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23 DECEMBER, 2010

Merry Christmas | ...and a Happy New Year!

- MB and Matt

19 DECEMBER, 2010

TWBA History Reclamation Project | We TWBA types are highly skeptical of social networking sites, mostly because they take up so much, well, life. When given a choice between staring into a computer or going for a walk in the woods (or talking to a The Whole Bolivian Army on Airport Way in Seattle's Georgetown neighborhoodreal person or hitting the open road), wouldn't you rather go for that walk (or talk to that real person or hit that open road)? If you were a musician and had only so much spare time each day to dedicate to your craft, would you want to waste even a second on the computer?

That said, there is a certain energy that belongs to the Internet, where long-lost friends can catch up with each other, strangers from strange lands can get to know each other, and ideas can be exchanged freely and relatively Kwangju video stillspontaneously. We doubt we'll ever do the Twitter thing, if for no other reason than we're no good at condensing our ideas into posts of 140 characters or less. MySpace? Too slow (and a little too slutty, if you ask us). That leaves us with Facebook, where it seems many of our friends and cohorts lurk. Rather than thumb our nose at the collective fun there, we've decided to dive in with both feet.

If you're on Facebook (or just want to dip your toes into the water), look us up at, where we're in the midst of a ginormous undertaking: revisiting our long and sordid history via photographs (and the occasional video). So far we've posted 10 photo albums spanning 15 years (from recording Hazen at Crow Recording in 1995 to playing on the back of a flatbed truck at the Seattle Rock and Roll Marathon in 2010). But we're just getting started. Check out our progress when you get a chance, and drop us a line while you're at it. We promise not to suck you into your computer.

- Matt

11 NOVEMEBER, 2010

No news is good news | Sorry for the lack of news of late. We've been hard at work preparing for the next album, tentatively entitled Bells, which we plan to record with Scott Ross at Elliott Bay Recording Co. in Feb. 2011. Chris Gorczyca returns for drum duty, while Greg Strickland will lay down the bass. The song list, in no particular order, looks like this:

It Rescues Me
Love & Gravity
Hold Me Up
The Best Part of Me
The Golden Hour.

Giddy with girlish (and manly) glee,

- Matt


Spontaneous combustion | Anyone who has followed TWBA over the years knows we suffer from Spinal Tap Syndrome, having survived numerous member changes, particularly at the drummer position. But being familiar with so much turnover doesn't make it any easier. Which explains why I've procrastinated with this post. Anyway, we're bummed to announce that we have parted ways with Matt "Sticks" Bleckert, Drummer No. 4,792, who helped see us through our busiest spring and summer in years, playing just shy of a dozen shows with us. Matt continues on with his other band, J Mac Cadillac. And TWBA goes on as well. Chris G will be filling in later this month at the Seattle Peace Concerts. After that, we plan to start working on the next album, which is scheduled for release in spring of 2011.

- Matt

26 AUGUST, 2010

TWBA at the Bite | Tracy Brooks brought his crew and video cameras to the Bite of Seattle last month, once again piecing together some great live footage of the band (thank you, Tracy). We're a little slow posting the results, but here's "Whipping Girl." Check out the Solid Gold Dancers out front!

- Matt

8 AUGUST, 2010

Geddy-corns and . . . oops | As mentioned a couple posts below, we've recently rediscovered an old favorite in Rush, and last night we got to see them live for the first time when they played for just shy of three hours at the White River Amphitheater in Auburn. The evening started out on the damp side, thanks to a steady drizzle that didn't let up until just a few minutes before the boys, now well into their fifties, hit the stage. So we got thoroughly soaked waiting in line and then on the grass, where we passed the time by counting "Geddy-corns," a mythical creature rarely seen at Rush concerts (chicks). Mary Beth, one of the few, the proud, nevertheless enjoyed the benefits of being outnumbered 10 to 1, gender-wise: no waiting at the restroom.

pure joyBut I digress. The show was so freakin' Rush-a-licious I don't know where to begin. After a funny video skit set in a greasy diner and starring the band in unfamiliar roles, including a super hefty Alex Lifeson (think "Fat Bastard" from Austin Powers) as a sausage-coveting patron, they kicked things off with "The Spirit of Radio" and proceeded to play an intriguing mix of old and new, popular and not-so-popular tunes. They finished the first set with "Subdivisions," one of the early highlights, and then took a break for the intermission.

