Foreign Tales: Mistaken Identity Over the Ocean

Nihon Snacks

The youngest kid in the family of ambiguous ethnic origin filled up three bags of vomit as we descended into Tokyo.

The mom, who looked to be of some Asian background, sat with a small son while the puking son sat in the row in front of me. The Lego movie was playing on the small screen in front of the puker. Next to me was seated the father of the lot, along with the eldest son in the family of five.

Dad was a short and solid man with tan skin and almond eyes. The eyes could’ve said he was of some Asian-mutt origin and grew up in Hawaii where such mish-mashes are common, or he was of Hispanic origin–they did board in L.A. I honestly couldn’t tell.Sitting in Norita

When the youngest filled up a second bag of vomit I offered to the father seated next to me a big plastic bag to pass to his wife, who in the most calm, maternal fashion, was attending to the situation. He politely declined. I don’t think he fully understood my gesture or heard what I was saying over the white noise of the engines and stale air conditioning. I asked the dad if it was his son’s first flight, which he heard as me saying, “This is my first flight.”

“Oh, what did you think?” he inquired. I smirked at our miscommunication.

“No, this is not my first flight,” I returned with a bit of unintended smarm.

“Are you stationed here?” He asked. Maybe it was more misinformation lost in the rumble of the jets. I looked at my pants: camouflage print. My carry-on: more camo; I had pulled it out numerous times in our 11 hour flight from L.A. to Tokyo. Shit.

My glasses– non-descript, non-designer– black rimmed eye glasses like you see the soldiers issued in boot-camp movies. My hair recently shaved from a Clark Kent-business undercut to a scalp-close grunt haircut of a new G.I. My ink-black heavy metal beard shaved off two nights before. With it went a couple inches of the illusion of a stout chin. With it went some of my age.

Fuck, I totally look like a soldier and this dad has been sizing me up, as I had him, and his puking little dude.

“No,” I told him, “I’m going to Thailand.”

A Vulgar Love With …Like Clockwork

A Review of Modern Rock Classic

A Review of a Modern Rock Classic by Queens of the Stone Age

by TheFreshMonster

It’s been one year since the release of Queens of The Stone Age’s fifth album, …Like Clockwork,  and it’s likability has not waned in the year it’s been ruling my iTunes and blaring in my home. Complete with an expected lineup shift, the band’s release was hotly anticipated in the rock community–a six year hiatus from the release of Era Vulagaris–where, oftentimes that feverish anticipation leads to fandom letdown, (see: Radiohead’s King of Limbs).

Josh Homme and Co. brought a powerhouse of a rock record in the best way possible: Like Clockwork is a dirty middle finger to the pubed-faced asshole that rambles on about how no one makes albums anymore (and will remind you that his collection is mostly vinyl–you know, the way albums were meant to be heard, man)–scoff at this idiot.Rather conversely, if you ask about this record in the shop, a Jack Black figure bounds from behind the register to berate you, and kicks your ass out for not already owning it; for one cannot possibly rock properly without it.

In a departure from earlier recordings, the tempo is slowed a bit in order for the rock to burn just right. You must taste the lyrics, be blasted by the distortion, and savor the crashing of symbals. This rock is not killing you with speed, but rather is leading the waltz with black-eyes and knuckle tattoos. Its tunes make you dance slowly with grace–but you dance on broken glass. The guitars are layered with labor and emotion, the effects reticent of early Black Sabbath phasers. Its uptempo cuts are the tail end of a pill buzz. Its involved slow tunes are crooked bookshelves. Its ballads are down-tuned mausoleums where every corpse is a version of you, tucked away on a shelf of limestone and marble.





1. Keep Your Eyes Peeled

While classic albums don’t generally open with their best song, they do open with the tone-setter (see: “Come Together”-Abbey Road; “Ambitionz Az a Ridah”-All Eyez on Me).

The swell of white-noise and broken glass crescendo into a harsh slow groove. The lead guitar lick is tuned so low, it can be mistaken for a bass line. I interpret this as the audio-allegory–you are entering an alley that you could easily walk out of, but you are helpless to it’s hold. The alley’s inhabitants are your shortcomings, fears, bad teeth, vices…all playing on vocals, strings, and percussion.

Its crawling distorted guitar-fill is the come-here motion on the finger of siren in the depths of a cave. And that cave is your corroded soul. Clocking in at lethargic 80 BPM, the song is as brooding as its labored pace.

Homme warns, “Fallen leaves realize they are no friend of autumn/The view from Hell is blue sky/So ominously blue/I daydream until all the blue is gone.”

