A conversational podcast about people and how they make their way in the world. Tangents often include why people think the world is the way it is, the root causes of things and what we can change about it. Topics cover philosophy, politics, religion, society, art, music, technology and, ultimately, mortality. Brian Parra rants about his Humanist worldview, liberal politics, spiritual quandaries, cultural fascinations and wacky ideas.
If you have a topic you'd like me to address or would like to join me on this podcast for a free form conversation that will be mostly about you and what you're into, contact me here. I'm willing to review your art, music, or discuss your work or passion.
I have a conversation with Greg Daniels, owner of OneWebsitePlease.com, a full-service website development company, and host of the Untitled Personal Podcast Project. Greg and I share some conversational proclivities, mainly, never missing an opportunity to go off on a tangent and jumping off the deep end, reading the infinite in the mundane. Needless to say, it's a long episode. We talk about how his podcast and the mix of personalities featured led to some pretty testy moments between people with differing opinions. We talk about the nature of belief and what it takes for religious believers to reconsider their world view. Greg makes the case that Teddy, my son, is a minor web celebrity. My daughter punches Greg in the nuts. We discuss the oddly compelling world of the live-streaming app, Periscope. I ask Greg to weigh in on the political lip service heaped on small business owners as the economic engine of this country and we end up discussing the seemingly intentional and focused disenfranchisement of voters as a way to control elections and maintain power. We talk about what liberty, freedom, and happiness meant to the founding fathers. Greg and I agree 100% on the important issue of NOT wearing socks with sandals. We review Captain America:Civil War and unpack all the political allegory offered up in the movie. This discussion contains SPOILERS for Civil War. During my rant, I make the case that Republican primary voters who are unhappy with Trump as the nominee should change the race now by switching party affiliation and voting for Bernie Sanders in the remaining Democratic primaries and caucuses.
This week, I have a conversation with an advocate for Universal Basic Income (UBI), Saul Of-Hearts, author of Back to Basics: Why A Universal Basic Income Is The Ultimate Safety Net. We discuss UBI, a very progressive social program that provides an unconditional stipend given directly to each citizen, providing a baseline income. Over the last few years I've heard UBI championed as a potential solution for many social problems like disproportionate income distribution, poverty, hunger, the automation of the workforce, and as economic stimulus. I explain how I came to understand UBI and give Saul an opportunity to defend it while playing Devil's Advocate. We get into the particulars of how a social program like this might work and how it might get paid for. I mention two examples of UBI ideals on display in the middle of American's ultra-conservative bastion, Thomas Paine's Agrarian Justice and Alaska's oil dividends, the Alaska Permanent Fund. I suggest a realignment of our priorities and how we value life and labor in the emerging global tech economy. At the start of interview Saul mentions he lives in an ecovillage, an intentional community based on resource sharing and cooperation. He writes for the Fellowship of Intentional Community, a resource for those living in cooperative communities and discusses a bit about his day-to-day routine and how he be became interested in this way of life. Saul gives a review of science fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin's book, The Dispossessed. I rant about third party candidates and how they can split constituencies, giving the wins to less-preferred candidates. Looking into the idea of getting to choose a "second choice" vote to address this issue, I stumble across the Marquis de Condorcet, a French mathematician and Enlightenment Age thinker who is the namesake of the Condorcet Method, a way to vote by ordering candidates by preference, so the win given to the person with the most support of the voters, not a simple plurality. During the recording, I incorrectly refer to it as "second choice" voting, which is a term I must have invented myself in a fever dream. I see this as a way to allow third party candidates to participate without splitting majority constituencies and as a way to loosen the grip of the American two-party system.
I have a conversation with Lavada Luening, co-founder of the Southeast Wisconsin Secular She-Thinkers and host of the the Secular TV web series, The Secular She-Thinker. She's speaking at the Shift to Reason Conference in Saskatchewan, Canada on April 30th. She's a popular secular, atheist, feminist, and liberal activist and writer whose work was, before last week, featured on a popular "freethought" website, but removed by the publisher after a dispute about what other sorts of nonsense gets published under the banner of freethought went public. I reached out to Lavada and asked her for the inside scoop and we pontificate on the meaning of freethought and how it's stretched to include all sorts of nonsense. We talk about the Wisconsin and California Primary and do some strategy planning for Bernie Sanders in case he doesn't get the Democratic nomination. I ask Lavada to defend her use of racy photos of herself on social media to advance her feminist agenda, and she coins the term, "Honeypot Activism." I do as one does when you interview a feminist: tell sexist jokes. I rant about the the hornet's nest of anger and vitriol I stumbled into when I tried to troll a few of my friends with a fake Pussycat Dolls meme that went viral after being shared by notable drag queens Guillotina Munter and Yara Sophia, amassing 26k+ shares in four days. I use the opportunity to ponder our own advancing mortality when we realize that our musical idols are dying at a seemingly faster rate than normal.
