Sweet Science

I wrote a few years ago what it was like to stop being emotionally invested in Manny Pacquiao matches as a Filipino American. I guess a lot of that was just match fatigue, because I found myself in the old stress traps again when Manny faced the undefeated villain, the Author of All Lies himself, Floyd Mayweather Jr. I watched HBO's documentary the night before and it activated my nervous stomach acid. I could hardly get to sleep.

Reactions to the fight among the masses were predictable even before the fight went down. We knew it would be a dodgy, defensive battle and we knew Mayweather was probably going to win a not-that-close decision after 12 rounds. Because I knew this, I also knew people would proclaim that Floyd was running and dancing, that Manny would've won in 2009 and that boxing was dead.

That last one is probably true.

Still, most of what I took out of it was relief that it was over. The question was answered, albeit half-heartedly and years too late to be worthwhile. It was the stress of the unknown that got me worked up. The shadows parted and revealed to be just a big, boring, nothing. That's okay. I can deal with that.

In my head, Pacquiao's only real shot was a miracle knock out. Mayweather would have to make a mistake, and Pacquiao would have to recognize it in time to capitalize in it. That's essentially how all knockouts work; little windows, breaks of daylight, and getting caught in them. It's how Pacquiao hit the mat all those years ago. You can be great for 11 rounds, but there's always that distant chance you leave a window open too long.

That's what's lovely about boxing, and what I'll miss about its nearly-assured decline in popular consciousness. Its brutish fighters and the endless story possibilities, round-to-round, make it a noble and intriguing ritual of violence. That's why some of the best films, essays and novels are written about boxing.

I watched Mayweather vs. Pacquiao hoping for one of those stories to occur. It was a lottery, sure, but it wasn't impossible. Storybook tales happen all the time in other sports, from LeBron James going back to Cleveland to the Red Sox finally winning the World Series. Sports are built for these audacious endings, and I was hoping that boxing would live up to that tradition on Saturday night. 

It didn't. It was realistic and true and logical, as we all thought it would be. Which is a shame, for a sport that has inspired such essential stories of redemption, underdogs and fighters.

Elsewhere | A Lotta Moxie

Running Moxipop as an EiC has been a useful experience. Mostly it trains your idea muscles; finding something to post every day isn't that hard, but finding something worthwhile to say about it is. I'm sure I've had days more productive than others, but I'm always proud of my work when I feel like I'm doing more than throwing up an embed and a press release.

I really stewed over this Carrie & Lowell review although once things are published I fear looking at it again (editing, as we all know, is a harrowing rabbit hole.) I was happy to exorcise all of my music streaming program thoughts just a month or so before Tidal botched everything, so that was timely. Thinking aloud about the lovely Father John Misty album was a pleasure as well. I got to see Alvvays in concert and slam the concept of the Grammys in our modern music world. And books! I got to write about two great novels, and that's definitely something I've always wanted to do on a professional level.

I wouldn't say things are good, but I would say that things are gratifying. In some way that's just as valuable. It is hard to imagine a time when I would just swallow these ideas or, worse yet, never even realize they were there.

What I Learned From A Year Alone


Portland is cold. I always knew my Los Angeles idea of cold was a joke; it merely graces your skin with little brushes of wind. You can erase it by rubbing your arms. I didn't realize that real cold, Northwest cold, cuts deep. It burrows to your spine and plays your shivers like a puppet. I couldn't stop the jitters.

I was trying to warm up with Stumptown Coffee. It was my first time in the city — I’ve driven through a few times on my way to Seattle or Vancouver, but I never had a reason to stop and experience it. I flew to Portland just days earlier to meet a girl I just started talking to online. It was my third day in the city I was alone again.

Flying to Portland was an impulse decision. I was originally going to drive up to Oakland with my room mate to celebrate the New Year. End 2014 with a party, begin 2015 with new scenery. It would be like old college adventures: long expanses of the highway, big gulps of beer and new inside jokes. He bailed on the trip just a day before.

I decided to take the trip alone. It wasn’t an appealing idea. I had never done such a long drive by myself. It would be a long time to be stuck in my head, but then again, I spent much of 2014 in there. It would be immersive, sometimes like drowning, but this had been a year I learned how to beat it.

Still, I wanted to at least try to find a replacement travel buddy. A few calls didn't turn up anything. I wanted to use this time, the end of a big year, to do something that loomed large.

At the time, I was exchanging messages with a girl I met on a dating website. She lived in Seattle and messaged me first. Eventually we exchanged numbers. That night I told her about my plans for the trip — the solitary drive, the days in the bay. She suggested, in that teasing, jestful way girls do to say something true but absurd, that I keep going to Oregon so that I'd be close enough to visit. I laughed it off but caught myself; why shouldn't I consider it?

There’s the mess of logistics, the risk of meeting any new person, the unpredictable chemistry and the money that would go into it, sure. Yet none of those seemed to be deal breakers. They didn't plant a foothold in my mind.

I had done enough things alone this year. That was the theme of 2014. I could begin the new year with something that flew radically in the face of that.

We settled on Portland, a city neither of us knew. She would drive down from Seattle to pick me up from the airport, and then we would see what would happen, for 2 straight days.

I’m not a spontaneous person. Every inner voice told me that it was risky and a hassle, but I’ve learned to be skeptical of my resistance. The blaring sirens are a sign of something worth considering. I knew through experience that my life was almost always richer when I took social risks and, in the waning years of my 20s, it was time to remember that.

A year ago I wouldn't even humor the idea. But throughout 2014, I learned a lot about being alone; how to sit with it, how to listen to it closely, how to resist the dread it stokes inside of me. A solo trip alone could be like my last great tribute to it, and my Portland adventure could be its fiery cremation. I liked the idea. I worried about the reality.


I used to never go to concerts alone, which is hard when you have a taste for very specific indie bands. I used to maintain a roster of possible concert buddies; people I could pitch if a band I liked was in town. In 2014, it seemed I had tapped that well dry. I wasn't about to stop going altogether, so I experimented with going alone.

The thing about being alone in 2014 is that most people don’t understand what that actually entails. They think waiting in line for coffee or sitting in traffic is isolation. But with our phones in our hands, most of us have a close friend with a direct line into our thoughts. Or, we have a news feed that can simulate a 24 hour conversation. Endless friends telling you about their day.

