It's A Living… But It's Not A Life #12.9
The J Church / Honey Bear communiqué
Hot Town - Al-Jazeera Live!



The record is out. I haven't actually seen it myself. But I guess it's out! You can get it at any fine record shop or order it from No Idea Records. I love it. I hope you do to. If you saw us on any of our last three tours, you'll know most of the songs. Let me know what you think. I don't give a shit about reviews, really. I do like hearing from people that actually take the time to follow what J Church does. I really appreciate it.



We're done recording the new stuff. We're still not sure who we're gonna do singles and stuff with. We'll see…



Liberty and I almost missed seeing Fahrenheit 9/11 on Friday. We were about to leave when lightening hit our apartment building setting the roof on fire. Yes, fire AGAIN! But this time the fire department got here early enough to contain the fire to the roof and we were mostly inconvenienced by having to stand out in the rain for a few hours watching the flames. What is it about me and fire?

In the interest of full disclosure, it was Liberty's birthday and we had both been eagerly awaiting a little bit of intelligent sanity to reach us here in Texas. Despite the auspicious beginning to our day (and despite the utilities still being shut off at our apartment) we went to see your film at Barton Square Creek (yeah, that's what it's called... It's Austin but it's still Texas) and we got their a couple of hours early to be safe. At the time it was playing in two theaters. We bought the tickets and wandered around for a little while and came back when they started letting people in. By then it had expanded to four theaters. Good ol' Ann Richards was at our showing. I thought she was a lot taller. By the time we came out (oh, and it was one of the best movies I've seen in ages) there was a crazy mob scene with the movie showing in something like seven theaters. I'm 37 and I go to a LOT of movies. I haven't seen a mob scene like that since opening day of Empire Strikes Back. It was really crazy.

The next day (today) we went by the Dobie, a much smaller multi-plex where the film was way, way sold out. But we were going to see Control Room (reviewed below). It ended up being a pretty good crowd for that movie (also well-worth seeing) largely due to people not being able to get tickets to Fahrenheit! Maybe trickle down really does work...

Incidentally, I really loved the movie.



As some of you may know, I recently put out a book through Café Press documenting all of the lyrics I've written for J Church and Cilantro in the `90s. It's hardly essential. I just wanted to test out what their books look like. They look pretty good and if for some reason you do want that book, you can get it at It's nice looking actually.

So now I'm thinking it might be nice to catalog all of the different interviews I've done for Maximum Rock N Roll over the years. The problem is, I lost all of my old issues in the fire. All of my copies of old interviews are mostly gone. I'm looking for people that have copies of the old issues from '89 to about '94. I don't need the actual copies, but if you could photocopy or even scan the interviews I did, I'd be very appreciative. I did so many; I don't even remember all of what I did. I know the first was an interview with Bazooka Joe from Myrtle Beach. I do have a few of those issues that I've borrowed. But any help would be greatly appreciated.

Here's part of a funny old one with the Offspring:

Q ­ What inspires you to write your lyrics? It seems like you have two types. There are the socio-political lyrics. Then there are the, well, horror lyrics that are good too.
Brian ­ Over a matter of time you have these weird ideas and you make a song. When it comes to making a record, you're just lumping all these things together and it just kind of ended up that way.
Kevin ­ Beheaded was meant to be comical. Almost kind of silly. But I don't think the music helps it. The music is kind of dark and kind of serious.
Brian ­ We knew, unfortunately, that people were gonna take the things seriously, the things we said on the album. Like Kill The President.
Kevin ­ When we said, Kill The President we don't want anyone to go out with a gun and kill the guy. I don't like him. I don't want to say anything too incriminating. the song is more about democracy.
Brian ­ Oh, that's good. Tell thousands of readers you don't like the president when you're already singing a song called Kill The President. (laughter)
Kevin ­ It's just a shock line.
Brian ­ The Dead Kennedy's did a lot of that. They didn't necessarily mean that line "I kill children." The idea is to get you to look a little deeper into what the songs are saying.
Q ­ Still, some of your lyrics certainly have a… not just horror, but a fantasy side to them. Telling a story and not just telling you something. What influences that? Beheaded was written by your old drummer, wasn't it?
Kevin ­ Yeah, he wrote it with Brian. He was a lunatic. He was really crazy in a good way. I loved his insanity. He was really funny. He would get these ideas and it would be like, "Yeah, yeah! Wrap the head in a burlap sack!" He would get into that. It was funny.
Q ­ Are you folks comfortable with Brian doing a lot of this? Would you say he's the spokesperson for the band?
Brian ­ Well, they still have veto power. Andy they use it.
Q ­ It seems like Brian is the president. Ron is the senate. Greg is the house.
Kevin ­ And I'm the janitor. (laughter)
Q ­ It doesn't seem like you want to write things. Or you just feel very self-conscious about it.
Kevin ­ Well, you know how it is. It's frustrating. You have an idea and you just can't get it out. You know you can do it. But then when you go to try and do it… I guess I'm wimping out when I don't keep trying to do it. I'd like to write and I get frustrated and just throw it away. Scrap everything. I could stick with it more and if I'm ever gonna do it that's what I'm going to have to do.
Q ­ How important are the lyrics to the band? There are a lot of bands that feel music can only affect so many people, so the attitude or whatever is more important. The music is more important.
Brian ­ I think the music is more important. That's (lyrics) not the first thing that comes across. They just want to hear the music. If they like it, maybe they'll get into it.
Q ­ How does the music come together? Does one person bring in the songs?
Kevin ­ That would be Brian. (laughter)
Brian ­ Everyone kinds chips in and forms it together once we get it into practice.
Q ­ Do you think everyone has a lot of input as far as how the songs turn out?
Kevin ­ I think so. I think that's true for any band. Brian will show us what he has in mind for a song and we pretty much stick with that most of the time. But we add our own things. We'll speed it up or slow it down. We all come together on it. It's majority rule. If we don't like it, we don't play it. We vote on what songs we're going to play. How we're going to do them.
Brian ­ Yeah, like A Thousand Days. They made me change A Thousand Days. They thought it was stupid.
Greg ­ It was! (laughter)
Brian ­ Yeah, it was…
Q ­ What happened with your first 7"? Did you do it yourself? I see it floating around every so often…
Brian ­ It's over five years now. So we just did it ourselves. We had no idea on how to do it. We didn't do a very good job of getting it out. (laughs)
Kevin ­ We ended up giving them all away. Sending them to radio stations.
Brian ­ We had a tough time getting it to distributors. Nobody wanted 7"s back then. We still had some 45s up until about six months ago. We just couldn't get rid of them.
Q ­ How many did you do?
Brian ­ A thousand. (laughter)



