@LEXANATOR242 FOR PIZZACAT MAG LOS ANGELES, JANUARY 2020
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Dear reader, If you’ve followed the trajectory of PIZZACAT, you’re probably wondering -- what exactly is PIZZACAT? Is it a podcast? Is it a magazine? Is it a concert series? To be frank, I don’t have an answer at the moment. However, what has made this such an interesting exercise for my friends and I has indeed been that very fact. We’re building the plane as we fly it as my fellow govies would say, and it’s been a fun ride. It’s our intention to continue with podcasts, continue with articles, and (when possible) continue with house shows. This magazine will be quarterly, or so, and will amalgamate everything we’ve put out for you, the reader. I’ve mentioned this a few times but at the heart of this thing, is a house show with pizza, community. And that is the theme for this edition. Community and the different ways we approach that. I’m excited for you all to read and see the work from the brilliant contributors we’ve somehow tricked to working with us. If you or anyone else you know find this something you’d like to be a part of let us know and we’ll talk. Otherwise, check it out, have fun, coolcool. - Alex
CONTRIBUTORS ALEX DASILVA
Alex came up with PIZZACAT with Kelly during the early parts of the pandemic. If he's not being a gov'y living in DC he's playing bass or going to school for the umpteenth time. He's our idea guy -- things would be cheaper if he could also do all the things he comes up with, but listen, nobody's perfect.
Kelly is the MVP of PIZZACAT and turns all the ideas -- *all of them* -- into what we see on the pages. As the Art Director several of our calls with her tend to begin with “...I’m thinking...” and end with “...yeah that’s a better idea.” Another Brooklynite with an eye for art yeah? Wrong. She’s 1 of 1.
Semantha is a prolific, LA based photographer who shoots our concert posters. In a sense we ask Sem to make stuff....cooler. She does that in spades. Her work is featured in a lot places, and you’ll notice her pictures are also featured in our submission page. We can’t get enough.
The way PIZZACAT sounds is Catherine's genius. Any weird sounds in the podcast can be attributed to Alex picking up and dropping pizza boxes right next to the microphone. If she's not working for Gimlet and their podcast space, she's ripping keyboard for her band Robot Pinterest in Brooklyn. The music tech column was hers and could only ever be hers. Thanks.
Alex used to work with Hibbah and has been finding more and more excuses to work with her again. Alas, PIZZACAT! Hibbah is probably traveling somewhere and reading this or getting stuck in the airport in some distant country. We typically envy her and will probably ask her to do a travel column. In the meantime, we’ll politely ask her to continue doing our Politics column and do one thing at a time.
When we asked AnnaLise to write the ethical fashion column for the mag, we waited with bated breath and decided to pace a few steps to not be nervous. Turns out she said yes. PSA she’s brilliant. FYI we’re stoked. If she’s not lawyering, she’s probably perfecting her sourdough starter.
Basia wanted us to tell you that she’s a graphic designer, illustrator, sign painter, rug tufter, and “etc”. She’s a firm believer that a good slice can change everything. We’re firm believers that we’ll do anything to keep her drawing for us.
We’re lucky to have Theo, seriously. An accomplished animator by day and an accomplished illustrator, he blessed us with a few of his creations under a crunch. We look forward to mooching off his talent and creating stop-animation with cats.
ASHLEY KATCHADOURIAN Ashely is an interior designer turned florist who does some cool craft things on the side. She likes Coca Cola and slight of hand magic tricks. As a champion of rituals involving snacks and naps, she can often be found in bed offering tastes of food to her cat in order to keep track of his preferences. We are happy to have her hands in this book, what very talented hands they are.
TJ WILLIAMS PIZZACAT’s video frontier started with TJ’s “static shots”. We had no idea what that meant until we saw it too. All of the slick videos we have on the gram is because TJ stands stationary for 3 hours in random places in LA. We thank God for TJ’s stamina and his talent and his patience in explaining.