Being alone in the modern world is about doing none of that and having the discomfort expand and split at the seams. That creeping anxiety is loneliness, and your inner mind panics and alerts you to do something, to get another voice in there. Letting it pass is the goal.

This was especially true for my first solo concert. It was a perfect, anxious situation: the basement of a church that was converted, in great hipster fashion, into a punk & indie venue. The band was the stirring and exciting Bleeding Rainbow, but there were only about 20 of us in attendance. We all stood 5 feet apart , folded our arms, and tried not to acknowledge each other.

There would be no mosh pit or dancing to blend into and lose myself. The band stared at us and we stared back. The way anxiety grows on me is like water droplets running down an icicle. It leaks, crawls along and solidifies until I feel it heavy and hanging. I wanted to bolt for the door every minute. All that kept me there was knowing that if I went into hiding now, all the dread I’d experienced until that point would be pointless.

That was the worst of it. I’m sure to some I looked awkward, never quite comfortable and fiercely insecure. I’m also sure they’ve forgotten me. Since then, it's been easier. I attended most of my 2014 concerts — No Age, Wye Oak, Panama, Alvvays — by myself. I’d never had so much fun alone.


In early January I began going on dates with a girl who had a mind like a roman candle, sparkling and popping with light that you thought would burn you. I had never had an in-depth conversation with someone so engaging. It’s not merely that she was bright, but that she was fast too. She had read all the same articles, wondered about all the same concepts and plugged into all the same thought clouds faster than I did. When we talked, I never explained a thing. I stayed on my toes and tried to keep up.

Her hair was steely red, like a sports car. On the nights I was lucky enough to stay with her, I buried my nose into the tuft of hair at the back of her neck. I wasn’t sure how long this might last, but whatever time there was would have value.

Like everything with her, it was quick and sudden. After about 3 months of feeling this out, I got a text message. “I think we’re at different points in our lives and it would be best if we went our separate ways,” she wrote, and that was all it took. I replied, though it didn’t matter: “It’s been fun.” Even in breaking up, she did it well. What could I be mad about? What about that could make me insecure? I was alone again, and although I didn’t know it right away, that was fine. I was fine.


When she picked me up at the Portland airport, she stopped being the girl from the internet. Pictures from your phone or online are weird ghosts of who you really are. Lenses distort contours, angles bend light and you never get a sense of how they fill space. There wasn’t much of her to fill; she came up short to my neck, and her long, black-ink hair further emphasized her petite stature. She came out of the car, leaving the car running, to greet me. When she smiled at me, I was taken.

We both didn’t totally understand why we trusted each other to meet like this. I got the sense that we were both primed for something radical because we were working through things; some of it hopelessly romantic, some of it just hopeless. But over the next day and night we lived a long first date. We dined at Italian restaurants lit by blue string lights, we created inside jokes at rapid speed and we walked through mist-soaked neighborhoods with fingers intertwined. If we got into the fast lane, it was because the road would only be a few miles long.

I didn’t mind that it was doomed. It’s concentrate, not a diluted cocktail, just a pure shot. The hardest stuff you’ve ever had.


Living alone is a strange experience because your apartment becomes an extension of your inner mind. This is even more true if you live in a tiny studio like I did for most of 2014. At 192 square feet, it was like having a medium sized bedroom for everything — your kitchen, your living room, your entire miserable life.

When I got home from work, my habits and actions were physical manifestations of that inner monologue. I thought aloud, I indulged in my worst habits and I barely scraped a functional life out of the shitty utilities available. I also developed a taste for red wine.

At first it was strange to come home to stale air and four walls. You want home to be a sanctuary, but it was like retreating to this secret, isolated place of shame. Less like Batman’s cave and more like Quasimodo’s bell tower.

It's difficult to pinpoint when it started to be a relief. That’s the thing with learning how to be by yourself — there’s blood-rushing panic, but that’s not sustainable. Dread comes in waves, but in time, the waves come less frequently. Each longer gap gives you time to breathe. At some point living alone became a numb ache that I didn’t even bother to pontificate about. Loneliness stopped being an event and started becoming a condition.


Driving up to Oakland was the longest drive I’d ever done by myself. My previous record was the 4 hour drive to Vegas, but at least I had people with me. They were asleep, sure, but their presence was worth something.

When I started my car in the morning to begin, I set my Spotify playlist to shuffle and the first song that came on was, of course, “This Year” by The Mountain Goats. As if the algorithm caught onto theme, it launched next into Conor Oberst’s “Moab” — “there’s nothing that the road cannot heal,” it goes — so I was off to a good start.

The drive is easy for the first hour or two. Your mind has not yet been tested. For someone like me, who used to get into car-related trouble ever 6 months, it was a high stakes dare.

Still, California along the 5 is beautiful. A week of rain had cut into our desperate drought, and so our hills and deserts were blessed with greenery. I’d seen that area before, but not like that. On a normal December day it would be arid and colored exclusively by shades of yellow and brown, but on this morning it was another world. The year was dying, and I was there to observe its funeral, but god, there was a lot of life out there.


Picking a "best friend" is a tough exercise, but it's easy to pinpoint which friends are valuable to me. I have one friend in particular whom I spoke to, in some form, every day, for years. That does something to you. When someone has a direct line to your constant thoughts, and you to theirs, suddenly you aren’t even thinking for yourself. Suddenly, your inner monologue is framed as a dialogue.

It also makes two people very testy. My friend and I had been getting into tiffs with frightening regularity and, in 2014, we took a long break. We didn’t know when it would end, only that some day it would.

When you turn off all sources of noise to meditate, that’s when you start to hear the wind. When I turned off all outside contact, all reason to be outside of myself, I heard another buried frequency. My breathing and heart beat, yes, but most of all an inner voice. It was always there, but stunted and waiting in the wings to take the stage. We always think to ourselves — “boy I’m hungry,” or “where do I turn?” But thats not a voice. A voice has character to it, one that you don’t always dictate. It reveals personality. Your emotions are performed by your inner voice, instead of just something you feel, like the temperature. There is something alive inside you, and you don’t always get to notice that.


Stumptown Coffee was the last stop. I’d stay behind and work a little bit before my flight and she would move on and drive back to Seattle. Portland was always only a side road. In the new day of 2015, we had entire lives to get back to.

