Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Death Lends a New Perspective

You’re watching yourself
But you’re too unfair
You got your head all tangled up
But if I could only make you care
Oh, no love, you’re not alone
No matter what or who you’ve been
No matter when or where you’ve seen
All the knives seem to lacerate your brain
I’ve had my share, I’ll help you with the pain
You’re not alone.
—David Bowie, “Rock ’n’ Roll Suicide”

We were sitting in Tracy Lea’s bedroom, going over some song ideas for Castration Squad, when her phone rang.

“No…no…no….” she repeated into the phone. I could tell immediately that something was very wrong, but I tried not to listen to her conversation. “How did it happen?” she continued. She was pacing now, which made it extra hard for me to ignore her, since I was sitting on the floor. She stopped in front of me. “Darby’s dead,” she said, covering the mouthpiece. Her eyes were tearing up and she was visibly upset. I stopped plucking my bass and looked off into my vanishing surroundings. Images of my old friend Bobby Pyn were projected on my mental screen, and a terrible sadness crept up from the pit of my stomach to my throat and spread out to my limbs like a blooming plant. Then the images began to change. It was me and Darby arguing; Darby, trying to burn my wrist with his cigarette; me punching Darby on the stairs of the Canterbury; Darby outside the Hong Kong Cafe with his new British accent after returning from a brief European vacation; Darby falling down drunk and drugged. My sadness was replaced by anger.

Tracy hung up the phone. “It was a suicide,” she informed me. Darby and one of his girlfriends had made a suicide pact and had ingested massive doses of heroin. The girl had survived, Darby had not. Tracy was crying and I put my arms around her, trying to comfort her. My own feelings were a jumble of competing emotions, pushing each other out of the way as each tried to monopolize my mood. There was the sadness of losing a once-close friend and confidante, the anger that it had been a suicide, a feeling of guilt and helplessness about whether I or anyone else could have prevented it, and general confusion about what would make Darby want to take his own life. After trying to provide the strong shoulder to cry on, I finally spoke up.

“I’m sorry Tracy, I need to go home.”

“That’s okay, I understand,” she said, probably thinking that I wanted to cry in private, but it wasn’t that at all.

On the drive home, I thought about how badly things had ended between Darby and me, how we’d stopped speaking to each other. I’d always held onto the hope that one day we’d come back and talk things through; that we’d laugh at our youthful mistakes as we got older and wiser. Now our unfinished conversations would remain unfinished forever. An unspoken apology would wither on my lips, we’d never have the opportunity to revisit our beliefs, to see how time and experience would color and change our views. We’d never again talk for hours on the phone, laugh at stupid jokes, discuss philosophy or share a bottle of booze. It was all over. Darby was really gone for good. Instead of making me cry, my grief and lack of answers made my temper flare. I was angry not only at Darby but at myself, and at those around him who had allowed it to happen.

I’m the kind of person who squeezes the last bit of toothpaste from the tube, who uses the last teaspoon of mustard in the jar and won’t throw out the jar before it’s all gone, even if it takes room in the fridge, but that’s me. I’m that way about life, too. I’d seen too much poverty, misery and wasted opportunity as a kid, and I want to extract as much knowledge, adventure, excitement and love from this life as I can, for as long as I can. I wondered if Darby’s life didn’t still have a few surprises in store for him. I think it did. I have to remind myself that it was his choice to make, not mine. But I can’t seem to stop myself from second-guessing him, just like he second-guessed me when he thought I was wrong. That’s part of what friends do, isn’t it? They tell you when you’re wrong. I wondered if other people were thinking the same things I was thinking. I wondered if others wished they’d been around to argue the wisdom of suicide with him.

I suppose I just don’t understand suicide. I understand euthanasia, I understand wanting to end suffering if you’re ill. I understand dying for a cause, fighting to defend your loved ones, defending a principle or fasting for peace or freedom. I just didn’t feel that I understood the cause behind Darby’s death. Why did he die? What did he die for? I knew that he believed that dying young was the key to becoming a legend, but the idea that he would kill himself because he thought it would bring him fame made me sick to my stomach. I knew he wasn’t shallow, and I couldn’t imagine he’d want fame without wanting to accomplish something with it, or at least be around to enjoy its rewards. I pushed the idea away; another question that wouldn’t be answered. I almost preferred to believe that he was depressed and that we had all failed in helping him overcome his depression. Once again, I had to stand back and tell myself that only he knew for sure. I would never know the answers to these questions.

The guilt, the anger, the sadness grabbed me by the throat and threatened to pull me down. I fought back, just like I had been fighting back all my life. I would always fight and rage against the dying of the light. I dug my fingernails into the soft rubber of the steering wheel. My throat tightened, my eyes watered and the road in front of me blurred as I muttered, “You fucking asshole!”

-From "Violence Girl, From East LA Rage to Hollywood Stage - A Chicana Punk Story" by Alice Bag

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Finding My Way Home

I have experienced many wonderful surprises during the past few days but perhaps the greatest of these was seeing my two older brothers, Jaime and Ramon, show up unexpectedly at my reading in Boyle Heights this past Sunday. I walked into ChimMaya Gallery and I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw two white-haired versions of the guys who used to carry me around as a child. I hadn't seen them in many years so the fact that they were just standing there, smiling, next to one of my nieces made me gasp out loud. It's an odd sensation, seeing people from one part of your life appear in an altogether different setting but there they were. They had heard I was doing a book signing in their neck of the woods and they rushed out to greet me.

