Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Despite currently being overseas, the reality, especially the financial reality of going back to school for my master's is looming over me like a dark cloud.  That being the case, I've been searching for and applying to some pretty random scholarships trying to scrape some change together so I don't have to choose between books and food next year.  A lot of these scholarships have ridiculous essays like "Why do you deserve this scholarship?", etc, etc, and have equally ridiculous word count limitations.  Here is my latest entry limited at a sparse 250 words, enjoy, and keep your fingers crossed for me.  Aloha for now . . .

Why do I deserve $1,000? Hmmm. . . my mustache makes Tom Selleck look like my little sister; I can eat a 5x5 (that's 5 burger patties and 5 pieces of cheese) at In-N-Out and still polish off my fries and a milkshake; I can beat any elementary school child in one-on-one basketball; I can run an eight-minute mile and then do at least ten push-ups before vomiting; I don't like wearing shoes but I still do just to be polite and not to embarrass my girlfriend in public; I once saw a movie in Germany that starred Jon Bon Jovi as a vampire slayer; I'm occasionally nice to the elderly despite the way they smell; I eat all my vegetables; I've never stolen my books for college classes even though I know how much beer that money could buy; I can speak Kitten; I bathe regularly despite exuding freshness naturally; I think the concept of handkerchiefs is a menace to public health; I don't talk on my cellular phone on the bus; I never hooked up with any of my little sister's friends in high school; I pick up other people's trash at the beach; I have never fed a seagull Alka-Seltzer tablets despite my morbid curiosity; I'm not afraid to dance in public and I am fully aware of how stupid I look; I once ate a whole stick of butter; and I have been a public school teacher for two years and still haven't hit a student.  

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Gaddafi's Ass

Why Isn't a US Predator Drone Sticking Out of 
Gaddafi's Ass Right Now?

Today, February 23rd, two days after Libyan military aircraft opened fire on peaceful protesters, - - the known death toll now standing at over 300, President Obama is calling for “the world to speak with one voice” against the atrocities taking place. He stated that the Libyan government “must be held accountable.” So how does the Nobel Prize winning peacemaker plan to do this? What is the most powerful man in the world going to do to stand up for democracy (this is a big parenthesis: We have already witnessed his unwillingness to act on the behalf of a united populace in Egypt, but that 'revolution' was relatively peaceful being that the military stood behind the movement. Despite early confrontations with the police, a camel-back Tahrir Square charge, and the violence sustained by reporters, especially the “brutal and sustained sexual assault" on Lara Logan - if you look at the numbers in black in white, with the detached lens of a statistician, this was a successful and peaceful revolution and Obama's unwillingness to come out directly against Mubarack can be understood in terms of diplomacy; Mubarack's long-standing cooperative relationship with the US; and in terms of his being a stabilizing pillar within the Middle Eastern leadership. Gaddafi is another story . . . ) ?

The answer?


America's rapid response to this humanitarian crisis, in which Gaddafi, a known sponsor of terrorism (Lockerbie bombing, '86 Berlin discotheque bombing, and '89 UTA Flight 772 bombing; as well as supplying military aid to any group claiming to fight “imperialism” - i.e. PLO, IRA, etc.) who has only been tolerated on the international stage because he controls the largest oil reserves in Africa (9th largest in the world) is sending Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Geneva next Monday to join a UN Human Rights Council meeting, where they will negotiate a resolution on Libya. Of those options discussed in the resolution, the sanctions are the most hard hitting; with others including a call on Libya to protect its citizens, condemnation of the violence and a demand for an international inquiry and access for humanitarian groups. Talk about shock and awe. Ronald Reagan must be spinning in his grave right now (especially after the Somali pirate debacle).

Get 'em Ronnie!
Iran has been under US sanctions since 1979, when the Iran hostage crisis began after a group of radical students in Tehran seized the American embassy and took 66 hostages, and they have been under increasing international pressure since 2005 when Ahmadinejad lifted the suspension on uranium enrichment which had been previously brokered with the EU3 (France, Germany, & UK). Most people my age (born in '82) don't have first-hand knowledge of these goings-ons (if they have any knowledge of them at all), but after numerous (failed) rescue attempts and diplomatic manueverings, what eventually ended the standoff between Iran and the US was the election of Ronald Reagan. Running against the painstakingly peaceful Jimmy Carter (for a commander-in-chief . . . I'm very anti-war, but that little red button is there for a reason), Reagan made a campaign promise that if elected president, he would bomb Iran as his first act in office. On January 20, 1981, 20 minutes after Reagan had been sworn into office, all the remaining hostages were on a plane out of Iran.

The carrot and the stick.

