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eXiled Alert! / September 9, 2009

Exiled editor Yasha Levine has officially hit the Big Time. The front page of Victorville’s Daily Press newspaper featured a profile of our fearless Domestic War Correspondent, his life, his wisdom, and his work, as well as a Q&A sidebar to help locals get to know the celebrity in their midst. A full-color photo of Levine is splashed marquee-like on the front page, of course.

What helps make the Levine front-pager so juicy are the other headlines it shares the page with, like, “Man arrested after home is discovered to be a meth lab.” No, that’s not about Mr. Levine’s home. Yuh hear that, Mr. Occifer, Sir? Nothin’ but Pabst Blue Ribbon, Marlboro Reds, and lots of crumpled paper in the Levine household, sir. Though we can’t promise anything. After all, the man is about to celebrate the six month anniversary of his self-imposed Victorville exile.

Read the full article below, written by the lovely and talented Brooke K. Edwards, and then go to the Daily Press site to see Levine get bashed by the local right-wing comment troll militia.

Yasha Levine Victorville Daily Press Photo

Observing Victorville: Gonzo journalism from the “Key City”

September 08, 2009 5:26 PM

BROOKE EDWARDS Staff Writer

VICTORVILLE • When the Russian government shut the alternative paper “The eXile” down for being just a little too outspoken, Yasha Levine and his cohorts left Moscow and hit the road with their gonzo-style journalism.

One editor is now dispatching from Florida and another from New York, contributing regular updates to eXiledOnline.com.

“The housing collapse began to fascinate me,” said Levine, who was born in St. Petersburg and grew up in San Francisco. “I wanted to see it, to see what it was like to live there and to look at the forces that made this happen.”

After studying maps and visiting several potential ground zeros, Levine said the aftermath of Victorville’s boom and bust cycle easily edged the High Desert’s Key City to the front of the line for an experiment in immersion writing.

Levine moved into his McMansion in March, paying $1,150 per month for a home that could fit his previous apartments inside any one of its three bedrooms — the allure he believes is at the heart of the much of the city’s ills.

“It’s strange, but life out here has appealed to me in ways I did not expect, making me an unlikely defender of the desert lifestyle,” Levine said. “But it has also scared the c— out of me. Because out here, you can’t help but see the scam at the heart of the American Dream.”

The Web site is gritty, as Levine writes the way he speaks: Reflective, thought-provoking observations littered with F-bombs and blunt criticism.

He describes his first visit to a local dive bar and “ghetto bird watching,” as a helicopter circled above his home blaring a description of a suspect on the loose. He blasts Victorville’s high concentration of fast-food restaurants, with a 4-1 ratio over Los Angeles by his calculations, and how Hunter S. Thompson even bypassed the city for Barstow on his drug-induced journeys to Las Vegas and back.

But Levine’s pieces are also laced with a fondness for the landscape and for the people he’s getting to know. With clear sympathy for those he feels were sold dreams that will never happen, he talks about how one of the few occupied homes on his block recently emptied out as his neighbor moved to Colorado after months of being unable to get a job.

Along with his “eXiled” posts, Levine earns a living freelancing and has written for big-name publications, including Wired, Slate, Time and Playboy.

Levine’s latest dispatch, examining the water use of the planned Dr Pepper Snapple plant is available on the left-leaning AlterNet.org.

In coming weeks, Levine said, “I’ll be taking a closer look at a few of the extremely costly and downright shady development projects thought up by the city in the past few years. Projects that were almost designed to fail at taxpayers’ expense.”

He has much to say, for example, about the absurdity of federal tax dollars bailing out Goldman Sachs as a corporation, while local tax dollars are still on the line for a contract with the company to finance the struggling Victorville 2 powerplant.

“But in the warped, ‘pro-growth, pro-business’ logic of a city on the frontier of Southern California’s urban sprawl,” Levine writes of these projects, “the plan made perfect economic sense.”

Brooke Edwards may be reached at 955-5358 or at bedwards@VVDailyPress.com.

Here’s the question and answer session:

Q & A with Yasha Levine

Q. Why Victorville?

A. …I looked at many different boom cities and suburbs up and down California. Victorville — and the rest of the High Desert around it — stood out from the competition. Victorville embodies the Bubble City like no other. It doubled in size in less than 10 years and became the second-fastest growing city in 2007, yet had no local economy growth to warrant the massive settlement, let alone support it. But it’s not just about the cold, hard stats. Victorville is amazing in terms of its location: it is the literal frontier of America’s suburban sprawl. It’s an outpost, really … You could say that Victorville was, and still is, the Wild West of the housing boom.


Q. What were your first impressions on moving to town?

A. The first thing I noticed when I crossed over the mountains on the 15 was that the news radio station I was listening to switched over to a local station with a sermon about Jesus Christ — something about him rewarding those who seek him and have faith in him. I never did find much else on that dial.


