Thursday, January 29, 2015

Frontier and Beyond: A Doc About Roadies

Los Angeles, CA

A doc about roadies?

I stumbled upon this documentary film about the touring road crew working with Journey in the early 1980s. The documentary production company is the same crew behind NFL Films. This doc even has the same narrator! In the late 70s and early 1980s, Ed Sabol's production company expanded from only NFL into other areas including the music industry. His son, Steve Sabol, convinced the old man to explore concert production. Here's one of their first non-NFL projects....

Monday, January 26, 2015

Rare Rain

Los Angeles, CA

Nod to Greenberg. Whenever it rains (it's rare) in L.A., I will crank up this Albert Hammond tune...

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Philip Seymour Hoffman Craps Scene from Hard Eight

Los Angeles, CA

Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away almost a year ago. Here's a clip from P.T. Anderson's first feature film Hard Eight, in which PSH plays a minor role... but it is a doozy. It's probably the second film I saw PSH in (the first was Scent of a Woman), but I actually remember the first time I ever saw PSH act... in a random Law and Order episode. It was hard not to recognize his mad acting skills, even for a few scenes on a network TV show. As the saying goes, there are no small roles... or something like that

Anyway, here's the infamous craps scene in Hard Eight...

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Writing Music: Whiplash Soundtrack

Los Angeles, CA

Whiplash made my 2014 Top 5 films list. JK Simmons is the heavy favorite to win an Oscar for his portrayal as a jazz conductor who carries himself more like a Vietnam-era drill sergeant.

Here's the soundtrack, which has been in heavy rotation this week in the background while I work...

If you have not seen Whiplash yet... then get on it.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Xanax Zombie Apocalypse

Los Angeles, CA

There's a Colorado band that my friends adore, but I was never into them as much as everyone else even though I probably saw them 50 or so times over the last 15 years. If anything, I'm more entertained by the social media melodrama that surrounds the band. There's always some sort of polarizing commotion... caused by the band members, or the fans, or involving the band and fans, or involving the band with other band members. Typically a friend passes along the cheesy drama du jour... either a shitshow in a forum thread or a Facebook post that went off the rails. Overzealous fans are always fun to poke fun at... but sometimes there are legit concerns with fans arguing over the future direction of the band, or calling out some of the absurd things that the lead singer complained about during an on-stage diatribe.

One of the drummers once posted a rant about how Xanax turns everyone into zombies. I thought it was silly that he was complaining about something that was low on the totem pole of substances that both band members and fans alike abuse.

Then I got turned into a zombie... and it wasn't funny any more.

I've had one of the worst batches of insomnia I've ever experienced. It's brutal and I refuse to take Ambien after the Australia incident from 2007. I was suffering from jet lag and a rough batch of insomnia so my colleague Schecky gave me an Ambien. I finally fell asleep, but somewhere in the middle of my deep slumber... I fell victim to one of the many side effects... sleepwalking. I got out of bed, and urinated on the entire bathroom floor and crawled back into bed. I was covering a poker tournament in Australia and staying in a swanky hotel in Melbourne with Italian marble floors and a walk-in closet that is the side of my brother's studio apartment in NYC. But the key to this story is the Italian marble... which meant that a cool layer of urine covered the entire bathroom. So when my girlfriend woke up in the morning to use the facilities, she stepped into a cold puddle. Initially she thought there was a leak or something... then she realized the horrifying truth. The leak was caused by my zombie penis.

Ambien bad beat stories. I whipped out my snake and unleashed a small lake of urine all over the marble floor. I have no idea what I was aiming for. I could've been aiming for a wall, or the sink, or the bath tub, or even the toilet. Despite the horrifying incident, I somehow I managed to avoid urinating on myself. But to this day, Nicky will never let me forget about the time she was standing in my piss. Hence... my allergy to Ambien... and why I've never touched the sleep aid since.

I heard stories about college friends getting so shitfaced drunk that they urinated in the most random places in my fraternity house. One guy woke up and took a leak in his laundry pile. Another guy was so drunk and groggy that he wandered down the hallway and barged into a room that he thought was the bathroom and he proceeded to piss on someone's desk. Another friend once stumbled out of a room to piss in a trash can. Booze and sleep deprivation never mesh well.

Ambien is too heavy, but Xanax (a benzodiazepine named "Alprazolam" but Xanax sounds hipper) is much lighter and supposed to flush out of your system in a few hours, which is why it is the perfect anti-anxiety drug on the go. You can pop a Xanax without getting too wasted and it feels more akin to the warm soothing effects of a couple of tequila shots, or smoking a joint. You're relaxed and your mind is not racing a thousand miles per hour.

Xanax is larger doses helps me sleep, but it's something I can only do once in a blue moon (like once every few months) because I don't want to become reliant on pharmies to sleep. I have enough problems as is... I don't need another addiction.

Xanax also amazing "landing gear" if you're partying hard and need something that will assist in a softer landing. But I don't understand how anyone would want to abuse Xanax as a recreational drug. I guess they're trying to hit that sweet spot. I mean, that's what we're all trying to do in life... hit the sweet spot so you have the proper balance of  being in the moment with the "I don't give a fuck" attitude. But the sweet spot is short-lived for Xanax and once it passes, then you're luggage. Or as the drummer said... you become zombiefied.

Xanax is dangerous if it is abused. It started out as an innocuous anti-anxiety prescription drug that so-called pill pushers (aka doctors) don't think twice about prescribing. Twenty years ago, you could only get Xanax from a shrink. Yes, a legit psychiatrist. There was a time when shrinks sat down and talked you through your problems, but these days, they're all shills for Big Pharma and throw a bottle of pills at you and expect you to do your own head-shrinking on your own time.

