Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Yay Obama! Now what?!

I somehow failed to blog on what will be a political landmark in my own lifetime: Obama will be the first blackberry wielding President in the White House (joke copyright of Merlin Froyd).

I watched the inauguration, then didn't hear anything all last week because I have no newspaper around me and don't watch the news. I guess I should make a habit out of checking the news on the Internet. Seems wise. Anyways...

The headlines today are about Obama calling Congress to "put aside politics" while working on his stimulus plan. Sounds like lofty rhetoric at the onset, but when you think about it, it is kind of ludicrous. "Hey, never mind if you believe this plan is bad, we need to do something now, so get behind it!" Of course there are some practices in politics that probably aren't beneficial to the general public, like earmarks and the such. But part of the reason it takes legislation so long to pass is the fact that there are two or more sides to the issue that feel passionately about it. Telling them to "put that aside" in the name of getting work done could have disastrous results.

On a somewhat unrelated note, I think Obama's move to let states govern auto emissions was a significantly bad idea. It doesn't make fiscal sense for automakers to design cars to meet different emission benchmarks, so they will have to produce models that meet the highest benchmark (which will probably be California.) This cost will be delivered to consumers, who won't buy cars because they don't have any money.

I am not an Obama basher. Every administration has called for politics to be put aside, and the emissions deal might work out. However, I fear that the national and international community have put far too great expectations on Obama and his administration. If by 2010 all Americans are employed, the wars are all over, cars run on water and "the American dream," and the ice caps re-freeze, then most will be satisfied. However, I think many people are expecting more than any administration can accomplish in four years and will be let down. I hope I am wrong. I think it is good to a degree that Obama is not afraid to make big decisions early on; I hope they turn out to be beneficial.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

My Roomies

I have now spent close to three months in my new house in LA. I live with three other dudes, and I would like you all to meet them. I hope to give you a glimpse into each of their lives by showing a photo, discussing their day-to-day happenings, and conducting a brief analysis on their Wii skills.

I considered listing them in order of how much I liked them, but I think going alphabetical is a safer bet.

Roomie 1 - Andrew Mitchell

A UNC grad of 2007, Andrew moved to LA shortly after myself. He spent the summer in Alaska at some crazy fishing place where Karl Malone goes. All I know is that it was cold and they only use cash in Alaska. Andrew is a sick dancer and spends lots of time at Millennium Dance Complex in North Hollywood honing his moves. We have already decided that when I go on tour, he will be my hype man on stage if he isn't busy.
Andrew is on the job hunt and makes some cash doing audience tapings, film publicity, and other odd jobs. He lives in the converted dining room. Pros: it has a fireplace and a hidden closet. Cons: it has no lights, and the fireplace takes up a whole wall.
I must admit, Andrew is probably the best Wii player as far as Wii Sports and Wii Play goes. One half of the "Dream Team," Andrew is quite skilled at Wii Tanks (I am the other half). Unfortunately, Andrew can not compete in the quest for Hyrule because the three save slots in Zelda are already taken up.

Roomie 2 - Chris Garcia
Chris is an LA native. Andrew and I met him at church one night and said, "Hey, we just found this awesome house. Want to move in?" We were pretty much joking, and then he said yes, and we felt bad so we let him move in with us. It's ok, he isn't home much because he works a full-time job as a civil engineer. When he is home, he manages to fall asleep on the couch by 11 every night.
Chris' LA roots are a great asset to myself and the other roomies. He knows his way around the city, got a lot of sweet free furniture (some of it has termites, but that's ok...), and already has some cool friends from high school that kick it with us every once in a while.
Chris is the true owner of the Wii, but due to his busy schedule, he doesn't get to play as much. Therefore, he is no match for DollaBills in tanks, air hockey, or any other Wii competition. I slay him over and over. Sometimes I let him win because I am pretty sure his self-esteem is on the brink of destruction. Unless Chris is reading this. In that case, I have never let you win...