COVER YOUR IDOLS TOWARD A MORE ETHICAL FASHION THE ARAB AMERICAN VOTING BLOC LOGSIE
COVER YOUR IDOLS WORDS BY CATHERINE ANDERSON ILLUSTRATIONS BY THEO CHAPMAN
Back in 2019, I was probably going to a concert at least once a week. I was playing music with my friends in our band Robot Princess, that I have been a part of since 2012. The music community surrounding us was strong, supportive, and took up a lot of space in my life. Now, instead of getting invited to new shows, I’m being invited to donate to GoFund me pages for struggling venues. Band practice is canceled. And I am having a recurring stress dream about going to a concert where no one is wearing a mask. Listen, I know this is supposed to be a “music tech” column; we’ll get to it! But it feels absolutely impossible to talk about music right now without acknowledging what’s happening in the world. For so many musicians and artists, this last year has felt creatively stifling. I keep coming back to this one image in my head. I think it’s a meme? (sorry!) The one where the dog is sitting in a room that is on fire thinking “this is fine”. That, to me, perfectly captures how it has felt this past year to try and create...anything….while the world is (at times literally) on fire. At the start of *gestures with hand* all this, I felt a lot of guilt and anger with myself. I wanted to use this time to make things and to work on music. I was so incredibly lucky to even be in a position where this was an option. I had fantasies about finally getting really good at guitar or finishing all the songs I had lying around, half-written. But I was so uninspired. I missed playing music with my friends. I missed going to shows. I missed lugging my gear back to the practice space at 2am. I missed it all! At the very end of March 2020, when it still felt like this could all be over in just a couple more weeks, I got a message from my friend and bandmate, Beau, inviting me to make a song for a project some of our music friends were working on. They were going to make a compilation album of TV show theme songs. Beau knows that I am obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so he suggested that I do that theme. This project was perfect. It had a deadline. It involved Buffy. It involved making something that already existed in the world - I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel or start from scratch, I just had to cover a song. The Buffy part was enough to get me excited about the project. The cover song
part was enough to convince my brain it would be “easy”. And the deadline part gave me structure. The compilation became 1 of 5 different compilations I would take part in over the next several months. We covered TV Themes, Bjork, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, and some nostalgic One-Hit-Wonders, all while the world “burned” around us. And it was these cover songs that led me to accomplish some of the very things I had fantasized about at the beginning of the pandemic. These covers had made me a better producer and musician. They gave me a creative outlet during a period of time where creativity felt impossible. The value in sitting down to not only learn someone else’s song, but recreate it, reimagine it, and rearrange it is so profoundly worthwhile if you are a musician, producer, or composer. I spent hours with Rhianna’s Shut Up and Drive. That song is only 4 chords! But it’s so dynamic and fun. And the phaser on the guitar? Peak 2000’s pop music. Bjork’s song Five Years only has 1 verse. And I still don’t know which part of that song is the actual chorus. Incredible.
THE VALUE IN SITTING DOWN TO NOT ONLY LEARN SOMEONE ELSE’S SONG, BUT RECREATE IT, REIMAGINE IT, AND REARRANGE IT IS SO PROFOUNDLY WORTHWHILE IF YOU ARE A MUSICIAN, PRODUCER, OR COMPOSER.
I’m going to concede that the “tech” part of this music tech column is a little light (sorry!) but if you are someone who wants to get better at recording or making music on a computer, I cannot stress enough the value in covering a song you love. Don’t just learn the chords and play it in your bedroom (although that is fine too!) but try to take things further than that. Pick apart the arrangement and figure out how the song is layered to create the things you love about it. Open up Logic, Ableton, GarageBand, or whatever you use, and make a version of the song that is your own. It will expand the way you think about your own music. It will sharpen your ears. You’ll notice things about the song you never would have before. It will make you a better musician and producer! And most importantly, it will be very fun. Some music tech lessons I learned making these covers: 1. You can convince yourself that you “need” an expensive mic because you are a “professional” but you will still probably only reach for your Sure SM57. And it will sound great. 2. The EarthQuaker Devices’ Rainbow Machine guitar pedal always sounds as cool as it looks. 3. Invest in a good pop filter for recording vocals even if you think it will be fine without one. It wont!