After another funny video skit, they sunk their teeth into the meat of the concert, cranking out the Moving Pictures album in order and in its entirety. By the time they had played the final few notes of "Vital Signs," I was feeling misty-eyed and generally awestruck and wondering where they could possibly go from there. But they answered that question in short order by introducing the second new song of the night, "Caravan," which, like a lot of the material from their last few albums, just flat out rocked. Heavy guitar riffs, stadium-friendly hooks, and plenty of head bobbing. From there, they powered through a few classics (2112's "Overture" and "The Temples of Syrinx," "Closer to the Heart") and then finished the second set with the soon-to-be-classic "Far Cry" (from 2007's Snakes and Arrows). Onto the encore, which consisted of "La Villa Strangiato" and "Working Man." Each song began with a curve ball. The former started with a quirky, Atari-like synth arrangement, while the latter masqueraded as a happy reggae ditty for a couple verses.

Mary Beth Kite at the Rush Concert (White River Amphitheater)Too many highlights to list. But the pure joy on Gibson's face throughout will stick with me for a long time. He positively worships the band, especially Mr. Neil Peart, and was rapt throughout. Even the band's mistakes were entertaining. When Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson got their wires crossed on the segue between "Overture" and "The Temples of Syrinx" (And the meek shall inherit the ... oops), Geddy chalked it up to another "nugget" that will be remembered from the show, while Alex hid behind his steampunk-inspired wall of amps. Geddy also delivered the best line of the night after they finished Moving Pictures, saying, "It's hard to believe it's been thirty years since we wrote that. I must have been, like, six years old then."

Only gripes: the sound was a little treble-heavy (we compensated with ear plugs), and the audience, though standing throughout and clearly thrilled by the band's performance, wasn't nearly animated enough. We were hopping, clapping, hooting, and generally spazzing out from start to finish, but alas, few followed suit, at least not back on the grass where we were standing. Regardless, we went home exhausted, hoarse, and happy, vowing to never miss another Rush concert.

- Matt

5 AUGUST, 2010

Northwest Runner magazineThat's my hand | On the cover of Northwest Runner. Those who know me know I'm many kinds of geek, including running geek. I used to be a regular contributor to NWR, and editor Martin Rudow was gracious enough to let me ramble on about our experiences at the 2nd annual Rock 'n' Roll Seattle Marathon in June. We've been slacker-ish with photos (we'll post them eventually). But for the moment, hey, look at my hand. We had a great time playing at Mile 18 - on the back of a flatbed truck. Saw some familiar faces, blew many kisses, and were genuinely moved by the whole experience. You can read all about it in the August edition of NWR.

- Matt

3 JULY, 2010

Beyond the lighted stage | Just finished watching the Rush documentary, Beyond the Lighted Stage, which came today in the mail, courtesy of Yes, we're Rush geeks. It helps that a certain 9-year-old drummer we know worships at the altar of Neil Peart.

Rush: "Beyond the Lighted Stage"The movie sort of cemented in my mind an opinion that has slowly been forming for me, which is that Rush, along with being highly underrated and underappreciated over the years, deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as bands like the Who and U2 and maybe even the Beatles (sacrilege!). Obviously, they'll never be as critically acclaimed or commercially successful, but their influence on modern music can't be overstated. The luminaries interviewed in the documentary ranged from Billy Corgan to Jack Black, and everyone came back to the same thing, which is that Rush found a way to be earnest and virtuous and totally themselves and still carve out a loyal following.

When grunge hit in the early 90s, I kind of assumed that was the final nail in the coffin of musical virtuosity in general and bands like Rush in particular. Punk won. But maybe not. The music of Rush, as Jack Black so aptly put it, has stood the test of time. It still holds up. As for the people behind it, I continue to be surprised at how witty and downright silly the band members are, especially Alex Lifeson. "It's so great to drink wine," he says as they're tying one on at the dinner table, credits rolling. "It tastes fantastic, and it makes you feel funny!"

