Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Misc Drawings From 1999 My Wife Just Found

POMONA, July 1 - My wife found these in a box in the garage a few days ago. It really is amazing how much life has changed in just ten short years?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Mord Con Notes (2001)

FROM THE ARCHIVES, June 29 - This originally posted on sammcpheeters.com, 7/30/01


The annual Mordam Records' convention was held this last Saturday in Sacramento's Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge # 2. The Lodge is housed in an unassuming slice of strip mall, just across a weed choked lot from an exotic plants store that seemed untroubled with customers. A mounted photo inside the hall's break room featured two dour men with nineteenth-century neckbeards. A caption below explained that the Odd Fellows' organization had been established in August 1849 "to relieve the sick and bury the dead". Nearby photos commemorated the balls, parade floats and various Shrineresque charity functions that had transpired since.

The unspoken theme of this year's convention was Massive Frugality. That the convention was even being held in Sacramento was the direct result of the Lookout Records defection nine months earlier. Faced with a 25% income loss and priced out of the tech-swollen San Francisco real estate market, Mordam wisely removed itself to the land where billboards for Miller Genuine Draft still outnumber those addressing Linux issues. Taken with the loss of the Dead Kennedy's back catalog, the Lookout shortfall has abruptly opened a new chapter for Mordam. As with past conventions, representatives from Mordam's nearly fifty distributed labels gathered in two large meeting rooms to talk shop (the proceedings only occasionally punctuated by the conversational overlap through cloth covered room dividers). And, as with past conventions, the usual topics - marketing, the problem of a strong dollar in foreign markets, which records "stick to the wall", updated buying patterns of "the kids"- were dutifully addressed. But those few labels with deep pocketed constituencies were holding their good luck tales close to the vest.

The climactic third act convened after lunch. This was the "Major Labels / Advertising" discussion in the 1:30 - 3:00 time slot. A long talk ensued on the role of Mordam's slight intersections with the five major music companies and whether or not a long standing ban on engagement was still relevant. These conventions seem doomed to relive the same arguments every few years or so. Nine new staff members and a half dozen new labels guaranteed much revisiting of ground previously fought over. To those who hadn't endured such discussions, the urge to filibuster ran strong. Hit List editor Jeff Bale orated in the style of a man who had cornered his kids' friends in the kitchen with a lecture about the sixties. Newcomers repeatedly opened their remarks with the brutal phrase "I just wanna say....". Although the first Mord-Con of the 21st century lacked the wrath of the late Tim Yohannon on this issue, all the elements of squabble survived intact. Towards the end of the discussion, the name of The Cramps was repeatedly invoked as an example of how major labels betray their artists. Which occasionally bordered on the awkward, since Ivy & Lux from the Cramps were present for the entire argument (their new label, Vengeance, was picked up by Mordam last June), at times seemingly bemused by all the fuss.

The convention let out promptly at 5. The center hall was found to be packed with small boys in cummerbunds and teenage girls in pink dresses inhaling helium balloons. The Rollins family of Sacramento had rented the third meeting room for a banquet, and the lodge manager politely requested that the Mordam party clear the way. By 5:15, all evidence of a convention had been erased, and the wedding party presumably made merry long into the night.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Random iZone pictures

From the old fridge, r.i.p.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Misc I-zone photos

From the old fridge, r.i.p.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Random i-Zone photos

From the old fridge, R.I.P.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

Physical Flaws, Part 2

FROM THE ARCHIVES / CORRECTIONS DEPT. June 19 - This ran as an addendum to a column in Punk Planet 49, early 2002.


I feel pretty dumb now for having called Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling "those two ponytailed buttholes behind energy-broker Enron" in Punk Planet 41. Lay clearly has no poneytail. More importantly, I shouldn't have even hinted at passing myself off as someone with the remotest clue as to what that company did for money. I don't. They might as well have been in the inter-dimensional mustache trade for all I comprehend. Last week, the March issue of Business 2.0 - a useless New Economy rag whose mail department has cruelly decided not to honor the expiration date of my free subscription - arrived with Mr. Lay on its cover. The caption reads Liar!, and the man's nose has been painstakingly photoshopped by an extra 5 inches. This Pinocchio bit is a common fallback in the business magazine world, the same type of intellectual sloth that has music magazines running Take A Walk On The Wild Side as their article header when they can't come up with anything else. It is, one would hope, a fireable offense within the graphic design world.

