and Crumbs are 3 newer songs that haven't been played yet. Everything else has seen some airtime on this year's tour- lending a little credence- yep, even the obscure Miss Sarajevo and also Wild Horses (which went unplayed for over a decade til this past June).

What should also have tipped me off that this was bogus was the absence of the "war is hell" part of the set: Love & Peace/Sunday Bloody Sunday/Bullet/Running To Stand Still (since replaced by Sarajevo). It's the first peak of the show, before the Zoo TV one-two redux of Zoo Station & The Fly.

Anyway...

July 19, 2005

Shorter Rest-of-High-School


Because hey, prequels to established hits are always moneymakers...

9th grade, 91/92:
Keir: Holy shit.
DHHS: That’s right, freshman. Deal widdit.
Keir: Uh, soccer?
DHHS: Forget it.
Keir: Baseball?
DHHS: Sorry, dude. Ask AYSO.
Keir: Okay. Uh, what else you got?
DHHS: How about more homework? It’s easy, but there’s lots of it.
Keir: Uh, sure, I guess. Hey, what about all those hot chicks over there? Or those other chicks staring at me?
DHHS: We’ll get to that later. The teachers think you’re pretty smart, though.
Keir: Oh, that’s nice. How about the dudes? Are we still cool?
Jon: Word.
Ray: Word.
Other Random Dudes: Word.
Keir: Sweet.
AYSO: Hey man.
Keir: ‘Sup. Is it on?
AYSO: You know it. Your coach might be more of a hardass this year, though.
Keir: Damn. Guess I can deal.
AYSO: I thought so. Late.
Jon: Let’s gamble. You still in?
Keir: Sure.
Bryn: Junior high sucks.
Keir: Hang in there, man. Just don’t touch Dad’s crappy old guitar, or the pea coat. They’re mine, dig?
Bryn: Well shit. I’m going sailing.
Lis: Keir, you listen to the Police too much. Sting’s not really that cool.
Keir: No no, he’ll be cool for another year or so, but then he’ll be a wanker ever after. Good thing there’s these U2 guys I guess. They’ll never be uncool, right?
Lis: Um...
Keir: Whatever. Wish I was in a band.
DHHS: Sorry kid. Hey, if it matters, people will think you’re cool anyway. By the way, some of those girls like you.
Keir: Really? Sweet.
DHHS: Whoa there. You, uh, (improvises) wouldn’t like them. Trust me. You won’t regret it if you don’t ask them out. Really.
Keir: Are you sure?
DHHS: Uh, yeah man.
Keir: Oh, okay. Um, what about… let’s see… Jenny?
Katye: …
Jenny: You’re sweet, but don’t even think about it.
Keir: Shit. Samantha?
Katye: …
Samantha: DHHS sucks.
DHHS: Hey! Just for that, I’m making you all go to 10th grade.
Dad: Wait a sec- my kids have to hang in G-town for a few hot, boring weeks in midsummer again.
Keir/Bryn/Lis: Oh, okay.

10th grade, ‘92/’93:
Keir: Man, Achtung Baby rocks. Why do I always get these things a year later?
Life: Dude, you’re a firstborn late bloomer. Didn’t I already tell you that?
Keir: Maybe. I don’t remember. Oh, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas rocks too.
Life: Yeah, I knew that. Hey, you know what you could use right now?
Keir: Uh, a bass guitar? A girlfriend? A social life? A haircut? A new creative outlet? What?
Life: Well, yeah, to all of that, but I’m gonna give you… a broken toe and a broken collarbone all at once!
AYSO: Hey, that was my present, man!
Life: Yeah, well, that’s life. Bye!
AYSO: Oh, oh yeah. Bye!
Keir: Ouch. I mean, OUCH. Damn, crutches suck. Clavicle halters suck too.
Girls: We empathize. Or sympathize. Or something.
Keir: Really? Want some mix tapes? Or hand-drawn portraits? Will you go out with me now?
Girls: Yes, yes, guess so, and no, in that order.
DHHS: Relax, guy. Your teachers still think you rock. Oh, except the fundie PE coach.
Keir: Well, fuck him. Anyway, I’m all better now.
Jon: Sweet. Let’s go watch the football team lose again.
Keir: But they won this time. Hey, shouldn’t we join some clubs or something?
Jon: I’m already playing baseball, man. You can too, but only winter ball.
DHHS: Let’s make it easy- Try some academic ones, then ditch ‘em, then try the trivia team, and then why not go ahead to 11th grade? You’ll have more fun there.
Keir: Okay, I can do that. How about driving?
Mom: Better wait on that, dear.
Keir: Oh. Can I at least bail on Dad’s this summer?
Dad: No. You have to meet my new girlfriend and all of her family this time too.
Keir/Bryn/Lis: Oh. Okay, whatever.


11th grade, ‘93/’94:
Keir: Am I gonna get the hang of this shit yet?
Life: What, like avoiding more scenes of crippling embarrassment? Call me in 10 years, man.
Keir: Shit. Well, what the hell am I supposed to do now?
DHHS: Why not try to get in with the ASB kids? They’re doing a Homecoming Float and they need some lights on it.
Keir: Oh, sure, cool. Hey, will any of those girls like me? They’re hot too.
DHHS: No, but most (though not all) of them are shallow anyway. Don’t sweat it. This’ll be fun.
Laguna Firestorm: No way, bitch, I don’t think so. Welcome to the Terrordome.
DHHS: Holy shit!
Keir: (cough) Well, can I still be the Fat Vegas Elvis?
DHHS: (distracted) Uh, okay man, sure, but dig: you’ll be forced into an awkward situation later with your parents and your dad’s girlfriend and stuff, so don’t get too excited.
Keir: Oh. Damn. Hey Rest Of The Float People. Hey Brynley.
Brynley: Just sit on the float, dude. Chill.
DHHS: Okay, okay. Back to class, people. Oh, and Keir, Chemistry hates you.
Keir: Fuck. What about Astronomy?
DHHS: Rock on.
Keir: Sweet. What else is up?
Jon: Hey.
Nick: Hey.
Kevin: Hey.
Keir: ‘Sup y’all. Shall we roll?
Jon/Nick/Kevin: Word, let’s roll.
Keir: Awesome.
Bryn & Adam: Hey, we’re representin’ too, yo.
Keir: Lemme get back to you on that. Sit tight.
Sophomore Girls: Hey Keir.
Keir: Hey ladies.
Sophomore Girls: …
Keir: ….
Nick: Dude, we’re rollin’ here.
Jon: Rollin’ retro, even.
Kevin: Just get in the fucking car, man.
Keir: What? Oh, oh yeah.
AP Exams: Keir?
Keir: Yeah?
AP Exams: We's your bitch.
Keir: Damn right you is.
Kiwanis Bowl: Hey, Keir & Jon?
Keir: Yeah?
Jon: Yeah?
Kiwanis Bowl: You guys is some smart motherfuckers.
Keir: Fuckin’ A we are.
DHHS: Keir?
Keir: Yeah?
DHHS: Your teachers still dig you. Have some awards, man. Stroke that ego.
Keir: That’s what I’m talkin’ bout.
Dad: Hey, did you and your brother and sister get up to G-town this summer? I don’t remember.
Keir: Uh, come to think of it, I don’t remember either. Let’s just skip it, okay?

