Posts By Tony Chavira

Tuesday, July 10, 2012 / 6:59 am

A Beat L.A. Kickstarter Requiem

$6,000, and how we got it.

by Tony Chavira

Beat L.A.

I pressed the “Submit” button on Kickstarter's project page with no sense of responsibility to it as a matter of course. Roughly two and a half weeks later, I realized what an idiot I was to ignore it so utterly.

But backtracking, I thought our video would get us there on based on its own merit, and that it was awesome for no other reason than that I made it myself in Adobe Premiere, in the same way that a hunter most enjoys the cooked meat of his own hunt. Just look at it.

Pretty good for someone whose mind grasps concepts descriptively and not visually, right?

Well, anyway, I thought so.

So like I was saying, our Kickstarter began with no fanfare whatsoever, except for a shameful plug on my own Facebook page and another, less shameful one on the FourStory Facebook page, which you should visit right now and befriend (or whatever verb one uses when they connect to non-persons on Facebook). Here's the link: Right here.

Immediately our video and project received a resounding round of generous donation by the likes of such noir-enthusiasts/good pals as Justin Ching, Katrina Chan, Kyle Covino, Jordan Harper, Dr. Chaosisorder Esq., and Mr. Charles Eldridge, whose unambiguous support for the good work/comics that FourStory executes warmed even the coldest and darkest region of our site's frigid internet heart.

Then, because of my immense good fortune in marketing through the internet, the donations completely stopped for 10 days. Gary, ever-connected to the Los Angeles non-profit underworld, quickly noticed our little problem and set me straight, to a fantastic lady by the name of Beverly, who was kind enough to sit down with me over a tea latte and slap the entitlement off my face.

“You think this is easy?” she asked rhetorically, smiling.

“I clearly think that I have no idea what to think,” I responded plainly, the first of my many confused responses throughout that conversation.

“How much time to you still have left?”

“Ten days. More or less.”

“Oh… that's okay,” she dismissed, then took a sip or two to make me wait, “You can do it.”

Finally, she proceeded to seize the javelin of reality and hurl it through the center of my brain with the simplest, most obvious advice anyone had ever given me about raising money for anything, which I will provide for you/everyone on the internet now:

“Don't be afraid to ask and don't stop asking.”

Not sure if you knew this, but most fundraising, for any project, depends on how much you can depend on your personal references and network for help. Just so you get a better sense, let me explain this point's importance more explicitly: The day after Beverly and I met, I sat in front of a computer and emailed the closest 30 people I knew, begging for their help to spread the word. To my surprise, a great many of them actually helped too.

But to my shock, they even wanted to order the book!

And with that, our first surge of cash burst forth from the webicopia… ushered in by the kindly Beverly herself, then by equally kindly friends Blake Barrett, Christopher Mortimer, DWKIV, Joe Mandia, Dave Smith, Cynthia Lozano, Farah Dakhlallah, Jason Joseph, Dawn Pace, Zachary Rees, Johnson Kwong, Reid Isaki, D'Artagnan Heath, and S.A. Johnson. Nine days left and we were well on our way to 1/6 of the money we needed to get this thing funded.

A quick aside, there are actually two pretty well-known funding avenues for creative projects (for those out of the know/unwilling to google/who do not care). First, obviously, there's KickStarter, the avenue we chose because we, at FourStory, figured it was the most well-known. But second, as it turns out, there is also IndieGogo, which hosts other massively successful creative projects throughout this and other suchs webs.

The key difference, from what I've seen, is that IndieGogo lets you keep whatever money you raise, whatever the the amount, and Kickstarter will not give you anything unless you hit your pre-determined cash goal by the time you specify. So if we had raised, for example, $2,000, on IndieGogo, we would still owe our funders the published books that we promised them. Our problem, which made Kickstarter our only option in the end, was that we simply could not afford to publish the books unless we ordered them in bulk to the tune of $6,000.

So either we raised it all, or our comic Beat L.A. died trying.

On day 17 of our 30-day Kickstarter campaign, as we rounded the $1,000 mark, I posted this, “Update #1: HUGE Thanks to our supporters so far!” and thanked the amazing people, mentioned above, that threw down their hard-earned money without reservation or waiting for pay day at the end of the month. Finally, this project–they possibly believed–was the reason credit cards had come to be invented.

