December 06, 2007

Artistic Creativity vs. Professional Commitments

"We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off."
- The Raging Id of Durden
Well...maybe so, but I get the feeling ol' Tyler never actually strapped on a guitar, and was never infected by the vicious fangs of the Rock Virus, though he faked it well. In my case, though, it zapped me good and proper, and at the most vulnerably fateful time- when I was defeated, weak, gullible, and desperate. I saw it coming, though, and even enjoyed letting it happen, and now, almost twelve years later, the brutal little bastard has only slightly loosened its grip on my terminally narcissistic soul. But so what? I was asked to offer my so-called "insights" into the psychologically dangerous and physically exhausting practice of "balancing artistic, creative passion with the mundane drudgery of everyday life," so we'd better get to it before I get too unbearably derivative. Come on backstage.
"I simulate love-making by beating a piece of wood with a metal wire on which it vibrates."
-Adam Clayton of U2
So, "The Balance." Anyone ever enslaved by the Creative Impulse has had to come to grips with this merciless reality. Whether it's carving out precious free time to empty your head of the swirling brilliance held back all day while you earn a paycheck, or struggling to stay inspired when your muse fucks off to Barbados with some other pretentious asshole, the problem of balancing obligations with release remains the same. For me, dealing with it involves a nebulous combination of discipline, collaboration, flexibility, and learning from my (and others') mistakes.

Baiting Inspiration
For the last decade, my primary creative outlet has been music, but I'm a word guy by training, with a lousy short-term memory to boot, so I always carry scratch paper around in case the universe decides to align in my favor. Anyone will tell you inspiration can't be forced, but it can be prepared for. As a night owl, it was natural to set aside 10pm to midnight (and often 'til 2 or 3am on weekends) for the sort of open-ended thinking that breeds the best ideas. I've learned to accept that I won't catch lightning every time, or even very often. When I do, though, it's usually a cumulative result of simply collecting and processing many, many stray ideas. Creativity’s such a feast-or-famine thing with me that I've really come to appreciate when it's around, and miss it when it's gone.
"I just can’t picture you doing that."
-An ex-girlfriend dismissing the idea of me playing onstage in a band.
Collaboration is Vital
The best way I've found to break creative blocks is working with a group. Roping in three other talented jokers and getting collectively, empathetically brilliant, definitely beats any individual achievement in my book. By now, I'm so used to bouncing semi-formed ideas off the other guys in the band- who invariably help flesh them out to bigger and better things- that I'd be musically lost without them. Practicing alone, though a necessity, is boring these days, because my band-mates have become my essential musical inspiration. Of course, with a group you run into the problem of other peoples' calendars, but that's the only real downside once everyone checks their egos at the door (itself no small thing) and gets down to business.

Get Flex-Time
Too many late nights spent in either setting, though, and you start to show up late to work, drooling all over the TPS reports and forgetting everything except band stuff. When eight or more hours of your day are sucked away by your job, it tends to make consistent creative output a rare luxury. The rent and bills never stop, though, and guitars, amps, recorders, and other gear is expensive (in this case, credit is good, folks). I've been fortunate enough to work at jobs where my employers were happy to offer flex-time or some other alternative to the 8-5 Zombie Death March, so taking a day off to prep for (or recover from) a gig here and there, or working after-hours to offset a bi-monthly trip into the studio was never a serious problem. It also didn't hurt that many of my colleagues have been enthusiastic and encouraging- almost as much as the Ever-Patient Friends & Family- which is handy when you need to put asses in seats or sell CDs. Even better, my current job (graphic/web design) is a creative position, so my brain is used to deadlines and usually set to receive inspiration from any source.

Blocks are Normal
An unexpected flip side showed up when I once found myself unemployed. The problem then became not only splitting time between my Chosen Expensive Hobby and my hunt for a new job, but also the idea that, with lots of new free time, I should be that much more creative, which proved untrue. As many more important and famous people have noted, when one's passion becomes one's job, it becomes tougher to whip oneself into a workable state of inspiration. Even so, that's only really a problem if you pressure yourself to constantly churn out material. Accepting fallow periods or writer’s block is nowhere near the worst or lowest point you'll encounter.
"You have to be sturdy. Being an artist is not for the faint-hearted and you have to be proud that you are what you are. You have to be a proud bum."
- Patti Smith (during an interview with me, actually, from 10/23/97)
Promotion: Get help!
The hardest part of the whole screaming deal, in my opinion, is the never-ending War To Make People Care. I'm naturally shy, and have never enjoyed applying for jobs or booking shows, though it's easier these days with so many web-based handy how-to's or other sites (which obviously run the gamut from mildly useful to a total waste of time). Groveling continually in front of disinterested nightclub owners, bartenders or promoters, who think you're Just Another Dude In A Shitty Band has always struck me as the most pathetically shameful degradation. I'm probably not the best person to give advice on how to get gigs or self-promote, but I do know that yes, it's who you know, and how much they can stand to be continually harassed, that counts. If you or your friends have got the time and endurance to pester the living hell out of people, then do it. Otherwise, well, rejection's a great inspiration, right?
"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side."
-Hunter S. Thompson (who wasn't really talking about Teh Biz, of course)
Swine and Philistines
Which brings us to: Getting Over Criticism. It's a maturity thing, of course, to be able to tell the difference between appreciative, constructive appraisal, envious projection, and useless bullshit. Filtering it all is a mix of simply not letting it get to you and also realizing that once a creation leaves your head and spews out into the wide world, it will be judged and misinterpreted and mangled far beyond what you thought you'd made in the first place. It was pathetically easy for me to be a rock critic and bitch about music when I wasn't actually creating it, so I had to get over the entire range of criticism (90% of which was variations of "you guys SUCK!") once I put my own stuff on the line. Again, though, it was easier when three other guys backed me up, so we always sank or swam as a group, and no one person ever endured the shit-hammer alone. My point here is simply the same old hoary cliché of Don't Let Other People's Hang-ups Fuck With Your Art. If you like what you've made, then it's Good. If at some point you change your mind, you can always make something new and better; you're the creative one, right?

Indeed. Until you come to the Precipice, anyway. For us, that was the point where we would have to make the Big Push to turn our hobby into a career, turn our lives into shapeless blurs, and our relationships into melted slag. We looked over the cliff and saw that it was Ugly, and chose to retreat. If I recall correctly it was after being offered yet another really lopsided pay-to-play contract at a high-profile LA venue, and I believe my no-nonsense drummer's words were something like "Do you guys really want to put up with this shit again?"

It's Gotta Be Fun
In our callous, bootstrap-worshipping society, it's hard to avoid the fallacy that once you've burned up all your "youthful energy" and semi-innocent ignorance, you've either got to knuckle under and try to make your passion your career, or be content with indulging in expensive hobbies to balance the daily insanity of working for a living. In my case, logistics intervened; everyone in the band either finished school or moved away, so it was a lot tougher to even get together for rehearsals. When we do, though, it's like almost no time had passed at all (a benefit of biweekly practices during our first year together) and the rarity of rehearsals and gigs these days makes them that much more special for us to do, and for our friends to enjoy. See, unlike all those idiots in Fight Club, I knew at 19 I'd never be a world-conquering rock star. That wasn't my idea of creative success.
"People pay to see other people believe in themselves."-Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth
What's "success," then? The fact that the time spent was on good work with brilliant and talented friends: first (fun but amateur) band The Mojo Wire- four self-made demo albums, one compilation, and 23 shows over five years; second (fun and less amateur) band Honey White: 1 E.P. disc, 1 studio album, four self-produced live albums, and 28 shows in five more years. That balances out a lot of life’s more mundane bullshit, which is good enough for me.

Cross-posted: dkos (ku35).

December 01, 2007

Few And Far Between

A sparse pool of gigs provide two more live albums that catch Honey White presenting their tentative, then fully-formed baroque phase.

Moody studio rock epics usually don’t go over well live, at least not without a killer stage presentation and plenty of smoke, mirrors, and playback. Forcing a live show to duplicate a band running amok in the studio has often spelled career suicide for countless rock groups. In Honey White’s case, though, the gaping hole between “career” and “expensively fun hobby” was where the music spoke for itself while logistics finally eclipsed our gig and rehearsal time. Our third and fourth live albums start where the previous two left off, blotting indie-rock posterity with songs from shows supporting our How Far is the Fall studio album. The two discs present our most adventurous music as a complete creative progression, from tentative muddiness on Saturated Songs to casual confidence on Deluge and Drought.

