ABC Nightline, eye jobs, and me

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I don’t recall exactly how or when I became an “expert” on Asian eye jobs and cosmetic surgery, but every few years I’ll get a phone call from a TV show producer regarding the subject: Tyra, Dr. Phil, CNN, and now ABC News. It was unexpected but not totally shocking when I was contacted by Nightline on Thursday morning.

I respectfully informed the producer that the Asian pop culture magazine I helped make is long gone, and suggested that she find someone from entertainment or academia instead. Isn’t there someone with more authority or star power who is willing say something negative about cosmetic surgery being used to erase one’s ethnicity? Or at least get a woman to comment on a woman’s decision. But when she insisted that they really wanted my quote, I thought, “Hell, what the heck.

A cameraman came over that afternoon, a quick interview was conducted in my backyard via speakerphone, and here’s what aired on Friday evening:

http://abcnews.go.com/video/embed?id=25959764
More ABC news videos | ABC Entertainment News

There’s also a text version at abcnews.go.com.

It’s flattering to be asked for my opinion but how sad is it that a similar story keeps running year after year. If someone wants to change his or her look, that’s a personal choice. A lot of them will look great afterward. But what message are they sending to the world or to their kids (or nieces or nephews or kids they know)? What is beauty? What is real?

The is the first time I’ve done one of these segments now that my daughter is a little girl and not a baby, and I have to admit that the story hit closer to home as a result. Although Eloise will surely (and preferably) develop her own aesthetics and interests, I hope we can instill in her the security and confidence to overcome the monster that is The Beauty Myth no matter what direction she goes in.

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Descendents and OFF! at the Fox Theater, ALL and friends at Los Globos

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When the Descendents opened for Rise Against and Bad Religion a few years ago, my brother and many of my friends gladly paid the 40 bucks and drove down to Long Beach to see them play an early, brief opening set. How could we miss it? It might have been a decade since they last played a live show for the SoCal scene that spawned them, and who knew if it would ever happen again? It was a huge, cathartic, and sweaty singalong for all of us hardcore nerds–and a little poetic for my brother and me since the first time we saw the band was at Fender’s Ballroom (R.I.P.) just a couple of blocks away on their farewell/finALL/Milo Goes Back to College M.D. tour in 1987.

Of course, the band that couldn’t sell out a telephone booth have come back many times since the Long Beach Arena show and I’ve caught each of the sold-out shows: GV30, FYF, Musink… So how could I miss a gig in a non-festival venue perfectly matched with OFF! or a special follow-up gig with ALL (featuring 3/4 of the Descendents) to celebrate the release of the Descendents/ALL documentary, Filmage?

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As much as I love the Descendents and know every song inside out, I am just as versed in the first three or four ALL releases. In the early ’90s, I used to see the band practically every weekend at the Anti-Club with either the Chemical People or Big Drill Car opening. They’d attract 20 or 30 people, which was a real shame considering how catchy, polished, and perfect ALL songs could be. I wasn’t shocked that they’d leave town to be somewhere more central for cheaper rent and easier cross-country touring.

But on Monday night Los Globos was packed for the band’s homecoming: a special two-part set with Scott Reynolds and Chad Price each singing half of the set. I’ve only seen Chad a few times but he’s a great front man with an effortlessly gravelly smooth voice and demeanor. Songs like “Fairweather Friend,” “Million Bucks,” and “Original Sin” came back fast after decades of not hearing them. Seeing Bill Stevenson play drums way up close in a tiny club was a real treat, too. He’s a machine.

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The Scott Reynolds era is my sentimental favorite, since I saw that lineup literally dozens of times. His set kicked off with “Crazy” and included “Dot,” “Mary,” “Scary Sad,” “She’s My Ex,” and so many other super catchy cuts that should have been hits. After playing “Frog,” even Scott had to admit what a dumb song that was. It was great seeing him jump, crawl, and work his way through the set like we were in a time machine.

The Dave Smalley era was represented by Chad singing “Paper Tiger,” and what I would have given to hear “Daveage” or “Just Perfect.” Seriously. I would have offered to personally pay for Smalley’s plane ticket from Virginia just so I could hear him sing “#10 (Wet)” with ALL but the thought didn’t occur to me until it was too late.