July 15, 2005

Shorter Senior Year

Delayed reaction to the reunion, I suppose:

'94/'95

State of California: Okay Keir, have a driver’s license. Great power, great responsibility, blah blah blah.
Keir: Awesome. I can do all kinds of stuff now. Mom, can I borrow the car?
Mom: Sure, J.K. By the way, my old friend Bill is moving in with us. I really like him and I hope you kids do too.
Keir: That’s cool.
Bryn & Lis: Oh, okay.
Bill: Hi kids.
Keir/Bryn/Lis: Hi Bill. Don’t be weird.
Bill: Wouldn’t dream of it. Thanks for not hating me.
Bryn: No prob.
Lis: Ditto.
Keir: Cool. Hey, am I still responsible for all that AP summer work?
DHHS: Of course you are, you fool. You’re a senior now, but you can’t act like one just yet.
Keir: Shit.
Colette: Dude, don’t worry about it. We can all help each other out.
Kevin: Yeah man, we got your back.
Nick: Hey, Keir, aren’t you gonna join the Newspaper staff with us?
Jon: Or take Marine Bio and go on the Baja trip in May? It’s gonna be epic.
Keir: No thanks. Besides, it’s not anything I won’t regret later, you know?
Jon/Nick/Kevin: If you say so, man.
Keir: What?
Jon: Nothing. Hey, gotta go, Kathy’s calling.
Nick: Cool. Hey, gotta go, I’m avoiding Adrienne.
Kevin: Pricks. Hey, aren’t we all going to Homecoming or something?
Nick: Damn right we are, and I nominate myself for Homecoming King. Are you with me?
Jon/Keir/Kevin: Right on. You won’t win it, though.
Keir: Holy shit, I need a date.
Colette: Dude, like I said, don’t stress. Let me hook you up.
Keir: Nice. Thanks babe. This is gonna be great. What could possibly go wrong?
Melissa: Hi Keir.
Keir: Do I know you?
Melissa: No, but would you mind if I manipulate your shockingly underdeveloped emotional state for a few weeks?
Keir: Um, do I have a choice?
Melissa: No.
Keir: Oh. Wow, this is really cool and really sucky all at once.
Melissa: That’s nice. Bye!
Keir: Damn. I hate everything.
Nick: Keir, how often do we have to tell you to lighten the fuck up? You’ve applied to UCSB and you know they’ll accept you, and the ratio there is totally to your advantage. Now why don’t you come along to this New Year’s party that we’re throwing at Jon’s house? It’ll be amazing.
Keir: Really? Do his parents know?
Jon: Don’t be stupid. All we have to do is get some beer, invite some people, go absolutely batshit crazy, and promise ourselves that we’ll be sufficiently with it to clean everything up in the morning. It’ll work.
Nick: Trust us.
Kevin: Yeah, if I buy this, then you should feel okay about it too.
Keir: Well, fine, let’s do it then.
Party Guests: This is awesome!!
Bryn: Yuck, beer tastes like horse piss. I’ll never ever drink it again.
Jon/Nick: This is great. We’re geniuses.
Party Guests: Yeah! You guys rock!!
Jon’s Mom: Like hell they do. You’re all doomed. I’m Ezekiel 25:17-ing all of your asses.
Jon: Oh shit.
Nick: Damn.
Kevin: Later!
Keir: Fuck.
Keir’s Mom: Keir, you’re grounded. No going out, and if you do, you lose the car until you get a job.
Keir: Well, bummer, cause we have a basketball game to go to.
Mom: Enjoy walking then.
Keir: Fine. I so will not regret this later.
Nick: That’s the spirit. The 6th Man Club rules!
Jon: The Screaming Mimes rock!
Keir: Who are the Screaming Mimes?
Kevin: I guess that’s us 4. Hey, aren’t we all going Winter Formal or something?


Nick: Of course we are. We own this fucking place now.
Keir: Holy shit, then I need a date again.
Aileen: I can help you out with that.
Keir: Really? Sweet.
Aileen: Sure. Just eat your dinner and dance badly and try not to embarrass me or yourself.
Keir: Deal. You look damn good in that dress.
Aileen: Thanks. Bye!
Nick: Now wasn’t that nice? Hell, didn’t I say we owned this place?
DHHS: I don’t think so. Your teachers say y’all got senior-itis and you’re so, so busted. Pick up your grades or you can forget about college.
Keir: Shit!
UCSB: Chill, my friend. You are accepted to attend college. Just don’t do anything stupid between now and September and you’re set.
Keir: Oh, okay. Thanks. Does Air Guitar count as something stupid?
Nick: Of course not. Now listen, we’ll portray the Stones. We just need one more guy.
Crosby: Look no further. I am after all a real guitar player, you know.
Jon: Cool man, let’s rock.
Keir: Wish I had a bass guitar.
Crosby: You will man, you will. I’ll play you a Jeff Buckley album later that will make you feel better. Now just play us some air drums.
Air Guitar Audience: Woo hoo! You guys so totally rock pretending to rock!
Nick: Don’t we know it. Now watch these tight silver pants.
Keir’s Mom: This is hilarious.
Nick: Oh shit! It’s Miriam!
Keir: Ha ha. Hey gang, I gotta go on a Tijuana field trip for my Spanish class. Later.
Jon/Nick/Kevin: Hey man, when you get on that bus, you go there.
Keir: Word. I have a good feeling about this.
Nicki: Hi Keir, nice to meet you.
Keir: Oh hello, aren’t you a beautiful and intelligent and, um, limber gymnast.
Nicki: Thanks, you’re sweet.
Keir: Thanks. Hey, wanna go out sometime?
Nicki: Sure, that sounds like fun.
Keir: Score! I’m an expert when it comes to creatively wasting time. You’ll dig it, I promise.
Nicki: Excellent. So, are you my boyfriend now?
Keir: Hell yes. Are you my girlfriend now?
Nicki: Why not? That’s a great idea. I can give you about 10 months of my life before I break your heart.
Keir: How generous of you. How about going with me to Prom then?
Nicki: Now you’re talking. Let’s do that thing where we spend lots of time together and stuff.
Keir: Now you’re talking. This is fantastic. Wow, prom is actually lots of fun. Unbelievable. Hey, why is the limo clunking?
Megan: There’s a flat tire.
Dana: Yep. Lucky for us there’s another limo out here at 3am to pick us up.
Crosby: All aboard, yo. I’d offer you my flask, but it’s totally gone and I’m a bit wasted. Sorry.
Keir: No worries. Thanks for everything.
Nicki: Well that was nice. So, why don't we do the Capo Beach bonfire thing? Megan and Dana and everyone will be there.
Keir: Sure. Let me just invite one more couple. Well, they’re not really a couple, but you know what I mean.
Bryn: Seriously man, sometimes being your younger brother isn’t lame. Don’t blow it now.
Keir: Sorry. Hey, where’s Adam?
Bryn: Over there with Alexis.
Keir: Hey Adam. Welcome to the show.
Adam: ‘Sup. Hey, aren’t you supposed to be graduating soon?
Keir: Think so. Maybe I’ll just do it right now. Is that cool?
DHHS: Yeah, that’s cool, but I gotta tell you man, it’s gonna be 3 hours, hot as hell, and your dad and his girlfriend are gonna sit on the opposite end of the stadium from everyone else.
Keir: Well, will Mom, Bill, Grandpa, Eva, Bryn, Lis, and Nicki all be there too?
All of those people: Of course we will. We love you.
Keir: Awesome. So, will Grad Night go well?
DHHS: Natch. Peace out.

