Thursday, December 30, 2010

Walking Dead Finale & Taco Leg, Karoshi, Lotus Fucker at Wasted Dream

Sunday, December 5th...

Feeling assaulted by the wind and starving, I entered Chipotle with Pat Vogel and Rob Santucci. The fast food restaurant in DC overflowed with people and the line depressed me. I was so cold that I stuttered as I thought about the wind and made no sense as I talked. Rob gave me an odd look, hoping that I would begin finishing my sentences with words that made sense.

From the Chipotle, we went to our friend Dan's house. His basement, when he hosts shows, is also known as Wasted Dream. Anyway, he offered not only to have Taco Leg from Australia play in his basement, but also to drive them around on their East Coast tour for a week. Taking him up on his offer, they seemed friendly and comfortable as they set up their merchandise on top of Dan's washer and dryer.

I enjoyed seeing Lotus Fucker. Dan sang their songs with intensity. I comfortably watched from his basement stairs as I ate my Chipotle. Pat's uneaten burrito sat in a bag on top of one of the amps as he played his guitar. The line at Chipotle made us a little late. (OK - we waited too long to hit the Chipotle...)

I didn't get into Taco Leg. They are a three-piece, melodic punk band who tend to play three-chord songs. I got bored listening to them. I like pop punk. I don't need every band to hit notes at a million miles a minute. I love singing along with Screeching Weasel, Jawbreaker and The Descendents. So much fun. Taco Leg, though, unlike those other bands, played meandering pop songs.

Pat and I left the show promptly to catch the season finale of Walking Dead. I had made vegan zombie-finger cookies to share, which were finger-shaped, shortbread cookies with raspberry jam instead of blood and almonds wiped with maple syrup instead of fingernails. Several friends gathered in Pat's living room and we settled in for the show.

Walking Dead is a television show based on a comic book series. The premiere's opening sequence reminded me of the opening of 28 Days Later, which both start off with a person waking up in a hospital unaware that a virus has transformed a good chunk of the population into aggressive, flesh-eating zombies. The acting in the Walking Dead is decent and some character development occurs. The caste may be a little large, but maybe the zombies will whittle down the numbers in future episodes.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Citizens Arrest

Last weekend, I got to hear a band play that I never thought I'd get to see perform: Citizens Arrest. They are a late 1980s, early 1990s hardcore band from New York City. I saw both Citizens Arrest sets in Philadelphia. So incredible. Their first weekend tour in around twenty years with all of the original members. Each musician in the band has skill and, while their music unfurls with speed and intensity, they also deliver hooks. The vocalist may growl, but his vehemence has purpose. His anger presents political lyrics protesting powerlessness and the abuse of power.

During the first set, I almost got knocked down a narrow, steep flight of concrete stairs near the stage. I landed hard a few inches from the edge of the first step, which seemed to freak out a group of people who picked me up and kept asking me if I was alright. Anyway, I didn't get hurt and I'm glad that I could see the stage, because watching Citizens Arrest play up close was inspiring - do I lose credibility calling a hardcore band "transcendent?"

Citizens Arrest made some jokes about a song being written about how hard it is to be in high school. They took all of their music seriously. They still have got it. Daryl Kahan forcefully belted out the lyrics with intensity and personality. I finger pick my bass. I loved watching Joseph Martin, the bassist for Citizens Arrest, finger pick his bass. He was playing so fast and his three fingers flew across his strings. His nimble fingers seemed to perform a dance and his dexterity achieved a sound that was downright amazing.

During their first show, Citizens Arrest did an SSD (a Boston hardcore band from the 1980s) cover. During their second show, Citizens Arrest did a cover of a Youth of Today (xNYHCx) song. Unfortunately, the guy who accepted the invitation to take over the mic got confused and had trouble remembering the lyrics. Otherwise, people seemed to be really getting into the music - singing and lunging to join in singing choruses. The second show in Philly had fewer people, but was probably even more fun for me than the first show. I was right next to the stage again, but in a pain-free spot. Plus, I enjoyed seeing Asshole Parade, who opened and played a great set. They flew up North from Florida for the weekend tour with Citizens Arrest. The members of Asshole Parade tried to convince me that they weren't experiencing temperature shock because of some wintry weather in Florida. (As I write this blog entry, it's snowing outside in DC, which is why I'm probably going off on a slight tangent about temperatures.) They said that the Citizens Arrest show in New York City was even better than the shows in Philadelphia.

Citizens Arrest did play a new song. Yes. It sounded forceful like their classic hardcore songs. Maybe that means another album or at least another 7"? Hmmmm...

I heard a rumor that Citizens Arrest may play a show in DC in March. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Government Issue, The Goons, Set to Explode

I walked up the stairs and toward the main stage as Set to Explode was setting up. The dark room made it difficult to spot friends and was packed with people. This show was truly a reunion show. All of the bands were from DC and all of them broke up several years ago.

Set to Explode played a spirited set. The singer, Dave Bird, joked that he's not used to playing on such a big stage after he tripped over one of the monitors, hurting himself so that blood ran down his neck. He reported that they only had six original songs and, then, the band played them all with heart. They also played a few cover songs with panache. Seriously. They covered Black Market Baby's "Drunk and Disorderly" with Boyd Farrell, Black Market Baby's singer, on vocals. So, cool. They also covered a few Marginal Man songs similarly with guests.

The Goons played a super long set. Their vocalist has a great voice that reminds me of Jello Biafra's voice. When I saw him singing for Nervous Impulse last month, someone actually called out for a Dead Kennedy's cover. Anyway, he seems to enjoy singing and the band sounded together. Nevertheless, I began to look at the time as they played and played and played. Again, people seemed to be getting into them and I did too. They are a fun band. At this show, though, they seemed set to play for all eternity.

Government Issue, hardcore veterans from DC who not only have an early 80s sound, but were actually playing in the early 80s, took the stage and everyone went wild. They started off strong with one of their more popular songs, "Teenager in a Box." It's probably my favorite GI song. I love their old stuff in particular. Anyway, John Stabb, the singer, handled the mike with energy and experience. The band sounded like, rather than a reunion show, they still played together regularly. Still, they too played a super long set. Headlining... maybe some people there hoped to hear every GI song. As the hours (literally) passed, the set got a little long for me, but I'm thrilled they returned to the stage and obviously were into the music. I heard once that Kevin Seconds said that no hardcore band should play beyond a half an hour. I disagree, but, at the same time, a three band show shouldn't last for over four hours... Still, when Government Issue played their last song, a cover of "These Boots are Made for Walking," I sang along, relishing the music and the moment.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Libyans, State Violence, Hot Mess

Slow to post - been so busy lately. Anyway, a show that is a definite highlight of the last month - Libyans, State Violence, Cell Graft, Gash and Hot Mess at the Hole in the Sky. Zack tried to record the whole thing and succeeded with Hot Mess and The Libyans.

OK... I got to Hole in the Sky late and missed Cell Graft, who are from Tampa, and Gash, from Philadelphia. They are nice guys and I heard they were great. Cell Graft was described as Assuck-style grindcore.

I like KC's voice in Hot Mess, which is a DC band that started playing shows this summer. They offer simple, fun, punk songs. They seem to be enjoying themselves and I hope to see them play again soon.

The Libyans are a punk band from Boston. They were touring after the release of their new album, A Common Place. They sounded amazing live. I love how Liz's vocals come across as forceful and aggressive, but still melodic. The bassist played some impressive, complex rhythms. The guitarist raced his fingers across his fretboard, producing a whirlwind of notes. Somehow, the band is catchy without sacrificing speed and intensity. To top things off at the show, they played a Descendent's cover. Very cool, in my opinion.

The Libyans spent the night at the Chill Factory and we talked some there after the show. Such friendly people. So open to eating vegan jumbo slice pizza from Duccini's.
Offbeat side note - one of the members of the Libyans posted an ad on Craigslist in which he pretended to be a ridiculously wealthy, shallow, self-involved misogynist looking for a girlfriend to wait on him as a maid and cook. He listed his interests as diamonds, stocks (I believe? - I should look at the book to verify that "interest.") and himself. He got a ton of responses. Some of the messages were written as applications with pictures and measurements. I read one message in which the girl promised him that her hair never gets messed up and that she knows how to dress for society functions. Other messages amounted to a pile of venom catapulted across computer screens in a Times New Roman format. One woman offered to yank the silver spoon from his ass. Also, I read several messages in which women cajoled him for placing too much emphasis on money, suggesting that he should try to get a woman to love him for who he is and not for his net worth. The guy put his original solicitation with all of the responses into a book and published it. The last I saw, the book adorned a coffee table at the Chill Factory. (Chris Moore goes on cleaning rampages, so I doubt the book will remain on the table long enough to collect dust. They have some big bookcases...)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Youth Brigade

On November 12, I went with Pat Vogel to hear Youth Brigade play at the Sidebar in Baltimore. Whoa ho ho ho ho ho. I haven't listened to Youth Brigade recently, but their sing-a-long lyrics came back to me when they started playing. Youth Brigade formed in 1980, which means that "youth" isn't the first word that jumps to mind when you see the band members take the stage. They are and have been emphasizing, however, that "youth" can be a state of mind - challenging the world, striving to educate yourself, and remaining energetic. They appear to be true believers in DIY and in working toward positive political and social change.