I ordered a drink and took a seat at a table. She sat next to me.

“I’ll see you again,” I said in the silence. “I don’t know how or when, but I’m sure of it. Eventually.” I didn’t say it as a romantic promise or one of those shipped-off-to-war farewells. That wasn’t the tone I used. I said it because of foresight; It just didn’t seem logical or realistic that she would walk out of my life. I didn't live that way anymore.

We said goodbye in the street. A kiss, a back turned, a peace sign over the shoulder. I watched her leave until it became true.

In 2015 I was alone, again, but I saw the way through. I sat with my drink and laptop for a few hours and allowed myself to feel it. It was dense and solid and rested in my chest in the familiar groove it had cut out for itself. If the right song comes on, it dissipates into the rest of my body. Even then, it is sentimental. I treat its imprint like a souvenir of something meaningful.

My 10 Favorite Albums, 2014

10. Wye Oak - Shriek

It's pretty amazing what Wye Oak did with this risky move to synths and bass. They were an identifiably almost rootsy guitar-centric band with morose, haunting vocals. These are qualities that don't translate to the kind of 80s throwback pop you would expect fromSHRIEK's set up, but they proved themselves as flexible genre kings this year. When I listen to a song like "Logic of Color," a dream of post-punk, I can hardly believe they had it in them. "Glory" is an honest to goodness dance track but with darker concerns. Every bleeping key and squishing bass has a sinister tone to it so you can never totally enter the neon world they've created, and that unease is always resolved with refreshing beauty with tracks like "Before."

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Cape TV

Normally what I watch on TV can be reduced to Stephen Colbert, the NBA and shows with Gordon Ramsay. This fall season, I've rededicated myself to following a select few new shows. They're all based on DC comics, yes, so maybe I'm not so much getting into TV as I am keeping up with comics. The reboot of all DC Comics continuity was designed to be a jumping-on point for new fans, but it also functioned as a jumping off point for readers like me. My hands washed free of continuity, I had no reason to care about these new characters that had replaced my old favorites.

When I heard that DC was going full bore at a slate of TV shows based on their characters, I was interested. I especially enjoyed how different all the new properties were -- different networks, different genres, different audiences. They all debuted in October and I got my money's worth of Hulu Plus subscription.

The first show to debut was GOTHAM, a Detective Jim Gordon series that takes place before Batman, but post-Wayne murder. The idea is that it's an origin story for everyone except Batman. All of these villains, power structures, reputations and more are being formed in this deeply corrupted city, the lowest point of Gotham history before the realization of Batman.

Unfortunately, as Grantland said, this also means it's a story about people before they did anything interesting. The only interesting thing about these characters is that some day they will be a piece of fabric in the web of the Batman mythos. Right now it's just a little girl hugging a plant. When her mom calls her "Ivy" we're supposed to go "OH I GET IT" but in reality it just makes you cringe.

Yet, I wouldn't call it a bad show. What it is is an up & down show. There are completely joyless episodes where nothing makes me want to stay past a commercial break, and there are episodes where I feel like they're on to something. The most consistent joy you can get from this series is just by looking at it. The series is full of vibrant but saturated sets, luxurious art-deco sets, and character actors hamming it up on a variety of seedy archetypes. Technology is roaring 20's based, except when it needs to stray from it, and the diverse populace of Gotham are doing outrageous theater. It creates an interesting atmosphere, almost a weird crime-fantasy show, as opposed to a DARK KNIGHT also-ran.

The tone occupies this weird space between BATMAN FOREVER and THE DARK KNIGHT -- sometimes it's coldly realistic and subdued, other times a colorful villain murders people by tying them to a weather balloon. Without any caped characters, it's really more of a Dick Tracy show, and that's not a bad thing. I certainly wouldn't want the show to devolve into a realism-based police procedural when it, sometimes, does things that you can't find on TV right now.

The prequel pretense is troubling though and robs it of the drama. We know Gordon will never catch the Wayne murderers, we know Penguin won't ever be killed, we know Carmine Falcone will eventually end up on top of the gang war. These characters are robbed of any suspense. Meanwhile, any originals -- like Fish Mooney -- are almost assuredly going to be killed or written out before the dust in Gotham settles. It's a tough spot to write and I frequently wonder what they can do to make the show vital and unpredictable. That curiosity is what keeps me watching it more than anything.

The 2nd show to debut, and DC's best, is THE FLASH. I'm not normally a CW television show watcher, where everything is just a little bit above low-budget cable and all the principle roles are played by young models. But The Flash works as an optimistic, thrilling, and easy-to-like superhero show. Not a gritty crime show, not dark and foreboding. There's enough wonder and heroism here that it's a genuine joy to watch. It's not heady television with big themes, sure, but neither are a lot of comics. You get joy just seeing characters interact, seeing The Flash pull off some well-scripted stunts, and the occasional one liners from a cast that is entirely likeable. The CW's other superhero show, ARROW, is an unabashed low rent Batman show. A wealthy urban vigilante saving his city because for whatever reason they couldn't/wouldn't use Batman. THE FLASH, then, is CW's Superman -- science fiction powers, high on spectacle, and based on inspiring good over justice & vengeance. I am shocked at how much I've been enjoying the show, the stories, and the performances. It even made me check out ARROW, which I hear starts out okay, gets bad, but then gets really good. I'm currently waiting for it to get good.

In last place is the paranormal themed CONSTANTINE on NBC, based on one of Alan Moore's premiere contributions to DC Comics. What I was hoping this would be was a grimy, character-driven, paranormal procedural. Take the bastardness of House, apply it to X-Files mystique and give him a world and lore built on mythology and magic. All we really get is the aesthetic of John Constantine: the accent, the look, the spells, but there's no charm or soul to any of it. NBC's John Constantine dresses up in his trademark brown trenchcoat and red tie, but it feels like he's playing dress up. The fact that his tie is always slightly undone no matter what makes it feel like a Constantine that is constantly concerned with looking cool. I know that's what it's like when they draw Constantine in the comics, but coolness isn't just a look, it's a demeanor. He should look that way because he just so happened to arrive at it without a care in the world.