July 11, 2005

So, the Reunion



In short it was very enjoyable and not really anything like I'd expected. Everyone there seemed happy to find out about the people everyone had become. Most everyone looked the same too. No fair naming names of those who didn't (but I'm one of them). I knew what kind of night it would be when Nurick (sober or not) seemed to test things out with a horrible shriek while everyone was eating. Silence, then stares, then, uh, smiles. Oh, it's just Ben- didn't he ever learn to be melodramatic! Something like that. Still, the congenial vibe did nothing to alter my urge for Strong Drink, but in the spirit of compromise I mostly stuck to beer- that is, until Brandon said "here, have some of this nice vodka!" Bustamante and I began immediately planning a double bill with our two bands (he plays bass for Crosby in Attached By Wires). Holly just laughed. She apparently enjoyed being the only woman at the table

Like I said, no major appearance changes. The guys were suave (or close enough) and the women were all hot, notably also those who were pregnant. What the hell- envy is for the maggot-brained. Except for a few notable cases I was not unrecognized, and apparently look badass when bald, according to Cota at least. The coolest part was that the first thing people said after "hello" was "so... you're in a band?" like graphic design was second to that. I wasn't even drunk yet and the egomania was already upon me. Also about that- and this is weirdly ironic- I noticed that by the end of the night those of us who were having trouble holding our liquor all happened to be the ones who went to UCSB. Again, no fair naming names, but that was mildly amusing in a totally non-judgemental way.

Long and Tara emceed a slide show that was less an exercise in nostalgia and more of a Trip Through Colette's Rap Sheet. I spent less time watching the slides than watching everyone else watch them. They also charged through a series of questions mostly for the sake of those who had racked up numbers- either in years married, distance traveled, or (and this was undoubtedly only for Stephanie Spencer) number of divorces. Her response was right on- "fuck you Long, you motherfucker!" Again, or something like that. Skye indiscriminately dragged everyone out to dance. I tried to say something about how this is why I learned to play guitar, so I wouldn't have to learn to dance- and she merely pointed at Bustamante and Crosby (who were getting uninhibited) and had the decency to not call me a pussy before getting me out there. She knew I lied- hey, as a bass player I have some rhythm.

Oh, and Nick got his props as well (and not just in that I supplied an Air Guitar slideshow pic of him in silver spandex). When Tara mentioned that he was in Iraq people went from surprise (not shock) to confident acceptance in a strikingly short time, especially once they found out that he controls the big fuck-off tanks, and that his men have an able leader. When he gets back here we'll be so happy to see him that his feet won't touch the ground.

Many people (mostly women), to their credit, were happy to humor me and listen to me yak on and on about my band, especially (all maiden names supplied cause I don't remember their married names) Jessica Stalin, Alyssa Maitino, Jenny Eckl and Karey Fellers. Most everyone had the same reaction as Nick did to news of me and Emily and our 7 unmarried years, but J.C. put it best- "Dude, what the fuck are you waiting for?" Well fine, see if you all get invited then. Just kidding. Everyone's spouses were cool, everyone's baby pictures were cute, all that stuff. It wasn't at all like there was a married side and an unmarried side to the thing- people didn't care, and again, everyone's spouses were troupers.

The location was strange- I'd never been there before. The Remick Mansion is in the airport area of Irvine/Newport, surrounded by five-star hotels and office towers. Another reunion being held nearby ended up filtering into ours- and they said ours was much better. Who bailed? Hessel. Carlos Betancourt. Sam Smrekar. Kelly Miles. All folks (save Sam) that I haven't seen in way too long. They'll have to wait then. Another best part was (for me) having the lifers there- like Maile Malin and JC. There were a few others from elementary school too- everyone who's known how to say my name since we were six.

Anyway, from what I saw- nothing excessively sentimental or cheesy or whatever else these things are supposed to be like. That's just me, but I liked it.

June 24, 2005

A Second Lieutenant's Grim Commentary From Iraq, Part II



For the second round of our “interview,” my 2nd Lieutenant friend and I had the benefit of an “audience.” He’d copied his entire address book onto his initial responses, so all his friends, family- everyone he was in contact with while stationed in Iraq- got to see our conversation. He explained:

“I find it funny- the reaction I received from my first batch of responses to your questions. People have apparently been wondering these same things (and probably more) but have been unable or unwilling to ask for clarification. This baffles me. One of the good things about being here is that I can shed some light on an otherwise murky situation. So if anyone has any more questions (anything, seriously I am not in a delicate mental state or anything) go ahead and ask.”
It felt good to know that many more people besides me didn’t want to feel manipulated by events any more than we probably already had been. Here's Part 2:
Thanks again for illuminating me. Funny that I should get some serious details about Iraq from you on the same day that figurative shit blows up all over the place back in the States. Namely a thing that’s been absolutely frustrating to me is the inference that so many people make here at home- that any dissent about anything war-related hurts or demoralizes you guys. Help me out with this since I don’t get it- I’m concerned that you’re stuck in an untenable situation, and it’s my fault for saying something about it?

Being labeled a traitor for showing anti-war sentiment, that is absolute garbage. As a real American (meaning someone who actually has read the entire Constitution and someone who takes its defense deadly serious) I support any form of discourse which furthers the public’s enlightenment of any situation. Whether it be abortion, stem cell research, flag buring, the war in Iraq...whatever. I love the fact that I am fighting for a country that allows and encourages that sort of FREEDOM. 3 years ago, in the very place I sit at this moment, people would dissappear for private dissent, let alone public. I relish the fact that people I totally disagree with have the right to speak their minds and disagree with me. That we as citizens have not only the right but the responsibility to question our leaders about the direction they are taking us.

What worries me is that if our best-trained troops are having a hard time (other than, of course, whatever kind of hard time you all may have expected), then it’s gotta be worse than an extremely dangerous situation, like you just said. What I guess I’m not getting is if that’s in any way harmful to you guys. I know this is a 30-year-old (and older) argument too, so I guess no one’s figured it out yet. I figure you’ll tell me if I cross a line, or say “Dammit Keir, what the hell did I tell you about that casual disregard for bullshit?” I know dude, I know. It’s just really, really been smelling bad for a while now, though, you know?

I can’t give my true opinion of what is going on over here because I am an Army Officer which precludes me from enjoying many of the freedoms I defend, however let me make one thing clear...Anti-war sentiment does not derail my morale nor do war hawks bolster my morale or that of my men. When you are where we are, “knee-deep in the shit” as we say, the only thing that matters is accomplishing the mission and getting you and your people home alive. And, sorry to say, when it comes to a lot of the missions that we do here, getting home alive actually becomes number one pretty quick. As the character in Black Hawk Down says, “I think it don’t really matter what I think...when that first bullet flies by your head all that politics goes right out the window.”

That is about as true as it gets. All that really matters in combat is the guy next to you...you’re fighting for him and not much else. If that bursts anyone’s bubble...sorry but it is the truth. So, for those of you who don’t understand what we are doing over here (you aren’t alone, trust me) or who think this whole thing was a blunder... go ahead and say so. It doesn’t bother us as long as you don’t start criticizing us soldiers along with everyone else. The important thing to remember is that a soldier doesn’t get to choose his wars. He simply goes where he’s told and tries to make the best of it. So keep supporting those of us over here doing the hard thing because our elected representatives told us to. But maybe those representatives need a wake up call if they are failing to represent you accurately...that’s the beauty of democracy.

I just read a report that a company called KBR is providing poor quality food to certain units in the field in Iraq. It seems to be the umpteenth example of someone’s poor decision to fight this war on the cheap. Actually, speaking of that, how often have you or your men run into serious problems with equipment- as in not having what you’re supposed to or if any supply issues are a legit gripe or much ado about nothing?

Well first of all as you may know “KBR” stands for Kellog, Brown and Root which is the longest running logistics supplier for our nation’s military in existence. I believe they were supplying troops in WWII. The other interesting thing is that KBR is a wholly owned subsidiary of Halliburton, which as we all know was led by VP Cheney in the years prior to him taking office. Another interesting thing about KBR is that it recieved a “no bid” contract to provide chow hall services and other logistical support to the Americans in Iraq. The whole thing stinks of old boy, insider shit. However, to answer your real question, the food is pretty damn good here. Decent quality and selection and tastes pretty good too. Overall, the food situation is way better than if the Army was doing the cooking...trust me. Everyone here is glad that they have private contractors providing chow.