But the magazine remains on my desk. I'm fascinated with this picture. Someone took the time to render the nose job as realistically as possible. It is far more brutal than Steve Martin's schnozzle in "Roxanne". Every pore and indentation and blemish has been added to this erect little face sausage. The faint cleft on the tip of Mr. Lay's real snout is faithfully retained. It's one of the most obscene things I've ever seen. The caption could just as easily read Lock Up Your Daughters! If someone from the 1950's saw this magazine, they would drop dead on the sidewalk from shock, shame, moral aneurysm. What's happening to this civilization?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Physical Flaws, Part 1

FROM THE ARCHIVES, June 18 - This originally posted on vermiform.com, 2/10/03


I’m not one to poke fun at folks’ physical flaws, but… has anyone noticed that the president of the United States has grown an extra mouth flap in the chaffed wattle just beneath his chin? This could be bad. If the spare mouth starts talking, people are going to listen. Odds are, the new oval orifice will parrot the political beliefs of the old oval orifice. But if the spare mouth starts giving orders contrary to those of the Commander In Chief, the constitution provides no clear directions as to which mouth should be obeyed. Isn’t this something the founding fathers should have foreseen?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Gremlins Of Blabber (2001)

FROM THE ARCHIVES. June 16 - This originally printed in Maximumrocknroll sometime in 2001.


Even in this enlightened era when humans can crash a probe into Mars, it's comforting to know that the world remains ripe with the most basic of mysteries. Right now there are no less than four major scientific enigmas, stubbornly refusing the largest of research budgets, lurking over the head of every cell phone user. That modern science can't solve even one of these riddles is proof enough for us cellularphobes. Am I among the anti? Even at this late date, I hold opposition to cell phones in the inner vault of my ever-eroding core beliefs. (Disclaimer; I also felt deep moral outrage at seeing the first Dead Kennedys compact disc in 1987, and I boycotted microwaves from ages 10-12 because I didn't want to eat "radioactive food"). Here goes:

This is the hardest one for me - unlike the other three, it requires a quick judgment call on making a scene. If you look around most US gas stations these days, somewhere underneath the filthy squeegie bins and unleaded notices, you'll usually find a small printed warning for motorists not to place calls while pumping, under penalty of explosion. The danger? Every activated cell phone transmits brief pulses along its circuits for maintenance - even a phone in someone's pocket could theoretically ignite gas vapors and detonate the underground storage tanks. These decals are discreet as a legal compromise - the oil companies want to protect their asses in future lawsuits, but, hey, no one wants to spoil the fun of pumping gas. So it's a rare warning sticker that appears at eye level. Meaning, I'm over here having a fucking coronary every time I see one of you chatting it up while I'm at the opposing pump. Why not just throw a lit cigarette down your tank? Is it really my job to shriek at you to turn that thing off before you kill us all??

Ok, the odds are actually higher of an ordinary static shock igniting a fireball. And if any kind of spark will do the trick, warnings should probably be posted against biting down on a Wintergreen Lifesavers while pumping gas. There's also evidence that activated cell phones have slowed or stopped fuel pump price counters, so there may also be some veiled self-interest in these warnings. If only Kinkos had placed similar notices on their exploitably flawed counter keys ("warning: tampering with this device could ignite your copy machine"), perhaps none of us would have tasted the joys of unlimited free copies from '94-'96. But who has the guts to be the Neil Armstrong of this particular potential scam?

Anyone who has had to deal with Guitar Face knows the hazards of multitasking. Guitar Face is what us non-musicians have to deal with every time we attempt to hold a conversation with one of you band member types while you're softly strumming some Queensryche riff. One moment you're an engaged, talkative adult, the next moment - blammo! - slack mouth, glazed eyes... Guitar Face. This is the facial version of what a computer does every time slowed processing makes it crawl to a halt. It's funny how the human brain can handle putting on one's pants while holding a conversation but apparently cannot handle playing a guitar while holding a conversation. The question here is if talking on the phone while driving is more like putting on pants or more like strumming a guitar. Studies are conflicting, although most people agree that it takes more computational power to hold a conversation with someone you can't see, since your brain is working harder to compensate for the lack of body language cues (I'm not sure how that jibes in car phone conversations with computerized voices). And the more brain cells you use to decipher verbal nuances means the less brain cells for stop signs and pedestrians. But none of the laws are consistent. In New York state, for example, phoning while driving can be legal in one county and illegal in the next. And the poor shmoes who continue to drive around with the early-to-mid-90's fake car phone they still think is a status symbol... it probably takes even more computational power to simulate a conversation for the benefit of passing drivers, so do these people get tickets?