- Matt

17 MAY, 2010

When lightning strikes | We know the coolest people. Gabriel Edwards, longtime friend and fan of the band, took some amazing footage (shot from the CTA Red Line in Chicago during an electrical storm) and blended it with one of our songs, "Free Tonight," to make a lovely, eerie video:

- Matt

10 MAY, 2010

Live at the Skylark | As promised, we have video footage from our show at the Skylark last month. We had hoped to use the audio from the mixing board, but as it turned out, the camera audio sounded more, well, natural. So here it is, "Deeper" (North by Nowhere):

Thanks again to Tracy Brooks and crew, all of whom did an amazing job without any fuss or direction from us.

- Matt

15 APRIL, 2010

Sunday fun | Sunday's show at the Skylark was most lovely. Special thanks to ADHD for opening – and to Alex for putting the whole evening together. Thanks as well to Jen and Way South for finishing the evening in grand fashion. We were proud to be the peanut butter and jelly.

The Whole Bolivian Army at the Skylark CafeWe also want to extend a thank-you to Tracy Brooks, his wife Ann, and their crew (Chuck and Michelle), each of whom came armed with a video camera. Tracy will be collaborating with our drummer Matt Bleckert in order to put together a clip or two for YouTube. Mr. Bleckert has in his possession the live audio tracks, taken straight from the mixing board, which he plans to mix and then sync up with the video. I bet it'll be fancy!

- Matt

6 APRIL, 2010

angry c-cupsThe boobs are back | Remember the original North by Nowhere cover? We called it the "angry C-cups" cover and grew tired of it quickly. After the initial pressing, we replaced it with a lovely image culled from the Wisconsin Historical Society Archives. Well, it's time to press some more CDs, and guess what? It's back to the angry C-cups for us. Why? Well, when we changed covers the first time, we had already released the album digitally, which means CD Baby, I-Tunes, and everybody else on the planet had already committed to using the original cover. So rather than sell an album with two covers, we're going back to the original one to avoid confusion (heaven knows we're confused enough on a daily basis already). So there you have it. More boobs. Less romantic black and white photos from yesteryear.

- Matt

30 MARCH, 2010

Halved avocado | A couple months back, as painfully detailed in a post below, I went in for a colonoscopy that didn't work out so well. Long story short: the sedation didn't take and I spazzed out on the table.

Having done a bit of research and consulted with a different clinic in the interim, I went in for another colonoscopy this morning and was given propofol, the drug that played a big factor in Michael Jackson's tragic death. I worried that might be an awful omen, but everything turned out fine. I slept like a baby through the whole procedure -- and came around quickly once it was over. Phew.

The doctor who did the honors is a fellow runner, so we got to talk marathons beforehand, and the assistants and the anesthesiologist all treated me well, especially after it took three tries to get an IV started. Poke. Poke. Poke. We have a winner! (And three bandages to show for it...) The doc did find and snip a tiny, 4mm sessile polyp in my transverse colon. A biopsy of the polyp will be studied in the clinic's pathology lab as a matter of routine but was not a cause for concern (knock on large pieces of authentic wood). I ended up with all sorts of fun pictures and am tempted to show you a few. But I'd rather describe one. Did you know that your rectum from the inside out looks like a halved avocado?

- Matt

29 MARCH, 2010

The gods of rock, the Man Cave, etc. | March has been a fun month for us. We were treated to a very unique experience at Lake Washington United Methodist Church in Kirkland, where we played a little concert in their beautiful sanctuary and learned in the process that churches are built for rock and roll. Man, it sounded good in there! Thanks to the congregation for making a bunch of heathens feel welcome.

A week later we entered the Man Cave here in Tacoma, where we sat in on a podcast with the friendly and entertaining crew at the Northwest Convergence Zone. You can hear the full interview courtesy of their archives.