Therein lies our systemic problem with our over-prescribed, pill-popping public... we think a magical pill will cure everything. It's a three-step process... 1) medication helps get you into a much better headspace, but then you have to 2) identity the root cause of your malaise or why you behave badly and make poor decisions, and then most importantly 3) you must follow through and correct the source of the problem.

Alas, once you get the pill, you forget about steps 2 and 3. It's very similar to AA or NA or GA. The whole point of those 12-step programs is to get you to stop the self-destructive behavior and get a clearer head so you can identity the cause of your problem and then take the necessary steps to fix that issue. Sometimes it's easier to blame booze or drugs as the main culprit instead of taking accountability for your own actions. Just because you stopped drinking doesn't mean you're still not a narcissistic asshole. You used to be a drunk asshole, but now you're just a sober asshole.

You gotta go deep. You gotta taste the pain. You have to confront your own naked mind. Otherwise, you'll never get out of the rut, the misery, the abyss.

Most of us seek happiness, but want a shortcut. They don't want to go deep, which is why we passive-aggressively avoid that internal conflict. It's easier to forget about your problems than actually work on them. Besides, everyone is so caught up in the rat race, where do they have the time to work out unresolved childhood issues, or mild personality disorders, or wrestle your own ego to regain control of your own life? People have to work... have lives to lead... have relationships to maintain... have families to support and raise. It's easier to just get the pill for a quick fix so they can continue on with their lives.

Fast food pharmacology. Welcome to 21st century America.

Yet there's something more nefarious at work... what if we all dig deep and realize that our most paralyzing problems are not really ourselves, yet our reaction to the fact that we're living in a rigged system that is flawed and broken because it was designed to be broken? The truth... the ultimate truth... not the propaganda you hear on alphabet news networks... but the stone-cold truth needs to be obscured, otherwise the powers that be cannot operate with impunity behind the scenes. The CEO puppet masters want everyone as miserable as possible because if everyone is too fucking depressed and caught up in their own misery then they'll never see the truths of this world. But in the meantime, their friends in Big Pharma can profit off of this fast-food method to treating serious psychological issues.

Better to have a zombie apocalypse of Xannied-up, debt-ridden, superficial consumers than angry, sober citizens revolting against the corrupt tyrants, who can barely hold onto a crumbling power structure without a militarized police force to keep the awake troublemakers in line.

Sure, there is a segment of the population with a legit chemical imbalance and many of these drugs work wonders for them. We all take it for granted that we can get out of bed without any serious debilitating mental issues, or walk into a room of strangers without freaking out. Some of these advances in the pharmaceutical industry were designed to help seriously fucked up cases. It all starts out altruistic and positive... until twenty years later, you can get Xanax from a dentist or your local doctor without seeing a shrink.

I'm not a Xanax guy. I limited it to a few times of year to combat insane insomnia. My only other intake? Long plane trips with crying babies. I made hundreds of jokes about Xanax being crying baby repellent, because if I pop a Xanax and open a book, I pretty much can tune out the shrill screams of a baby for the duration of a flight.

For a while, I always carried at least one Xanax on me  for the random chance I get dosed (in a bad way) and it's sort of my antidote to LSD. I grew up at the height of the 1980s anti-drug JUST SAY NO propaganda, so I was used to hear these urban legends about kids getting dosed at parties or whatnot. I wasn't freaked out or anything. Nope. I was jealous and a little bitter, because I wish I hung out in circles where I could get randomly dosed. It would made those boring days go a lot faster. I'm half kidding of course, but maybe I'm not.

One of the main benefits of widespread experimentation with natural, organic, and synthetic materials is that I know the limitations of my own mind and body. If someone slips something into my drink, or I eat something that was laced... I could identity that something is off before things get too weird. I remember the summer before 9/11 I was at a bar in NYC with a lady friend (Israeli born and she actually served in the army) and someone slipped something into her drink. She said it tasted a little off and I took a few sips but didn't notice anything. She requested another drink and asked for a fresh cocktail, but whatever was in the original drink started to come on fast. Swirling. Blurry vision. Wobbly knees. We only took a couple of sips (probably 90% of the drink was leftover) but we both excused ourselves to the bathroom before shit got too crazy. Our friends used to joke that she was a Mossad agent, but whatever military training she had kicked in and she made a beeline to the toilet to vomit everything. I also forced myself to puke with a finger down my throat. Yeah, I blew chunks yet never made it to a stall and yakked up in the urinal. After hurling for a couple of sweaty minutes, I was pretty groggy, foggy, and hazy until I splashed water on my face and stumbled into the corridor. The ladies room was right next door and I knocked. My lady friend had puked up a bunch of stuff, but semi-passed out in the bathroom stall. Luckily an off-duty nurse was waiting for the bathroom at the same time and she snapped into action when I blurted out, "Spiked! Drinks! Someone roofied us!" She was a Good Samaritan, hailed us a cab (and even got in the cab too), and we whizzed to the closest ER (about 12 blocks away). I nearly forgot about that shady incident until Hannibal Buress made that Bill Cosby joke heard around the world about spiking drinks and taking advantage of comatose women. We got lucky. Very lucky.

So what's up with being a zombie?

