Less Than Zero

4 05 2010

I’ve read Bret Easton Ellis before. Last year I took an 18th Century Satire course (which was totally brutal) that compared the likes of Pope and Dryden to modern-day satirists. One of those works was American Psycho, an extremely challenging piece intended to satirize the upper-class elite of New York society; Psycho’s graphic use of sexual and violent acts caused much controversy at the time of the novel’s release. While I enjoyed Ellis’s work, I never looked into reading any more of his pieces. That was until Lisa put Less Than Zero into my hands sometime last summer.

Ellis’ first novel, written at the astonishingly young age of 18, is somewhat similar in his choice of subject matter, instead detailing the lives of the young, rich and elite of Los Angeles. Zero’s protagonist is 18 year old Clay, a freshmen in college on the East coast who returns to his home in Los Angeles for Christmas break. Since leaving, Clay has been removed from the irresponsible, superficial and meaningless lifestyle of his friends. These kids live for the nightlife, parties, drugs and sex. During a series of particularly disturbing events (viewing his best friend prostitute himself in order to pay back his cocaine debt, being witness to a pornographic snuff film and seeing his friends emotionless fascination with an overdose victim), Clay decides to return to school, possibly never to return to Los Angeles. The closing paragraph is one Lisa highlighted in her book, a passage of prose that epitomizes the central theme of the book, Los Angeles as a wasteland. “There was a song I heard when I was in Los Angeles by a local group. The song was called ‘Los Angeles’ and the words and images were so harsh and bitter that the song would reverberate in my mind for days. The images, I later found out, were personal and no one I knew shared them. The images I had were of people being driven mad by living in the city. Images of parents who were so hungry and unfulfilled that they ate their own children. Images of people, teenagers my own age, looking up from the asphalt and being blinded by the sun. These images stayed with me even after I left the city. Images so violent and malicious that they seemed to be my only point of reference for a long time afterwards. After I left.”

Less Than Zero provides a compelling commentary on the reckless lifestyle of adolescents in Los Angeles during the 1980s. At times bordering on glamorizing the people and events in the novel, it portrays the lives of messed up teenagers lost among the bullshit by which they have been surrounded their entire lives. Growing up in Los Angeles, my life could not have been any less like that of Clay, Blair or Julian.  Perhaps it is the company I keep or my substantially lower economic stats, but the events in Ellis’ novel are extremely exaggerated (though perhaps not to the same extent as Psycho) in order to convey the distorted view of Los Angeles as a glamorous city along the beach where everyone is tan and dines at Spago.

“Disappear Here.” At one point in the novel, Clay passes a billboard picturing a sunny vacation spot accompanied by these words. Throughout the rest of the novel Clay is haunted by this statement, for he feels as though he is fading in the hot sunlight highlighting glistening fake tans and shadowing drug addictions. Less Than Zero is a brilliant commentary on 1980s youth in Los Angeles.

Now it’s time for Rusko

29 04 2010

I blame ShadowFunk’s Prince of Shadows and his infectious womp womp-ing.

Rock your face off — a chat with ShadowFunk

29 04 2010

Some say radio is a dying art in an age where commercial-free music comes to the listener at the touch of a button on your preferred mp3 player. Pat Meisner of ShadowFunk stopped by with his fancy equipment and introduced me to the other side of radio. As it turns out, it’s fun to hide behind a microphone. As soon as I got over feeling self-conscious about what anyone listening might think of me (or my high-pitched voice) I began to understand the allure of radio.

Pat and I chatted about dubstep, glowsticking and everything between. Enjoy.

ShadowFunk meets Wannabe Raver

A random encounter…

28 04 2010

It only lasted a couple blocks, but it left me thinking.

His name was John, and he was stranded. My roommate and I were approached by this young man when he literally ran up to us outside of campus as we made out way to the Coffee Bean. Upon reaching us, he said, “Hey, can I have twenty bucks?” He then laughed and shook his head. He then asked if we knew of any way he could make some money fast. Needless to say, I was immediately uncomfortable. He looked young enough, no older than the two of us, and he carried nothing with him. When we explained we did not know of a way to acquire cash quickly, he proceeded to walk with us on our journey. The two of us stiffened, but continued on our way.

John introduced himself and asked us our own names, then continued to explain his current situation.

“I’m from San Diego,” he said, gesturing to the city before him. “This isn’t me.”

John told us he was looking for a way to get back to San Diego, for he had been left at the Bristol Farms for the day with strict instructions that the bus would arrive to pick him up at 8.30 pm. At this point we were curious, so we inquired as to how this came to be. Amidst much profanity and obvious bitterness, John explained that he had been employed to sell magazines in the area, door to door in cities and neighborhoods he had never heard of before. He then looked at us and asked if he was safe here, or if he would “get shot.” We assured him the area was very safe, especially during the day, and then asked him what his next move would be in this predicament. He clearly carried no clothes or bags of any kind, though he did mention a hotel room, though he couldn’t tell us where it was.

John told us he hadn’t sold enough magazines to satisfy “them,” so he was sent to the back of the bus, a sort of punishment it seemed. He told us about his spiel, and how no one wanted to leave the door open long enough to listen to him. In one particularly shady neighborhood, one man had even pulled a gun on him. “Fuck that,” he spewed. “I’m ex-Navy, I don’t need that.” At this time he decided it was time to quit and go home. John was told if he quit he would not be provided with a ride back home.

At this point, we had reached a crossroads and I mumbled that we had some work to do at the Coffee Bean, so we would have to part ways. Earlier I had mentioned something about the airport, and he asked how he could find LAX. When we pointed the way, he thanked us and continued on down Lincoln. That was all we saw of John, ex-military 20 year old from San Diego.