The track announces the album’s intention to be deliberate in every aspect of pacing and tone. It plans to take its time to make the listener present. It’s going to offer you the rock that is a foreboding mirror where you take a scumbag-selfie.

“If life is but a dream/Wake Me!” 


Don Juan and the Desert Sessions IV.

Coachella 2014 Tales


IV. Close to the End/Paging Nurse Nervous

The desert brings lovers on loan because it’s sweeter that way.

And maybe you wonder what the man on the moon thinks. She’s probably a woman, anyway.

It’s just after a week that we’ve been gone from the veld and in the dark of my room I’m squinting to hold on to the memory–the details that make her round: the shape of her fingers, the timber of her voice.

Her long toes. Her sour kiss.8foldPath-20fingers

I was there in the trampled meadow dressed like a genie. No wishes, but some cigarettes, and okay with that. I masqueraded apathy as fancy-free footwork, dancing it out alone for the gaze of the maturing moon.

The rockstars provide charming asides and offer us their poetry. She offers me what I wont take. I’m happy to let her drive us down the road in a future car. In the past I’ve always picked the meal, the movie. Though she has bones, she’s not the corpses in the trunk at the foot of my bed.

Drawing my hands back from the wheel I put my trust in auto-pilot. I’m willing to crash down the mountain to the clamber of people rambling, looking for friends, surviving the war of the party, awkward, hopeful. Naked and afraid.

I’m relieved to mimic her cadence, mirror her movements like that exercise in drama class. The rockstars beckon us to “Wake Up,” like desert shaman.

“You can eat everything you see.”Happening

She’s a prairie of candy, everything is beautiful and tasty. Her skin is butterscotch and her breath is the night with hitchhiking eyes. She’s armed with intrigue. Point it at me so I can empty my pockets, please.

In the post, she’ll get pictures so she can keep my face, at the end of a shift, the bottom of a glass, and there where the engine turns over.

It’s lust after a week, and I follow with robotic actions in denim and product. The desert has been stolen and I’m paging Nurse Nervous, “The patient needs more medicine.”

And I’m back in the desert iGhostn swells. I blink, and it’s alarm clocks and car-keys.

In a week, some British lady will say, “This is what I don’t understand about Americans.” But she’d always been saying that, as evidenced by her delivery. Her wont lesbian friend wont say shit, fearing me to be a thief. I won’t be that thief; stealing won’t do.

I don’t steal for fucks, for fuck’s sake.

I’m just a patient–a patient in the dark of the desert where we learned we’d always be renters. In the desert where I learned the curve of the sky–you told me you had some things I should try.

In the post she’ll get bloody heart-sleeves and pieces of walked planks so she’ll have something to grab.

Welcome to the desert, we’re paging Nurse Nervous.

All of the Night


Don Juan and the Desert Sessions II


Don Juan Nick, Don Juan Steve, Don Juan Ben, Don Juan Me

We in this thang, Certified

I have to pee

Interstate 5

II. The Ride of the Don Juans

My economy-car is full as we fly through Buttonwillow, California. From the backseat Nick suggests we figure out a way to mine Bitcoins.

Everyone goes to their phones–for research. I watch the road and listen for backseat reporting.

Steve takes the lead shortly after and gives a long-winded explanation that not only clarifies how Bitcoins work, but details the near impossibility of mining them: a factory of hard-drives, algorithms, tracking systems, firewall encoding, firewall cracking.

“So where’s the problem?” Nick asks. “I’m trying to get this money. I’m about that Bitcoin life.”

His passion enhanced by the blunt we’ve just passed around. As follows, Ben and I can only laugh.

Nick continues, “I want to be the fucking Don Juan of Bitcoins.”

And there it is– “Don Juaning.”

We ask the future lord of the digital currency underworld, what he’d do to start his empire–like a true Don Juan. Nick suggests a bit of human capital to maintain all of the servers, much a like an outsourced call-center that assists when your tablet wont load Netflix. Tech Savvy college students in need of quick cash will run the basic infrastructure monitoring. Sweatshops hot with server cabinets. They’ll be provided Redbull and weed, which would be factored into the overhead.

That’s how Don Juan’s get their start.

Ben says, we’ll wear iced-out external hard-drive medallions. Steve says thumb-drives.

Up ahead there’s a grey Chevy driving slower than the speed of traffic in the fast lane, and to our right, all semis. We can’t pass and we’re hungry for food, hungry to reach Palm Desert–the Coachella Valley. The short height of my economy car won’t let us determine if the Chevy has other folks in front it slowing us all down, but we soon discover he doesn’t. He’s apparently not headed to In and Out, doesn’t have to pee, doesn’t want to make it to the desert to get a good night’s rest before the West Coast’s biggest music festival.