I got sick of several sleepless nights in a row, so I took a Xanax the other night but it didn't really work, so a couple of nights later I took a double dose. That's when I was invaded by the zombie brain snatchers. Instead of pissing on the floor, I created a flood. This time it was water and not a flash flood of urine. Brita water to be exact. Filtered flood. In the middle of my zombie conversion, I was sleepwalking but somehow I decided that I wanted a glass of water, so I sleepwalked out of my bedroom, through the living and eventually into the kitchen. I opened the fridge and pulled out the Brita pitcher, but somehow it was on a different shelf because we had a Blue Apron food delivery that day and the fridge was stocked with fresh ingredients, so the odd positioning of the pitcher contributed to me dropping said pitcher on my foot. That's when I woke up. Sort of. I was no longer in zombie sleepwalking mode, but instead I was in full-blown London fog, hazy, wobbly mode while standing in a pool of water. How could I flood the entire kitchen with a Brita pitcher? It was a standard 10-cup pitcher that was half-full... or half-empty? Somehow, I managed to royally fuck that up. My slow-thinking brain somehow came up with the genius idea to use one of the dirty bath towels to clean up the kitchen mess. Despite the dream-like state, I somehow managed to get everything dry but my entire pajama pants were soaked through.

Nicky woke up to go to work a few hours later and she found the kitchen floor dry, but a sopping wet towel was hanging in the bathroom. When I woke up, I had a bruised foot and tried to tell her what happened in my zombie-Xanax haze.

At least I didn't piss all over the kitchen floor. At least... I don't think I did.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Andrew McCarthy's Burned Feet

Los Angeles, CA

Insomnia is a bitch.

Cranky. Anger. Desperation. Fury.

And that's on a good night.

3am. Nothing is worse than having insomnia in a place where you have to be quiet. I'd love to watch  Nicky had to get up early to go to work, but my neighbors have a newborn baby. There's only so much mobility you can have with headphones and a laptop. I'm in a shitty situation... I can't make too much noise or the baby wakes up, or on the flip side the baby cries on an unpredictable time schedule. That little shithead woke me up last night and I was never able to get back to sleep. 

4am. Miserable mood. Stewing in the dark with the only illumination the flickering glow of the boob tube. On bad stretches for a week or more when I can't sleep more than an hour, I sink into a foggy depression until I finally get a decent night of sleep. On the average night of sleeplessness, I'll toke a few hits off doobie to help put me back to sleep, but my upstairs neighbor has been complaining incessantly at the odor, even though I have a legal medical prescription. I'm in a no-win situation, so I have to sneak around the alley at 4am to blaze up and hope I don't get shanked by a homeless person.

5am. I'm awake, yet exhausted, which is the worst possible state to be in because you're drowning in your own crankiness. So what do I end up doing? Watching a flick, a bad 1995 flick titled Night of the Running Man. Pretty much right out of the Skin-a-max repertoire. It seemed like a bad knock off of a Tarrantino-inspired script with Andrew McCarthy as a Vegas cabbie and Scott Glenn as a mafia hitman. Oh and how can I forget... a former Dallas Cowboy cheerleader as the main female lead.  

Night of the Running Man was original a pulpy novel that ended up on the big screen... sort of... it went right to video. I'm sure the novel was 1000% better, but it was compelling enough to get optioned by a studio, but along the way too many hands got into the creative cookie jar and the proper funding got pulled, which is why Andrew McCarthy ended up as the main star in the low budget film that went right to video.

The premise involves $1 million in stolen casino money that ends up in a Vegas cabbie's possession. A multi-state chase ensues because the cabbie is crafty and manages to evade mafia hitmen on multiple instances. At one point the cabbie is captured at LAX and tortured by a local freelance hitman, who shoves the cabbie's feet inserted into a tub of scalding water. The third degree burns will surely slow down the cabbie right? But like a bumbling Bond villain, the bad guy unties the cabbie and lets him wither in pain on a couch (unbound), while the torturer falls asleep. Guess who gets away? Cabbie ends up in a hospital and bribes a hot nurse to help treat him at a hotel room. Hot sex ensues. Oh, and the cabbie eventually kills the mafia hitman and escapes to a tropical climate with the hot nurse.

Fade to black.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Night James Brown Saved Boston

Los Angeles, CA

On the day after MLK was killed, James Brown played a concert in Boston. Neighborhoods were still burning from riots and looting from the previous night, but the concert was aired on television in hopes that James Brown could help broker some peace. For one night, he did.

Here's the actual concert...

And here's a documentary about that night...

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Mike Judge on WTF Pod

Los Angeles, CA

The last couple of weeks of Marc Maron's WTF podcast has featured some stellar guests. Maron interviewed a handful of some of my cultural heroes back in the 90s when I was in college and trying to figure out my future path that would define the journey that my 20s would take me. Maron sat down with some of my favorites... P.T. Anderson, Richard Linklater, and now Mike Judge, most known as the creator of Beavis and Butthead, Office Space, and King of the Hill.

Beavis and Butthead's sophomoric animation arrived on MTV simultaneously as a time I became a daily toker. What a coincidence! I lived in my fraternity house then, which did not have cable TV. I had to ask friends with off campus apartments to tape episodes for me on their VCRs, or I had to hang out at their place and zone out on the couch and wait until episodes popped up on MTV. This was back in the day before cable systems had detailed schedule information, so unless you had an actual TV Guide, you had no clue what was going to be on TV. Plus, MTV's schedule was always shifting and changing from week to week, so you never knew when it was going to be on... so you just left MTV on all day.

There's a lil Beavis and Butthead in all of us, especially children raised solely on TV.  I actually knew guys... bored stoners and TV zombies... who embodied those animated mooks in both physical appearance and in spirit. Mike Judge told some interesting stories about the birth of Beavis and Butthead and his financial dealings with MTV in his interview with Maron.