I remember reading a few years ago about two Russian immigrants in New York who pointed a "scanner" out their apartment window at cars passing on the Van Wyck Expressway, captured random motorists' cell phone numbers and used the numbers to clone black market cell phones. Question; If I bought one of these mysterious devices at Radio Shack, captured the number of a random chatty motorist, followed their car, called them while they were pumping gas and managed to blow up their gas station, would I be prosecuted for just manslaughter or the full Murder One?

This one doesn't cause me much stress, and not just because my immediate pre-flight mind is usually preoccupied with midair collisions, pilot rage, seat-to-ass disease and/or the urge to blurt out a bomb joke. No, the nice thing about this situation is that I'm not required to make a scene my own self - there are always trained airline professionals on hand to deal with the offending callers, usually in terms far out of proportion to any actual danger. And unlike the life-endangering boors chatting at the Exxon pumps, the life-endangering boors on a flight can be tossed in federal prison if they don't hang up. A Saudi man (as I make a point of mumbling loudly every time I board a flight) recently received 70 lashes for making a call during takeoff.

What is this danger? Again, no one's quite sure. Certain devices in the cabin can interfere with certain devices in the cockpit. But only sometimes, and not in any way that makes sense. The airline ban is backed only by "anecdotal evidence", not hard science. Disruptions in the cockpit are based on strange electromagnetic conditions that are almost impossible to repeat in a controlled environment. WW2 pilots used to call these types of problems "gremlins". Not banned by the airlines are the gremlins stowed in portable voice recorders, pacemakers, electric shavers and hearing aids, although these devices pose the same threat. I've read that passengers with hearing aids have been shuffled from row to row until their flight's autopilot worked again, the same way people sometimes have to stand in different parts of a room before they can get a clear signal on their TV.

For the swell of people that grew accustomed to making lots of flights AND lots of cell phone calls in the 90's, the ban is treated with frustration and incredulity - "what, we can crash a probe into Mars, but I can't call my drycleaners?" Cell phone calls are also legal on private flights, and airlines still offer their own quadruple priced seat-back phones, so the whole setup looks suspicious to consumer rights groups, which translates into bitchy passengers, which translates into bitchy columns.

How did this one manage to bump "nuclear war" off the number one spot in the top ten of radiation fears? Lymphoma, tumors, memory loss, super powers... name any alleged radiation-induced health problem, and chances are cell phones will be creeping up the culprits list. But the manufacturers have been smarter than their cousins in the tobacco industry and are working overtime on an aggressive public relations & scientific studies two-front offensive. Cancer rate studies, like cockpit interference, is highly susceptible to claims of circumstantial evidence. Many of the studies currently underway are funded by phone companies and compress all the back & forth of every unproved health scare of the last twenty years - cholesterol, Alar, power line radiation. Hands free "earbuds", for example, were praised last year as a sure way to avoid dangerous radiation to the brain. This year they're suspected of increasing exposure. In February, the UK issued a leaflet warning children under 16 to use mobile phones only for "short and essential calls", but acknowledged elsewhere in the same leaflet that there were "significant gaps in our scientific knowledge". Personally, I'm waiting for the studies of health effects from mobile phone related embarrassment. I was at a show in Los Angeles last year when a frank conversation between two Spanish speaking women blurted over the PA. Maybe the fact that I couldn't tell what was being said added to the mystique, but I was sure thankful it wasn't my conversation up there. Based on my own anecdotal evidence, at least half the people I know with cell phones have some story of overhearing a conversation they shouldn't have. So who's overheard them?