- Matt

23 FEBRUARY, 2010

Post-show glow | It's always fun to hear back from people after a show. The e-mail below is from Alex in Seattle (bass player and lead vox for ADHD), who wrote us after Saturday night's little gig at the Mandolin Cafe:

You guys sounded terrific. I am a musician, and a prog-rock guy; For me, the ideal is where I can focus in on any single instrument and get a lot out of it, then listen to the "tapestry" woven by the interplay of the instruments. I had a LOT of that Saturday, very blissed out. The songwriting is excellent as well, and MB carries a lot of emotion in her voice, so all in all the music took me out of Tacoma AND Ballard for an hour or so. Great stuff.

I was floored by Greg. A VERY talented player indeed.

Not surprised a bass player noticed Greg's playing. The dude makes me dizzy.

- Matt

13 JANUARY, 2010

Colon blow | So because my mom had colon cancer in her thirties, it's accepted wisdom in the medical community that I must have a colonoscopy now every five years in order to screen for cancer. Never mind that I eat well, train vigorously year round, have an extremely efficient digestive system, etc.

I actually had a colonoscopy in my mid twenties after a nasty bout with giardia, just to make sure that my protracted recovery couldn't be attributed to anything else. For that one, I was given a sedative that kept me conscious throughout but saved me from any painful recollections due to its amnesiac properties. Thus, I had no memory of telling the doctor to "get that thing out of my ass!" But I guess that's what I said, among other things (I told my sister all about it on the way home, before promptly, mercifully forgetting the whole ordeal).

Colyte - yummy tummy fun!For this one, I warned my primary physician that my last one was a nightmare and that I didn't take well to the whole experience. No worries, he assured me. Colonoscopies have come a long way since my last one. After waiting as long as I felt comfortable before the referral expired, I dutifully called the clinic and made an appointment. While speaking to the receptionist, I also warned her: my last one was hell. No worries, she assured me. Our doctors are the best. You won't feel or remember a thing.

So Sunday I stuck with the clear liquid diet, as directed. At 6 p.m., I began consuming one gallon of yummy laxatives. The rumblings began about forty-five minutes later, and by eight o'clock, I was making regular, urgent trips to the bathroom. I gave up at midnight, having managed to finish 3/4ths of the regime (I was clean as a whistle by now). Then I popped my two prescribed pills (powerful laxatives designed to work first thing the next morning, just in case there's anything left) and tried to sleep. I'm proud to say there were no accidents. But I did have to get up for the 10-meter toilet sprint a couple times.

Flash forward to 8:45 a.m. the next morning. Despite my insurance company's best efforts to rewrite my referral (twice) in order to make me pay for 50% of it (even though the procedure is considered preventative medicine and is covered under my plan), I fork over only a small co-pay, as guaranteed by my original referral. Then after a short wait it's into the admitting room, where I put on my gown, sign lots of papers, and tell the nurse about that one time when I fainted after a phlebotomist couldn't find my vein during a routine blood draw. She, being the sweet and understanding and highly competent professional that she is, says she'll hook up my I.V. while I'm lying prone on a gurney. Good idea, I think. But then she has trouble with the I.V. (it won't take) and can't help commenting, "Would you look at that!" when she removes the botched I.V. I don't open my eyes and continue deep breathing. But I can imagine the geyser of blood just fine. Another nurse arrives and jams an I.V. into my other arm. Ouch. At least it takes.

I'm sweating now. They put a washcloth on my forehead and leave me alone to wait. More sweating. More deep breathing. Despite everyone's good intentions, I'm realizing this clinic runs a colonoscopy factory. I'm being herded through a maze of checkpoints, being passed off from one person to another. Of course I told the first nurse about my lousy experience the last time I had a colonoscopy. Of course she said this one would be no sweat. In fact, I could go out for a run later that day, she said, although I might get lost, due to the sedative that would still be coursing through my veins.

