Life During Quarantine

A while back, out of nowhere, I got the urge to fill out one of those surveys like the ones that used to circulate in my Hotmail and Myspace inboxes back in middle school: you know, the 100-line long questionnaires with annoying font colors and *~*wRiTiNg LiKe ThIs*~*.

Mostly I wanted to have something to fill out because it’d be an interesting snapshot of Life During Quarantine. But that was back in spring when everything still felt new and weird, and by now (apocalyptic skies aside), I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve settled into the pandemic lifestyle. No fewer than 15 masks hang by our front door. Running essential errands or going on walks are pretty much the only reasons we go out. Seeing people hug on TV shows makes me uncomfortable. I’d say we’re in it for the long haul.

My personal journal (the one not on the Internet) used to be where I wrote about vacations and get-togethers; now it’s where I document the Netflix shows we’ve gone through and new recipes we’ve tried. I figured I’d pull out some of those mundane details and compile them here in a non-comprehensive list: newish and relevant movies, shows, albums, books, and other random things Alex and I have consumed since March of this year. Use it as a list of recommendations if you want, but mostly it’s just here to serve the same purpose as those middle school surveys: as a time capsule.

Movies

  • THE VAST OF NIGHT. Quirky low-budget Amazon Prime movie with surprising shifts in pace and a couple of genuinely chilling scenes. The setting is in a small New Mexico town in the atomic age, which gave me real The Return Part 8 vibes (not a bad thing).
  • DA 5 BLOODS. Hard to finish, but worth it. Chadwick Boseman plays a central role even though you only see him for about 20 minutes total.
  • STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. Watched this one as part of a virtual movie night hosted by our favorite neighborhood theater, the Balboa. A thoroughly enjoyable Hitchcock film with an insane climax. (The experience of watching with a chat room full of people—and everyone pressing play at the same time—had a very 2000s feel to it.)
  • MOONLIGHT. I regret that I didn’t see this when it first came out. It’s everything I love in a movie: the slow unfolding of a character arc, extremely aware of its setting, sad and beautiful all at once.
  • THE CONVERSATION. Paranoia in 1970s San Francisco? Say no more!
  • SHIRLEY. I just love that this movie exists. Plus, Elisabeth Moss as Shirley Jackson is a mood.

Documentaries and docuseries

  • THE BOOKSELLERS. A documentary about antiquarian booksellers, how very up our alley.
  • THE LAST DANCE. I don’t like sports and I don’t like drama, but somehow loved this docuseries about the 1990s Chicago Bulls?? A+ editing and interviews. And Alex got to relive the height of his basketball card-collecting years by naming every player who appeared on the screen and their team.
  • 13TH. An essential watch and another one I wish I’d seen sooner. Can’t recommend highly enough.
  • TAKE THIS HAMMER (DIRECTOR’S CUT). This was my proper introduction to James Baldwin, which I’m very grateful for. It’s also an important glimpse into San Francisco’s history with race. (Warning: it’s not pretty.)
  • A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. I need to read this book!!!
  • REMASTERED: THE TWO KILLINGS OF SAM COOKE. I naïvely didn’t know any of the history behind Sam Cooke and his music. A fascinating and depressing story.

TV shows and limited series

  • DARK. Just a great mind-bending, post-apocalyptic German show to watch in 2020. 
  • GODLESS. A quick little miniseries featuring an intimidating Jeff Daniels, a bunch of badass women, and some excellent western scenery.
  • WATCHMEN. Perhaps the most relevant thing in this whole post, and also one of my favorites even though I was hesitant at first to watch it. (It helped that Alex could explain the nuances of the DC universe to me while we watched, but that’s not necessary to enjoy it!!)
  • RUSSIAN DOLL. V easy to binge. Relatable in the sense that every day lately feels the same.
  • MANIAC. Weird/spooky/good.
  • THE X-FILES. We’re currently on Season 6 (a very alien-heavy season so far) and it’s been a ride. Not gonna lie, I’m mostly in it for the fandom, and so I can watch supercuts on YouTube without spoilers.

Books

  • TRICK MIRROR, Jia Tolentino. A collection of essays that hit hard.
  • THE OX, Chris Rees. a.k.a. John Entwistle’s authorized biography. Nothing too groundbreaking, but some good stories to be told.
  • THE MADDADDAM TRILOGY, Margaret Atwood. I would highly recommend reading this in 2020.
  • THE VANISHING HALF, Brit Bennett. A character-driven story set in some of my favorite places.
  • THE FIRE NEXT TIME, James Baldwin. An important read. Baldwin discusses ugly topics more eloquently than anyone I’ve ever read.
  • LITTLE WEIRDS, Jenny Slate. An apt title, and the kind of book you can read in bite-sized pieces. Depending on my mood during each chapter, I either loved or hated it.