Photo by Angie Skull
My brother Ramon (Raymond) came prepared with an album including photos of me at various family functions through the years, which he happily shared with whomever was interested, sparking several conversations. It was funny, embarrassing and above all, touching. My bros stayed for my reading and even waited in line to have their books signed by me and to catch up on my life. I actually had to move them along because they were so eager to keep talking. I hinted that there were others in line waiting for me to sign their books. "We waited in line too," my niece replied. "I know, maybe we can talk after this," I offered.

At the end of the signing, my brother Jaime (Jimmy) exacted a promise that I would go over to his house for dinner sometime this week. I knew I already had a full schedule but I decided it was important to make time for family and I agreed to stop by for dinner on Wednesday.

When I showed up to dinner, I was greeted by my sister-in-law who insisted that I have some hot tacos that had just come off the stove. "They smell great," I said, "but shouldn't we wait for the others?" I knew that my niece had planned to come over, too.

"Oh no," my sister-in-law replied. "I've already prepared 120 tacos. They're all ready to go but I can't fry them all at once, so everyone will just eat as they arrive."

"120 tacos?? Are you planning to feed an army?" I thought she must be joking until I saw a giant sheet pan stacked with folded tacos ready for the fryer. A huge bowl of fresh salsa, a giant bowl of shredded cheese, another of grated lettuce and a pan full of enchiladas, plus rice, beans, chips and of course, cake.

Before I knew it, I had a big plate of food in front of me and my entire family started arriving at my brother's house. Brothers, cousins, nieces, nephews and family members for which I'm not even certain of the appropriate name (grandnieces and grandnephews?) filled the house until we were all bumping into each other. I got hugs and felicitations from everyone. They had all heard I had a book out and were happy for me.

My brother turned on the tv and had everyone gather around. Suddenly, I heard my voice reading and singing at ChimMaya Gallery. The room went silent as everyone watched. I was mortified. What would they think? In my youth, I always felt like the black sheep of my family. As an adult, I still feel like an odd duck but now I know that they are seeing me for who I am. And the best part? They were all there to support me.

At the end of the night, everyone wanted their picture taken with their Auntie Alice and I felt like I'd finally made it home.

Photo by Angie Skull

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Feminista! (A deleted scene from Violence Girl)

Another deleted scene from Violence Girl. Enjoy!
It seems like the whole time I was growing up, the world was teaching me the role of women. From the first time I saw my mother cowering at my father’s feet to the current state of insidious inequality, I’ve been confronted with the message that females are somehow weaker, less capable than men. I began questioning the validity of these messages early on, inspired by the women around me. My mother, my sisters, my friends, aunts and cousins - each one constantly refining the definitions of femininity, androgyny and the true nature of equality in small ways through their daily routines. Sometimes these women discarded antiquated cliches of lady-like behavior in favor an assertive, can-do attitude. At other times they tried to squeeze themselves into someone else’s idea of womanhood. Either way, they helped me figure out that the tidy stereotype that was labeled “femininity” had to stretch to catch up with an evolving female consciousness.

My mother had found herself by stepping up to help my father in the male-dominated construction business; my girlfriends were pushing the boundaries too. The L.A. punk scene was densely populated by female musicians, artists, writers, photographers, roadies and more. These were the modern suffragettes in my life who, without banners or demonstrations, quietly led by example. Not that I oppose banners and demonstrations; I’ve participated in my share of marches, but it was the tiny changes that the women around me made in their personal lives
that spoke the loudest.

Patricia and I learned early on from auditioning male musicians that every one of them thought they were the next Jimi Hendrix or another Keith Moon. While most of the women we auditioned apologized in advance for not being very good, all the males wielded their axes with a bravado that seemed like second nature to them. Even the lamest male guitarist would talk up his skills, acting cocky and confident while the women underplayed their experience. After a bit of this, Patricia and I learned to adapt. We figured that when people wrote reviews about the band, they mentioned the two of us more often than they mentioned the guys. This gave us confidence 
and after awhile, we learned to do away with the modesty. It felt great to be able to say, “I’m a musician” without feeling the need to tack on an apology.
Changing the way we spoke about ourselves as musicians and artists was like tossing tiny pebbles into a sea of conformity, making ripples, making waves, bringing about change that starts from within and spills out into the lives of those around us. The words were so powerful that the more often we said them, the truer they became. Now, when we stepped on the stage we weren’t asking for approval, we were flaunting our talent.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sign Language

The visual language of the Occupy movement set to music. We are waking up.

Sign Language from socially_awkwrd on Vimeo.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Beginning The World Over Again

My father used to justify his aversion to politics by saying that all leaders were corrupt, that no matter who won the election the poor people of the world would ultimately lose because politicians would always be in the pocket of the wealthy. He thought that big corporations were the secret hand that really pulled the strings behind the governments of the world.

In the early 1980’s, I went to Nicaragua to work with the people there and to learn about the changes that had taken place in that country after their revolution. Living there for a short time, I saw firsthand what my own government was doing to these impoverished people in the name of “defending our nation” against the threat of creeping communism. It really opened my eyes to the way our media and our government worked hand in hand to spoon feed the U.S. public the “official story.” I began to feel overwhelmed by the power of the invisible hand that my father had talked about.

I don’t know when it happened to me, but I slowly started to adopt my father’s hopeless and cynical view of politics. I still voted, signed petitions, and played my share of benefits, but for many years I had the feeling that any meaningful change was beyond what I could hope for. I can’t afford to have this attitude anymore. I won’t allow myself to go along with business as usual without kicking and screaming and raising a fuss.