I picture myself a year from now, driving around town with my shiny new cell phone like every other clod, having a gay old time chatting away, oblivious to the pedestrians leaping out of my path. Meanwhile, in a nearby nightclub, a roomful of people, some of them perhaps not even strangers, is treated to the following;

SAM: ... so it just, like, you know, hurts...
SAM: ... and it's all red, I mean really swollen.
UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: Yeah, yeah... that's rough.
SAM: I mean, I don't know. Should I see a doctor about it? The itchiness is just driving me crazy. And of course I can't scratch it in public...
UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: I don't know dude, I just don't know...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Misc random i-zone pics

From the old fridge, R.I.P.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

DJing in L.A. (2007)

FROM THE ARCHIVES, June 11 - This originally posted on my old Myspace blog, 9/5/07.

You've deejayed at the Cha Cha Lounge in Silverlake twice before, so tonight should be a breeze. You've brought your equipment, and a big bag of pretzels, and a fresh shirt. The room is festively decorated, and smells a little of bleach. Don't get nervous. Your old friend Andy Coronado tends bar. You and he share your most recent personal failures - he has started wearing wacky plaid shorts, you have been called "m'am" by a Starbucks employee just that afternoon - and then it is time to take your place in the back booth. It is good to get out of the house every once in a while. Don't forget to make eye contact with people. Human interaction is its own reward.

9:45 PM - Ben the filmmaker and Randy from the band No Age visit the booth and Randy tells you that, from a distance, he thought you were "a Filipino". Maybe you misheard that. It is good to see these guys. Later, you play "Mr. Big Dick" by Schooly D, and are told that this song apparently bums people out. No more blue material in tonight's set.

The goal of this trade is to play music both loud enough and good enough to make passers-by on the street reconsider liquor. As a DJ in L.A., you have an extra task; to make celebrities take notice of your skills. You don't see any celebrities in the bar, but that doesn't mean there aren't some in the neighborhood. Crank it up. There is a statistically real possibility that Loni Anderson will be passing the 2300 block of Glendale Boulevard at the exact moment you flawlessly segue from Negazione to Serge Gainsbourg and that, finding herself unexpectedly moved in equal parts by your flawless technique and stunning eclecticism, she will order her limo to pull over so she can call her lawyers and arrange for you to DJ her grandson's bar mitzvah or whatever. It's possible.

9:50 PM - Andy comes over to the booth and informs you that the music is too loud. Fine, you say with a curt smile, adding that you do find it a little odd that no one else in the entire bar has complained about the noise.

11:45 PM - A funny thing about deejaying; it gives you lots of time to recline in those plush leather booth seats and ponder all the mistakes you've made with your life. There have been so many. The bar's turntables sit idle before you; using two ipods, your job consists mostly of pushing the right button at the right moment. Try not to screw that one up too.

The eye searches for validation. You seek the tapping foot, the subtle head nods of reflection and appreciation. It's like all these people just came here to drink and don't even care about the music. One lady near the bar makes odd punching motions to the last tom rumbles of The Psychedelic Furs' "Love My Way", but her gesture is probably ironic.

12:45 AM - Ben and Randy and everyone else you know is gone. Andy has been consumed by customers. You still have hours to go. The seats are relaxing, the music is booming, Loni has not yet arrived. The passion has gone out of your set, and yet strangers continue to surge through the door. Young women in cowboy boots, angry guys with ugly beards, don't these people have jobs to get to? Won't somebody just turn the frigging music down so you can get some rest?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Natural Causes (2001)

FROM THE ARCHIVES, June 8 - This originally posted on vermiform.com, 3/19/01


Afghanistan's ruling Islamic militia, the Taliban, pulled a weird bit of PR jujitsu this week, declaring, after the fact, that the recent destruction of the giant, approximately 1,400 year old stone Buddhas of Bamiyan was not, as previously announced, a solemn duty of faith but instead nothing more than a momentary spasm of rage brought on by the perceived condescension in the United Nations' offer of hard cash to preserve the relics. Essentially, the destruction of the Buddhas is now being blamed on the very people who tried to save the Buddhas. "When your children are dying in front of you," said the Taliban envoy, "then you don't care about a piece of art." Like most Talibanic contortions, the complaint doesn't really make sense, but the leverage in this particular rationale is strangely rational - the hypocrisy of the UN in condemning the destruction of inanimate objects while turning a blind eye to the destruction of the Afghan people. Since the Taliban took power less than 3 years ago, the new government has denied jobs and basic medical service to all twelve million Afghan women, hanged prostitutes, stoned adulterers, banned TV and shaving and made displaced Afghans the world's largest body of internal refugees. And while it's not entirely fair to blame UNESCO (which, as the UN cultural agency, can only be concerned with the preservation of artistic artifacts) for the lopsided reaction of the west, it is kind of disheartening to read that the UN is calling for "new international laws to punish cultural vandalism" while the far graver human rights outrages get no such attention.

