Sunday, August 15, 2010

Part 3 - J.C. Lee

Wherein J.C. discusses The X-Men, high school education, mayans, and his rumored dislike of babies

J.C. Lee, a.k.a. The Artist Formerly Known as Justin Lee, was born one day. And on that day (which was special, I assure you) the gods of writing cast a curse on him. This curse was that he would not realize his gift as a writer until he entered college...most specifically, by accident (as all brilliant things usually come about). This curse also included his ability to cast the Stupefy spell when he wrote, to knock out any opponent of his with WORDS. So, with some help of J.C.'s closest friends he began to kill lots of trees and hold readings of his plays, where his acting team would sit in a circle and read 3+ characters each. These plays included a lot of adult themes, namely: suicide, gayness, death, psychotic woman, rape, school-shootings, and boxes.
Gay fantasias on national themes were his favorite.

Insert montage of years passing which includes: falling in love, teaching talented youth, directing with a scarf on, yelling at his actors when they weren't off-book, a couple of cross-country trips, growing-up, relocating to California, starting a new life and a blog, and beginning to write about woman.

Cut-to: extreme persistence, passion, love and dedication for art, society, culture, and politics, a trilogy of plays being produced right now in San Francisco by Sleepwalker Theatre and a fellowship at Julliard. J.C. Lee will continue to Stupefy audiences with his words in New York City, no doubt.

Little known fact about J.C.: His Expecto Patronus is a jellyfish holding a fountain pen. Watch-out, y'all.

bio by Dina Percia

1. If you were making up a required reading list for high school student what would be top on your list and what book would you knock off current required reading lists?

My undergraduate degree is in Secondary Education - English, so I've got some strong opinions about this. I'm not sure I'd knock off any reading from the list - though I'd love to see the way in which Shakespeare is taught revised and revisited. Certainly, the reading list should be augmented. Books like The Perks of Being a Wallflower would go a long way towards deepening a student's appreciation of reading, same goes for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. What high school reading curriculum needs is to rediscover what makes reading exciting and while To Kill a Mockingbird is important, its not likely to build personal, emotional bridges to students today.

2. What book that hasn't been made into a movie yet should be done so, and who should film it?

I'd really love to see someone like Guillermo Del Toro tackle Neil Gaiman's Sandman or 1602.

3. How do you feel about Mayan ruins?

They're fucking awesome.

4. In Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Obi Wan says of Darth Vader "He's more machine now than man." at this point in your life, could the same be said of you? Has the life made you more manly or more mechanized? Defend your answer.

No I feel the opposite - I feel more alive right now than ever before in my life. As a teenager, you sort of retreat into this social shell you construct for yourself that enables you to create distance between yourself and the world. Over the past few years of my life I feel a helluva lot closer to being more alive than anything I've felt before. It's a great feeling. I think love is necessary to crack that open - because to be in love you've got to be yourself and I've been in love for almost 10 years now. That's gone a long way to defrosting my steel mechanics.

5. What was your most vivid dream?

As a child I always had a terrifying recurring dream where I'd be asleep in my bedroom in New York and suddenly the air in the room would thicken and the whirring fan overhead would slow and slope. Then the fish in the fishtank at the foot of my bed would one by one begin swimming out of the water and into the air. It was terrifying. And no matter how old I got, the dream always took place in my very first bedroom when I was a little kid. I haven't had it in many years but I can still recall it with absolute precision.

6. Would you rather have World Peace or a Class Revolution?

I don't think either of those things sound very appetizing at the moment. World Peace without Class Revolution, for example, would mean a placated and ignorant working class that just keeps being abused. Class revolution without a focus and structure is just more human blood-letting. The world is too complicated to be reduced to either/or scenarios anymore (if it ever was).

7. What do you have against babies?

I fucking love babies. Shut up.

8. What TV show are you most embarrassed about watching? No pretending you doen't have a TV; you know you stream The Mentalist from

Honestly I don't watch television that I don't either rent or live stream from Hulu or Netflix, so I'm pretty proud of the television I like (Six Feet Under, the Wire, Dexter, Rome, Carnivale, The Office, 30 Rock, True Blood). I'm not embarrassed about liking any of those shows. I still enjoy an episode of Star Trek: the Next Generation every now and then - perhaps that merits a bit of shame.