CONTROL ROOM (directed by Jehane Noujaim)

For me, Al-Jazeera means one thing: proof. When I think of how skewed and yellow video journalism is, I remember that millions and millions of people in the world are getting their news from Al-Jazeera. That's my proof that there is hope for the world. That they are willing to challenge and question everything from Arab leaders to the United States to the nature of unbiased news coverage… Since their start in 1996, they've been slammed in the Arab world for being too pro-American and by the US for being pro-Al Qaeda. As most good lefties know, that usually means you're doing something right. I have much respect for Al-Jazeera and was excited to know that a documentary was being made about them and their take on the War with Iraq.

The film Control Room is further proof. With time-tested verité technique, we see what it is like to run Al-Jazeera and what kinds of people make up the staff from the translators to the journalists. The film travels back and forth between the stations headquarters in Qatar and CentCom which is the main press briefing room set up by the US military in Iraq. It's a breath of fresh air to see an entire network of people who are smart and committed to the idea of debate and communication. I don't think you could find that at any of the major news networks in the States. Their operations, anecdotes and analysis are worthy of a documentary alone.

But there are specific moments in the film that are especially profound and upsetting even to a long-time commie like myself. First and foremost, there is the death of an Al-Jazeera journalist. Before the troops entered Baghdad, the US committed air strikes on civilian targets including the building housing Al-Jazeera. In the attack, one of their correspondents is killed along with three other journalists. There is footage of the journalist facing him head-on right up until seconds before the attack. That along with a plea for justice from the journalist's wife and a completely absurd justification for the attack from the US is both infuriating and literally sickening.

The second most important moment in the film is the so-called liberation of Baghdad. As a result of the attack on Al-Jazeera, their remaining correspondents were forced to return home to Qatar where the network is based. Now recognized as a target of the US military, Iraqis were naturally hesitant to house anyone representing the station. In the end, only the ridiculous foreign press was there to cover the troops coming into the town square and the people toppling over the statue of Saddam Hussein. What's most illuminating is the analysis from the Al-Jazeera journalists as they watch the events unfold. Senior Producer Samir Khader talks about how he's from Iraq. He's lived in Iraq. The people that toppled the statue were not Iraqi. They didn't look Iraqi and they didn't have Iraqi accents. Another journalist wonders why there are only a dozen people celebrating. Where were the village people? Where were the women from the area? How is it that one of them just happened to have the old Iraqi flag in his pocket? Had he "just kept it there for the past ten years?" Producer Deema Khatib wonders where the troops were. Where was the army? It becomes very obvious, as people have been muttering for some time now that it was all a faked, staged event for Western "news" cameras.

Finally there is the case of Lt. Josh Rushing. Throughout the film, he is the American representative that has debates and discussions with the many Arab journalists. Despite having to take the absurd position of defending US aggression, he is intelligent and empathetic. At one point he becomes self-analytical and candid talking about how he had seen images of dead Iraqi casualties one day and it didn't affect him. The next day, he was footage of American casualties and it made him sick. At that point he really had to face himself and while still in the process at least recognize how much he hates war. That story doesn't end there. With the release of the film, the Pentagon ordered Rushing not to comment on the film. Offended by this gesture, he is now seeking to leave the Marines.

Control Room is a movie about the War with Iraq. But that's not the half of it. It's a movie that will hopefully widen the debate about television and what is objective journalism in this country. It's also another stone catapulted through the wall of Arab stereotypes. It's also an intelligent and engaging film that is as challenging as it is satisfying.


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