Thomas Paine wrote, “We have it in our power to begin the world over again.” It has been a long time since I dared to hope that we could change the world. It’s time for involvement. Maybe we can’t change the world overnight, but if enough of us get involved, we can change the direction of this country and that’s a start.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Violence Girl Trailer

Goodreads review of Violence Girl by BitterOldPunk:

Alice Bag's memoir is less about the first-wave LA punk scene that she was such an integral part of and more about family, growing up, finding yourself, and testing your limits. A discursive book written in short chapters, "Violence Girl" is a quick read, even though it's more than 300 pages long. Alice's voice shines through -- a thoughtful, confrontational, sometimes confused but rarely cowed woman, Alice goes from being an awkward, overweight teenager with an Elton John obsession and crooked teeth to being the lead singer of the seminal proto-hardcore band, The Bags. Along the way, she befriends and bemuses a bevy of LA scenesters like creepy impressario Kim Fowley; doomed, nihilistic Darby Crash of The Germs; the women who would become The Go-Gos; Patricia Morrison, who co-founded The Bags and would go on to be in both The Gun Club and influential Goth act Sisters of Mercy; even Tom Waits makes a cameo. But the book is more than a name-dropping trek across the glittery landscape of late-70s Los Angeles. It's about struggling with family and faith, it's about reconciling ambition with reality, and it's about how punk rock's D.I.Y. ethos helped a young woman define herself and claim her place in the world. 
While many in the early punk scene burned bright and died young, Alice Bag seems made of sterner stuff. Near the end of the book, readers get a glimpse of her post-punk rock trajectory -- she travels to Managua, Nicaragua at the height of US meddling in Nicaraguan affairs and finds a country stripped to the bone and surviving on little more than willpower and pride. I wish this section of the book had been longer, and I would have enjoyed hearing more of the tantalizing anecdotes she only hints at. A love affair with a prisoner? Rebuffing an invitation to dinner with Oprah? Tell me more! And that's what I take from this book: Alice's voice. Wise, wry, funny, bold, and honest, it's a voice I wanted to spend more time with. Violence Girl and Babylonian Gorgon -- Alice Bag is an undeniable original, and you'll enjoy your time with her. Well worth reading."

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Occupy Together

Let's work together to make this go nationwide. Get involved and make your voice heard.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

El Grito and the Day of Rage

Tonight is a special night if you are Mexican or of Mexican descent. El Grito de Dolores takes place at 11:00 pm every 15th of September and commemorates the call to arms that inspired the Mexican battle for independence against the Spanish colonists way back in 1810. Even though the fruits of the Mexican revolution have not always been the sweetest, Mexicans are as fiercely proud of their revolutionary spirit as Americans are of our own “Spirit of ‘76.”

With all the headlines about killings and drug cartel crime, it’s easy to see why Mexico might be ripe for another revolution. What may not be so easy to see is that our own country is also ripe for our own revolution. We forget that bankers are making billions of dollars in profits after a taxpayer funded bailout that pushed the global economy to the brink of disaster. We forget that BP’s broken deep sea well is still dumping oil into the waters of the Gulf Coast while our government and media look the other way. We ignore the fact that President Obama has appointed a former lawyer for Monsanto as our nation's Food Safety Czar. We skim over the fact that 46.2 million Americans are now living in poverty - a record number – while the rich keep getting richer. We still don’t have affordable health care and Big Pharma has a stranglehold on our elected representatives, literally controlling the price of life and death around the world.

Why are some corporations too big to fail? Why are the poor, the tired, the huddled masses too insignificant to care about?

Across the globe, multinational corporations continue to profit and get assistance from host governments, while the people in those countries struggle to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. What's wrong with us? How could we let this happen? Why did we allow corporations to have more protection under our laws than we do as individual citizens?

It's time for change. It's time that we take our rage and create a positive change with it. It's time for a National Day of Rage!

The US Day of Rage is a non-partisan group of non-violent citizen nobodies who believe in the radical idea that Americans have a right to freedom of speech, the right to peaceable assembly, the right to natural self interest (left or right), indeed the right to engage in politics through free and fair elections - uncorrupted by disloyal, incompetent, and wasteful special interests that have usurped our nation's civil and military power and who are destroying our democratic republic by preying on the resources and spirits of citizens.

US Day of Rage is encouraging a nationwide protest on September 17th. Like El Grito, it symbolizes the voice of the people shouting out the truth for all to hear. It can be the spark that touches off the revolution. The National Day of Rage protests will be held just two days from today. Let's have our own Grito. Let's shout a loud, clear message to this country's leaders and let them know that we want an end to business as usual, that we want an end to corporate personhood and most importantly, that we are paying attention!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Truth Stands Tall

I've started writing with some of my girlfriends. We have a poem/song a week challenge that's meant to sharpen our writing skills and provide topics for discussion. This week's challenge just happened to be writing about a woman you admire. I chose a woman who fought hard for women's rights. See if you can guess who I picked.It's just me and my ipad. This is my first time using the Garage Band app so don't expect perfection. If I waited for perfection you might never hear it. Take a listen...

Truth Stands Tall

My arms have lifted heavy loads
With no help at all
Had none to steady me
If I were to fall

(Cm- Fm )
And ain't I a woman? Aint I a woman?