Albums

  • SONGS FOR PIERRE CHUVIN, the Mountain Goats. I feel like I’m not a real Mountain Goats fan because I’m not as into the early stuff, but this came out at just the right time (April 2020) and the return to lo-fi was so befitting while we all stayed cooped up in our homes.
  • FETCH THE BOLT CUTTERS, Fiona Apple. Sonically transcendent.
  • WOMEN IN MUSIC, PT. III, HAIM. Every track is just so good. Snippets of Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell, Sheryl Crow, Ace of Base, and Uncle Kracker(?!). Fun fact: When it comes to Famous People of Our Generation, I’m one degree of separation away from Este Haim, who was in my classes/Bachelor’s program/graduating class at UCLA.
  • SET MY HEART ON FIRE IMMEDIATELY, Perfume Genius. So dreamy. Will probably always remind me of cooking dinner with Alex and Coop (who likes to sit on the fridge supervising us), one and a half glasses of wine in, thinking about how even though everything else in the world was a disaster, our tiny little family couldn’t be happier.

I’ve been lowkey making a pandemic playlist on Spotify, which you can find here. It’s mostly stuff that has come out since March, but also includes some older songs by artists we’ve lost since then, and some others that for whatever reason remind me of these strange times.

Recipes

  • Red pepper, potato, and peanut sabzi. Bon Appetit may be cancelled, but I’ll be forever grateful to the Test Kitchen squad for introducing us to some great recipes. This one from Priya is SO GOOD.
  • Sourdough crackers and sourdough biscuits. Thanks, King Arthur Flour! And thanks to my coworker Alysia for sharing some of her sourdough starter with me at the beginning of all this.
  • Homemade spaghetti and sauce from the excellent Pasta Grannies book. Our ultimate comfort food.
  • Char siu chicken banh mi. Ever since we learned we could pickle food, the idea of making our own banh mi has been so enticing. This was so fun to make (and eat)!
  • Turkish couscous. A refreshing dish made during the heatwave in early September.
  • Soyrizo burritos. I’ve eaten…..too many of these to count. Basically just involves cooking up some soyrizo with egg and potato, sometimes adding rice and beans, and making a burrito out of it. 

aaaand just for fun…

New names we’ve developed for Coop

The nicknames have evolved so much that it’s impossible to try and explain them.

  • Samba
  • Cross Finster
  • Crossover
  • Combination Lock
  • Congo
  • Joost

As a bonus, here’s a snapshot of the view from my desk at 9am on September 9, 2020, the day that San Francisco skies were on fire:

The Bookends Poster Saga

Today would’ve been Record Store Day, but just like all other notable “holidays” that I usually celebrate around this time of year—Pi Day, April Fools’, Charlie Chaplin’s birthday—it was overshadowed by this pesky global pandemic and I very nearly forgot about it. (Technically, Record Store Day 2020 has been postponed to June 20, so hopefully we’ll get another chance to partake in crate-digging soon.)

Anyway, in celebration of what was supposed to be RSD 2020, today I donated to my favorite San Francisco record shop, spun some vinyl while reorganizing piles of paper in my work-from-home office (Paul and Linda’s Ram and the Stones’ Goats Head Soup, because I will never grow out of classic rock Saturday mornings), and then wrote a rambly homage to my favorite record album poster, this absolutely iconic image of Simon & Garfunkel from Bookends:

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…featuring a Coop butt

I still catch myself marveling at the presentation of the record album in general: the fact that every cover is a mini work of art, every vinyl disc contained in its own sleeve, and every once in a while, they’re accompanied by a full sized poster folded up neatly inside, an added bonus you didn’t even ask for. And yes, I’ve blogged about this before, but here I go again!


We bought our copy of Bookends on a brisk spring day in Lausanne, Switzerland, at a used record shop called Belair. I say “our” copy because I seem to recall upon sliding the record out of its sleeve and seeing the folds of a mint condition poster inside, Alex and I looked at each other in immediate and mutual recognition, making a silent decision that this was something we had to have. This was our first international trip together, a Genco family vacation to Venice and Tuscany with a little bit of Switzerland and France sprinkled in—and my first international trip, period—so I’m sure my memories are colored in a bit of a rosy tint. I’m not actually certain at all if that’s really what happened that day in the record store, but that’s what I remember. It was 2011.