9. Which comic books affected you the most as a child and then as an adult?

As a child it was X-Men: Mutant Genesis. It was the first series I had from start to finish and I really identified with the explicit "otherness" of the X-Men and the diversity in their storytelling and characters. I still do even though Brett Ratner is responsible for irreparably damaging part of my childhood. As an adult it has to be Watchmen - that was the first time I realized a comic book could really engage in an intellectual discussion about the nature and purpose of human existence. It was really transformative when I revisited it as an adult (and the main reason that a character from This World Is Good has a monologue about that very thing).

10. Does free will really exist?

Absolutely. Anyone who thinks otherwise should stop fucking around and accept responsibility for their shit.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Part 2 - Sam Barnett

Wherein Sam discusses the nature of politics, the need for rituals and the importance of boxes as well as coming up with a great suggestion for a new nickname for California

Sam Barnett is a former armed revolutionary from the mega-church zone of Colorado, known for his piercing gaze and the raising independent-minded cats. Leaving behind the music industry after the first bloom of youth was off him, he now concentrates on independent
and animation. Recently accepted to USC, he plans to reform Los Angeles by implementing a secret transit system accessible by password only, run exclusively for an underground, poverty-stricken intelligentsia.

Mr. Barnett is partial to fine Scotch, hot women, and installing his own car stereos. He's never met a form of anarchy he didn't like.
bio by Robin Dunn Photos by Ren Dodge

1. What kind of government is best?

Pretend government. Not because it's good, it isn’t, but it’s all there is.

To jump entirely ahead and start answering the last question, I was surprised when I realized that there are no adults, it was a slow realization but I think surprise is still the right word. While there are not "adults", there certainly are powerful wrinkled children and they define this government thing. I don’t believe there are particularly important lines between things like "communism" and "capitalism", government rather is the collective set of rules that has been created by a massive machine that none of us control that is made up of a patchwork various thoughts.

Some examples;

1) Rules we wrote as half conscious responses to various problems we are required to speak about as though we understand them.

2) Rules designed to increase "capitol" be it monetary or otherwise, these rules may be purchased by interested parties and usual are.

3) Rules designed to counteract/fix the problems created by rules we drafted half consciously to fix problems we never understood. Capitalism, Communism, Libertarianism, they all function more or less in this way. Whether it’s very personal interactions or macro economics, it’s all pretty much part of the same animal to me.

2. How do you treat poison oak on a dog?
Time? Sedatives? Tranquilizers?

3. What are your feelings towards the animal nature of human consciousness and its conflicts in a civil social structure? Particularly your own?

I guess I have been thinking a lot about bureaucracy recently. I have felt very often recently while caught in bureaucratic nightmares that someone has managed to attach some strings to my organs and these strings go through walls and on the other side of these walls there are people pulling very hard on the strings. Bureaucracy is civil cancer. It institutionalizes our complete lack of trust for each other. I think, at least in terms of its mechanics, bureaucracies work in direct opposition to all life. And our animal nature, which we need to feel things like excitement and love, is largely crushed by our overly litigious state.

Apparently, an unfortunate side effect of the civil rights act was that it took a great deal of power away from judges. "Common sense judgments" are no longer acceptable, because naturally there were/are lots of racist judges. This was part of a huge movement that involved western culture losing confidence in its own moral superiority. We decided that we cannot trust our own animal selves and thus turned the keys over to an abstract cancerous litigation machine. The engine of this machine, the cancer cells(layers), function with the explicit intention of gaining as much capitol as possible for themselves/their clients with no regard to the species as a whole. It is now perfectly acceptable to sue people for your own idiocy. Like the thief that famously (and successfully) sued after falling through his victims skylight. Of course there has to be some kind of order to our lives and our society. And some of our instincts for creating order are bound to be maladaptive given that so much of our evolution occurred in a very different time. To quote Becket;

"I love order. It’s my dream. A world were all would be silent and still and each thing in its last place, under the last dust." And, I personally, do in fact love order.

4. How does death relate to consumption?

Well... "That which consumes" is, I think, I pretty solid definition of life. Having for the most part overcome physical danger and disease, consumption is one of the only ways we have left to struggle actively against death. Consumption and sex.

