<body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\x3d12124924\x26blogName\x3dthe+beautiful+destruction%E2%84%A2\x26publishMode\x3dPUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT\x26navbarType\x3dSILVER\x26layoutType\x3dCLASSIC\x26searchRoot\x3dhttp://beautifuldestruction.blogspot.com/search\x26blogLocale\x3den_US\x26v\x3d2\x26homepageUrl\x3dhttp://beautifuldestruction.blogspot.com/\x26vt\x3d5742637181364815794', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>



the beautiful destruction

Thursday, June 30, 2005

INTERVIEW ROOM™ | THE YOK

THE YOK HATES GINGER ALE

Welcome to the debut installment of our interview series—a new and regular editorial feature that promises to provide exclusive interviews with writers, graphic designers, photographers, illustrators, musicians, activists, and just about anyone else we can get our hands on. For our inaugural interview we decided to chat with Yok, a wheat paste, sticker, and gallery artist from Perth, Australia. So, without further adieu, let's get started.

Q: Let's start off with the usual line of questioning, as a primer of sorts for the folks at home. Who are you and what do you do?

I’m a bogan who likes to draw characters and stick them on walls.

Q: Wait, what's a bogan?

A bogan is someone who wears black jeans everyday, smokes weed, and listens to metal music in a large car. That was me in high school.

Q: Oh, okay. We used to call them "burnouts" where I come from. Bogan sounds better.

Q: What's the story behind your art? Or better yet, when and why did you get started?

The characters are loosely based on gargoyles. In medieval times, gargoyles were placed on buildings to ward off evil spirits. Borrowing from this thought I put my posters on city walls to ward off evil suits—picking rooftops visible from the streets below to display the paper gargoyles. This all started in Kenya where I spent 10 months working and going to an art commune that my Girlfriend joined; hanging out and eating big mumma's cooking.

THE YOK'S STREET MAGIC

Q: You come from a land down under [Australia], how does environment influence your work?

I come from Perth, which is a very isolated city. I think that has influenced the volume of work I do, as it is a little quiet around Perth.

Q: Do people there still like the band Men At Work?

Unfortunately.

Q: How about Midnight Oil?

Definitely, even Cold Chisel.

Q: Let's talk about Mel Gibson, the bigshot actor. Do middle-aged Australian women still swoon over him like middle-aged American women do?

Not sure, probably. I don't really know that many middle aged women. I think my Mum likes him.



GARGOYLE EYES ARE WATCHING YOU

Q: Okay, enough with the Australian references, I don't mean to get sidetracked. Where does your name come from?

I like the sound of the word YOK, and I'm into giving meaning to words that previously [had] no meaning. So now it's starting to mean "gargoyles" or "goofy posters" anyway.

Q: I know that you've done work for a magazine called Lucky. Could you tell me a little bit about that?

[I] just art [directed] a few issues on that one, and did a few covers. The guys that run it are crazy friends of mine. I love ‘em.

Q: Street art has really exploded on a global scale in the past 10 years. What's the scene like in Australia?

In Perth, it's okay, [there’s] alot of very talented local people: The Ayem Crew, (watarush.com); Melbourne Stencils are going nuts; Sydney is also good. Melbourne [though] would have to be the best place to see peoples’ art on other peoples’ walls.

STREET GRIME FROM A LAND DOWN UNDER

Q: The characters that you illustrate are quite a motley crew. Do they each have names and stories? Or are they just anonymous city dwellers?

I guess they are loosely based on friends and past bosses and girlfriends, but they are all gargoyles.

Q: Wheat-pasting and stickering can be quite adventurous I'd imagine. What's the most incredible bombing tale you can tell?

Not really… just good times sitting on roofs drinking beer, except for that time when I was arrested ‘cuz they thought I was breaking into the building.

Q: Could you discuss your creative process?

I use pens mostly—pencils and markers to do the original designs—then use the computer to refine them. For canvases I paint with brushes and acrylic paints. For bigger works ill use spray paint.



SARCASM RUNNING RAMPANT IN THE STREETS OF PERTH

Q: Describe your typical day.

Eat muesli. Go to work. Go out for some dinner. Come home, draw something or paint something or go skating or visiting. Go to bed.

Q: I've seen your work pop up in magazines and even on album covers. Has your street work helped attract clients? And do you dabble much in freelance design and illustration work?

A little bit here and there. Royal Elastics was kind enough to take me to Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan this year to do exhibitions. I love those guys as well.

YOK'S REFINED SIDE, ON CANVAS

Q: What projects are you currently working on?

www.kingbrownmag.com and www.theyok.com

Q: Do you have any exclusive Yok news you'd like to share with us? If not, how about some celebrity gossip or a recipe or something?

No news yet, it's all still in development. As for recipes, I can't cook very well so I eat out a lot.


YOK, CAN YOU SPARE A SQUARE?

Q: Any closing words for the people?

Turn off the TV.


For further information about Yok, check him out on Al Gore's World Wide Web at: www.theyok.com

NIKE: A MAJOR THREAT

Nike Skateboarding, the youth-oriented and supposedly "plugged-in" branch of the sneaker empire has taken its latest branding campaign a bit too far. Hoping to capitalize on the iconic album imagery of long-defunct D.C.-based punk legends Minor Threat, the offending sneaker pimps have tarnished their strategically-engineered street cred. Here's Pitchfork Media's telling comparison photo.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Pictured: Nike's supposed "homage" to Minor Threat. And I thought the image wasn't available online anymore. I found it with ease.