As our sonic vocabulary grew, we road-tested new material immediately. By early 2004 we’d dropped almost all the covers and Mojo Wire songs to make room for epic monsters like “Sweet Oblivion,” “Keep Moving,” and “Famous Last Words.” We used those songs to anchor most gigs, but threw in energetic bursts like “Unprofessional” to keep listeners on their toes. Our 2005 shows hit a more ideal dynamic while staying within the one-hour mark, with sets ebbing and flowing to suit each gig. Mid-tempo tunes like “Island Fever” and “Mercy Rule” met the audience halfway between the longer, slower songs and harder, faster stuff like “Bottlerocket” and Bryn’s new “Nightfall.” That pacing worked best when our bookings changed in size and space, with multiple appearances at theater-sized venues on our home turf in Santa Barbara and club-level shows farther away in Ventura and Los Angeles.

Saturated Songs documents how that began, with Bryn, Brian, Bill and I shaking off dust and working out the kinds of our recently-reassembled sonic identity. That was easier to do on familiar stages like Giovanni’s and the Wildcat Lounge, but cramped conditions and general mushy sound ended up spoiling most of our third live disc. The sets from those 2004 shows weren’t as tight as they’d get later. Our latent skills were still sharp, thanks to our original frequent rehearsals back in 2002, but after six months off we were definitely rusty. The songs didn’t flow together as well as we thought they should; many of our new songs still sounded undercooked, especially to bar crowds ready for drunken weirdness. Fresh tunes like “Let Go” and the jumpy “Sean Goes To Africa” pumped in new energy, but the massively murky leviathans dominated: “Sweet Oblivion,” “Keep Moving,” “Famous Last Words,” and an extended “Dead Man” cover. The My Band Rocks-era songs rounding out the compilation—”Unprofessional,” “Wayfaring Stranger,” “The Sandman” and Bryn’s solo take of “Lightning Rod”—barely hold their own in comparison.

At the time, I thought maybe another limited live CD-R would be the only way these songs saw release, so against my better judgment I rushed the process and put out Saturated Songs in June 2004. Unfortunately it proved a weak effort and the worst of Honey White’s self-produced live albums. What’s more, my timing was terrible; half the band was moving away from Santa Barbara and we’d surprisingly landed some studio time in San Francisco. We knew we couldn’t waste that time, because it was a great opportunity to capture our revitalized sound: a newly fused rhythm section topped off by experimental effects and soaring vocals. Since eight of the ten How Far is the Fall songs had already solidified on stage, we tracked most of the album live, taking care of basics and stretching each song to its own limit when overdubbing and mixing. Many bands are surprised to discover how different recording is from live shows, but we got expert help and successfully translated our cohesive stage sound to tape, enhancing each song later. We figured if they all began as organic, performance-based things, they’d always work well onstage, no matter what the album sounded like.

Everything fell into place at the gigs recorded on Deluge and Drought, our fourth and best live album. We played a lot less in 2005-2006, hampered by time, space and the 40-hour work week—but since the gigs were rare, more people showed up at each one. Higher-profile venues with better acoustics made it much easier to record clearer, punchier takes and assured performances on my trusty Roland VS-890. I got better takes of all the tunes underserved by Saturated Songs, plus strong debut takes of “Island Fever,” “Blacking Out,” and “Nightfall.” Drastically different remakes of “Lightning Rod” and “One Last Hallelujah” also made the cut. Brian and Bryn usually replicated (and often emulated) their studio effects on the spot, embellishing everything from Bryn’s crunchy tremolo in “Let Go” and E-bow in “Famous Last Words” to Brian’s liquid textures on “Blacking Out” and stratospheric solos on “Island Fever” and “Sweet Oblivion.” Bill and I got to shine too; my minimal bass lines had more room to swagger, and Bill’s new snare drum punctuated everything like a gun shot.

Deluge was a big step up in composition, performance, and recording quality, so it was the first Honey White live album to get wide exposure. It may be amateur and self-produced, but I still listen to it all the time. While working on it, I was so stoked that I decided in addition to producing the normal 50-copy CD-R run just like previous live albums, I’d send it to all the web-based music stores alongside our studio releases. It even became, dubiously, our first disc of previously-released material because I’d already uploaded rough mixes of all our recorded shows to sites like the Live Music Archive. Sadly, none of that mattered enough, because what this album doesn’t show is how the prolonged stretches of downtime between gigs slowly let the air out of our ambition—the flip side to every achievement in the studio and on stage.

We all lived in different corners of California by 2005, so rehearsals were rare but still fun. However, booking gigs became a chore when we started getting squeezed and frustrated by the precipitous “next level” of the music business. We simply didn’t care about jumping through more hoops after enduring the logistical hurdles of that year. Lop-sided, pay-to-play gig contracts, ramped-up promotional requirements, fighting for space on the bill with five other bands, and a ton of other stressful decisions unrelated to musical creativity all seemed to suck the fun out of playing live. It finally sank in for me when I tried and failed to book us at a B.B. King’s in Universal City during March 2006. The production company was shoveling Hollywood bullshit on me and like a fool I thought it was worth it to play the gig. Brian was agreeable but Bryn demurred, and Billy even said “Keir, is this really how we want to do this? Because we don’t have to.” He was right, and so we played our final, low-profile gig five months later on our own terms.

By the time I completed Deluge and Drought and put it out in July 2007, we hadn’t played live for about a year. We hadn’t even rehearsed for two months—we did that for the last time in May, right before Brian moved to Washington DC for good. Deluge ended up being a strong statement to end our five-year run, because it took me a while to realize that even finishing it was only papering over what was becoming obvious: Honey White was done. I don’t know what’s next, but if and when we do start up our epic noise machine again, we have a ready-made template for how to do it well, thanks to the creative process captured on these two live albums. Thanks to all who joined us on the ride!

Play these albums:

November 24, 2007

Two Books At Once? Who Can Handle That?!?

Oh, but I can. Like fer sure, dood. Seriously, though- while the "Weapon Of Young Gods" novel still percolates spasmodically, I've decided to go whole hog on the Thompson-isms and compile my own "Gonzo Papers" collection. It won't be earth-shattering, and I may just post it as a free e-book or PDF or whatever, but when you get to be over 30 you start compiling things, and I've had fun reviewing all this stuff. Makes me feel like an actual writer with a portfolio.

So, I'm thinking that it will contain all my "Battery Acid Blues" columns for the UCSB Daily Nexus' Artsweek section ('97-'98), my various essays for the My Band Rocks blog about The Mojo Wire and Honey White ('06-'07), my @U2 essays and concert reviews ('02-'05), my intermittent contributions to the Santa Barbara Independent ('01-'03), and probably my worthless spew from the Daily Kos-style Soapblox blogs ('07). I'll also toss in anything from this Dubious Ventures blog too, but mostly as filler. The other stuff already is taking up about 140 pages (yeah, I can do layout too), so other than a few things like "Desperate Notes From Diamond Bar And West L.A." I think the DV blog might not put in too much.

That won't stop me giving it a DV name, though. I want to call it "Dubious Ventures: Derivative Observations Of A Coddled Consciousness 1997-2007."

You've been warned...

November 14, 2007

Crosby and Nurick Stomp Us All

I must have been on some other planet of oblivious stupidity for four months (which, if you think about it, is highly likely), but somehow I totally missed the release of Ryan Crosby's latest CD, "Cut the Cord," which he dropped on us all back on the fortuitous day of 7/7/07. Let's not talk about how long ago that was. Let's talk instead about how I just snagged the album from iTunes tonight and am totally digging it, instead of doing more responsible things like sleeping or writing novels or song lyrics.

Crosby has always been one of the most ass-kickingly accomplished musicians I've known, and I'd say that even if we hadn't gone to high school together, and been in the same Rolling Stones Air Guitar band, and if his limo hadn't resuced mine on Prom night because we had a flat (even though his flask had long disappeared by then), and if he hadn't been dating my girlfriend's housemate at UCSB, and if he hadn't patiently endured my amateur gushing about my first band waaaay back in 1997. Not to mention his previous stompilation with Brandonius in Attached By Wires.