As we made our way across the street, I turned to watch John go. “Whew,” I muttered. “I thought he was going to rape us.” My roommate said she felt really bad for him, he was just a lost kid trying to get home. Later, we talked about the sort of agencies that employ younger kids (usually in their mid-late teens) to sell magazines, just as John had done. They offer them large prizes, $5,000 and a trip to anywhere they want, but only if they manage to sell the most magazines. Lisa explained how they pay these kids little to nothing for the work they do, dropping them off unsupervised in random neighborhoods. John didn’t even know where he was in Los Angeles until we pointed him toward the airport.

After we talked, I felt bad for judging John. Lisa was right, he was just a bored, lonely kid trying to get home and looking for people to talk to. I don’t know where he ended up, if he even got back on the bus at Bristol Farms, but I hope he made it home safely.

Last DANCEiSM of college :(

28 04 2010

Wait… what? Seriously, I feel like I only JUST found out about this function and now I have to go and graduate? All that really means is that I won’t be able to take the free bus to the venue anymore, but still. Will it be inappropriate for a college graduate to dress up in American Apparel clothing and smear their face with neon paint? Let’s hope not, because there are more DANCEiSMs to come. Dig it.

Once again, there was bus drama. I guess it wouldn’t be a DANCEiSM if there weren’t drunk freshmen mobbing the bus. It was such a shitshow, we were literally disgusted with the behavior of some of the people there. The whole point of the event is to have fun together, not to fight tooth and nail to get onto a yellow school bus. After a while we had had it. Lisa (my roommate, who has until now remained somewhat anonymous) decided to take one for the team and drive to the Echoplex. What  a trooper, all in the name of DANCEiSM. I guess we kind of owe her one.

After we beat the bus to the venue (hollerrrr) we didn’t run into anymore snags. After that it was music, drinks, body paint and enough dancing to leave my legs sore the next morning. The music didn’t strike me as being entirely memorable, but I also have no complaints — except the strobe might have been a little out of control. Robot Love was playing when we rolled up but they had pretty much wrapped up by the time we had hit up the photo booth, paint table and bar (the results are shown in the above picture).

There will be another DANCEiSM next month, but by then we’ll have graduated. I think it is assumed our “partying days” are over once we cross the stage at graduation, at which time we will take on responsibilities and venture out into the real world. So… does that mean we can’t have anymore fun? Really? I hate hearing that these years are the best of our lives; life can’t really be all downhill after this. Sure, it’s been fun and all, but I don’t want to believe we’ve peaked this early. I intend on continuing to dress in absurd costumes, I will keep drinking overpriced cocktails and I will always wear face-paint if the opportunity presents itself.

The best years of our lives are the best to come.

Guess where I’ll be Saturday…

21 04 2010

That’s right, it’s time for this months DANCEiSM!

Check out the details and lineup here, RSVP for a discount. As far as I know there was no problem with the busses this past month, but I think it functions better at the Echoplex. I suggest pre-partying a bit, the fun may be cheap but the drinks aren’t. Whatever,  I’m not missing this one. See you there!

I wanna take you to a gay bar

16 04 2010

In an effort to expand my horizons and learn more about a culture with which I have always been fascinated, I asked my good friend Brian if he would accompany to a gay bar/club/lounge Thursday night. Always down for an adventure, Brian agreed and the two of us decided The Abbey in West Hollywood would be the place to go.

From watching films and television shows I have always had a preconceived notion about the “gay scene” and the environment, people and behavior one may encounter there. While some of my beliefs were confirmed (stereotypes are usually in place for a reason) last night I found my perception of this culture challenged an altered so much so that I cannot wait to make another trip to WeHo — as soon as I can come up with $60 for cab fare.

The Abbey is located in West Hollywood at Santa Monica and Robertson and doubles as a restaurant and bar transitioning into a more club-like atmosphere by around 10pm. In an effort to fit and and appear as though I wasn’t a total novice I took only one photo last night (although I really, REALLY wanted to pose with one of the beautiful go-go dancers). However, I did manage to sneak a snapshot while Brian and I smoked a cigarette and pretended to be immersed in a wildly engaging conversation. The Abbey is beautifully constructed and lit to perfection, creating a soft and alluring glow wherever you look. Add the ambiance to the seemingly endless remixes of Lady Gaga and I could have been in heaven. Bad Romance indeed.

I have to admit — I was pretty nervous. My previous experience with gay culture consisted of hanging out with Brian, who admittedly has no gay friends and frequents the scene about as often as I do. I was glad to venture to The Abbey with someone I know and trust, a fabulous gay man who taught me not to smile at people and the difference between a look of attraction and his favorite, “What are you?” As it turns out they are strikingly similar, but luckily I’m a fast learner. It has a lot to do with the eyebrows.

Brian and I encountered a vast array of people who were not all necessarily gay, and it was not as easy as I had imagined to identify who was who. At one point I was sure a tall handsome man was eyeing me until he approached the guy behind me, who was admittedly much better looking than myself. No hard feelings.

The most striking part of the evening was how comfortable I felt with my surroundings. I have never considered myself a homophobe by any means, but I wasn’t quite sure how I would feel when thrown into an environment where I was the minority. As we were leaving, one of the amazingly muscular semi-nude dancers from the top of the bar brushed past me, and put his hand on the small of my back. He said, “You look beautiful tonight.”

Gaypproval? Maybe. Needless to say, I’ll be going back soon.