Thursday, May 29, 2014

Inside Dope: Behind the Scene Ep. 18 [We Are So High]

Los Angeles, CA

Several friends pointed out a recent episode of This American Life by Ira Glass. The topic was about everyday people all around us that were high. That was the concept... but it came out a little different than I expected. Shane felt pretty strongly about TAL episode particularly Ira Glass's theme of Us vs. Them and a particular segment about Alex Blumberg's pothead father (who was former ad man in the 60s/70s). Anyway, Episode 18 - We Are So High, was a reaction episode.

Here's the setlist...

Listen to Episode 18 - We Are So High....

Download link for Episode 18.

Subscribe to Dope Stories on iTunes.

Listen to previous shows (including Broke Stories special) and read full description of each episode... DOPE STORIES - EPISODE GUIDE.

Also, check out other Inside Dope posts, which give you a behind the scenes look at the development of each episode, like one of my favorite episodes: Inside Dope - Ep 10: Ridin' Dirty.

Here's Inside Dope for interviews we conducted:
Inside Dope - Ep 7: Greg Merson (WSOP Champion)
Inside Dope - Ep 8: Dr. Carl Hart
Inside Dope - Ep 11: Sean Azzariti
Inside Dope - Ep 16: Ben Sinclar and Katja Blichfeld from High Maintenance
Here's the Inside Dope for the last month of episodes...
Inside Dope - Ep 14: The Acid Test
Inside Dope - Ep 15: Acid Test, Part 2: Furthur
Inside Dope - Ep 16: Get High With A Lil Help From Strangers
Thanks for listening.

Quick links: Dope Archives | Twitter | Donate | Soundcloud | Subscribe iTunes | RSS

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Smells Like Lip Syncing

Los Angeles, CA

"Load up on drugs and kill your friends," bellowed Cobain.

In the U.K., the Top of the Pops is a highly-influential program because just three minutes can help boost record sales. Yeah, record companies do everything in their power to put their artists in spots when they can maximize their reach. In the early 90s, television was still king and it helped sell millions and millions of records to British teens.

Nirvana made their first appearance on Top of the Pops in 1991. The band was in the middle of a European Tour when Smells Like Teen Spirit rocketed to the top of the American and U.K. charts. Instead of celebrating their success, Nirvana loathed their fame. They were critical of the final mix and didn't really like the "commercial" sound of their second album Nevermind. They also clung to staunch punk rock ideals that it was uncool to make money for the machine, and even uncooler to help the Man sell more units. A conflicted and anguished Nirvana were miserable the last couple of years they were a band. They never really enjoyed the ride and their collective energies created a hurricane-like storm of negativity and gloom, which perpetually hung over them and destroyed everything in their path wherever they went.

When acts appear on Top of the Pops, they agree to lip sync to a pre-recorded track. That's the rules of the gig. Pretty much everyone goes along with the flow. Nirvana didn't want to do it, until they eventually found some middle ground... the music track would be pre-recorded but Cobain would be allowed to perform live vocal track. He did everything he could to deliver a "fuck you to the Man" type of performance including a strange vocal delivery, a slight alteration to the lyrics ("load up on drugs and kill your friends"), and purposely strumming the wrong chords on the guitar. Meanwhile in the background, pranksters Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic pulled off some crazy shit for the cameras. You gotta love Grohl's over-the-top imitation of Keith Moon.

In the end, everyone won (and made tons of money). Cobain and Nirvana maintained their street cred in the punk community with their antics. The stunt got buzz. Everyone in the U.K. under 21 watched the show. The massive music machine sold a million records.

Yep, nothing to see here except a bunch of folks printing oodles and oodles of money on a song that sounds more like a grunge version of Boston's More Than a Feeling.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Happy Being Born Day, Bob Dylan

Los Angeles, CA

It's Bob Dylan's birthday. Here's a nifty remix of a classic Dylan song with a lil modern rhythm section.

The older I get, the deeper I dive into Dylan's archives. It's been a fun last few months exploring early 80s Dylan when the entire music world had pretty much written him off. It was a rough transition, yet Dylan someone survived the tumultuous 80s and one again re-invented himself just in time for the rocking 90s.

In 2011, I nearly died in a car accident. A couple of days later, I sat tenth row of a Dylan concert in Las Vegas. My pal Jesse May is a huge Dylan disciple and scored us the sweet tickets. Amazing sound at Pearl (at Palms). Dylan was perfect in the mix, so he didn't have a typical voice like "sand and glue" or like he was singing with marbles in his mouth. Most of the (older) crowd sat... except Jesse who rocked out the entire show in a pink suit and headband and doublefisting two cocktails... but I was in so much physical pain and jacked up on painkillers that I sat down too. Rocking out in my chair.

I was as close as I'll ever be to the man and I had one of those moments in life -- and they don't have very often, which is what makes them so monumental -- but I had one of those moments that I was so damn happy to be alive.... period. Want to talk about fully being in the moment? Well that 75 minutes with Dylan was just that. I was reborn in many ways that are indescribable and Dylan was a tremendous part of that transformation. I knew it was time for me to move on with my life. The Vegas and poker chapters were done, and it was time to start with something new. Inspired by Dylan's clear message, the emotions he stirred up inside me became a chain reaction, which in turn became the necessary fuel I needed to begin a new journey.

