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» LISTEN TO THE BIRDS: In Praise of Captain Beefheart & His Magics

by Brian Awehali


“Listen to the birds. That’s where all the music comes from. Birds know everything about how it should sound and where that sound should come from. And watch hummingbirds. They fly really fast, but a lot of times they aren’t going anywhere.”
– Captain Beefheart, “10 Commandments of Guitar Playing

Music can do a lot of different things. There’s music to comfort you, music to make you dance, music to make the time pass easier.

And then there’s music that whacks you upside the head, assaults you, is radically unconcerned with your comfort, and comes to get inside and change you, forever. Continue reading

» RUINS OF LOS ANGELES #1: Sunken City of Graffiti, Wildflowers & Concrete

by Brian Awehali

If you head north along the Los Angeles coastline, you can find a once posh neighborhood that slid into the sea back in the 1930s. On the way, you’ll see a lot of loading cranes on the horizon, just like the ones Oakland pridesters like to wear on their hoodies and t-shirts. In fact, there are many more of these cranes in the Los Angeles harbor than there are in Oakland, where I used to live. Whatever. As far as I’m concerned, they’re either symbols of dirty transoceanic shipping that can be found in almost any port city, or they’re symbols of George Lucas’s frenzied imagination of imperial military might. Either way, it’s hard to see where pride or geographic specificity figure into it.

After the cranes, and at the end of Fermin Park, is a tall fenced gate and barricade. Past the fence, the road continues to an abrupt end, and well below that is the so-called sunken city of Los Angeles. Between a dozen and two dozen homes were destroyed in quakes and ongoing slides as the cliff here gave way. A manhole cover sits two inches from the edge of a cliff. Between several improbable palm trees, tall grass, blooming fennel and wildflowers overtake broken, wildly angled and heavily graffiti’d roads, pipes and curbs.

Continue reading