My children sold and sent away
My heart ripped apart
I never lost my way
Not even In the  dark

And ain't I a woman?Ain't I a woman?

Ab (barre)-Eb(barre)
Now you extend a gloved hand armed with chivalry
Ab (barre)- Bb (barre)
You're telling me you want to help me cross the street (ha!)

Ain't I a woman?

Oh I have ploughed and I have planted
but reaped no fruit
You took it all away
Well, all except the truth

You think I'm fragile, you think I'm weak
But I'm resilient and I'll prove that I'm not meek

You seem surprised I am not broken
I will not crawl
I will not falter, will not fall
For Truth stands tall

Ain't I a woman? (a million times)

Truth Stands Tall by alicebag

Friday, August 12, 2011

To a Friend in London

For the past few days, I've been exchanging emails with an old friend who lives in London. I've watched with dismay the news reports and videos of the destruction and looting and read to my further dismay that the British government has threatened to shut down forms of communication including Twitter in response to what is taking place. Our emails touched on some of the causes of the current situation as perceived by my friend. She has a unique perspective, being an American ex-pat who has been living in London for several years. As the conversation has recently touched upon the topics of nations, national identity and multiculturalism, I thought I would share this with you.

"Thank you again for sharing your perspective with me. I don't think I'm necessarily more political than you, I've sort of soured on mainstream politics. There's not a whole lot of difference between the left and the right as far as I can see, though if I had to choose a side I'd be hanging off the edge of the left.

In the past few years I've had to reassess what it means to have a national identity. Do you consider yourself English now that you live there? What does it mean to be English? I ask myself a similar question, what does it mean to be American? I grew up loving this country, being fiercely patriotic. Indeed, even now when I see the corruption in our government and the bigotry of a large portion of its citizens, I can still see the beauty of America's spirit trying to shine out from under the muck.

I'm not sure that the concept of nations makes much sense to me anymore when I see that the multinationals are the ones who are running the world. Governments don't act in accordance with the needs or wishes of the people they represent, they act in accordance with the demands of the corporations who paid the money to put them in office. I really believe that. The big multinational corporations don't pay taxes, they can't really be sued except by their stockholders if they are publicly owned, and their sole reason for being is to make money, not to provide goods or services to the people. They are virtually unregulated. Governments help to create the illusion that there are nations and some even pretend to have a democracy but in the end when it comes to serving and representing their citizens, they fail.

It's comical to me that we have the Tea Party in Arizona claiming that Mexicans are taking their country from them. They're too blind to see that America doesn't belong to the people, it belongs to big business. Why don't they rally to tax corporations instead of complaining about immigrants who do the toughest jobs for pennies? Why do the immigrants come here in the first place? Why for work, of course. The thing is that in today's world they may not need to come here because so much work is outsourced these days to places where labor is cheap. If I were a Teabagger (as we on the left refer to the Tea Party members), I'd push for businesses to hire where they sell, I'd push for just wages for all workers, documented and undocumented. In the end that would help their cause, unless their real cause is just to spread racist paranoia because they're too afraid to tackle the real enemy, which would be a monumental task and require real patriotism and not just theatrical flagwaving.

As for culture, I think of myself as a citizen of the world. I love that there are cultural differences between us, but I do not value those who dominate or suppress human freedom in the name of culture or religion. I cannot be silent when women or minorities are discriminated against. It's funny, maybe that's just part of my Mexican-American upbringing.

Multiculturalism is a difficult dream to achieve, we have so much to learn before we can expect to be respectful of others. I know it would be a challenge for me. I am so damn opinionated! But can you imagine what a beautiful world it would be if we did achieve it?"


Monday, August 08, 2011

MALCS and Ladyfest IE

What a fabulous weekend! I got to see some of my oldest and dearest friends. I only wish I'd been able to visit all my L.A. pals, I tried. It was just a tad hectic, what with eating breakfast in Covina then rushing off to lunch in Silver Lake, then coffee in Montebello, dinner in Pasadena and then working on late night panel preparations. It was just crazy, fun but crazy!

I presented twice this weekend. On Friday at Cal State L.A. I did a workshop for MALCS, Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social (Women Active in Letters and Social Change). This is a group of Chicana/Latina and Native American women working in academia. These women are fearless. It was great talking to them and hearing how they take on the challenge of being women of color in the largely white, male dominated world of higher education.

Presenting at MALCS was one of the most challenging things I've done in a long time. I have an intense fear of public speaking. I can get up on a stage and sing and dance for you but to stand still and speak...well, it was terrifying. I am lucky that I have such wonderfully supportive friends. Teresa Covarrubias, Martha Gonzalez, Quetzal Flores, and Michelle Habell-Pallan performed a song with me and that helped ease my fears.

Martha and Michelle were co-presenters with me, the overarching theme was Community. I spoke about the sense of community in the early L.A. punk scene and the importance of community today. I also read a couple of excerpts from my upcoming book Violence Girl, but since I was taking the pieces of writing from a larger chapter and I only had a short amount of time I realized that I had to shorten my readings. Unfortunately I did not edit them down to the proper size before getting up to present. I tried to crop out parts that didn't fit the presentation as I read and ended up mucking it up. Now I know better. I'll dust myself off and get my shit together before the next reading.

Martha spoke about community activism and building relationships through music. She showed slides of her work with the Zapatista community in Mexico and shared a song-writing technique where she guided the entire group through collective song writing. It was phenomenal!