Man, I got to see Bob Dylan play for what could be the last time for me (my girlfriend and I actually saw Dylan last year at the Hollywood Bowl, but it was a meh show compared to blistering Vegas performance)... you never know when he'll hang it up and stop touring... so that evening was sheer bonus. Gravy. Lots of gravy. Every morning I thank God (or the Creator, or the Universe) for a second chance at life. But more importantly, I frequently go back to that Dylan show in Vegas with Jesse May.

Happy birthday, Bob Dylan.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Inside Dope: Behind the Scenes of Ep. 17 [I Get High With A Lil Help From Strangers]

Los Anegles, CA

Fun episode.

Ep. 17 is titled I Get High With A Lil Help From Strangers. Dope stories with strangers.

Shane and I weaved six stories involving getting high with strangers. I had three that took place in three different locations: Amsterdam, Japan and Jamaica. Shane's three stories were NYC-centric and included meeting the most memorable person he's ever met, his friend Dee Dee picking up a pair of German tourists girls (one of whom freaked out after smoking too much weed), and a first-time encounter with crack. Dope Media segments included the new album by Pharoahe Monch and Life by Keith Richards.

Setlist for Ep. 17...

Listen/stream Ep. 17...

Download link for Episode 17.

Here's specific timings for Ep. 17...
0:01 - INTRO and Thanks for Donations
1:40 - Shane Story: Dee Dee and 2 German girls
11:10 - Pauly Story: Amsterdam hash bars with Middle East spies and Big Oil execs
20:10 - Shane Story: The most memorable person he's ever met: a savvy traveler from Holland
27:23 - Pauly Story: Following Phish in Japan and meeting local hippies
36:15 - Shane Story: First crack hit in Alphabet City
43:10 - Pauly Story: Jamaica, gambling with British ex-pats, papaya farms & haunted roads
50:11 - DOPE MEDIA
55:00 - OUTRO
Subscribe to Dope Stories on iTunes.

Listen to previous shows (including Broke Stories special) and read full description of each episode... DOPE STORIES - EPISODE GUIDE.

Also, check out other Inside Dope posts, which give you a behind the scenes look at the development of each episode, like one of my favorite episodes: Inside Dope - Ep 10: Ridin' Dirty

Here's Inside Dope for interviews we conducted:
Inside Dope - Ep 7: Greg Merson (WSOP Champion)
Inside Dope - Ep 8: Dr. Carl Hart
Inside Dope - Ep 11: Sean Azzariti
Inside Dope - Ep 16: Ben Sinclar and Katja Blichfeld from High Maintenance
Here's the Inside Dope for the last month of episodes...
Inside Dope - Ep 12: International Dope
Inside Dope - Ep 13: The 4/20 Show
Inside Dope - Ep 14: The Acid Test
Inside Dope - Ep 15. Acid Test, Part 2: Furthur
Thanks for listening.

Quick links: Dope Archives | Twitter | Donate | Soundcloud | Subscribe iTunes | RSS

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Conversational Gridlock in the Land of Sunshine, Freeways and Botox

Los Angeles, CA

In high school, our homeroom (called "advisement") lasted 15 minutes. NBC late night programming dominated our morning conversations.  

I started watching Late Night with David Letterman to keep up with the inside jokes and "Top 10 List" by taping the show at 12:30am, an hour after my bedtime. I usually fell asleep watching Cheers reruns at 11pm, then woke up a half hour early to watch the highlights on my VCR and fast-forwarding through the commercials.

On Monday mornings, homeroom/advisement was devoted to recapping Saturday Night Live, which ranged from sharing our favorite bits to outright attempting to act out a sketch. By definitions, all Monday mornings suck but the devotion of my classmates to SNL made Monday mornings palatable.

Flash forward to this morning. I wandered over to the local diner and made sure I let the quartet of LA cops exit first before I found a seat near the front, which had the best (natural) lighting, something I preferred because I life to read a book, a real-life book with pages and everything, instead of ogling my phone like every other schmuck in the joint.

A trio sat in the front booth: middle-aged guy dressed like he was a 16-year old skater kid, plus two younger women, one of whom wore psychedelic yoga pants that had the same color scheme as Jimi Hendrix's Axis: Bold As Love album. Actually upon closer inspection, one of them was obviously from Botox City, a sure-fire clue she was at least in their 40s, yet she dressed also like a teenager. It reminded me of that line from Greenberg: "In L.A., all of the kids dress like superheros and all of the adults dress like kids."

I didn't notice the front booth when I walked in, but I immediately overheard their raucous conversation the moment I slid into my seat. They were semi-arguing about freeways and the quickest way to get from Culver City to Silver Lake. Trying to fade traffic is common chatter among native Angelenos, but this animated booth prattled on with exaggerated SoCal-accents.

I had a instant flashback to my high school homeroom... OMG... that booth was re-enacting a sketch from SNL, specifically The Californians.

If you don't watch SNL anymore, there's a really bad recurring sketch (so bad, it's fucking rad) called the Californians. It viciously mocks two things: 1) trashy afternoon soap operas with atrocious acting, and 2) how people in LA smugly speak to each other... never in complete sentences but peppered with driving slang. Every installment of Californians eventually includes multiple discussions on the fastest way to get to a specific destination, and which shortcuts (side streets and tertiary routes) will be the best way to avoid traffic.

It's funny because it's true.

A lot of viewers don't like Californians because they just don't get it. And a few locals don't dig it because they can't take a fucking joke. The rub is simple... traffic is ubiquitous in LA and almost all of SoCal... yet that's all anyone every talks about that does not include themselves.