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Following ALL’s set, a succession of guests came out to for a Descendents karaoke session. London May from Samhain sang “Descendents” and Milo from The Last sang “I Don’t Want To Grow Up.” After the show Milo told me that he actually auditioned to sing for the Descendents when the other Milo went to college, so this was kind of like a peek into that parallel universe where it worked out. The Filmage creators got a chance to take on “Cheer” and then Scott returned for “My Dad Sucks” and “I Like Food.”  It was pretty cool to hear Jen from the Bombpops sing a dude-oriented song “I’m The One,” and it was also cool that Chad got to sing “Thank You” after the crowd got amped up.

I think Marko from Sugarcult was the only guy in the house that needed a lyric sheet for “Get The Time,” but maybe his pal from the Posies knew them better. It was awesome to see Dennis from Refused/International Noise conspiracy/INVSN singing “Hope” and then “Silly Girl.” Wow. I didn’t recognize Davey from AFI when he sang “Myage” and “Bikeage” but spotted Jim from Pennywise in his Dodgers cap earlier and was stoked when he cranked out “Suburban Home” and “I Wanna Be A Bear.” Matt from Blink-182 finished things off with “Clean Sheets.” I understand he handled the Q&A following the movie screening at the Downtown Independent earlier that evening… If this description sounds manic, that’s how it was. You shoulda been there, and props to Filmage and Vannen for making it happen.

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The night before was a dream bill with Descendents and OFF! and their histories overlap and intersect all over the storied landscape of L.A. punk and hardcore. No city on earth can top the musical past or present of Los Angeles, and this show at the lovely old Fox Theater in Pomona provided evidence.

Opening up was a transplant from San Diego, The Bombpops. Great to see a slightly younger band featuring some women in the veteran sausage party, and they cranked out a totally fun, tight, and compact set. Perfect!

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OFF! are always great, but this was my first time to see the combo with Dale Crover from the Melvins sitting in on drums while Mario is on tour with Rocket From The Crypt. No one can drum like Mario, who seems like he’s going to destroy his kit and leave the room as ruins whenever he whales. But with Dale you get the feeling that he is going to kill someone with his drumsticks. Heavy. Dark. Evil. A different and great fit.

Keith didn’t do too much editorializing during OFF!’s opening set. Maybe he had packing on his mind since the band was about to embark on a European tour. Maybe his spiel wasn’t flowing since the show was a one-off. But one can always expect 100 percent intensity from one of the raddest punk singers and thinkers of all time. He touted the new album but those songs don’t seem new any more; they’re just the latest part of a ripping catalog with O.G. hardcore anger, veteran chops, with DIY intensity that a zillion dollars of production can’t buy.

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Keith did joke that 99.9 percent of the venue was there to see the Descendents and couldn’t give a crap about OFF! Sadly, I think that might have been true. So weird. Maybe Pomona was just too far for the crusty L.A. punks to make the drive on a Sunday night.

By now in the Descendents’ reunited state, everyone knows what to expect yet always leaves blown away. They have the tightest lineup, the most likeable singer, and catchiest songs. Mixing up the best songs from Milo Goes to College all the way through Cool To Be You, their playlist is supreme. They can do no wrong. The biggest differences between this killer set and the others is that there were no kids helping out with the “All-o-gistics.”

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There was one surprise. I spotted my friend Tony from the Adolescents in the middle of the show and started catching up him after the set ended when he was suddenly grabbed by Stephen and whisked onstage to sing a version of “No Way.” Holy crap, that was awesome. The whole band but especially Bill had a huge smile on his face and during the entire song.

One weird thing I have to add is that I usually hate it when someone sings along at shows and acts like a fool. But at a Descendents show, everyone really should be shouting along every lyric, jumping around nonstop, and having the best time ever. The amps are cranked up so loud, no one can hear you sing along anyway. That’s how it was at Ramones shows, too…

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But the night was still young. Thanks to the magic of social media, I had begun corresponding with Chris Shary, who illustrates a lot of Descendents and ALL merch. Since he also did a lot of Chems merch back in the day and they had a song called “Donut Run,” I thought we might go to one of my favorite 24-hour eateries after the show. When he agreed and said that Milo might come along, I didn’t argue. And since Tony also a friend of theirs–and a fellow Donut Man fan, to boot–I invited him, too.

Some of my favorite bands. The last weekend of fresh strawberry donuts. Hanging out with Milo, Chris, and Tony at Donut Man. Can it get any better than that? (Without having my wife and daughter around, of course…)

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In your quest for ALL, I recommend you pre-order the Filmage DVD, check out the art of Chris Shary, and blast every record by the Descendents and Adolescents nonstop…

Glen E. Friedman’s Rules

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Last Thursday, I went to Arcana Books in Culver City to get the new book by Glen E. Friedman and have it signed. If there’s such thing as a role model, it’s GEF. Not only is he a kickass photographer who captures and pushes subculture that matters to me (Dogtown skateboarding, the rise of hardcore punk in L.A. and New York City, the Golden Age of Hip Hop) but he also works strictly according to his own tastes and always on his own terms.