No, since he's a real musician, and I'm really not, that other stuff is all about how biased I am in his favor, but "Cut the Cord" is a good solid record all by itself with or without my opinion. Cros lays down some expert mid-tempo electro-pop that's shot through with his ferocious axe and capped off with some seriously huge, powerful vocals. Sharp little one-liner lyrics too, man. Not really fair to say too much more just based on one listen, but that's what I've got right now. More to come as it sinks in, which is as it should be, right?
I can't mention Ryan Crosby without naming the man who way back when always seemed to be his maniacally creative equal, and it still seems that way: Ben Nurick has been going balls-to-the-wall for some time now with Angeleno rockers Intervention. Nurick will not hesitate to unleash a spine-twisting shriek in the middle of a tepid high school reunion, just to fuck with everybody, and he brings the same explosive bent to every stage he walks on, drama or rock or both at once. If you ever stagger into LA on a night they're playing, you better damn well go get your face rocked off by Intervention.

Because really, when people walk tall and kick ass, it must be acknowledged. Nice work, gentlemen.

November 12, 2007

The Protracted Saga of "New Lyrics"

When is writer's block not writer's block? One of the reasons I thought of actually spitting out a novel- the two or three times now that I've tried to write one- was that my lyric output was grinding to a relative halt, and I thought a bigger canvas might help. It's not just me- Bryn's been feeling the same drought too, apparently, but since I'm merely a passable bassist at the best of times (and a shitty, shitty default band manager) I always counted on my song lyrics to help me do my part in both the Mojo Wire and Honey White.

For the most part, it worked, and for a while there I was doing fine. Collaborated with Bryn and Adam for some silly blues parodies on the first Mojo disc ten years ago, then tossed off four more for the second album between Nov. '97 and Feb. '98. Actually, 1998 was pretty damn good- add another three for the Mojo's third album, and then a 4th lyric in 1999 before that disc's release. One more in '99, plus four after that in 2000 made up my share of the final Mojo album. For Honey White, I got two on the first disc in '02, and five on the big album in '04. That's what- 23 lyrics in 8 years? Not exactly prolific, but that's not counting the dozens of non-starters that never saw completion. But still.

Well, lately (and by lately I mean for all of 2005, 2006, and 2007) there hasn't been much to brag about lyrically, mostly because, I think, I've been trying too hard to make a given lyric "fit," whether that be to a formula or a given tune or whatever. Sometimes there are too many syllables for a line (Elvis Costello disease). Sometimes the first line that comes to mind is the same old 5-7 limerick-style rhyme (I can't bring myself to not rhyme a lyric- it's just been impossible so far). Sometimes- wait, see? That's exactly what I'm talking about. Why not let the thing not rhyme? Why fix the syllables to a scheme, why automatically toss out one that's already used?

I tell myself I've already done it, that's why. I can't just let the damn thing be whatever it will be. Bryn and Adam were great at that, and they've written some very funny stuff and very heartfelt stuff because of it. My lyrics always feel too cerebral- but then that's me, that's what I've learned to do. Maybe it's the goddam English B.A., I dunno. See, Bryn and especially Brian churn out so much great music that it's a great challenge to see if I can put lyrics to any of their tunes. Adam was like that in the Mojo Wire too (and he paid me a great compliment a few weeks ago when he said our collaborations were his favorites). I put a lot of thought into lyrics, which on the one hand is ridiculous because who the fuck will hear them over the roar of the band? Still, I'm one of those people who looks at the lyric sheet once in a while, I dig a good turn of phrase delivered well, and I want to try and do it too.

Anyway, this whole bitchy rant was just to put a cap on some recording work I did tonight- re-recording the bass line for a new song called "Tempting Fate" that I hope Honey White will get to learn and play when we can practice again. Finished that lyric back in February of this year, after a long tooth pull (though not as long as "Lightning Rod"- that took four years!). "Tempting Fate" is my second lyric for this particular cycle- anything after the How Far Is The Fall material (the first was "Hold Still" from fall '05). Another one called "Winner Take All" is hard on its heels, but that one still needs a third verse to round things out. I wanted to catch up to Bryn, who's got two songs in the can since 2005 ("Nightfall" and "Green Hills") and Brian's got at least one done, too.

So the material is there for another release. We just have to all get together and do it, and although logistics are fucking death on this band, we'll get to it sooner or later. The Mojo Wire came back from the dead once, and Honey White came back from a mini-hiatus once too. It'll happen.

November 10, 2007

On Location: Santa Barbara, Isla Vista/UCSB

Warning- lotsa photos. At least half of my novel takes place at UCSB/Isla Vista, with a few scenes in downtown Santa Barbara to boot. Took a day trip up thataway today for some vintage Gauchoholica:

Most of the scenes (except the downtown ones) actually take place at night, but those shots didn't turn out so well- I'm still getting the hang of this camera. Oh well. Next location should be some re-shoots in Dana Point; many of those need to be night shots too.

November 04, 2007

How to Stomp a Brahmin

Twilight descended mercilessly on the 405 as my brother drove us up toward Costa Mesa, keeping the aging green beast of a Volvo at a steady sixty in the right lane. I slouched at useless angles in the passenger seat, feeling dumb and ashamed, irradiated by the fallout of Nadia's day-old surprise nuclear breakup bomb. R.J. remained stoically focused on the road and the various symptoms of his decaying station wagon, tactfully indicating that he would listen to any pathetic whining I felt like succumbing to, but only up to a point.

"We need to get you the hell out of here," he'd said earlier that day, after I'd lain inert for six straight hours in bed. He was right; my rotting self-absorption had already started to stink up our room, and if unchecked I would soon sink below even R.J.'s ability to drag me back to the land of more conventional young male egomania. "Come on," he'd urged, yanking me up by the arm, "we're going to see a new movie. I've just seen the ad for something that will definitely treat your particular symptoms: Richard III, the fascist version. They re-wrote the play for ‘40s Germany, with the king as dictator."

I didn't really give a shit what we saw, but agreed that taking pre-emptive measures against the brutal-breakup DTs was probably a good idea, so I brushed my teeth quickly, took a Speed Stick whore's bath, and slipped out of the house with R.J. before our stepdad could refuse us the car. The film was only playing at a theater up by South Coast Plaza, so in the middle of semi-sludgy freeway traffic I had plenty of time to nearly fall back into the worst my brain had to offer. Every five or ten minutes my brother would puncture any ballooning depression with this or that news item about mutual friends or what was going on in high school while I'd been busy blundering through my first year of college. Harmless stuff, but it worked, and we arrived at the theater with just enough time to buy tickets and avoid the string of previews.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the movie did exactly what R.J. meant it to—both distracting and channeling any damaging impulses I would have surrendered to otherwise. I reveled in the hideously blatant violence of McKellen's acting; it suited my mood and jerked me back to the last time I'd read the play, a year before in Senior Lit. At the time I'd accepted Shakespeare's viciously deft caricature of a historical figure for what my teacher said it was—revisionist history written by someone kissing the winner's ass—but then there in the theater I began relating a bit too much to the broken, horseless (and tankless) hunchback whose meticulous machinations collapsed around him with increasingly rapid ferocity. I was totally taken with his sheer delusional righteousness, and slipped gratefully into fuck-it mode as the credits rolled and we got up to leave.

My head was still swimming with casual destruction a few minutes later, as I told R.J. to wait in the lobby while I stepped into the bathroom. As I washed up I stared at my reflection in the mirror and, like the day of my worst blackout many months ago, a prematurely crumbling golem returned my gaze, but this time with a maniacal glee in his eyes. I let the faucet run for a while, listening to the calming trickle of water and studying each new wrinkle and crater on my face up close. I was so into it—like some ugly Narcissus—that I barely registered the muffled shouts and thumps on the wall from outside. Then I recognized R.J.'s voice yelling "Fuck off, you spineless jackass!" and I rushed out of the bathroom.

The dimly lit lobby was practically deserted except for a petrified girl behind the popcorn machine and two other people: my brother and his attacker, who I immediately recognized as Kyle Addison, the youngest brother in that trio of arrogant pricks who acted like they owned the fucking county.

"Don't ever fucking look at me like that again, Reed," he was saying to R.J., whom he had by the collar, but my brother shoved him off and squared up shakily.

"Leave me the hell alone, Addison—what the fuck have I done to you?"

"Quit whining, you little bitch," sneered Kyle, but he stopped short when he noticed me, losing a little color and backing off.

"Lucky you," he said to R.J., who turned slightly to see me as well. "Your crazy-ass brother is here to save you." I had no idea why Kyle was picking a fight alone, but he was, and now was taking slow steps backward toward the door as I advanced toward them both. I was still stoked with adrenalized potential energy, and it felt good to radiate power for whatever reason.