Roomie 3 - Sean McCracken
Sean is also a Tar Heel. He graduated in 2008 and then came out to LA with the Hollywood internship. I don't know what that is, and every time I ask Sean he gets angry and starts speaking in parseltongue. Sean had a terrible day job working for landlords running credit reports, which he quit last week. Some might call that a bad move in this current economy, but Sean is man of little spending. He probably provides the local Little Caeser's with the enough business by himself for the company to stay in the black.
Sean is an aspiring actor and recently got a spot with an agency trying to book commercials. Be sure to check out imdb for him in a couple of years. He also spends some time working film screenings for extra cash (in case he wants sausage and pepperoni on that Little Caesar's pizza).
Sean's Wii skills are formidable. Though a worthy back-up for the Dream Team, he is still coming off the bench when Andrew and Deezy Beezy are healthy. Furthermore, he accepted the default name "Epona" for his horse in Zelda. Rookie mistake. Everyone knows you need an awesome name like Rocky, Gustav, or FireBreather. Next time Sean, next time.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Favor

Hi friends, I need a favor from you. I just set up a website to promote my production abilities out here in LA. It is a MySpace site, and we all know that the more friends you have on MySpace, the better it bodes for you in real life.

So, for those of my readers who have MySpace accounts, please friend me. In all honesty, my site (and therefore my business) will be more appealing if a total stranger sees 100 friends instead of 6.

the site can be found here:

Local Rockstar Productions

Mad props to Nick Burns for the sweet artwork.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Rockstar Mentality

My good friend Nate sent me an interesting quote today from Chris Martin, leader of Coldplay:

"There's this glamorized ideal of arrested development in music particularly with Kurt Cobain and Morrison, and all the great fallen idols. There's this one side of you and and side of musical culture, which tells you that you're not supposed to move in your life at all. But if you look at the greatest artists, like Dylan, that's not true. The whole rock star myth, which is 40 years old and basically nonsense, has nothing to do with being a rock star. Everybody gets trashed and breaks things. By that standard, plummers and heating engineers are just as rock and roll as rock stars. You've gotta follow your own beliefs; it's all about freedom."

I think that is a great viewpoint. I have already met lots of people in CA who think that because I moved here to play music it naturally follows that my greatest ambitions are to play angry songs, drink lots of booze, and have lots of promiscuous sex. They are quite surprised when I reply that I spent the night playing Wii, or playing Scrabble (I got demolished last night), or singing 'Nsync karaoke.

I would love to have the success of Nirvana or the Doors. But I would also be happy with a one paragraph blurb on Wikipedia if it means I get to make good music and live the life I want to, pursuing freedom.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

"Little boy, little boy, little boy!!"

On my lunch break today I visited McDonald's. As I was enjoying my McNuggets, I noticed one patron who was in a particularly good mood. She was an old grandmotherly lady who was speaking to everyone she came across. Around this same time a mother and her child come walking out of the bathroom. This kid looks about 5 or 6. Old lady walks up to them and says, "Oh, hi little girl!!" The mom pulls her child away as she says, "It's a boy, little boy, little boy, little boy!"

I thought it was funny.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The World Is Broken

This story hurts to read, but I think it is important for those of who take our physical safety for granted.

It's from a journalist living in Gaza. The original version is here.


It was just before noon when I heard the first explosion. I rushed to my window and barely did I get there and look out when I was pushed back by the force and air pressure of another explosion. For a few moments I didn't understand but then I realized that Israeli promises of a wide-scale offensive against the Gaza Strip had materialized. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzpi Livni's statements following a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak the day before yesterday had not been empty threats after all.

What followed seems pretty much surreal at this point. Never had we imagined anything like this. It all happened so fast but the amount of death and destruction is inconceivable, even to me and I'm in the middle of it and a few hours have passed already passed.