We exited the record shop, which was located at the top of a graffitied flight of stairs. Back outside, a group of street musicians sang and played guitar in a plaza that overlooked a sea of terra cotta roofs. Kicking down the cobblestones in my coat and scarf and boots, newly acquired record tucked under my arm, I felt exactly like the type of person who would buy a Simon and Garfunkel record in Switzerland.

Back in our hotel room, we pulled out the poster and admired it in its full glory: Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel floating in nothingness, their bodies becoming the 59th Street Bridge and East River at sunset (or is it sunrise?), a sprig of flowers artfully placed above Art’s shoulder. The bridge, the flowers, the turtlenecks: it perfectly embodied the aesthetic of late-1960s folky New York, a time and place I desperately wish I could’ve experienced.

When we returned from our trip to our little San Fernando Valley apartment, the carefully packed record and poster were waiting for me in my suitcase. Instead of buying a new frame, I repurposed a cheap plastic frame I was using to display another favorite poster: a black and white photo of the Beatles from the Mad Day Out session, the one of them huddled together in the London wind, their signatures scribbled below the photo in gold. The frame was very slightly too big for the S&G poster, so instead of having the cardboard backing peek out around the edges, I put the Bookends poster directly on top of the Beatles poster, which from far away made it look like it had a nice white matting. The bottom of the T in the Beatles logo peeked out from behind, along with pen strokes from Paul and Ringo’s signatures, but they were hardly noticeable.

Simon & Garfunkel, sandwiched between the Beatles and cheap plastic, have graced the walls of four apartments and one house since then. They presided over my cinderblock-and-wood bookshelf in the LA house Alex and I shared with three musicians, in a bedroom of Ikea furniture and tablas and a boxy TV with a rabbit-ear antenna. Then when Alex got a job in San Francisco and we moved into a tiny studio in Cole Valley, they were the first thing you saw after climbing up our stairwell, greeting each visitor to our cozy one-room home. They followed us to our Inner Richmond apartment, hanging prominently from a picture hook and fishing wire in our sun-filled Victorian living room. And when we moved to the top of a foggy hill in the Outer Richmond, they took up residence on a wall in our “dining room,” named that only because it’s where the dining table was, not because we ever ate there. They’ve made their way into the background of so many photos I’ve taken over the years that Google Photos includes both Simon and Garfunkel in the personalized “People & Pets” album that it created for me:

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Now, in Bernal Heights, we’ve leveled up to a two-bedroom apartment. The second bedroom was originally intended to be a recreation room/guest room but now serves as a work-from-home office. I had grand ideas for the rec room when we first moved here, which involved framing and hanging all of our Fillmore concert posters, the enormous 2001: A Space Odyssey poster Alex got from an executive at his company, and the six Star Trek posters we bought online: one for each TOS movie. I didn’t get much further than the Fillmore posters, and then the record player got finicky, so we ended up spending less time in the rec room than we originally thought we would. In an effort to fill up blank wall space and keep the room from looking too depressing, I put our trusty Bookends poster above the futon, where it’s been hanging slightly askew for the past year and a half. As a result, S&G now watch over me every day while I work, occasionally making an appearance in a Zoom meeting, always there to transport me—even if for a second—back to another time and place where my nostalgia can run free.

It’d been a long time since I’d actually listened to the Bookends album itself, but one recent night (pre-quarantine) when I was home alone and accidentally got too high, I put on Side A and let “Save the Life of My Child” rattle my eardrums as I lay on the futon in a daze, staring up at the 59th Street Bridge and the East River as “America” morphed into “Overs” morphed into “Voices of Old People,” which seemed to carry on forever until I found myself in a silent room, the record having stopped 10 minutes prior. Listening again today, the album feels like a collage: snippets of sounds cut and pasted, images of park benches and Greyhound buses and Kellogg’s cornflakes, all of it glued together with the simple and heart-wrenching “Bookends” theme. I had forgotten how lovely it is.

I’ll be forever grateful to that record shop in Lausanne for gifting us with this album and poster. It’s not a rare album by any means (although it can be tough to find with the original poster in good condition), but something about the circumstances in which I came across it makes it feel more special than most records I own. I hope Belair is doing ok these days, and that record stores everywhere are able to come out of this in tact. It’s been a quieter RSD than usual, but I’m still thankful to be able to celebrate it.