The Sidebar sold out. When Youth Brigade played "Sink with Kalifornija," I sang with a big chunk of the swaying and jumping crowd. I left feeling energized and lucky that I'd gotten to see an amazing, California, punk band that started playing 30 years ago. Wow.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Rations & Hjertestop at La Casa - almost, but not quite, Coke Bust

On Thursday, I went to the Coke Bust record release show at La Casa. Coke Bust did not end up playing. The show started with Rations playing to a full house. As the band performed its final two songs, people jumped and sang along. Flinging his cast around, even Jason Toner paced across the mosh pit. (He was speeding down a hill on his bike a few weeks ago when someone hit him with a car door. The collision shattered the bones in his arm - a metal plate; I don't remember the exact details of his surgery.) No additional arm injuries for him.

Cop Stabber played and, bored, I retreated outside. I was talking with some friends while, near us, a drunk, homeless man laid on the sidewalk and a drugged-up, dirt-encrusted kid stumbled into clusters of people talking. A business on the block called the police. Mark Anderson from Positive Force, who acted as an envoy for the space, pled with the homeless man to accept help and go to a shelter. An expressionless officer stationed himself next to the homeless man and watched Mark try to convince the man to leave. Meanwhile, the drugged kid stared at his shoes and swayed slightly for several minutes before reeling over. A trouble seeker, who is banned from a few clubs in DC, told a police officer that the band playing was called Cop Stabber. The police went inside.

For the audience, it was probably surreal seeing cops enter while Cop Stabber played. I don't know their lyrics and was just glad that they hadn't started some anti-cop diatribe while the cops dealt with underage drunks, the drugged up kid, and the homeless man. One of the officers left La Casa pointing inside and saying that the band had a stupid name, but the guys were alright. The officer smiled and said that he shook the singer's hand.

Mark Anderson was flustered and someone important from La Casa had walked by, witnessing the chaos. I got the impression that the La Casa representative was angry to the point of prohibiting future shows in the spot. Mark broadcasted that the show must be over by 10:15 at the latest. The time was 9:40 and Hjertestop, from Denmark, and the headliner, Coke Bust had not played. Yes, Coke Bust are from DC, but it was their American record release. Chris' (the drummer's) mom had come to the show. She told me that she'd seen Chris' other band, Magrudergrind, but she'd never seen Coke Bust play.

Coke Bust yielded to Hjertestop, who played an absolutely amazing, tight set. I saw Hjertestop play last year (?) at WMUC with Government Warning and Sick Fix. Hjertestop lacked the flare and confidence of Government Warning. At the 2010 show, Hjertestop attained a better balance between the volume of the vocals and the instruments. Their songs channeled passion and they played with spirit. So worthwhile. I'm glad that at least Hjertestop played their amazing set before the clock stopped on the show.

Chris gave a brief speech before Hjertestop played, explaining how people need to respect show spaces more. He emphasized that underage drinking shuts shows down. He advised that it isn't about being straight-edge, but is about a duty to the community. Otherwise, bands won't have a place to play music. He told the crowd that he knows it's only a handful of people causing problems. The same people repeatedly. He complained that if those people insist on drinking, at the very least they could avoid swinging a beer bottle around in front of the venue with the subtlety of a runway flag drawing in the police. Even if the flamboyant drinkers are the minority, they can end shows for everyone. I heard Chris' mom telling Chris as I left La Casa that she was sad the one band had to play so long and that she didn't get to see Coke Bust play. Coke Bust, of course, will play again...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Just Wrote Lyrics

I wrote these lyrics for my new band with Pat, Joey, and Dan, although I don't know if Pat wants to sing them:

Song 1
When words reassuring
fall like iron
Crack the ground apart
underneath my feet
But maybe that just means
I need to find another place to take my stand

Shallow promises
Suggest compromises
A voice of honey, ice
and broken bottles
Take and make my own power

Song 2
Relief like the battered silence
at the end of a storm
The story seems to end
but the book doesn't close

People living in tunnels
Children abused
Caste aside
The refused
But the chance exists
I will persist
An infinity of things that might be

I refuse to cower
dreams have power
even in a world with
parts so sour
An infinity of things that might be

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Quick October

Fall is a busy time. I've seen several shows without writing a word about them. I loved the DOC and Shoppers show at La Casa. The singer for Shoppers, Meredith, is incredibly friendly and talkative. I spent a long time talking about everything from matryoshka dolls to food with her. At La Casa, the band had some problems with equipment and Meredith's voice was drowned out by the sound of the band's instruments. DOC has never sounded better. The heavy bass got into my bones. The acoustics at La Casa made DOC sound all the more intense.

This Saturday, I went to Youngblood Fest in Baltimore, Maryland. So many bands, so much youth-crew style music. The line-up: Iron Age, Lion of Judah, No Tolerance, Police & Thieves, Rival Mob, Brick, Sacred Love, Give, Mob Mentality, Stick Together, Noose, and Bad American. Plus, Vegan Treats sold whoopie sandwiches there - chocolate and peanut butter or pumpkin and cream. Delicious. Our friend Joey from Chicago, who plays drums for Noose, gave me and Pat a sticky bun that the Chicago group had gotten from Vegan Treats the night before. An amazing, gooey, pecan-covered treat.

I enjoyed listening to Noose who delivered fast and furious hardcore. The singer from Razor Fade catapulted toward the stage to sing along with a cover song and took over the microphone for a little while. Between songs, Noose's singer broke into a speech about being vegan and straight edge. He berated listeners that if they'd been in the scene for longer than a year and were still eating meat, he considers them weak or heartless. Pretty militant. When Stick Together played, the singer praised Noose's performance, while also commenting that he eats meat.

No Tolerance from Boston, Massachusetts were incredibly tight and their singer, Justin from Mind Eraser, has a strong voice. I heard them last year and they impressed me then. They stood out for me among all of the bands who played the fest. I hope to see them again.

After No Tolerance played, Pat and I got take-out food from One World, a vegan cafe and sandwich shop. We also picked up a couple of items for our friends. I ordered the vegetable jambalaya. Pat got the steak and cheese for himself and Brian Lam, who was playing drums for Mob Mentality. Jason Toner got the meatball sub. One World uses the popular Daiya cheese and their mock meat has a good texture in the sandwiches. The sausage in the jambalaya tasted like Yves Sweet Italian Veggie Sausage that I tend to avoid, because of its mushy texture and artificial flavor. Regardless, for jambalaya, I'd prefer a spicier sausage or chorizo.The vegetables were soggy, although the restaurant mixed in a nice array of peppers, tomato, corn and onions. We passed our friend Andy Norton as we were walking back to the show. He labeled the jambalaya as tasting like something he'd fish out of the frozen food section of the grocery store and the food generally from One World as bland. I love spicy food and he was being a little too harsh. I really do think the sandwiches look filling and the bite I had of Pat's steak and cheese was tasty.

Rival Mob did an unexpected Misfits cover of Where Eagles Dare, which was fun. I was shocked, though, when the singer acted like they'd just played an obscure song given the fact that you can purchase Misfits merchandise even from Hot Topic at your local mall.

We left right before Iron Age took the stage. We got to the show before the first band started playing at around 2:15 p.m. We got to my house at around 10:30 p.m.

Oh - one last thing - I bought an extra-small, hot pink, girl's t-shirt with the Youngblood Records logo. Pat coveted my shirt. He complained that Youngblood failed to make neon pink t-shirts in men's sizes. Heads up to what might happen if Pat takes charge of making shirts for one of the bands he is in...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Drop Dead and Systematic Death in NYC at Europa

On Saturday, Pat, Rob, Dan, and I drove to New York City to see the Inmates (Ohio), Drop Dead (Rhode Island), and Systematic Death (Japan!) play at Europa.