There's also the problem of magic. Magic storytelling is always tough, even in the comics, because it gives the writers the ability to write forward motion in stories without any tension. If you need to move a story along or get someone out of a pickle, just throw in some magic spell that we didn't know about before. How do Constantine & friends find out who killed a dead DJ? There's a spell for that (it comes at a cost of a few days of Constantine's life, but I'll be surprised if that ever makes a difference in the show's run.) How do Constantine & friends find out what the villains are planning to do next? Their visionary pal just so happens to see a white tiger right at that moment, and, wouldn't you know it, there's a college radio station with a white tiger mascot.

It's not Deus Ex Machina, but it's close. Magic fight scenes are similarly devoid of any anchor that you can connect to. Participants just point at each other and things happen. A few latin words and the bad guys explode into a portal to hell, or something, because he can do that. He doesn't do it often because then that solves all problems, and magic is mysterious so they'll never explain it. I recognize that it's tough to work within those parameters, but it's hard to forgive when everything surrounding is devoid of life, charm and character.

More than anything, superhero television should have a ton of character to it. They've been refined for decades -- sometimes 70+ years. The work has been done for you, and it's disappointing when their small screen adaptations don't have any of the soul that has driven them on the page for so long.

Just Give Me A Name

Ran into this song tonight via Lazify. This kind of quietly simmering, deceptively calm song is a hard bank shot to hit. It's a complex emotion to write in and to nail musically, and it's exhilirating when it works. It's rage, but spread so thin like fine spider-webs.

I don't need to know
I don't need to know
I don't need to know how it went
Where it took place
Night or day
or even what it might have meant
If you played or you laid
or just fell to the bed
whether you laughed or you cried
if you're in love
or just out of
I won't ask you to decide

Every time it loops back to "I just need a name" is more insistent and desperate than the last, until in the last verse it gives in to confrontation, revenge and hatred. It's uncomfortable, but relatable, and it warps the songs story into a man falling into the worst parts of his nature. It's exhilirating stuff if you're into these emotional gymnastics, these triple axels of the heart. I then read a review that interpreted it as a song about only needing someone's name to fall in love and I got incredulous and annoyed at my computer screen. This is why I type out lyrics every time I review something.

Elsewhere | Panama Interview & Reviewing All Sorts

The most significant thing I've written in recent history is this Panama interview/live report. Above is a GIF that Google+ made without my asking. They do that a lot. I also took a lot of pictures and forgot to send all of them to BuzzChips. C'est La Vie.

It was kind of a rough interview. I rushed to Hollywood after work, parking was hell, and I only had enough change for a few minutes. I walked a few blocks to an ATM and then a Starbucks to recuperate/game plan for how I was going to get this interview through. Eventually the artist called me back and we did the brief chat over the phone -- which is fine, but I could've spared myself a lot of stress. Super gracious and easy to talk to dude though.

Over at Moxipop I've been glad to write about comics a bit just because it's tangentially related to music. I'm going to do that again for John Darnielle's novel. Both Bonnaroo and FYF got written up because that's how I roll. I decided to review some albums because no one else was.

I have to get back on the hunt for new outlets, though. New genres, different challenges. I don't like the still water.

Los Angeles, Be Kind

I'm writing this from my new room, in my new apartment, in my new neighborhood. I've been here for about 2 weeks now. If I may toot my own horn a little bit: my room is huge and beautiful. It is highly likely this is the largest room I will ever live in. Gonig from to my tiny, absurdist 192 square foot studio to this apartment, feels like I am exhaling after one year of holding my breath.

That was a good year, though. Despite the constraints in parking and living space, it was my year out of Carson. My neighborhood was walkable, full of personality and history, and I enjoyed telling the 20+ friends I hosted on my couch about the district. My best days could be walking to the coffee shop alone, or walking to the El Rey to see a band I liked, or getting safely drunk at the little local bar. The weird stuff on La Brea that half the people just pass by and wonder about, I got to take a step inside. I still think I'll go back there, some day, when I move up in the world and can afford to live in a human-sized apartment.

As much as I liked it there, it always felt like a half measure. It was great and I was grateful, but it still didn't feel like I had attained the full, basic normalcy of adulthood that I wanted.

The constraints in parking meant I couldn't go out exactly when I wanted to without sacrificing a mile of walking. All reupping of groceries & supplies had to be done on weekend afternoons, and I scheduled my nights out to the ebb and flows of parking. I went into work late every Wednesday just so I could sneak a nearby spot after street sweeping. The constraints in living space meant I could never really cook without a stove or oven. My lack of counter space meant even making a salad took an hour, while the miniature fridge necessitated frequent trips to the market and inclined me to pre-cooked foods. I couldn't fry an egg without setting off the smoke alarm, much less initiate any kind of diet & exercise game plan. When I brought back a date, there was always the hesitance about how they'd view my stuffy, compacted living. Life was good, but it didn't feel like I had reached a new plateau.

Now, though, I think I'm there. I think the last 5 years have all led up to this moment, to a living situation like this, and I think I'm ready to begin.

When I graduated in 2009, I had vague plans of working for a year, saving up money, and then going to graduate school for writing. The economy threw a wrench into these plans. I spent 3 months unemployed, lowered my standards, and worked a minimum wage retail job for nearly a year. I applied to 3 graduate school programs and got into one, which was debilitatingly expensive. The more I looked at my prospects as a novelist (or whatever), the more I realized that this was like trying to win a lottery where the grand prize is an $7,000 advance.

So I looked for different routes. I did a few months at an unpaid magazine internship, which was a fun way to roleplay the type of life I wanted. I spent even more months floundering in another spell of unemployment and its accompanying depression as I tried to land any job that didn't sound like I was wasting my degree. I got close enough: data entry and administrative duties at an online retailer, which let me stack my savings account and build a safety net for my eventual move into the world. All the while, I was living at my parent's home, raring to get out and really, at long last, build my post-graduate life.

I know the flaw in this redemption story; I could have reached this point earlier if I had more determination and more willingness to take on risk. Others have ascended the ladder quickly simply because they seize the moment, doubts be damned. If I could forego my well-chronicled financial anxiety and my need for a safety net of savings, I probably could've been at this point in my mid-20s, instead of my late 20s. I know those are social years that I will probably never get back. I know, and I think about that a lot. I wish I didn't take this long.

But all that matters is that I'm here now and what I do with this opportunity. I've always put Los Angeles on a pedestal as my personal Big City Dream, the Center of the World. I was excited to work within its bones, and then I was ecstatic to live along its heart. It's only now that I feel like I'm really without unreasonable restraint, which is just a fancy way of saying no more excuses. There is no reason not to have the best years of my life.