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I’ve had the outspoken vegan peace activist sign books before–and even got to run some of his photos in GR–but that was before I was a dad. This time I had my daughter Eloise present to join in a photo with the man. Earlier in the day, I showed her some of GEF’s photos of people that she’s met or seen in concert: Tony Brandenburg, Chuck Dukowski, Keith Morris, Milo Auckerman. Pretty rad that she’s starting to get where he’s coming from at the age of 6.

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The book is by far GEF’s largest and nicest volume yet. Many of the images were previously included in his previous collections but in My Rules they are not only enlarged but color balanced. The images’ details pop extra hard and there is no sacrifice in punch. There are plenty of lengthy new essays, too, by heavy hitters including the aforementioned Tony and Chuck, not to mention Ian Mackaye, Ice T, Tony Alva, and many of the the other usual suspects. I also appreciate how the binding is quilted instead of having a dust jacket that will inevitably get mangled. (More details comparing the books on my Imprint blog.)

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GEF’s homies always seem to come out to support his signings, and they always gladly sign their pages. Jeff Ho, Jim Muir, C.R. Stecyk–serious legends of Dogtown. Eloise was getting hungry so we had to miss the video with GEF and Ian Mackaye and subsequent Q&A (and I think Dukowski) but there’s a fine line between being a rad dad and a lame one, and I never want to cross it.

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It was also awesome to see so many friends. We carpooled with my friend/filmmaker/photographer Wing Ko and met up with our mutual pal Eric Matthies. Matthies helped shoot and screen the video that showed at the bookstore. And the first guy we saw was Dave Naz, another art photographer with roots in L.A. punk. More on Naz and his upcoming art show at Coagula soon…

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Everyone at Arcana could have been cheap and bought the book for way less on Amazon. But shaking the creator’s hand, supporting a cool bookstore, and being part of a community is important, too. Not all of us can be iconoclastic culture pushers, but we can all enjoy it, support it, and grow it better when we leave the front door. And why not give that example to your kid, too?

L.O.L.A. (not the Kinks song)

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I had coffee with my friend Vivian Bang today and she gave me the scoop on her new project. L.O.L.A. sounds like part of a Kinks song, but it’s actually an omnibus movie written by Vivian to be directed by ten of her filmmaker pals. Hello, Jessica Sanders!

I’d be lying if I said that I’m a huge supporter of the rideshare scene, which Vivian’s story touches on, but I love Los Angeles and look forward to seeing her takes on its neighborhoods. And who can’t get behind hard-working women who got sick of the lack of quality gigs in the industry and decided to start their own feature?

Check out the Kickstarter page and movie for the DIY flick, below. There are some pretty cool and affordable incentives. (Wait, how much was that coffee worth?) And even if you can’t spare any dough, spreading the word helps, too!

p.s. Watch Vivian on TBS’s Sullivan & Son. I don’t have cable but I hear she’s pretty good on it.

Show reviews: King Tuff record release in-store at Amoeba; Hot Snakes, The Heartaches, and White Murder at Alex’s Bar

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It was a good omen when my daughter and I were walking to the market and saw a someone run across Glendale Boulevard from the coin-op car wash to the Laundromat. We followed him into the parking lot and when he exited we said, “King Tuff!” He responded, “Yeah! Didn’t I meet you at…”

This wasn’t the first time Eloise and I had stalked King Tuffy. We spotted him at the Art Book Fair at MOCA in the spring and asked for a photo then, too. Eloise is a huge fan of his self-titled Sub Pop debut and that was better than seeing Bigfoot. Back then, we asked him to play an all-ages show and thanks to the cosmic lattice of coincidence, we ran into him a day before his record release in-store at Amoeba. We told him we were stoked about the show and when Eloise was about to give a high five, Tuff gave her a hug and went back to wash the van in preparation for the band’s upcoming tour.

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I love taking Eloise to shows at Amoeba. There’s a lot of space so a little kid isn’t stuck looking at a bunch of grown-up asses and I’m not stuck carrying her the entire time. The shows start at 6:00 so it isn’t too late and they last about 30 minutes–just right for a young person’s attention span. The Amoeba crew is always super nice to Eloise and her cousins when they go, too, and usually give them stickers. Free earplugs, too, if we happen to forget their noise-cancelling headphones.