Listen to Mike Judge on the WTF podcast.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tiny Desk Concert: St. Paul and the Broken Bones

Los Angeles, CA

My namesake. Not really. I was actually named after Paul Newman. But St. Paul was a bad ass. Literally. He was a loanshark and sinner named Saul before he saw the light and converted to become a saint... St. Paul.

St. Paul and the Broken Bones were one of those bands that pops up every 16-18 months that seems like they came out of nowhere. I think it was late 2013 when they first popped up on my radar, but I was writing to them religiously in early 2014. St. Paul is part of the new southern blues revival with other soul-roots-oriented bands like Alabama Shakes. Who knew? Of all places... a mini scene is flourishing in the heart of Alabama.

St. Paul and the Broken Bones stopped by NPR to perform a tiny desk concert...

Monday, January 12, 2015

Four Towns

Los Angeles, CA

Four weeks. Four cities. A little same, a whole lot different. I only spent a couple of days in SoCal in December, whereas I divided my time between New Orleans, Miami, and the bulk of the Christmas holidays in NYC. The constant movement is a good thing. It jogs the brain. The constant dissonance between new and old can be an ultimate mind fuck... if you let it. Or it can be a lazy afternoon basking in the soothing warmth of yesteryear.

Los Angeles. The ubiquitous sunshine makes the holidaze seems more fake than a relgiious holiday that got hijacked to sell shit we really don't need. Nothing says I love you more than a pair of socks, or a new sweater, or a piece of electronic equipment that will become obsolete in six months if it doesn't break first. I was never really into Christmas trees (i.e. utter waste of money) until I moved to LA because I need something to make it feel like Christmas. The constant sunshine doesn't mesh well with Christmas... and the weak ass attempt with palm trees and Christmas lights is more laughable than applaudable as the denizens of Southern California desperately try to get in the Christmas spirit. Nicky knows no other holiday season (SoCal Xmas) because she is one of the rare citizens of the City of Angels who actually grew up in LA and has no other childhood point of perspective of waking up to an actual White Christmas. Me? Wasn't jungle bells written about last minute holiday shopping in New York City? In the urban decay of Gotham in the 1970s, the only thing that didn't smell like urine and rotting garbage was the rare scent of Christmas trees that invaded almost every major street corner. It's a sense memory that has been imprinted on my brain along with a numb face. It's supposed to be cold as fuck at Christmas and your nose gets numb because you spend a lot of time wandering around the streets while shopping for gifts (in the pre-Amazonian era), or spending late evenings staggering around shitfaced drunk admiring the foggy gasps of breath that roar out of everyone's mouths while hopping from Christmas/holiday party to party to party either company parties (ranging from low-end to baller bankster) to friends' tiny apartments to the odd, random party you randomly crashed in a bar somewhere. In the modern era, the LA holiday party is drenched in artisan, gluten-free hipsterfied chow and ironic blinking lights and superficial guests that are silently judging you but more worried that they'll look "pasty" in their next batch of selfies because everyone is sweating their asses off in a rare public display of their winter wardrobe. No one walks anywhere unless it's to the valet, so any sensible party people are making a cameo before Ubering to the next party up in the hills before all the medium-passable quality of drugs are inhaled by dilettantes and all the hardened dope fiends are haggling over a couple of frail lines of shitty-ass baby laxative, which you paid dearly for in actual time and mental anguish by listening to the same douchenozzle with shitty blow prattle on about his latest script conference with someone you're supposed to be impressed with and all you keep wondering is if your Uber driver knows a better coke connection.

New Orleans. Shit got crazy. Either I'm getting old, or I forgot about the darkness that oozes underneath Bourbon Street. Maybe it's a little of both. Liquor is a a true pestilence upon this land. Too much of liquid anything makes everyone's eyes look mean. I felt a little safety being with my brother, who still resides in the Bronx, and hanging with two medical doctors, a lawyer, and Iraq War vet. Just in case shit got too crazy, we had a small, yet elite crew of professional party people. When you're running AlCantHang with the bulls down Bourbon Street, the last thing you want to have to do is pull someone out of a potential all-out street brawl. Testosterone and liquor can always be tempered with cool heads, but it only takes one idiot to incite an ass-whooping. Yeah, it sounds a lot worse than the reality that everyone was safe as long as we stuck together and didn't do anything too stupid like wander off solo in the wrong direction where the shadow people can jump your schwasted ass and snatch your valuables before they haul ass back into the shadowy side streets. Partying always comes at a cost, but without a high risk, you don't get that big payoff. It's sort of like going on an animal safari and praying you don't get trampled by a stampede of irate giraffes. But New Orleans was rough without the usually indulgences of food and liquor because I had some minor dental surgery a few days before the trip and I couldn't drink heavily with the prescribed meds (it felt strangely uncomfortable actually waiting in line to acquire pharmaceutical products for a real pharmacy) and could barely eat at all because my mouth hurt too much. The first bit of solid food I had in days occurred as soon as I arrived in the French Quarter and Otis handed me something wrapped up in a napkin. Fried chicken. Damn fine-ass fried chicken. I tore into it like a vulture picking apart the dead carcass of some unlucky roadkill. Maybe the abundant dark energy was so prevalent because I spent three nights  extremely sober, which was the most coherent trip I had ever taken to New Orleans in 20+ years.