EPISODE 2 / LOGSIE
WORDS BY ANNALISE BENDER-BROWN ILLUSTRATIONS BY ASHLEY KATCHADOURIAN
How we choose to clothe ourselves is a deeply personal, deeply political choice. In the modern period, the choice to cover our bodies with textiles is one of those rare nearly universal human experiences. We use clothing to adorn ourselves; to keep us warm or cool us off; to protect ourselves; to indicate our membership in a group; to express our political commitments; and to explore the raw pleasure of the interplay of color, texture, weight, and shape of textiles. Clothing can be at once frivolous and of the utmost importance. For many of us, clothing is a way to communicative creatively and artistically: a site for personal expression and visual exploration. Textiles can produce a deep affective pleasure. Increasingly, people in the global north are attuning themselves to how their clothing arrives to them. In the post-industrial age, clothing is being produced on an unfathomably rapid and large scale. “Fast fashion” – i.e., the large-scale industrial production of lowpriced, generally low-quality garments and accessories by very lowly paid laborers for the profit of corporate entities – is one of the most acute sites of environmental damage and labor oppression today. Fast fashion is a serious offender with regard to environmental damage: Ellen Macarthur, advocate for a “circular economy,” estimates that if current trends with regard to fast fashion’s degree of carbon emissions continue, within 30 years, the fashion
industry’s carbon budget will swell to 25% of the global total, rendering it almost as serious a polluter as the oil industry. Fast fashion also perpetrates immense harm to the workers who create our garments, particularly those garment workers in low- and middle-income countries and in countries without robust labor protections. Garment workers face unsafe working conditions, unacceptably low pay, and health harms. Fast fashion has also proliferated synthetic fabrics, and normalized their use and wear. Synthetic fibers (like acrylic, nylon, and polyester, which are human-made) have downstream effects on our water supply, the ocean, human health, and animal health. The process by which synthetic fibers are made yields byproducts that end up in wastewater, and washing synthetic fabrics leaches minuscule fibers, some of which end up back in our water supply, where we ingest them.
All of this is to say that the low cost of fast fashion to the consumer is coming at a price to the lives of others whose suffering is largely abstracted from those of us living in high-income countries – and coming at a price to all of our health. What does it mean to clothe ourselves ethically, given the way in which we have been acculturated to view clothing as deserving a very low price? How can we explore the pleasures and meaning of how we clothe ourselves without harming ourselves, laborers, and the planet? There are challenges and inherent paradoxes of obtaining clothing in an ethical way. I love textiles, and love adorning myself in beau-
tiful objects. I also am deeply concerned with doing as little harm as possible to others through my fashion choices. I am privileged to have the means to purchase clothing from producers whose offerings are properly priced, which feels very high for most people in the global north because of the way in which fast fashion has encouraged us to conceive of the value of garments. In high-income countries, fast fashion has acculturated us to believing our clothing should cost very little. Fast fashion has normalized five-dollar garments, while those prices obscure the abhorrent working conditions and unacceptably low wages of the garment workers producing those items. The “slow fashion” movement has done much to shed light on the true cost of such cheap clothing, both to humans and to the environment. And that is the key: slowness. Slowing down our consumption and taking pleasure in the small joys of the things we already own – repairing them; dying them to give them new life; pairing them with different pieces that are already in our wardrobe; learning how to tailor or alter our clothes to refresh them; and doing clothing swaps with friends to minimize the movement of our garments into landfills are all ways in which we can minimize our impact on the planet through our clothing choices. None of these responses alone is a silver bullet. But choosing to opt out from the constant churn of purchasing, wearing, and throwing away garments is impactful even on a micro-level for our own health, for the well-being of the planet, and for its residents.