"Listen, dipshit," I threatened, jabbing the electric air with my right hand's first two fingers, "lay off my brother and get the fuck out, or I swear I'll cut your goddamn nuts off, and I don't care who finds out or what happens to me later. Do not give us any shit tonight, dude." For a fleeting second I felt like a total poser, but then Kyle went a little paler and lowered his fists.

"Fuck you, Reed, you're insane," he spat, but kept backpedaling. "I'll fucking end you both whenever I want to. My father and uncles know everyone—cops, judges, everyone—and all I have to do is call my brothers to bring a world of shit on you two pussies. Just…just watch your fucking backs, okay?" He took another step back and tripped over a tear in the vile, stain-ridden carpet, thudding his head on the floor.

My brother and I both pounced immediately, grabbing a leg each and dragging Kyle out the door as he flailed and cursed. R.J. twisted the ankle he held and Kyle grunted in pain, and we hauled him down the sidewalk for about twenty feet, picking up speed, before dropping his feet and sprinting like bank robbers across the parking lot to the Volvo. We passed some people here and there along the way, but nobody tried to stop us or even gave any sign that they'd seen anything.

We fell into the car, R.J. shoving it into gear immediately, and as we lurched around the lot toward the exit I looked back, but couldn't see if Kyle was still lying there or not. It didn't matter, though; in no time we were back on the freeway and driving back south as fast as the Green Monster could go, which wasn't much over the speed limit, but we were both too giddy and jolted to worry about that. I couldn't believe it—my brother and I had just gotten away with brutish, petty assault on the dangerously stupid son of local Brahmins, and after the previous nine hours of that day's stale funk, I was exhilarated.

"Hurry up!" I shouted at R.J. "I have to get home and call Nadia! That girl is going to feel my wrath! The phone line will fucking melt!"

"What?" he said sharply, still breathless from the fight. "No, you dumbass, why do you think I got you out of bed in the first place? Don't tell me this shit now, especially since we just stomped an Addison—you'll throw the whole day in the trash!" He shifted gears and gunned into the next lane.

"Fine, whatever," I said, shaking it off quickly, "but let's not go home yet—I need to be out around lots of people tonight—no, make that lots of hot women, so I can burn their beauty into my retinas, and counteract the ugly realities I've endured today."

R.J. laughed. "Too late," he said. "It's already ten-thirty—you know everything will be closed at home, and anyway, I can't get in anywhere without a fake I.D., remember?"

"Oh hell," I said, brushing it off. "Let's just fucking go to Harbor House and hit on the waitresses, then. I feel like a Man for the first time in weeks. Don't make me come down yet, bro."

He chuckled again, shaking his head, and said nothing as he steered the Monster back home through the night. I sank back into the seat and closed my eyes, feeling immortal, trying to make it last as long as possible before the inevitable downhill run and empty pit swallowed me up again. That would be later, though. Now was now, and that was the only thing that mattered.

November 02, 2007

On Location in Dana Point

So when I was down in OC last weekend for Bryn's birthday I decided to take the opportunity to get some location shots in for the book I'm trying to write. I thought maybe visiting the places I was trying to describe in writing would be inspirational.

Well, the inspiration bit remains to be seen, but I do know that I kicked my own ass while hiking the Niguel Hill-to-Aliso Peak trail up above Laguna Beach. I was highly irresponsible, walking a semi-familiar trail with little water while there was still smoke in the air from nearby fires, and so as a result I was completely exhausted about a third of the way back up the trail. There was a water fountain at the trail head, but by the time I got back to Bryn's San Clemente apartment I was ready to get drunk and stupid.

Anyway, I also went to Strands and the harbor, as there are a few scenes there as well, so below are some location shots of the trail, the beach, and the harbor pier:

Oh, and I also turned 31 today. Happy birthday to me. I think I'll finally get a digital camera.

October 25, 2007

Squint and You Can See the Sox' Pinstripes

(AP) BOSTON- For the third year in a row, it looks as if baseball fans will be subjected to a boring-as-whale-shit World Series Sweep, as the Boston Red Sox dismembered the Colorado Rockies in game one by a score of 13-1.

The Rockies' fabled Cinderella postseason 20-for-21 win streak came to a shuddering, brutal end when, after an eight-day layoff of their own making (by defeating Arizona early) in the snows of Denver, the Rockies' bats fell silent against Boston ace pitching android Josh Beckett, who had his way with Colorado's lineup despite fronting ridiculously juvenile facial hair.

That was it for the game, but who cares? The burgeoning crowds of Red Sox Nation savored their dominance and confidently bloated their egos across America when their team finally became what they'd always hated and feared: the New York Yankees.

"Fuck off," Sox fans will say, and maybe they'd be right, because does it really matter if Boston has the 2nd-highest payroll after New York, and the 2nd-highest East-Coast-Baseball-Snobbery quotient?* No, it doesn't, because both are American League teams, and therefore heretical, false, and arrogant by nature, even when they have 90-year chips on their shoulders.

Besides, the game would still have been terrible, broadcast as it was on the carnival of idiocy that is Fox Sports, and called by the hapless team of Buck & McCarver. Joe Buck has spent most of his recent history stoically dealing with the blatant, horrid ineptitude of his partner, ex-Cardinal catcher Tim McCarver, whose stupid mistakes and irrelevant insights charm no one and shame us all.

As for Colorado, their goose may be cooked for good. They're already losing tonight as well, 2-1, and may stagger back to Denver for the weekend's games down 0-2 in the best-of-four series. I ask you, my own San Diego Padres, was it worth it, you hosers? Was it worth blowing your division lead and then dropping a one-game playoff to the Rocks just to see them humiliated so viciously?

Perhaps, but the city of San Diego has much nastier things to worry about this week. Indeed, Tony Gwynn himself had to evacuate his family when the monstrous firestorm came too close to his Poway mansion.

But enough of that. There was one other topic I was requested to spew about, but Rudy Giuliani is so congenitally foul and venal that I don't think I can spare any bile for his sorry ass tonight. There will be many, many more nights between now and next November, Rudy, for us to get bent at each other. For now, I'll just say Fuck You and anyone who'd vote for you. That is all.

*This quotient is a real phenomenon. While visiting Fenway Park in 2005 (when the Sox failed to make the postseason), my wife and I were subjected to the bubbly smugness of our ditzy 21st century Fenway staff tour guide, who, when I asked her which teams she liked to see play in Fenway besides the Sox and Yankees, snidely replied "there are no other teams, DUH."

UPDATE (immediately!): I have not spoken in error; Rockie MVP Matt Holliday has made his 5th trip to 1st base, the most consistent Rockie hitting performance of the night. He is promptly picked off by Sox closer (and celebrated Dancing Queen) Jonathan Papelbon, who caught Holliday sneaking off the base and picked him clean off, finishing the 8th inning on a play of staggeringly inept baserunning by a big man who should have known better.

Good night, Rockies.

Cross-posted: dd ( as a comment).

October 14, 2007

Pace Is The Brick

Cause you can never have enough Brick, and this one has Interpol on it to boot:

For more, try "Dead Brick" here.

September 30, 2007

Let's Play 163

So with the losses to the Brewers yesterday and today, San Diego will have to go to Denver for a one-game playoff to determine which team will win the baseball NL wildcard. As a Padre fan, I am not hopeful, because the Rockies are the hottest team in baseball right now, and have beaten the Padres more this year than lost.

Starting Tomko and not Peavy was somewhat controversial today, but maybe Jake can do it. I think the Rockies will start Josh Fogg. Can the Pads still beat Colorado? Have Khalil Greene hit some humidor-powered homers in the rarified Denver air? We shall see. Either team will fly in to Philly tired, but San Diego will be on a flight out of Milwaukee to Denver tonight, and if they miraculously beat the Rockies, will jump right on another plane for Pennsylvania. Congrats to the Phils, Cubs, and Arizona. Screw the American League.

For more, see the comments at Gaslamp Ball.

UPDATE 10/1: ...and after a helluva game, Trevor Hoffman blows ANOTHER save and the Pads lose 9-8 in extra innings. Colorado just wanted it more.

See you next year.

September 24, 2007

New Mexico Democrats Beware!

The man above is your party's new Communications Director. As you can see, he clearly rocks. Be warned. Oh, and Jon, I accept bribes for keeping quiet about anything that you may or may not have been responsible for while we ran wild and crazy throughout Isla Vista. Well, mostly while you ran wild and crazy and the rest of us tried to keep up. Congratulations, my man, and buena suerte, cause you'll need it.

