Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Life under a volcano...

The whole state is on fire. My hometown is on fire.
My nerves are on fire.
Fucking everything is on fire.

A few years ago I described wind thusly:
Wind is one of those things that I'm obnoxiously sensitive to. It's akin to that damn scratchy tag in your shirt that feels like it's stabbing you every two seconds. Except it's all over my skin and constant. Wind gives me a headache, makes me itchy everywhere, and makes my eyes and nose hurt, even if I'm not outside. Something about the atmosphere changes. Barometric pressure something-or-other. It makes me feel crazy. I want to peel all my skin off. Rip my hair out. Beat my head against a wall. Like... crazy crazy.
Wind like this makes it impossible to sleep and that makes me feel especially crazy crazy.
We had a wind event something like that a week ago. I say like that tentatively, because this wind was the most terrifying wind I've ever experienced. It had been going all day, making me cranky, filling my clothing and hair with static, giving me a headache, sucking all the moisture out of my skin, nose, and throat. But in the middle of the night, I was up like normal, doing work on the computer, wondering if I should just turn in for the night because there was no way the power wouldn't go out with the insane speed of the gusts. The whole house was shuddering.

And the power did go out. Came on again a few minutes later, but I left my computer off, assuming it'd go again. And it did. There was sound out in the neighborhood, voices, my folks were talking in their room. Left my room to discover the rest of the house was full of smoke. Neighbors were standing out in the middle of the street with flashlights. Once out in the street we looked to the hills set behind our house.

They were on fire. A ridge of flames surging down towards homes. The whole sky to the west was glowing orange, billowing with smoke. The fire was roaring it was so powerful. Explosions. Power transformers, propane tanks, ammunition stores in residential homes, etc, all blowing up like bombs going off in a war zone.
I pulled up local radio (KSRO) on my phone and listened attentively, shaking, and dumbfounded. We packed absolute necessities, not knowing if our neighborhood would burn. At 4AM we evacuated to the fairgrounds area, the first shelter area people were encouraged to gather. Thousands of people swarming and parking in the dark. Two major hospitals had to be evacuated, patients set up in a makeshift triage center. Families. Pets. Everyone in pajamas. The kind of scene you only see on the news or in disaster movies. Very fucking real.

Through the incredible generosity of wonderful friends, we had safe spaces to rest. Through incredible luck, we got power and internet back at our house within the first couple days. A house still standing.

Woken from a dead sleep a couple days ago to sounds that will haunt me forever, a mandatory evacuation taking place in the neighborhoods just across a highway from us. Very close. Close enough to hear the bullhorn calls, the doors and windows being pounded on, the sirens, the series of car doors slamming in rapid succession... all as if it was happening next door. One of the fires had jumped to the east of us, threatening residential areas in our direction.

That sick adrenaline. I could barely gather my packed bags again I was shaking so hard. But we weren't evacuated. Encouraged to stay put, in fact, to allow the mandatory area to use the escape roads as quickly as possible. Days later, that's still the most active fire in the region, so we're still walking on eggshells around here. But any immediate danger has essentially passed. We might even get some rain or drizzle soon.

Burned/burning areas in my neck of the woods right now.
It has been a hard fucking week.
And compared to a huge amount of my fellow city residents, insanely lucky and relatively easy.
But it's definitely a wild experience to barely leave your house for five years and then flee it halfway across the city ahead of a firestorm that's destroying everything in its path.

Everyone learns faster on fire.

I've had that old Alkaline Trio song stuck in my head this week.

Once the fires cool and the smoke has cleared and the ash stops falling like snow, I'll be trying to volunteer somehow in whatever limited way I can. I have to try. Until then, we're living out of packed bags. Edgy and anxious. Nothing else to be for now. There is some positive amusement in seeing a literal 747 flying low over my backyard while I eat breakfast, about to drop a metric fuck-ton of retardant on the hills nearby. Surreal. Never been so happy to hear multiple planes and helicopters circling all day long. Heroes up there.

Mostly been numb/terrified emotionally. But seeing pictures of the Luther Burbank Center scorched, where I performed for 9 years, and the Round Barn reduced to soot, an unforgettable icon of a hometown I've lived in for 31 years... made me want to shrivel up and cry forever. What happened in Coffey Park is shocking to the senses.

I've always hated wind.

I need a more violent word than hate for my feelings now.

Thursday, July 20, 2017


When your saviors fall to the same demons they saved you from.

I cherish the memory of seeing Chis Cornell and Chester Bennington sing live together many years ago. What a privilege.

I'm sure I'll stop crying at some point.
But there's no bottom to the well today.

Friday, May 26, 2017

I love you all over again.

Trixie Mattel's country folk album came out at the beginning of the month.

98% of the music I listen to these days is Kpop. Barely listen to American music anymore. But when I did previously, it was mostly heavy rock and a bit of hip-hop. I can enjoy just about any kind of music. The one exception I've always had was for country.

I have a really hard time listening to country. It's the twang. In the vocal. Sometimes in the instrumentation even. That twang has always been nails on a chalkboard to me. Like when you have to take cough syrup as a kid and you get the full body shudder from the taste.
I can't deal.

But not all country has a strong twang and I can typically tolerate the genre fine when it isn't present.

I wasn't initially aware that Trixie was so musically inclined from watching Drag Race and other media stuff. But she started incorporating singing and guitar relatively recently along with her standup. Stuff that she had been doing pre-drag.

Late last year I stumbled onto this video.

And I turned into a bit of a sobbing mess.

Brian has a lovely voice. It's not particularly unique or spectacular. There's something about a simple, clean, warm, vocal performance, cutting away any frills or crazy production, that's so damn nice.
And really no twang. Only the occasional tease of one, which I don't mind.

Also an incredibly sad song. Oh heavens. The travelling artist's woes of their personal life being abandoned or falling apart for the sake of their job and what they love to do. Not uncommon. But the lyrics cut straight to the heart of it. Forthright and accessible in such an effective and heartbreaking way.
It hurts.

But I need to go off on a semi-related tangent first after the jump.

Sunday, May 21, 2017


Individually you can create something.

Together you can create something more.

I appreciate when the internet gets playful and creative for April Fools' Day.
Reddit has been doing projects for years that typically are a combination of testing the maximum server burden, demographics, and/or new potential functions for the site.

I've participated in each year since the OrangeRed vs. Periwinkle battle of 2013. Hats hats hats.
I stayed gray for The Button as a part of the waiting Red Guard.
In Robin last year, I helped grow with several huge chats and ended up in the final merged chat before it all crashed. Those of us who lasted to the 17th tier (about 3,000 people) have a private subreddit named after the chat's final merged names /r/ccKufiPrFaSh... 

This year was /r/place. Reddit users could place one pixel at a time on a single, shared blank canvas. You would then wait a set period of time to place your next pixel. The time varied, starting at 20 minutes, but eventually dropping to 5.

The result after three days is what you see above. Well, not exactly. There was a huge follow-up effort to clean up stray pixels and restore certain areas that had been swallowed by the Void. But the actual final piece isn't much different from this. There are dozens of articles around the net about how this all went down, so I won't go into that sort of thing here.

The timelapses and heat maps are absolutely brilliant to watch. The most spectacular follow-up is The /r/place Atlas. A detailed, crowd-sourced, map to every little thing on the canvas, complete with thorough explanations.

It's this kind of thing that reminds me how much I love the internet for the incredible cooperation that is possible. /r/place is a manifestation of that in general. There were probably a lot of expectations of it being a vile trainwreck of bigotry and hate symbols. Turned out to be quite the opposite.

It was damned heartwarming.

I just have a few things to say about my individual contribution after the jump.