My typical conversations in Los Angeles usually fall into three categories:
Q: "What did you think of the new Wes Anderson flick?"
A: "Jesus... traffic was awful."

Q: "What did you do this weekend?"
A: "Jesus... traffic was fucking brutal."

Q: "How's the latest draft of the screenplay?"
A: "Jesus, that traffic. Took me forever. And then I couldn't find parking."
I forgot to comment about the "parking situation" in the LA universe. Besides bitching about traffic, the second biggest complaint is parking... the lack of street parking, or how the valet guys steal everything.

Technology alleviated the traffic headaches for like a week before everyone else downloaded the same fucking app. Even when I look at different traffic websites or an app, the results are always the same... big fucking red streaks to indicate gridlock. Red streaks everywhere.

In a bastion of self-absorbed vapidness, the pinnacle of braggadocio is eschewing technology and relying on knowledge of the quickest routes and locals' shortcuts in a city paralyzed by gridlock. But, here's the rub... It ain't going anywhere. Yet, everyone likes to 1) complain about their former shortcut not working anymore, or 2) brag about knowing the best alternative routes. Dirty secret? In reality, #2 is not the case because the best-kept shortcuts are never truly revealed because if you gave up your sweet alt route, then everyone else will eventually take it thereby causing yet another traffic jam. Instead, they give you the "second-best" route.

For fuck's sake, I can't believe I'm writing about this. See, I've been corrupted and co-opted and I don't even drive a fucking car.

So the front booth...

I tried to convince myself that they were acting out the most recent Californians sketch from SNL. But after a couple seconds I realized my assessment was totally off base. One of two of them might have been actors, but they were not performing or doing a bit. Nope. This was real fucking life. And that was how they really fucking talked. The three loudly argued over the best routes. One of the women talked so fast I wondered if she was railing lines of Adderall at the table. Holy shit. I assumed her prescription speed kicked in? How is anyone that chatty at 8am, unless they've been up all night hoovering foam.

They were loud and annoying and I hated them instantly. I usually give someone five minutes to prove to me that they are a moron, yet in this instance it took all about 15 seconds to decide I would like to take three, dirty, rolled-up socks and stuff them into their yappers.

I chastised myself for being so judgmental. Buddha wouldn't have done that. Right? I should be more patient and tolerant, even in the land of the Californians.

Then again, Buddha wouldn't be sitting in a greasy diner trying to read a Joan Didion book while a bunch of highly-vexing hipsters and Botox queen argued about who had the best routes to Silver Lake.

"Like, when in doubt, take Fountain..."

Monday, May 19, 2014

JTSMD: Summer Reading for $1

Los Angeles

A blast from the past. Nicky and I recorded this single podcast episode roughly three years ago. At the time (May 2011), Nicky interviewed me about the (impending) release of my first novel Jack Tripper Stole My Dog.

This is a short interview clocking in at 5 and a half minutes...

I thought I might have a follow-up episode or two, but that never happened! Like so many projects/creative ideas I get, I very rarely follow through on them. But in this case, I finally followed through on 1) finishing the novel that I originally wrote in November of 2002, and 2) getting JTSMD published.

Pick up a copy of JTSMD for your Kindle for only 99 cents. Yes, less than a buck. You can't get anything for a $1 anymore, so it's almost free.

If you're a Luddite, or prefer physical books like me, then you can purchase a real copy here, but that'll cost you $8.99.

And don't forget this hilarious review of Jack Tripper Stole My Dog from someone I never met before and someone who randomly stumbled upon the book...

Buy Jack Tripper Stole My Dog: KindleAmazon
Twitter: @JackTripperBook

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Inside Dope: Behind the Scenes of Ep. 16 [High Maintenance]

Los Angeles, CA

For the latest episode of Dope Stories, we interviewed the creators of High Maintenance web series about a marijuana delivery guy in Brooklyn who encounters lots of weird and wacky New Yorkers. The creative team is a husband/wife dynamic duo -- Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld. I asked a couple of questions about the creative process.

BTW... Thanks to the owners at Thank You For Coming, a creative arts space/experimental kitchen that allowed us to use their backyard/patio to record this episode.

Catch up with episodes of High Maintenance via their website. Episodes are short, anywhere from 5 to 13 minutes, and you do not have to watch them chronologically.

Listen to Episode 16...

Download Episode 16.

Subscribe to Dope Stories on iTunes.

Listen to previous shows (including Broke Stories special) and read full description of each episode... DOPE STORIES - EPISODE GUIDE.

Also, check out other Inside Dope posts, which give you a behind the scenes look at the development of each episode, like one of my favorite episodes: Inside Dope - Ep 10: Ridin' Dirty

Here's Inside Dope for interviews we conducted:
Inside Dope - Ep 7: Greg Merson (WSOP Champion)
Inside Dope - Ep 8: Dr. Carl Hart
Inside Dope - Ep 11: Sean Azzariti
Here's the Inside Dope for the last month of episodes...
Inside Dope - Ep 12: International Dope
Inside Dope - Ep 13: The 4/20 Show
Inside Dope - Ep 14: The Acid Test
Inside Dope - Ep 15. Acid Test, Part 2: Furthur
Thanks for listening.

Quick links: Dope Archives | Twitter | Donate | Soundcloud | Subscribe iTunes | RSS

Friday, May 16, 2014

Documentary: Bob Marley Giant

Los Angeles, CA

This doc came my way. Short, but sweet. Dennis Morris was a teenager when he met Bob Marley. Morris was a photographer and aptured several iconic images of Marley that you've come across in one form or another (posters, t-shirts, etc.).