September 19, 2007

Shrill Dispatches From The Bent And Rusty Tubes

I think I'm going Puritan. Everywhere I look I see Degradation and Degeneracy, and a foul slippage into the primordial sludge of Apathy. Oh sure, you say, give us another laugher, Dubious One. Ah, but I insist- I haven't been only looking in the mirror this time, gang. I have been gazing out across the narrow fissure of All These Bent Tubes, and verily I say to thee it is a Waste Land, with no shining sword of justice to smite the raging masses.

Why? Hell, I don't know why. Maybe it's the extra cheese on the pizza tonight, that's all. Maybe it's the bad mood from an idyllic workday gone suddenly and irrevocably Sideways, but I doubt it. No, I think it's the whiff of Playing, of Making it, of Becoming Somebody among hordes of nameless, faceless losers who are doomed to life in pitiful anonymity. And no, of course I'm not immune. What do you think this is, anyway? A stylistic exercise? A noble experiment? A meaningful analysis of the Way Things Are?

No. It's a half-baked gonzo ripoff, and pointless to boot, but you all knew that right away anyway. I just felt like shitting on anyone with an impulse to become a Mover and Shaker in this nasty, spiteful universe of ours. Yes, wherein to become somebody, you stomp on a road of bones of nobodies, for the sake of another notch in the belt, feather in the cap, or forelock-tugging nod of approval from People Who Matter. Well fuck them, and fuck anyone who wants to impress them, for giving in to the craven and weak impulse of Belonging, of yearning for Acceptance among gangs of life-adulterating whorehoppers. They don't want You, they only want to use you, baby, and then toss you out on your ass for six months before slumming their way back again for one last screw.

It's learned behavior, I've seen and heard it a thousand times. Thought I'd be immune to its awful effects by now- thought I'd be able to turn the other cheek and immerse my face in a mask of cynical cool, but Noooooooo, my conscience still pecks at my heart like a vulture, clawing away each last grain of immunity until all I have left is a Festering Sore of Wretched Shame, pulsating with the endless beat of Guilt. Oh yes, Guilt. That nagging affliction of the coddled and pretty around the world, that embarassing rash on the body politic of Meaningful Action. Repulsive, of course, but simultaneously contagious, and near-fatal when taken with severity, or imposed by the Pious.

What? What the fuck does that even mean, Mister? Here you are jabbering about Immoral Impulses when you should be fast asleep, preparing your mind and body to get up at Oh-Shit-Thirty along with the rest of the newly-yuppified Masses. That's right, pal, no eschatological extemporization for you. You got off that bus years ago, and there won't be another one coming your way until the end- you better believe it.

I know, I know, but I can't stop. The bubbling hatred I periodically feel for the importunate few has overflown the porcelain yet again, but this time to a disturbingly toxic degree. It's everywhere, man, and the smell's starting to get to me. I don't know what else to do- my colleagues can't help me, my family just shakes their heads in sorrowful shame, and my friends have long since given up trying to deal with my intemperate impulses. What gives?

Well, yeah, I'd thought of projection, too, but really, I kicked that bastard away a long time ago, and I know his symptoms when he comes around. No, it's gotta be something worse. I've gone through the twelve steps, but I think there must be a few more corollaries in there, or maybe some footnotes that I missed, because Something is Still Wrong and I can't shake it, for the life of me. I'll have to come back to it- I have comments to respond to diaries to post and approval to seek and-

OH MY GOD. It IS me. I have been looking in the mirror this time, and there is no fucking blue pill or red pill or any kinda pill that will save me now!!! Ah, Jesus God, how long? How long will my being get sucked away by these vile Tubes, how long until they are forcibly Yanked out and life begins to gush back to me again? Who can say? Not me, and not anyone else either, for that matter. Something is still rotten in Denmark, gang, but the Danes haven't got long to figure out what it is. If Mr. Jones couldn't grok it, then flip the switch and hit the big red button, man, cause it's a mystery to all now.

Cross-posted: dkos, dd, pff.

September 17, 2007

Come On Feel The PopMart

U2's highest low point comes out on DVD tomorrow. It was the first stadium show I went to, and it was fucking glorious. All the haters can go home to Hell- PopMart walked tall and kicked ass in 1997, like nothing else except "OK Computer." Suck on that, soul-less kitsch-o-phobes. Everyone else, you are free to Shake It.



Last Night On Earth

Until The End of The World

Sunday Bloody Sunday (Edge solo)



Where the Streets Have No Name
(Adam fucks up)

Death to the No Fun Club.

"Dead Meat" + "Brick" = "Dead Brick"

Somebody mashed up Sean Lennon and one of my favorite recent movies to make this excellent little video:

September 11, 2007

Screw Bin Laden, I'm Going Shopping!

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, and lemme tellya, I'm scared shitless that the economy will be tanking, um, soon. Sometime soon. I'm also a bit concerned that we'll be Bombing Beautiful Persia within two months. Or tomorrow. Who can say? I'm mildly worried that White Male Christian Dominionists will, in short order, be transforming our country's military into their own personal paintball game, and in the process taking over everything else with ridiculous ease. Some people tell me that I'm overrreacting, but I don't think so, dude.

I am afraid because I am told to be afraid, on this day especially above all others, the Day Of Yet Again Pissing Ourselves In Fear, but lo, I have been given the cure, and it is sweet, glorious, groovy Capitalism. As we all know, Satan gave us Capitalism so we could all dream of being as wealthy and glamorous as him, and so here we all are, forking it over, extending our credit lines and buying, buying, buying ourselves into blisssful oblivion, gleeful participants in the great game of gaining. Shopping! We're Shopping!! Well, some of us are- but surely those who are unable to participate in this most glorious of distractions secretly yearn to join the fortunate few. Surely.

Don't be scared, little American. Interest rates are...doing something, the stock market is gettin' six kinds of jiggy with it, and Britney has a saggy butt! OMG!!! And, like, even Bin Laden's gone all Just For Men on us, so really, what's to worry about? Get thee to the Mall, my little bitches, and lemme see that plastic get scanned! There are some simply unbelieveable sales going on, you know? This weekend only! Everything Must Go! Liquidation! Hurry, hurry or someone else will be Getting Your Shit, and we don't want that, we never want that, do we?

I mean, really. What's that? Hmmm? You can't go to the mall because there's no gas in the car? Are you fucking kidding me, babes? Old Navy has got some positively killer discounts going on, and you're not there yet? Listen, I don't think you're understanding the Seriousness of what we're up against. This is, like, War, you know? What better way to ward off Teh Fear than by wrapping oneself in the Finest of Fine Sweatshop Items? We can even, like skip Old Navy and go straight to the Gap if you're pressed for time, man. No worries. This is how all those Tropical Brown People recover after things like typhoons, remember? Bill Clinton said so, man, and you trust him, don't you? That's right, buddy.

Hang on, hang on. I get it now. You're too pararlyzed with fright to even step outside your door? Got you covered there, too. See, six months ago, Ted Stevens invented the Internets, and blessedly provided server space for the great bastions of capitalism to thrive and multiply in this new thing called Cyberspace. So go ahead, indulge yourself. Buy some stuff on Amazon, or, if you're into the whole rush of suspense we all love to vicariously live for, Get Thee To eBay, and cross your fingers and toes for that special auction that Only You Can Win. And hey, you don't even have to leave the house to show off all the shit you bought to your friends, either- you can, like, "blog" about it, right there on MySpace! I know, it's just goddam miraculous, isn't it? Click them links, dude. Generate that ad revenue.

Now see, that wasn't so bad, was it? I guess if you really need to, you can stay in touch with what's going on in the world. I mean, the TV and radio still work, don't they? How quaint! Yes, I know, it feels comforting and nostalgic to be bombarded with the sweet punch of Marketing. I get all goose-bumpy just thinking about the new Ephedra campaigns rolling out. They know you, they really know you, and trust me, bub, They Like You too.

And hell, so do I, because when you live in this world, you gotta know the score, and we can all still Keep Score with the best of 'em, as long as the benjamins is flowin' and the credit line is long. Yep, even with Bill Gates and Bono and Brangelina and Posh&Becks and Fiddy and Bonds, especially when they're finally all together in one place, dancing with the stars, all of this can be yours, cause I've Clued You In, babes. I've given you the Secret Of The Universe. Everything else is epilogue.