We got to New York as the doors were opening for the show. We walked a few blocks from the venue to Pappacitas, a burrito place. I got a big, amazing burrito stuffed with beef seitan, soy cheese, black beans, salsa, and rice. Pappacitas took a long time filling our orders. Rob got his burrito first and had finished it before the rest of us got anything. Dan got his food next. Pat and I told them to leave and we'd catch up with them, since we knew that waiting would cause them to miss some of The Inmates' set.

The Inmates - By the time Pat and I finished with our food, The Inmates had played their last note. Apparently, Europa was hosting a Polish dance night after the show was done, which required everyone to adhere to a strict schedule. We did, however, see The Inmates at an after show. They unapologetically reminded people and informed newcomers that they'd used the word "faggot" at the beginning of the Europa show. Jerks.

Drop Dead - mowed people over with the force of their music. The singer yelled about how eating meat is murder and called those who eat the flesh of animals "blood mouths." Then, he complained that he felt sick from the flu and needed to keep the set short.

Systematic Death - systematically destroyed.

Teun Voeten on "Tunnel People"

I rushed from work to Pat's house to Sticky Fingers where I gulped down a salad with mock pepper steak and ginger miso dressing. No friend was working there last night. Then, Pat and I jumped in my car and scrambled to the lecture by Teun Voeten at La Casa.

Teun Voeten is a journalist and photographer from the Netherlands who wrote a book called "Tunnel People." I've started, but not finished, reading it. In the mid-1990s, he spent five months living in the Amtrak railroad tunnels below New York City with the "tunnel dwellers." He said that he originally intended to do an objective, anthropological study, but ended up connecting and befriending the people he met in the dark, rat-infested underground. Voeten spoke with almost a nostalgic pride about his acceptance by the "tunnel community."

Ultimately, New York relocated the tunnel people. Project Renewal offered rehab, as well as vocational and educational programs. And New York stepped in with Section 8 housing. Voeten returned to subterranean Manhattan recently with some of his friends from the tunnel and found the place "eerily empty." So, his book may fall into the category of history, but gives a face to people who cannot afford housing.

Voeten said that he'd spoken to some college students in Virginia earlier in the day and that he was unsettled that none of them had heard of Spike Lee. He feels like young people in America are harder on people who are poor and addicted to cocaine or crack. He insists that business people on Wall Street use tons of cocaine, but the general public in America excuses them because of their wealth. He said that addiction is more understandable for the mentally ill or people without love or professional goals. He realizes crack may consume those in poverty and prevent them from rebuilding their lives, but he is angry that people judge them so harshly while the Wall Street tycoons retain respect.

While conceding that some of the tunnel people had mental health issues, Voeten focused on the ingenuity and independence of the dwellers. Bernard, a middle-aged veteran of the tunnels, kept spices and food sealed in metal boxes to prevent the rats from contaminating them. Every day, he rigorously collected cans for recycling money. Voeten still labels Bernard a "close friend." Voeten offhandedly added that Bernard sometimes fed cats, which frustrated several tunnel dwellers who wanted their cats to eat only tunnel rats. According to Voeten, many of the dwellers kept cats.

Voeten explained that the tunnel people regarded the tunnels as their homes. He said that many of them did not consider themselves homeless, because they had a place to go. How could they be vagrants if they slept in the same spot every night? They followed routines in the same neighborhoods, among the same people. Voeten said that some of the tunnel dwellers looked down their noses at the more nomadic and traditional homeless. The Tunnel dwellers considered themselves, according to Voeten, "the creme-de-la-creme of the displaced."

The lecture lasted for about an hour and a half. During the question-and-answer period, a disheveled, white man with a long, unkempt beard who was probably in his 50s stood up. He shouted at Voeten, asking him how how he felt about the room being filled with white people. The man flung his hands around, pointed at Mark Anderson from Positive Force who was leaning against a wall, and yelled: "And him. And him." Voeten responded that the lecture was open to the public and that he was just happy that some people showed up to listen to him. The man muttered about over-educated, white people and, then, added with a toothless smile that he liked listening because it was free, but was hoping for a movie instead. Then, he left. A woman complimented Voeten on his photography. Voeten seemed genuine and flattered that anyone was listening to him.

I'm still working through how I feel about Voeten's take on the tunnel people. As a public defender, I interact with so many clients with mental health issues. I often act partially as a social worker and try to help my homeless clients. I, of course, see them as real people with backstories. I worry, though, because living on the streets can jeopardize their safety, health, and sanity. A few years ago, I found a group home willing to take in my schizophrenic, homeless client. He refused to go, because he felt like I was sending him to a cult. He preferred to stay in the jail. It's important to feel like you have some control over your life. I recognize that moving into a group home or shelter may make an individual feel like s/he is giving up control and losing independence. Maybe even losing autonomy... But the insecurity of homelessness...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Russian Debutante's Handbook

Gary Shteyngart writes about Vladimir Girshkin, an American citizen who came to New York City from Russia and is trying to impress people. The year is 1994. The theme of the book: Vladimir wants to fit in. He meets a girl who lives in Manhattan, considers herself an intellectual, and becomes interested in Vladimir possibly because she thinks he looks a little like Trotsy. He wants to be in love with her and enjoys doing things like shopping for organic toothbrushes. She makes him spend so much money on clothing, food, and wine that he starts scamming an elderly Russian gentleman with a son who is a Russian mob boss. Related to his quest for cash, he almost gets raped, which somehow results in his fleeing to Prava, an up-and-coming East European City right after the fall of the Soviet Union.


In Prava, Vladimir joins the Russian mob in order to protect himself and because cynicism seems easier than hope. He scams people, adopts shallow friendships, and remains scared. The expats he encounters in Prava seem uncomfortable with themselves and are trying to reinvent their identities. Peope want to be more creative, strong, spiritual, or dangerous. They seek validation or vengeance. Most of them are living on cash from their parents.

I loved some of the New York characters, especially an elderly man who liked to sing old Russian anthems with his fan. The Prava characters just fell flat. although I do like Vladimir's love interest, Morgan. She is maybe the only character in the whole book who seeks to be true to herself, although she wants to save people or fight for principles that she doesn't entirely understand.

The Russian boss who employs Vladimir is a caricature of an aggressive, erratic, violent, and uncultured mobster. He's called "The Groundhog." The story falls apart as Vladimir navigates in a city of stereotypes. I liked the ending, though, and won't spoil it in case you want to read this book.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lotus Fucker & Nukkehammer in Baltimore and DC

Lotus Fucker (DC), State Violence (DC/MD) and Nukkehammer (Columbus, OH) offered fast, loud, noisy sets in the basement of a house in Baltimore on September 10th. Meanwhile, upstairs, someone held a rave party. State Violence thundered through their set, sounding great. Then, the atmosphere in the room changed. As the Nukkehammer drummer hit his drums with artillery gun speed, a girl near me slowly rolled her hips and flailed her arms like she was trying to doggy paddle. Nukkehammer is going for that crusty, Swedish sound. While attempting to deliver some brutal punk, in Baltimore, they inspired folk-style gyrations .

When Lotus Fucker started playing, the lights went out. Their music boomed through the dark - extra loud given Pat's stack of amps that nearly touched the ceiling. Plus, a huge line of peddles layered on the distortion, which reinforced the sense of confusion in the pitch black room. A strobe light pulsed on and suddenly I discovered Dan, the Lotus Fucker singer, right in front of me. Giggling strangers nearby tore apart and, then, tossed glo sticks around. Green dots began to shine on my Rations shirt, my arm, and my leg. Christine, from State Violence, growled about glowing as she rubbed at the incandescent green and orange blotches on her skin. Movement in the strobe light appeared choppy and incoherent. I thought about seizures and stared at the chaos. Some girl tried to combine a hippy dance move, waiving her arms toward the ceiling as if she was trying to invoke rain, with a slam dance, bumping into people. The whole thing seemed surreal to me. Our friend Rob, who just moved here from New Jersey and went to Canada with Lotus Fucker last week, labeled it the best Lotus Fucker show ever. Dan seemed confused, pointing out that the band was much tighter in New York and the confusion with lights had thrown the band of in his opinion.