Michelle Habell-Pallan, Ph.D., spoke about becoming an archivista and performing the essential task of documenting and archiving our work. She should know, since she's written several books including Latino/Latina Popular Culture and Loca Motion, The Travels of Chicana and Latina Popular Culture. She also curated American Sabor, Latinos in U.S. Popular Music, an exhibit that is currently at the Smithsonian.

The presentations on both days were only slightly varied. We had some technical problems at Ladyfest, so Teresa and I sang an old Las Tres song called Nuevo Amanecer, accompanied by Quetzal while Michelle and Marta tried to fix the laptop/projector issues. Both days ended with the audience writing a collective song. That was the most fun for all, it got everybody singing and in a good mood.

MALCS had a more formal feel than Ladyfest but was no less exciting. Ladyfest is a community organized event, it's a grassroots DIY festival that celebrates womyn arts and consists of workshops, music, speakers, poetry, vendors and much more.

I was moved that some women came up to me to speak of abusive situations they had escaped. They said that my writing and singing about the subject had touched them. I felt an instant kinship with them. Thank you, ladies, for sharing a painful portion of your private lives with me as I have tried to do with you. There was healing in that exchange, I could feel it.

I could fill pages and pages with all the wonderful things I saw happening at both conferences. So many strong intelligent women banding together, what a powerful experience. I am truly grateful for having been a part of it.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Bags - Live and Raw - 1978

"Musically in keeping with the fundamentalist pick-up-guitar-and-go punk aesthetic, the Bags frequently trumped "melody" with raw, enraged emotion, speed and overall sound, more hallmarks of hardcore speed thrash; hence they anticipated and set the tone for hardcore extremis to follow." - Brendan Mullen, an excerpt from On Surviving the Manimal and the Origins of US Hardcore.
Here we have a bootleg recording of the Bags playing live in 1978, circulated for years by tape traders despite the nearly unlistenable sound quality. Intro, instrumental and Violence Girl. We've tried to clean it up as much as we could and present it here for your enjoyment.

Bags Intro and Violence Girl Live by alicebag

Monday, August 01, 2011

Angelitos Negros

Just unearthed this cover version of a bolero made famous by Pedro Infante in the movie of the same name: Angelitos Negros. This a song I used to sing with Cholita back in the day, one of my character's (Sad Girl) rare turns in the spotlight. Cholita was a band where I was very happy to collaborate on songs and ideas and let Ms. Davis be the star that she is.

Angelitos Negros by alicebag

Friday, July 29, 2011

Coming Full Circle

It’s been an exciting week for me. Violence Girl is about to go to print and the cover artwork is almost finalized. The design and layout by Gregg Einhorn is so kickass – I love it and I can’t wait to show it off. I’m scheduled to present at the MALCS conference in Los Angeles next week and appear at Ladyfest IE in Riverside next weekend. Network Awesome featured me in their weeklong tribute to Women in Punk and the Houston Press was kind enough to include me in their list of punk rock’s 10 most potent women, quite an honor. But I was most thrilled and humbled by a blog entry by Lil Miss Headlock (her Tumblr, Dynamite in a Dixie Cup is a must-follow for all fans of female radness) in which she wrote some wonderful things about my work and my women in punk archives. I honestly don’t know what to say about this except thank you.

Way back in the seventies when Bobby Pyn (you may know him as Darby Crash) and I would talk on the phone for hours, we both expressed a desire to change the world. To do that, we realized that we had to have power – the power to influence others. We set out on different paths to accomplish our goals. I eventually became a school teacher, which was personally if not financially rewarding. Much later, I started my website as a way of documenting what I saw as overlooked contributions by women to the punk movement. Little did I know that this site and my blog would be read by young women all over the world. I still have no idea how many people read my blog, but obviously I continue to write them because my hope is that they will have some effect. Even if only one person decides to take action or thinks about something in a different way because of something I’ve written or done, then I’ve made a difference.

Which brings me to the last highlight of my week, a series of tweets that were exchanged yesterday by musicians Roxy Epoxy, Girl in a Coma and me. Without going into too much detail, Girl In A Coma played at a rock camp for girls yesterday and tweeted the photo. I complimented them on being good influences and role models for these young girls, which started a twitter love fest between the three of us. The point is that what goes around, comes around. Influence and power work in mysterious ways and it has nothing to do with fame, money or politics. It has everything to do with helping others and building your community.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Women In LA Punk - Debbie Dub

When I think of Debbie Dub, I remember her as a sort of punk ambassador. She had the right personality for the job. Debbie had good people skills and frequently arranged meetings between people that didn't know each other but who she felt would work well together. She also booked shows, produced records, managed bands and had a fanzine called Starting Fires but her strongest contribution was her ability to communicate comfortably with people from all walks of life, making anyone who was around her feel as though they had known her for years.

When L.A. bands played in San Francisco, Debbie would frequently be there to greet them. Likewise, when San Francisco bands played L.A., it was Debbie who would show them around town. Debbie understood the nature of both cities and respected the differences between them. She eventually moved to San Francisco, but not before leaving her mark on L.A.

I remember her as spunky, articulate and outspoken. I think you'll agree that she still has those qualities. Read Debbie's Women in LA Punk Interview by clicking on the thumbnail below. Enjoy!

Friday, July 08, 2011

Strange Fruit

I woke up this morning with the aftertaste of GMO watermelon on my lips. I must have underestimated the power of desire and opportunity.