So now I'm being wheeled into the procedure room. It's dimly lit and adorned with machines that go bing, as the old Monty Python sketch goes. I think the ambience is supposed to be relaxing, but it strikes me as a tad spooky. The doctor, seated at a desk, has his back to me and is quietly filling out paperwork from the last case. Colonoscopy factory, indeed. When he finally turns to greet me, he skips straight to the heart of the matter: I absolutely must have a colonoscopy every five years. "I better get good at this," I reply. More banter about how my mom died of breast cancer and that there's a gene that proves colon cancer and breast cancer are directly related. Is this to comfort me? Get me in the proper mood?

The anesthesiologist, meanwhile, is struggling with the I.V. We might need to start a new one (Number 3!). More sweating. I'm watching my blood pressure rise on one of the machines. My heart rate, thanks to years of running, is still only in the low sixties. Of course, as dehydrated and depleted as I am (skinny guys shouldn't fast), I probably couldn't muster much of a heartbeat if I tried.

Finally, the I.V. is functional, and after a few seconds of conversation I can't remember, all goes black. I've been given two layers of sedation: 100mg of Meperidine (Demerol) and 10mg of Midazolam (Versed). My next few memories are patchy. Feeling dizzy and wanting to lie on the cool tiles next to a toilet (while the nurses are trying to help me dress myself). Mary Beth and Gibson coming into the recovery room to check on me (apparently I am bathed in sweat and am a nifty shade of gray). A brief struggle to sit up. More resting. The doctor's face appears in the curtains. Bad news. The procedure had to be aborted because I basically freaked out on the table. He asks if I'm bipolar or take sedatives or drink alcohol before bedtime. I think this is called bedside manner. The answer to all three: no. In my groggy state I look to MB for reassurance. "After sixteen years of marriage, I think I'd know if you were bipolar, honey," she says. Whew. "Make sure to reschedule another colonoscopy before you leave," the doctor says before making his exit. I'll need to use a different clinic, of course, one that is equipped to use actual anesthesia.

More brief flashes of memory. I don't fully come to until later that evening, when the reality of what has happened to me sets in. I feel... apocalyptic. I don't have cancer. I know it. Or do I? I don't need to suffer through another one of these? Or do I? Maybe they'll get the drugs right the third time. Maybe someone will listen to me when I try to tell them about my previous experiences. Maybe I'll end up in the emergency room with a perforated colon. Or dead on the table from my reaction to the anesthesia. What are the odds? Which ones should I fear the most? The ones belonging to the cancer or the procedure?

The next day feels just as dark. My short term memory has returned. Mary Beth fills me in on moments I can't remember, moments she gleaned from conversations with the doctor and the nurses. How I was apparently howling in pain, cursing the poor doctor, and demanding that he stop the procedure. How they tried giving me even more sedative, to no avail. How the nurses said I was as green-faced as the Wicked Witch of the West afterward. How I made stupid jokes as soon as I was able to sit up. How she had to explain everything to me twice, three times, on and on. I can't do this again. Can I?

Tonight, two days post-procedure, I feel myself again, more or less. I managed a short but effortless run in the rain (I'm lighter now!). If I ever go in for another colonoscopy, I will interview the doctor first. I will interview the anesthesiologist. If they listen to my story, if they see me as more than the next case to be hurried through, I might feel safe in their hands. Regardless, I'll continue to eat well, run hard, and enjoy my beautiful family.

- Matt

5 JANUARY, 2010

Happy New Year (S.A.D.) | Okay, the holidays are over, the Christmas tree has been dismantled, and it's time to settle in for the gloom. I think I'll go running in the rain.

- Matt


15 JULY, 2010

With Brad Fee at

Q. Can you tell us a bit about your history and how you first got involved with boutique pedals? Maybe you could share what first inspired you to start designing your own pedals, or describe the first pedal you built, or whatnot. I'm guessing you've had to pinch yourself a few times along the way as your passion has grown from a hobby into quite an impressive operation.