How To Internet First Date


  1. Do last minute research by looking at her profile again and making a mental note of any likes and dislikes.
  2. Drive to the restaurant. Leave early because you know parking is hell.
  3. Somehow, you end up late anyway.
  4. On the way over practice saying her name out loud so you don't accidentally say the names of the other girls you've met on the internet.
  5. Stand up straight and ask for a table.
  6. Meet her and instantly recognize each other, not because everyone looks like their photos, but because there is no other reason individual strangers would make eye contact in this city.
  7. Be impressed; like, sincerely. She looks amazing, her outfit looks stunning on her, but also, wow, she's a little taller than you in heels.
  8. Wonder if that bothers you because you've bought into gender roles, or if that bothers you because you think it bothers her.
  9. Buy two drinks at the bar while you wait for a table. Whiskey & ginger ale.
  10. Fumble small talk while you wait for your drinks. It's a hard place to start conversation because you don't feel like the date has begun yet, so you accidentally create the first silent gap in your interaction.
  11. Luckily she asks you about a thing you said online; moving to a new apartment. Make a joke about your current apartment being slightly bigger than your body, a line shamelessly cribbed from Mike Birbiglia. Hope he does not find out and get mad.
  12. The joke lands, but with a delay. Still, she laughs, and that is important because you have to get across that you are A Funny Guy. You wish you could just wear a T-shirt that says "I Am Funny" and people would just believe you.
  13. Your table is ready! Sit down, but with good posture so that you maintain some semblance of eye height. Begin talking through the basics: job, life, education, origin story.
  14. Talk about writing, which you are always excited to do, because you've spent years just digesting and stewing on writing mantras and the craft of thinking about writerly stuff. Exchange these with pleasure.
  15. Wonder if it sounds like you're trying too hard to seem interesting, realize it doesn't matter, because this is where the talking has flowed. It's where you are now, and that's all that matters.
  16. Another lull in conversation. She tries to catch it by asking questions, and you do too when you think fast enough.
  17. Realize that you are Going Through The Motions, which is a trap you fall into at least once every Internet First Date. Panic! Your lifelong inability to be instantly engaging has left you reverting to the role of reporter; you ask questions, find out more about a person, but have nothing to add to it or volley it back and forth.
  18. Look at the menu. Say something about not being a big fan of quinoa even though you have no strong feelings one way or the other. Be secretly bewildered as to why you said that, and why you're now having an exchange about quinoa. Theorize that maybe it was an attempt to imbue yourself with personality/discerning taste.
  19. Awkwardly split a vegetarian pizza. Realize it's pretty spicy but try not to make a mess of the food.
  20. Make a mess of the food. You are eating like a child, and there is a pile of jalapenos and tomato sauce to the side of your plate.
  21. Realize that you should go, because they need the table, but you don't want to end the date because you have not had the chance to really say or do anything interesting.
  22. Suggest taking a walk around the area.
  23. Pay for the food & drinks because you're ballin'
  24. Realize that this is your last shot at presenting yourself as a likeable human being. Go next door to a strange art exhibit with accompanying video game.
  25. She stares down art on the wall and doesn't seem to be responding to comments or questions. You have a hard time reading if she likes the art or not.
  26. In the back room of the gallery is a large space where the game is set up with loud, beautiful ambient music. She likes the space, and so do you.
  27. Sign up for the mailing list.
  28. Watch her play a demo of the game with a Playstation 4 controller. "I don't play video games," she says, and she has trouble figuring out the objective of the game, which is more of an interactive art toy than anything else.
  29. She plays for 3 minutes, and then asks if you want to play.
  30. You play, and figure out what the goal is of this particular level, and so you go and try to win. You play for what feels like 10 minutes.
  31. This is obviously too long and you can see her getting visibly impatient. But damn it, you're so close to beating the level!
  32. Leave the gallery, trying to work in last important questions that will reveal her character and yours. What do you do for fun, what did you do today, what are your plans now.
  33. Think, in the back of your head: "Do you want to go dance at the Echo? They have a free funk music night, it's just on the other side of this block."
  34. Say instead: "I guess I'll go home."
  35. Mention an event that you like to go to. She says it sounds interesting and "She'll have to check it out some time." Realize that on other dates, you have used this as a window to say, "I'd be happy to take you when you're next free." For some reason you don't say it and that's weird, even to you.
  36. Wonder if this is what lacking chemistry is. The conversation was stilted, full of stops and starts, and whereas normally you manage to make a ton of jokes realize that you didn't make any jokes. 
  37. Maybe you did a bad job presenting yourself as an exciting person, but maybe that's because of your different personality types. Maybe you were off your groove because of that incompatibility. Your best internet first dates have been seamless and you never thought about yourself too much, so maybe this wasn't a failure but a symptom.
  38. Decide that that's impossible to assess in 2 hours. It wasn't a home run but it wasn't a strike out.
  39. That in-between zone is probably the worst because it's the most unknowable and up in the air and unsatisfying.
  40. Walk her to her car.
  41. Tell her it was good to meet her; she says the same. She says she might see you at some event. Say that would be good. You are unsure of anything you are saying but these are things you should say just in case.
  42. Hug her.
  43. Walk back to your car.
  44. A truck driver leaving a parking lot yells at you. "That's it? Just a hug?!" he says. "You gotta kiss her too, man."
  45. Laugh and say to him as you pass: "I'm working on it."
  46. Work on it.



Illustration by HarriorriharBonnaroo was like a great, big pause. It's a dip out of civilization, society, constant internet connection -- especially if you're with Sprint -- and just living for what's in front of you. I needed it. My mind was a carousel of repetative, worried thoughts; about my career momentum, my clients, my interpersonal relationships, my social life, my health and mortality. On that last one, I had been spending a lot of time diagnosing myself with everything from GERD to sleep apnea to Marfan's syndrome. That sounds ridiculous to read now that I've typed it out.