The company did issue a public apology and stated that all its "Major Threat" promotional materials would be pulled immediately. However, it seems that Nike has shown its hand. It will be interesting to see if there is any additional backlash. Or will the legions of hipsters and sneaker fiends hungry for "artist edition" and classic reissue Nikes gloss over this blatant disregard for tact--continuing to line the pockets of Nike's founder Phil Knight.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT

Please note: This message was posted to address an infestation problem we were dealing with. All is well now. So it's back to business as usual. Thank you for your patience.

So, let's talk about the statistics counter on the website. It's the little black box in the bottom right corner of the navigation bar, the one with all the numbers. Well, get this: it provides me with very basic information, kinda like constructive criticism for the site. When I view the reports I can tell which pages are popular (or not), where visitors link from (helpful to know how people learned about the site), how long they've spent on each page, how many times they've viewed the site, and even down to the IP address.

So, why am I telling you this? I'm not sure, but it just seems like certain repeat visitors might want to know. Did I mention that the stat counter even lists the company name with the IP address? Hmm. And I thought these certain people didn't like me. I guess I was wrong. For as much as they check the site, it seems like we'll be sipping beers and chatting about old times real soon. Err, maybe not.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

STRESS TEST

Whatever the assorted causes may be, life has been stressful as of late. It''s often hard to discern what exactly it is that's got my nerves all tensed and twisted. I've been doing alot of freelance work lately, spending long nights seated in front of the computer. So that, as one contributing factor, can take its toll.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Pictured: Team Sleep (L to R): Chino Moreno, Rick Verret, Todd Wilkinson, Zach Hill, & DJ Crook.

But the work has afforded me the opportunity to talk with some interesting people. And not to do a laundry list here, but it's more a personal checklist for me to visualize what I've churned out these past couple weeks:

Team Sleep interview: Just wrapped up this feature for the local alt-weekly City Paper. I interviewed Todd Wilkinson, Team Sleep's guitar player. Although I was somewhat hesitant about the album at first, it's really kinda grown on me. The track with Rob Crow from Pinback is really good. The article was fun to write (once the writer's block subsided) and I'm stoked to see them play live. [article drops weds.]

Last week I finished up a feature article for UK music/culture mag Straight No Chaser. I cover outsider art for Chaser and interviewed my pal Florencio Zavala. I also help coordinate the gallery section when I contribute. So Flo hooked up a real nice two-page spread of Christian Marclay--his personal musical hero. [article drops in July].

Just prior to that, I interviewed a talented fella named Jonathan Keller for Swindle Quarterly (the new mag by Shepard Fairey & Roger Gastman). Jonathan makes these incredible robots from empty cereal cartons and cracker boxes, creations he aptly refers to as: Boxbots. [Not real sure when that one drops].

And, I also have a feature in the latest issue of Atomica, the "cinema" issue. Experimental cinema and projection artists were the subject of my piece, and I interviewed and interesting group of folks: Eclectic Method, Motomichi Nakamura, and Takagi Masakatsu.

That's all for now. I had more to say, but have to attend the staff "copier training" session down the hall. Because, as you know, it's incredibly difficult to make copies, so training is recommended.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

STONERS RULE '89

Metallica used to be a giant in the speed metal world. You couldn't walk the halls of my junior high school without catching a glimpse of at least a half dozen burnouts wearing faded Metallica concert tees or jean jackets emblazoned with Ride The Lightning or Master Of Puppets backpatches and pins.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Pictured: Cover artwork from Ride The Lightning, a Metallica classic.


Before I knew who Metallica was or first heard their music, I wasn't all too impressed with what I thought I knew about heavy metal. However, my exposure to the genre had been minimal at best--seeing videos from the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Dokken and Cinderella on MTV's "Hard 30" (remember that pile of shit mid-afternoon video show). But the first time I heard Metallica (during 6th grade), which happened to be when I saw the video for "One," I felt oddly compelled to watch and listen.

Previously, I had never really listened to the "hard stuff" and it felt very taboo, as this was during the era when parent groups and specifically Christians were claiming that heavy metal was the devil's music. I already felt pretty badass about my musical preferences--Van Halen, Def Leppard, Guns N Roses. I remember delivering newspapers (Pittsburgh Press R.I.P.) and listening to my Walkman, rocking out to Pyromania and High N Dry by Def Leppard and Women and Children First and 1984 by Van Halen. I was hot shit, cruisin' down the street mid-afternoon, white jean jacket littered with rock 'n roll buttons and pins, mullet fluttering in the cool suburban breeze. I had it all under control, err, maybe.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Pictured: ...And Justice For All was Metallica's swansong as speed metal pioneers.

I purchased my copy of ...And Justice For All from Tapeworld in Monroeville Mall. Yes indeed, there was once a store called Tapeworld, and it was fucking awesome. I subsequently purchased the majority of my metal catalog [throughout junior high and high school] at Tapeworld--from D.R.I. and The Accused to Slayer, Death Angel, and countless others. Buying a new tape became a weekly ritual for me. Another way that I built up my catalog of tapes was by sending away to BMG... you know, that 25 tapes for a penny deal they used to run. When the boxes of tapes arrived, it felt like Christmas morning. A selection of speed metal gems delivered to my doorstep: Metal Church, Nuclear Assault, Testament, Flotsam and Jetsam, Overkill--it was insane. I remember wrapping Christmas presents that year while listening to No Place For Disgrace by Flotsam and Jetsam.

Anyhow, Metallica was the band that got me hooked. I also think that, since I had just started playing guitar at that point, the technical guitar work really appealed to me. I remember how people would always say that metal was just noise. What a farce. Metal was loud, but it also boasted some of the best riffs and intricate solos ever recorded.

