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):

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.