Bonus material, thanks to Google’s People & Pets album:

The Return

Well, if this coronavirus scare is good for one thing, it’s forcing me to stay at home, sitting at my computer being bored and introspective to the point of reviving this blog. *dusts off WordPress dashboard*

To quickly summarize the last half a year in a nutshell: I started writing more for Hoodline (some recent stories I’m proud of can be found here and here), watched every Bon Appetit Test Kitchen video in existence and have expanded my home cooking repertoire by at least 2 recipes, and joined an all-women community orchestra in Oakland! It’s been a joy having weekly access to percussion instruments and the opportunity to play really cool pieces with epic chime parts like this one.

One of the pieces for our winter concert was Appalachian Spring, but as one might expect, the show was cancelled (thanks, coronavirus). So in honor of this famous piece I still haven’t played in concert, I wanted to share some other versions of Appalachian Spring.

A really impressive choreographed version by the UMD Symphony Orchestra:

1987 Cadets ripped from a VHS tape (good lord, that crowd reaction at 10:15):

Blast! (remember Blast!? The 2000s vibes are strong in this video):

EDIT: The musicians of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra playing their parts from home during quarantine. Amazing.

And, just for funsies, a different “spring” (YouTube suggested this video to me, and I won’t lie, it’s exactly the kind of content I want to see):

Death by time signature!

Ode to the CD-R

This post is about what happens when I go home to Vista and tell my mom I can help get rid of stuff, and then end up finding old things in boxes, getting all nostalgic, and memorializing them in writing instead.

One of the last times I went home, I found a stash of burned CDs in my childhood closet. It’s probably safe to say there were hundreds of them, organized into cases by time period or theme or vacation. One case had a bunch of mixes my friend Jen had burned for me in middle school: a time capsule of Y2K-era pop songs and sound bytes from Space Ghost Coast to Coast and The Osbournes. A separate case had all the Beatles bootlegs I’d downloaded from Kazaa: demos and alternate takes and obscure interviews (undoubtedly I included some of these in the mixes I made for Jen, even though she always made sure to tell me how much she didn’t like the Beatles).

Several other cases were full of the mixes I made in high school. There was a CD for pretty much every band tournament or trip I went on between 2002 and 2006. Most of them were a hodgepodge of whatever “songs of the week” I was into at the time, which almost always fell into one of two categories: early 2000s pop punk or 1960s classic rock. Besides the name of the tournament or trip, none of the CDs have their contents written on them, but most followed a similar structure: some rock songs to get me hyped on the bus ride to a show, then a whole slew of emo-adjacent songs in the middle that I typically listened to on the night ride home (hello Postal Service), then a few more peppy songs to even it out. I stuck to this pattern because it made it easy to skip the emo stuff if I wasn’t in the mood.

There were also two full cases of ripped drum corps shows and wind ensemble recordings, in case you ever doubted my band nerdiness. Another random stack consisted of maybe a dozen mixes I made in college (“Night Drives,” “Guitar Hero 2,” “S&G”), but by then CDs were becoming a thing of the past and we’d all moved on to that iPod life.

I played a couple of the old CDs for funsies—yes, we still have a stereo that plays CDs—and almost immediately cringed at the jarring jumps between decades/genres (no joke: The Who > Sum 41 > solo Mick Jagger > Avril Lavigne, yikes). BUT, it also made me remember how much effort had to go into the creation of that one cringey mix. Pre-iTunes/Spotify/YouTube, in the year 2000 AD, you had to obtain the songs you wanted usually by asking a friend if you could borrow a CD or finding/downloading songs from a P2P platform (shoutout to Kazaa and Bearshare)…then, once you ripped your CDs and downloaded your files, you’d take the songs you were into at the moment and organize them in some software like Nero, probably around 10-15 of them at a time because that’s all an audio CD-R could hold…then you’d put in an empty disc from the stack on the desk and wait for the computer to acknowledge it (sometimes it didn’t) and finally write your audio files to that flimsy piece of plastic, which would inevitably fail the first time and spin hopelessly and silently in your CD player until you tried again on a new disc, at which point you could finally, actually listen to your mediocre pop-punk-classic-rock mix in satisfaction. (Not trying to make excuses for my questionable music choices, but I do admire the patience of my former self for repeating that process literally hundreds of times.)