Driving into work this morning, I listened to ...And Justice For All The album is well-produced, but still very menacing. This is before producer Bob Rock became involved with the band and transformed them into a rock band (and before James Hetfield's voice became a caricature of itself). Each song is nostalgic, each guitar line. I remember listening for hours on end, mimicking Kirk Hammet's picking techniques and James Hetfield's tight and powerful rhythm lines.

As I sit here in my cubicle, surrounded by deafening silence, I rise my optical mouse (sorry, I don't have a lighter) to the sky as "Sanitarium" plays in the background [in my brain that is... no music allowed at work].

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Scientology 101: Unraveling L. Ron Hubbard's Sci-Fi Cult Pt. 2

The wrong thing to do about any given circumstance or situation is to do nothing.
—L. Ron Hubbard


Image hosted by Photobucket.com
People can be downright strange. For example, Scientologists. I am only knee-deep in trying to find out what the hell Scientology is and I already feel like I stumbled into
a cameo role on some poorly-written Sci-Fi channel original series. For starters, you'll want to read the following statement [Taken from an AP newswire report dated Thursday, September 19, 1997]:

Scientology was founded 41 years ago by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. It views the individual, rather than a supreme god, as the spiritual being and believes that man's spiritual problems stem from an intergalactic holocaust 75 million years ago.

-Associated Press

Let's take a look at this excerpt. Sure, it may sound a bit egocentric deeming yourself, rather than a supreme god, as the spiritual being, but it's a notion that I'm sure many people would glady buy (particuliarly the Hollywood set who so readily endorse the religion). But wait, did I also read a little tidbit about an "intergalactic holocaust" that occurred 75 million years ago? Wow. I didn't realize such a catastrophe had taken place. Naturally, I turn to Google to answer my questions and set my mind at ease. A quick search of the phrase "intergalactic holocaust" and "intergalactic holocaust 75 million years ago" proves to be very fruitful. However, that's if you consider finding even more disturbing information about Hubbard's intergalactic-minded, sci-fi cult to be fruitful.

Every mention of the above-referenced phrase is either 1.) a Scientology-related website or news article or 2.) Science fiction (in the sci-fi community, "intergalactic [insert noun here]" happen(s) all the time... that shit's commonplace). However, here on Earth, people go to school for many years to become scientists and spend their entire lives researching, studying, and searching for clues to find the answers to questions like: How, when, and where did life originate? And, us common folk even go as far as to constantly argue over things like the notion of evolution versus the idea that God created the world in six or seven days, whatever the "accurate" number is supposed to be.

So, with an intergalactic holocaust as the explanation for Man's spiritual problems, let's move forward (if that's even wise), and dig a little deeper into the brains of these Scientologists.

At the end of my last report [click here], I had just taken the Church of Scientology's (CoS) toxicity test and discovered that I was in dire straits (according to CoS standards of course) and just short of needing to quit my job and enter a detox facility. However, since I was and still am apprehensive to call the Scientology hotline (no really, there's a number to call), I decided I would ease into this bubbling cauldron of crazy a bit slower. So with that said, I've decided to click on the What Can Scientology Do For Me link. It seems harmless enough.
Testimonials by credible personalities like Kirstie Ally, Kelly Preston, and Ron Code the motorcycle instructor flash across the top portion of my monitor as I scroll through the long list of benefits that Scientology offers--and what a smorgasbord it is. Of course, these benefits are not just doled out for free, like say, a normal church would do. They each carry a suggested retail price that requires a real credit card in order to purchase. But let's not get sidetracked, as we have a great deal of shit to swallow, err, knowledge to absorb.
Since I'm a willing guineau pig, and interested in discovering what Scientology can do for me, I read through some of the highlights. Not only can Hubbard's religion teach me how to improve my communication skills and better maintain relationships with those around me (because I'm definately unable to do so on my own accord), it also promises to teach me morals (which I'm sorely lacking) and how to live a drug-free life (this is a big concept in Scientology).
After reading through these principles, it's still hard to truly understand what Scientologists believe. From what I've read, it sounds less like a religion and more like an ongoing self-help seminar. So, for clarity's sake, let's review what exactly Scientologists believe:
  • A "Supreme Being" exists. The church is not Christian and does not worship any god.
  • Humans are reincarnated, spiritual beings.
  • Ever-higher states of spiritual enlightenment can be attained through courses and "auditing," which is done with the use of a lie detector-like device called an E-Meter.
  • People are weakened by harmful experiences engraved in mental pictures called "engrams." Through auditing, this "reactive mind" can be eliminated. Past lives are audited, too.
  • Disembodied spirits implanted with false memories and sent to Earth 75 million years ago by Xenu, an evil galactic warlord, cling to humans and create unhappiness and strife.
  • Seventy percent of illnesses - including arthritis, migraines, asthma and ulcers - are psychosomatic and curable without doctors

*List originally appeared in The Buffalo News [January 30, 2005] in an article by Mark Sommer.

If you're even more confused by the list above, don't be alarmed. Scientology is tough. Have you ever watched a really bad science fiction film or television show and been terribly confused by its far too complex plot? That's kind of how Scientology works, minus the mindless entertainment value. However, it does have an elaborate backstory, just like Star Trek or Star Wars, but without the Klingons and Wookies. And, just as Star Wars has "The Force" which exists in every living being, so too does Scientology. But their version is more complicated and confusing and it's called Dianetics.

To be continued...

Next report: Dianetics, "advanced spiritual technology," and a frightening handwritten document by Hubbard himself called the "OT III" (which better explains Scientology's skewed world view).