And they were soon joined, and their assumptions were completely validated, by the addition of such stalwart sirens of good taste as Fernando Miceli, Victoria Bernal, Danny Louie, Doug Burch, Bill Crider, Rodney James Mallari, Veronica Jauriqui, our friends at Over The Edge Books, Jasmine, John Shannon, Bruce McRae, David Walker, and Alvin Oei.

With that, and now that Update #1 was armed with two–yes friends, two–Facebook likes, Gary and I knew that the time had come to begin addressing the internetworld with more than mere written words of encouragement: They had to be spoken, possibly shouted, from the high hills of high-tech! In this case, Youtube. From the comfort of Gary's armchair, again, as a matter of course, to pump up the e-crowd while explaining exactly how he came up with the idea of Bicycle Cop Dave, the first story in Beat L.A., which you can begin to read here:

Eight days remaining and I knew that I would soon sit in front of the camera, explain myself and my own reasons for writing the story of Brand & Reese, Gary Phillips's throwaway side characters cum my downtrodden, relectant hero-cops which you can begin reading here.

But Gary being who he is, another surge took place, led by the valliant button-clicking, FourStory-supporting, credit card-submitting efforts of Jason Wood, Jason, Ryan Fazulak, Axel, Winnie Swalley, Jon Lieberberg, Trevor Yang, Tracy Mallette, Norma Chavira, Herve Fumberi, Shan Wickramasinghe, Per Gunnarsson, Jean Miller, Aaron Steinfeld, Michael Plough, ArchVicar Stavromulla, Klaudia Aresti, Kevin Maginnis, and Ayira Khan!

Just as impressive, the Facebook “like” count beneath our project had bloated to an amazing number over 400, which I can't remember now because the final number ended up being 505! Were I some kind of mathematician, or–possibly–wizard, then only could I fathom just how many eyes had received the opportunity to see our project scroll down the ever-oppressive Facebook front wall of however many people happened to be using Facebook whilst that overwhelming degree of “liking” took place.

Now I knew, unequivocally, that something must be said, and so a day before June's final hour, I posted a video of myself, sitting in my office, where I meant to discuss how the idea of Brand and Reese came to be, though ultimately rambled on about things relatedmostly-- to my comic:

An instant flop on youtube, with a unjust 99 viewers out of billions (potentially), I could see our progress moving upward, but with no clear sign of cash tsunami on the horizon, how could one ever be certain?

So, despite my better judgement, my incessant sense of optimism, our passion for the subject matter, and sage advice from Beverly that “most donors give in the last five days”, my sadder animal instincts overwhelmed me and I did nothing for three, whole, days.

But lo… I logged into Kickstarter on July third, in the year of our lord, two thousand and twelve, and what did my eyes see? Support, my friends and colleagues, of all shapes and sizes, from the likes of such donors as will live in the halls of legend! Mark Woods! Michael Kurland! Amar Vidyarthi! Stacey Inza! Andrea Hanstein! Mike Plunkett! Shahla Rahimzadeh! Alistair Russell! Andrea Gibbons! Mimosa! Giora! Erin E.P. Morris! Jonathan MacFarlane! Jerome Aguesse! Dina Bahgat! Launa Eddy! Emily Lam-My! Priya! Julianne Yamamoto! Harrel Carman! Stan! Gerard Raiti! Robert Nakano! Hossein Khajoo! Bhanu B! And a fantastical contribution increase from the ever-generous DWKIV!!

Enlivened, emboldened and endeared to the recent showing of internet love, I posted another, frantic and furious video near our 75% mark…

…and then, with only four days remaining, the cavalry arrived, waving banners and firing into Beat L.A. a wave of hope not felt since the darkest hours of the American Revolution. It was, after all, July 2nd, and we are, after all, doing this for freedom.

To those cavalarymen and women, I and Gary Phillips salute you! Richard McHam! Scott! Pat! Ann Karaim! Solmaz Sharif! Bermina Jackson! Suzanne Epstein! Ruth Valadez! Forrest Sutton! Herman Choi! Helena Smelena! David Ricky Almada! Judith Teitelman! Celine! David Whitfield! Leslie Wong! Veronica! Melodi Brown! Robert Valley! Erik Tạ! Nick Ahlhelm! And, to top it off, a cherry-sized increase from our ever-supportive piller, our friend Beverly.

Thus you have all been named for your generousity, friendship and conviction, to bring Beat L.A. to life and help FourStory to fight another battle, another day, with-possibly–another comic in the future.

To your doorsteps will come your respective perks and to you, now, a thanks from the bottom of my heart. We could not have done this without you.