Just never forget. Never ever forget that if you fail to keep up with the rest of us, if you fail to do what God put you on this yellow-brown earth to do, if you fail to Acquire, then the terrorists have won.

Cross-posted: dkos, mlw, dd, pff.

September 06, 2007

Look at Little Sister!

Bryn and I were good elder brothers this weekend and took off (with Karla and Em) for Santa Cruz and our sister Lis' (above) wedding. She married the handsome and talented Nick Kurns, the bad-assingest mandolin player in Santa Clara County. We were invited not only as best big brothers ever, but also to help with the soundtrack, and so we got to play some acoustified, instrumentalized Honey White songs and cover tunes as the happy couple walked to and from the ceremony. Lots of people took tons of pictures of the whole shebang, but here's a few (by quickdraw Bill MacAllister) that I can offer up quick-like. Enjoy.
The Dubious Duo rehearses.
Keir tunes up.
Em tells us what to do...
...and we do it.
Karla, Bryn, Em, & Keir play "red carpet."
Nick & Lis take five for champagne...
...and then go back to being giddy.

All in all a spectacular time in a beautiful place for two of my favorite people. Who are now in Maui. While I'm not.

August 13, 2007

The Festering Stew Continues to Rise...

I haven't posted a lot here because I can't really decide what to write these days. I was trained to write analytically, but critical writing for me has always been an amalgam of bullshit held together by the flimsiest thread of truth. Anything can be bent to your thesis if you flood your reader with enough jargon, you know? We've been seeing the high and low form of that art for 7+ years now.

I'm good at it (or at least past teachers have told me so) but I really kind of despise critical analysis. I've come to believe that deliberately stepping up as an authority on something- anything- anymore is foolish and arrogant. The best comment (critical comment!) I ever got was in my 10th grade honors English class- after the first real essay of the year, everyone got mid-to-high B's and low A's, except me.

I got a C+. Why? Because she could tell I skated the whole fuckin' thing. "I know you have a good brain," she admonished me, "because your 9th grade English teacher told me so, but in this class you have to prove to me that it works, Keir."

So I stepped up and tried to prune as much bull as possible out of my critiques and essays and term papers, and tried to do that in all classes in which I was required to write them. By the time I got to AP Lit 2 years later, I was being trained to bash out this shit quickly for the AP test. Best stuff, fast as you can. College papers were a fucking joke after that- and no offense to my favorite teachers and TA's, but I had the game gamed by then, unfortunately.

Vocabulary helps. So does technique and finesse. You learn all that by reading every fucking thing you can get your hands on (on any topic). The reason I'm merely good and not Really Fucking Good is that I failed to read everything I possibly could.

I don't know. Writing was just always one of those things I could do. That I had to do, whether in blog posts or novel attempts or song lyrics. Didn't and doesn't make it fun, though, and like anything else it leaves you if you don't practice.

I always thought that good writing will get praise, but great writing will fuck people off. They won't like it and won't get it and say it's shit and be willfully ignorant or condescending or arrogant or snide or snobby and they will try and get other people to agree with them.

Maybe just write about the things you love. Music is one of those things for me, and it helps that I can (sort of) actually play. I hate how some asshole sports writers who've never suited up will bitch and moan about Player X, when they don't know anything about being hit in the face with a puck or hurt by a flying tackle or thrown out at home or, hell, when they don't know how it feels to be benched while some other primadonna is playing your position.

That's why I don't write critically that much anymore- because for too many things in this world, the things that I haven't experienced or known or endured, I'm the fucker who's never suited up, and I will NOT be idiotic enough to opine about shit I don't know. If I can help it. I probably lied right there. Oh well.

Now, ask me about geography or U2 or history or or my band or baseball, for example, and I might be able to help you. The rest of everything else is still beyond my ability to judge with the written word.

July 19, 2007

When The Revolution Comes, I Know Where I'll Be

My back will be up against the wall, that's where I'll be. I've self-flagellated before, like every other liberal white straight suburban male, but I think I've only recently come to terms with how absolutely and irrevocably compromised I am when it comes to changing The Way Things Are in this country, at least as far as reversing the appalling damage done in the last fifteen years by neo-conservatism. In short, I've realized that I cannot competently help The Cause, whether it's helping to elect Democrats or (even better), helping tilt America toward the left to a degree it's never been before.

Why? Well, I've admitted it many times elsewhere, but my sin is sloth. Overwhelming, self-absorbed, callous sloth. The kind that insults true activists of any stripe when they come within fifty feet of me. The kind that would make them call me a Good German, or worse. The kind that, festering and fermenting into the most wretched form of apathy, drives me to cynically throw up my hands and childishly wish a pox on every house in American politics.

Oh yes, this piggie can squeal, no question about that. The thing that I feared would happen has happened. I remember telling my friends and family, while in the fervent throes of Campaign 2004, that the worst possible outcome after a Kerry loss would be a repeat of the staggering shoulder-shrug that the public seemed to give in the mid-seventies after Nixon won big and then crashed and burned. Of course, I had no idea what that was really like, bicentennial baby that I am. No idea, not then- but now? I'm beginning to understand.

Iraq? Yes, clusterfuck from the beginning. I earnestly said so, along with everyone else calling bullshit on BushCo. However, I earnestly said so on the one medium that could be ignored- could be marginalized at will by those in power. See, personally I've never believed in the triumphally transformative power of the blogosphere. I tried to get inspired, and eventually was, in momentary fits and starts and glorious instances of... what, exactly? Honestly, I'm happy for everyone who's found use and meaning in all of this, especially the activists who've actually done things instead of snipe from the sidelines.

But me? I couldn't even bring myself to write regularly to one of my best friends from high school who happened to be comanding a tank north of Baghdad for all of 2005. What I did write was substantial, but undoubtedly not enough. I stayed fat and happy at home, indulging in the same old creative high point of my life that I had for the past decade- as a bass guitarist in rock bands. Way to go, dude. Way to stick it to the Man, man. My two whole lyircs that cleverly and cryptically alluded to "political" themes sure contributed to the downfall of the Republican Congress.

I don't mean to sound flip or ungrateful. I'm immensely happy to return to the nurturing teat of the suburbia that raised me. My family and friends love me, and I enjoy a happy marriage. I am glad to do what I do for a living, even though on at least two occasions, I've had to work for clients that under other circumstances I wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole. I've had a lot of help to get where I did, and I'd like to think I didn't take any of it for granted.

Of course, any spoiled white GenXer or Millenial can say that, but we still don't really know what the fuck it means, and we still sound like ignorantly smug assholes when we try to genuinely Care About Things. It's our Nature. We are The Privileged and The Lucky and The Disastrously Innocent. We talk the talk and never walk the walk as much as we like (or at least enough for anyone else). We hide behind band-aids like the Peace Corps (and other vastly less useful endeavors) and pretend to care about a wider circle than our 50 closest friends and family, and...

Shit, that can't be true for everybody, even if it is true for me. Can it? I don't fucking know. I wanted to write another chapter of my burgeoning serious-white-boy novel, but out spewed this thing instead. If you've made it this far, you deserve a medal.

And to all those who would gate-crash the gate-crashers? Don't forget to give us our fucking cigarettes before we get the firing squad. Thanks.

Morning-after update: Ugh. This sure does look like some whiny stuff in the harsh light of day. Luurve that white blooz!

Cross-posted: dkos, mlw.

July 11, 2007

The Radio Around Here, Like, Totally Sucks, Man

I don't, you know, really know shit about, um, radio stations or whatever. Never managed one myself. Totally boring and selling out and stuff, running a station, you know? I mean, sure, I dig the music, man- hell, sometimes I even call in to say what's up or beg a few requests, but be in charge? Be a kahuna of any size? Nah. No way, even. Too much work, and, like, effort and shit. So I'm, like, not trying to harsh on anyone or anything, okay, but lately I've been picking up some seriously bad vibage pouring out of my FM speakers, and all I'm trying to do here is figure out what the fuck is going on, man. Somebody, please, enlighten me. I'm like those dudes who ended up all bummed and stuff in that one movie, you know?