For every 20 CDs I burned, there were probably at least 10 failed attempts that ended up tossed in a corner somewhere. I didn’t throw them out because I thought maybe I could use them for a funky art project or something, but they eventually ended up in the trash along with any other CDs that got too scratched or held too many embarrassing memories. As for the rest, they were shuffled around in duffle bags and backpacks and car stereos for a good decade or so, until coming to rest in their clear sleeves in the cases in my closet. None are memorable enough to recreate (or even listen to again), but I don’t think I could ever get rid of them. So…sorry Mom, they’re just going to keep taking up space in the closet until one day I have my own house I can move all my old stuff into.

Anyway, I guess that does it for my short tribute to compact discs on a blog that at one point was all about records. Nostalgia is a funny thing.

4 films that define you…go.

This made the rounds on Twitter earlier today, and it seemed like a fun thing to do. The challenge was to name four films that define you, in celebration of “the personal nature of cinema.” A worthy endeavor. It kind of evolved into people just posting four images or screencaps from their chosen movies, which is what I ended up doing too:

Pretty sure I’ve blabbed about each of these at some point on this blog, but here’s a summary.

Lost in Translation (2003)

The mood and music of Lost in Translation is basically my entire aesthetic. I love how Sofia Coppola captured the feeling of being anonymous in a big city, and the uncertainty of relationships caught in limbo, and the bittersweetness of not quite knowing what to do with your life. Also, Bill Murray is a national treasure.

Annie Hall (1977)

Liking Woody Allen movies is problematic these days, but that won’t stop me from considering Annie Hall one of the best films ever made. This movie assured me that being neurotic and awkward was ok, as long as I could find someone else equally neurotic and awkward to talk about it with (Annie Hall was one of the first things Alex and I bonded over when we met). Plus, it’s so packed with memorable scenes that I regularly forget that Paul Simon is in it, which is quite a feat.

Easy Rider (1969)

Easy Rider is the 1960s—my spirit decade—in movie form. It’s basically an extended road trip montage backed by an amazing soundtrack. And because the 60s weren’t all peace and love, it also gets pretty dark, a true period piece if ever there was one. Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper are great, but Jack Nicholson most definitely steals the show. I quote this film probably once a week at minimum.

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

I was having a hard time choosing between this and a Chaplin/Keaton film, but went with Sunset Boulevard because it celebrates the silent era while also embodying the Hollywood of the 1950s, in all its noir splendor. And because glorifying the past is one of my favorite things to do. Me and Norma Desmond have a lot in common, as it turns out.


Putting this together made me realize that setting plays a huge role in all of my favorite movies. Tokyo, New York City, the American Southwest, Los Angeles…I have a personal connection with all of these places, and undoubtedly they are part of the reason I love each of these films so much.

For funsies, here are my runners-up:

A Hard Day’s Night (1964) – This movie changed my life (or more accurately, the people in it changed my life). It was a tough one to leave out of the top 4.
Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995) – Sigh. Mr. Holland’s Opus will always hold a special place in my heart for starting me on my journey to band geekdom.
Amadeus (1984) – I loooove the set design, and I looooove Mozart.
Sherlock Jr. (1924) – Ahhh, so many good visual tricks in this one. This one doesn’t really define me in any way; I wanted to include a silent film as a reminder that movies were on a completely different (and in many ways, more creative) level in the 1910s and 1920s.

Anyone else? Share your 4 films with meeeeee.

On Geocities, FanFiction.net, and Tumblr

I recently read a fascinating Longreads article by Julianne Aguilar about girls on the Internet in the early 2000s and found myself relating to it way more than I expected. Not just because I was a 12-year-old girl who had a DIY Geocities site, but because it made me remember how it felt to be part of that era, among a bunch of other kids who were just old enough to navigate the world wide web, trying to carve out their own space in uncharted digital territory.

We were the first generation to grow up using the Internet as a platform to express ourselves, which was honestly pretty awesome. I had a blast making websites that consisted mostly of photos and gifs from my favorite TV shows, occasionally supplemented with hyperactive ramblings about my best friends (the Cool Cat Club) and unabashed proclamations of my life goals. And as Aguilar points out, we were also the first generation to confront harassment that could be totally anonymous and untraceable (to us, at least). It was a world that was totally separate from real life, but the interactions we had with strangers—good and bad—still affected us in real ways. Definitely not something I ever considered at the time, but interesting to think about now.

oldlayout
Who else learned how to make a scrolling marquee from this site?