I have a conversation with Brittney Ritter aka B Sharp, a familiar face in the Ventura Karaoke scene and organizer of the Sans Souci Book Club. Brittney is a double English and History major at California State University Channel Islands, a person after my own heart, and she shares how her introverted childhood and obsession with reading literature lead her to Hip Hop and writing poetry. Locals might be familiar with B as the unassuming girl who explodes with passion and rapid fire lyrics when she gets behind the microphone and her favorite track is playing. We talk about bearing the burden of caring for her family at a young age and how that shaped her relationship to nightlife and (not) drinking. We talk about how people abuse the person who answers the phone for pizza delivery and where to find secret access to the rooftops of Downtown Ventura. We cover B's results on the Briggs-Myers Personality Test (and mine too) and discuss how being an introvert affects art and creativity. We wonder aloud if literature and the study of English has any use anymore and mention the dire situation of one of Ventura's long standing book sellers. B Sharp sings Handlebars by the FloBots. I rant about the new Harriet Tubman $20 bill, the lower life expectancy of white women and the higher life expectancy of black men in America and the War on Christmas and suggest White Privilege is the common thread between all those stories.
I have a conversation with songwriter Zeke Berkley, who just released his second solo album, Berkley II, which I had the honor to review ahead of its release earlier this year. We talk about his craft writing songs, how he puts together albums, and deals with criticism. We discuss the lost of his best friend and musical collaborator, drummer Hunter Cook, and how his passing shaped Zeke's solo efforts. Zeke performs two songs in my studio and I pester him with questions about the definition of the word, "dignity" which involves, somehow, the plot of the Vince Vaughn screwball comedy The Watch. Zeke uses my podcast as a platform to rave about the Tom Cruise flick The Firm and then we delve into the cultural worth of The Star Wars prequels, Episodes I-III, which Zeke loves so much he should probably marry them. We then write a song together about the Phantom Menace, in which I try and fail to harmonize and play the tambourine. We call out people on the internet with similar names as us, including the other Brian Parra, the owner of the unhyphenated brianparra.com. I rant about the concept of cultural appropriation in light of the recent viral video concerning dreadlocks and confess to being a teenage cultural appropriator.
Acoustic performances from this episode
Sink (Acoustic) by Zeke Berkley [File Download]
Dignity (Acoustic) by Zeke Berkley [File Download]
I have a conversation with Jason Amelio, frontman for the long-lived tongue-in-cheek metal band, Fangboy and the Ghouls, author of urban fantasy novel, Jake Swift: Knight, and voice of Foe the Destroyer in The Velveteen Band. Fangboy plays their last show on April 9th after a 21-year run as Ventura's metal jokesters and I ask him about his band and what "being part of the scene" even means, if anything. We talk about the accessibility of creating art in the modern age and the recent phenomenon of conventions and the ever-more compartmentalized character of music. We deal with having daughters and what the difference is between the literary genres, fantasy and hard fantasy. We dissect the problems with the conspiracy theorist mindset and praise the efficiency of the DMV. Jason airs his concerns about Bernie Sanders' bid for the presidency and we basically predict the end of civilization in a generation or two if Star Trek doesn't happen, and fast. I lament the passing of a local teen killed in an experiment gone wrong and agonize over the choice between keeping our kids safe from harm or letting kids explore and experiment with the world around them.
I have a conversation with Dan Flores, manager and voice of Fum the Puppet of The Velveteen Band a multi-genre steampunk band that plays Ventura regularly and is a common sight at steam and comic conventions all over California. Dan has been involved in lots of Ventura bands over the years and always brings a sense of a humor and showmanship to whatever project he's involved with. He's a kindergarten teacher who teaches in Spanish and I ask him about the idea behind that sort of education and how he balances work, life and art. We talk puppets and about a certain seven and a half foot tall rabbit that never seems to be in the same room as Dan. Dan's old band, Force 4-D provided one of the most delightful performances in Anal Family Christmas history and we recount how that came about, including the tribulation of Mr. Dan Watson who was stuck in a box for several hours with nothing more than cigarettes and a bottle of whiskey to comfort him. Dan tries his best to drag me back into producing local music events and I recount the saga of the Local Rock Picnic. Dan sells me on the Netflix series Daredevil and we wonder aloud why Marvel comics have translated well into movies and DC comics have not. I offer up an analogy for understanding human conscience and why it's so difficult to equate distant human suffering with suffering that hits closer to home.