Anyway, all my buds have always been up in my shit because I like other music besides the Rock, see? I can't help it, and I won't ever say sorry, but that's how it goes, I guess. But yeah, when we used to hang out together and break shit and bitch about our curfews and our lame parents and stuff we'd all listen to the local classic rock station. It was really fuckin' good for a while, you know? There were, like, so many different DJs who played all their- and our- favorite retro music. Beatles, Stones, Floyd, Zeppelin, you name it. Whoever was in charge must have liked the oldies, too, cause every once in a while we'd get some Elvis or Howlin' Wolf or, um... Bill Haley or... uh... Doris Day (my mom is into her music, ok?) in there. My buddies and I were all stoked that we knew who those musicians were when, like most of the kids at school had no goddam clue about any of that. It was undeniably bitchin'. I loved every minute of it.

So one summer I went away on this lame vacation with my family for about two weeks, and when I come back, I dunno, something weird happened. The same classic rock station that I loved before had started to play (and play and play and play) some real lame-ass shit, you know? I mean, sure, I guess I liked it the first hundred times or so, but my God, the non-stop marathons of Styx, Foreigner, Journey, and all sorts of, like laaaaaame bullshit bands really turned me off, man. I mean, the fucking Eagles, man? Please. Like finito. I felt hosed, you know? I didn't know what to do, so I called up one of my friends and said "Bro, what the fuck is up with the radio? Who died and made this shit 'good', man?" He was all, "Dude, don't sweat it. I called in one day and a DJ there who was like, bent as a crowbar about this shit told me that there were gonna be some new stations starting up real soon, and to hang tight 'til they were ready, and that it would be boss and a half when it was time."

And that was that, man- at least that's what we thought at the time. So we waited, and listened, and waited, and listened some more, and what we ended up with wasn't much better. It wasn't totally worse, but, you know, it was still kind of a letdown, dig? But yeah, there was this one dude who got his station all into the weirdest, freakiest improvised music. He played, like, everything from noodly jazz and bop to jammy fusion and wicked funk, and for a while we thought this guy knew his shit, but then he bailed for a day or two and let these other old dudes in to play some, like, crusty Bing Crosby and Lawrence Welk shit. I dunno, I wasn't too into that, but I figured we could give the first guy the benefit of the doubt because he'd jammed with Django, and the other guy once opened for Sinatra, but they never played any of that stuff, so I, like, bailed. I've heard since, that, like, the ratings there have totally been in the tank, so they've been trying to change that jazz station back to the classic rock format. I dunno- I wish them luck and everything, but between you and me, man, there's nothing more arrogant and smug than an aging white jazz musician. Total bummer.

At that point I tuned in to another station where this chick was playing all my favorite Patti Smith records, and some other cool punk and new-wavey stuff from the 70s & 80s. Kind of like a modern-rock sorta thing, you know? Anyway, it was pretty cool and a lot less on the cock rock and hair metal that was totally taking over everywhere else, and it stayed that way for a while 'til one day when this girl DJ went, like absolutely beyond apeshit about classic rock. Tore into it like Ozzy into a bat, you know? Totally. I mean, it wasn't so bad, really, but then her station went from punk to some weird mashup of hardcore-emo-death metal stuff. I didn't hate it, but I didn't get it, either, and then when some other dude highjacked the station and pissed all over the mixing board and flushed all the doobage down the john, well, that was it for me there.

I tried the classic rock thing again, but only for a few songs a day, and I always changed the station when they start in with the Skynyrd and stuff. I also couldn't stand the way they fucking obsessed over Woodstock and Altamont. After a few days of that, I got kinda pissed at the radio and turned the dial til I came across the craziest-ass noise I've ever heard, and I sat there for a few minutes totally fascinated. I just couldn't figure out what the fuck was up with this, until this one dude who was dating my sister's friend showed up with her at my place one time, and he was all "Man, I didn't know you dug Metal Machine Music, dude! Righteous!" Well, that was fucking it for me with that station. I mean, maybe it was art, but the day I listen to the same shit as that hipper-than-thou, too-cool-for-school crowd, well, that's the day I fuckin' turn in my rabbit ears, peeps.

So I tried and tried again to find stations I could hang with. I was desperate, man- I even stooped to cheap folk revivals, Euro-techno-world stuff, knockoff alt-country, classical, adult album alternative, even (shudder) NPR. Couldn't deal with any of 'em, you know? I dunno. I wish I knew what the fuck was up with the radio these days. I don't recognize this scene anymore. We used to have a great thing going here, people. I mean that. With or without Courtney Love.

But whatever. Maybe I'm just jealous cause none of 'em would play my band. Maybe I'm just self-flagellating cause I haven't listened to any real good soul or hip-hop in a while. Maybe they'll tell me to go to hell all over again. Maybe it doesn't matter.

Shit. Time for another beer fer sure, dude.

Cross-posted: dkos, mlw.

June 05, 2007

OK Computer Turns Ten

For yet another depressing post in the category of "Ah shit, I'm old!" (there have been so many revelations like that lately!): the landmark 1997 album by Radiohead will be a decade old come July 1. It's "important" to me, I guess, because it was probably the last album that I got all teenageredly enthusiastic over (even though I was 20 at the time). It wasn't too long after that I got suddenly all "adult" in my music appreciation- cue strokey-beard pose and uttering things like "yes, the new Bob Dylan album is quite good, wouldn't you say?" That was also about the time I joined a band for the first time and first endured the "you guys SUCK!" form of juvenile music fandom (I believe it's now pronounced "OMG OMG teh new radiohead is soooooo awesome1!!!11!!").

Anyway, instead of, um, educated criticism (which at the time I pretended to do for the UCSB student paper), I mostly gushed about OK Computer to (and with) all my friends. We'd all sit around the apartment in Isla Vista listening to the damn thing and every 5 minutes or so going "Wow! How the hell did they do that?!?" Actually it was probably more like: "(*toke*, bubble, *chug*) Whoooaah maaaan, how'd they dooooo that?" or like "Duuuuude, the computer voice is talking again, man!!! What's it saaaaying?" Ahem. It also made me haul out my old cassette singles (!) of songs from The Bends and re-appreciate them and that album all over again.

For some reason I'm also remembering driving back (okay, well Adam driving us back) to campus from a weekend home in OC and everyone in the car singing along with "Karma Police", all trying to hit Thom Yorke's high notes, which only Adam and the girls could do. I also remember that all the "real" reviews by newspaper & magazine critic gasbags like Hilburn or Christigau, etc., were all saying that OK Computer was this generations Dark Side of the Moon, and us thinking "screw you, you bandwagon-jumping old hippie!" because obviously, Dark Side of the Moon was that generation's OK Computer. OMG like, duh. Off with their heads- they don't remember our names anymore. Or something.

Ah, shit. I'm old.

May 19, 2007

Blogging Is Hell

A little inside baseball for a tired moving weekend. The past few months have been crazier than usual, as far as meta is concerned, on the liberalesque Scoop/Ajax blogs like Daily Kos and its blogspawn. Lotsa people being banned and leaving in a huff and sniping from the outside, with rending of hair and gnashing of teeth and much, much more melodrama than necessary. Generally, everyone is taking themselves too goddam seriously.

Well, when in Rome, I say, so instead of doing more healthy creative things, I wrote a diary on DKos merely to have some fun with everyone in a Dante sort of way. Thankfully they took it as such, on several sites (MLW asked for a crosspost), as my ego hoped they would, so I guess that means I'm now a bonafide attention whore. Yeah, big surprise, hmmm?

Anyway, there are way too many inside jokes in that thing, so not everyone's gonna get it if they've been outside living their lives instead of being glued to the internets, but that's ok. We all have our indulgent addictions to overcome. Or not.

May 02, 2007

Does Khalil dream of electric sheep?

jbox at Gaslamp Ball says yes, and supports himself with charts & graphs:

I figured out what makes Khalil so creepy. They made him too realistic! Have you heard of the Uncanny Valley? When you're making a humanoid robot, the more realistic it is made the more familiar it looks to the human eye. You get a positive feeling because even though you can tell it's a robot your brain picks out the human characteristics and you have empathy for the machine. That is until you reach the "Uncanny Valley". This is the point where the robot looks a little too realistic so the eye finds all the non-human characteristics and flaws. This tends to creep people out. Check out this graph from Wikipedia:
While extremely persuasive, this argument ultimately fails for me, for two reasons:

1) Why would anyone design a shortstop-android that injures its hands and fingers all the time?

2) Why would anyone design a shortstop-android that looks like Spicoli?

Oh, and 3) the Padre fan in my house says "that's just not very nice." And here I thought she had a sense of humor.

April 12, 2007

The Big Collage 94/95-05/06

Are you on it? Click on it to have a look.