You mentioned last time that the nature of the media there is a necessary evil. I don’t want to misinterpret anything so could you elaborate on that a bit? It seems to me that that the embedding process destroys objectivity.

The big thing that the Army controls is the media’s movement within Iraq because it is too dangerous for them to operate outside the green zone without us escorting them. Other than that, we don’t have all that much control but we do shape what they see and subsequently what they report. As for bad news, there is so much of it that it is hard to paint a positive picture of this “quagmire” as Rumsfeld calls it. I really don’t know what you all are getting back home as far as news is concerned but the real answer as far as I see is diversification. Read as much as you can, from reputable news sources with either liberal or conservative bent, independent stuff, blogs, watch documentaries, talk to people who are deployed and you might scratch the surface. Shit, I’m here and I still don’t fully know what is happening.

Well, that is my soapbox rant for the day. When you get on a roll you really lay down some interesting shit, man. Hope all is well and that your band continues to rock. Feel free to use the name I thought up the other day, “Jam Nut Actuator and the Tubeless Regroover.” Those are all things on tanks that make a good name for a funk band. Anyway, take care and have fun at the reunion.

June 22, 2005

A Second Lieutenant's Grim Commentary From Iraq, Part I



An old friend of mine from high school is a 2nd Lieutenant commanding a tank north of Baghdad right now. Back in 12th grade civics class, he took random devils-advocate stances just for the hell of it, arguing for positions totally opposite his own just for the sake of open discourse and to either a) show his opponent how much they hadn’t done their homework (literally or figuratively) or b) educate himself about a viewpoint opposite to his own. Debate vs argument. Discourse vs flameouts.

In regular e-mails to family and friends back home, he solicited questions about anything to do with Iraq. I hadn’t asked him much initially, but I soon became more curious about his opinions on some specific issues, though, because even as someone who thinks he knows things, I still am obviously ignorant about details of a culture and place I’ve never experienced. Plus I knew he would give me the direct approach and tell me I’m full of shit if I said anything stupid—he never failed to do that back in high school.

Many servicemen & women had been writing or emailing from Iraq with their own (often widely varying) thoughts and firsthand experiences ever since the invasion. They also obviously speak to their friends or family when they rotate back home, and those people would then speak with their friends, and on and on. Some had been posting weblogs, too- some liberal, some conservative, some whatever- it ran the gamut like everything else. My “interview” took place over the course of two or three mammoth e-mails, and he had a lot to say.

Every gripe here about the media is either that it’s not reporting “the good things” happening in Iraq and it’s only focusing on the violence, or that it reports exactly what the military tells it to, truth be damned. Either way, people believe we’re getting an incomplete story. How true is that from where you sit?

There isn’t all that much good stuff to report and as you know “if it bleeds it leads,” so go figure. There are some positive stories that we see but compared to body parts raining down on school children they sometimes fail to really take hold. The media is lazy and fairly inaccurate most of the time. We have had some reporters with us and they have screwed up most every story they filed, and not just little stuff but serious misquotes and slanted journalism. Most of us see the media here as a hindrance but understand the necessary evil...we just don’t want to deal with them. Let the bigwigs get their time in the sun.

Is it dangerous everywhere outside the green zone? I know you’re not exactly in Baghdad but any of the urban areas appear hazardous.

My unit’s sector is one of the better areas in the northern part of Iraq. Southern Iraq is pretty squared away but once you get near Baghdad and to the immediate north is when shit gets hairy. We have been very lucky so far concerning casualties, however deadly shit happens multiple times a day. It is a bit like playing craps every time you roll out the gate. After a while you know you’re gonna roll a seven. But that is part of the game, and war so you just keep rolling and hope your streak holds up. To answer directly, everywhere here is dangerous for everyone. Troops, Iraqi army and police, public office holders, kids, shop owners...everyone. Bombs tend not to discriminate so lots of civilians get hurt.

Do you or your men have much experience with the new Iraqi Army? Are they as incompetent and detrimental as they seem? It appears that they’re the same guys Saddam hired- at least if all the torture stories are true.

We work with them all the time and they are coming along. Most were not in Saddam’s orginal Army and if they were they were not higher-ups. Our guys don’t cut and run like some of the stories you have probably read but they do have issues with discipline and basic soldier shit. You would think that with all the people getting killed around them you would not have to nag at them to wear their protective gear. That is not the case. They are getting better though and as their leadership continues to learn and develop the junior guys this Army will turn out OK. It will just take 15-20 years. You have to remember the the US Army was in shambles after Vietnam and took 15-25 years after the all volunteer force to truly be a complete force. We Americans just aren’t a patient bunch nor do we ever apply a historical perspective.

How big of a deal are private security contractors where you are? Do these people really get paid more than you guys, or get better armor or whatever? Are they as arrogant as they seem?

These guys are all right, most of them are pretty cool and they range from cooks to ex-Delta force security guys. They make ungodly sums of money and are outside of the realm of Military bullshit so the real answer is “If I had to come back here again, I would do it as a Contractor.” There are guys here that work with the Iraqi police (cops from home) and hardly do shit that make $120,000 a year. I am totally qualified for that job so it is difficult to see the pay and labor disparity. I don’t hold anything against these people though, because most are just using their skills to make enough money to help their families...also some adrenaline junkie/mercenary types too, but once this shit gets in your blood it is hard to just stop. Their equipment is not better than ours, but they get to choose whatever they want while we have to conform to Army issue.

Have you or your men noticed anything positive at all among Iraqi citizens? I don’t know how often you guys get to interact with them, but do they really have no water or electricity for most of the time? Did they really buy into those elections at all? Do they think anything good will happen?

Well, as for quality of life, this place is a shithole. I call it Tijuana without the booze. Actually it is worse. The water is filthy and in short supply. The electricity never stays on for more than an hour at a time (if you don’t have a generator you’re fucked) and the concept of waste disposal or trash pickup is totally foreign. Sewer systems are almost non-existent and human waste is everywhere. People just throw their trash out on the street and it too is omnipresent. This whole country is one big smelly landfill.

The soldiers all hate it here because the people don’t seem to care about making their own neighborhoods more livable. It is always what can WE give THEM. Personal responsibility is something that seems rare around here and that causes some rifts. I don’t mind helping someone help themselves but if I am the only one doing the heavy lifting then what the FUCK. They are starting to get better but it will be a slow process. You are a history guy...there is a reason that these people have been ruled by outsiders for centuries...they are ripe for colonization. We need to help them get over that and move into the modern world.

My interaction with the Iraqis- Overall, this has been positive when not totally frustrating. They are a friendly people once you engage them. They are generous and like to smile and bullshit. The kids are adorable and love Americans. They come out and chase after your trucks giving you thumbs up and waving...we try to share candy and toys and soccer balls as often as we can. The political system is plagued by corruption (just like ours except they are too young to survive it as easily) and patriotism and nationalism seem secondary to tribal and religious identities. This makes things pretty tough.

The final thing I always notice is FEAR. Everyone is afraid and not too many people are doing anything about it. In America if a car blew up on your street people would be outraged, would organize and fight anyone who jeopardized their kids. It doesn’t work like that here. People have been brutalized for so long that it seems as if they are just accustomed to the violence and feel powerless to stop it. Lastly, they are frustrated that the USA has been unable to solve their problems already. The way they see it, if we can put a man on the moon how come we can’t get the power working? A pretty reasonable question but not a simple one. This frustration undermines our relationships but we do our best to combat it.

From my point of view here it seems like the war falls out of peoples’ consciousness unless there’s a particularly nasty attack. I mean, we had to deal with Michael fucking Jackson again for the last month, and before that it was Terry Schiavo and euthanasia. The only time anyone brings up the war is if they can make it suit whatever agenda they want.