On Saturday, Lotus Fucker played in DC with Nukkehammer again. The show was in Dan's basement, which was hot and the audience was sparse. Sizzling bands, though. Lotus Fucker sounded much tighter and produced a true wall of sound. Nukkehammer seemed a little less like head on, brutal hardcore. The basement was hot and the crowd was thin. Dan, however, seemed annoyed that he kept seeing people walk by with cups from his kitchen. He asked: "Isn't it enough I'm letting them into my basement?" Jon, the drummer from Lotus Fucker responded: "OK, Dan. 'Dear HeartattaCk'." In the parking lot, some of Dan's neighbors danced in an open garage, participating in a Rhythm and Blues block party. I could hear The Temptations singing about sunshine on a cloudy day as I waited for Lotus Fucker to set up. I turned down invitations from them to form a dance line as I helped Lotus Fucker load up Pat's van.

PS I asked the drummer of Nukkehammer how to pronounce his band's name. He told me that it's a made up name, so I can pronounce it any way I like. He pronounces it "Nuke Hammer."

Monday, September 6, 2010

Skin Failure, Spine Buster, Warbound

A few of my friends' bands played at the Quarry House in Silver Spring, Maryland this afternoon. The show started on time at 2:00 p.m. and I was a half an hour late, which means that I missed Warbound's first show. And I really wanted to see them. Jason Toner, who is playing drums for Warbound, told me that they hit the breaks right and held it together. I'm looking forward to hearing their demo and hope they play another show soon.

Spine Buster apparently got their name from a wrestling maneuver. Don't confuse the move with the Back Breaker, which merely involves a timely knee to the back. To do the Spine Buster, you must charge your opponent and land on him or her. So, the band Spine Buster seeks musical momentum. I had fun watching them and they seemed to have a great deal of fun playing. I'd even describe them as enthusiastic about putting on a good show. I perched up on top of a chair that gave me a perfect view of them.

The Quarry House is below an Indian restaurant, which makes it difficult to find. The room in the Quarry House where bands play is basically a corridor with a dead end. The room is narrow and long with low ceilings. When Sick Fix played at the Quarry House in December, someone raised a fist to the ceiling and accidentally smashed one of the string lights arranged in a network around the front of the room. The glass cut the guy's hand deeply enough that he had to go to the hospital. In other words, the acoustics are poor in the venue and the slender width makes it challenging for people to move to the music. My friends, however, report that Quarry House serves the best tater tots in the DC area.

The last band that I saw was Skin Failure. They played solid hardcore, even performing a cover of Minor Threat's "Bottled Violence," which inspired people to sing along. I love hearing Minor Threat covers. Dan's voice raised comfortably above the sound of the instruments and I enjoyed their whole set.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Not Guilty

This week, I made my way through a stressful trial. The landmines I operated around had less to do with the facts of the case and more to do with the hostility of the Assistant State's Attorney handling the case. She shouted "object" like she had turrets syndrome and lacked self-control. For two straight days of trial, she screamed and glared at me. She objected during my opening statement, during both my cross-examination and my direct-examination of the witnesses, and during my closing argument. She remained ever vigilant, ever wrong as the judge constantly overruled her loud, attention-seeking objections.

At one point during my closing, I uttered the words: "David Markham and Avery Posey," when I heard her battle cry again: "objection." Honestly, she objected to me saying their names. I had said nothing but their names. When I got to the bench, she hooted out speculations about where I might be going with those names, the names of the two people who the police had arrested, informing the judge that he needed to set ground rules. The judge also felt browbeat, I think, and let her ramble for a while.

At one point, the judge said that he felt like we should all try to relax for a moment, take a breath, and try to make things less emotional. His efforts to calm her down failed.

She was abrasive. I was told by other people in the courtroom that she seemed so violently angry, that they felt like her head was about to pop off - geyser-style. Jerry, one of the other public defenders in my office, asked her the next day for her health insurance card. He told her that he was expecting a blood vessel to burst the way she was shouting in her closing argument. He said that she certainly wasn't going to be conscious to hand the information over to the ambulance people after her blood vessel popped, so she should at the very least give us an emergency contact.

For me, she made the trial difficult, because she constantly interrupted my flow. I felt bombarded by her visible hostility and disadvantaged by the difficulty of presenting a cohesive argument in the face of constant interruptions. She stressed me out, but, fortunately, was unable to make me lose my train of thought. Her barking complaints added to the pressure of the moment. I already was representing an individual in a trial in which his future relied on my ability to show flaws in the government's case or explain our defense to the charges against him. This ASA's attempts to bludgeon me with complaints lacked success. She personally attacked me in her closing argument with screams of "Ms. Righter" as she asserted that I was attempting to trick people and misstated what I'd said previously. Interrupting and abusing an opponent is not a fair strategy. Ridiculing him or her and distorting his or her words is wrong. I felt emotionally drained. I wish I could attach an audio clip so that you could listen to the venom in her tone and recognize that I'm not exaggerating.

The jury's verdict: NOT GUILTY. Maybe her ill-temper backfired on her. At least the jury understood that just because she spoke the loudest, didn't mean that she made sense.

Lauriol Plaza


Last weekend, Pat and I bicycled from his house to the zoo, which meant we worked up an appetite for dinner. So, as the clock hit 6:00 p.m., we made our way to Lauriol Plaza, which offers amazing Mexican food. The salsa tasted fresh and flavorful with a hint of chipotle. The tortilla chips were hot and replenished whenever they got low.
For an appetizer, Pat ordered corn tamales, which were sweet and seemed to melt in my mouth. For dinner, we both ordered the vegetable fajitas. So good. The chef marinated the vegetables and grilled them so that they retained crunch, but lost bitterness. Plus, the variety of vegetable in the fajitas was great in terms of flavor and texture - asparagus, portabella mushrooms, plantains, cauliflower, broccoli, onions, red peppers, green peppers... You can see in the picture. Moreover, the tortillas were hot from the oven. Pat and I both stuffed ourselves.
On the downside, a lot of young, urban professionals crowded the bar area ordering drinks and laughing like high-pitched birds. Pat and I ignored the happy-hour group. Their commitment to mingling around the bar granted us the opportunity to get a table without waiting.
The food, though, was delicious. Our water glasses, chip basket, and salsa bowl never became empty. My advice: go to Lauriol Plaza if you want Mexican food in DC.

Socialcide, Rations, Dry Spell, Gut Reactions

This show brought down the Corpse Fortress a little over a week ago. The bands all played with fast-paced intensity.
Rations, a DC, straight-edge band, was amazing and sounded tighter than ever.
(Pictures of Rations.)

Socialcide is a band from Virginia with a couple of straight-edge members, but they are not straight edge. Regardless, Parsons, their bassist (who is also the singer for Rations), still felt inspired to yell out "straight edge." Right after he shouted, the light illuminating the room went out. They played their next song in cell-phone dotted darkness, with a few people holding up their cell phones like people used to hold up lighters to request an encore. Someeone brought in a lamp and placed it on top of an amp. The lamp fell and busted. From where I sat on the stairs, I could see the guitarist put his foot down on the bulb. The band again played in darkness. They still delivered their adrenalin-pulsing, energy-packed music. I'm glad that I got an opportunity to see them one last time.

ONE MORE PICTURE OF RATIONS

And sorry - my friend took the pictures. I don't have any good pictures of Socialcide, although they are an amazing band and I certainly don't mean to slight them.














Sunday, August 15, 2010

Knitting While Bound for the Beach

I'm knitting a series of donuts. I've knitted two jelly-filled donuts and one chocolate-covered donut. I'm giving the chocolate-covered one to Jason Toner in thanks for the amazing, vegan donuts that he has made from scratch and shared. I've enjoyed sitting around with a group of friends and eating Toner's hot, fresh donuts. I've helped frost and fill them, but I doubt that I could match Toner's skill in making donuts. So good.

I knitted Jason's donut last Sunday as I sat in the car with Pat on my way to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. On the way home, it was too dark to knit and I played dj with my iPod.


"Donut shop rock. Come on everybody and do the donut hop!"

On a more annoying note, turning away from yarn and friends -

My boss at work has made a new office policy: all jelly donuts that enter the office are his donuts. He's decided to make such a claim because "the one that got away" left an empty space in his stomach. A co-worker brought in a box of donuts from Duncan Donuts one morning. Someone ate the only jelly-filled donut, which was nested in a box with 23 others. My boss had the audacity to yell at the pregnant woman down the hall from me, bellowing out how pregnant women are always hungry and nosing around her office looking for signs of powdered sugar. In the end, she hadn't eaten it. Feeling slighted, my boss launched his donut-claiming campaign. He thinks that vegan food is unnatural, which gives my food some sort of loophole or sanctuary from his designs. Strangely enough, my boss would be the first to admit that he's being a jerk.

Regarding the beach -

The water generally felt icy, although, the last day that I was there, the water warmed up a little and became clear enough for me to see my feet as I walked out to jump in the waves. Typically, the water has more sand and debris in it, so I feel lucky.