THE ARAB AMERICAN VOTING BLOC WORDS BY HIBBAH KALEIH ILLUSTRATIONS BY BASIA KURLENDER Like many others, I remember where I was on November 3, 2016 (don’t worry - this is not another article about 2016 election predictions). I was living inside the Old City walls of Jerusalem, eight hours ahead of DC time, and I went to sleep without a second thought about the election, confident of the outcome. When I woke up the next morning, votes were still being counted, but the results were clear. As I walked through the Christian Quarter that day, I passed by an acquaintance and we got to talking about the election. He commented that he was glad Trump won the presidency because of his commitment to protecting Christians in the Middle East. I looked at him dumbfounded. “Why does that matter whether he’s Christian? Obama was also Christian” “It matters because it will keep my family alive and safe.’” This and many other interactions I had regarding the election, both similar and in direct contrast to the opinions my Jerusalem friend gave, deeply impacted my understanding of the concerns and priorities Arabs have when making political decisions. In the United States, Arabs are treated as one homogenous ethnicity, yet there are a number of ways in which Arabs divide and define themselves in the Middle East. Gulf vs. Levant. Christian vs. Muslim, and then a step further to Sunni vs. Shia. Orthodox vs. Catholic vs. Baptist. Immigrant vs. ethnic Arab. Classifying a diverse group of people from over 15 countries into one voter bloc overlooks the essential issues that the diaspora prioritizes. Their priorities, like other Americans, range from education to the economy to foreign policy to healthcare. I outline below the priorities that I have found come up the most often when discussing politics with other Arabs in the United States. It is important to note that this is based on my experience as a first-generation Palestinian/Jordanian Christian, and therefore does not encompass everyone’s perpsective, especially those from different countries and religious backgrounds.
IDENTITY POLITICS Identity politics take on a new level of meaning in the Middle East and are integral to voting choices. Most people from the Middle East feel strongly tied to their ethnic roots, their religion, and their family name. Arabs are concerned with the protection of their families back home, as well as their freedom of religion and speech - rights often taken for granted in the United States. To be frank, in 2016, while most Arabs voted for Clinton, a portion of Arab voters were motivated by fear of what could happen to their families if Clinton were elected - someone with historic ties to interventionist foreign policies. As anti-Muslim rhetoric increased over the past four years, this turned off many voters who traditionally voted more conservatively, both Arab and otherwise. This trend also laid claim to the fact that, while Arabs are traditionally more socially conservative, the rhetoric against Muslims (who are not all Arab) and the handling of foreign policy issues has trumped social concerns.
FOREIGN POLICY Although Arabs pay close attention to major issues such as ecnomics, healthcare, and education, US foreign policy decisions are arguably at the forefront of every Arab-American’s voting considerations. The US foreign policy decisions about the Middle East are not conceptual chess moves - the effects on the region are seen immediately, and the impact of some decisions is seen for decades. Take Israel-Palestine for instance. While a side issue for most non-Arab Americans, the plight of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza remains a crucial voting consideration for many Arabs. This is why Bernie Sanders had an immense following among Arab voters - he is arguably the first
major presidential candidate in history to talk about Palestine, and he was the most openly critical of Israel without immediately being dismissed as anti-semitic. He also added compassion and nuance to the Middle East foreign policy conversation, which is sometimes more than can be said for other candidates. And if you are war weary from all the conflicts in the Middle East, imagine being from there. Every time I hear of another bombing or skirmish in the region, my heart hurts for another place, another city, another piece of history my parents grew up visiting that I will never be able to see. In 2001, the Bush Administration declared a War on Terror without a fundamental understanding of Arab civil society and governance. The Obama Administration drew and redrew red lines in Syria, talked a big game when Russia took a fundamental role in the Syrian conflict, and then sat back and did nothing. The Trump Administration campaigned on a promise of “no more wars,” a promise that earned him many votes, Arab and otherwise. His administration was also responsible for some of the largest arms sales to Saudi Arabia, bypassing US congressional approval and directly contributing to the escalation of the conflict in Yemen - the worst international humanitarian disaster. A bomb was launched into Syria within one month of the new Biden administration. And the cycle continues. Historical grievances have led to the Arab diaspora becoming increasingly disenchanted with each incoming president and skeptical of any promised change, regardless of political party. Meanwhile, many administrations do not seem to always account for how integral foreign policy is to how Arabs vote. When the missile was launched into Syria on February 25h, Arab twitter was rife with grim jokes, with the underlying question being - how much does US foreign policy really change with each administration? SOCIAL ISSUES While many Arabs do consider social issues when voting, it is not at the forefront of their considerations. In fact, as the left is arguably leaning more left, there has been an uncomfortable reckoning because Middle Eastern culture is inherently more conservative, and many issues that are at the forefront of American debate are simply a nonissue for Arabs. When discussing the Democratic vs. Republican party with Arab family and friends, social issues rarely come up, if ever. When they do, whether it be abortion laws or marriage equality,