This week, I have a conversation with my long-time friend and former business partner and American Cheese Band bandmate, Travis Whitlock. Travis is currently running The Spindown Record Club, a box-of-the-month club meets Netflix mailer-esque service delivering vinyl records paired with microbrew beer and wine and selling his charcoal drawings via Dapper Crow Art. We talk about how we came to be music promoters in the Ventura music scene by way of the of putting together elaborate campfire shows in the Boy Scouts and what it means to, "slop one's dripper." He details his family's journey across the states to find a place that worked for them and we chat about kids and what music you should expose them to. Answer: "Saturday Morning: Cartoons' Greatest Hits." Travis talks about the myriad projects he's launched over the years, from websites selling punk baby clothes, launching a record label, a record distribution company, a music merch website, and several others. Travis suggests Humbolt is the strangest place in California and we discuss what it means to be an artist and why getting paid to create art made him not want to make art anymore. We defend both being house husbands and Travis lays out his theory about alien encounters. I jam out to the song "Check Your Bones," by the band My Goodness from their record Shiver + Shake on Votiv. I rant about voting for Bernie even though Hillary has the delegate math on her side.
This week, I have a conversation with Camilo Alvear, a comedy promoter who produces a weekly comedy open mic, The Glory Hole at the Hong Kong Inn, and regular headline comedy showcases with his partners in the 805 Comedy Underground. Camilo talks about the comedy scene in Ventura and how he built a community of comedians and fans after being banned from the major comedy club in town. Camilo drops a bombshell about his employment status and Brian credits hosting Camilo's 27th Birthday Roast as part of the inspiration to produce this podcast. We extoll the virtues of Karaoke and Camilo does an amazing Jorge Riverol impression. We discuss the effect of El Nino on Ventura's sandy beaches and what the difference is between Ventura and Hawaii. Camilo plots the perfect murder using the items found in my garage. I rant about Donald Trump's lack of core values and how that might be a good thing.
This week, I have a conversation with Goat (God Of All Texas), a musician and street performer in Austin, TX, by way of Ventura, CA, who walks the streets at night, clad in nothing more than a thong, a few bandannas and a flag draped across his back playing music and taking pictures with tourists. In 2013, a video of a backyard performance of his band, G.O.A.T and Your M.O.M., performing the song, "Quack Like A Duck," went viral after being featured as a "Video Breakdown" on Tosh.0. We talk about what it's like to have a video go viral, and the life of an profane musician living the dream. We talk through his Netflix queue and, again, I rail against Chloe Grace Moretz and Goat wonders aloud why girls with huge foreheads don't know about bangs. We explore the possibility of building a porn empire by providing college girls with cigarette money and Goat talks about the movie Ex Machina and gives us his take on sex robots of the future and whether or not they should be programmed to nag you. WARNING: This conversation is very explicit and includes a very frank discussion of one man's (That man being Goat) very particular sexual proclivities. It's definitely not one for the kids. I do my best Dustin Hoffman ala Hook impression and call, "Bad Form!," on Marco Rubio and Black Lives Matter activist Ashley Williams.
This episode I record myself getting a haircut by Kyle Wyner, my hairstylist of over a dozen years. This recording takes place in the very busy Cruz Vincent Salon in midtown Ventura and there is a lot of background noise, but give it a chance. Kyle is a very outgoing and engaging guy who is a familiar face in Ventura. We talk shit about Supercuts, obviously, and then talk about the "Bakersfield Sound" an influential style of country music and what Buck Owens and Korn have in common. Kyle talks about the value of ego over attitude when building confidance. Talk turns to the racial make up in California, the sad plight of Native Americans and why Mexicans grow mustaches. We rave about local music and some of the people that make the Ventura scene unique. Kyle and I fundamentally disagree about Lady Gaga. I rant about Kesha's music contract woes and wonder why we undervalue musical talent in record contracts.
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I have a conversation with Lisa Bean, whom you might be familiar with as Boh Nellis, host of The Spliff Potcast. She’s an advocate for safe, legal access to medical marijuana. We talk about state and local politics and guess at the various reasons why the stigma against marijuana use still exists. We talk about her upbringing with an adoptive family and what it was like to reconnect with her biological mother after many years. Lisa is embarking on a career as a voice over actor and we discuss the ins and outs of her craft. I rant about Chloë Grace Moretz. We talk about the relative dangers of marathon running compared to pot smoking and why people love shoving bacon and cheese down their throats. We play an improv version of the segment, “I’m Not An Expert, But…” and I take a moment to review a blog post I wrote about Donald Trump a few weeks back that suggests he really wants to drop out of the race and wonder if it's still relevant. (Spoiler: I think it is.)
I have a conversation with Julia San Bartolome, three-time winner of Food Network's Cupcake Wars, who happens to be my cousin. We talk about winning and losing Cupcake Wars, her love life and why food is such a personal experience. She talks about who is eye candy in the local band The Army of Freshmen and why the Poseidon Brewing Company is the best in Ventura. We chat about dating in the age of Tinder and our family's idiosyncratic food culture and the supremacy of enchiladas entomatadas. She helps me conceive of a new segment I'll call, "Isn't that the one where..." where she guesses at the plots of movies she hasn't seen. She even coins the word, "catapulyst," Sarah-Palin style (catapult+catalyst, obviously.) I rant about the blowback over the hilarious Bernie vs. Hillary meme and get everybody to calm the fuck down.