NYC. Can you ever really go home again? My favorite time of the year is also the most stressful. I equally love/loathe Christmas in NYC because... well... you know... family shit. It's never easy, but we all have to deal with it somehow. I've lost my patience the last few years. It's the product of a near-death-experience when you come out the other side not giving a fuck anymore and you come to a moment of clarity like, "Why am I wasting my time with people who will never change?" But it's the city that really brings me back. The ghosts. The memories. The forgotten memories are the best presents... just taking a wrong turn and walking down a street you had not walked down in two decades is enough to trigger an avalanche of memories. The mind is a masterful magical kingdom... and you can truly bend time and space by accessing your memory banks, but sometimes you lose too much time like I do, wandering streets that I had not wandered down in years... both physically and mentally. An old friend once said our childhood rooms are like museums to our own self, usually curated by whatever parent or family member still lives there. My childhood room is barely recognizable, but there's plenty of memories in boxes and cluttered inside a gigantic closet. I could spent a month in that room getting lost in forty years of living. But too much navel gazing is a bad thing, but too little insight into your past is also a dangerous thing. You need a healthy balance, which is the key to self-awareness. Never forget where you came from, but never forget it will never truly define where you're going because you're the one driving the bus. Or something like that.

Miami. A whole other country/city/nation state. Miami will someday sink into the ocean. Might take 500 years or 5,000 but someday most of Florida will be all underwater and delegated to a series of island chains off the coast of the US of A. Call the city water you want... New Cuba, or North Cuba, or Los Miami, or whatever... it's definitely not America anymore. I spent a lot of time covering the Latin America Poker Tour, so my time in Miami felt more like being on the road in a foreign country than visiting the southern most city in America. Miami has always been driven by its own unique rhythm, but the confluence of international travelers, ubiquitous sunshine and cheap drugs makes Miami one of the rowdiest destinations on the planet. But like any of those party-centric small cities whose magical reputation turned its legacy into a much larger city than actually exists. Miami is not so much a city as it is a state of mind. Miami... the constant flow... it's a great place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. If anything, I got to end the year by spending a semi-romantic week in a tropical paradise with my girlfriend, who desperately needed a real vacation after a rigorous work schedule. Plus I got the added bonus of seeing old friends from college... the coolest type of friends who don't guilt trip you or make it awkward to reconnect. Oh, and one of my favorite bands played four concerts so life ain't too bad when you have all the elements for a guaranteed fun time.

Four towns. Four weeks. Last year ended like most years... on the road and hopeful for a new year.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

PTA Inherent Vice Interview

Los Angeles, CA

Paul Thomas Anderson sat down with the gang at Vice to chat about his film version of reclusive novelist Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice...

Read the book version of Inherent Vice, then see the movie. Seems like most of my friends who read the book enjoyed the film more so than those who went in cold.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Foxygen on Letterman

Los Angeles, CA

I saw many random bands for the first time on Letterman back in the NBC days when he lurked at 12:30am and the musical act would pop up around 1:20am... the stoner's hour... perfect time to hook in a couple new fans. That was still at a time when a band was on for just the hell of it and not because they were solely making the TV circuit on a promotional tour to boost album sales, or the parent company owned both the TV station and the record label.

TV appearances don't mean as much today as they once were, but at least your parents are finally getting tipped off to what's hip these days. But there was once a time when a TV spot could make or break a career... or a stint on late night TV was the start of the countdown on a band's 15 minutes of fame.

Letterman is a lame duck President, ready to sail off into the sunset in a few months. Sure, he's a little jaded and tired and just biding his time until his retirement. I sense he's not easily impressed, which is why his reaction to Foxygen is priceless. Pure enthusiasm with Sam from Foxygen's outrageous Mick Jagger imitation and a Van Morrison leg kick as an exclamation mark.

I'm assuming Letterman had no clue about Foxygen other than hearing a few seconds of a song one of his interns played him. Letterman probably skipped soundcheck so his first real dose of Foxygen was the over-the-top performance with all the stops... a trio of background singers, a bunch of junkie-looking backing musicians, and a "is he gay or just really fucking weird front man?"

Broseph tipped me off to Foxygen's first performance on Letterman...

Thursday, January 08, 2015

The Richard Linklater Nudge

Miami, FL

When I was 20, I was heavily influenced by two films by Richard Linklater -- Slacker and Dazed and Confused. I saw Dazed in the movie theatre about 15 times in college. We'd all get blazed to the tits in the parking lot and sit through the film, which was set in 1976. That was unheard of because period pieces on the 1970s were few and far between in the early 1990s.

Linklater is more important to me than you think. He inspired me to embark on a creative path and make movies. If this were Bob Evans talking, "When I was a kid, I really really really wanted to work in the pictures."

When I graduated college, I had aspirations of becoming a director. A true pipe dream. Right around the same time, I saw Reservoir Dogs by Tarrantino and Clerks by Kevin Smith. Those three filmmakers -- Smith, Tarrantino, and Linklater -- inspired me to apply to film school even thought I was a longshot and way behind the curve. I studied more film theory in college (I had a minor in Film Studies, but I was a double major in Political Science and Philosophy) than the actual nuts and bolts of film making. As a result, without any student films to boast of, I was rejected from NYU Film School. Not once, but twice. I eventually got into a film school in Vancouver, British Colombia only because it was sorta open admissions. If I had the money at the time, I would have gone. Or I should say, if I had a family that shared in my vision, I could have borrowed the money from them, but they thought I was crazy. They were really miffed when I quit a job on Wall Street (I was in a bond trader training program, but utterly miserable and thought I'd do the job for a couple of years to save up to buy equipment and fund film school) to pursue the creative arts. They thought I was wasting a college degree on a hopeless venture. I'm glad I never listened to my family because I never would have gotten to where I am today by listening to their poor advice, like the one time an uncle told me to take the NYPD exam because it paid overtime and had good benefits.