Sanctions are a pencil-pusher's attempt at making peace, and by no-one's account have they ever brought about a speedy resolution to any situation. But when lives are on the line, and when a country full of people yearning for democracy, a people who have been under the rule of the same man since 1969 - over 41 years – are dieing trying to earn their basic freedom, America has an obligation to act swiftly and decisively. What good is having the world's greatest military if we only use it to occupy countries rather than free them ( . . . like having the "world's greatest health care system" I can't afford)?

Why, when one in three killed by drones in Pakistan is a civilian, - - are we so cautious when it comes to cracking a few eggs to make an omelet in Libya?

Coming from a family tradition of backing the Democratic Party, it pains me to trash Obama (I remember staying up to watch his inauguration live via the internet when I was in Australia and getting all teary-eyed), but after failing to stand up for the middle-class and minorities that elected him domestically (failing to end tax-cuts for the nation's richest and adding $2.2 trillion to the deficit over the next ten years is only the latest in a long line of sellouts), if Obama fails to act now, on the international stage, then I fear he may face the same one-term fate that Carter did.

You won't be seeing this one in the 2012 campaign,
unless it's off the desk of Karl Rove.
(photo taken July 9, 2009)

Maybe not, he is a hell of a salesman, and Jay-Z is going to be involved in his campaign. As for me, I'm writing in Ralph Nader.

(For those wackos who are keeping their fingers crossed for Donald Trump to throw his hat in the ring, the “Don” allowed Gaddafi to literally 'pitch his tent' on one of his estates in Bedford, New Jersey during Gaddafi's visit to the UN General Session in 2009. Gaddafi had previously tried to set up camp in Central Park and on Libyan government property, but both were protested by community leaders.)

"You're Fired!"
Somebody buy this guy a hat.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Drowning Men

On their way to see "True Grit"

2/4/11 – Hensley's Tavern
Carlsbad, CA
Interview with Nate-O Bardeen

It's like a sinking ship . . . and the water's on fire.” - Tom Waits

          The show was slated to start at nine and I arrived early, to sit in on the sound-check and ask my friend Nate-O some questions about his new album and upcoming tour. The free show was a thank you to their hometown supporters and a bon voyage bash before they hit the road the next day. As the sound men adjusted their dials to hone the mics and amps, cocktail waitresses and bartenders would peak behind the curtain, trying to catch a preview of the show before they would be inundated later in the evening. There is something surreal about being the only person not intimately involved in the goings-on of the upcoming show to watch a band warm-up, and as I sat alone in an overstuffed half-moon booth nursing a PBR tall-boy, I kicked my feet up and entertained egocentric notions that this was all for me, a private performance. Such are the fleeting privileges of an early bird . . . for within an hour all the booths were filled with the band's close friends and family, while beyond the black curtains the bar filled to capacity and a line started to build outside.
          Formerly of the Plug Uglies, Nathaniel “Nate-O” Bardeen has been a mainstay of the local music scene in north county San Diego, and along with his local band mates, they were bringing together a crowd full of camaraderie and pride at the fact that The Drowning Men, born and bred in Oceanside, CA, would now be getting to share their music with a national audience on the road, opening for the Celtic-infused folk rock legends Flogging Molly. I first met Nate-O through surfing, and later got to know him better on the “pitch” (that's a soccer field for you footy-laymen), where we would play pick-up games with the local boys at Buccaneer Beach Park. Nate-O, who sports a pencil-thin black mustache and whose arms are covered in traditional sailor tattoos, has an unassuming air, and for someone of his talent and ambition, is humble and boyishly shy, never letting on that he is in a band, let alone a burgeoning rock star. In fact, of all the things he wears on his sleeves, his ego is not one of them. He lives a simple life. He has a day job, laying tile. He enjoys the ordinary pleasures of his backyard mini-ramp, an occasional surf, playing footy with his friends, and of course, making music.
          Between the sound check and show time, as the crowd's energy was becoming palpable in the air, I caught up with Nate-O behind the bar, asking him questions as he smoked cigarettes and his eyes sparkled with the nervous energy brought on by the endorphins of someone getting ready to take the stage, not only tonight, but for the next few weeks on the wide open road.
          The show that transpired that evening was a raucous experience, the band's energy matched by the crowd's enthusiasm, as drinks were raised and song lyrics echoed by fans and friends. The atmosphere was one of celebration and brotherhood, a re-imagining of an Old World Irish pub ringing with sea chanteys. The Drowning Men's sound defies easy description, but lies in the aural realm of the Arcade Fire and Interpol, their music often containing a haunting quality that serves to sober the heart. In an age of rampant commercial production, music produced for monetary ends rather than to serve and soothe the soul, to say the things that cannot be said, the original and highest aim of music, The Drowning Men are making music that is real, music you don't just listen to, music you feel. For a taste, check them out at and catch them at the NorVA, Friday, February 18th.