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Waiting All Night - Phish

Los Angeles, CA

Phish is not really known for their studio albums. It's the live experience that hooks you in and leaves you wanting more. As the band embarks on its 31st year of existence, they are set to release their 12th studio album titled Fuego.

I wrote a little more about the new album over at Coventry... Yes to Fuego, No to Wingsuit.

Waiting All Night is not even close to being my favorite track on the album (Wombat or Fuego... it's a coinflip), but it was the one Phish specifically released as a promo.

Check out this groovy video for Waiting All Night....

Monday, May 12, 2014

Writing Music: Jimmy Reed

Los Angeles, CA

Jimmy Reed.

I've been on a Jimmy Reed kick the last few days. I picked up Life by Keith Richards and there's one chapter when Keef speaks fondly of the legendary bluesman, which heavily influenced the initial incarnation of the Rolling Stones (circa late 1962 and early 1963). Started listening to a couple of songs... and now I can't stop.

Luckily, whenever I'm seeking out music I contact G-Money to see if he had any Jimmy Reed he could loan me. And as per usual, G-Money came through in the clutch with an album of greatest hits. I thought I was unfamiliar with Reed's material (with the except of Bright Lights, Big City), but soon discovered I knew a lot more of his material.

Here's something you might know...

And I can't seem to get a lick from Shame outta my head....

Friday, May 09, 2014

Inside Dope: Behind the Scenes Ep. 15 [Acid Test, Part 2: Furthur]

Los Angeles, CA

It's time for a new episode. This one is actually the conclusion of last week's offering The Acid Test. This week's episode #15 is titled The Acid Test, Part 2: Furthur. Yes, a nice play on words. We further discussed the impact of the Acid Tests. If you don't know... Furthur is the name of Ken Kesey's infamous bus that transported the Merry Pranksters cross country and across the universe.

At the start of this episode, Shane gifted me a pair of Grateful Dead albums (like Europe '72]. Yes, on vinyl! It was out of his personal collection, which gave the records an added level of sentiment. We had a great chat about why he wouldn't want to be on the original Furthur bus and why certain aspects of the Merry Pranksters experience bothered him. We also chatted about One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and why Ken Kesey was irked at Hollywood's film version of his novel. Shane told a couple of stories about his own cross-country bus adventure and I briefly spoke about what it was like following the Grateful Dead as a teenager and being adopted by OG hippies.

Dope Media included Impolite Interviews by Paul Krassner, Eden Express by Mark Vonnegut, Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys, Europe '72 by the Grateful Dead, Free Your Mind... Or Your Ass Will Follow, and Phil Lesh's autobiography: Searching for Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead.

Here's the setlist for Ep. 15...

And listen to Ep. 15... The Acid Tests, Part 2: Furthur...

Download link for Episode 15.

Subscribe to Dope Stories on iTunes.

Sound Cloud:
RSS feed:
Twitter: @DopeStories
Donate to Dope Stories:

Listen to previous shows and see a full description of each episode, including Broke Stories... DOPE STORIES - EPISODE GUIDE.

Also, here's my other Inside Dope posts, which give you a behind the scenes look at the creation of the first few episodes:
Inside Dope - Ep 2: Philip Seymour Hoffman and 90s Heroin Chic
Inside Dope - Ep 3: Start Up Dot Weed and L.A. Cannabis Cup
Inside Dope - Ep 4: Crack 101
Inside Dope - Ep 5: The Oxy Years
Inside Dope - Ep 6: Tripping in the House I Live In
Inside Dope - Ep 7: Greg Merson (WSOP Champion)
Inside Dope - Ep 8: Dr. Carl Hart
Inside Dope - Ep 9: Media Dope
Inside Dope - Ep 10: Ridin' Dirty
Inside Dope - Ep 11: Sean Azzariti
Inside Dope - Ep 12: International Dope
Inside Dope - Ep 13: The 4/20 Show
Inside Dope - Ep 14: The Acid Test
Thanks for listening. Don't forget to subscribe to Dope Stories on iTunes.

Shane and I added a Donate section and button to the Dope Stories website for the first time after 15 episodes (plus Broke Stories). Dope Stories is a labor of love, but we incur production costs for every episode. We sound good for a reason (our kick-ass producer DJ Trent makes us sound like pros!), so if you dig us, please help us cover production costs. You pick the amount. Whatever you feel we're worthy. Thanks for your support.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Barton Hall Day and Conspiracy Revisited

Los Angeles, CA

The Grateful Dead achieved perfect in 1977 and they caught lightning in a bottle during their 26-show Spring Tour that started in late April and extended through the end of May. 26 shows in 37 days or something ridiculous like that. With the Dead playing six-days a week, they were super tight. Several epic shows from that tour including Boston and Buffalo, but the show at Cornell University was the true sleeper. Barton Hall. It's a name that's enshrined into the memories of every Deadhead. The Dead played probably their greatest live performance on May 8, 1977.

Set 2 opened with Scarlet > Fire. Arguably among the best performances of those accompanying tunes..

 It was the cleanest soundboard that circulated among many taping circles.

But did it really happen? Last year, I wrote a little bit about the infamous conspiracy behind Barton Hall. Even Bob Weir poked fun at it.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Unfunded (Fiction)

Los Angeles, CA

"Get it together man."