Alas, film school was never meant to be. I stayed in NYC and continued the path I was on... humping shitty job after shitty job and using whatever money I made (or won from gambling) to fund travel adventures (some of which included Phish tours and Jazz Fest). I often think about what would have happened if I went to film school in Vancouver, but that fork in the road happened twenty years ago, so it's impossible to figure out what would have happened.

I was aiming for one direction but I ended up in another. Simply put, I started writing screenplays because I was broke and could not afford camera equipment. These days everyone has a video camera on their phone, but in the early 90s, you had to have some cash (or at least a credit card) to buy a camera and film. Oh, yeah... film was expensive. Not to mention other equipment like lighting... because lighting is everything. Without the financial means to become an auteur film maker, I focused on the writing aspect and dug deep into screenwriting and humping shitty day jobs with the hopes of some day buying a camera. Well, somewhere along the way, I lost sight of the initial goal and ended up writing full time. Screenwriting was pushed aside for other mediums. Funny how life works out like that. You aim at one target and end up hitting the bulls-eye in another.

Today's guest on WTF Podcast is Richard Linklater. Marc Maron conducted a great interview with one of my favorite film makers... and one of the holy trinity of directors that helped give me the nudge in the right direction. Maron asked Linklater about his most recent film Boyhood, which was shot over 12 years using the same cast. That ambitious and arduous effort alone is worthy of an Oscar for best director. Linklater will get a nomination, but I doubt he actually wins because Hollywood is rigged and those fancy awards are bought/paid for behind the scenes. Linklater has never been one of those Hollyweird insiders and those fuckers like to take care of their own, which is why if Boyhood wins anything... it will truly be an upset. But hey, I love a underdog.

A great interview unveils a few hidden gems, and this one had a bunch. I never knew Linklater had earned a baseball scholarship... so now the re-make of Bad News Bears makes a little more sense (I still have not forgiven him for that... the original is in my all-time Top 10 films). He also had an coincidental six degrees of separation with Matthew McConaughey... because both of their fathers knew each and played college football as teammates at Houston in the 1950s.

Link to the WTF Pod with Linklater.

* * * *

Here's Linklater's interview with Vice about the making of Boyhood...

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Miami Pic Dump: More Murals and Other Stuff

Miami, FL

A few pics from Wynwood Walls street art that missed the cut from the other day, plus some other random pics from downtown and South Beach...

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Greasy Spoon Civil War

Miami, FL

All I wanted was a cheeseburger.

I incited a near riot in the kitchen. I mean, it really wasn't my fault per se, but I sort of put them over the edge. There's always tension between the front of the house and the kitchen staff. Doesn't matter if it's a greasy spoon diner or a Michelin star restaurant in Paris. But I showed up for breakfast at the wrong time. The kitchen staff had been feuding all morning and the waitstaff were having their own issues with all the fuck ups in the back. So it was a problem that had been festering all morning. It just so happened I was the schmuck who knocked over the bees nest.

"Breakfast or lunch?"

That was the million dollar question. I could have gone either way. Nicky opted for breakfast and got one of the diner's original specials. It originally opened in the late 1930s in a part of town called Little Havana. It was a throwback for sure to the late 1970s with movie posters on the walls... a mix of spaghetti westerns and the Godfather franchise.

I ordered the lunch. A burger named after the original owner. It was supposedly a bigger burger than usual, but it's a diner... and how can a diner fuck up a simple burger?

If our waitress was a car, she was closing in on 220K miles. She had the face like a catcher's glove. Her hair was blonde, obvious dyed because her white roots were clearly visible. She looked like she could have been a real looker three ex-husbands ago and back was JFK was still president. But in the Obama years, she's humping a morning shift on New Year's Day slinging hash to a bunch of hungover tourists with more cash in their pockets that she'll make in 5 months.

"Our waitress must be snorting Xanax in the back," I joked with Nicky when she was unable to complete more than one task at a time. Like she forgot to take our order, then didn't know what kind of toast to bring Nicky (who ordered wheat with butter, and she brought out cold, dry white). The couple next to us arrived ten minutes after us and got their order fairly quickly. The Xannied-up waitress was complaining about the cooks. They were all Haitians in the back, but the only line cook who spoke English was not working that day, so there was a huge communication gap. When our food never appeared by the 30 minute mark when the owner, a feisty Cuban woman in her 50s, checked up on our situation. She was visibly irked and embarrassed when screams were spilling out from the kitchen. Like loud as fuck, you better call the cops because someone is gonna die loud. The Xannied  waitress told me that they were short on staff so the cook brought in his wife to help out on the line, but those too were bickering all morning like most married couples do, but their home issues spilled over into the workplace, so it was a total shitshow in the back with a husband and wife at each others throats during the morning rush.

At the forty minute mark the owner ran into the back to break up another fracas. Sounded like pots were being thrown around. She had to tell everyone to shut the fuck up and start working like a team or they were all fired. Tons of tension. Everywhere. The kitchen staff hated each other. The wait staff hated the kitchen staff. The owners hated the kitchen staff. I hated everyone.

Cubans and Haitians don't like each other. Never did. Some of those century-long feuds spilled over onto the streets of Miami, where both cultures frequently clash. And there was a serious class war going on as well... well-to-do Cubans living the American dream while the Haitians were humping a min-wage job. The proletariat vs. the bourgeois.

I was in the middle of a class war, and a domestic dispute, and clashing of economic policies. And all I wanted was a spicy cheeseburger.