And to those out there whose spines tingle for noir and souls ache from a world of injustice, your $25 signed copy of Beat L.A. can yet still be secured from our Kickstarter page, which is right here. Do it for America, for justice, for the homeless, for the city of Los Angeles, for good cops everywhere, for what is right and true, and–most of all–for yourself who knows, deep down, that the good guys must win in the end.

That, I believe, is the story arc of our comic, Beat L.A., on Kickstarter.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012 / 10:30 am

Beat L.A. Kickstarter - $1,000 Update from Gary Phillips

We're getting there slowly but surely, but with only a few days left, kick in a few bucks and help us publish our comic!

by Tony Chavira

Brand, Reese and Dave

There are a lot of thanks due to our first 38 backers who believe in this project enought o put some money where their mouths happen to be.

Namely, Katrina Chan, Kyle Covino, DWKIV, Dawn Pace & Ryan Fazulak for purchasing full PDFs of Beat L.A. for $10; Justin Ching, Chaosisorder, Charles Eldridge, Beverly Keefe, Joe Mandia, David Smith, Cynthia Lozano, Jason Joseph, Zachary Rees, Johnson Kwong, Reid Isaki, D'artagnan Heath, S.A. Johnson, Fernando Micheli, Victoria Bernal, Danny Louie, Doug Burch, Bill Crider, Rodney James Mallari, Veronica Jauriqui, Over The Edge Books, Jasmine, John Shannon, Bruce McRae, David Walker, Alvin Oei, Jason Wood and Jason for purchasing $25 Beat L.A. books; and Blake Barrett, Chris Mortimer, Farah Dakhlallah and Gary for digging deep and buying our Beat L.A. $55 book and script combos! And finally, huge swathes of thanks also go out to Jordan Harper for simply donating $25!

Thanks for kickin' in, everyone… it means the world and beyond to us. And for everyone else out there, if you enjoy the stuff we do here on FourStory, buy yourself a copy and contribute to our Kickstarter campaign here:

Beat L.A., as you may or may not know, sprouted from Gary Phillip's original idea to follow the day-to-day dealings of a once-detective-now-bike cop named Dave Richter and–in the process–unravel some of the seedier over- and underworld interactions in probably the only currently-blossoming landscape in Southern California: Downtown Los Angeles.

Over the course of the story, Gary introduced us to Markus Brand and John Paul Reese, two beat cops that back Dave at every turn. When I sat down and thought about them, the lives they led in order to stay on the streets, the reasons they chose not to move upward through the ranks, their personal and professional tragedies and triumphs, and the insecurities that plagued them (as they plague us all), I came to realize that Gary had provided a rich and wild lens for me to view this city, and I couldn't wait to expand the graphic novel's already-epic scope.

Gary, charming as we all know he is, sat down and did a little proselytizing for the camera, fleshing out how he came up with the idea of Bike Cop Dave and how the idea was informed by his experiences working and living in Los Angeles.


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Tuesday, June 5, 2012 / 2:38 pm

BEAT L.A. - A FourStory Comic Kickstarter

Bike Cop Dave and Brand & Reese, in all their tradeback glory.

by Tony Chavira

No doubt you've noticed Gary Phillips's and my respective ongoing comic series. Bicycle Cop Dave, Gary's hard-boiled rollercoaster of misdeeds unfolding from the darkest corners of Downtown Los Angeles has been published in full here at FourStory and can be read from page one right here.

Tony's downward-spiraling, desperately-trying, incessantly-complying beat cops, Brand & Reese, are still just barely holding their heads above water up to Page 55, which published today right here. The cloudburst of cold and calculated anarchy that unravels the haphazardly-woven political and economic fabric of downtown Los Angeles begins with page one, right here.

Given that we all love holding well-bound books in our pretty little hands (and that its a little more difficult to lick-and-flick pages on a website than an honest-to-goodness book), Gary, Nathan and I decided that it would be exciting to put together a Kickstarter campaign together to print out 1,000 tradepaper copies of Gary's, Tony's, and our kickass artist pal Manoel Magalhães's full, interconnected supercomic, which we've titled Beat L.A.

Obviously, we'd love to see our baby in print, we've love for you to have a copy of your own (especially if you've been following along), and we'd love even more to see your support! So tell your friends, tell your parents, tell your local politicians and even tell their shady, anonymous contributors to click on this link, and help us fund our little printing project by picking up your own copy of Beat L.A.! Your support means the world to us and we can't wait to see your happy faces when you open that package and tear through your own Beat L.A. tradeback.