I loved the giant sand dunes near the beach. Climbing with sand between my toes felt like freedom.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Charm City Art Space

Charm City Art Space advertises itself as socially conscientious. Today, it issued a draft statement with the goal of ending debate over claims of sexual misconduct on the part of one of its members. Five women accused one guy of sexually harassing them in separate incidents, including one woman who accused him of having sex with her against her will. Unfortunately for the women, members publicly vetted the question of what happened to them for over six months with several members essentially calling the women liars. As a result, friends of the victims and the victims left the space. The remaining members agreed that, in essence, nothing should happen to the guy. A few people did talk to him about boundary issues.

After the draft of the statement was circulated, members responded with questions about whether the person who was accused of the harassment felt comfortable with the statement's wording and protested against the women being called "victims," requesting that they be instead called "survivors" or "accusers." No one asked how the women themselves felt about the statement's wording. I do appreciate calling women who are raped "survivors," but not in the context of discussing how to handle rapes. At the point of the rape, you aren't looking at the woman's future ability to move past the attack and gain strength,. You are looking at the wrong as she is being attacked and dominated. If I suffer through adversity, don't use my ability to heal to justify ignoring the evil of what happened.

I don't feel comfortable calling Charm City Art Space a "safe space." I am concerned that if one of its popular members sexually assaulted me, that I would be more stigmatized for bringing it up than he would be for violating me. Plus, I don't want to be a double victim - once as an individual being sexually harassed and then again as a person being alienated by those who fail to listen or, even worse, try to discredit me for refusing to silently be abused.
-------
PS

August 21, 2010 - Charm City Art Space posted their final statement this week. Backlash - a flurry of e-mails from people who've gone to shows at and supported CCAS; someone painted "rapist" on the CCAS door. The statement reduced the other four women from CCAS who were attacked to "a history of problematic sexual conduct," only mentioning the rape of a woman the guy met at CCAS. The statement called the woman the "accuser."

People protested and lots of women complained that CCAS has made excuses and is ignoring the security and well-being of its female members. As written by a woman I've known for five years:

"Saying that you can't take a side in a situation like this IS taking the side of the accused person because he is still allowed to operate in a 'safe' space... Also, creating and maintaining a safe space is not as easy as just saying you have a safe space; it's not just shit like walking women to their cars at night and saying 'racism sucks.' It's believing marginalized people... It's about support, even when it means questioning what you think you know about a friend."

Another women I know responded with an e-mail to CCAS in which she pointed out that picking apart the words of the women for months signals disbelief. CCAS reinforced this message of denial by trying to harbor the accused and by disseminating an answer to the accusations that amounts to: whatever.
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Almost 3 years later.  A lot of new people are involved in Charm City Art Space.  They and long-term members insist that they are committed to providing a "safe space."  They can't change the past, but insist that they learned from everything that happened in 2010.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

More Than a Run-On Sentence - a Run-On Blog Entry

My week started off with a clothing swap and potluck at Christine's house. My housemate Zack, our friend Olga, and I made tabouli salad using a recipe from the Moosewood cookbook. Gathering the ingredients in a last minute rush, we got stuck buying limp, curly parsley at the Giant near my house. Then, once we started dicing scallions and tomatoes, I noticed that we were low on lemon juice. With an eye on the clock, we substituted lime juice for some of the lemon juice in the recipe. Fortunately, the lemon-lime still balanced the garlic, tomato and parsley well. I liked it. The food table at the potluck mostly amounted to a some chips and grocery-store cookies. As for the clothing, I appreciated the variety of sizes, colors, and styles. I got a few dresses, a shirt, and a patch.

While we were at Christine's in DC, a storm hit with almost the ferocity of a tornado. The high winds sent both power lines and trees crashing onto the streets. The rain literally came down in sheets. Our housemate Meredith had remained home alone with Basil and Viola, the two Boston Terriers that I was watching for Pat while he was on tour with Rations. Meredith holed up in the basement with the dogs cuddled up against her as our electricity went out. Apparently, more than 300,000 customers in Maryland lost power. At Christine's, we stayed dry inside. When Zack, Olga, and I ventured out, the ride home presented unusual challenges, forcing us to maneuver through intersections with the traffic lights out and around tree limbs strewn across the roads.

According to Meredith, as she ran upstairs to retrieve her cat, Motley, she glanced out of the window. Meredith spotted the elderly lady who puts trash in our yard. The lady was soaked and roaming around in the street, looking at our house. The lady was nice to me the next day and I haven't spoken with her in a long time. She told me that she'd worried about us and wasn't sure we'd know what to do in a storm. I ignored the condescension, although Meredith complained to me that Meredith wasn't the one circling trees as branches blew by in the wind. I thought maybe the lady would stop discarding rotting food items near our sewer drain, but she didn't stop. This very morning, I saw two rotting tomatoes perched curbside in our yard.

When I got home after the storm, I sat with Zack and debated going to Ilsa's record release show. He went. I focused on food. People had inhaled our tabouli salad at the clothing swap and I was hungry for dinner. Pat called me from Brooklyn. Inviting me to stay at his house in DC, I accepted after calling one of his housemates to confirm that they had electricity. I drove with Pat's dogs through the debris-filled streets. By then, the failure of the traffic lights and the impatience of drivers had resulted in a series of accidents. Navigating around the obstacle course of tree branches, I just felt tired.

When I got to Pat's house, I left off the dogs and went to dinner with his housemate Rachel. It was almost 8pm. We drove to multiple restaurants, finding each one closed. I finally settled on ice cream made from coconut milk that I bought from Giant. Totally unhealthy. I went to sleep early in Pat's bed, with Pat and his other housemate, Greg, still in Brooklyn for the Ration's tour. I appreciated the air conditioning.

On Monday, Pat was back and I saw his and Zack's band, State Violence, play at the Corpse Fortress, which means in the basement of a house in Silver Spring. They sounded like a wall of angry feedback and noise, heavy on the bass and drums. Mundo Muerto (CA), Perdition (NYC), Lotus Fucker (DC), and Syndrome (VA) provided a night of incredible music. Mundo Muerto especially surprised me. They have an early 80s punk sound and I really got into their music.

Not to give a daily rundown, but I saw my friend Bridget during the week. For no occasion at all, she bought me a spatula that looks like a guitar and a set of pirate-themed baking cups for cupcakes. Another night, I went to Casey Jones, a restaurant in La Plata that serves wood-fired pizzas, to commemorate the last day of one of the law clerks volunteering at the Public Defender's Office where I work. The restaurant is amazing in the context of La Plata, which is, in essence, a collection of strip malls and fast food restaurants. The pizza's crust is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. They don't have vegan cheese, but do offer a pizza without cheese with extra sauce and a collection of green vegetables.

I went to a show on Friday at St. Stephen's Church. State Violence played again. Blood Type, a straight-edge band from New Jersey whose demo tape is called Bringing More Stuff Down, played a set with an 80s hardcore sound. They did a cover of Black Flag's Drinking and Driving. Who wouldn't like hearing a cover of that song? (Aside - I spoke with a guy named Max from Austin who told me about a girl he'd met in Germany who claimed "covers of songs" as her favorite type of music. Weird.) Nomos played next. Their singer scrunched his face up and shifted his eyes around as if he was trying to imitate Jack in The Shining. Christine, from Deathrats and the clothing swap, told me that she liked his somersaults. Some other friends told me that the Nomos singer was criticizing them for not wearing shiny, athletic shorts. The guy insisted that the shorts breath well and increase his mobility as he belts out those lyrics. Of course, he didn't appear as the picture of health and his shorts slipped down his waist as he rolled on the floor. Next, Brain Killer played. Dan complimented their name. He categorized their sound as "mind melting," like a musical lobotomy. Finally, Deathrats played their songs about women's empowerment, independent-thinking and personal accountability.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Ft. Reno - Tiny Bombs

I went to Fort Reno on Thursday again to see Tiny Bombs. Pat called Dave, the singer for Tiny Bombs, to pinpoint what time the band would start playing. So, realizing we had almost an hour, we ate bagel sandwiches filled with bacon-style tempeh and egg-style tofu first and, then, shared mock chicken nuggets with barbecue sauce as a sidedish at Sticky Fingers. Done with dinner, Pat and I got to the park about 10 minutes before Tiny Bombs started playing.

Navigating up a grassy hill on a sunny day as kids run around and clusters of people sit on picnic blankets is not the typical course to see a friend's band play. I felt wrapped in summertime.

