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.

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