Six locations were hit during the air raid on Gaza City. The images are probably not broadcasted on US news channels. There were piles and piles of bodies in the locations that were hit. As you looked at them you could see that a few of the young men were still alive, someone lifts a hand, and another raises his head. They probably died within moments because their bodies were burned, most had lost limbs, some of their guts were hanging out and they were all lying in pools of blood. Outside my home which is close to the two largest universities in Gaza, a missile fell on a large group of young men, university students. They'd been warned not to stand in groups as it makes them an easy target, but they were waiting for buses to take them home. Seven were killed, four students and three of our neighbors' kids, young men who were from the Rayes family and were best friends. As I'm writing this I can hear a funeral procession go by outside; I looked out the window a moment ago and it was the three Rayes boys. They spent all their time together when they were alive, they died together and now they are sharing the same funeral together. Nothing could stop my 14-year-old brother from rushing out to see the bodies of his friends laying in the street after they were killed. He hasn't spoken a word since.

What did Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert mean when he stated that we the people of Gaza weren't the enemy, that it was Hamas and Islamic Jihad which were being targeted? Was that statement made to infuriate us out of out our state of shock, to pacify any feelings of rage and revenge? To mock us? Were the scores of children on their way home from school and who are now among the dead and the injured, Hamas militants? A little further down my street about half an hour after the first strike, three schoolgirls happened to be passing by one of the locations when a missile struck the Preventative Security Headquarters building. The girls' bodies were torn into pieces and covered the street from one side to the other.

In all the locations, people are going through the dead, terrified of recognizing a family member among them. The streets are strewn with their bodies, their arms, legs, feet, some with shoes and some without. The city is in a state of alarm, panic and confusion, cell phones aren't working, hospitals and morgues are backed up and some of the dead are still lying in the streets with their families gathered around them, kissing their faces, holding on to them. Outside the destroyed buildings old men are kneeling on the ground, weeping. Their slim hopes of finding their sons still alive vanish after taking one look at what had become of their office buildings.

And even after the dead are identified, doctors are having a hard time gathering the right body parts in order to hand them over to their families. The hospital hallways look like a slaughterhouse. It's truly worse than any horror movie you could ever imagine. The floor is filled with blood, the injured are propped up against the walls or laid down on the floor, side by side with the dead. Doctors are working frantically and people with injuries that aren't life-threatening are sent home. A relative of mine was injured by a flying piece of glass from her living room window and she had deep cut right down the middle of her face. She was sent home; too many others needed more urgent medical attention. Her husband, a dentist, took her to his clinic and sewed up her face using local anesthesia.

More than 200 people dead in today's air raids. That means more than 200 funeral processions, a few today, most of them tomorrow, probably. To think that yesterday these families were worried about food and heat and electricity. At this point I think they -- actually all of us -- would gladly have had Hamas forever sign off every last basic right we've been calling for the last few months if it could have stopped this from ever having happened.

The bombing was very close to my home. Most of my extended family live in the area. My family is OK, but two of my uncles' homes were damaged,

We can rest easy, Gazans can mourn tonight. Israel is said to have promised not to wage any more air raids for now. People suspect that the next step will be targeted killings, which will inevitably means scores more of innocent bystanders whose fates have already been sealed.

Safa Joudeh is an master's candidate in public policy at Stony Brook University in the US. She returned to Gaza in September 2007 where she currently works as a freelance journalist.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Time Is Fiction

Each New Year somehow manages to fill people with hope for the future. This year, THIS YEAR, will be the one that we get our finances in order, stick to our diet and workout plan, go skydiving, up our cooking skills, etc. We normally decide to kick off our resolutions with a night of excessive drinking and staying up way past our bed time. But I digress...

The thought of 2009 gets me pumped up. I am excited because I have no clue what is going to happen. This is really the first year I can say that. Sure, we can't predict the future, but I had a basic idea of what was going to happen at the outset of past New Years. School, work, summer camp, etc. Ever since starting this whole Cali adventure, I really don't know what is going to happen.