As Pat and I approached the park, we saw a group of friends standing around. Danny had his shoes off. I repeat, summertime. We talked and, then, moved close to the stage. A girl on the picnic blanket next to where we ended up sitting offered me some snacks. Friends on a nearby blanket ate fruit salad and watermelon. After somehow managing to finish a giant container of smoked almonds with Pat in the car, I lacked the desire for any more food. Still, I'm inspired to bring food for a picnic next time I go.

Tiny Bombs entertain. Dave refuses to take himself too seriously. He announced that he and the guitarist are teachers so he wanted to teach everyone a thing or two about slang. He said that he'd just rode along on the Fordists' tour through the Midwest. He taught the Midwesterners the word "bama." He said that they shared with him the phrase "straight chimpin'," which can be used to tell someone that they are being lazy or struggling.

Dave's singing voice falls somewhere in between the voices of Jello Biafra, from the Dead Kennedys, and Steve Hustefer, from The Dickies. Tiny Bombs plays straightforward punk with simple melodies. Between songs at Ft. Reno, Dave commented on the guitarist's playing as "straight chimpin'." Dave added that he hopes people pick up the Midwestern phrase even if they don't like the music.

I ran into my friend Sara Klemm on the way to my car. She's so busy lately that I barely get to
talk to her. She spoke a little about her clerkship with the DC Public Defender Service, which is coming to a close, and some family problems recalling her to Baltimore. Then, as the sun set, Pat and I detoured to Best Buy before topping off the night by watching an episode of the X-Files.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Magicians

I just finished reading The Magicians by Lev Grossman. I'm disappointed.

The reviews promised "Harry Potter for adults" and "A darker look at a school for wizards." The Magicians definitely lacks the hope, loyalty, and passion found in Harry Potter. Instead, it holds that a person can be bored anywhere. At the beginning of the book, Quentin, the main character, is 17 years old and about to go to Princeton. He skips the Ivy League, though, in favor of a secret and exclusive boarding school for magic. He learns to fly through the air and make objects move with his hands. He is still bored and feels empty.

Quentin graduates and moves to New York City with some of his magician friends. He seeks to fill the void in his life with alcohol, drugs, and sex. He cheats on his talented girlfriend, who loves him. In line with the book's theme, Quentin finds the club scene, his girlfriend, and New York City boring.

Then, Quentin and his friends find a way to transport themselves to the alternate reality of Fillory - think C.S. Lewis's Narnia with minor differences like the original children enter Fillory by walking into a grandfather clock instead of a wardrobe. Quentin explores Fillory and concludes that he is bored.

Essentially, the reader is forced to endure page after page about a depressed, bored, and privileged guy, Quentin, wallowing in self-pity. Even when Quentin goes to school, his ennui is only broken by melodramatic drivel like: "His crush went from exciting to depressing, as if he'd gone from the first blush of infatuation to the terminal nostalgia of a former lover without even the temporary relief of an actual relationship in between." Grossman rips off the settings of fantasy novels, while disavowing that the imagination can excite. In The Magicians, a unicorn or questing horse even seems mundane. Grossman lacks the poetic style and complexity of F. Scott Fitzgerald, but, like Fitzgerald, concentrates on rich, drunken, and spoiled characters. Unlike Fitzgerald, Grossman forgets to make his characters charming. Grossman's characters perform incantations and talk to animals. While seeing, in essence, a trust-fund kid conversing with a goat may sound funny, I assure you that he's bored, the goat's bored, and, ultimately, the reader is bored.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Police and Thieves; Rations, Wasted Time, Striking Distance, Damnation A.D.

I'll try to catch up with my blogging. Highlights. Last week, I went to Ft. Reno and saw Police and Thieves play. They have a late 80s/early 90s hardcore sound. Fort Reno is a park in DC that has hosted a free, summer concert series for years. I liked seeing the eclectic mix of families, random passersby, and music enthusiasts who gathered on the grass in front of the stage. Picnic blankets were scattered around. In the distance, people tossed balls and Frisbees. Summertime fun.

For better or worse, the shows at Fort Reno tend to showcase bands of different musical genres. Right after Police and Thieves finished, a band with a herd of members lumbered on to the stage and began setting up. I counted three synthesizers and several tambourines. Maybe they were amazing, but the group of friends that I was sitting with all dispersed.

Since everything at Ft. Reno takes place outside, some shows get rained out. The schedule leaves some "To Be Announced" slots so that bands can be rescheduled, instead of cancelled, due to the weather. The shuffling of dates may also result in traditional, folk bands playing alongside a band playing techo pop or hardcore.

On Saturday, I went to a show at St. Stephen's Church in DC with a bunch of bands, including Rations, Wasted Time, Striking Distance, and Damnation A.D. A lot of people drove from Baltimore and Philadelphia to see Damnation A.D. (or maybe Trapped Under Ice who also played...) In fact, the church sold out. The bands
delivered enthusiastic and loud sets. The sound, however, was a little off. The show's organizer hired a professional sound guy, who somehow managed to get the balance off so the guitars overwhelmed the vocals and drums of every band. The music still inspired raised fists, bobbing heads, and dancing.

PS Alex DiMattesa from Wasted Time is a great bassist. And, yes, Pat Vogel from Rations gave "hot on the guitar" a double meaning. He was the only person wearing long sleeves in a swampy, July room. He layered, too. As always, though, he got compliments on his guitar playing and on his pink guitar with the Rorshach patch on the strap. Plus, I shared an iced mocha and some sandwiches from Sticky Fingers with him. What more could a girl want in an afternoon?








Rations Set (poor sound quality): http://vimeo.com/13260966

July 3rd - Deathrats, Nobunny, The Shirks

On Saturday of the July 4th weekend, Pat and I went to the Folk Life Festival on the Mall, the grass courtyard in the center of the line of Smithsonian museums, for a brief moment. The festival happens every year featuring different countries and a region or state of the United States. This year, the festival was more limited, celebrating the culture of Asian Pacific Americans and Mexico. We went to the Asian Pacific tent and watched two people in a long, goldish, glittering lion costume perform a dance for good luck to the clatter of drums. I've never seen The Lion Dance outside of a scene in a movie with a Chinatown parade. The eyes of the lion could blink. The second person in the costume even made the lion's stubby tail wag as the lion curved around. The dance ended with some acrobatic stunts. The person in the back maneuvered and jumped onto the shoulders of his partner, creating the illusion of a standing lion.

We returned to Pat's house so that he'd be there for the 4:00 p.m. Deathrats practice. I headed out to run errands and agreed to meet with him at 6:00 p.m. for dinner. In the evening, Pat filled in for Brad, one of the guitarists, for Deathrats, who played at the Black Cat. When I arrived at Pat's house, everyone in Deathrats was waiting for me in Pat's van to go to Everlasting Life for dinner. I was surprised. The goal was to get to the Black Cat by 7:00 p.m. for a sound check. I went with them and hung out backstage. The Black Cat generously filled a little refrigerator with Diet Coke, upscale root beer, beer and water. Half of Deathrats is straight-edge, so not too many people drank the beer.

Deathrats went on stage a little after 10:10 p.m. They did well and got the crowd moving. Christine sprang off of the stage and sang as she blended into the mosh pit. Then, she returned on stage and Greg, the bassist, hopped off the stage for a few minutes.

Nobunny had a slide guitar on the stage, but never used it. They aim to play rockabilly punk with the added gimmick of performing in bunny ears. I didn't like them that much, but many people in the crowd were bouncing to their rhythms. The costumes didn't impress me the way the lion costume had earlier in the day.

I ran into my friend Sarah Klemm at the Black Cat. She's law clerking this summer for the Public Defender Service in DC. She's passionate about learning and, while I'm sure the PDS appreciates her, feels like she could handle more responsibility there. As a public defender, I like having summer law clerks, but it's difficult to figure out whether they'll do a good job until they're about to leave. We've had some weird law clerks in my office. One stands out who kept making ridiculous promises to our clients like "you'll get out at your next bail review." So, when the court refused to grant bail to the armed robber who skipped his first court date and got picked up on a warrant, this robber pushed aside his criminal conduct and failure to appear in court previously. He felt like his attorney was at fault, since someone from the office guaranteed him release.

I watched The Shirks when they did their sound check, which was kind of cool. I left, though, before they played their set.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Starting the July 4th weekend - Zhenia Golov, LF at La Casa

On Friday night, I arrived at La Casa just as Zhenia Golov started playing, which means that I arrived two and a half hours after the advertised time the show was supposed to start. Zhenia Golov are from New Jersey and play hardcore with scratchy vocals. I keep wanting to pronounce their name as if I was reading it from Polish or transliterated Russian writing, but everyone pronounces it as if it starts with a "z" as in "zebra" instead of "djuh" as in "jeep." Wrong.