In the article, Aguilar describes exactly the kind of website I had (and that every other preteen girl online seemed to have): “an About Me page, a page of lyrics…a page of jokes, graphics she’d made, dolls collected from around the ’90s Internet of Girls. A guestbook.” Oh man, I totally remember those digital dolls (I mean, “dollz”…edit: here’s a great throwback) and the little virtual bumper stickers you could collect and put on your homepage. It was totally normal to go around and find guestbooks to sign, complimenting the owner’s website and asking them to check out your own. I still remember a very specific guestbook entry someone left on my site that said something to the effect of, “Fun website, but maybe don’t auto-play the MIDI of ‘Come on Over’ on every page??” Good call, stranger.

Aside from one or two real-life friends who I shared my site(s) with, most of the people I interacted with online were people I’d never met. And later on, when I started getting obsessed with certain bands, there were people from across the world who became like idols to me. There was Beth, who had the same tastes in music and an offbeat sense of humor that I tried unsuccessfully to emulate (sadly, I can’t remember the name of her site). Then there was Sabrina, who ran God Bless the Beatles (which still exists!) and frequently published new pages like “The Many Adventures of Paul Without A Shirt” and “The Heather Advice Skanktuary” (because we all hated Heather Mills). There were also girls my age who were really good at making Livejournal avatars in Photoshop, and devoted fanfic writers whose novellas I literally printed out from FanFiction.net and read in bed at night (it’s just now occurring to me how weird that is….but I didn’t have a laptop and I just really wanted to read my Beatlestories).

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God Bless The Beatles, 2002 (thanks, Wayback Machine!)

The article describes how young girls like these—who may have been totally average people in reality but found a certain celebrity status online—were inevitably harassed and bullied as a result of their popularity, even back then “when the Internet was small.” Aguilar talks about trying to track down one of her own personal idols from the early 2000s, a girl named Sara who may or may not have died in June 2017. It made me think about all those young writers and creatives I followed and looked up to, and where they might be today (I doubt I’ll ever know).

The tone of the article is pretty somber, but while reading, I couldn’t help but think about the flip side: what a cool world we created 20 years ago, where we all had our own personal corners of the Internet, and where fans of a particular band or TV show could meet other fans from across the world and be geeky together without feeling embarrassed about it. There are friends I met on Livejournal that I still keep in touch with today, yet have never met in person (all because we shared a favorite band). So I guess my response to the article is a more optimistic one…even though I encountered my fair share of nasty comments as a kid on the Internet circa 2000, I was lucky enough to find a niche that made me feel at home, and plenty of people who inspired me to keep writing about all the random silly things I liked, because they did it too.

I guess the same applies today, but on a much larger scale. My 12-year-old self would be delighted to know how many online mediums there are for feeding one’s fangirly emotions. YouTube is an endless rabbit hole of homemade tribute videos, Twitter is the perfect platform for unfiltered season finale reactions, and there’s a subreddit for every fandom imaginable. And don’t even get me started on Tumblr.

(Ok, actually, a quick love letter to Tumblr:

When it comes to fansites, Tumblr is the closest equivalent I see to the websites of the early 2000s I used to frequent. In addition to being a mecca for amazing fan art, it’s produced a whole network of incredibly comprehensive fansites, most of which are created by teenagers and 20-somethings known only by their usernames. What’s also amazing is how *organized* these online fandoms can be. Like, it’s super normal for the content on a Star Trek site to be categorized by series, movie, character pairing, starship, etc. Or for there to be a tag for Mulder’s glasses on an X-Files blog, because of course I’m not the only one who giggles stupidly when Mulder wears glasses. In short, I love the dedication of these young fans/artists, and I also love that I’ve gotten to see some of them launch careers in illustration or graphic design after getting their start on Tumblr.)

These wonderful communities of strangers—who form friendships and support each other and constantly create new things to share with the world—are enough, in my opinion, to balance out the ugly. There will always be awful people saying awful things on the Internet, but as long as there’s also good stuff like this, it’ll be worth preserving, and protecting.


PS: I tried in vain to find my middle school-era websites but 1) I can’t even remember what they were called, and 2) even if I did, I’m sure they weren’t important enough for Wayback Machine to archive. But I did find a snapshot of my high school pet project, the VHS pit site, so I’ll leave you with that:

pit site
(This probably looked awful on every browser except my own. Also, you can’t see the MIDI file anymore, but I learned my lesson about auto-play.)

GP: The Grievous Angel

For years I’ve been wanting to go to Joshua Tree National Park: 1) because it’s an amazing place, and 2) to pay tribute to country rock legend Gram Parsons.