You know how a lot of parents go out buy kids music or baby versions of Beatles and Bob Marley songs? We never did that. The Ramones and AC/DC are pretty catchy, right? And we’ve taken Eloise and her cousins to many in-stores at Amoeba since they were small enough to be in carriers: Redd Kross, Shonen Knife, Dum Dum Girls, OFF!, Billy Bragg, Wayne Kramer, The Muffs… King Tuff was a great addition.

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The band always sounds more rockin’ live then on vinyl and last night’s show was no exception. They played about 8 or 9 songs–mostly off the brand-new, glow-in-the-dark album, which is full of swirls, hooks, and love. So good, and afterward we stood a short line to get our album signed. They drew pictures and were stoked to see Eloise and Mila, and you should definitely catch them on tour now.

There’s a chance the girls will grow up and like lame music. They’ll be informed by classmates instead of us and get into whatever happens to popular with their peers. And that would be fine. But the chances of the latter are smaller if she is exposed to DIY, indie, and punk that is played by down-to-earth people and has fun going out with Wendy and me.

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So I was okay with Eloise getting more than a little bummed when I went to the Hot Snakes show at Alex’s Bar without her last Thursday. But I explained that it would run too late for her to attend on a school night. And our first-grader doesn’t have a fake ID yet, anyway.

Alex’s Bar is way down in Long Beach but I will gladly drive down there for a show, especially when it’s an old-school punk band (CH3, The Crowd, Avengers, 7 Seconds…) or a RFTC-related group (I hear Speedo likes Joe Jost’s). It’s the opposite of trendy with the black light paintings on the wall, chains on the wallets, and hot rods in the parking lot. I think half the patrons have leopard-print strollers for their kids. Poseurs, the regulars are not.tuffy4

First up was White Murder, the pride of Long Beach. Vocalists Hanna and Marianne belt out double-fisted vocals punching their way out of timeless, out-of-control, riff-rocking punk. The energy and fun levels run at freakish levels, and there’s a sliver of danger in there, too.

Last time I saw them, they opened for T.S.O.L. and I was blown away by them that time, too. I was stoked to introduce myself to Marianne as Razorcake reader (the band’s record label is really a zine) and Perpetually Twelve contributor (they’re regulars in that zine), and then got to introduce her to Jack Grisham. How great are zines? How cool is life?

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The Heartaches were next, a band I didn’t know anything about. I thought the singer was going to poke someone’s eye out when he was waving half a mic stand around but never left the front because the songs were so catchy and good. They have buzz-saw hooks on the same level of Leatherface or Tiltwheel, but are darker and more garage rocking.

There’s a Belgian band out there with the same name and for all I know they’re great, too, but definitely check out and support the Heartbreaks from San Diego on Swami Records.

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Hot Snakes have been playing festivals across the country and we were lucky to see them at a great dive like Alex’s. As if the sold-out show wasn’t hot and crowded enough, both drummers showed up to contribute to the set, which didn’t end until well after 12:30. Rick Fork seemed to be ready to cut the set short because the conditions were so unsavory but the band kept coming back for encores.

We knew it we were in for a heavy night when one of The Heartaches (El Mano de Diablo?) perfectly lobbed a can of beer onto the back of Gar Wood’s head as he was setting up. In return, Wood came back with a bottle and crushed it over the Heartaches’ member’s hat!

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But the show went on and it was great. There’s nothing like the escalating riffs of Rick Fork and John Reis held down by Gar and tag-team drumming of Mario and Jason bringing the TNT and hammers, respectively. And with friends in the crowd from as far as San Diego and Santa Cruz, it was kind of like an epilogue to the Drive Like Jehu reunion a few weeks ago.

Love the noisy, heavy, and arty but fun vibe that couldn’t have come from Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, or anywhere else. It’s all San Diego.

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It was so hot and sweaty and unhygienic, and my ears were ringing for days afterward but it was worth it. See you this weekend at the Descendents/OFF! show in Pomona followed by ALL at Los Globos…

And Eloise? She’s out of luck until Save Music in Chinatown 4 with the reunion of The Bicycle Thief (Bob Forrest and Josh Klinghoffer), Evil Hearted You (following up their debut at X’s Make the Music Go Bang! fest), and My Revenge (with Hector Penalosa from The Zeros and Baja Bugs). But that will be worth the wait and worth her while. It’s a benefit we’re throwing for her school after all!