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Beautiful Destruction

Editor's note: The following essay is as close as this journal [blog] will come to having a mission statement or manifesto. It was written for an anthology I released back in January of this year titled Young & Reckless. I thought it may be of some interest to readers, so I've decided to make it available online (in it's unedited form) as well as in print. I hope you enjoy it.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

We’re crammed together in a car, speeding—like clowns en route to a performance that’s already begun. The gold Chevette that we’re driving rattles and clinks as we barrel toward the crest of a hill. The noises are troubling. It sounds as though we’ve left a litter of parts in our wake—hubcaps, bumper, muffler, and an assortment of nuts and bolts necessary for fastening important things together. But as I look over my shoulder, surprisingly, our rusty and battered car appears intact, aside from the occasional puff of black smoke being spit from the tailpipe. But that’s normal.

As we rumble along the winding suburban streets, the neighborhood emits a mechanical almost hollow feeling. Though the pseudo-sidewalks and artificially green lawns are bubbling with activity—children riding bicycles, adults in ridiculous outfits power walking, dogs barking, sprinklers popping on—this place feels more like a Xerox of real life than the pumping (and somewhat congested) heart of America’s middle class. But maybe all neighborhoods feel this way at one moment or another— small, insular, and sometimes inescapable.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Our driver accelerates, pressing the gas pedal until it’s flush with the car’s floorboard and its dirty, cinder-infested tan carpet. The Chevette’s tiny engine is working hard, struggling to pull the weight of its four passengers up and over the sharply angled hill. And just as the rickety 4-cylinder reaches the peak, we each hop a bit in our seats, then breathe a collective sigh of relief as the car bounds down the other side.

Looking over his shoulder, Keith, our driver, appears confident, almost giddy—his day-old stubble looking like catfish whiskers sprouting from his chin and upper lip. He’s wearing a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball cap that he “borrowed” from me several months ago. I don’t think I’m getting it back.

Deemed the unofficial designated driver, however begrudgingly, Keith carts our mischief-making, terminally bored crew all over Pittsburgh’s eastern suburbs. Today’s setting: scenic Garden City, a housing development located about 20 minutes from downtown.

Whirring past an odd assortment of ranch, split-entry, and Cape Cod style homes, each of us periodically looks out the back window in nervous anticipation.


Maybe they gave up? Maybe we lost them?

Keith suddenly swerves off the road, pulling into an empty driveway, loudly jerking the car into park as we each lunge forward like a band of top-heavy children tumbling headfirst to the ground. Slightly stunned, we stare at each other for a moment, no one speaking a word. Why is he stopping here?

A red Pontiac Sunbird, driven by a plump woman and her wiry male co-pilot, quickly darts past. We didn’t lose them. The Chevette, still running, is shifted into reverse. Keith jams the accelerator to the floor and speeds out of the driveway—backwards. Quickly shifting in to drive and spinning the car’s nearly bald tires against the pavement, he makes a desperate dash to close the gap with the speeding red car.

He loves this technique, the one where the person being chased becomes the chaser. He should have pursued a career in stunt driving. He could have been like Lee Majors in The Fall Guy or maybe a 21st century version of Evel Knievel.

The rest of the crew is now bubbling with joy, acting like a bunch of socially retarded goons on an unexpected summer outing. We love this part, always have (“This part” being the portion of the chase where we feel like we’re in a movie, each assuming the starring role of backseat driver—Turn here, pass her up, cut them off, what are you doing, you’re losing them!). We’re at once bossy and indecisive. I dunno where that road leads. Speed up. Hopefully the police don’t see us. Run the red light! We must be terribly obnoxious.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com

As Keith navigates the twisted, nonsensical streets of Garden City, the rest of us just enjoy the chase. Gregg is riding shotgun, as always, his window rolled down, screaming at passersby as we motor along. He occasionally looks back at us, seeking peer approval for his hell-raising antics—of course we all silently nod: Job well done. Keep up the good work.

I’m seated behind him, legs squeezed up tight (remember, it is a Chevette), head angled out the window, struggling to yell and make a scene as bugs and the rushing air pummel my face. My normal spastic, shock-inducing phrases are getting lost in the gushing air—spilling out of my mouth and disappearing behind us with the smoke from the tailpipe. “Hey lady, nice nose,” I scream, along with the classic, “Jesus had gonorrhea!” The power walkers, postal carriers, and small children of the neighborhood do not appear to be impressed.

Seated to my left is our friend Jim. Reluctant to antagonize, he’s content to fan the flames, maniacally laughing as the chase becomes more heated—his abnormally large and sharp-looking eyeteeth protruding from his mouth.

The pursuit becomes more delicate as we close in. Keith carefully keeps his distance, trying desperately not to ruin the surprise too early. We always want the person we’re chasing to be shocked that we’ve outsmarted them at their own game, snuck up from behind just when they weren’t looking. So far, the scenario is playing out like a low-budget Hollywood chase scene—just as we had hoped.

The red Sunbird is still speeding erratically, its driver bent on finding us, her plump fingers choking the vinyl covering on her steering wheel. She carelessly rolls through stop signs, only slowing to inspect side roads and any other possible escape-routes.


But wait. What’s this?

In the midst of a rolling stop, the chubby woman’s brake lights pop on and the car abruptly jerks to a halt. She must have caught a glimpse of us in her rearview mirror. Usually, the driver will speed up and play along, thinking the joke is funny. Not this woman. And the timing is bad. We’re at a busy four-way intersection and our car is trapped. She’s parked in front of us and cars are quickly lining up behind us. People are beeping their horns, wondering why traffic has come to a standstill. That’s when the driver’s side door swings open and we see the woman’s plump, tennis-shoed foot plop onto the pavement.