Those 5 days off were a break. In the same way you disconnect your wi-fi to really concentrate on your term paper, this was a disconnect from my dull, numbing anxieties. I missed out on all but a few quarters of the NBA Finals, and on Saturday I asked the crowd if anyone knew who won. "Are the Spurs champions? Are the Spurs champions right now and we don't even know it? Did Tim Duncan retire?" A day later I would joke that the world outside of this 700 acre farm could have ended and we wouldn't know about it. We could drive to the airport and find that civilization had broken down days ago. It was an insular world, a fever dream, a psychadelic trip. Having flown in in the morning I had a whole day to recover, and I took advantage of it with a 17 hour sleep. 

But now I'm back at work -- and how! Once back in the fold of work, I slid back in with more ease than I expected. After the initial fear of tackling a pile of unread e-mails, it was back to writing cases, filling out government forms, corresponding with clients and grinding out everything in-between.

There was a bit of dumb, unfortunate serendipity. Something like 5 clients got their stuff together at the same time and, consequently, all had the same urgent deadline. A bad time for a vacation. The result is that I'm working a lot -- 10 hour days, Saturdays from home, Sundays in the office. I stayed until 11 PM once just because the work necessitated it. There's no overtime incentive, there's just the necessity. It is physically impossible to get this many people through the system on a 40 hour work week.

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Elsewhere | Mirah Review, Okkervil River's Free Culture

The two most intensive things I've written since I last crossposted my work to this blog:

1. A review of Mirah's great new album, Changing Light, for Buzzchips. I enjoyed writing about it, especially for a publication that doesn't force me to quantify my enjoyment into a number. Sometimes all I have are words.

2. A big editorial about Don Henley's comments on Okkervil River and Will Sheff's comments about free culture. This one had the added bonus of being linked to on Twitter by Will Sheff himself, so that made my day. I wish I had the will to write more pointed thinkpiece stuff -- it's in my head all the time, but it rarely makes it out onto the screen. Too often, the thoughts simmer and don't seem as interesting or urgent as they did in the heat of the moment. Sometimes my take doesn't seem fresh enough and I know someone on Grantland or The Atlantic or Stereogum will say all of it and then some. Every once in a while, I know I should just stop thinking about it or sleeping on it and just write it -- even if it's not the #HottestTake mankind has ever wrought. I'm glad I did, this time.

Otherwise, I'm preparing for my big summer trip -- Bonnaroo 2014 in Manchester, Tennesee. I'm excited. I've been excited for a month, but now it's palpable excitement. I leave Tuesday night/Wednesday morning -- 6 AM flight. I've already planned out the 4 days, with plenty of time for exploration and relaxation, but my must hit list is as follows:

  1. Kanye West
  2. Cloud Nothings
  3. Chance the Rapper
  4. Skrillex Superjam with Zedd, Janelle Monae, Thundercat, Chance, more.
  5. Elton John
  6. Deafheaven
  7. Vampire Weekend/Neutral Milk Hotel (Haven't decided yet)
  8. James Blake
  9. Disclosure
  10. Pusha T

I don't know what awaits me other than great music. I anticipate sweltering heat, sudden rain storms, and being caught by a lack of preparation no matter what. It's going to be a big deal, though, and that's all I really want out of this excursion.

On y va.


I went to my third funeral last week. It was a co-worker -- 62 years old, never went to the doctor, never knew he developed hypertension, was taken by surprise by a stroke. He was getting better, the youngest guy in the ward, but these things aren't fixed on rails. He passed on a Friday and his funeral was the next Tuesday.

I attended with my co-workers. Co-worker relationships are always strange things. You don't have to bond or even have any sort of common ground, so in some cases tehse can be relationships of totally pleasant and uneventful politeness. I didn't know Tom that well. I had heard a few stories of his family, I knew where he lived, I knew his work ethic and his intelligence, but I didn't know much else about him. I didn't know his passions -- he seemed to have a general expertise on everything. I didn't know his favorite art, or the big events in his life. He was a co-worker, and one far, far above me in the hierarchy at that.

Still, he was a daily presence, and his absence was felt. What's more strange is that I was a daily presence in his. As I sat in a middle pew at his funeral, I was surrounded by people to whom he meant the world, but hadn't seen him that often. These people were pillars of his life, and it was strange that I had come in near the end -- a final season recurring character. 

But death is weird how it approaches in uneven and unfair circumstances. Because I had only known Tom for a little less than a year, most of my emotional reaction was one of pity and empathy. "Poor fucking guy," I said to myself, several times in the days after I found out. He was a stubborn dude, that I knew, and he would've hated to go out that way. He would've hated being bedridden, how out of the blue it was, how unprepared he must've been. He seemed like he would've been angry if he knew it would end like that. Poor fucking guy.

I am generally unaware of what it's like to live with death. I have lost two grandparents and one distant high school friend in 27 years. Death has always been a dark shadow that creeps in from the edges. The black fade keeps edging closer and closer, and I'm frequently worried about the time it will finally hit my immediate circle. I don't know how I'll react. I don't know how I'll cope. Mostly I just hope I never find out.

This was the closest death my boss has ever had to deal with. She talked with Tom for hours every day. But she's never lost a grandparent or a close friend or anything like that. It's a big leap for her, and I don't know how people get over it once the illusion that everyone in your circle is going to be around forever. Maybe you just rebuild it.

When I saw the open casket, I could only stand in front of it with a furrowed brow. It didn't look like him, and for some reason that made me feel even more pity. In all the wakes I've been to, the deceased never looks like themselves; it's an artist's rendering of what they think they probably looked like in life. I'm not mad at them -- I know it's practically impossible and getting dead bodies to be peacefully presentable is tough. But in the few moments I had before the casket, I couldn't stop thinking about what a damn shame it was. An unexpected, unfair end and then you don't even get to look like yourself. Poor fucking guy.

Next to the casket they had one of those poster boards full of old pictures. I had never seen him in these contexts -- as a young man, at a family party, with his wife. But it made sense, it looked natural. I noticed he had always had big teeth, and in his young age it looked exactly as you would expect. It looked right. It looked better.

Aronofsky's NOAH

(spoilers ahead)

I've been thinking a lot about Darren Aronofsky's latest movie, NOAH, a high fantasy rendition of the old testament tale about history's greatest hoarder. I thought at first that meant it was a "smart" film, or at least a "heady" film the way Aronofsky's THE FOUNTAIN was -- but the more I tried to justify that, the more that label didn't make sense. That might be the overall problem most audiences have with NOAH: it doesn't fit conveniently under any of these labels. It's not a reverent, historical bible movie. It's not an irreverent, critical provocative movie. It's just a suspenseful thriller using common Christian mythology as a backdrop.