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All pics by me. Click on them to enlarge.

Show reviews: Adolescents and GBH at The Fonda, Stiff Little Fingers and GFP at the El Rey, White Dove and Drinking Flowers at Club Satellite

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I love the Adolescents and finally got a chance to hear songs from the new LP played live on Saturday when they opened for GBH at the Fonda. The Kelly Thomas-fueled cuts already demonstrated the Fullerton-spawned band to be darker and angrier than ever but honed by a European tour and a handful of opening gigs that I’ve missed until now, they’ve been polished into live punk perfection. That plus unbeatable songs like “No Way,” “Amoeba,” and “Kids From The Black Hole” book-ending the set makes for one killer gig. My friend and singer Tony Reflex commended the security for allowing the slam pit to go off, stating that the Ferguson cops could learn a thing or two from them.

This was the second time for me to see Charged GBH. Last time was at Fender’s in 1986 when my twin brother and I were scrawny Asian high school students in a sea of shirtless, sweaty, gigantic skinheads and Mohawks. How did we survive? This time I was stuck/safe in the balcony and could appreciate the flowing symmetry of the circle pit and nonstop stage diving from a Statler and Waldorf’s point of view. It still smelled lousy and sounded great! The original lineup played the entire Leather, Bristls, Studs, and Acne EP followed by hits like “Sick Boy,” “Big Women,” “Diplomatic Immunity,” and “City Baby Attacked by Rats”… Oi!

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The week before I got to see another legendary U.K. punk band, Stiff Little Fingers out of Belfast. Holy crap, they sounded amazing and played all the hits from “Suspect Device” to “Tin Soldiers” to “Straw Dogs.” They also pulled out some of their favorite covers, “Johnny Was” and “Doesn’t Make It Alright.” Jake Burns told a great story about how they not only stole the song from The Specials but released it first, too. He also told stories about being inspired by Joe Strummer, commiserating with Phil Lynott, overcoming depression… So many awesome songs and so many interesting stories from ye olden days of punk–but not so much as to bog down the evening.

Opening up was GFP, a new band with decades of L.A. punk lineage: Guitarist Greg Hetson from Bad Religion, Circle Jerks, and Red Cross, bassist Tony Alva of Dogtown and Alva skateboarding fame, drummer Joey Castillo from BL’AST!, and singer Crazy Tom Davis from DFL. They provided an interesting SoCal hardcore counterpoint to SLF’s European Spirit of ’77 style.

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In between, my pal Jack Long’s band White Dove played the Satellite. I can walk to the club from my house so how could I miss them? White Dove carries on the twisted punk roots tradition of L.A. bands like Gun Club and Flesheaters but filtered through the patient restraint of Mazzy Star or Opal. I love their song “Come on into Hell” and was stoked when they opened with it. Look for the band’s new 7″ single to start showing up at record stores soon…

Afterward, I stuck around for some Drinking Flowers and got into their psychedelic rock with surf riffs. A cool band that was having a lot of fun.

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So many more rad shows coming up, including Hot Snakes and White Murder at Alex’s Bar and then Descendents and OFF! at the Fox Theater. I’m extra excited about taking my six-year-old daughter to see King Tuff at Amoeba Hollywood next week. Eloise loves his last album from beginning to end, and is going to tear it up in the aisles. And then there’s the Save Music in Chinatown benefit that my wife and I are throwing next month, but that deserves its own post(s)…

Reintroduction

SLF at the El Rey (September 3, 2014)
SLF at the El Rey (September 3, 2014)

I remember when Eric introduced blogs to the Giant Robot website. I didn’t think I had much to share, but in his estimation I did enough interesting things people would want to read about. I’m still not sure if that’s been the case, but it is pretty fun writing outside of the magazine format.

Even after the mag stopped publishing in 2010, I kept up my GR blog. Pictures from punk shows, zine and movie reviews, an occasional Q&A with an artist, and recaps of gatherings like Comic-Con and Agenda–the best parts have always been simply sharing the rad stuff that my friends do.

However, even as I type this, giantrobot.com is being rebuilt as a more dedicated retail site. My blog there will be on the cutting-room floor.

Since the the rad stuff keeps coming, I’m going to continue blogging on this site. Less art, more rock. Less cool stuff and more crap about being a dad. Doesn’t that sound awful? We’ll see how it goes.

Please read, share, and let me know what you think.