This is a weird war. One unlike any we have fought before and it saddens me to hear that it is not in the forefront of public consciousness. People need to become more engaged and stop worrying about Michael Jackson’s trial. The important thing to remember is that your sons and daughters are being killed and maimed here everyday...the numbers are not waning and BILLIONS of your tax dollars are being spent. If these kinds of expenditures were being made nearby I guarantee you would pay closer attention. I hope that this helps and like I said, questions are good so if anything is bugging you or someone you know just ask. It might take me a bit to respond because my usual email spots have gone away so getting emails out is a lot harder now but I will do my best.


Part 2 is here.

June 21, 2005

Rilo Kiley & Wilco/Roots Double-Header!


Em and I had a great time at the Rilo Kiley show in LA on Sunday (more photos here). We'd never seen them live before and man, for a poppy-pop band those kids are LOUD. The Wiltern had fantastic sound when we saw Wilco there last November and the venue did not disappoint this time either.

It was kind of like an Imperial Rilo Kiley show in that they kept adding band members at every turn. Trumpet players, percussionists, opener Feist, and (I shit you not) Debbie Gibson. Yep, Rilo frontbabe Jenny Lewis announced at the encore that "our friend Deborah" was coming onstage to help them sing one of her songs. Emily recognized it. I'd imagine many girls of a certain age would. I didn't. I'd wager, though, that this is kind of like when Kiss were suddenly hip again in the early '90s, when all those grungy metalheads finally copped to being in the Kiss Army at age 14.

Anyway, the vibe of the show was great. The band clearly relished a homecoming gig in front of their families and friends, and at a banner local venue. They charged through a long set and ended with a ukelele-powered everyone-sing-along version of "Let My Love Open The Door" by some English guy named Townshend. I bought the latest Rilo album last summer but Emily stole it and played it to death. I came around to it once I figured out Lewis' writing cuts sharper than Elvis Costello has in years.

This was the second of a (kind of) double header, since last Tuesday we also went to the Greek to catch Wilco with the Roots opening. Philly's finest played a loose, jammy set that was more like one long song broken up by gratuitous individual solos. I like their songs, but man, the Roots' set was totally derailed by all that soloing. They weren't kidding by inserting bits of "Whole Lotta Love" into the set (Vernon Reid was the axeman)- for a great, um, rap band on record, the Roots veered dangerously close to dinosaur-rock territory. Now, I've never seen them anywhere else, so maybe they thought they should play to the white rock dudes in the audience (even though I thought WIlco fans were all yuppies like me these days). Still, if they had fun, screw what I think. Ahmir Thompson could tell me where to go and I'd still do it.

Wilco came off a multiple-night, DVD-filming stand in their hometown of Chicago just to play a few gigs with the Roots, something Jeff Tweedy claimed he's wanted to do since his days in Uncle Tupelo. Their self-described breezy, "pleasant" California-night set actually was pretty killer at the beginning- the gimmick seemed, for the first chunk of songs, to be alternating them in order from three separate albums: Being There, A Ghost Is Born and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (wilcobase.com has the set).

Tweedy remained mellow throughout, perhaps coasting after the Chicago gigs, but more likely because his family was there. The singer jumped into the front rows during "I'm The Man Who Loves You" to hug his 5-year-old son after "going against every fatherly instinct" he had by using the noisy tune to wake up his sleeping boy. It looked genuine, and, who am I kidding, it probably was. Overall I liked the Wiltern show from November better- it was louder, harder, and (being indoors) had a great video/light show for a backdrop, but like I said, if they wanted to play an easy gig this time, they earned it. Oh, and Nels Kline remains a monstrously amazing guitarist.

I can't hear a damn thing. I know I will go deaf before age 35.

June 19, 2005

Tag- I'm It

In which Matt Welch makes up for being too old to haze my ass at the Nexus, and I lament again that I was too young to be there with he and Mr. Superstar Juror and all them other Legends Of Yore (not that my esteemed contemporaries were slouches- on the contrary). Disadvantages to me because (1) I failed to check Technorati, obviously, and (2) he must have figured out that these surveys are like kryptonite to me, even though I'm not so good at them anymore. Oh, not to mention (3) at this late date I have no one to pass this on to. Crap.

Anyway,

1. The total number of books I own
Uh, it's less than before. I must be the least well-read of anyone holding a BA in English.

2. The last book I bought
Well, technically it's a big coffee-table monster called "The Art Of Modern Rock" and it's all about gig posters. Before that I bought "Mapping Mars" by Oliver Morton, mostly, um, for the cool graphics of what Mars would look like if it had an ocean.

3. The last book I read
Re-read my brother's copy of "The Greco-Persian Wars" by Peter Green. Bryn likes that one slightly more than Green's "Alexander Of Macedon" which is the one I prefer. Green has a no-holds-barred way of writing about classical history that's refreshingly frank and un-stuffy, especially when he's eviscerating other scholars' sloppy assertions.

4. Five books that mean a lot to me
It's late and I'm lazy, so I think I'll make this the Dumbed-Down Deadly Nostalgia Of Youth version (since my 10 year high school reunion is nigh). In no special order:

My copy of "Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas" that blew my 16-year-old mind. Dogeared and highlighted to death. That was also the copy that Emily read before we went on our first date, to see the Gilliam film version with Depp/Del Toro. She liked it.

A similarly debased copy of Bill Flanagan's "U2 At The End Of The World" (Laugh all you want) in which the author manages to convey the supposed insanity of the Zoo TV tour and the general insanity of any rock tour. It nevertheless was one of my inspirations to write about music.

"Strike Two" by Ron Luciano. As a little-leaguer in 3rd grade I found this umpire's memoirs hilarious, especially his career-spanning feud with O's freakazoid manager Earl Weaver. Worth the price of admission alone for the chapter about baseball in Latin America, "The Dictator Is Always Right".

"Warrior Scarlet" by Rosemary Sutcliff. This might have been one of the historical fiction books I was read as a child that got me interested in actually studying history and geography at a relatively young age. It's fairly mundane stuff, now that I think about it, set in pre-Roman Britain, but that's not the reason it's here. What I remember about this is how it was read to me- during an unusually cold California wintertime in front of a roaring fireplace. My mom read it to my brother, sister, and I (this may have been close to the year my parents separated) after we'd decorated the Christmas tree- she read it to us by the lights on the tree and by the firelight. Hell of a way to engross a kid in a story about grubby peat-diggers who painted themselves blue.

...and finally...Unknown Title/Author: I had this tome about the conquistadors when I was a kid that had three sections- one for Cortes/Mexico, one for Pizarro/Peru, and an introduction explaining the leadup to Iberian craziness in the Americas. The idea was that the newly-Christian Spain had all these illiterate, religiously zealous, maniacally violent soldiers on its hands, and no more Muslims to kill on the peninsula, so off they went to the new world. Cortez is torn several new assholes, and so is the aged Pizarro, not to mention other contemporaneous swashbuckling jerks. The book also spares no niceties for the cannibalism, cultural appropriation, and oppression of the Aztecs, as well as indicating the sheer zonked docility (until it was too late) of the Inca in the face of the brutal Pizarro clan. Anyway, the book was hardcover and was missing its dust jacket, so I remember it as a red cover with a gold conquistador helmet in the center. I have no idea what it was called or who wrote it and it has been lost in the several moves that my mom and stepdad made in the past decade. The historical period it covers is one of my favorites, though, and I miss it greatly.

So there you have it. I may be a competent writer sometimes, but a Titan Of Letters I surely am not.