The first time I walked up to the watermelon stand at my local supermarket, I was lured by the 4th of July sale price. But just as I was starting to salivate and pick one up, a guy walked by with his girlfriend. When she motioned towards the watermelon I heard him tell her, "Those watermelons are genetically modified." My taste buds dried up immediately and I put the perfectly round, seedless melon down.

A day later, I returned to the market for something I'd forgotten and there was another pile of watermelons, prominently festooned with little American flag banners. I picked one up, put it in my cart and brought it home. It was that easy, no inner debate, nada.

On the 4th of July I cut it up and my husband made watermelon margaritas to go along with our holiday feast. I had all but forgotten about it until early this morning when I woke up thinking about what I'd done.

I rant and rave all the time about how much I hate the corporations who are destroying the world’s food supply. I understand that not all seedless watermelons are “genetically modified” but they are the result of selective breeding. The proliferation of so-called “seedless fruit” makes us dependent on whoever controls seeds. When consumers like me buy these GMOs and pass up the real deal, nature-perfected type of produce we are contributing to the problem. We are encouraging markets to sell and growers to grow GMOs and discouraging natural and organic farmers.

Of course, some people don't care. They're fine with GMOs, they don't claim to hate Monsanto like I do. They can enjoy modified food without a second thought but I don't envy them. I know better and I'm angry with myself. I have been hypocritical and it's the fruit of my conscience that has left a bad taste in my mouth.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Women In LA Punk - Killer

Timing is everything, they say. My latest Women In Punk interview happens to come at a time when I have been re-examining the impact that individuals can make on the world around us. Can one person really change things for the better? Can one isolated incident affect a person in such a way that it literally alters the course of her life?

Allow me to introduce to you the truly talented woman named Killer. In 1978, Killer was relatively younger than most of the members of the original Hollywood punk scene, nevertheless she is a product of that scene. Those early days profoundly marked her, in particular the experience of listening to Carla Maddog play drums with the legendary early punk band, the Controllers. Killer's inspiring post-gig conversation with Carla Maddog would lead to her own career as a drummer and a punk ethic that would last throughout her life.

Killer went on to play in The Speed Queens and numerous other bands. As time passed, she fell off my radar until quite by accident I ran into her a few years ago at a Peaches show. Killer was her sound engineer. We spoke briefly and then fell out of touch again until a mutual friend led her to my website interviews. I was thrilled to reconnect with her and to find that she continues to blast through society's imposed limitations as fearlessly now as when she was a young teen.

Read Killer's Women in LA Punk Interview by clicking on the thumbnail below. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Just before closing my eyes last night, I watched a video that was created by (or on behalf of) the hacktivist group called Anonymous. The message of the video is both disturbing and exciting. I wanted to share it with you but felt the need to preface it because the video is a bit long and it has Tom (yawn) Cruise in it. I didn't know if you would have the time or patience to watch it all the way through, what with all those Facebook and Twitter updates to check. I know - I'm the same way.

Nevertheless, it resonated with me and popped up into my subconscious this morning. My life always has a soundtrack and today started with two songs: John Lennon's Imagine and Stiff Little Fingers' Alternative Ulster. I find myself singing about change and hope, about having the audacity to dream of a better future and following it up with the courage to take action. I think we can all imagine how the world should be, the hard part is believing that we can really make it happen. Anonymous tells us that beginning this journey of change is as simple as sharing these dreams in person, through our art or our music or on the internet via blogging, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. I once read in a self-help book that "thoughts become things" and I would add that words also become things. In every age, the brave share their ideas despite the fear of ridicule or personal danger. Ideas, dreams and hopes beget action. They are our blueprint.

Over the past few years, the local movie screens have been increasingly filled with the exploits of larger than life superheroes. Why? Is it because art reflects life and that deep down inside, we know that the world is increasingly fucked up and we yearn for a hero to come save us? It is time we become our own heroes, our own legends. It starts with an idea.

The next revolution may be a war of words and ideas rather than guns and bombs. We have our ideology and the tools we need right front of us.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Goodnight, Larry

I was very saddened to learn of the passing of an old friend from my Hollywood days, Larry "Wild Man" Fischer.

The last time Wild Man's name surfaced in my life was a few years ago, when a friend played a song for me called "Friends For Awhile." I think it may have been recorded by Larry in the 90's or perhaps even later, but the lyrics referenced me and my boyfriend at the time, Nickey Beat. Initially, Larry's obscure name dropping brought a smile to my face, but when I listened to the chorus of "friends for awhile...maybe friends again," I was saddened at the thought that Nickey's and my friendship meant so much to Larry that he would write a song about it nearly 20 years later. I guess I realized at that moment that everything held deep significance in Larry's world. 

In my memory, Larry Fischer will always be a sweet and gentle little boy in a grown man's body. His sense of innocence, wonder and playfulness was contagious and he made exploring the world a joyful and fresh experience. Even though he had experienced much pain and difficulty in his life, Larry never lost his willingness to open himself up to people and experiences, and he never lost his unspoiled view of the possibilities of friendship. Going to the grocery store, seeing a movie or just walking down Hollywood Boulevard, even the most mundane tasks were always fresh for Larry. And perhaps that is why I will especially mourn his passing.

Goodnight, Larry.

Larry "Wild Man" Fischer

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Driving While Female

I was calmly drinking my morning coffee while checking Twitter and Facebook when I came across an article that got stuck in my gut, a partially digested tidbit that started to fester as I tried to shuffle through my morning rituals. The article, entitled A Conversation with Saudi Women’s Rights Campaigner Wajeha al-Huwaider appears in The Nation (Link to article here.) Wajeha al-Huwaider is an active campaigner for Saudi human rights and in particular, women’s rights.