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I can’t remember when I first learned about Gram, but I’m pretty sure it was through one of the many Keith Richards interviews/memoirs I’ve read over the years, seeing as Gram and Keef were BFFs. As a result, Gram was a big influence on the Rolling Stones’ country-flavored stuff in the early 70s (some of the best music of all time, IMO).

A little history: Gram Parsons started off playing folk and rock guitar, but his real bag was country. After dropping out of Harvard, he went to LA and joined the Byrds in 1968, sticking around just long enough to tour a bit and make Sweetheart of the Rodeo (I’m not huge on the Byrds, but that album is one of my favorites). Then he and Chris Hillman went on to form the Flying Burrito Brothers:

(Gram is the one in the hat and Nudie suit, hamming it up for the camera.)

After that, he spent some time hanging out with the Stones, living with Keith during the recording of Exile on Main Street, another one of my favorite albums of all time. It was around this time Gram heard Emmylou Harris perform in a club in DC, and invited her to sing on his first solo album, GP. He and Emmylou toured for a bit, but never really got much of a following. I’m devastated there are no good videos of them performing live, because their voices together were magical.

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As any country rock outlaw would, Gram loved Joshua Tree (you can see the Burrito Bros. hanging out in the park in the video above). He went there alone, he went there with Keef, he went there whenever he could. As the story goes, in July 1973, when bandmate Clarence White was killed in an accident, Gram told his friend/manager Phil Kaufman that he wanted to be cremated and his ashes scattered in Joshua Tree in the event of his death.

Sadly, Kaufman had to make good on that deal just a few months later. Gram OD’d at the Joshua Tree Inn on September 18, 1973. His body was taken to LAX to be flown back to New Orleans at his stepfather’s request, but in order to fulfill Gram’s wishes, Phil Kaufman and another buddy Michael Martin drunkenly stole the casket in a hearse and drove it out to Joshua Tree. They stopped at a rock formation off the main road, doused the casket in gasoline, threw in a match, then drove away.

How Kaufman and Martin were found by the police is a story in itself, but they were eventually arrested, released, and fined just a few hundred dollars for stealing the casket (not the body, because there weren’t any laws about that). The not-quite-cremated body of Gram Parsons was found by some campers and was eventually transported back to Louisiana, but fans have been going to Joshua Tree for decades to pay tribute at the place he loved most.


This past weekend, I finally made it to Joshua Tree. While driving to the park, we listened to GP as I told Alex the story of Gram’s death and botched cremation. I made us stop for a photo op outside the Joshua Tree Inn (the actual motel is fenced off, but guests can still stay in Room 8 where Gram died). I had vague understanding about a makeshift memorial in the park, but didn’t know where it was. A quick Google search before entering the park placed it at Cap Rock, the site where Kaufman and Martin unsuccessfully tried to cremate Gram’s body that night.

While I’m sure there are detailed instructions somewhere on how to find the memorial, all we had was the general location (Cap Rock wasn’t even on the park map we were given), so we hiked around a few different rock formations until Alex finally spotted it: an unassuming alcove in the shade of a big boulder, right next to the main road. On the underside of the boulder were some song lyrics written in charcoal, and on a nearby rock, someone had drawn a cross next to the initials GP. A handful of guitar picks and other trinkets were arranged on a little ledge above. It would be pretty easy to miss if we weren’t looking for it.

No one else was around, so we quietly snapped some pictures and went on our way. Park rangers periodically “clean up” the site, so I have no idea if this was a few days or months’ worth of tribute.

Somewhere in my classic rock adventures I’ve become particularly fond of 60s/70s country rock, no doubt thanks to Gram, Keef, and Nez (who I recently saw in concert! another post on that later, maybe). Songs about the desert and the highway—even if they’re about loneliness and heartbreak—always bring back happy memories of childhood road trips through the Southwest. So basically what I’m saying is, Gram’s music holds a special place in my heart, and even though his flame burned out too soon, it’s nice to know his spirit is very much alive in Joshua Tree.

Hello, my treacherous friends

Ok, so I’ve been seeing this Top 10 High School Albums thing circulating around lately, and since I’m all about lists…and albums, and high school nostalgia…I figured I should probably do it (and then not post it on Facebook, because wow, apparently everyone else had much cooler musical tastes than I did as a teenager).

You might think I chose period-appropriate albums when I could’ve actually named a bunch of 60s/70s albums, but in fact, I did listen to a lot of current music in high school. :P These are the albums that will forever remind me of beach bonfires, driving to the Krikorian, coming home from band tournaments with my CD player tucked in my jacket pocket…basically, a time capsule of high school in Southern California circa 2002-2006.