* * *
This moment is critical: the moment when this woman, frustrated and ready to boil over, stopped her car and decided to raise the stakes. We probably deserved whatever it was she had planned for us, but I wonder what thoughts stumbled through her mind as she slammed her foot on the brake pedal. I’m sure my friends and I feared we would be eaten by this gigantic woman, or we at least laughed and joked about the notion—the idea that this woman would tear our arms and legs from the sockets, munching on them as though she were devouring a bucket of sickly, undercooked chicken. Then she would say: “These taste like shit, but they’ll do,” her voice deep, muddy, and followed by a long rattling victory belch. But I’m certain that wasn’t her intent. Her motive was much simpler—revenge.

Imagine you are a severely overweight woman, stopped in traffic at a red light in a busy intersection. You’re starving. You’re always starving—even though you just ate lunch a couple hours ago. The summer heat is driving you mad. You’re uncomfortable, sweating like lunchmeat left in the sun. Your crevices are chaffed thanks to truant beads of perspiration. But still you’re focused on one thing and one thing only—dinner.

Resting on the seat of your ‘91 Pontiac Sunbird (complete with broken air conditioning and a side view mirror held on with duct tape) is what you desire most—a brown bag of McDonalds hamburgers and assorted side orders, blotted with grease stains and stocked to the top with condiments.

Your dirty, unattractive, thin boyfriend is seated next to you. You think to yourself: He doesn’t give a shit if I dig into this bag of burgers—he hates eating, just look at him! The struggle persists. Binge on burgers now or wait until you get home? The aroma of over-processed, Grade D meat is distracting you, calling to you, questioning your allegiance. But I just ate, you plead. Tonight I’ll use my Stairmaster, burn off the excess calories. But the false justifications don’t work.

Your jumbo-sized Coca-Cola, wedged in the car’s petite cup holder, is sweating, dripping into the ashtray below where a stack of discarded cigarette butts teeters precariously. I told him to empty that ashtray a week ago. You look over at him, a sensation of disgust swelling in your gut. Unfortunately, he’s temporarily preoccupied, lighting another cigarette using the dwindling embers from the last. You take a long look: his greasy hair, his tattered t-shirt, the dirt under his fingernails. Why am I with this guy?

You can feel the fajitas you ate for lunch rolling over in your stomach, a stew of hot sauce, tortillas, and orange Fanta inching its way back up your esophagus. Your blood pressure bubbles. Why doesn’t he get a car or better yet, a job? He flicks the burned out butt onto the road, takes a long drag from his fresh-lit cigarette and looks over at you with his crooked smile, blue smoke slowing twirling from his nostrils. This has got to be the longest red light ever.

That’s when you crumble. Just one burger for now, you tell yourself. At that moment, you plunge your plump hand inside the greasy McDonald’s bag, fishing around for the first available quarter pounder with cheese. Hamburger… no. Your fingers walk around inside the bag, inspecting, searching. Fries… no, chicken McNuggets… ah, success. It’s in your hand, the prize. By now, the smell of lukewarm meat has permeated the car, tested your wits. Your top lip is sweating. Your hair smells like stale cigarette smoke as you brush the feathered, hairspray-glazed bangs from your face. As you fiendishly remove the burger’s wrapper, and prepare to sink your choppers into the delicate sesame seed bun, your aggravating co-pilot chimes in:

“Slow down babe, them burgers ain’t getting’ away.” Before you can even respond to his stupidity, there’s another interruption.

Honk! You look for a car in the rearview mirror, nothing. The light’s still red.

Honk, honk!

What the fuck?

Hooooooooonk!

That’s when you discover the source—a group of teenagers in a beat up gold Chevette, sitting next to you at the light, pounding the car horn, staring at you, making faces, and saying something. You struggle to hear them.

“Oh, is that good?” says the blond-haired teenager in the passenger seat, mimicking the way in which you just desperately unwrapped your quarter pounder with cheese. “Nummy, nummy,” he adds before biting into an imaginary hamburger.

At first you feel embarrassed, maybe you are a pig and this kid has a point, however crude it may be. Then you feel ashamed, the way you often react after catching a glimpse of your profile in a mirror or storefront window. But finally, finally, you settle on anger—fist-pounding, animal-mutilating, shoot-your-gun-in-the-air, punch-your-scrawny-boyfriend-in-the-dick, drive fast-as-fuck-and-maim-these-teenagers-or-die-trying, anger.


* * *
The situation is about to escalate. A second plump, tennis-shoed foot thumps down on the pavement—followed by two large, pasty arms thrusting forward, hands clenching the Sunbird’s doorframe with what appears to be the strength of a small rhino. The woman then quickly and angrily hoists herself from the Sunbird’s bucket seat. The car instantly lifts up, temporarily relieving the suspension from its arduous, active duty.