It's weird to see a grown man sob. It's even weirder to see it happen in the middle of morning rush hour. Crowded street. Downtown. Sure, it's by far not the weirdest thing I've seen in San Francisco. I mean, it was only 8:30am and I had saw enough freaky shit in the previous hour that could inspire a Todd Solondz screenplay and fill an entire book of Bukowski poems. Just five minutes in the Tenderloin is enough to give squares a serious bout of PTSD. The human grenades... step in one pile of human fecal matter and you're dunzo. Oh the horror, the horror. Human grenades... it's the hipster version of a IED.

"Hey man, I know this is tough, but you need to pull it together."

No one noticed him. The invisible sobbing geek. Waves and waves of pedestrians were rushing of to their jobs, whizzing past him while clutching Starbucks cups in their left hands and their phones in their right. Not paying attention, yet somehow not hitting him. They missed the guy losing his marbles.

"This self-pity schtick isn't getting you anywhere."

Self-awareness is essential to success, but when you venture into self-pitty-dom, it's really a shortcut to self-indulgent navel gazing, which is the worst form of passive-agro narcissism. Life is suffering. Buddha said that. It's something you have to accept, and once you do, everything else is cheesecake.

"Seriously bro. Pull it together. Otherwise, some SF cop is going to haul you off for whatever reason."

They don't treat the crazies with kid gloves anymore. Everyone is a potential terrorist. Even middle-aged tech pioneers. I sort of felt bad. Yeah, in one way he incurred a bad beat without any warning. But crying like a spoiled teenager isn't the type of behavior you want to see in a so-called industry leader.

"You want me to find you a cab to go home? Contact Uber?"

Tough finding a cab at that hour and Uber would be 3x surge. He was in no condition to drive. He couldn't walk a few steps without losing it. Sort of half-hyper ventilating and half silent-crying. Every couple of minutes he'd unleash a spastic jolt and his entire body shivered. Quickly and violently for a few seconds.

"Just go home. Sleep it off. You've been up for a couple days tweaking the new system and worrying about the presentation."

I was really worried he'd truly snap. Like really snap. Run back to HQ in full Rambo-gear and pull out an Uzi or something and spray the lobby. Do distraught non-government worker bees and non-HS students crocked on happy pills go on a rampage and unleash mass shootings? Does that still happen anymore? Or did we become so desensitized to the violence that it all blends into one long blurry news clip. There was a time in this country when "going postal" meant someone was on the verge of shooting up the work place. U.S. Postal workers were losing their minds and going nuts in the 80s. Too much mail in Reagan America. It never stopped coming and they got paid peanuts. They didn't realize that the entire system would become obsolete in a few decades with the rise of email and text messaging and dick picks via SnapChat. In the 90s, school shootings happened every few months that it became too common and matter of fact. In the 10s, violent outbursts and gun incidents occur with such frequency that each incident loses its paralyzing impact with 24 hours of the event. But postal workers and high school kids shared common ground... they both had a momentarily psychotic break with reality. Pressure cookers. The four walls around us can be immense pressure cookers. Something happens to people when they get wound up real tight and stuck in an undesirable setting and surrounded by bullies and egomaniacs on power trips and morons failing upward and the pressure to seem normal in an abnormal system. Add more stress with the inability to let shit roll right off you because it all digs in deep and finds a way into your soul through every crack on the outside of your broken shell of armor. Unable to see anything pleasant when confronted with the suffocating reality that the future offers up no hope, not even a ray of sunshine. The winter of discontent. It's everywhere. Drowning in freezing rain even though it's sunny and 80 degrees outside and majestic, azure skies with fluffy clouds that look like cotton balls on steroids.

"Look man. I've been there. It's like worst than your dog dying. But you can't take it personal. It's numbers and cents. Ones and zeros. It's not you... it's them. Forget about those fucking vampire squids. Just take the day off and come back tomorrow and we'll find funding elsewhere. Even if we have to Kickstarter the fucker. I won't let this idea disappear into the void. It's too good, too valuable to let go."

People take shit every day. Every. Single Day. And they suck it up. Take it like a man. Pros don't complain... they get the job done. Amateurs bitch and moan. But the pros rise to the occasion and act like a gracious loser and pretend to be a humble winner on the outside. It's just tactful and polite and professional. But sometimes people can suck it up and shine it on and pretend all the shit days don't add up. But it's a cumulative effect. One day, the weight of the world is going to buckle beneath you and you just hope no one gets hurt. But one day... they go over the edge. We also go over the edge eventually. It's how you return from the edge that matters. Losing it? It's not something that you see coming. It's just like in the movies. One day... everything seems normal until they just snap and lose it. Like that movie Falling Down with Michael Douglas. We used to joke that Falling Down was about a college classmate's future... how he'd hump a crappy job in the tech industry for a decade, get constantly passed over for promotions, exploited for low pay, until one day... WHAM... something clicks on the inside, or he's consumed by the darkness and the GO APESHIT CRAZY button gets flipped on.