Lotus Fucker played a tight set. Everyone did a great job, except Brad, one of the two guitarists, was in Germany. So, the band was down a guitar. The performance was still clutch-for-an-ear-plug loud.

The next morning, I met a group of friends at Asylum in Adams Morgan for vegan brunch, including Rob, the singer of Zhenia Golov. I shared my pancakes with Pat, who shared his French toast with me. The selection of food there was great, but the pancakes were rubbery, although, strangely enough, also thin, and flavorless. Pat told me to avoid getting coffee there, which he described as both watery and bitter - a hard combination of flavors to achieve. I prefer weekend brunch at Sticky Fingers.

I did get an amazing blended, frozen soy mocha from Tryst. The balance between the coffee and chocolate flavors in the drink was great. Plus, it was hot outside and the drink was a perfect way to cool down as I walked around the DC streets.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

July 2nd - Filling in for Juvenile Court

Friday, I covered the juvenile docket for our office's juvenile attorney, who was on vacation. I dealt with a swarm of kids and parents, all competing for my attention and some refusing to concede that I was talking with someone else. Some of the parents called their children names in the hallway and yelled profanities about the wait for their child's case to be called and about the burden of missing work to come to court. I explained to these parents that I was representing their kids and not them. They protested that their kids are not yet adults, refusing to understand that their kids were the individuals charged and facing penalties. These parents somehow felt like they could usurp their child's right to counsel and steer the course of what happened in court. Sometimes, all they seemed to care about was minimizing their time in the courthouse.

The parents can triple the number of people an attorney needs to talk with regarding a case. If my client refuses to waive confidentiality, I can't talk to his or her parents about the substance of the case, only about the procedure in court. Some parents get angry as if I am intentionally altering their family's power dynamic by inventing a suspicious-sounding thing called attorney-client privilege. On Friday, conveniently, I only was handling sentencings, reviews, and initial appearances in court, so the confidentiality issue didn't come up too much.

One teen told me that he wants to live with his father because his mother makes him sleep outside when she's mad at him. He also accused her of being a drunk. The Department of Juvenile Services had just finished a court-ordered home study of the father's residence to make sure it was a safe place. Everything checked out. The mom literally hissed and yelled out her protest when I asked the judge to allow the teen to live with his father. She clenched her fists by her side as if she planned on punching me.

The father has remarried, has a stable job, and secured a job for his son for the summer. He also lined up tutors to help his son transition into a new high school. My client's grades sunk to the depths of the alphabet last year. Anyway, the master (the individual who presides over juvenile court) insisted that the teen live with his mom because she lives in a county with better programs for juveniles. I approached the bench and told the master that I was concerned that part of my client's acting out related to the erratic supervision by and lack of support from his mother. The master told me that my client either could live with the mom and participate in that nirvana of a program or go to an out-of-home placement. The boy cried. The mom straightened her posture: vindicated. Who knows how things played out when the two of them got home...

The home study seems to me like a heads up to the family that the teen could move in with the father if everything checked out. The answer of the study: good home. The answer of the master after reading over the study's findings: irrelevant. Did the master think Juvenile Services would chastise the father? In the end, the master provided false hope to a teen who is having trouble coping. It was a long day in court.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo & Percy Jackson

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson involves a murder mystery, but the personal interaction between the characters interested me the most. The story is set primarily in rural Sweden in the town of Hedeby. Lisbeth Salander is a violent, resourceful, emotionally closed outcast who works as a private investigator for a corporation. She writes a profile of Mikael Blomkvist, a middle-aged, well-known investigative reporter and is absorbed by some of the incongruities in a libel suit against him. She obtains a great deal of information on Blomkvist by hacking into his computer, which he finds out at a later point in the book when he reads her finished profile of him. The powerful man, Henrik Vanger, who hired Salander's company to profile Blomkvist, in turn, hires Blomkvist to solve the forty-year-old murder of that man's granddaughter. Ultimately, Blomkvist wants a research assistance and, based on the high quality of Salander's snooping on him, seeks Salander.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo layers stories about Salander's vengeance against her classmates and guardian on top of a story about how the State declared Salander emotionally incompetent mixed in with a story about Salander being a silent member of a black-clad, goth clique in which she absorbs conversations without revealing personal details about herself. Blomkvist is shown from different angles - a divorced father, a friend, a lover, and an intrepid journalist eyeing the integrity of corporations and the government.

The characters in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are multidimensional, but also provocative in opening up debate on the issue of when personal choice hurts others. The novel plays with how sex can cause pain. The book contains multiple rapes and power driven rapists. Meanwhile, it also deals with the topic of free love. Blomkvist dabbles with women, although he prides himself on being ethical and overall is written sympathetically. As Salander looks into Blomkvist's past, Erika Berger, the co-editor of the journal that Blomkvist works on, emerges not only as his colleague, but as his "occasional lover." Blomkvist never limits himself to Berger, but he has relationships with a series of women. Salander properly deduces that Blomkvist's marriage failed because his wife couldn't handle another woman sleeping in her bed with her husband. Berger is married and while her husband has no additional partners, he copes with her sexual escapades with Blomkvist.

In the small, Swedish town, Blomkvist starts having sex with a woman who feels isolated and past her prime. He disavows monogamy and explains his sexual relationship with Berger. The woman seemingly accepts Blomkvist's lack of commitment. She goes into a deep depression disturbed only by bouts of anger, however, when she's confronted by Blomkvist's lack of fidelity when Berger visits him. The relationship between Blomkvist and the local ends as the woman bitterly avoids any contact with him.

Then, Salander accepts Blomkvist's job offer. She gradually feels a bond with him and eventually initiates a sexual relationship. She knows about Berger, but the knowledge is abstract. Salander has never fallen in love before. She never has exposed her true self to anyone. She feels a tie to Blomkvist and, ultimately, feels her heart break when she stumbles upon him caressing Berger. "Free love" may satisfy Blomkvist, but he's making a series of women feel confused and devalued.

So, the book asks: can you expect a person to disentangle his or her heart from a sexual relationship? When you are in love, your partner can make you feel more secure in the world. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo shows how a woman can read promises into sexual acts that do not exist despite warnings and grapple with feelings of inadequacy when her partner shifts to someone else. Also, what counts as intimacy for one person may be interpreted differently by someone else. Salander sharing secrets, making breakfast for Blomkvist and holding onto him as they sleep may be groundbreaking for her, after growing up without a family or close friend. For Blomkvist, he defines the relationship as more of a collaboration, which is more of the same old stuff. Sex simply entertains him. Blomkvist, values independence over intimacy. He wants to wander, even from Berger.

The book deals with heartbreak, sadism, low self-esteem, hierarchy and nihilism. While it contains many themes, most relate to the fallout from corruption - the illegal workings and pretenses of a powerful corporation, the evil of a guardian raping his ward, and a father anointing himself a religious enforcer to justify... (Well, now, I'll stop there since that's just too big of a spoiler.)

I finished reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo right before Father's Day, when I went to the National Museum of Art with my cousin, Cheryl, and her husband, Mike. Cheryl is my dad's age and treats me like a niece. Anyway, we strolled through the museum and, as we looked at a painting about Zeus, she mentioned how she went to see a thunderbolt thief movie about Greek gods with the young children of her friend. I told her that I'd read the Percy Jackson Lightening Thief book and called it a Harry Potter knock-off. I told her that while the story contains a lot of action, the characters lack depth. So, I lost all credibility with her by admitting familiarity with the book. She reminded me that Percy Jackson is a children's novel. She considers Percy Jackson something a person past adolescence should dismiss.

I changed the subject, but I stuck to the topic of books. I told her that I had just finished reading the Stieg Larsson book. I guess the "dragon" in the title concerned her given my earlier comments on Percy Jackson. I assured her The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was not a kid's book about sorcery and that it was an international bestseller. I emphasized that it was on the New York Times' best seller list for a long time. I thought about trying to curry favor for the book by mentioning that the author is dead, something in common with her favorite authors, but skipped that promo. I did insist that the book offered a malaise of Swedish cynicism and several misogynists. She asked me if I wanted to go to the Museum of Natural History and look at the dinosaur bones. We did.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Insubordination Fest - Chinese Telephones & Food Follies

I stopped through Insubordination Fest in Baltimore yesterday. I wanted to see Chinese Telephones, Tenement, and Off With Their Heads. I, also, hoped to see Deep Sleep and The Max Levine Ensemble. It didn't work out.