I mean, how can you say no to these smiling faces?

So click here to head straight on over to our Kickstarter page and join in on the madness!

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Monday, May 7, 2012 / 7:00 am

Private Prisons, Hip Hop, Conspiracies and Truths

Private prison advocacy met with the hip hop community in the 90s, and made music more violent to reinforce their bottom line.

by Tony Chavira

Blacks in Prison

The other day, this was posted on the blog Hip Hop Is Read:

After more than 20 years, I've finally decided to tell the world what I witnessed in 1991, which I believe was one of the biggest turning point in popular music, and ultimately American society.[…]

Between the late 80's and early 90’s, I was what you may call a “decision maker” with one of the more established company in the music industry.[…] [E]arly 1991, I was invited to attend a closed door meeting with a small group of music business insiders to discuss rap music’s new direction. Little did I know that we would be asked to participate in one of the most unethical and destructive business practice I’ve ever seen.

The meeting was held at a private residence on the outskirts of Los Angeles. I remember about 25 to 30 people being there, most of them familiar faces.[…] Our casual chatter was interrupted when we were asked to sign a confidentiality agreement preventing us from publicly discussing the information presented during the meeting. […] A few people refused to sign and walked out. No one stopped them.

Quickly after the meeting began, one of my industry colleagues (who shall remain nameless like everyone else) thanked us for attending. […] The subject quickly changed as the speaker went on to tell us that the respective companies we represented had invested in a very profitable industry which could become even more rewarding with our active involvement. He explained that the companies we work for had invested millions into the building of privately owned prisons and that our positions of influence in the music industry would actually impact the profitability of these investments. I remember many of us in the group immediately looking at each other in confusion.

[…] The more inmates, the more money the government would pay these prisons. It was also made clear to us that since these prisons are privately owned, as they become publicly traded, we’d be able to buy shares. […] My daze was interrupted when someone shouted, “Is this a f****** joke?” At this point things became chaotic. Two of the men who were part of the “unfamiliar” group grabbed the man who shouted out and attempted to remove him from the house. A few of us, myself included, tried to intervene. One of them pulled out a gun and we all backed off. They separated us from the crowd and all four of us were escorted outside.

[…] I remember word for word the last thing he said, “It’s out of my hands now. Remember you signed an agreement.” He then closed the door behind him. The men rushed us to our cars and actually watched until we drove off.

Read more ...

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Saturday, April 28, 2012 / 5:00 am

Street Artist Mear One on the Riots

After 25+ years in the graffiti and fine art scene, Mear One talks about politics, race, and discourse in L.A.

by Tony Chavira

New World Disobedience

It was raining the night Mear One met me at Hold Up Art to do some live painting and talk to me about the state of political discourse before, during and after the 1992 Riots. He warmed himself up, the music came on,  a crowd surrounded us and I started writing while he tore into the canvas furious with an array of paint, razors and pencils.

He had been working in Los Angeles since the mid-80s and had probably been arrested for graffiti, alongside CBS (Can't Be Stopped - City Bomb Squad) and WCA (West Coast Artist) friends dozens of times over the years for refusing to fall within the narrow definitions of graffiti as solely vandalism. His work had always been political, but he (and I) wanted to talk about the particular effect that the 1992 riots had on him and the politicization of the street art community that led to the kind of work that's being done now.

Read more ...

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Monday, April 23, 2012 / 5:00 am

I Was Ten Years Old

When I was ten, I saw a man beaten half to death by police I was supposed to trust. And I saw them get away with it.

by Tony Chavira

Florence and Normandie

I was ten years old on April 29, 1992, when our Monterey Park middle school’s A/V staff wheeled carts with television sets into my classroom so that we could watch the outcome of the Rodney King trial. Though the vast majority of the students in my grade were ethnically Mexican or Asian and though we were only kids, what had happened was still very clear to us. We had all seen the footage of Rodney King’s beating on television and most of our elders, though trying to be impartial, were confident the officers were guilty of abuse, and legitimately shocked, in front of us, when they found out that the cops were let off the hook.

Thinking back, I remember the weird feeling of knowing that the riots were happening a few miles away but only seeing them on television. It was as though we were nowhere nearby, yet everyone had a strong reaction to them. Strange as it may seem, I grew up in a place with no white or black people, so I had almost no understanding of Los Angeles’s racial dynamics. Everything I knew was told to me by my parents. My mother was born in Oakland and raised in Huntington Park in one of the only Mexican families in a city already divided into white and black districts during the 1950s and ’60s. My father grew up a first-generation American in East L.A., and remembered the disdain of older Jewish East L.A.ers who felt like the riffraff were taking over. Or, I guess, coming back.