She quickly turns and marches toward our car with her hands balled into fists, arms swinging violently at her sides, blood-drenched rage spilling from her eyes. We’re all hysterical—displaying a mixture of extreme fear and uncontrollable laughter. And, as if we shared the same brain, we each lock our doors at the same time and begin rolling up our windows. We soon learn the woman is not interested in all of us—just Keith. I suppose that’s a burden the driver automatically assumes when engaged in a car chase.
“You son of a bitch!” she screams, quivering with anger as she approaches the driver’s side of the car. Keith continues to laugh while he frantically rolls up his window, unsure of what she’s planning to do. That’s when she unravels—swearing and punching the glass countless times with her round, cushioned fists. After the window loses its appeal, she raises her arms above her head and noisily pounds on the roof of the car like some sort of giant. Then she targets our windshield, which sounds as though it may crack beneath the strength of her punches. Meanwhile, back at the Sunbird, her scrawny, cigarette-chomping boyfriend does nothing. Though, I suppose his services are not required. From where we’re sitting, his girlfriend seems to have things under control—though she’s starting to look tired. As a final lesson to us, and in between sucking deep gulps of air, she pounds her fist into our hood, leaving a grapefruit-sized dent in the faded gold finish. Now, appearing exhausted and somewhat relieved, the plump woman trudges back to her car, sits for a moment then drives away. The traffic jam we created begins to wind around us, the drivers honking their horns and angrily shaking middle fingers as they pass. Our Chevette stays parked. And, for a moment, we’re all silent.
Unfortunately, this type of situation was not new to us. We’d encountered countless angry and ill-humored people throughout our teenage years—most of whom wanted to either do us harm or arrest us for our actions or supposed wrongdoings. But how could we be blamed for these peoples’ lack of wit or inability to laugh at themselves? Our mischief, for the most part, was benign, the bi-product of seemingly endless days spent addicted and strung out on the euphoria of youthful bliss: doing graffiti beneath railroad trestles, getting drunk on stolen booze, giving bad directions to strangers, shooting bottle rockets at neighbors front windows, throwing pennies into crowds just to watch people scramble, rigging up fishing line with sinkers to remotely knock on people’s front doors—primitive but satisfying deviance, a legacy we proudly established for ourselves one mishap at a time.
But personal identity can manifest itself in such strange ways. And however reckless and insensitive we acted, disregarding the feelings of those on the receiving end of our jokes and disruptive behavior, the motivation was, for the most part, innocent. Our perspectives and our roles seemed to be predetermined—each of us an outsider in his own way. We each found joy in dismantling both the idiocy and mundane routines that surrounded us—whether it was school, the conservative mindset of the community we lived in, the limitations our parents imposed upon us, or the seemingly mediocre aspirations of suburban life. We responded the best way we knew how, with a simple and unspoken agenda: The beautiful destruction of normalcy.

Friday, June 17, 2005

DeLorean: Guts & Glamour

Last night, as Michelle and I were driving through the neighborhood behind our house, I spotted a DeLorean parked in someone's driveway. I can't recall if I've ever seen a DeLorean that wasn't on film traveling through time in a Back To The Future movie.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Pictured: Back To The Future-modified DeLorean illustration.

It was dark, so I didn't get to examine it too much. But I was impressed by how unique the car still looks and how unconventional it must have been for its time (seriously, think about some of the other cars produced during the 1980s... boxy, clunky, ugly).

So I did a Google search for DeLorean this morning and discovered that the car is actually extremely rare, with only 9,000 models produced at its factory in Northern Ireland before the company went bankrupt in 1982. John Z. DeLorean, the brilliant automotive executive turned failed glamour car entrepreneur, actually died this past March at the age of 80 [click here for a detailed obituary].

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Pictured: Another Back To The Future-modified DeLorean illustration (Note the flux capacitor).

DeLorean's obituary reads like the quintessential "American dream" tale. He came from a working class neighborhood in Michigan; his father was employed as a foundry worker for Ford; DeLorean attended school to pursue business and engineering; he then worked his way up through the ranks of Detroit's booming automotive industry where he climbed all the way to the position of GM vice-president. And it was just at the peak of his success, as he was being groomed to take over as President of GM, that he departed the company to pursue his dream of designing and manufacturing his own line of automobiles.

Sure, there are rumors that DeLorean sold cocaine to fund his ailing venture (although he was acquitted on the charges). And he was supposedly known as quite a name-dropper, rubbing elbows with Hollywood's elite, garnering financial support for his company from the likes of Jonny Carson and Sammy Davis Jr. to name a few. Or maybe he was just a good businessman. That is, until the bottom dropped out.

Scientology 101: Unraveling L. Ron Hubbard's Sci-Fi Cult Pt. 1

Scientology Aims: A civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war, where the able can prosper and honest beings can have rights, and where man is free to rise to greater heights, are the aims of Scientology. — L. Ron Hubbard

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Pictured: The Scientologists are coming! The Scientologists are coming!

Scientology: What the fuck is it? Here's the short and simple version: Scientology is a religion founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. Okay, now that that's out of the way, let's really figure this one out. You see, Scientology has absolutely frightened me ever since I drove through downtown Los Angeles in 2001 and saw it's main military, err, spiritual headquarters--which, by the way, looks like the fucking Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas after an all night bender on growth hormones.

Most of us have heard of Scientology thanks to celebrity endorsements from devout Scientologists like John "Battlefield Earth" Travolta and Tom "Mental health treatment is for pussies" Cruise. Sure, there are other celebrities who frequent the house that Hubbard built [click here for a list], but as of late, Tom Cruise has been the most vocal spokesperson--drawing attention to himself like a deaf person singing in a library. Sure, we've all seen the clips of him jumping up and down on Oprah's couch, proclaiming his love for Katie Holmes. And you've certainly seen the photos where Cruise is forcefully kissing Holmes, gripping her face like a polar bear tearing the jaw off a seal. But the latest news--word that Holmes and Cruise are engaged and that she has adopted Scientology and is enjoying her "lessons"--is what prompted me to find out what exactly this sci-fi religion is all about.

First things first, I visit the Scientology website. I figure this is as good a place as any to get started. After snooping around a bit, I stumble across a link that reads: How toxic are you? Okay, I'm intrigued Mr. Hubbard, lead on. So I take the test. I mean, it's only 10 questions (these Scientologists must be operating at a highly advanced diagnostic level to determine my toxicity with just 10 questions... but wait, what the hell does "toxic" have to do with religion?). Anyhow, a moment later, I get the results. To my surprise, I'm toxic. Not only am I toxic, I'm apparently pretty bad off, answering "YES" to eight out of the 10 questions provided. Great, just great. Now what do I do?

