Barrett Brown Is Bored Out of His Mind in Jail
Earlier today, Barrett Brown’s legal counsel sent us this letter on behalf of their imprisoned client. They’ve told us to expect more writing from Barrett Brown in the near future.
Like a lot of pompous, insufferable people, I didn’t watch television when I was previously “out in the world,” as my fellow inmates say. And if I were being held in a regular federal facility like a normal detainee, I wouldn’t be exposed to it while incarcerated if I preferred to avoid it. This is because federal prisons (along with holding facilities where inmates await trial) are relatively humane affairs equipped with separate areas for various activities—for instance, sleeping and watching television are done in distinctly different rooms. The problem is that all the federal facilities here in the Northern District of Texas were filled up with inmates awaiting trial or sentencing when I became incarcerated. This isn’t simply because Texans are an inherently criminal bunch—although of course they are—but rather because, in addition to prosecuting actual crimes against property and persons, the federal government is also in a great big contest with the Chinese to see who can imprison the most people for bullshit non-crimes like selling drugs.
At the same time, Congress has decided that the best way of dealing with illegal immigrants from Mexico who threaten to increase our GDP is to imprison them at great expense to the public. There are other factors at play here, all of which point to the ongoing degeneracy of the American people. Suffice to say, because of Texas’ booming incarceration industry, I was not one of those lucky-ducky federal inmates who got to kick back in a real live federal facility—because these babies are filled to the brim. Rather, I’m “housed,” as they call it, in a privately-run city facility used for government overflow. And this place is filled up, too. Nor was it built to house people for more than a few days or perhaps weeks; until a couple of years ago, it functioned as a lock-up for area arrestees while they awaited transit elsewhere. As such, my fellow inmates and I spend our time in cramped eight-man cells opening on to a day room the size of the cheapest Manhattan apartment that’s shared by 24 men. A few times a week we get to go outside onto a caged concrete strip and walk back and forth for an hour. This comprises our world, and is where I’ve spent most of the past year.
The Best Little Hell House in Texas
Brother Thomas turns to me and says, “We’re shorthanded in the abortion room.” I’ve gone to work as a volunteer at a Hell House, an evangelical Christian haunted house in Cedar Hill, Texas, designed to scare kids away from sinning. “I’m either going to put you in the abortion room,” Brother Thomas says, “or the drunk-driving room.”
“The abortion room would be great,” I say, feeling mildly uncomfortable that I’m much older than the rest of the teenage volunteers.
“When the visitors come in,” Brother Thomas says, leading me to the room where a fake abortion performed by actors using grocery store meat to simulate a discarded fetus is supposed to scare kids away from premarital sex, “what I need you to do is yell in a strong voice, ‘Watch the steps!’ If we don’t say, ‘Watch your step,’ and they fall, we’re liable.”
At Hell House, Jesus steers kids toward the Lord. But he can’t prevent lawsuits.
What the hell is a “hell house”? If you’re not familiar, Hell House is a Christian alternative to the standard haunted house. Instead of Freddy Krueger, these costumed evangelists scare the holy Jesus into you—literally.
In this house of horrors, being gay results in dying of AIDS and premarital sex can lead the homecoming queen down a slippery slope of prostitution. Youth groups visit and are led through a series of “real life” horrific scenes designed to create terror and revulsion. Hell House outreach manuals include astute tips on creating authentic abortion room scenes, such as: Purchase a meat product that closely resembles pieces of a baby to be placed in a glass bowl.
The Abortion Rights Battle in Texas Comes to Term
The battle for reproductive rights is on in Texas. You might not have known that if you watch the 24-hour cable news channels, since during state senator Wendy Davis’ ten-hour filibuster against an extreme anti-abortion bill and the subsequent too-late vote forced by the Republicans last week, they were talking about muffins and George Zimmerman.
Media attention or no media attention, yesterday marked the second day of the second special session of the 83rd Texas Legislature, which governor Rick Perry called on June 26 so lawmakers could vote on the anti-abortion bill and a couple of other measures. “Texans value life and want to protect women and the unborn,”Perry said, while meanwhile, the state of Texas was executing its 500th prisoner since 1976, a woman namedKimberly McCarthy. The big event yesterday, which drew hordes of pro-choice and pro-life protesters, was the second public hearing on the anti-abortion bill at the Capitol building in Austin.
What was happening inside the Senate chamber?
At this point, Davis was off the clock, so everyone was in the main room outside the chamber. Nobody knew what was happening, we’re all just checking Facebook and Twitter. Suddenly, a guy came running out of the chamber and got on the second floor and started screaming — everyone erupted and cheers and claps. For a minute, I thought it was over. The genius selling “Fuck Rick Perry” shirts takes off his shirt and starts waving it around, still hanging off the balcony. The cheering went on for ten minutes. I was like, “Hey, did it end? What happened?” The only answer I could get was, “I dunno.” It was so fucking loud, I felt like I was at a Slayer concert. My ears were shaking, everyone was losing their mind, and half didn’t know why.