It's a great thriller, though. There's so much murky conflict and tension that, when transposed onto biblical epics, become extremely high stakes. Suddenly it's not about a man trying to protect his family, it's about god's chosen prophet fighting for all mankind. That is as big of an upgrade as you can make. Yet even that's nothing compared to the second half conflict of a psychotic obsessive deciding to kill his own grandchild -- that gets upgraded into a man deciding the human race deserves to be ended. Holy shit, right?

That's the point where this becomes a crazy fucking movie in the best way. It's unsettling, but not for any big deep biblical reasons, it's just a well done and sensible turn of the main protagonist into the main antagonist. It's all in the structure and in the characterization, not in anything having to do with the gravity of bible stories. The thing is, it could have been. And if it were, it would be an even more compelling story.

Here's the premise of the second act conflict: Noah, realizing that the evil is within all people, not just the descendents of Cain, understands that god did not ask him to survive and restart the human race. God asked him to survive, save the animals, and then live out the remaining generation of the human race. Wither on the vine. No humans in the new Eden. So he doesn't find his sons wives and he accepts the barren wife of his eldest, Ila played by Emma Watson. When the secret intervention of his somehow-magical grandfather, Methuselah, allows Ila to get pregnant, Noah realizes that this undermines the creator and his plan for the human race to end. So now he has to kill the baby if it's a daughter that might allow mankind to continue (spoilers: it is. In fact, it's two daughters.)

The crazy tension is in Noah's degradation into a wild-haired, wild-eyed madman. He looks like the craziest fucking hobo you've ever seen and he's determined to kill this baby when it finally comes out and they find out its gender.

(Side note: they do a flash forward, but can you imagine those 9 months of living with crazy hobo dad Noah? Sharpening his sword staring at them, constantly arguing with his son and daughter at the dinner table, yelling with his wife about why she's making baby boots. "YOU KNOW I'MMA KILL THAT BABY, RIGHT? RIGHT???" Talk about inter-family stress.)

Of course there's not going to be any on-screen infanticide, so while Noah comes as close as holding a knife to a sleeping baby's face, he finds that he feels only love in his heart and cannot stab a baby. The resolution is basically a Deus Ex Machina: he is convinced that god did not choose him to end mankind, but to judge mankind as worthy and to guide them into the ways of kindness. It is further validated by rainbow pulses emanating from the sun at the end of the movie.

That's all well and good, and it's a feel good ending that I'm sure will please some audiences. But on some level, I wanted a really dark and complex ending. Not one where Noah kills babies -- that's a little ridiculous for my tastes. I still wanted Noah to have a change of heart, but one where god doesn't. Imagine this:

Noah decides to spare his grandchildren. He just can't do it. So the end result is that the human race continues into this new world in direct defiance of the will of god. This was not part of his will, he doesn't change his mind, he's kinda pissed that people continue to exist when he wanted the new world to be the domain of the giraffes or whatever. So maybe that's why he takes away his blessing -- his direct intervention and all the magic that comes with it. That's why there are no warriors with flaming swords, no arch angels, no direct intervention via miracles.

Noah and his family, faced with this, decide that they have to do their best to live up to the challenge of creating a human race based in kindness, to prove that they are worthy of the creator's blessing. They have to make an argument for mankind by living as decently and as responsibly as possible. And that's the end of the movie. They live in a colder, darker world, but they're going to do their best to show that humanity is worthwhile. Think of how stirring that theme could be. You can even go so far as to extend it to the audience -- leave this theater, go forth and prove that mankind deserves to be here.

Obviously that's a little more hopeless, a little more controversial, and someone would get mad that god is made out to be the bad guy and that you are in fact rooting against him. So I understand why they went that route. In fact, after reading that there was some argument about the film's final cut, I wonder if this was the original ending.

Other observations:

  • I love that since this is pre-history and somewhat of a fantasy world, but definitely  not medieval, they can do whatever they want in terms of world-building. So Noah is wearing a stylish sleeveless leather hoodie and everyone's got these dope denim shawls or whatever.
  • There's a hilarious scene where Noah, in his post-flood misery and traumatic stress, gets drunk off his ass. I know why they show it -- it's cinematic shorthand for "this guy is real messed up and sad" -- but it's hilarious because in order to explain it they basically show Noah inventing wine. The arrive in the new world, they show him picking grapes, then they show him sputtering wine, alone, in a cave, falling asleep naked on his face.
  • I really would love to see more high fantasy films in biblical settings like this. There's a lot you can do. There's one quick flashback of Enoch or whoever fighting the armies of Cain, who are trying ot kill these stone-clad Fallen Angels, and he uses The Flaming Sword of Michael to slay them. It's dope. I want a video game.
  • The fallen angels are basically Rock Ents.



Weird Memory That Popped Into My Head

Some years ago I was at my magazine internship, I was working a 3 day party in Indio, just outside of the Coachella grounds. It was basically on someone's estate and we utilized their nice house and acres of land to throw a pool party. At night, running out of things to do, I wandered into the kitchen and found some kind of scientist cook, a young guy cooking with nitrogen. I offered to help, because there was nothing else to do.

"Great," he said. "What we're doing right now is putting this wild rice and sugar in a pan and caramelizing it." He showed me how to stir it and told me to make sure enough sugar was getting in there. Then he left the kitchen.

I took this picture when he was gone:

When he came back he said positive things and then we would begin to mash these caramelized, sticky bits of wild rice into small chunks. They were hot to touch, let alone press into tight squares.

"Let me see your hands," he said. I put my hands out, palms up, and he ran his thumbs over my fingers. He looked visibly disappointed.

"Well," he said, wondering how I could get through 24 years of life with unworn, child-like skin on my fingers. "You're not going to be a pussy about the heat, right?"

"Right," I said.

"Good," and he left again.

I tried to mash as many squares as I could, but they kept burning my fingers. If I couldn't press on them very hard for very long, they would just fall apart. I wanted to defend myself, saying, I used to play bass, give me a week with a bass and I'll have these gnarly calluses. That was the first time I was ever self conscious about having good skin.