"Whatever you do... don't drink. You never had much tolerance. Just go home. Pop a couple of Ambien and sleep it off. When you wake up, book a week-long vacation somewhere you can't get internet access. Then just relax. Read a book. A real book. None of the Kindle shit. Read a couple of books and take some more Ambien and sleep and reed as much as you can in that week. Then you come back, refreshed and focus, and ready to find new backers, otherwise, we'll go work on the next project. That's the plan. That's always been the plan. Take a shot and see what happens. If we fail, we go back to square one and try again. Same shit that has been happening for the last decade. Same routine. You stumble upon an idea then develop it. You figure out how to execute it as smoothly as possible and clean up as many bugs as possible. Then you shop it around to the pimps and bean counters and shysters and skull fuckers. If someone digs it, they'll cut you a check. If they don't... well, then fuck them. This is your life. You cultivate your ideas. You generate solutions for people with problems. You actually do something valid. You truly enrich people's lives. That means something. And you do it from nothing. You close your eyes and become one with the void. It's in the darkness where the message appears and then you run with it. Sometimes it's a hit. Most of the time it's not. Most of the time the shit everyone hates is the one thing that breaks through. Sometimes it's the stupid or silly or most basic thing you created that stand out the most. That's the way it goes. You can come up with the gnarliest ideas and execute them perfectly, but you can't control the marketplace. You can fill the void and offer up something that's in high demand. Or you can sit around and try to over-saturate the market with a watered-down version of the app du jour. You can add to the static, or you can fire off shots into the dark and hope you hit a bear straight in the testicular region."

He didn't want to hear what I had to say. My words went right through him. He didn't even laugh when I talked about the bear getting shot in the nuts. Oh well. If I can't pull him out of the muck, then it's up to him.

"Let's get off the street. Find a cafe, or donut shop. Sit down. Talk this out."

He started to walk away, but then he stopped and started emptying his pockets. Wallet. Keys. Phone. Random pieces of paper. Altoids tin. Small pill bottle.

"What the fuck, man?!"

I rushed over and picked up his wallet and phone... his two most expensive valuables... before a street person swooped in and helped himself. When I wasn't looking, he stepped off the curb and into the street. He wasn't there for more than a second before I heard a short horn burst, screeching brakes, and then a squishy thud. He disappeared... underneath the bus. Crushed. Annihilated. The driver of the Muni had about two seconds to react. The smell of burning rubber. The brakes. Hard to forget that odor. I heard the second wave of screams. One of the Starbucks cup clutching ladies looked up from her iPhone long enough to see the Muni collision. I missed the initial wave. Shock. Utter shock. Sound disappears during those moments and time slows down.

Monday, May 05, 2014

The Emperor Has No Yes-Men

Los Angeles, CA

Chuck Klosterman once joked that he's terrified he'd become one of those people who loses all touch with reality mainly because the people around him will be too afraid to tell him the truth (or to stop his outrageous behavior). This is how the Justin Beiber's of the world get exotic pet monkeys or Donald Sterling became a delusional hate monger that has to pay skanky women luxury cars in exchange for sucking his wrinkly balls while listening to him mouth off pathetic racist rhetoric.

Hey, a Lexus is a Lexus.  
Thank goodness I'm not surrounded by YES-MEN. My friend's often tell me NO a lot. Actually it's more like, "That's not the best idea. I mean, I don't think anyone will want to buy bacon-grilled cheese ice cream."

Surround yourself with sycophants and faux-friends then you'll find yourself in numerous "the emperor wears no clothes" scenarios. Buck naked. I see it happen all the time. LA is filled with those types. Anytime you see someone with an entourage, it's a ripe situation to have an emperor has no clothes moment. The bigger the entourage, the more frequent you'll see him naked.

Everyone needs to hear the straight dope. We've become an overly sensitive society. You can't speak the truth because it might offend someone or make them upset. When did we start taking everything so seriously?

The straight dope is what keeps everything in line. I see so many people embarrass themselves on social media on a daily basis (me included... especially me). The lack of filters and common sense astonishes me. That last minute chat is often the last line of defense before you walk out into the world buck naked, instead of trusting the people around you to step in and keep you from doing or saying something completely stupid.

That's why those tyrants (you're "either with me or against me" types) end up as pro-coaches and working in Hollywood or in some ultra-douchey corporate situation. In those orbits, there's a system in place in which YES-MEN and YES-WOMEN are promoted because they don't ever cross the boss and they keep their mouths shut. Careerism is one of most egregious forms of censorship. I've seen intelligent people bury their heads in the sand and remain silent in a situation where they know an injustice has occurred, but their too chicken-shit to lose their jobs so they don't call out the powers that be.

But life as a YES-type is a one-way (er, one word) world. The moment you utter NO.... it's all over. It only has to happen once and then you're out. Dunzo.

Sounds silly, foolish, and absurd. Yet, that's how total shitheads rise to the top. Serve the King or die. Say yes, never speak the truth, and you get to stick around to kiss the ring. Say NO and you're mince meat.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Around the Horn: March and April

Los Angeles, CA

I used to do weekly round-ups, but it's easier to do monthly link dumps, yet I got lazy and have to squeeze in two months into one post.

Here's the last two months of tripe on TAO...
City of Wet Angels - Rare rain in SoCal. The lack of sunshine makes the locals go a little crazy.

Twit Links: January and February 2014 - Yes, the things I tweet'd in the first 59 days of 2014. As Iggy once said, "I give good links."

Stefan Molyneux: Truth About Addiction - Canadian philosopher's take about the root of addiction

A Matter Involving a Personal Business Matter - I love unsolicited phone calls from wiseass collection agents.

High Maintenance (Web Series) - My new favorite web series. Short films. The life of a marijuana delivery guy in Brooklyn. Each episode is a different "client" and each client is eclectic.