I felt myself getting angry. I knew I wanted to write about the systematic oppression of women in Saudi Arabia but something held me back. I have written about the subject of chador in the past (head to toe coverings for females, supposedly dictated by the Koran in the interests of modesty and religious obedience.) That time, I was taken to task by Muslim women who wrote that I had offended them by imposing my Western values on a system I knew nothing about. As I thought about the fact that women in Saudi Arabia were still being denied the right to something as basic as driving a car, my sense of outrage overcame my sense of restraint.

I may not be a Muslim, but having been raised Catholic, I think I know something about how organized religion and “holy scripture” can be used to repress the rights of women.  The Catholic Church has done a damn good job of it for centuries. I may not be Muslim, but I am a woman and as a woman, I stand in solidarity with my sisters.

Let me say that I wholeheartedly believe there is as much good as bad perpetuated in the name of one God or another. There is also much corruption that can happen within any religious infrastructure. We have all read the stories about pedophile priests and how they are protected by the church. My expression of outrage is not meant to be an attack on Islam but on the abuse of human rights that is being carried out in its name.

Why are women not allowed to drive, to vote, to be out in public without a male escort? Why must they be covered from head to toe so as not to tempt the lust of men? Surely, there were no cars in Mohammed’s day, so he could not have specifically forbidden women from driving them. Isn’t it possible that the concept of what constitutes modest dress may have changed over the past few hundred years? We live in a modern world.  How do religious leaders determine which modern conveniences are to be sanctioned (and for whom) and which are not? Throughout history, religion has been a means to support those in power.  It’s about time we demanded more of our religious leaders. They should provide spiritual guidance, not restrict half the population for political gain.

To those women in Saudi Arabia who are sitting in the driver’s seat, know that you are not alone in this journey. You have sisters all over the world who will gladly ride at your side.  

Friday, June 03, 2011

Put On Your White Bonnets, It's Cine Time - An excerpt from Violence Girl

An excerpt from my upcoming book on Feral House, Violence Girl: From East LA Rage to Hollywood Stage, A Chicana Punk Story. Look for it in your local bookstores and online in November.

I grew up watching Spanish language movies. Peliculas de La Epoca de Oro (films from the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema) were the ones my parents liked best. They'd seen them all before but would never tire of watching Pedro Infante, Jorge Negrete, Libertad Lamarque, Pedro Armendariz and Sylvia Pinal on the big screen.

Pedro Armendariz and Dolores del Rio in Los Abandonadas.

There were plenty of movie theaters in the 'hood that showed these movies and it was our one splurge as a family to go to the movies on dos por uno night, a buy one - get one free special, usually offered on a different night at each of the theaters we frequented. My mom and I would split one admission, then my dad would wait outside for another solo male to come along and he'd split the admission with him. In order to cut costs even further, my mother would pack half a dozen bean burritos, wrapped in foil along with some canned sodas and bags of chips or Fritos. Once inside the darkened theatre, she would produce all of these from a seemingly limitless bag of tricks, like the one Felix the Cat carried. If we were out of tortillas, my mother would make white bread bean and cheese sandwiches. These were a tasty change of pace and probably a uniquely pocho cuisine.

As soon as the lights went down, we'd start passing our feast around and before long, we were transported to an impossibly glamorous black and white version of Mexico. It was escapism at it's finest. In those days, you got to see two or three movies at a time when you went to the cine (cinema). Sometimes, there were even live acts who performed in between the films. The Million Dollar Theater in Downtown L.A. was famous for its variedades. There, on weekend afternoons, we'd watch the first movie then be treated to touring singers, actors, jugglers, comedians, dancers, ventriloquists, gymnasts, mariachis... you name it. The word variedades means variety and there was certainly plenty of that. Young men and women would walk up and down the aisles with large trays strapped around their necks, selling cigarettes and BonBons and candy. It was a total experience.

Million Dollar Theatre, Los Angeles, back in the day.

The Million Dollar Theater was a grand old movie palace with beautiful alcoves and balconies. One weekend afternoon, we were seated in the balcony. I was getting bored of the movie and asked my mom for some change to buy a toy from the vending machine in the ladies' bathroom. Those machines used to stock all kinds of goodies, from small plastic toys to entertain fidgety kids, to lipstick, combs and emory boards. To keep me out of her hair, my mom gave me the change and let me go back to the bathroom to get myself a little toy. When I went back to the bathroom, I discovered not one but two vending machines. The second vending machine didn't have a glass front showing all the different goodies that could be purchased which puzzled me, but as I stood there wondering, a woman came up, put her coins in and was rewarded with a little white paper bag.

Aha! I figured it must be a grab bag type deal. I knew from shopping with my mother who often bought grab bags of fruit and soon-to-expire bread at the market that you could get more for your money if you were willing to take a chance. I was excited by the prospect of getting a really special surprise treat, so I put my money in the machine and turned the knob. Out slid my little paper grab bag. I tore it open and pulled out a small, white, pillowy-looking bonnet. It had two straps that didn't quite fit around my head so I was disappointed that I couldn't put it right on.