Also - isn't 1,400 years kind of a long run for any human artifact? After all, the world's largest Buddha (it'll be three times taller than the Statue of Liberty), currently under construction in Bodhgaya, India, is only expected to last a millennium. Albert Speer, architect of the Third Reich, envisioned imperial Berlin as nothing more than weed choked ruins after the thousand year mark. Not to be blasé about the Afghan Buddha explosions, but hey - nothing lasts forever. Machu Picchu, the lost Inca city of Peru, is on the verge of sliding down a mountain. The net result of both forms of ruin remains.... ruin. Shouldn't human folly be considered as random a factor as natural disaster, erosion and decay? If so, then perhaps the builders of the new Buddha colossus should start hedging their bets now. The greatest threat to their new statue could come not from the extremes of a thousand rainy seasons, but from Scientologists and Rastafarians, two religions that are roughly the same age as Islam was when the Afghan Buddhas were erected. If Afghanistan has had three rulers in just the last ten years, who knows who will control upper India by 3001?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Born Against, Again (2007)

BALONEY TIME, June 5 - Here's a new barometer of how bad the economy has gotten; Declining Ex-Band Valuation. In 1998, I was offered $5,000 to license records by my old band, Born Against, to German reissue label Lost & Found (a suspiciously generous amount from a label known for bootlegging pretty much any American release they wanted). In 2006, the band was offered flights and hotels to play one of the unfortunate CBGB benefit/farewell shows. So it came as a bit of a jolt this week when the band - now 16 years gone - was offered naught but a free meal to reunite for something called Liskfest in Orange County. At this rate, we'll be haggling over a single Dorito chip when we finally do reunite in 2017.

The Liskfest people would do well to consider the new, new Born Against, who seem like they might appreciate a hot meal. If they're still together. I wrote about them two years ago, on my old Myspace blog, and at the time the story seemed to have strong legs. I really looked forward to a few years of fresh comedy material from these guys. But it looks like things didn't pan out. Maybe version 4.0 will have better luck.

Oddly, the two pieces below were written right before the very first Born Against - the one preceding the version I sang for - surfaced on Myspace. They're good!
Or were good, I mean!


Born Against is playing shows again. This time around, it's a bunch of fellows from Columbus Ohio. Each looks like the kind of guy your older brother might buy pot from. The bass player wears a doo-rag and a sly little goatee. The lead singer, a big bear of a man, is ominously named Gar. Because my version of Born Against stole the band name from an early 80's Orange County punk group (the first Born Against had one photo in Flipside, a mention in Alternative Tentacle's "Let Them Eat Jellybeans" liner notes, and no recordings), 2007's B.A. have airtight squatters rights. With time, the name might evolve into a franchise, like the Blue Man Group, or Jiffy Lube. The band is still unsigned; perhaps someone at the newly repurposed vermiform.com can remedy this.

Still, the new Born Against have a long haul ahead of them. On their photo page, there's a sad picture of the old band name on the marquee at the Alrosa Villa on Sinclair road, with but one distant, lonely car in the parking lot (the one in the foreground looks abandoned). This is the same club where Nathan Gale, convinced that members of Pantera could read his mind and were laughing at him, shot and killed Dimebag Darryl on stage, three years ago. Personally, I wouldn't want to play that club to one carload of people. But being the lead singer of Born Against is a hard road. Gar has come character-building challenges coming up.


The new, new Born Against seems to have made some enemies after just one show. This is impressive. It took Born Against 1.0 (meaning 2.0, see last post) a dozen shows to get in any real trouble. A fresh Myspace page lists the current band as a gay / transgendered / "homocore" act, and there are a lot of rainbow motifs and photos of nearly nude bodybuilders. It could be genuine, but my strong hunch is that modern central Ohio hard rock enthusiasts disrespect each other by establishing fake Myspace pages just like this one. It's a little confusing.

Their first show had such promise - what with the "hot ass midget girl" flashing her "perfect little set of titties" - that it's hard to believe things have sunk so low so fast. Is frontman Gar fully prepared to live the B.A. experience in one twelfth the time?