The smell of Swisher Sweets and Blackberry Kush linger in car as I finally get the opportunity to pass the Chevy. Ben declares, “Well, he’s obviously a Non-Juan.”

And up ahead, I spot the kitsch yellow arrow indicating an In and Out burger is approaching.


Layback Music

Mr.BrainWash's Ross Cover

A Nap with Rick Ross’ Mastermind.

I’ve never been one who’s easy to drift into slumber. I’m not that guy who sits under a shady tree, flops his brim over his face and gets some shut-eye for a spell.–I have to work hard at sleep, often relying on benadryl, whiskey, Tylenol p.m., and backrubs from your chick to lull me into the night. And now that Rick Ross’ highly-anticipated Mastermind dropped, I no longer have to rely on aides to ease me into sleep.

Thank you, Mastermind! Pop this shit on iTunes (which I downloaded for free), and count zzz’s.

Straight from Ricky-Rose’s kind heart, Mastermind is the new hip-hop sleep-aid that has none of the carryover of popping a few Tylenol p.m. My recipe for successful shuteye now includes throwing on this underthought, rushed yawn of an album, and I’m off to dream land.

With music seemingly devolving since 2009’s Teflon Don, the Maybach Music team has slowly seemed to moved solely selling yay, instead of skimming some off the top for personal use; that teeth grinding edge that’ll keep them hard working in the studio is truant.–The tempos are down, the production is trite, the beats recycled, and the lyrics…well, I keep listening for lyrics on this album, but maybe I just downloaded the instrumental version. Boredom seems to the be the route to their routine, with none of the pop that some good blow wouldn’t fix right up.


While some key ingredients of Mastermind rouse your fancy–features from the likes of The Weeknd, Kanye, Lil Wayne, the album only does that–rouses. It’s a false alarm of fly-0ver state b-sides–the best of which are probably a tie between the all-killers-on-deck, “War Ready” featuring a solid showing by Jeezy and the sample-heavy Jay-Z feature, “The Devil is A lie.”

The Jeezy track hosts an impressive chopping-verse from the Atlanta rapper, while Jay’s track  brings an expected strong showing on his outing; it’s as if, his camp was like “Aye–this is the only beat Hovy likes. We doin’ this one.”–And it was inked. While definitely more yawn inducing than the Dr. Dre produced “Three Kings” of Ross’ previous release, “The Devil is a Lie” is hoisted by Ricky attempting to step outside the realm of fat-boy, and actually switch up the flow. Ross put his verse on the treadmill and the cadence came out nice. (Oooh Killem!)

The decent tracks almost bring me to life after ingestion with their agreeable beats and guest verses that outshine the hero Ross, but fortunately for my purposes, I need yawn material from the sandman…

…which is why my favorite track is “Supreme.”

Laying right at the album’s midpoint, if you’re looking for that tempurpedic sleep experience, skip right to track 10, “Supreme,” where Katt Williams opens and closes with forgetable musings, and a studio Jodeci copycat laces a laughable chorus. This track has everything you want to sleep on: advice from a one-time comedic hero who had several very public crack meltdowns with no rebounds.–This is how you keep your diminishing persona looking large by comparison–put a leprechaun dope-fiend on the bookends of a mediocre song.

The Diddy-produced “Nobody” hosts an appropriated Biggie flow, with none of the lyrical talent, and a shrug-inducing ride-along beat. To make the yawn potion potent, Ross supposes he’s like Notorious B.I.G., with a Ready to Die-esque mentality as the chorus boasts the lazy witted line “you’re nobody, until somebody kills you.” Maybe Ricky supposes being fat and black behind a mic makes you Biggie-like, but that would also equate him with the dude on youtube that sings about cheeseburgers in his car. You’re nobody if you like this bullshit song.

But it’s really lethargic lyrical efforts that set Mastermind apart. At one point Ross raps, “Like Trayvon Martin, I’m never missing my target,”–except for with that punchline, which insinuates that the murdered youth was actually the gun-wielder (?!), or Ross is just a big fan of Florida’s infamous Stand Your Ground law. It’s arrogance on my part to assume Ross doesn’t route for the victor.