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Ahhh, so many awkward, acne-filled memories…
  • OK Go, OK Go. I think I listened to OK Go and Oh No equally, but picked the former because it has a cooler cover. One of the two albums was always in my car stereo.
  • Make Up the Breakdown, Hot Hot Heat. My pitfriends and I were really into this album during the summer of ’05 (I think Alie even made screen-printed Hot Hot Heat t-shirts for us, although maybe I’m thinking of OK Go). Whatever happened to these guys?
  • Give Up, The Postal Service. For when I wanted to feel moody and introspective.
  • Rooney, Rooney. One of those “all my band friends are listening to this so I’ll listen to it too” albums. It was my personal soundtrack to Hawaii ’05.
  • Live at Leeds, The Who. I went a little Who-crazy the summer before senior year (like, writing-fan-letters-to-Pete-Townshend crazy). This album is unique because 1) it’s a live album, and I’m not usually a fan of live albums, and 2) it’s one of the few classic rock albums that does remind me of high school. Still a favorite.
  • Hot Fuss, The Killers. This has senior year written aaaallllll over it.
  • Catalyst, New Found Glory. An album that I bought solely because my crush liked it. As a result, I listened to it more than I’d like to admit.
  • Ocean Avenue, Yellowcard. I mean, who didn’t listen to Yellowcard in 2004??
  • Strong Bad Sings (And Other Type Hits). My years in high school coincided with the golden age of homestarrunner.com. As a result, my friend Kyle and I both bought this album, and sampled it heavily in our Music Tech class. I still regularly find myself singing “The Cheat Is Not Dead” and the Sweet Cuppin’ Cakes theme song.
  • Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack. Not even embarrassed at how much I listened to this. Ok, maybe just a little.
To end with, here’s an 8tracks playlist I made a few years ago that pretty much sums it up:

The past harmonizes

Oh, hello. Apparently it’s almost 2017.

November and December sped by so fast that I wound up at home in Vista the week before New Years, feeling like the holidays never even happened. While I’m here attempting to soak up some Southern California sunshine, here’s a quick(ish) update.


It has been a strange year, hasn’t it? If you follow me on Twitter, I already mentioned it there, but I just finished Stephen King’s 11/22/63, a novel about JFK’s assassination and the consequences of time travel. In the book, the main character goes back in time to try and prevent Lee Harvey Oswald from killing JFK, but because the past doesn’t want to change, horrible things keep happening to keep him from doing it. And now I’m convinced that a bad guy has come back in time to 2016 to change history and make Trump president (what other explanation could there be??), and as punishment, 2016 is taking away all of our favorite people.

David Bowie, Merle Haggard, Glenn Frey, George Martin, Maurice White, Prince, Sharon Jones, Leon Russell, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, Anton Yelchin, Florence Henderson, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Harper Lee, Elie Wiesel, Muhammad Ali, John Glenn…

The list, sadly, goes on.

Some of these deaths could be predicted, others were an unexpected punch to the gut. Especially David Bowie and Leonard Cohen, who each released incredible albums this year, and Prince, who was still performing up until his last days. What a simultaneously great and depressing year in music.

But let’s also remember that in 2016, the Cubs won the World Series, Leo won an Oscar, and my overcrowded, underfunded high school won a $10 million grant. This, plus the list above and the presidential election, goes to show that just about anything—no matter how unbelievable—is capable of happening. Hopefully 2017 gives us more of the good stuff and less of the awful.


On a personal note, 2016 was pretty surreal (in a mostly good way). I quit my comfy career in recruiting operations to become a full-time writer, which has always been my dream. I also started volunteering for the drum corps I was a member of in ’07-’08. Alex and I moved to the Outer Richmond, and as part of my work for Hoodline, I’ve gotten to know so many wonderful people in my neighborhood and throughout San Francisco. Instead of going to NYC in October as planned, we ended up spending 4 days in the hospital (don’t worry, all is fine now). And over Thanksgiving break, we adopted a 6-month-old kitty named Cooper (as with any modern cat, you can follow his adventures on Instagram). So it’s been a rewarding but extremely busy year! I have some personal projects I want to work on in 2017, and I can’t tell yet if that’ll mean more or less blog posts. Either way, this will always be where I go when I have a new obsession or want to fangirl over the Monkees, so you can at least count on a few new posts.

Byeeeeee 2016, we won’t miss you.