Update: Since Jon pointed out that the doubled size is actually still quite tiny, I tripled that to about 2400px wide. Also, I should probably mention that it goes left to right, with each year taking up 16 squares (for example, 94/95 is the 16 squares on the upper left).

March 29, 2007

Drinking from the Firehose at Web Design World '07

So after three days at Web Design World in San Francisco, I'm reminded once again that I Know Jack Shit when it comes to what's really going on in this industry right now. Oh sure, it was fun and informative to be in the more conceptual seminars for things like search engine optimization and another called "Principles of Social Design" (how the web's moved from 1-way sites to 2-way like Amazon to multi-way like MySpace or Daily Kos). That stuff was easy to keep up with.

What was embarassing was the fact that I barely understood half the stuff on XML (an industry standard for like, five years now) and was totally lost in other lectures about Ruby on Rails, DHTML, and even in a "best practices" sorta thing on CSS. Style sheets! Shit!! I have serious catching up to do- if I cared about being taken seriously, that is. But hey, the company paid for it, so what the hell.

Much more fun was spending time at my sister's new place with her fiance Nick, and seeing my mom and stepdad for the first time in a while. Since Bryn wasn't there, of course, we made the most of it, finally telling Mom all about the REAL reason the Volvo's back window was shattered 10 years ago in the Saddleback Lanes parking lot (it was Bryn's bony ass). It was almost cute, how faux-scandalized she was. It's too late for the volvo, of course, but we did think about digging up the bill and sending it to Bryn.

Also met Brian for a few hours to hang out in downtown SF. Turns out he's been accepted to a neuroscience PhD program at Georgetown, which is awesome for him, but since it's a five-year plan, that sort of puts the kibosh on any more Honey White goings-on for the forseeable future, especially gigs. Not that we've been going crazy with that stuff, but still. I've been trawling the archives over at My Band Rocks, and that seems somehow prescient now.

January 31, 2007

Getty Invasion 2007

So BBM&D- all four of us- played hooky and went to the Getty museum for "inspiration" today. Got it in spades, for sure- especially from a photo exhibit of places where horrible things happened, like the Memphis hotel balcony where MLK was killed or an abandoned house in Love Canal. That's not what I'm posting, though- Suzette snapped lots of photos herself:

January 23, 2007

Vengeful Arson on Aliso Peak

I unleashed hell on my hometown much faster than I would have thought possible. I was so surprised at how quickly it happened that I almost forgot to run. It's not like I didn't think I had it in me or anything; it's just that when I'd thought about doing something like this before, I didn't imagine that such a small effort could result in the frightening magnitude of sheer speed and power displayed before me. I wasn't prepared for it, wasn't prepared for what it showed me about myself and how much I could let hate concentrate and fester and ferment inside me. I sure as hell wasn't prepared for the consequences of what I'd done, and I was in no hurry to find out the full extent of what they might be. By the time I left the party all the fighting had stopped, but I didn't want to stay there and be with people trying to get their goddamn buzzes back. I still needed to clear my head. I walked out of the hotel suite and down the stairs to the parking garage, brought my beloved piece of junk to life, and tried to feel sober as I rolled down the window and turned the fan on. It didn't work. I thought I could use a drive but part of me didn't want to go too far cause it hadn't been that long ago that I'd had my last drink. The other part of me could really give a shit about any of that and was all ready to start dishing out random payback.

Before too long I found myself driving up the hill, then stopping and slipping out quietly onto the sidewalk, then softly crunching the pebbles of the trail under my feet as I walked past the dark construction site looming on my left. For some reason the company's sign wasn't lit, so at least I didn't have to see that ugly thing and get even more riled up. I couldn't really see much at all- the trail was now pitch black, and the only reason I didn't trip and fall down the ravine on my right was the fact that I'd walked this trail so many times in the last three years that I had it absolutely memorized.

I tread carefully once the site no longer separated me from the hill's other side, but in a few more minutes I reached the pinnacle at the end of the trail. It wasn't really a peak- the hill's apex was far inland behind me- but I could now look down and see the twinkling lights of South Laguna at the bottom of the hill. I sat down slowly and silently, not feeling the need to project any of my mania on the rest of the universe yet. I must have stayed there a good twenty minutes like that, trying as hard as I could to relax, to just let it all go and not listen to the howling shrieks of chaos coming up from somewhere inside me that I never really knew existed.

It was no good, though. I couldn't stop thinking about those fucking Addison brothers and their entire loathsome family, lording it head and shoulders above even the other millionaire magnates of Orange County, with their pneumatically enhanced middle-aged Barbie wives and their asshole kids creating their own little kingdoms of terror wherever they went. All above the law and all too damn good to bother with anyone else; too damn proud of themselves to even care about the world around them unless it rudely interrupted their ignorant, superficial little lives. I knew was totallly taking it too personally, but I didn't think that was a problem anymore.

Whatever. I wouldn't be able to fix the whole problem, but I could sure as hell shove it along its way. I gave up on the forced tranquility of communing with the universe, stood up, and lit a cigarette, my next to last. I turned around a little too quickly and staggered back onto the trail- guess I wasn't so with it after all. I slowed down a bit for the sake of my own safety and tried to think myself out of what I so desperately wanted to do these people, to make a dent in their plastic perfection, to stick a pin in their big fat bubble-world.

As I came back toward the half-finished mansions, though, I heard two voices that were most likely to push me right over the edge, and I thought 'okay, you wacky cosmos, you just asked for it'. I reached the point of the train where it would curve around the new stucco wall being built to protect these white elephants from the brutal and dirty outside world, and my worst fears and best dreams were confirmed as I peered around the bend. I could see Justin Addison and his kid brother Kyle working hard to patch up a section of incomplete wall. I didn't know for sure what they were doing but based on their behavior from earlier tonight I had a pretty good idea- that is, if I could still rely on my worst fears to be completely accurate at this time of night and level of blood-alcohol. No one comes to a construction site at one in the morning to mix stucco and slather away at a two-foot thick wall, even and especially if their daddy owns and runs the thing and has plenty of brown people and journeymen to order around.

I kept watching them, working up the willpower to act, waiting for them to finish. They didn't, though- they just slopped that shit up about halfway inside the mold, checking something as they did. It didn't take much longer for them to hastily clear up and flee. Even if I wanted to stop them I couldn't have. I held no love for the one they were after tonight and I didn't want to know what happened. I simply waited until the two slimy thugs had made up their mind that what they came to do was finished, and I let them walk away, skittishly, to their truck and make their clumsy escape. I knew it was time to act, but I needed that last smoke first.

I should have known, though, that what I had planned out there on the pinnacle wasn't going to go smoothly. I can say honestly that I didn't plan to start a fire- I'm not a real pyro and never have been- but I'd taken a glance at the place in the wall where the boys were working and thought of him briefly and if he was going to be okay tonight, wherever he was. I guess I got too caught up in thought to stay focused and my cigarette burned down to my fingers and I was so startled that I flung both arms up and the butt just flew out of my hand and into the brush on the ravine side of the trail. I watched it, frozen stiff in the dry night air, and just when I thought everything was fine an unnaturally powerful gust of hot air came shooting up the trail from behind me. It caressed the chaparral and bent the underbrush in a graceful dip before the first flames licked up and caught on the next parched shrub. So no, I didn't mean to start the fire at all, but once it was going good and strong for about five long minutes I almost thought it was worth it, for the flames to repossess the hill from the disgustingly expensive homes that invaded it. Then I realized that I was right in the path of it and it wasn't slouching. The wind came up again, strangely, warm and dry from the ocean, and for a brief instant I thought that the old Santa Anas were behaving very strangely- exactly the opposite of how they were supposed to.

Then I saw all hell begin to break loose and I fucking ran for my life. I made it inside and turned the engine over, and I didn't give a good goddamn about the noise as I peeled out of the cul-de-sac and raced back toward Pacific Island and down the hill. There were no sirens I could hear. No one had reported it, I thought. As I went down the hill at one point I looked in the rearview mirror and saw nothing but black night sky behind me and I allowed myself a quick exhale before gunning for home.

When I got back, I crept in the front door, went to the stairs, and peeked around the corner to the den. Both my parents were fast asleep in front of the TV, which was turned to cable news and spewed forth late-night reruns of two-week-old analysis of the O.J. trial. 'Fucking typical,' I thought lamely as I took the steps two and a time and gratefully crashed onto my bed's cool, forgiving sheets and lost the will to stay conscious.

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