It has been proven time and again that playing to the cheap seats is effective for sales, and since Ross nearly has a release annually, we see a Double-R focussed, catering to mid-level employee rap fans. Fans who, because of their ability to recognize a Kenneth’s Williams shoutout, and connect that with The Wire, they’re wholly above grammar school intelligence, where, if I recall correctly was the place I last was when Gangster Rap was still popular.Omarcomin'

But don’t discredit Ross as an artist–he doesn’t completely repeat himself. Absent from the album is one of his better ( and my favorite) characteristics: that dog’s growl ad-lib that laced the last several titles, because you know, you got to switch it up; give the people something fresh.

So I’m left to thank Rose’ for such a showing of humility and an ability to share some low-brow musical cupcakes. My nights are now as as restful as sleeping in a freshly made king-sized equipped with memory foam. I just pop on a dose of the most boring rap album in recent memory, open my dresser drawer, pull out onesie jammies, climb into my race-car bed with the Star Wars sheets, and doze to the tunes of his truly sincere layback-music, Mastermind.


New Miguel: “Simplethings”

Thinkin' about kickin' hoes.

So, since you’re Lena Dunham, you can just do shit like write, star, and produce your own show loosely“ based on your life. You can be the (always naked) female lead in a hit series and not have a Miami Beach body-type. You can have Judd Apatow stir a teaspoon of sugar into your cereal.

And you just have your people call indie R&B sensation, Miguel‘s people, and be like, “Lena would love for you to dial up a track for the show.” Because that’s what happened.

still not Miguel

Now, we have this distortion-backed “Simplethings” single, set to appear on the hit show, “Girls” soundtrack. And in the fashion of the current groove, the song is airtight. In keeping with the title and lyrics, the beat never fully drops, but keeps a simple backing beat with some inter-mixed highs, while our hero croons about wanting someone to smoke with, laugh with, and lay with.

When you hear this track, you’ll hope that person is someone you can sing along to it with. Enjoy.

(Btw, thanks Lena D; I don’t watch “Girls” because I’m afraid of being character on the show one day).


The Nights

Solange Jessup

I’m thinking about you today, Solange Jessup.

 An old lady sat in my office and had wide eyes when asked to describe the novel she was reading; two lovers in distant places who shared a secret: In the night’s sky they could see two moons. The only such people alive.

 Later, the fall-tilt spilled light into my office. I wished for dusk, so I could race out and hope for two moons humming in the back of the sky. This same tight-eyed wishing that’d never worked at bringing Christmas sooner, or summer vacation.

 It is night now and two college kids are hashing it out, both with wristbands from a bar. It’s happening in public outside of the sushi spot. The young woman has repeated herself three times, “None of that shit matters! None of it matters, though. None of it matters at all!”

She crashes her hands together–a reflex of rage. Her eyes affixed on him, his toward his feet.

 I feel sadness for both of them as they learn on one another in public. It appears that the young man will be the one to cry over this later; headphones and songs of despair, at his desk first, then on the floor by a pile of jeans.

 Who did you do this with, Solange? Was it a summer evening when your pride was full because all of your friends were there? That park by the lake where families camp to watch 4th of July fireworks. Scraggly kids run about with sparklers. Grandparents in lawn chairs. College kids sear meat on grills. Young lovers duel about time spent and not spent:

Effort. One-sidedness. The fireflies buzz on in the evening, making the most of their two week life span.

You had green flats you called feet lasers for their neon. Fingertips smelled like Parliaments and barbequed corn. Crying in the car while your best friends tossed a Frisbee a few feet away.

 Did it happen after a dinner out on date-night, where, in the heat of passion he commanded, “Get the fuck out of the driveway. Leave.” But he caught you before you could pull away to plead. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m so sorry.”

 He held the driver’s side door open and pleased and pleased and pleased.

 You hated his hat–print and all. Detested the orange bill. Made him look especially like a boy. His pleading eyes were void of a confidence you had like once liked so.

 And in your pleated shorts, dashboard lights illuminating your face with blue, you were finally able to close the door.

 They ask me, “What kind of name is Solange?”

 “I don’t know,” I tell them. I look across the water for the emerald green light letting me know you’re beyond the sound just there. Any tuxedo, lavish party, and debutante company could fit for my push to close the gap where the harbor ends, and I claw for your affections.

 But I am there with you and those almond eyes atop a picnic table where you dance a jig by the harbor. The pink of morning where your eyelashes bat softly to a close, and you exhale into the safety of the arms and skin behind you. Comfortable intertwined fingers and scent. Willing to crawl across a warm body, regardless of the poison, the monster, the shadow, another uncomfortable drive, the vacancy stewing in the pit of your chest.