Read more ...

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Monday, April 9, 2012 / 9:58 am

An Occupy L.A., Occupy Venice & FourStory Gallery: The Photos!

A recap of events and some highlights from the show!

by Tony Chavira

the show's banner

Last Saturday's gallery at Vortex came together beautifully, as Occupy L.A., Occupy Venice and FourStory were able to feature some amazingly talented artists and the occupations partially recreated the culture of their public space that was once on the lawn in front of Los Angeles city hall.

We'd love to publicly e-thank Occupy Los Angeles and Occupy Venice again for putting together such a great event! In the words of the Austrian artist Gottfried Helnwein, “Art is a weapon for me, with which I can strike back.”

Below are images (for those who couldn't make it) taken by the talented photographer Rush Valera, Occupy L.A.'s Patrick Chavira, and myself for you to snoop through as you foraciously absorb your RDA of internet.

Feel free and click any of the pictures to reveal a larger version. Or view the slideshow.

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Friday, March 30, 2012 / 10:15 am

An Occupy L.A., Occupy Venice & FourStory Gallery: This Saturday Night

Come to Vortex in Downtown L.A. Saturday Night for a Gallery for Justice and Equality.

by Tony Chavira

Occupy Gallery Poster 1

A little surprise… the good folks at Occupy Los Angeles and Occupy Venice have been coordinating with us here at and the equally good folks at the Vortex in Downtown Los Angeles to put together a little one-night-only gallery of the works of those who sat out there in the rain and wind and chilly weather protesting the injustices of our economic and political system.

Over 30 artists are involved with this project and should be a fun time! The event starts at 7pm and the Vortex is located at 2341 East Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90022. And because we're just so darn helpful here at FourStory, here's a map:

Read more ...

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012 / 5:00 am

Facebook: In the Mind of Madness

What happens when a company's business plan depends on making you more vain?

by Tony Chavira

Seeking Attention with Facebook

When Mitt Romney's future policies were questioned by The Weekly Standard this week, his response revealed his scary and ominous sensibility that many people (aka organizations, since they are people too, my friend) share: that the laws of our country do not apply to him…

[…] “I think it’s important for me to point out that I anticipate that there will be departments and agencies that will either be eliminated or combined with other agencies. So for instance, I anticipate that housing vouchers will be turned over to the states rather than be administered at the federal level, and so at this point I think of the programs to be eliminated or to be returned to the states, and we’ll see what consolidation opportunities exist as a result of those program eliminations. So will there be some that get eliminated or combined? The answer is yes, but I’m not going to give you a list right now.”

In other words, “I might do it, but why tell you the blood-curdling details if you're just going to hate them and not elect me?”

Read more ...

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Monday, March 26, 2012 / 5:51 pm

A Nice Story For A Nice Day

And it all started with a nice kid getting robbed...

by Tony Chavira

Nolan Turner

Because this was a hard Monday to get through after last night's episode of Mad Men and you've been extra good lately, I have a nice little story for you that begins with a tragic turn of events:

Seated in his wheelchair, Nolan Turner, 12, staked out his neighborhood Thursday evening to sell water bottles and raise money to bring his wheelchair basketball team to his elementary school.

“Everybody at school has been asking me what it’s like to (play basketball) in a wheelchair, and I want to show them,” the Briarcliff Elementary fifth-grader said.

He had already collected more than $250 – kept in a bucket – of the $1,000 needed to bring the experience of playing wheelchair basketball to his schoolmates.

But as he began to work the neighborhood near High Meadow Drive about 6:30 p.m., a man he didn’t recognize grabbed his money bucket and unhurriedly walked away, according to Cary Police Department Capt. Mike Williams. Nolan yelled and screamed at the man but was helpless to follow him.

Meanwhile, his dad went to, a site to post projects like this, and raised more than $500, which Nolan didn't realize until he came home. Here's what his dad initially wrote on the donation site:

My son Nolan Turner is trying to bring his wheelchair basketball team sponsor, BridgeIISports, to his school Briarcliff Elementary so that all of his friends can experience what it is like to play sports in a wheelchair.  He really enjoys it.

Then, finally, this happened and solidified Nolan's father as a formal candidate for Father-of-the-Year:

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