The website advises that first I need to purchase a copy of Clear Body Clear Mind, by L. Ron Hubbard. Supposedly, not only will this book help me to clear my toxic noodle, it will also increase my IQ. Not bad for only $49.95. The website also kindly provides a three-step method for purging my drug-tainted (even though I never mentioned taking drugs) and under-developed mind:

3 STEPS TO CLEAR THINKING

1. On the Purification Program, a person runs for a period each day to get the blood circulating faster and the system warmed up.

2. Running is followed by sweating out the drug residuals in a sauna. Profuse sweating helps purify the system of toxic substances.

3. Regular nutrition and supplemental nutrition in the form of vitamins and minerals is an important part of this program.

Purification Program can improve personality – and IQ!

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Pictured: The "before" and "after" effects of applying Hubbard's Scientology methods.

But now what? I feel so conflicted. I'm toxic, my wallet is $49.95 lighter, and I'm exercising like a man possessed. But I still feel lost, disinterested in what people have to say, and mentally and spiritually deadened. My trusty Scientologic companion, the website, advises that I now have three options (everything appears to come in threes with Scientology):

1. Find an organization near you.

2. Read more from the website.

3. Speak with a live consultant about the program.

Since I'm still not convinced that Scientology is the answer to all my problems (although it's sure looking good right now), I opt for option # 2. It's the easiest option since I still feel lethargic and sitting behind my computer is easier than visiting the local Scientology shop or picking up the phone to speak with a crazed psychopathic Scientologic telemarketer.

To be continued...

Hubbard's Quote of the Day®

"The only time anyone has ever gotten into serious trouble was when he decided he could do nothing about something."

—L. Ron Hubbard (Dianetics 55)

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Cassette Culture

I love cassettes. Some people call them tapes. Either way, they're like gold to me. Since it's summer and Michelle and I are on the yard sale/garage sale/flea market/estate sale/white elephant circuit, I've been keeping my eyes peeled for these little gems.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Pictured: The most compelling cassette image I could find using Google's image search.

It's a good time for cassettes too. Just this past Sunday I stumbled across a surplus of classics, 25 to be exact--from RUN DMC's Raising Hell to Metallica's Master of Puppets--and I only paid 5 bucks for 'em all. The other night I found even more chromium dioxide booty.

"Them don't sell," a colorful and somewhat toothless woman employed at the local Goodwill told me as I took a stack of gold off her hands (AC/DC, DIO, Yngwie Malmsteen, Yaz, ZZ Top, etc.). Oh well, your loss my plump little friend.

After I amass an impressive tape collection, I'm planning to feverishly compose mixtapes--based on themes like metal mania, high school heartbreak, terrible b-sides, and the list goes on.

I'll post some photos of the collection soon. It's only in its toddler stages at the moment... but it's growing, oh it's growing.

Have You Tried The Virus-Laden Poo? It's The Shit.

As if climbing a mountain wasn't already dangerous enough. Now the adventurous men and women who scale these peaks have to watch even more closely where they step [see what I mean].

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Pictured: An Ansel Adams' photograph of Mount McKinley... pre-virus-laden poo era.

You would think (at least I would) that a mountaintop would be snowcapped and cold, pristine and virtually untouched by modern man.

Ah, nope.

That's right, even climbers have to take time to relieve their bladders and move their bowels. It's actually the latter of the functions that's causing all the problems though. Virus-laden poo is today's secret word. Yes indeed, climbers are "dropping the kids off at the ice rink" and it's creating an infectious wonderland on mountain peaks the world over. Why not dig a hole and poop in there? you may be thinking. There is a reason.. everything is frozen. So it would seem the poo is almost being preserved. Yum.

Think of it like this: One day you wake up with the urge to collect something. But what to collect. You're down on your luck, don't have much extra cash. So baseball cards, beanie babies, or exotic spoons from around the world are out of the question. So naturally, you have an epiphany of sorts: What not collect my own feces and store it in the icebox for preservation and presentation purposes? Next thing you know, you're pets are all dropping like flies, you're wife has left you due to your new and odd-collecting habit, and you have a poo-induced rash that looks like a cross between chicken pox and poison ivy (hypothetically speaking). The point here being... it's a bad idea.

But what's the answer: Poop in a bag and throw it down the mountain? Have everybody poop in a pile then set it on fire? Poop into your backpack and bring it back with you? I don't know the answer... really, I don't. And I'm not real worried about it, I'm not climbing a fucking mountain anytime soon.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

HIT THE GROUND RUNNING

Back for a quick update and a shameless plug. As you can see, the site redesign is underway. I'm still working out a few bugs and hoping to put up a new banner in the next couple days.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Pictured: Young & Reckless: Poison Control Vol. I

In the meantime, I thought I'd mention that I still have some copies of Young & Reckless available for sale [Click to buy]. So don't sleep. I also updated the Poison Control site with a slew of upcoming news. Something I forgot to add on the site, we're traveling to the city of brotherly love in July for the Philly Zine Fest. So stop by the Poison Control table and check out our ware(s)... yea, we only have one book at the moment.

Things should be finalized and operational here soon. When I switched blog templates I lost a bunch of stuff and screwed up some crap, so I'm working that out now. I'm a baffoon. Anyhow... laters.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Can't Stop Trying To Fix This Cursed...


I'm a nerd when it comes to design. I can even be a bit obsessive. So, as you can see, the blog is under construction. I was bored of looking at the design I had... I felt it was too busy, too theme-oriented, or something like that. So I'm reworking it to make it more simplistic and focused on the writing. So, I apologize for any speed bumps or goofiness you may experience on here in the next day or so.