Can I Get in the Van? – I Hitchhiked to Texas and Almost Joined Black Flag
Illustration by Todd Ryan White
In the summer of 1981, a young and unknown 20-year-old punk from Washington, DC, named Henry Garfield jumped up onstage to sing an encore with Black Flag at a show in New York City. It so happened that the band was looking for a new singer. A couple days later, they tracked down Henry and asked him to come back to New York for a proper audition. They met him at the Odessa diner on Avenue A by Tompkins Square Park and took him to a nearby rehearsal space, where they ran through a set together. Afterward, the band went outside to talk it over. As Henry later recounted in his tour diary, Get in the Van, guitarist Greg Ginn and bassist Chuck Dukowski returned a few minutes later and Dukowski asked, “Well? Are you going to join or not?”
Henry, of course, was in. He immediately quit his job as the manager of a Häagen-Dazs, left behind an abusive family situation, and went on the road with his favorite band. Shortly thereafter, he changed his last name to Rollins and moved to Los Angeles. Within six months, the band recorded Damaged, a record that is widely credited with inventing American hardcore.
Back when I was a Black Flag-obsessed teenager longing to escape my own dead-end hometown in south Florida, the story about Henry’s complete reversal of fortune captured my imagination. In 1989, after Black Flag had already split up, I read an interview with Greg Ginn in which he lamented how hard it was to find dedicated, hardworking musicians. Being an idealistic 16-year-old, I called SST Records and left a message on their answering machine, offering to drop what I was doing and hitchhike to Los Angeles to play bass in his band. Ginn, unfortunately, never called back. Still, Black Flag’s uncompromising DIY ethic continued to inspire me, and eventually, I left home, worked hard, and carved out a fulfilling life for myself as a writer and musician.
I still sometimes think about how exciting it must have been to just walk away from a life you didn’t like, as Henry did, and start over completely. One gloomy, late night last winter I found myself sitting at the Odessa diner, ruminating over a lukewarm cup of coffee. I was sick, rent was due, my new book was going nowhere, and a snowstorm was raging outside. I thought of Henry, sitting so long ago at the same counter.
Later that week, to everyone’s surprise, members of Black Flag announced that they were reforming. In fact, there were two reunions: one led by founder and principal songwriter Greg Ginn—claiming the official moniker of Black Flag—and the other by former bass player Dukowski and Keith Morris, the band’s first singer, which would simply be going by Flag.
While fans debated feverishly which of these lineups was the true Black Flag, I was captivated by one tiny detail from the flood of news stories announcing the dual reunions: Ginn said that he would be playing both guitar and bass on the new, as-yet-untitled album.
It dawned on me: Black Flag did not have a bass player. I could be that bass player! I decided right then and there to find out where Ginn was living, hitchhike across the country, and persuade him to let me try out—just as I had attempted to do at 16. I knew all the old songs, and I figured that thumbing it instead of flying or taking a bus would prove to Ginn that I had dedication.
Headed to SXSW this week? VICELAND has you covered. For full details and RSVP, head here.
(Source: Vice Magazine)
A Weird Hotel in Houston Is Freaking Reddit Out
Last week, Reddit’s internet detectives swarmed on a subreddit for Houston, Texas after a user called Joelikesmusic posted a mysterious thread asking insiders what the deal was with a bizarre room at the localHotel ZaZa. As you can see in the picture above, the decor in room 322 errs more on the deeply unsettling, Jodorowsky side of a “comfortable, welcoming hotel experience,” with sinister paintings hanging above a concrete floor, what looks like a two-way mirror next to a bed that’s chained to the wall, and a portrait of Stanford Financial Group president Jay Comeaux overlooking the whole distressing tableau.
The room was accidentally booked for Joelikesmusic’s work colleague, who was then supposedly told that room 322 wasn’t meant to be booked at all. And it’s not difficult to see why—it looks like a snuff movie location. But despite the room being an absolute creep-fest, Kyra Coots, the Houston ZaZa’s head of e-marketing, told the Houseton Chronicle that—like the other themed rooms ZaZa prides itself on—the “Hard Times” room is just a “kooky” take on yet another theme: jail.
Being the internet, people have started to throw around entirely unfounded conclusions about room 322, based on wild speculations they’ve made about things they can ascertain from the photographs.