they are never the reasoning behind supporting one candidate over another. It is more of an afterthought to bolster whichever candidate someone has already decided to support. I would argue that the role of the government, as perceived by many ethnic Arabs, is safety and economic security, not so much dictating social norms. However, when considering both social and other issues, there is a discrepancy between younger and older Arab voters. Therein lies my last point. A NOTE ON AGE… When I discuss many of these voting considerations with my parents, I find that we make similar points but come to different conclusions. Age colors all the issues mentioned above. The older generation of Arabs has lived through the collapse of many regimes. Many have immigrated to the U.S. in hopes of security and safety for their families. Those from Syria, Palestine, Yemen, and Lebanon have seen their countries destroyed beyond recognition. After all that has happened in their lifetime, I have found that many of them take a realist approach and are concerned with the security of their people and country above all else. My generation, the younger generation,
seems to take a more idealist approach when considering political issues. We have been fortunate enough to grow up in a more secular society, and aftereffects of both the Arab Spring and “War on Terror” have also colored voting priorities. For better or for worse, many younger Arab-American voters are more confident demanding change that perhaps those like my Palestinian father simply do not see as a priority. The reality of the political climate in the United States is that foreign policy decisions that are made here hit too close to home - quite literally - for Arabs. I sometimes laugh when I hear of national security experts predicting a foreign policy shift away from the Middle East or when people complain that the United States is too intertwined with conflicts in the region. The U.S. is in too deep - whether by choosing which factions to fund in regional wars, championing human rights while funding billions in Saudi and Israeli weapons, or propping up and tearing down regimes. As an Arab diaspora, we are left to make our voices heard through our vote while we observe the policy decisions that the United States makes and the outsized effect they have on our home countries each and every day,
WORDS AND PHOTOS BY ALEX DASILVA
It was all very cute.
The two-story walk up to Logan Marshall and his longtime partner Semantha Norris’ bungalow style apartment in East Los Angeles cute. The suggestion and eventual execution of our photo shoot in his medium-sized backyard balcony overlooking a balmy Echo Park on a Sunday afternoon— cute (the barber none other than Sem herself? Also cute). The photo-bombing skillset of their tiny rescued black cat Beauregard, giving a little skin here and there? You guessed it — provocative and unsettling — and ultimately left me the same feeling as before which was, this is all so damn cute.
It would be hard to imagine Logan using the term cute to describe his exterior surroundings, let alone the current environment of which he’s decided to, “finally”, release a formal solo offering of music. However, speaking by phone in late January during his UberEats route, a job he took after 7 years of disillusioning work in the live music industry, this is far from his first rodeo. “I never stopped making things,” he said. He takes one of his hearty laughs and almost reveling at his own history adds: “It just got to a point, like, why am I not releasing these things?”
In November, Logan (who performs as “Logsie”) allowed the magazine to record him playing tunes from his upcoming EP “Traffic”; his first live rendition of the ensuing album and its songs. In front of four other close friends, the concert lasted maybe 25 minutes (including applause) as the songs on the album typically didn’t reach past the two and a half minute mark. A method he calls “little refrains” that hints at his general approach for the album (after each tune he would remark “…another short one” until it was quite clear they were all indeed…short ones). Hearing the 29-year-old Marshall talk about his creative process, one realizes quickly his clear aversion to stuff. “I like constraints,” he said after detailing the minimal amount of gear he forced himself to use for recording. Despite his accomplished music technology education both as a student at NYU’s Clive Davis School of Recorded Music and a talent buyer for New York and LA venue staples like Webster Hall and Fais Do-Do, Marshall finds his niche in the space between. “I can’t get into an emotional place with a piece that I’m playing if I don’t space things out — I like leaving that moment — it comes from [my love] for ambient music, [I take notes from that].” Space, constraints, refrain — all normal sounding artistically descriptive words until one considers the subtext. Yes, that subtext. The reason why you’re probably reading this in your living room and not on a crowded subway platform, and the other reason why you haven’t talked “politics” with “that” friend in