I feel like I should mention other Real Books that I've read, but people are still gonna snicker since they're things by Rushdie and Ellis and other well-known megalomaniacs. I think I should also be congratulated for eschewing the Thrown In Random Classic like Gatsby or Sound & Fury or whatever. I mean, I love lots of those too, but I couldn't write about them right now and not sound pompously fake (or at worst like a Nick Hornby geek-boy). Oh well. The chain ends here, folks...

May 24, 2005

Quickies

Cause it's late but I haven't been here in a bit:

Biked to/from work on Friday, yesterday, and today, and undid it all with some chocolate ice cream. Yargh.

There is still freedom to filibuster in this country, and I like that, even though I do not participate per se. All of you with busters to fill, though, go to it, people.

U2 is wrapping up their 1st leg in Beantown. The Fly is still kicking ass.

The Padres will take no one's shit, not even Craig Counsell's, who by all accounts is a very nice guy.

May in California is still fantastically beautiful.

Haven't heard from Lt. Nick in a bit, but haven't written him in a little bit. Hang in there, man.

The Coral Sea is very cool and their CD release show was a treat. Bodie is my new favorite band from the OC (though don't know if I had an old one). I'd love to play gigs with either of them.

Our Honey White CD is selling. (?!?) Wow!

So, not so erudite. No, not at 11:10. Nighty-night.

April 16, 2005

Vertigo 2005: Whiplash In The Peanut Gallery


Or, 'My Nose Is Still Bleeding, Part II' ... or, 'U2 at San Jose's HP Pavilion, April 9, 2005.' Cross-posted from @U2.

One of the dirty little secrets gnawing on a few of us @U2 staffers is that we don't get to go to as many shows as we'd like. I'd been to one PopMart show (San Diego) and one Elevation gig (LA 1, 3rd leg), and was all ready to have my token Vertigo experience be overwhelming, for good or ill, reprising my role as the bitterly kvetching peanut gallery freak. One constant remained from Elevation: muddy arena acoustics. Sure, U2 succeeded in pulling off their patented hat-trick of making a huge place feel as cozy as a club, but the sound that reached me, six rows from the back, was pretty slushy, though it must have been awesomely crisp and punchy for the first hundred feet or so. Other than that, I don't know if this show was "better" or "worse" than the others I've seen, but I definitely enjoyed this one much more, for all the little superficial reasons that people cite when they choose to pass passionately severe judgment upon necessarily subjective things like art or music or nerve-damagingly tight vinyl pants.

So let's get to the play-by-play: I'm happy to brag that my assertion of last year that the new songs, while not as gripping as they could be on record, would "absolutely slay" live, was right on. "City Of Blinding Lights" is shaping up as an elegant opener -- all that space in between the song's beginning and Bono's first vocals was its own miniature arc of crush and release, and that was even before the confetti hit the ground and the best chorus on the new album took off. After that, the blunt power of "Vertigo" seemed the best way to take it up a notch. The silly lyrics and much-maligned, much-mangled Spanish count-off even worked in the song's favor, with Bono stretching out "catorce" to "caaaatoorceeeeaagggh!!!" Those two songs alone are the best, hardest-hitting one-two opener U2 has offered up since Zoo TV, but we'll get to that later. By contrast, "Elevation" seemed a little castrated, even when it finally did land its big dumb arse on the crowd's collective head, and even bits of "Blackbird" didn't make "Beautiful Day" rise above the show's opening salvos -- almost as if it didn't know where its new place was amid the new material.

One major bonus of being banished to the top tiers of the venue is the ability to take in the whole of Willie Williams' production design, which saw an early peak in the multitude of racing red during "Vertigo" and the urban-nighttime backdrop of "Blinding Lights." When I initially made it to my seat to watch the Kings of Leon shake the shack with their Strokes-meets-Skynyrd sass, and I noticed my fellow @U2 staffers in the claustrophobia of general admission, I almost forgot that being there was good enough. "No", I thought, "I should be down there with a cardboard sign that says 'Me + Bass Guitar = Serious Rafter-Rumbling' or something like that; not those yoyos, jumping around like fanatics in ecstasy!" Thoughts like that tend not to last too long when Willie's swirling, careening red lights begin flashing ever faster and "Vertigo" fries your reptilian brain. "Stop thinking for a second," I had to tell myself, "and get into the show, dammit!"

Even so, there are a few instances where the idea of turning one's noggin off at a rock show is appealing, like when the band lumbers through "Pride" for the trillionth time or tries to pull off "New Year's Day" without segueing from a harder song or when "Streets" doesn't take off like it should or used to, but for the most part, the middle of the set (at this show) won't let you do that, thank God. I mean, the stretch from "Love and Peace" to "Running to Stand Still" is the best balls-to-the-wall politicizing the band has done in years. Taking on the rancid evil of wars past and present shouldn't appeal to great masses of people at once, but to their credit U2 manages to offer such bitter medicine with enough sugar to make anyone take it and like it. "Love and Peace" is weaker than it should be on record, but live, with Bono mercilessly pounding the hell out of an unfortunate floor tom, and then continuing to come back for more as "Sunday Bloody Sunday" shoves its way in, the newer song finally realizes its powerful potential.

Refusing to stop for breath, U2 really piles it on immediately after, sustaining the show's intensity with the old two-sided coin of "Bullet the Blue Sky" and "Running to Stand Still." This pair should have shaken anyone who is appalled at the torturing of Iraqi prisoners, as I am, or who is anxious over their friends or relatives serving in the U.S. forces in the Middle East, as I am. Bono's headband act during "Bullet" is heavier than it should be, if you let it get to you -- confronting mindless religious hatred from any faith, and the blind impulse of vengeful violence that so often accompanies it; intoning the ominously appropriate chorus of "The Hands That Built America" while sinking to his knees in the helpless supplication of the tortured; transforming the wrecked junkiedom of Zoo TV's Vietnam vet into the bewildered, creeping unease of the G.I. on active duty in Ramadi during "Stand Still"; coaxing an arena full of party people to cheer wildly at the reading of the 60-year old U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. It's almost an afterthought to realize the Zooropa Sarajevo link-ups have met their 21st-century match.

But hey, when things get too heavy, you can always change the channel. Eric Cartman said that, I believe, but he never got to see Zoo TV. Neither did I, so having "Zoo Station" and "The Fly" erupt in my face (yes, it felt like that even from the back rows), complete with dingy Teutonic overtones, was a real treat. The latter is my favorite U2 song, and one I'd given up for dead after it didn't make it through the Elevation tour and missed the cut for the Best of 1990-2000 CD. Well kids, "The Fly" is back, and it might be the best live version yet, with a raunchy echo-feedback loop that snaps into line once Adam and Larry get ahold of it, and that's before Edge's solo has its way with Bono's rhythm guitar. Few groups of self-taught rock musicians can still bring the blunt heaviness like U2.

A few more quick observations: the return of U2's original workhorse "The Electric Co." was very, very sweet, but "The Ocean" continues to be relatively useless to me, rare or not. And yes, "Sometimes You Can't Make It" was poignant in ways that "Stuck in a Moment" can't touch, and in a similar vein, equally reverent, hopelessly sophomoric things can be said about great tunes like "One" and "Miracle Drug" (which had a great EKG-looking light pulse backdrop) and "Yahweh" and even the predictably cliched finale of "40." I don't look for that first, though. I don't end up at these shows for that oft-cited communal, revelatory feeling that this band and their fans create together, however admirable--I still have that same old residual mild platform-shoe envy of those on stage, but that's my problem, not yours. If you're looking for a powerful, moving rock show, you're gonna get it from this band, and this time it's even more concentrated, well-rehearsed, and tightly wound than during Elevation. Just make sure you don't pay $90 for those pathetically retro T-shirts, and especially that you don't end up trapped next to the most intoxicated guy in the arena. I endure for you folks, you know.