I was spending some time wisely and responsibly tonight by scouring Facebook. I ran across some old friends from high school. It was interesting to see where they are now; places that no one could have guessed back in 1999 or 2003. It was even crazier to see pictures of some of my best friends who have accomplished so much in just a year. During the course of 2008, I watched some dear friends get married. I read blogs from my boys trekking across the world. I saw friends get weird piercings and tattoos. I laughed with those same friends as we talked about our parents' reaction to our "deviant behavior." (NOTE: My parents were really cool about my tattoos. Although Stan said he would kick me out of I got ear rings. Better find some couches to crash on in 2009 when I come back home. Just kidding. But seriously...)

In a nutshell, a lot of stuff happens in a year. Which means there is crazy potential for me out here in Cali. I have a growing friend network here now, I got my substitute teaching license (woohoo!) and I am meeting some musicians to jam around on some song ideas. Perhaps in 2010 I will be able to blog from my iPhone in the band van as we tour across the midwest, complaining about how gas prices are sucking the profits from the tour. That would be awesome.

Here's to 2009.

PS - The title, "Time Is Fiction," comes from a phenomenal album by Edison Glass. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Friday, January 2, 2009

"I went to LA and all I got was robbed!"

Last night I was killing time watching TV. I was planning on picking up my roomie Sean at LAX airport at 12:30 AM. My other roomie Chris gives me a call because he got split up with his friends down in Universal City. So, I decide to do a little tag-team taxi and pick up Chris on the way to get Sean.

I finally arrive at the corner where Chris was waiting for me. I see him talking with a rather large male who looks pretty distraught. Chris motions the man to the car and they both get in. Chris in the front and our new friend "J-Mack" in the back seat. Now, J-Mack has had quite a few drinks. On top of that, he keeps saying the cops just robbed him, taking all of his money and ID. We decide to give him a ride home on the way to the airport.

About 5 minutes into the ride, J-Mack somehow becomes convinced that Chris and I robbed him. Seriously. He is cussing at us and just getting angry. We try to talk to him rationally, but it isn't working. He starts telling us about how we are lucky he doesn't have a gun or he would shoot us for robbing him. He then says that when we drop him off, we are to wait in front of his house while gets his shotgun so that he can come back out and rob us. Tip for the crooks out there: Don't tell your "victims" your plans. Anyhoo, I am a little freaked out, but J-Mack is actually too drunk and incoherent to really do anything himself. I was just afraid he was going to direct us to some of his buddies house where we would have some trouble.

Anyway, we keep driving to try and find where J-Mack stays. At one point, he leans up and tries to open Chris' passenger door while we are in motion. We push him back down, and he mumbles something about throwing us out of our own car. By now I am frustrated because he is being totally un-cooperative. We stop at a gas station and try to let him out, which convinces him further we are "messing with him," and he won't get out.

On his directions, we drive to a little street with some modest houses. He rolls down the window and starts cat-calling at one house. After a short while, he gives up on this and directs us further down the street.

Eventually we arrive where he needs to go, after many empty threats of him choking us both out. At this point, Sean has been at the airport about 45 minutes already, and we are at least 10 miles away still. Once we arrive, J-Mack starts grabbing whatever he can in my car, talking about how he is gonna "rob us for taking his s***." Luckily, I had cleaned out my car that day, so all he got was a Starbucks apron covered in spoiled milk and a broken air pump for an air mattress. He steps out of the car, but continues to lean on the car and won't shut the door. At this point, I tell Chris to hold on to the open back door. I check the traffic lanes and floor it, swerving to not hit the parked car in front of me with the ajar back door. Luckily, J-Mack's reaction time was still pretty affected by the alcohol and I think we were already turning on the next street before he knew what had happened.

All in all, it was a pretty intense time. But it ended up OK. We got him to his home and have a great story to tell. A few weeks ago I grabbed an extra SB apron from the store, so perhaps this is karma.