Brad Fee, ToneFactor.comA. It was totally a hobby that took on a life of it's own. I've been playing guitar since around the age of 15 or so, and was always into finding cool little boxes that made interesting sounds. Later on, when I discovered the internet, it opened up a whole new world for me. I started buying and selling a lot of pedals through gear classifieds, forums, and eventually ebay. Along the way I tried all kinds of things: building kits from Paia and Craig Anderton books, modding, tweaking, you name it. I also made quite a few friendships with pedal builders through gear forums, with guys like Nic Harris (Catalinbread), Robbie Wallace (RGW Electronics), and Brian Marshall (SubDecay), just to name a few. Those guys were really instrumental in encouraging me to jump into the business and see what would happen. When I started Tone Factor, I didn't really have a primary source of income in mind. I just thought it would be cool for my hobby to pay for itself. Surprisingly, and thankfully, it's grown beyond anything I imagined. We've expanded our inventory every single year that we've been in business. In 2008, I teamed up with my business partner, and the other half of Tone Factor, Larry, and it's grown considerably more since then.

Q. How did the Tone Factor web site come about? Is it difficult to manage the store, which sells gear from dozens of manufactures, and continue on with your own line of pedals (Mojo Hand)? Or do the two pursuits kind of work in tandem with each other?

A. The website was a natural extension of what I was already doing elsewhere. The retail side of things (Tone Factor) is my primary focus. I started out with very little inventory, and just constantly put everything that I could back into the business.

It's been a challenge trying to juggle two separate, but connected, business models. Mojo Hand for me is more of a labor of love. It came about from my desire to see simple, straight forward designs that just sound really good, with few bells and whistles, and no marketing gimmicks.

Q. You probably get this one all the time. You're stranded on an island and only get to have one pedal manufacturer at your disposal (your island miraculously has power, and you spend all your days playing guitar instead of foraging for food or chopping down coconut trees). Which will it be? In a similar vein, what pedal should every guitarist have on his or her pedal board and why?

A. This is a tough question. I like a lot of pedals. However, I'd have to say that I have so much respect and admiration for guys like Nic and Brian (from Catalinbread and SubDecay, respectively) that I would have to choose one of those two. Those guys put their heart and soul into their pedals. I've seen their brands grow right along with ours for years, and every single year they both put out better and more useful gear for musicians. I trust their ears and their skills and would be happy using pedals from either from now on.

As for what pedal every guitarist should have on their board, I'm going to cop out and say a tuner. :)

10 MAY, 2010

With Scott Ross

Q. You’ve been running your own studio, Elliott Bay Recording Co., for a handful of years now. How hard was it to go from being an employee at a studio to a co-owner? Any tough lessons along the way?

Elliott Bay Recording Co.A. I've owned a commercial recording studio for almost nine years now. Being an employee meant following certain rules set by the owner of a studio. Now that I'm an owner, I set certain rules and studio policies that I try to adhere to. So in that sense it's not really different. I always tried to make the sessions go as smooth as possible without any hangups, and it's the same whether you're the owner or employee. There are certainly more things that you're responsible for when you own the place, though. Aside from the huge expense of building the place and maintaining it (insurance, rent, upgrades, etc.), it's my full-time job, so my reputation is important and so is the work that I produce.

Q. What are the most common mistakes made by bands coming into record for the first time? Is there anything they can do ahead of time to make the experience more fruitful?

A. There are so many common mistakes bands make that really are just common sense mistakes. One of the big ones I'm always amazed at is when the band shows up late. I'm always there early, and I tell them that. If the session starts at 10 a.m. and I'm there setting up at 9:30, you'd think the band would get there at 9:30 and get a free half hour of studio time, or at least have the time to have some coffee and relax. More times than you could imagine the band will show up at 10:45. This has happened three times in the last week. So instead of getting there on time, or early, they've just wasted fifty dollars.

Also, bands always think that they're well rehearsed, but when they come into the studio, a lot of time is wasted working out parts. The studio is not the most cost-effective rehearsal room. It seems that when bands rehearse, they crank everything up to ear-splitting levels and never really hear the parts the other band mates are playing. When a band rehearses and are getting ready for the studio, they really need to know their songs without thinking about them. They should practice with a click track (not starting a day before the studio) and play the songs at various tempos, with and without the vocals. The studio can be a fun time, but it's a completely different scenario than live, and so should be rehearsed differently than for a live gig.