Eventually we dipped the sticky, wild rice squares into a vat of nitrogen. When you took them out and bit into them, a cold cloud of smoke would erupt. It was pretty cool. There was a long line at the party to get some, and I brought some girls from the office to the front to try them. The cook was friendly and obliged.

Elsewhere | Interviews with Electric Mantis, No

The cool thing about interviews is you basically get to let loose with your rapport skills. It's like hitting the heavy bag. You've learned a lot about banter, you've practised polite conversation, and now you're read to deploy it. If you're good you'll punch through that polite layer and have a real conversation. That's the fun of it.

The uncool thing about interviews is having to listen to your own voice in the recording while you transcribe. I'm a pretty quick transcriber -- something that I was really proud of when I was a magazine intern -- but boy do I want to not listen to myself outside of my own head.

I did a couple of cool interviews this past week with some exciting, rising artists. First was Electric Mantis for Moxipop. It was a good, casual and candid conversation in which I did not feel any intense shame. Hope that dude makes it. Second was NO for Buzzchips, which was a little more difficult due to it being during the opening act. I also suffered from hindsight syndrome; I came up with a lot of specific questions and ideas after the fact. Still, they're a great band with a strong album and I can't wait to see what happens.

P.S. I started typing this at a coffee shop where I swear to god adrian brody was enjoying a vegetable sandwich or something across the room

Elsewhere | Futurebirds, Sun Kil Moon, Moses Sumney, A Marsh.

I have written a lot of things recently that I feel reasonably good about. I would like to use the opportunity, afforded by having my own blog where I make the damn decisions, to collect them all into one place.

I'm contributing now to Buzzchips, a very pretty local/independent music blog. As a first pitch, I decided to challenge myself and write about a Futurebirds show, a cool band that I know on a very casual level. It was a lot of fun to watch and write about. My second move was to review the new Sun Kil Moon album, Benji, because that dude is a stone cold boss. I'm almost sure I used the landscape/self-portrait metaphor in the ending somewhere else but for the life of me I can't figure out where. Still, it was the most appropriate image I could conjure.

At good old See South Bay, I had the difficult and self-imposed task of describing why a dry marsh in Torrance is worth your time. I had to meditate on it a little bit but I think I figured it out in a sincere way, why such a space is valuable in the 310 sprawl. Dare I say, I am fond of the marsh now. Also: Beer.

Then we go back to Moxipop where I do my best to give Transgender Dysphoria Blues justice and write a brief live report on a dude named Moses Sumney. I saw him completely on accident at a great weekly LA concert showcase purely to spend time with a girl, and I'm glad I did. He's got a sharp talent that can go in a lot of different directions and I'm excited to see what all his momentum will turn into.

Looking at this post, it's clear that writing about having written is silly. But I'm writing a lot, for other places, and that means I'm not writing here. So it's necessary to keep this place vaguely current.

I'm writing a lot. I'm going to write more. Everywhere.

Elsewhere | The Only Lesson of the Conor Oberst Scandal


I spent about a day trying to figure out how I feel and what was fair and what was correct before I finally settled on it not mattering. Not the incident or the reaction, just how I personally come down on this does not matter. The only ideal I could see is that we learn how to avoid automatic write-offs and snarky skepticism in reports of sexual assault. I think seeing that was the worst part of this news cycle.

Also knowing that any lesson will be washed away by Coachella lineup news.

Elsewhere | Second Hand Adventure at Memory Lanes Antiques Mall

After a brief hiatus due to holidays and technical problems, I have a piece up at See South Bay wherein which someone allows me to go to a gigantic antiques mall and enter the stream of consciousness. We'll see if that was wise.

These are the things I enjoy doing. No game plan other than to explore until I feel something and then overanalyze that feeling. It's probably not journalism, and not always even great press -- but it ought to be okay to read if you're fascinated by old kitsch like I am.

Whatever. Write for yourself first, right?

My 10 Favorite Albums, 2013

Even though I did a light hearted variation of this for Moxipop, I did it here last year, so I'm doing it again because if I deviate from busy work routines I start to look at my actual life and how it's devoid of any real meaning. So here's 10 things I loved to listen to this year, ranked with great difficulty, but ultimately only reflecting my opinion at this very moment.

10. Bleeding Rainbow - Yeah Right

Proof that advance streaming works. Listened to it on a whim from the newly debuted Pitchfork Advance stream and I fell right into Bleeding Rainbow. Rad nostalgic alternative stuff with airy vocals. I got stuck on the constant beat of songs like "Shades of Eternal Night," or the druggy haze of "Drift Away." Just a cool, raw band with a tool belt of sounds. They build and build and build.

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Digital Angeles

I beat Grand Theft Auto V a couple of weeks ago. It took a while. I push pencils full time, for myself and for a living, and I found one hour windows to play once a week. Twice if I really wanted to fuck up my deadlines. The game takes place in Los Santos, a satirized & compressed but otherwise stunningly accurate rendition of Los Angeles.

The game came out in mid-September, exactly one month after moving to Los Angeles.

I mean, I was born and raised in "Los Angeles" but any true Angeleno knows that LA is less of a city and more of a bunch of spread out disparate parts. LA County, my turf south of Greater LA, is where I spent most of my life thus far. It's a world of difference from the big city out-of-towners imagine when I tell them that I'm from LA: everything has a parking lot, everything is built flat and long, everyone lives an elliptical life disconnected from the center. It may as well be Reno, or Odessa, or Camden. Los Angeles, from Santa Monica to Highland Park, is the sun. Everything else, from the Valley to the South Bay, is its own planet in orbit. Life never really has to leave it, or even care much for the sun other than know it is there.

I have loved LA since I was a teenager, the way kids in the 70s loved space. I looked at it from a distance and felt an urge to explore and touch a bigger universe. You can tell by that metaphor that I'm one of those people, the ones that define the value of their life by its proximity to something that feels culturally important. I might toss around the phrase "center of the world" if I were brave enough. After college, I knew that was the goal. I began interning in LA, then working in LA, then driving there every day. It was a pain of a commute, a slow depressing trudge for over an hour every early morning, but it brought mere here to a studio apartment in the middle of it all.

By the time I got to live here, I was already well versed in the city's ways. I knew the landmarks, some history, a lot of the spots. I knew that you're better off taking Fountain over Sunset. So, when GTA V came out and I was tasked with exploring a digital Los Angeles, I was prepared to see a lot of my newfound life in the big city.

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