Speedy Lebowski - Dig this series that gives you a 60-second animated recap of films. This one was... The Big Lebowski.
Machu Picchu: The Steps (Video) - I finally got off my ass and posted one of the videos I shot from a trip to Machu Picchu in 2011.

Happy Birthday, Dock Ellis (a.k.a. The Guy Who Pitched a No-Hitter on LSD) - Classic animated story of the time Dock Ellis ate acid and pitched the game of his life.

TED: Jen Shahade and Decision Trees - Chess champion Jen Shahade (I know here through poker) gave a lecture about the significance of decision trees in chess (and poker, and life).

Phil Lesh Day - Phil Lesh's birthday... and a snippet from a radio interview. He told a few great stories.

Speedrun: Blade Runner - Another installment of speedy animated recaps. This is Blade Runner in 60 seconds.

4.4 - How about that quake, eh?

Missing Plane - The initial saga of missing flight #370. And it's still missing. Yet, CNN had beat that dead horse to a pulp.

Madness of March Returns and How to Triage Four Games At Once - The joys of embracing technology during March Madness. This is the time of the year I turn my living room into a sportsbook.

JRE with Dr. Carl Hart and Amber Lyon - Joe Rogan interviewed two amazing guests in the same week.

Brain. Athlete. Basket Case. Princess. Criminal. - Remember the Breakfast Club? It meant the world to me as a Gen X'er. Well, hard to think that the film took place 30 years ago.

The Pond - Free write.

New Season: High Maintenance - The gang at High Maintenance released a new episode.

Sweet 16 Quake - 5.1M - An earthquake during the middle of sweating March Madness.

Baseball Time, Seasons Change, and Jeter's Swan Song - It's the start of the baseball season and it's the last year to see Derek Jeter in pinstripes before he hangs it up for good.

Cascades 1977 - Cascades of money and the folly it creates.

Introducing... Broke Stories Podcast - My girlfriend said Shane and I should start a podcast about going broke. Voila! We recorded a special episode in honor of April Fool's Day.

Head Shit - Plumbing talk, but not really. Being in the creative arts is not glamorous. It's more like unclogging toilets and being surrounded in shit and hairballs.

Aliens, Y'all - SCREENPLAY. Obama confront Bill Clinton about Slick Willy hiding evidence of aliens.
Early April L.A. Pic Dump - Some photos I snapped.

St. Vincent - Lithium - It's a cool cover.

Silicon Valley - Mike Judge's new show on HBO is like Revenge of the Nerds meets Entourage.

Rothko Moments [Mad Men]  - Remember the time on Mad Men when Bert Cooper bought a Rothko painting and hung it in his office and everyone was trying to figure out its meaning?

Good Times: JJ's Black Jesus - I read Jimmie Walker's autobiography and he reminded me of one of my favorite episodes.
RIP Michael Ruppert - Investigative journalist and star of Collapse documentary (on Peak Oil and financial collapse of 2008) passed away.

The Collapse of the American Dream - Tax Day. Let's pay homage to our real overlords.

Have A Nice Decade - Good doc on the history of rock n roll and the 1970s.
Live Broadcast: Dope Stories on 4/20 Day - Video of the special episode of Dope Stories that Shane and I recorded on 4/20.

Faded Mornings and the Looming Death of Don Draper - The day after 4/20 Day plus is Mad Men foreshadowing the death of Don Draper?

Human Agency: Interview and New Album  - My friend Jonas played drums on the new album for Human Agency. Check out their free single and watch a promo video. I also interviewed the band and posted it on Coventry.

Game of Thrones, Bad Lip Reading - Joker sent me this funny video if you're into GoT.

Talking DFW On Thinking Poker Podcast - I was a guest on a podcast hosted by poker pro Andrew Brokos. We got to chat about the dark side of Vegas and a little bit about David Foster Wallace.

Crispy Althea - Came across this clean version of Althea.


I participated in a roundtable discussion with the crew. The topic: MLB win totals. Check out American League Win Totals (Roundtable) and National Win Totals (Roundtable).


A couple of my columns were published. I interviewed Jesse May about his poker novel Shut Up and Deal. And I wrote something about Philip Seymour Hoffman's secret life and his portrayal of a gambling addict in Owning Mahowny.


I've been writing a little bit about what happened behind the scenes of each recording of Dope Stories. Here's the last seven...
Behind the Scenes Ep. 07 [Greg Merson]
Behind the Scenes Ep. 08 [Dr. Carl Hart]
Behind the Scenes Ep. 09 [Media Dope]
Behind the Scenes Ep. 10 [Ridin' Dirty]
Behind the Scenes Ep. 11 [Sean Azzariti]
Behind the Scenes Ep. 12 [International Dope]
Behind the Scenes Ep. 13 [The 4/20 Show]

These albums/musicians were in heavy rotation over the last two months...
A Love Supreme by John Coltrane
Horace Silver and Filthy McNasty
The Black Keys
Clifford Brown, Sonny Rollins, Max Roach 
St. Paul and the Broken Bones

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Inside Dope: Behind the Scenes Ep. 14 [The Acid Test]

Los Angeles, CA

Can you pass the Acid Test?

Over a period of 90 days in NoCal, Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters conducted the Acid Tests, which were the first non-governemental experiments with LSD. Yes, in the 1950s and early 60s, the U.S. Army and CIA (two different factions... MK-Ultra and Operation Artichoke) were conducting experiments on their own employees, prisoners, and random citizens. And by experiments I mean "dosed."

I learned about the government's interest in LSD-25 in a book by Martin A. Lee titled Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond.