An important thing to remember, too, is that the studio takes a lot of energy and concentration. Don't party till 2 a.m. the day before the session. Playing a two-hour gig with lots of beer and noise isn't the same as ten hours straight in the studio working on your masterpiece. You have to be ready for it, mentally and physically.

Gear!One last thing (and there are so many more): don't just assume the studio has everything you need. I have a lot of guitar amps, drum sticks, guitars, mics, etc., but don't assume the studio has 9-volt batteries, extra guitar strings, new snare heads, fingernail clippers, a tuner. You should bring everything you need, and if the studio has something better, then use it, but don't get pissed if the studio doesn't have the kind of organic tea that you're used to drinking at home.

Q. If you could record any band, who would it be, and why?

A. The bands I really like are all old, and many of them have died. Pink Floyd is my favorite, so it would have been cool to at least been in one of their sessions to take on the vibe. I've worked with a lot of big names, so it's not really a thing I think about. I just like to work with good people who want to come out with a good product.

15 APRIL, 2010

With John Greengo

Q. You’ve done quite a bit of world traveling and shooting over the last few years, much of it with Art Wolfe and his crew. Can you describe a few of the highlights – and maybe a few lowlights as well?

John Greengo, photographerA. Highlights – all over the place, literally. My pick for the three coolest travel destinations are South Georgia Island, Bhutan, and Madagascar. Three very different places, but that's what I love – variety.

Scariest event was in Kenya on a ride from Masi Mara National Park into the capital, Nairobi. The paved road was in such disrepair that we spent most of the time driving on the shoulder, sometimes the right shoulder, sometimes the left. Oncoming cars would also be doing the same. At one point when we were on the potholed, broken up road, we had two oncoming cars on either side of us. It got so bad I had to put on my iPod and close my eyes.

Q. Does anybody still work with actual film, or is everything strictly digital now? Maybe you can share a little about your use of technology and how things have evolved for you over the years.

A. Film is dead for nearly all photographers. The few holdouts are having to pay higher and higher cost for the film and more importantly the processing. Most film processing has to be sent to another town to get done at this point.

Digital has really raised the quality of photography in general. There's so much more you can do now it's amazing. My favorite part is that every time I click the shutter it doesn't cost me twenty-five cents. I resisted digital for a long time, but as soon as I did a side-by-side test, I was sold. My photos are much better now. I find myself looking at my old work and shaking my head at the image quality. Of course, going digital also coincided with my job working with Art Wolfe, so that probably helped accelerate my photography a bit as well.

Q. Which was harder: running the Seattle Marathon, climbing Mt. Rainier, or carving out some personal space in India?

A. I found running a marathon and climbing Mt. Rainier very similar in their difficulty. Either one can be a little bit better or worse depending on how you feel that day. By the end of either one though, you're feel pretty wasted and a hot bath and about twelve hours of sleep feel really, really good.

India – I didn't mind the crowds; it was the noise that drove me nuts. By far the loudest place I've every been. Really loud car stereos, ones with really bad speakers, horns, loudspeakers, animals, people yelling – it's all pretty intense. We were at the Kumb Mela, the largest gathering of people ever on the planet. They had a loudspeaker system strung over the entire city blasting 24/7 things like prayers, announcements, lost children, etc. Not that I could understand a word of it, which probably helped. I slept with earplugs and noise-canceling headphones on, and it still seemed loud!

29 MARCH, 2010

With Peaugh

Q. We know a certain nine-year-old boy who, since discovering Transformers and the soundtrack to the second movie, has become a fan of Green Day, Linkin Park, and Nickelback, among others. Is there a certain type of band or music genre that appeals to Transformer fans?

PeaughA. I'm not entirely sure. I know any Transformers-related message board has fans of all kinds of various music. I don't know that there's any one particular type shared between all, or even most fans. I myself have an array of musical tastes all over the place, from classical to hard rock, Beethoven to Weird Al.

Q. You currently have more than 16,000 subscribers on YouTube (and 24 million views!?!). What inspired you to start reviewing Transformers and other toys and posting your reviews online? Any lessons or surprises along the way?