THE THEORIES ABOUT THE PICTURES ON THE WALL
Some think they’ve linked Stanford’s Jay Comeaux to ZaZa President Benji Homsey, suggesting they could’ve been in the same or related fraternity chapters at university. Comeaux went to Louisiana State University, home of the Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity and the secretive frat, “the Friars.”
The goal of the Friars is apparently to resurrect DKE’s “Zeta Zeta” chapter—could the name ZaZa itself be a reference to this? Is Benji Homsey the “Benny H.” whose signature is on another of the room’s portraits?
THE THEORIES ABOUT THE ROOM NUMBERS
Others have connected Comeaux and the Friars to the elite Yale Skull and Bones Society, which counts ex-presidents George Bush Jr. and his dad as members. The number 322 is supposedly relevant to the group, as well as the skulls and bones littering the room.
There are websites that claim the Skull and Bones Society dates back to 1832, when it “paid obeisance to Eulogia, the goddess of eloquence, who took her place in the pantheon upon the death of the orator Demosthenes in 322 BC.” The number 322 is also thought to reference the club’s founding in America after originally being established in Germany, it being the second chapter—1832 - 2. Writer on the occult Nick Farrell told me the numbers refer to “Hebrew geomatria—each letter is a number so you can add up numbers to make words; 322 means any of these. It depends on the context, but ‘lamb’ would be a common one and ‘man’ another, but it could also be the number of a demon.”
Three Gothic Tales from Austin, Texas
by Amie and Clancy Martin
The Hotel San Jose
“I’ve stayed in this hotel at least 15 times. Trust me, you’ll love it.”
Clancy had shown me the video tour of our suite at the San Jose Hotel. It looked like The Hermosa in Scottsdale (except at The Hermosa, each guest has her own adobe casita). It looked like the Altis Belem in Lisbon (except the oceanfront Altis Belem is fancier and I prefer the San Jose’s APC.-style simplicity). It looked like Philip Stark’s hotel in Hong Kong, except the suites there are bigger, cleaner, and more stylish, with individual touches, like a beaded rocking chair from Africa, and the Stark boutique hotel has free breakfast, free snacks downstairs all day, and cocktails and cake in the afternoon.
When we checked in the staff was strangely surly. They acted like clerks used to act at cool record stores in the 90s.
“That’s the only problem with this place,” Clancy apologized. “They’ve always acted like that. But otherwise it’s great.”
We were in the largest suite but they couldn’t check us in for several hours. “Check-in,” they said, “is at three.” Apparently there is a great demand in Austin, Texas for $700-a-night suites. All four had been booked the previous night, according to the clerk in a newsboy hat, and none had been cleaned. He offered to hold our bags.
Things went from inauspicious to bad. It may come as a surprise, but when I get angry I go crazy. We were finally checked into our room at around five. That night, Clancy and I had the worst fight we’ve ever had. I broke the bottle of “Rainwater” that was provided free of charge. I shouted.
Two bearded, hipster security guards arrived. These two young men in black were in over their heads. Not knowing how to handle noise complaints (one said there had been four, and one said there had been six), they seemed to have come to our door thinking, “What would the officers on Cops do?” One had a Maglite. I sensed they were frustrated they couldn’t arrest me. I felt like they wanted to award Clancy, who gets quiet and—in his own words—exaggeratedly polite when he is angry, a Man of the Year Award.
The next morning a hotel manager called the room. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
Clancy said that was fine, but that she would have to credit us for the second night’s stay. She said, “No, I won’t be able to do that.” He was firm. They met in the courtyard, next to a tiny black-slate wading pool and the little boutique where the Hotel San Jose sells Toms shoes and $25 neon-green flip-flops.
“I’ve had complaints. You’re going to have to leave,” she said.
Clancy said, “That’s the business you’re in. I’m sure we’re not the first couple to have a fight in this hotel. Are you married?”
She shook her head.
“Well, one day you will be, and then you’ll understand that married couples fight, and you can’t decide when and where you’re going to have a fight with your spouse.”
He returned to the room. “We’re staying.”
Things went from bad to worse. The entire staff had been gossiping about us. That was understandable, but the strange thing was that they wanted us to know it. No one would look us in the eye, except to express contempt.
“This is fun,” Clancy said. “I feel like the unpopular kid in high school again.”
The next morning we sat at Joe’s, the pleasant coffee shop owned by the hotel, located on the other side of the parking lot. We debated about whether or not we should write this review.
What can I say? It’s a boutique hotel, like any other. We behaved badly. But there’s a reason The Four Seasons, The Rosewood, The Mandarin, and my little places such as the ones mentioned at the opening send their future managers to The Oriental Hotel in Bangkok. While there, future managers work for a year, starting in housekeeping, or as busboys. It is because for a hotel to be good—let alone great—only one thing is required: courtesy.