I arrived with Pat at the music fest just in time to see Chinese Telephones. We got in for free. They played an incredible set. I stood at the edge of the stage and comfortably watched them maneuver around. They started playing ten minutes early, but, unfortunately, played a twenty minute set as originally allotted.

My friend Jenny lives about 10 minutes from Sonar, where the fest was taking place. She invited Pat and me over for tofu hoagies. I thought we could eat at her place during a break in the fest. We got to her apartment at 5:00 p.m. She spent the next two hours making the hoagies, salad, and home-style fries. She pulled a pile of basil from her container garden on her porch. She cubed the tofu, marinated it, and placed it in the oven to bake. She also prepared a special marinade for the fries. The fresh garlic smelled amazing. She is a creative chef who prepares her food with care and fresh ingredients. At 6:30 p.m., I texted Pat to see if he wanted to go to see Off With Their Heads. He wrote back that it was up to me and he'd be willing to stay at Jenny's if I wanted.

We sat in the kitchen and talked with Jenny, one of her friends that I'd just met, Sarah, and Jenny's boyfriend, Jeff. She was making a ton of food. We ate some toasted rosemary bread that she'd gotten from Whole Foods as an appetizer.

Finally, the clock showed that it was a little after 7:20 p.m. The fries had just gone into the oven. I asked Jenny when the meal would be ready and she said that it'd be at least another 45 minutes. Pat had missed Tenement's show on Sunday and I wanted to hear them play again, so I told her that we needed to get back to the festival. I felt guilty leaving without sampling her culinary masterpiece, but I knew that her other guests would enjoy the meal. She hugged me good-bye and told me that she'd wanted to feed us. I don't think she knew that the fest was still going on. I know that none of her food went to waste, but I felt like a stick in the mud...

So, Pat and I left Jenny's place before eating. Pat wanted to get something quick to eat, because the smells in her kitchen had made his stomach groan with emptiness. I had a cold, dampening my hunger and distorting my taste buds. We went to Taco Fiesta, but the traffic prevented us from getting anywhere in a reasonable time frame. A ballgame had just let out and the cars stood at a standstill. We crawled to Taco Fiesta, arriving there at 8:00 p.m. as Tenement was supposed to be on the stage. Obviously, we missed their set.

I ordered a burrito without cheese at Taco Fiesta. They offered some knock-off brand hot sauce with a weird aftertaste and neglected to mix any seasonings in with their black beans. I wish the restaurant had at least given us the option of shaking some garlic on top of our food. The burrito consisted of black beans without any seasonings that were overwhelmed by a giant lump of white rice and wrapped in a white tortilla.

Pat got a chimichanga. Few restaurants sell deep fried burritos and Pat looks at a chimichanga as crispy, bean-filled goodness. He, however, told me that he'd wanted to stay at Jenny's place, because her food looked delicious and he was more interested in the meal than in the band. I wish he'd have told me his preference when we were there.

Taco Fiesta has a salsa bar. Honestly, I can't understand how those salsas could be so devoid of flavor. The pico de gallo was the best - although it lacked the traditional lime, jalapeno and cilantro I expect in pico de gallo. The onion and tomato combination at least had some flavor.

After eating at Taco Fiesta, we returned to the show to see if Pat's housemate Chris needed a ride home. Chris wanted to remain at the show, though, and our friend David offered to give Chris a ride. David threw me his car keys so we could get Chris's bike into his back seat. David also told me that the Tenement show was amazing. He said that they sounded much better than they had on Sunday and played with even more enthusiasm. Argh.

I felt frustrated. Pat said that he'd mainly cared about seeing Chinese Telephones and that we'd see the other bands again.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Chinese Telephones, Tenement, Holiday Band, Jake Lazovick, The Professionalisms

Simply put, this show at Hole in the Sky was fun. I arrived almost an hour and a half late and the show hadn't started. Go figure.

The vocals for The Professionalisms, sounded not only off key, but whiny. The band played out of tune instruments. While they played inside, I hung out on the rooftop and talked with people.

Next, on the rooftop, Jake Lazovick, played several acoustic songs with sincerity . He sings about relaxing in the summertime, missing his ex-girlfriend but not wanting to get back together with her, and wishing school would end. The word "innocence" may be off-putting to some people, but Jake seems sweet and innocent. He also made a joke: "Why do birds fly South for the Winter?" Answer: "Because it's too difficult to walk." Bah-dum-dum. Cute.

I'll skip to Tenement, who played a solid, melodic punk set. They have energy, but also intensity. Their songs are catchy, but still have bite and complexity. I like them for the same reasons I like early Jawbreaker, which, in my opinion, is a huge compliment. Plus, they are friendly people.

Chinese Telephones enthusiastically delivered foot-tapping, head-bobbing music. I bought one of their t-shirts after walking a block to my car to get the money.

The show finished a little after midnight. I stayed awake until almost 2:00 a.m. because I was so wound up.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Slang, World Burns to Death, The Wanky's, LF, Chaos Destroy - Baltimore

The show at Barclay House in Baltimore started with a few people milling around a dark, graffiti-covered basement. Chaos Destroy played. The vocalist's face looked strained - increasingly red complexion, squinting eyes, furiously moving jaw, sweat breaking out on his forehead - but no audible sound from his throat. I could only hear the bass and the guitar with a touch of drums. Oh well. Still, they played with enthusiasm and passion.

Lotus Fucker played a tight, 10-minute set. The guitars and bass created a chaos of feedback accented by a furious drum beat. Jon, the drummer, has talent. Dan, the singer, lunged into the crowd as he yelled out the lyrics. Obviously, the PA was alright, because, unlike the singer for Chaos Destroy, I could hear Dan just fine, despite the columns of amps and gear for the guitars and bass. The night before, I heard Lotus Fucker play at the Hole in the Sky in DC. After they finished, a guy said to me: "They weren't loud enough." I didn't realize he was joking, because, while Lotus Fucker had sent me digging for my foam ear plugs, they weren't quite as loud as usual that night. Pat had left an amp at home. At this show, they lived up to their reputation of being the show's loudest band.

After Lotus Fucker finished playing, I walked with Pat to get drinks. A few panhandlers directed us to a grocery store when we reached the main road. When we got to the store, the clerk buzzed us in and escorted us to the refrigerated section. Pat picked up several teas and I bought the only caffeine-free soda available, a Diet Pepsi. Pat lacked cash, so I paid and we returned to the show just in time to see The Wanky's.

The Wankys, from England, were more focused and fierce than when I saw them at La Casa a few weeks ago. The bassist shreds. The singer, Mark, seems personable and has great presence. I enjoyed seeing them play again and hope they return to DC.

The momentum of the World Burns to Death set compelled people to move in every part of the basement despite the heat and humidity so thick that I felt at times like I was breathing underwater. The bass pulsated through my body. Nevertheless, Jack Control's voice sounded tough, intense, dark, and commanding like a sledgehammer driving through the heavy fury of the rest of the band.

Slang are from Japan. They played with blistering speed. According to one of Pat's friends traveling with them, the lead singer kept stopping between songs in New York City and yelling "New York," because of his enthusiasm for New York Hardcore of the 1980s and early-90s. Although they didn't play in DC, they, apparently, took a detour on their way to their next show in Richmond, Virginia in order to stop by Dischord House today. These sounds together with brutal Japanese hardcore obviously influence the band.

In the Barclay House basement, people had spilled drinks earlier in the night and tossed water around. The floor was slick. Everyone was sweating due to the heat, but, in the center of the room, people looked like they'd just taken a dip in a swimming pool.

As I stared at the singer's pink mohawk, I thought of Indian Vision Quests. What is in a name - call the basement either a DIY sauna or a sweat lodge. I could literally see the guitarist's sweat streaming down the red wood of his guitar like the replica waterfalls that companies now manufacture for desktops. The effect was pretty in an odd way.

Slang kept playing faster and faster. The circle, too, moved faster and faster. As people shook their heads and flung themselves around in a circle, sweat whipped off of their heads like a makeshift and misplaced sprinkler system. The singer felt dizzy at one point and stepped outside for a minute, although the rest of the band didn't pause in their playing until he returned. The set had a surreal quality and I could imagine someone referring to it in terms of punk purification.

When Slang announced that they were done, people shouted for more. They agreed to play one last song. When it was done, Pat said: "We're not worthy." And, again, despite the heat, I left feeling energized, although I passed out almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.