April 08, 2005

The Futility of Cream Pies

Okay, dadaism is cute, sure, but the bartender is right when he says it's totally counterproductive and juvenile. And no, this is me saying this, not some pathetic Kevin Mattson clone. See, creative metaphors, or even simple ones, are not going to make dipshits like David Horowitz go away- it'll make them angrier or, more likely, stoke their supposed victimhood- even legitimize it. Fuck that. Dressing up in stupid costumes with Bush masks or whatever like people did at the RNC convention isn't going to work- it's sure done a helluva lot of good so far, no? Oh, nevermind, because the Republicans still control everything.

Oho, so why don't you just lighten the hell up, my lefty friends would say. Well, I'm a lefty too and a fat fucking lot of good that would really do us. And no (again), I'm definitely not irrationally angry all the time about any of this. Why would I be? I'm white, straight, male, employed, and doing fine, thanks. Problem is, every pie we throw makes a martyr, like the bartender says. It lets all these dumb bastards whine even louder about how the liberals are out to get them. They'll feel all righteously angry and get all their troglodytic Jesusland-suckers riled up too, and then you can kiss your liberal ass goodbye, dude. The Dadaists didn't last too long in '30s Germany- their brand of clever, biting humor really couldn't do much against crazed, murderous thugs with guns. Woody Allen said something like that.

Ah, screw it. Some fool will come along and say I'm part of the circular firing squad. Since I can't write for beans anymore, of course.

April 03, 2005

I'm a Nerd! NerdNerdNerd!

But I did actually pay for my U2 San Jose ticket, something that this article fails to mention. Maybe I failed to mention it, though. I'm surprised that I said something as pigheaded as "morally reprehensible", but then if it's in the papers, it must be true!

Anyway, my old Nexus colleague David Downs has a much better take on why all of us sheeple called "U2 fans" are having ticket trouble: Roboscalpers!

Jim Johnson has never interacted with Mori, but someone with similar skills contacted him in December of 2004. A doctoral student from Michigan e-mailed him an offer to sell such a program for $20,000, or for a monthly fee. Johnson says he has tested it and was satisfied, but won't pay up until the guy flies to California, installs it in person, and trains him how to use it. After all, $20,000 is a lot of capital for a small businessman to drop on a potential scammer out of the Midwest.

Still, scalping is his livelihood. Johnson never meant to make it his life's work, but he's a good organizer and planner, and scalping rewards such skills. He isn't one of those street hustlers out there in front of Warriors' games on cold nights with badly printed counterfeit tickets and no teeth, parking cars during tough times. And times are tough. U2 is the exception, not the rule.

If Johnson had used the hacker's program during the past half-hour, he might have scored rare seats worth thousands of dollars more. Could he increase his yield similarly by investing $20,000 in more traditional runners and contacts? He just isn't sure. In the meantime, he wonders, "Am I getting screwed here?"

Johnson might feel a bit more certain if he were to discuss the matter with a representative of Ticketmaster or Tickets.com, its biggest online rival. Officials with the two companies would grudgingly tell him that, yes, automated programs are trying to buy tickets on the Internet. They have been since the day tickets were first available online.

Tickets are a commodity and Tickets.com CEO Ron Bension says people will do anything to get their hands on something with this kind of markup, on the order of $15-$30 billion per year for scalpers worldwide. Bension has been dealing with bots buying up tickets on his Web site for years. In fact, his own company used bots to scour Ticketmaster's site for prices, until the industry titan sued Tickets.com in the late '90s and got it to stop.

These days, Bension says, Tickets.com receives bot attacks constantly and recently installed a character-recognition test similar to the one on the Ticketmaster Web site. Successful bot activity dropped by 90 percent, he adds, but some hackers are still getting in. "Every major broker has one, and they are innovating," he concedes.
Okay, okay, "morally reprehensible" probably fits here. I'd feel better about that if the robots could actually, you know, get their feelings hurt by it.

March 17, 2005

What's up with Vermont?

Wow, first senator Jim Jeffords ditched the Republican party to go independent and made the shocked Rs look like whiny little wankers. Then ex-governor Howard Dean so scared the shit out of the Democratic Party establishment that they made more of a priority of scuttling his presidential campaign, and then he yoinked the party chairman job right out of the DLC's hands. Now here comes Congressman Bernie Sanders (who is also an indie) at the much-hyped steroids-in-baseball hearings, basically calling the media borg out for being such pathetically simpleminded tools when they pay attention to drug scandals and not child poverty numbers.

Damn, what the hell is in the water up there? Are the green mountains suddenly becoming a new breeding ground for hopelessly white guys who contrarily take no shit from anyone? I mean, besides the dudes from Phish, of course (though I dug "Story Of The Ghost"). Why has only one of them ever run for president? Is it because he dared to make all the other conventional yoyos look like the babbling dunces they are? Why does this state keep churning out such fiendishly badass mofos?

Don't fuck with Vermont, man. Those guys will rock you.

UDPATE: Man, how could I forget Sen. Patrick Leahy? Even Bono knows that he rocks.

March 15, 2005

Desperate Notes From Diamond Bar and West L.A.

with special guest Adam Hill

above: Adam and Keir way back in Nov '97.

*****
From: Keir DuBois
To: Adam Hill
Sent: Sunday, March 13, 2005 1:07 AM
Subject: Fear & Loathing in Diamond Bar

Hey Adam-

I just talked to Bryn and he said that you & Marie are all set to move to Newport- so congratulations. I know that you might soon experience cultural withdrawals from the social hotbed that is Diamond Bar, but right now Enjoy Yrself. No no, of course you won’t miss it. You’ll tell yourself that, but eventually Diamond Bar will worm its way into your psyche again, slitheirng in there like Dick Cheney’s foul laughter, and once that happens it’ll be all over. You’ll be compelled to roam the 57/60 interchange at Grand Avenue like a werewolf, howling for the blood of nubile Chinese teenage girls.

Your friends and family will wonder why your voice is suddenly raspy from overuse and slightly tinged with the sort of regret that only hints at the deep, pathological sadness of despair. Your co-workers will marvel at the speed which your commute appears to take, not knowing that it’s never for the sake of Hill Bros. or even the City of Industry that you toil, but solely for the purpose of being close to her, Diamond Bar, once again. The long, lonely nights that you’ll spend in glittering Newport will soon become unbearable, and before long even Marie will start to worry for your sanity and health.

Don’t fight it- let this thing take its course and purge itself from your soul, and let your wife do whatever it takes in order to get you well again. Most importantly, never, uh... ever... Uh, where was I? Hmmm, maybe this is more about myself and Isla Vista. That cruel, superficial, heartless bitch! See if I ever waste any more stupid alimony on her or that changeling brat she claims is mine! Arrrgh! Twice a month isn’t enough, no, not for that mad harpie!

Ahem. Anyway, I haven’t had the heart to meditate upon the True Meaning of HST’s exit off this planet. Jon called me from D.C. to mention it, and it was hard going for us both- very depressing. Between him, Clemente, and Sean I’m feeling very ignorantly inexperienced here. I just thought you might like a Thompsonesque jolt in light of recent tragic events concerning same Gonzo Journalist. I just got the Rolling Stone tribute issue to him and it bummed me out all over again. Ye Gods.

So, hope all is well and that your new pad brings you both much happiness. Mahalo.

-Keir

From: Adam Hill
To: Keir DuBois
Subject: RE: Fear & Loathing in Diamond Bar
Date: Tue, 15 Mar 2005 11:48 AM


Keir,

Yes, there is a certain depravity that exists in Diamond Bar that merits a Hunteresque description. However, it is so subtle that one would not notice it just passing through. I would not say that it is void of any moral standards, as Thompson would describe the places he has been and experiences he has... uh... Experienced. I would say, though, that immorality is hidden underneath the Astroturf patios, behind the bamboo curtains, and written in a third language on the marquis of the local strip malls. It is a predominantly East Asian community, so all is quiet, plain, and proper. Women stare down at the ground, refusing to look you in the eye, shuffling their sandals as they pass, sounding like a slithering snake. The men do all the talking, typically middle management folk. Respectable and honored. Fierce toward their ladies, but humbled in the light of those with more expensive stuff.