We finally got our meal a good fifty minutes after we order (or at least forty minutes later than everyone else). The Xannied waitress brought Nicky a second batch of toast. It was warm, but no butter and it was white. I got my spicy jumbo burger but I inspected it closely for saliva or blood droplets. With my luck one of them spit in my burger or some blood spilled onto my plate when the line cooks shanked each other. I gobbled down my burger, paid the bill (minus a 20$ discount from the owner), and rushed out of there before someone got their face slashed.

"Happy Easter!" said the waitress to Nicky, as we quickly made an exit.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Wynwood Walls and Miami Murals

Miami, FL

The Wynwood neighborhood, a little north of downtown Miami, underwent a transformation over the last few years to become Mecca for street art. Wynwood is currently an epicenter for both unknown locals and high-profile street artists like Shepard Fairey.

A couple of days ago, our friend Piper took Nicky and myself on an art walk and we came across the Wynwood Walls. Some of the murals (on both walls and doors) from this outdoor exhibition featured an array of international artists including... Shepard Fairey, Aiko, Retna, Ron English, Ryan McGuinness, Faith47, and the legendary Lady Pink (Guatemalan who gained notoriety for being one of the lone female graffiti artists tagging NYC subways in the late 70s and early 80s).

Here are some of my favorite pieces...

And yes... to quote Johnny Drama, "I love my fans!"

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Bad Translations

Miami, FL

I grew up in New York City, which is a series of small islands off the coast of mainland America. NYC has its own unique vibe and all of my quirkiness is a product of growing up in a melting pot on the fringe of America. These days I currently live in the Republic of California, which might as well be its own nation state that  occupies the western coast of the United States. California has its own unique weirdness unto itself, which is why there are a lot of people living in fly over states that would love to see California break off and sink into the ocean.

Miami? Feels like I'm in a foreign country. Think South America or something equivalent, except there's a bunch of hippie gringos matriculating about. Everyone speaks Spanish down in Miami, which has a truly international vibe. I've spoken more Spanglish in Miami over the first few days of the new year than all of last year in Los Angeles. Heck, I even got to break out a little French to chat with the local Haitians.

Don't get me wrong... my Spanish and French are equally horrible... tres mal and muy malo... but I'm trying to connect with the locals. Hunter Thompson put it best: "Never burn the locals." In order to woo the locals, you have to speak their language... or at the least, attempt to do so.

I nearly failed French in high school, which is laughable and ironic because twenty years later I'd end up signing a book contract with a French publisher. Luckily I had a translator (Benjo) who did all the dirty work and heavy lifting transforming Lost Vegas from an English text to a French masterpiece.

My Spanish is poor. Muy muy muy malo. Growing up in the Bronx, I absorbed Spanglish which is a butchered, rapid version of Spanish from the island nations of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. When I try to speak Spanish with anyone, they shake their heads and resume the conversation in English.

My next big undertaking is to vastly improve my conversational Spanish. You know how I feel about new years resolutions, but I'm someone who jumps into different self-improvement projects every few months. I haven't figured out if I'm going to actually take a Spanish class, or do a deep dive with Rosetta Stone, which isn't cheap. I'll probably soak free classes and lessons via YouTube and elsewhere on the interwebs. Alas, I want to keep up with the massive shift in America, especially the greater Los Angeles area, where Spanish is truly the native tongue. But with languages you really can't study a book. Rather, you have to engage and converse. That's the intimidating part... because no one wants to look like a blathering moron.

Then again, I have no shame.

The cherished moment of every day in Miami is the hour or so when I write on the balcony of the hotel. We have a bay view and can see the shimmering water with Miami Beach in the background and reflecting off the windows across the way. It's often breezy in the mornings, especially when you're 25 stories up in the air, and on Sundays the jubilant church bells echo from down the street. At night you can hear all of the sounds you'd expect to hear from a party town like the screaming, hooting, sirens, and the odd gunshot. And it's Miami, so there's a significant amount of thumping bass polluting the air via cars and open balcony doors from the condo across the street. Sometimes it feels like the bass is stalking you. It's just like the cheesy Gloria Estefan song... "the rhythm is gonna get you... tonight."

Across the hall in our hotel, Wildo has a much more stunning view in his room, which includes downtown Miami in the backdrop. He also has the saddest sight... the old Miami Herald HQ is being torn down a couple blocks away. During the days you can hear the demo crews pulling it apart a little at a time. It looks like one of the bombed out buildings on Kubrick's set of Full Metal Jacket. I couldn't think of a more fitting image that best describes the newspaper industry in America. I didn't want to actually snap any photos because it's too depressing, but it's a haunting image that I witnessed every single day over the past week.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

The Groove

Miami, FL

Sometimes you need a vacation. This one came at the perfect moment considering most of the US is under a blanket of frigid air. I flew to Miami for a week-long vacation with Nicky, but Phish was also playing four shows including New Year's Eve. I love coincidences like that!

Miami became the Mecca for neo-hippie this NYE. Hey, with LeBron James back in Cleveland with the Cavs, the suits at American Airlines Arena needed to boost revenue with a LeBron-less Heat, so they made a bold move and hired Phish to play a four-show holiday run. Phish played MSG in late December the last few years, but it was fun to return to Miami, where Phish played 4-night runs in 2003 and 2009 (and yes, I went to both). This year was a minor twist... instead of NYE ending the four-show run, this year was a little different with NYE kicking off a 4-show run that included shows on the first three days of 2015.