5. Is California a real place?

I hear the word a lot, and I say it and write it a lot. Although when I write it I usually write "CA". Which I think should be pronounced "KA". I like the idea of living in "KA" or even better... "KA!" very much. That makes me feel both important and mysterious... What was the question?

6. What's your mom like?

She is a nun turned Pagan.

7. Are you intrigued by the influences of artificially induced psychedelia? Religious states? Why or why not?

I am extremely interesting in religious states. Not so much psychedelia anymore. DMT maybe. I think that one of the most important things that modern society lacks is good rituals. Most of the rituals that we have today are derided as outdated cheesy leftovers of a bygone age. Marriages and funerals are the only rituals that Americans still take seriously. If you don’t respect a ritual it is useless. One thing art does is make us look very deeply and openly at things we would usually ignore or use in only a routine pragmatic way. Rituals make you take whatever moment in your life it happens to be very seriously, and, it becomes valuable moment. It allows you to see what you otherwise do not. That is a religious state, the ability to break through a self-maintained barrier.

8. What makes you anxious?

Planes make me anxious. Flying. And pretty much everything else. Being a biological system. Not knowing how my brain works, why it does some of the things it does. Ambiguous social roles. The extreme complexity of everyday existence.

9. Describe the appeal of Tetris

Well first off, it’s all about boxes and eliminating and stacking boxes and boxes are one of the fundamental building blocks of consciousness. It fulfils our compulsive needs to both clean and to organize (reference earlier Becket quote), without the tiresome consequence of actually having cleaned or organized anything. It also fulfils the compulsion to eliminate dead weight.

Like, if my car has an obviously extraneous object attached to it, I feel the compulsion to cut that object off. And after I have cut that object off I feel as though I have accomplished something, except that in Tetris I am spared the humiliation of having accomplished something. So the boxes and the success without consequences are appealing, and the music is unmatched.

10. Why the hell do you always have this look on your face like you're surprised at everything/everyone you're seeing? Are you really so surprised all the time? Really??

I don’t know why my face does what it does. I’m not in control of my face. I am actually not surprised very often so the look must mean something else. terror? No... Couldn’t be terrified that often. Maybe it’s just a look of being intensely focused on the now. I am usually that.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Part 1: James Call

Where in Mr. Call discusses his potential as a dictator, the bad assness of Irises and Angels and his dislike of rambling pop ballads from the early-seventies

The very name James Call invokes an air of infamy deserved. What DO I know about him? Some of this is real. Some of it may not be: James Call was born sometime in the late 70's somewhere fancy in California. Once in elementary school he got hit on the head with a basketball and had a seizure. This is when everyone realized that he had epilepsy. He hasn't had a seizure in a while. His dad, Alex Call, was part of the band Clover and wrote that song "867-5309 (Jenny)." He's famous and shit. He has a wikipedia page and lives in Nashville. James hates talking about that. I met his mom. We visited her at The Pleasure Palace in Marin County where James grew up. She asked me out to karaoke and then the next morning kicked us out of her house. James's parents are divorced. James has a step dad. He is a lawyer of some kind. I think he is Armenian and has some ties to rebels in the governement. His step dad is insane, but makes a mean hummus! James is an only child, I think. Or at least he acts like one. He has some half-siblings somewhere in Nashville. He is part of the Mishap Collective, which is a long-time group made up of a lovable ragtag group of boys and oft ignored girls who still dream big. He has performed in many events that are linked to this lo-fi idea of crapcore (including several Mishap Proms, Science Fairs, etc). I know that James is a genius. I will not begrudge him that. He is an amazing comic artist with an encyclopedic knowledge of history. He is in his element when he is speaking about topics that he his informed on. Go ahead and ask him about an MTA strike or Mao. James was in a band called German Cars vs. American Homes. His current band is The Missing Teens. He also has a project called James Call and Erotic Photo Hunt. I have seen some incarnations of some of these bands play in several cities. He has a bog called "James Call: Expert." It is on the Internet. I am not sure what it about. He also answers questions asked of the dead Louisiana governor and U.S. senator Huey P. Long for the NOLA Defender, a play Internet newspaper. James loves his cats, Marcel and Cindy, deeply. He owns many military coats. Or maybe it is just that one I keep seeing him in. He likes to RELAX in lounge wear on the weekends and his days off work. He went to school for something and works for either the Port Authority or a Sports Authority. I am hoping it is the former, because i asked for a basketball and leg warmers from James for Christmas and have yet to see either. He lives in Astoria. He has no plan to ever leave NY, unless Paris will take him.