Who have been the biggest influences on you creatively, both musically and otherwise?
  • Musically, The Pogues, Tom Waits, Morissey, The Smiths, Nick Cave, The Bad Seeds . . . me personally, that's what I love listening to.

How did you first get into making music?
  • I was in high school and a friend of mine asked if I wanted to sing in some punk band and I was like, “yeah, I love punk rock.” So, I started singing, and then I started playing guitar. Once I picked up guitar, I just fell in love with it, playing music, writing music.

Is that when you first started writing your own songs?
  • Yeah, in high school, seventeen maybe, when I started playing guitar.

What instruments do you play now? How many?
  • umm... legit instruments... guitar, banjo, piano, mandolin... I play like fourteen, ones that I can actually claim. I can kind of get by on anything, or any kind of string thing.

Where did the band name come from?
  • I was reading a book by Nick Cave, and he mentioned “the drowning men” in it. At the time I was looking for a name for the band, and that's how I came up with. I love Leonard Cohen as well, and in one of his songs he mentions it too.

And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said "All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them"

Leonard Cohen, “Suzanne” '66

I've read in other interviews that your song writing process is relatively organic, beginning with a melody or riff that is brought to the collective table where it grows with the collaboration with all the band member's input, and that the lyrics are the last element that's added. Talk about the difficulties, or possibly the comfort, of finding words to fit a piece a music. Do you ever feel confined by the existing framework of the music, or do you feel that it supports the writing of the lyrics by supplying a construct to help flesh out whatever it is you're hoping to say?
  • I think, you know... I'm passionate about music and I've always been into instruments, the melodies of different instruments. So for me, it's always music first. And then, I let the music put me in a mood and then I'll fumble around with words and I'll base everything off of that, off the music, off the mood of the song. That's how I develop my lyrics. I know other people who do it totally different, they write their lyrics first and then add their music to their lyrics. I've never been able to do that yet. I'd like to explore that, but so far, it's just music first. I let the music tell me where I'm going to go with the vocals.

What was the difference, both in the creative process and in production, between your EP and this full length album?
  • I think that first EP we did, that was kind of like trying to find, kind of getting used to playing with each other, finding things and exploring. Then after time, we developed our style and just went off that. I think now, the album we've been working on now is totally different than our EP. In a way it's the same mood, but different. I don't know.

In '07 you had “Kill the Matador,” in '09 was “Beheading the Songbird.” Both have ironic and morbidly humorous titles, could you explain the significance behind these?
  • I just love it. I like the darker stuff; but I like it humorous too. You know, gently put. We're not an evil, morbid band. I just like it dark.

Could you tell me how you got booked on the tour, your relationship to Flogging Molly, and how you feel you relate to that traditional Celtic-infused music that they're known for?
  • I am a huge Irish folk fan, and that's what made me fall in love with Flogging Molly. I used to watch them their first year playing together and I fell in love with them then. I don't know what it is with Irish music, but there's a sincerity, a humor, and it's dark. There's passion, and the vocals, struggle, you know is what I love about Irish music. I used to play Irish, I used to be in Irish bands. I don't think The Drowning Men sound anything Irish really, but I'd be a fool to say that there can't be a hint of it in there. You know, I listen to it. Whatever I listen to, I'm going to put out. Whatever I take in, I'm going to put out. I love the band Flogging Molly, and our relationship, our personal relationship, we know Matt Hensley (accordion player for Flogging Molly and former pro skater), we've opened up for Flogging Molly in Vegas two or three years ago. So we've played with them once before and we have this relationship with Matt, and he's a big part of us getting on this tour.

Would you say your music is a product of your environment? And if so, expand on the role that the locale of Oceanside and the greater San Diego area has had on your music.
  • I definitely think it is . . . I don't know how, but it couldn't come from anywhere else. I can't really expand on it, it's just how it is. Us being here, and the environment that we grew up in, the music we grew up playing with, us knowing each other for a long bit. There's another band out there, The Burning of Rome, I don't want to say they're similar, but I see hints of us doing the same kind of thing in certain ways, and I'm stoked that they're from Oceanside as well.

What's the story behind the music video for “Disorder Here We Come?”

  • That came from our director dude, Ryan. That was all his idea. He brought it to us, was like this is what I want to do, we were like perfect. He's like this is what I hear, what I gather from you guys, and this is what I hear. We were just like, let's do it. We filmed the whole thing in Rory's garage. It was pretty insane.

If you could jam with any musician, living or dead, who would it be and why?
  • There's so many, I don't know. The first person to come to my mind right now is Leonard Cohen. I just think he writes some of the most beautiful music ever, that's why.

If you could punch any musician in the face, living or dead, who would it be and why?
  • I don't have an answer to that. Who would I want to punch? Umm . . . gosh, I don't know. I'm too gentle.

You've only got three musicians you can listen to for the rest of your life. They are:
  • Paul Simon, The Smiths, The Pogues.