The band was a little rusty the first two nights after taking almost two months off, yet on Friday night the boys brought the heat. Even this jaded vet was impressed. Our friend from Colorado, Piper, put it best... "The Heat played a home game!" Hey, it's a fantastic night any time Phish plays my favorite song (Slave to the Traffic Light) and Nicky's favorite (2001)... and last night they played those two songs back-to-back. Good times. Fun times. Friday night dance party.

The highlight of the set was a juicy, bombastic Weekapaug Groove that featured an extended jam with Trey jumping on Fishman's kit and playing the Marimba. Bass player Mike Gordo put down his instrument and picked up Trey's guitar to do a little ambient shredding. Watch that spontaneous moment in this official video from Phish...

Friday, January 02, 2015

West Virginia Bananas

Miami, FL

Piper is a sweet soul. She legitimately cares about people, whereas I'm the opposite as a skeptical New Yorker and treat everyone with suspicion. I've come across to many angle shooters in life, so I'm doing "Shady Profiling" on my fellow human beings. It's a self-defense mechanism. It's self-preservation. It's my default mode and it often keeps me out of trouble.

Piper and Nicky were sitting on the balcony of our hotel. We were all admiring the city of lights below. 4am and the city was still thumping in the first few hours of the new year. A small group of party people sat above us on an adjacent balcony. They asked if we had any rolling papers. Piper was being neighborly and helpful and accommodating. She offered to share. She had to tell the kids the room number a couple of times, but for some reason they could not grasp the four numbers Piper shouted.

"If they too dumb or too wasted to remember the room number," said Wildo, "then they don't deserve to get free papers."

The knock happened a few minutes later. I answered the door. Two figures. One very small and the other very hairy and wook-like. The small one had a female voice but I couldn't tell what was up. He/she looked like Doogie Howser, but it was like Pat from SNL knocked on our door. The wook-like creature wore a cheesy, plastic Happy New Years hat on his head. He sported a dinner jacket that was three sizes too big. He could not stop sweating and his eyes were as wide as saucers. Wook-boy was tripping balls.

Piper handed a couple of EZ-widers to the little one. The little one hit me up for weed and acid. I told her I was out of both. You can never trust strangers, especially when it comes to LSD-25. You never know who's the narc or who's the crazy fucker that will shank you in the hallway with room service fork because they thought they were hearing "those voices" again.

"Maybe it's good you don't have any," the little one said, "because I can only do micro dot." The little one paused and sorta drifted out of her/his/her body before continuing, "I had a problem once. And... well... you know... I can only do microdot."

"Fair enough," I said, filing the little one's face away. When you go too far off the reservation, you might not be able to find your way back. But this was one zombie I wanted to avoid, especially in Miami, where crazed fuckers are running around naked on bath salts and chewing off the faces of poor tourists who opened the wrong door.

The little one asked me where I'm from. I blurted out "We're from San Francisco. All four of us."

I usually never give a correct answer and will say something like "I'm originally from the East Coast but live out West now." That's very vague. Sometimes I'll say Las Vegas or San Francisco. Sometimes I say "I'm from Canada, eh."

That instance I said "San Francisco" and attempted to make casual conversation by quizzing them where they were from. The wook-like creature didn't budge. He clearly felt uncomfortable with the question. The little one said, "West Virginia... but I live in Oregon now."

When Wildo heard those two words... West Virginia... he sorta freaked out. Initially, he was nonplussed with the two visitors and sipped his vodka drink while playing DJ. But as soon as he heard West Virginia, he sat up straight and wouldn't take his eyes of either visitor. I thought Wildo just didn't like rednecks or whiskey tango Pats, but I kinda forgot that he was once robbed in West Virginia, so he harbors some ill will toward the lesser-evolved meth-addled resident of that fine state.

Someone muttered, "Inbred criminals." It was Nicky, because she was on the balcony looking at the apartments in the condo across the way. But I heard "inbred criminals" a couple of times. I couldn't tell if I was thinking outloud or Wildo was thinking it internally, but attempting a mind meld by trying to send me a clue without alarming our visitors.

That's when the wook-like create scanned the room and spotted four bananas sitting on Wildo's desk. He pointed and asked, "Hey brah, can I have a banana?"

After an uncomfortable pregnant pause, Wildo shrugged his shoulders. The wook-like create was fed... for the moment.

When the little one made a move to sit on the end of the bed, Piper's personal space and "line in the sand" was crossed. She quickly but politely asked our visitors to leave her hotel room. They got the hint immediately and left. The little one thanked us for the papers, while the wook-like creature started chewing on the banana peel as he walked out of the room.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

SoFla New Years

Miami, FL

Happy New Year from South Florida!

I might as well be in a foreign country. Feels like I'm in South America but with a lot of random gringos and hippie everywhere.

I survived 2014. So did you if you are reading this. I wish you a healthy 2015. Hope it's better than 2014. It was truly a bizzaro year. Felt like we were all trapped in the Matrix, but on a batch of really bad, dark acid.

I'm fortunate to spend a little time in Miami before I head back to California. It's been a long two plus weeks on the road in frigid NYC. My body is more SoCal these days so I adapted to the warmer climates. Hence why Miami's balmy 80+ degree weather sits well with me.

Resolutions? I never really make them. I thinkt hey are a cop out for people who want to feel better about improving themselves without actually doing the deed. Change comes from within... not externally, or whatever you post on Facebook.

What's that cliche again? "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

If you truly are trying to turn something around... then I certainly wish you the best and will be cheering you along from the sidelines. And if you're gonna get stuck in the same rut like the rest of us schmucks... I also wish you the best. Misery loves company, eh?

Cheer up. It's the dawn of a new calendar year!