Enough about the past... let's talk about when I met James Call. When I think of him I can't help but think of that very first time. His legend did proceed him. He'd been on my ipod for months, compliments of fellow Mishap artist and childhood friend Adam Beebe. I'd spent countless roadtrips listening to James Call's Peter and the Wolf while Adam went on about James and the antics of Marin Country youth. I had often thought out loud, "I hope I never meet this guy." But holidays inevitably come, and people reluctantly return home to see their families. James's mother and step father still live at the Pleasure Palace, an epic display of too-much in Muir Beach. We met at a house party in Oakland. I remember him seeming sweet and authentic. I realize now he was probably intimidated by me and trying to calm me down. Years later on a subway ride home from a bar in Brooklyn, James told me that I was more of an extravert than him, and he had previously been the biggest extravert he knew. He told me that I scared him a little. That night I met him, I was pissed about life and a drug deal gone wrong. I was probably loud and brash and difficult to control. I was not sure how to act when I met the man from my ipod. Still that night in Oakland, all those years ago, as a mutual friend gave us a ride to the house we were all crashing at, James Call held my hand in the back seat of the car. I remember that. He's one of those people that others always say that annoying thing about..."oh, James? you'll either LOVE him or absolutely HATE him." I was, and still am, on the fence.

James is currently working on a new play called "Attaining Hawkman", writing a comic book about politics in hell and is planning an upcoming tour with his band, the Missing Teens.

Bio by Kathryn Myers Photos by Erin Melina Stamos

1. What is Chop Suey? Why does it not exist on contemporary chinese menus?

Ok, I'll admit I cheated and looked this up. But the answer was what I thought it was: a bunch of chopped up vegetables and meat, etc. You can have it with noodles too. I assume this was invented in America, and it's probably on Chinese menus because Chinese people figured out that most Americans like to make fun of the Chinese spoken language, and think everything sounds all "Ching chong ming mong," etc., and "Chop Suey" sounds funny and is therefore marketable. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it.

2. Where does the idea for Angels come from?

Well, angels were the original servants to God and it's important to remember that most angels
are not beautiful, white, creatures with harps living on fluffy clouds. Rather, they are terrifying creatures, often with flaming swords, that strike at people, wrestle unbelievers to death, etc. Probably the most notable Angels, to the extent they can be found in ostensibly monotheistic faiths, are bastardizations of popular Gods that converts to Judaism, Christianity, etc. just didn't want to quite give up. Angels, I repeat, are terrifying.

3. Do you think mankind will be here in 100 years? If not how will the apocalypse happen? If so what will it be like?

Oh yeah man, we'll definitely be around. I could see a nuclear holocaust droppin' at some point, but even though that'll wipe out most of life on Earth, mankind is very resilient, like the cockroach. Honestly if that doesn't happen in the next hundred years we won't really see an apocalypse per se, but we are going to see the shit hit the fan, very likely. There's a bit of a malthusian problem upon us and we haven't segued to a new energy source, when the ones we rely on - oil and coal - are so limited (oil sources are almost kaput given current levels of demand, and coal just isn't sustainable - the icecaps will melt and that isn't much worse than a nuclear apocalypse). I think eventually we'll figure out solar and wind, but probably not until the decline of America and all that portends. Still, if we make it through the century without the nukes droppin', over some stupid reason, I think mankind will probably be fine. And there is no God, so I wouldn't worry about the rapture or the Aztecs coming back to kill us in 2012 or whatever.

4. What does it mean if I dream about trying to make chocolate chip cookies but I keep confusing the baking soda with the baking powder?