Sounds normal enough, but I feel the air is thick with secrets, and reeks of dog meat. By night the people come home from their work, and file obediently into their manufactured homes. There is nothing to do at night, unless the white people aren’t invited... I think that is when the party gets started. If you crack open a garage door, on any suburban street, on any given Saturday night in this fine community, you will probably be overwhelmed by the potent fumes of opium. As the fog clears, you see an orgy by the likes you have never seen on the hardest of hard core pornography. The men are on their knees, dressed in bibs, being forced to endure the most sinister of acts. All the basic elements - earth, wind, fire, and water - are used to torture these poor souls. The women make the men their bitches in no necessary order. Occasionally a teenage boy will walk in draped with linen, offering the guests assorted appetizers...

Day by day this cycle continues. I don’t think that Dante even described this circle of hell. The place where people hide their secrets, even from each other and themselves. Their minds so riddled with guilt and horror of themselves that they have no choice but to sink into the crowd. “Don’t draw attention, or they’ll cover you with gasoline and throw you into lava.” Being that this town is on almost the exact border of San Bernardino, Orange, and LA counties, I like to call it the Vortex of Hell. The black hole where the tri-counties fall into each other and disappear into Highway 60. The next thing you know, you’re in Las Vegas... And that’s another story all together. Once you’re in, you can’t escape. Luckily, we found a way, before we became assimilated. We were on the verge of offering our dog as a sacrifice, and then it would have been all over.

So we chose to move to Newport! A place where all of this still happens, but if you’re caught, you can just blame it on the liberals for indecent TV and Janet Jackson’s boob. If that doesn’t work, just slap a sticker on the back of your Hummer that says “God Bless America” or “Support Our Troops”, and the people will forgive you. After all, if they don’t, they’re Un-American. Saddam Hussadin, or whoever the hell we’re after this week. At last...Sanity!

So I’ve gone on to make absolutely no sense whatsoever in this email. But at least I have succeeded in eating up about a half hour of work time. I figure if Keir could go off on a Hunter Thompson tangent, then so could I. Even if I’m not as good, it’s still just as fun.

Now, what have we learned today?

1. Marie and Adam are moving to Newport Beach this weekend.
2. Don’t go to Diamond Bar
3. Don’t drive through Diamond Bar (see number 2.)
4. Don’t open garage doors in Diamond Bar.
5. God Bless America!

-A
From: Keir DuBois
To: Adam Hill
Sent: Sunday, March 15, 2005 11:42 PM
Subject: Fear & Loathing in Diamond Bar


Hot damn, dude! The sybaritic shindigs at Rodman’s Newport mansion pale in comparison to the yakuza crack dens of Diamond Bar. Jesus creeping shit indeed. Dare I ask if you speak of these things from personal experience? Or have you only innocently “heard tell” of such awful things from more, shall we say, “well-traveled” individuals? I’ll admit that much of what I know of illegal controlled substances stems from the experiences of others, as for the past five years at least the mere whiff of even the most flaccid joint sends me into a jabbering tailspin of paranoia in the thirty seconds it takes for me to stagger to a horizontal position and lose consciousness. Many would laugh, but I know better, for I am Doobie, the Original. Steve Imbilli had no clue as to the eventual ramifications of his harmless epithet for me.

Well.... maybe so. That still doesn’t explain your marvelous attention to lucid detail concerning same garages of Sado-Opiate-Sin, but I’ll prefer to leave you some semblance of Anonymity when it comes to these things, for I too have Been There, many years ago, blearily listening to a cackling female Japanese voice as I shuffled off to my own private Wonkavision. I’d almost forgotten the sound by now, but suddenly it came roaring back last weekend on the eve of the Los Angeles Marathon.

Emily and I were in West L.A. at a birthday dinner for her Fontainbleu-days-roommate Maya, whose choice of victuals that evening was a bizarre genetic cross of Italo-Japanese cuisine where the waiters were all Orthodox Jews. I was happily devouring my avocados and salmon like a good little boy, talking to the only other male present (a Russian named Lev) about the spectacular failure of both Honey White’s and The Mojo Wire’s attempts to conquer the Wider World of Rock, when what should cut through the background female kvetching but the telltale staccatto peals of Asian girly-laughter.

“No!”, I thought, as my stomach lurched, “not here, of all places! Don’t let me be suckered by the sound of such false innocence ever again, by God!” Ah, but it was too late. No no, the ex-girlfriend of yore hadn’t descended on the scene (though she does reportedly reside in the City of Angels somewhere), but it wasn’t far from that. A cadre of tittering, coquettish seventeenish-looking (which means probably twenty-fiveish) women of indeterminate Asian parentage descended upon our hosting establishment like locusts in Oklahoma, instantly altering the surrounding decibel levels to a near-unbearable degree.

Or so I thought. Everyone else merely continued with their conversation, and Lev began looking at me as if he feared for my health. Eventually Emily noticed as well, quietly threatening me: “Not here, you bastard- calm the fuck down before you make a scene and we have to run for it!” I tried- oh how I tried, but it became too much to accomplish under such circumstances. I wanted to belt out an epically primal scream of Lust and Hate, one for the mythical virgin flesh that surely lay beneath those girls’ slippery garments, and the other at the knowledge that this was in fact wholly Untrue- that all giggly girls of certain persuasions have almost certainly been exposed to the vile, atavistic urges of some other hopeless yoyo many, many moons before they’d even crossed into my area code, and are merely overcompensating for their own horrors though a demented reversion to an idyllic youth that never really existed.

I came back to myself slumped in a heap in the passenger side of Emily’s car at a gas station somewhere off the northbound 405. I felt the warm sting of pure caffeine splash on my face as Em jolted me awake with a cheap Starbucks bought from the station’s food mart. “Wake up, you fool!” she admonished me. “You need to drive now- I’ve had enough of dealing with these idiotic LA freeways!” Perhaps feeling excessive, she switched to a more tolerant manner. “Look,” she continued, “I know you well enough to realize why you went all to shit back there and I tried to explain things to a certain degree but we had to make a break for it. Those girls you screamed at were scared to death and everyone else was horrified at the pollution of their Sabbath, so what else could I do? I had to smack you stupid for your own good. Now drive, sweetie.”

Oho, so that’s why my left temple is a muffled starburst of throbbing pain, I thought. “Fine”, I managed to say in some form of English, “I’ll drive you home, but you better fall asleep quick, babe- I’m going to require maniacal speed to purge these wretched impulses from my psyche, and it would be best if you were effectively somewhere else while it happened.”

“Whatever,” she shot back. “Just don’t crash my car.” Within five minutes she was snoring, and I was desperately trying to remember all the words to the Secret Machines album on the stereo as I careened north on the Ventura freeway.

Fuck me, that’s a long way from the stuffy backrooms of your particular tri-county wasteland, but thankfully it’s also a good distance from the dark, cold, half-Japanese winter of 1996/97, when the adventure you, Bryn, Kevin, and I started called The Clap was limping along to its own shaky beat, months and months before the beautiful, decadent, multicolored freakouts of the coming summer. It took a lot of tequila to wash away the memory of those days, and every time I reflect upon it I thank Elvis that I had you and Bryn to help me. Even when I was face down in the grass at Rebecca Sharkansky’s party, felled by that dastardly Chilean Pink Stuff. Things need to be epic again. And oh, They Shall.

Yr. buddy,
Keir

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