awhile. Hardly a time to put out music that values sparseness when it seems as though our entire beings have been saturated with some of the most complex circumstances. A theme kept emerging during our phone conversation — why now? What was the catalyst to begin this…now? How were you inspired to write and release a solo album now? And then to say your inspiration was fucking…sparseness? It was as if Marshall had made this album in an alternate universe. However, the thing about Logan is his unique ability to find. His ability to find space in his music, to discover uniqueness in the equipment in front of him, and frankly to see beauty in seemingly overwhelming darkness. Logan cites the late economist and NYU professor Randy Martin as part of this inspiration. Martin championed
the idea of derivatives transcending the spectrum of economics to inform our social behaviors. The Oxnard-born Marshall, somewhat unsurprisingly uses the activity of surfing to explain this. He infers a chaotic scene of waves, the lone surfer fighting their way to the lip, then standing amidst their newly found space atop the wave. It’s the idea that “something happens out of the most precarious situations, [that] beautiful things happen out of precarity.” He utilizes this idea as an inspiration for the album’s title, Traffic. “Driving around LA is going to be a fucking slog,” he says. However, he still “see[s] these beautiful, little strange moments that prop out of that mangled, dumb madness.” One can hear that inspiration in his music. In mid-January, Logan released the first single from the record, another short one titled “Tinker”. Clocking in at just under two minutes, and following his notion of space, you don’t actually hear Logan’s voice until around the 35 second mark. The preceding time builds anticipation in a loop reminiscent of the heady days of the early 2000s indie scene and a California-tinged summer day. He’s stated he intends to release each song with accompanying videography of
which he hopes to install on TV stands throughout Los Angeles. The short tunes, the space, the videos — you get a sense after meeting with Logan that it is just so uniquely, him. As in you listen to the music and you figure nobody else can make, whatever it is, he’s making. “Logs is the rarest type there is,” his former bandmate and Monterrey based artist Sam Katz says. “Doesn’t matter the genre, it’s always so uniquely him. If Guitar Center still existed I’d wager I could walk into one blindfolded and be able to pick Logan out no problem.”
Guitar Center still exists, but Sam’s point rings so true. Logan has an unfailingly, ever-unique ability to make music that best identifies as Logan’s. On the other token, I asked some of the friends at his minishow in November what type of music they expected to hear from Marshall. Jenna Maranga, a friend he grew up with and singer songwriter based in LA, remarked in that unmistakable old friend tone, “… Oh I never know what’s gonna come out of Logan’s mouth.” Truth be told when I heard the samples of the tunes he aimed to play, and then he showed up with a 4-string nylon guitar, I too wondered how he was going to replicate what I heard. Then he started to play, and I realized I should stop worrying about how Logan is going to play Logan’s music. He’s the only one that can do it. As our conversations over the past few months wound down, it was humorous to reflect on how difficult it was to get Logan to talk about the “big picture” of it all. What was the overarching, high-brow, statement he wanted to make with all of this art? In an artistic climate that awards the loud flag bearers of the new or the relevant, where did this late twenties, ambient-music head, want to plant his flag? “I don’t like talking about the overarching intent behind the work,” he responds. “It can just come out as pretentious babble a lot.” I tried to propose that explaining what one cares about is not always fodder for pretension. However, his self-awareness as a white male creating art, his view of that demographic’s “proclivity to be pretentious a**holes”, and his “aw shucks” humility all warped into a big non-answer for quite awhile. Though after some more prodding he did offer this: “…everything sort of boils down to taking out, like, beautiful moments in time out of everything else that is precarious, crazy, and confusing.” Thus, my initial thought of surmising that Logan was creating despite the times was not accurate. He wasn’t avoiding the complexities in front of him and all of us. Logan created this unique, haunting, beautiful EP as a result of those complexities, then he just chose what he wanted to remember.
Semantha Raquel Norris is a Los Angeles based photographer and documentarian. She received her BA from New York University with a concentration in International Development and Photography. Her work has been exhibited in Los Angeles, New York, and Havana. She has been featured in Dish Rag Magazine, The Los Angeles Press, and Bad Language. In the Fall she will be attending UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. doldrumphilosophy.com @doldrumphilosophy
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