Probably it's a symbolic dream that what you are trying to succeed at in life is being complicated by the many choices ahead of you, and you're losing focus. This might be something as mundane as figuring out what movers to use to move your apartment next week, but it could be something larger, maybe you're having a hard time figuring out what you want to "do" in life, as a career or whatnot, etc. In any event, it's a symbol that you're unfocused and need to limit your options and otherwise straigthen your life situation out.

5. Is it ever justified to kill an innocent person?

Define "innocence". Would you kill 1 innocent person if it would save 1,000 innocent people? That's the classic conundrum. To me, the answer is an absolute yes. Otherwise, you have 1,000 deaths on your hand. Damned if you do by 1, damned if you don't by 1,000. My ease in answering this question indicates that I would make a great dictator someday.

6. What's your favorite flower?

That's rough. I don't really know much about flowers. I think the begonia is pretty fab, and it's hard to fuck with a rose - classic and to the point. But maybe the most far out flower is the Iris. If I had to be reincarnated as a flower, I think I might be that one, or at least I'd wanna be that one.

7. Billy Joel or Elton John? Explain why.

Well Elton John is more balls-to-the-wall, as far as that genre of music goes, but Billy Joel wrote "For the Longest Time," which is a classic tune. On the other hand, he wrote the despicable "Piano Man," which is my 2nd least favorite song of all time (right after Don McLean's "Bye Bye Miss American Pie"). "Piano Man" makes me want to stab someone in the face, and while I don't get why Elton John is supposed to be as great as everyone says he is, I'm gonna have to roll with him for just having a bit more style and panache, and for "Benny and the Jets".

8. If you could date a woman who was part another animal what would it be? Why?

When you ask that question, are you saying the woman has the features of another animal, or the genetic traits of another animal? Because I wouldn't care for the hair, but a cat/woman hybrid would be pretty ideal from the cuddling perspective. I mean, cats love to be caressed, and men love to caress women, which is why woman are so often compared to cats. So I have to go with "the cat" for my animal choice. But the dog wouldn't be far behind, because a woman who follows you everywhere and plays fetch would be sort of awesome too. Either way, they'd only live 'til 18, 20 years max, which would be so sad (for a woman).

9. What is the most "lowly" form of culture you consume and why does it deserve more credit than it gets?

The obvious answer is comic books; comic books are generally regarded as trash, and most of them don't provide much more high drama or comedy than your average sitcom or television drama. But they are visually, and conceptually, way more stunning; things are possible in comic books that you just can't budget in a TV show. So I would argue that the modern superhero comic - which is marketed to a 30-something audience anyways, these days - is generally superior to anything you'll find on the television outside of HBO and the Animation Domination.

But comic books have some cred these days, so let me think of some other "trash" I consume which I personally consider high art on par with anything that, at least, comes out of Hollywood: the video game. The video game provides more than just simple narrative: it provides a basic excercize of the mind and, to some extent, the muscles. It forces you to think critically and at the same time it engages you in a fiction which, when well-done, is all-encompassing, like a good book or TV show. Sure, there are a lot of shitty video games - does anyone really need another first-person shooter where you blow up zombies? - but there are some that can be described as nothing less than cinematic. The Metroid Prime series in particular provides plenty of moments of raw terror, inspiring wonder at the scope of the world, and a sense of heroic triumph when you defeat some of the extremely challenging enemies, which are not "just there" for you to shoot, but play into a narrative that goes far beyond the basic mechanics of the game.

So, video games and comic books deserve a lot more credit than they get - and I'd say the average one of either delivers a lot more than your run-of-the-mill sitcom or crime drama, that's for sure.

10. I have a hard time making friends because I'm 27 and still look like a chubby little kid, you seem like a really popular guy, what is it about James Call that people are drawn to?

The James Call appeal, to the extent it works out, is the appeal of arrogance, not cool, distant, arrogance, but imperialistic, proactive arrogance. Anyone can have it. Just assert yourself and your particular worldview. Be angry, and manifest that anger in charm. Remember, no matter how chubby you may be, others around you are insipid, backwards thinkers, with limited goals and perspectives. Put things in perspective for them. Be merciless, not compassionate, yet at the same time, reach out to everyone, no matter who they are, and make them your friend - not by pandering them, but by welcoming them in the elite club you are forming to subjugate the Earth.