LSD-25 was manufactured by Sandoz labs in Switzerland. As the legend goes... one of their chemists, Dr. Albert Hofmann was seeking out migraine medicine and he accidentally created LSD-25 when one of his cats knocked over a beaker. Some of the chemical got on Hoffmann's skin and he started "tripping" on a bicycle ride from the lab to his home. That was the first-ever acid trip, although shamans and medicine men in different cultures had previously ingested psychedelics for centuries. Peyote, mescaline, magic mushrooms induced visions and were integral parts to various ceremonies. The beatniks were well aware of those types of drugs, especially after Aldous Huxley published Doors of Perception. The problem was obtaining those mind-altering drugs.

Timothy Leary became the first-ever professor to be fired from Harvard. The reason? He supposedly gave LSD to students. In actuality, Leary turned on students and colleagues to Psilocybin pills (mushrooms). He also shared Psilocybin with poet Allen Ginsberg. He was so touched by the experience that he vowed to inform every person in his address book the wonders of this new-found drug. Ginsberg took pills back to NYC with him and dispatched them to all of his friends, including jazz musician Thelonious Monk. The eccentric Monk ate the pills and emerged several days later asking Ginsberg if he had more and if he could find "anything stronger." Ginsberg also turned on Dizzy Gillespe. The beatniks were thrilled that jazz musicians turned them onto reefer. The beatniks returned the favor by introducing psychedelics into the jazz community.

Acid Dreams shared numerous stories like the Ginsberg/Monk exchange. It also gave a solid historical account of the government's involvement in drug research. As early as 1942, the U.S. Army and OSS (precursor to the CIA) were desperately seeking a truth serum or truth drug (TD) to use on enemy combatants (then it was the Nazis and Japanese, but during the ensuing Cold War it was the Russians and Chinese). They tried "liquid marijuana" but it never really worked. After testing everything possible (mescaline, cocaine, booze, speed, and psychedelics) they had hoped Sandoz's LSD-25 would be their answer. Alas, numerous reports concluded that all it do was cause hyper-anxiety, temporary madness and insanity. The CIA sent Sandoz labs a request for 100 million doses, which cost $240,000 or 100 hits for 25 cents. The CIA had made a mistake and really just wanted 100 million mikes (100 micrograms is a mild trip, while Owsley's top-shelf acid was pressed into pills containing 250 mikes), or 1 million doses. Hey, that's still a shit-ton of acid.

Big Pharma got involved. The CIA tapped Eli Lilly to manufacture LSD, and Dow Chemical worked with the military to produce a super- psychedelic called BZ, similar to STP, but it knocked you the fuck out for three days. Tripping for more than 10 hours is a harrowing experience. I can only imagine that mind-warping roar of a 72-hour trip. The key to avoiding acid freakouts is to remember that "time is on your side" and that the temporary insanity will subside in 8-12 hours. But if you keep tripping past day two, then you really going insane because you shoulda returned to Earth's orbit hours ago.

The psychiatric community conducted their own experiments with LSD-25 and hoped to use as a means of behavior modification. A Canadian doctor found LSD was helpful in treating alcoholics. The elites and mega-rich in NYC and Hollywood doled out $100/hour to shrinks (like $1K in today's dollars) in an attempt to treat depression or couples counseling with small doses of LSD. I briefly wrote about one of those shrink trips -- Roger in the Sky with Diamonds -- when it became a storyline on Mad Men.

Anyway, I read the Acid Dreams book and took a bunch of notes to prep for Dope Stories Episode 14 - The Acid Test. I rambled on about the highlights and tried to answer some of Shane's questions. We really wanted to devote 10 minutes to my notes but the discussion ballooned to 30+ minutes, and I wasn't even close to finish. We actually cut it down to 20+ minutes for this episode and we decided to continue/finish the discussion for next week's Episode 16.

This week's Dope Media segment included the new HBO show Silicon Valley, Magic Trip documentary about Ken Kesey and Merry Prankster's first bus trip on Furthur, El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The infamous episode of The Simpsons when Homer trips balls on Guatemalan insanity pepper), Bates Motel, Broad City, and of course... Acid Dreams book.

Here's the setlist...

Listen to Ep. 14 - The Acid Test...

Download link for Episode 14.

Subscribe to Dope Stories on iTunes.

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Twitter: @DopeStories

Listen to previous shows... Episode 1 , Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5, Episode 6, Episode 7, Episode 8, Episode 9, Episode 10, Episode 11, Episode 12, Episode 13, plus Broke Stories Ep. 1.

Also, here's my other Inside Dope posts, which give you a behind the scenes look at the creation of the first few episodes:
Inside Dope - Ep 2: Philip Seymour Hoffman and 90s Heroin Chic
Inside Dope - Ep 3: Start Up Dot Weed and L.A. Cannabis Cup
Inside Dope - Ep 4: Crack 101
Inside Dope - Ep 5: The Oxy Years
Inside Dope - Ep 6: Tripping in the House I Live In
Inside Dope - Ep 7: Greg Merson (WSOP Champion)
Inside Dope - Ep 8: Dr. Carl Hart
Inside Dope - Ep 9: Media Dope
Inside Dope - Ep 10: Ridin' Dirty
Inside Dope - Ep 11: Sean Azzariti
Inside Dope - Ep 12: International Dope
Inside Dope - Ep 13: The 4/20 Show
Thanks for listening. Don't forget to subscribe to Dope Stories on iTunes.