I ran back to the balcony where my parents were seated about five rows up. I stood at the bottom, front and center, waved the sanitary pad in my hand and called out to my mom, "I didn't get a toy! Look what came out!" My mother was mortified and rushed to me as some people suppressed snickers and others glared at me. My mother whisked me up and out of sight but when I asked her why she was angry with me, she couldn't quite say except to tell me that "Those things are for ladies!" When I asked how they were used, my mother couldn't tell me. 

The mystery of the little white bonnet would remain unsolved until 6th grade, when my teacher at school would show my class a film about it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Maybe I Should Just Take the Door Off

Many years ago when I lived with my parents we had a little storage shed in our backyard that my father had converted into a closet for me. I kept my dressy clothes in the outside closet and my everyday slob-wear indoors. Every time I had a concert or special occasion to attend I’d go out into my dressy clothes closet and try on outfits. On my way out, my troubles would begin. I knew I wouldn’t be back in the closet for a few days so I wanted to make sure I didn’t leave the light on but for some reason I could never really be sure I had turned the light off. I would flip the switch, lock the door with the key and then as I started to walk away I’d feel compelled to walk back and make sure I’d turned off the light. I’d unlock the door and flip the light switch again and say out loud, “I’m turning off the light.” Then I’d re-lock the door and walk away, somewhat satisfied that the deed was done.

As time passed, this simple ritual was unable to provide me with the kind of absolute certainty I required. It seemed to me that I couldn’t be sure that I had said “I’m turning off the light” on any given day because maybe I was just remembering having said it on another day so I started to add the day of week to my statement: “It’s Tuesday and I’m turning off the light.” That kept me happy for a while but even this method wasn’t fool proof because after all, there were many Tuesdays. As I walked away, I wondered if I was recalling the statement from a previous Tuesday. The feeling of uncertainty would haunt me and I’d find myself compelled to unlock the door and check the switch three or four times in a row before walking away. Sometimes I’d be fully dressed and ready to leave the house but felt that I couldn’t until I checked the switch one more time.

I decided I could lick the uncertainty once and for all. I had been working as a schoolteacher and I knew that when I taught my students a new song they seemed to remember it better if I incorporated physical movements into the lesson. I decided to add small motions to my rituals to help me differentiate my actions from one day to the next. Now, not only would I say to myself “It’s Tuesday and I’m turning off the light,” I’d tap my head and say: “It’s Tuesday and I’m turning off the light and tapping my head.” The next day I might say: “It’s Wednesday and I’m turning around and turning off the light.” But not even that elaborate series of reminders cured me of my doubt. Eventually the ritual actions had to be doubled or combined in different ways to be distinct from the actions of a previous day until eventually I just couldn’t do it anymore. After a while I just left the door open and refused to turn the light on at all.

My husband laughs at this story. He can picture me doing the hokey-pokey and talking to myself. Many times, he’s had to drive back home to reassure me that I turned off the tea kettle. He’s had to hold my dry, wrinkled hands that look like they belong on a 90 year-old woman instead of a 52 year-old one, courtesy of my compulsive hand washing. I guess it’s a little funny but it’s also a drag.

Lately, I find myself stopping at the corner on my way to work. I look out my car window and check that the garage door is closed. Two or three times a week I drive to the corner, check the garage door from my window, then drive around the block and return to check the garage door before rushing off to work. Sometimes I drive around the block more than once and make myself late to work. Maybe I should just have the door removed!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Twitter Bell Tolls - R.I.P. Poly Styrene

Last night I received a particularly unwelcome text: "Did u hear Poly Styrene died from cancer? Now that is some BULLSHIT!" After the initial shock, I gathered my wits and texted back, "where did u hear this?" The reply came instantly: "Twitter of course." And therein lies the problem. The reply came instantly. No fact checking, no verifiable, reputable source, nothing to base this horrible news on other than the chorus of whispers from the twittersphere.

In the old days they would announce the death of a notable person with the tolling of a heavy church bell. Today, our bell is sounded by the trending topic on Twitter. How ironic for the passing of someone who wrote and sang about the depersonalization and isolation that she saw happening in society as a result of technological and commercial progress.

Poly Styrene was a huge inspiration to me as a musician and performer back in the early days of punk. She had her own style, something totally unique. In a scene full of wildly colorful performers she stood out, not only because of her curly hair, her braces or her uniforms. Poly had a voice, a mixture of sweetness and determination that was perfect to deliver the line "Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard...but I think OH BONDAGE UP YOURS!"

Poly herself was an inspiration to me because like me, she was a woman of color and a feminist. She was also anti-consumerist and pro-environmental before those causes became fashionable (I'm still waiting for anti-consumerism to come into fashion.) Not only did she have a voice, she had something to say.

Goodbye, Poly, I am terribly sad to see you go so soon, but I have a feeling that your influence, like the nearly indestructible product you named yourself after, will be with us for a long, long time.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Women Who Rock and Violence Girl Links

Thanks to the University of Washington and all the participants of the Women Who Rock workshop in Seattle yesterday. I had a stimulating and rewarding time.

Here are the links I discussed yesterday:

Women In LA Punk Archives

Violence Girl Blog

Violence Girl Facebook

Follow me on Twitter for regular updates and to communicate.

Alice Bag Twitter

Monday, February 07, 2011

Violence Girl Action

Hello dear readers,

With the upcoming release of my autobiogrpahy on Feral House this Fall, I've shifted my blogging activity back to Violence Girl. I'll be much more actively posting there for now, so please check it out.

To get started, I've just posted an open Valentine to some of my favorite bad ass girls.