A. Honestly, I just thought it would be fun to do. I'd just gotten a little digital video recorder to document early childhood moments with my newborn daughter, and found myself getting a hold of some figures before they had hit general release, so I thought it would be fun to share the figures with the rest of the fandom. I was surprised early on by the sheer amount of negativity that can be found on the internet, especially once you're willing to put yourself up in the public spotlight, but the praise quickly came to outweigh the negative and it all worked out in the end.

Q. Do boys ever outgrow their toys? Or do they just pick more expensive ones as they get older? What keeps you coming back to Transformers and other toys?

A. I think boys can certainly outgrow their toys, but it's more likely that they'll grow into more expensive ones (or just hang on to the same ones!). I've always enjoyed collecting toys, but Transformers has always been a consistent collection. I think the appeal, for me at least, is that the line as a whole is based around the entire concept of change. Familiar faces remain familiar, but continue to grow and differ as time goes on. Take a character like Optimus Prime, for example. There have been several variations throughout the years, all recognizable as Prime, but all transforming in vastly different ways. That's where a lot of the appeal lies for me, in the "how did they do it this time?" I mean, Beast Wars came up with 7-8 different ways to transform a monkey into a humanoid robot! A lot of my interest is simply fascination with the design.

10 MARCH, 2010

With Michaela Eaves

Q. Can you tell us a bit about the Jet Artist Cooperative and how you got involved with the group?

Michaela Eaves, Tacoma artistA. Jet Artist Cooperative is run by the totally awesome Linda Danforth, who saw a lack of affordable spaces for artists to have a studio of their own. She runs a few spaces, and the one I'm in is located in a building owned by the University of Washington Tacoma. I think they plan on renovating it at some point, but until then, they've kindly let us artists make use of it. When they have an opening, it's listed on the Tacoma Art Listserv, which I saw the night after water started leaking onto where I had my painting table in my house. It seemed like an auspicious sign, and when I showed up, I was in love with the art school feel of everyone's easels and art stuff being set up in the large warehouse-like setting of the upper floor. The great lighting and excellent vibe totally makes up for the creepy ascent to the top through the maze of wood paneled and slanting stairs. Plus, there is horror movie-style elevator that makes hiding bodies easy.

Q. You recently started a Facebook page called Secret Tacoma, which has become mighty popular with highfalutin City of Destiny types. Are you still catching flack for outing our fair city? Any favorite posts so far?

A. Some secrets aren't better kept; I have no regret in outing Tacoma's. We all benefit from a thriving city, and we can take pride in not needing to go to Seattle for a fun night out. I feel like what makes a community are the little secret handshakes and argot of locales the citizenry share in common. Hearing someone talk about going to Milwaukee Cafe for breakfast or Sushi Tama for dinner is like an auditory wink and a nudge. When I saw the Secret Seattle group on Facebook, I knew Tacoma needed its own. There are so many great places to be discovered, enjoyed, and shared in T-town. I like to see local business get the recognition and customers they deserve. Selfishly, though, I did it because I love finding out the new places too. The most surprising thing is how fast that group filled out. I was hoping for maybe fifty peeps. If there are secrets that needed keeping in Tacoma, chances are you won't find them on Facebook.

Q. So... do you listen to music while you paint? Are there certain bands or types of music that help get the creative juices flowing? Or do you need silence? Or is it different every time you create something new?

A. Aw, music. I think it's fair to say painting wouldn't get done at all without it. They've done studies that show if you are listening to music and doing something creative, your brainwaves approach the state you find in advanced students of meditation. I definitely feel that way. Both have to be present to get you in that state. If there is no music, there is restless shifting and focusing too much -- thinking too much, I suppose. As for what kind, it has to be something I'm very familiar with. I can listen to the same cd over and over and not really notice how many times it's played. Lately it's been upbeat snappy stuff like the Killers, Firewater, Coldplay, and Muse. There's still room left for the occasional rainy day Depeche Mode marathon, or my favorite, Nine Inch Nails. I'm also getting used to new stuff, like by this band you may have heard of...Holes in the Bolivian Army, or was it the Entire Peruvian Embassy? Give me a sec; it'll come to me.