 I am thinking of you, Solange Jessup. The trip-trop on the dark trail where stars shoot light through the trees as proof of anybody’s heaven, where your elongated fingers clasp a new hand, the other holding a lantern that illuminates the way into the brush, where,  out there you bite your lip at the painted moons and you don’t need a jacket.

Django Tells Spike Lee To Start Free-balling

Jamie Foxx as Django

I’m black, shootin’ in the snow.

That is, don’t get your panties in a bunch, Mr. Lee

It’s been almost a month since Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” was released nationwide, and I’ve yet to stumble upon an organized protest of the film. I haven’t been in line at the post-office and heard two black women on either side of me strike up a conversation about whether or not its content is appropriate. The so-called New Black Panthers haven’t even held single four-person news conference to make a statement about it (not that I’ve seen, anyway).

Sure black barbershops are gabbing about the movie’s contents, but those conversations are more along the lines how awesome it was when Django stood atop the grand staircase in Candie-Land and blasted Lara Lee Candie (Laura Cayouette) out of the shot, and effectively out of the known universe. And yes, that was a mashup of James Brown and Tupac playing behind that savage gun battle.

It has come to pass that the most obnoxious aspect of Django’s release into the wild are the reactions of megalomaniacs like Spike Lee and L.A. Reid. These vainglorious basterds and their barrage of public comments speaking on the behalf of the black intelligentsia against the film and its contents has become more than a mere eye-roll.

L.A. Reid–who apparently liked the movie–stated that he felt the n-word should have been “approached…more sensitively.” As if slavers didn’t say the n-word more than Trinidad James does in any one song.

How L.A. Reid believes slavers talked in the 1800’s:

“I’m fixin’ to get up and go sell me a couple strong African-American migrant-workers today!”

“Hey boy! What’s a young black employee such as yourself doing on the porch before supper?”

…Phrases like these were widely used, well…never. In Reid’s more perfect Django, the slaves would have sported Camelbaks with lemon Gatorade–hey, it’s got electrolytes. Slavers trusted in the honor system, so Django and the six poor souls that open the movie would’ve been shackle-free. Whippings? No; Bart Simpson blackboard sessions of ‘I’se not fixin to runs noweya eva agane’ in repetition.

Then there’s Spike Lee.

I will first qualify my undying devotion to Lee’s film career; I think his movies are underrated and vastly important in the American film canon; actually the slept on “The Miracle at Saint Anna” may even be my favorite. With that acknowledgment, I know school-yard haterism when I see it. Lee’s Pedestrian and trite critique of the use of the n-word by Tarantino’s slavers in the film is a lion’s yawn.

Spike says:

“I have a definite problem with Quentin Tarantino’s excessive use of the n-word. And let the record state that I never said that he cannot use that word– I’ve used that word in many of my films – but I think something is wrong with him.”

Lets do some homework in a device used in art called “irony.” In 1994’s “Pulp Fiction,” there’s the famous scene where Samuel L. Jackson’s character visits a buddy of his, played by Tarantino, to help dispose of an unfortunate gunshot victim. The n-word is said in reference to the dead guy to Jackson’s character an obscene amount of times. Moreover, what’s more peculiar is that Tarantino is talking to a vicious black hitman. The irony and humor hits an apex when we learn that the wife of Tarantino’s character, “Bonnie,” whom he decries for her bad taste in coffee, is a black woman!

(As an aside for those long haven forgotten this sequence, there’s an implied cut to the near future when “Bonnie” is returning home from a night-shift at the hospital to find a dead guy waiting for her when she gets home. Bonnie is portrayed by a black actress.)

Lee told Vibe Magazine that he didn’t intend to watch the movie because it was “disrespectful to his ancestors.” We’re in agreement somewhat here: African chatel-slavery certainly was disrespectful to his/mine/our ancestors–understatement of all-time. But a revenge flick where the protagonists spend the majority of the film cartoonishly mowing down slave-drivers, can hardly be called disrespectful.

On Christmas night at the screening I saw of “Django Unchained,” half of the seats were occupied by people whose ancestors were portrayed as slaves–black people. No black folks left in the middle of the film. Instead, the numerous bouts of applause that took place during the film often masked some of the dialogue that followed. So much for disrespect, Spike.

So let us call his sentiment about “Django Unchained,” what it is: Hating. Or Jealousy; jealous that you weren’t the one to make it. We’ve seen “Roots” and “The Color Purple” enough.

Spike Lee is not the official notary of the black populous. The ticket-sales speak for themselves.

Spike, buy smaller panties if they ride up too high.