-Management

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Enjoy the Perks

The dayjob has its perks--namely, a paycheck. However, there is also the fun of driving press cars. Yes, that's right, I get to drive exciting cars that I would quite possibly never be able to afford in my lifetime. Since I started this job, I've tried to snap photos of each of the cars--for posterity's sake.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Pictured: Console; Porsche 911 Carrera S Tiptronic... ah, fast.

However, I'm not always sucessful in remembering to do so. But it seemed only right to share some photos, and allow any car geeks out there to live vicariousy through my rather excellent job perk. Not that I'm gloating, I really want to share this info, because it's fun.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Pictured: Michelle in her "big pimpin'" pose, at one with the Porsche.

Okay, I just realized, I really don't have many photos of these cars... ugh. I've got a Land Rover LR3 this weekend, so I'll make sure to snap some shots. It's a terribly inefficient car--14 miles to the gallon. However, it's big and comfy, like a beanbag chair. I would certainly win in a head on collision too, that's for sure.

Oh well, it's late and my eyelids are heavy.

Time to say goodnight.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

WWJD


Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Pictured: Here's a pic I snapped in good 'ol Braddock, PA. Almost the whole town is boarded up, but they still gots a church.

Feel The Burn

I'm a little burned out on writing. I guess that's what happens when you sit in front of a computer all day, retinas glazed over, a steady burning caused from staring at the screen in front of you, forgetting to blink. It's just that this freelance writing hustle is feeling tired as fuck right now.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Pictured: The desert in Green Valley, Arizona (outside Tucson).

I went to bed way too late... like close to 2am, because I was checking email and trying to finish this story I've been working on for way too long. But instead of making progress, I just sat there writing and re-writing the same sentences. I'm in a fucking rut. I just don't feel like writing lately.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Pictured: The desert (again). Yes, there was lots of it.

Oh well, occasional disenchantment is to be expected I suppose. Writing is still work, no matter how hard I try to convince myself otherwise. Lately, I feel like a change is in order... a big change. I'm planning on how to better spend my time, concentrate on what I really want to do.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Pictured: Cacti in the desert... yes, quite enthralling.

I'm thinkin' about gettin' out of this freelance game and focusing more on my own book project. I want to do something satisfying and maybe, just maybe, something of some value. As much as I enjoy music and art, profiling artists and musicians can be downright fuckin' dull most times.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Pictured: Open Range isn't just a bad movie with Kevin Costener... these signs were everywhere, though I never saw the cows/steer in question.

Every once and a while, I get the opportunity to interview somebody who is truly interesting or a character or at least someone entertaining. But most times, boredom begins setting in as I speak with them and I just slip into auto mode.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Pictured: I spotted this stencil in downtown Tucson, which was extremely cool by the way.

Oh well... boredom is setting in as I speak. I've got oodles of shit to do here at the work piece, so I must bid you all a fond farewell.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

By The Time I Get To Arizona

I'm shipping out this afternoon for Tucson, Arizona. Rumor has it the temperature is around 96 degrees--a little better than the 100-110 degrees I read about last week. I'll be covering a mini baja competition for the magazine I work for.

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Pictured: Glen E. Friedman photography of Chuck D and Flavor Flav for the album "It Takes A Nation Of Millions..."

It seems like it may be somewhat interesting, we'll see. While gathering my things here in Cubesville, the phrase "By the time I get to Arizona" popped into my head. Now, for those who dig Public Enemy, you know that's a track from Fear of a Black Planet. And then I thought, what's going on with Public Enemy? Flavor Flav and his fifteen minutes of reality TV fame are just about up. And Chuck D seems to keep busy with his radio show, speaking engagements, etc. But why don't we hear more from them musically? Who knows, maybe that newer work they've done is good, but what I've heard is kinda mediocre. It seems like they've slipped, lost their edge. I know hip-hop could sure use the prescence of a intelligent and politically-charged emcee like Chuck D.

It would be a fresh change of pace to have controversy in the rap/hip-hop world that was centered around a group (i.e. PE) that was making waves for its subject matter instead of beefs between rappers and everyones' incessant quest for fame and money. Commercial hip-hop is at an all-time low. At its core, hip-hop is more than music, it's culture, and very influential at that. But it seems to have gone astray over the past 5 years. "Concious" hip-hop, like A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Pharcyde, etc. used to be a respectable sub-genre. Now, those types of groups are either retired, broken up, or desperately attempting to remain relevant.

I'm not sure where my rant here is headed. Certainly, there is tons of great new music being released, but it has become harder to find the "good stuff." I receive oodles of advance music to review for magazines. Much of which is hip-hop. While there are always the handful of artists doing groundbreaking work (i.e. Madlib, Prefuse 73, MF Doom, Boom Bip, and the like) there is far more crap being shoveled down listeners throats...er, jammed in their ears, whatever fuckin' jumbled metaphor applies.

Maybe my feelings have to do with getting older, feeling farther and farther removed from my younger point-of-view. Recently, I've found myself almost coming full circle. Black Sabbath is in heavy rotation again, I'm fiending for some old Metallica ala Master of Puppets or Ride the Lightning and I've been getting into some post-punk stuff again. Who knows... it's just this whole idea of band/rapper/musician as pre-packaged goods that just keeps becoming more toxic and encroaching on the days when going to a show or concert was fun. But maybe that's life. It always gets harder, never easier. So maybe my suspension of disbelief, my ability to diconnect, is too tarnished to purely enjoy what is offered up as music.


<