Q. And after several months living in “Brentwoodz?”

A. A few months ago, I remember coming across some promo material put out by the City of Victorville selling it as the perfect place to raise a family, that it had plentiful and secure employment, safe neighborhoods and good schools. In my neighborhood, it seems like at least one in four houses stand empty, the strip mall storefronts are emptying out and about the only places doing brisk neighborhood business are liquor stores. And then there are the police helicopters that fly overhead looking for criminals. I don’t know about family raising. To me, it looks more and more like Victorville has become a receptacle for the gentrified poor, who were forced out of cities and lured out here with promises of job growth and a tranquil suburban life.


Q. What are some of the larger political and economic issues you see typified in Victorville?

A. The unholy union between politicians and various vested business interests. Some people will call it graft or corruption. In Victorville, you can see it in the very generous relationship that exists between the city government and real estate developers. Victorville’s pro-business, pro-growth attitude is one of the reasons why the city boomed and crashed as hard as it did. But what’s best for business is not always what’s best for people, and more often than not the two are at odds. And as far as I can tell, local politicians here did everything to please the business end, while doing little to look out for the interests of their constituency, the very people that elected them. It’s a problem that exists at every level of government, from state to federal.


Q. You’ve said that for all the problems you see, you’ve still fallen in love with this city. What sparked that?

A. My love for this place is hard to pin down. Just a few months before moving out to Victorville, I was living in Moscow, Russia, working as an editor at a bad-boy English language newspaper called “The eXile,” until the Kremlin shut us down last summer. So moving out to the desert was a huge contrast to the cramped, hectic life of a metropolis dweller. I must admit, I am beginning to buy into that whole “healthy desert living” thing. And I do enjoy taking my guns out among the Joshua trees and blowing things up.

Check out Yasha Levine’s dispatches from Victorville here. Or check out these choice posts: Anti-Obama Care in the Middle of the Desert, Are Subprime Cities Becoming America’s Guglags? and Ghetto Bird Watching with Yasha Levine.

Update: Yasha Levine continues his Victorville adventures…in the pages of NFSWCORP

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20 Comments

Add your own

  • 1. Sin Fronteras  |  September 9th, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Dude, the sidewalk picture makes you look like you got some kind of devo thing going on. Just sayin’. Cuz devo is fuckin cool,

  • 2. jimmy james  |  September 9th, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    I was gonna say that the way that photo is set up makes it look like you’re wearing a tin foil hat. That it couldn’t have been unintentional. And that they don’t like you over there. But than I got mesmerized by your rugged handsomeness.

  • 3. adolphhitler  |  September 9th, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    its just like i said yasha…you’ve become a local…it is a state of mind…pretty soon even rancho cucamonga will look good to you

  • 4. Willie Mulholland  |  September 9th, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    Victorville . . . Barstow . . . Victorville . . . Barst-

    My God, how does one choose?

  • 5. wengler  |  September 9th, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    The amount of truth in that article is going to bring some heat down on that reporter and the newspaper, and your corruption mention might make you want to watch your back. I doubt “Pro-Growth” city leaders are used to being criticized in a feature story of their hometown newspaper. Even if the newspaper is too timid to print the word “crap”.

    If you go to the town meetings(which you should), they are going to be painting a bullseye on your back.

  • 6. Salvor Hardin  |  September 10th, 2009 at 1:31 am

    i would hit that

    http://www.vvdailypress.com/video/?videoId=8718270001&lineupId=1155200057&play=now

  • 7. Mark  |  September 10th, 2009 at 3:34 am

    That’s stronger stuff than my local newspaper would publish. Good job out there!

  • 8. Zoner  |  September 10th, 2009 at 4:56 am

    For a second there I thought Levine was the “AV man suspected of infecting women with AIDS virus.”

  • 9. MacGuffin  |  September 10th, 2009 at 5:21 am

    The ongoing themes of our local(Florida) backwater newspaper are high property taxes and wasteful spending on public schools. They wouldn’t run an article like this in a million years, not even as a setup for conservative outrage.

  • 10. buzz  |  September 10th, 2009 at 5:28 am

    yeah! like what happened to your hair ? yo pretty bitch.

  • 11. Sin Fronteras  |  September 10th, 2009 at 8:38 am

    @9 MacGuffin, you are not near Pensicola by chance are you?

  • 12. Bob  |  September 10th, 2009 at 11:51 am

    What you should know:

    You are all morons.

  • 13. Geoduck  |  September 10th, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Have to agree, I’m amazed that a small-town paper would run such a prominent article that was even -remotely- flattering.

  • 14. jimmy james  |  September 10th, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    But than I got mesmerized by your rugged handsomeness.

    Just to expand a little on what I was saying earlier, Levine reminds me of a young John Travolta in a bald cap.

    Pretty hot!

  • 15. geo8rge  |  September 10th, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    I’m a lifelong suck-up wuss who never did much but post comments. What’s it like to take a real risk and be a celebrity? Wish I had the balls.

  • 16. Sin Fronteras  |  September 11th, 2009 at 11:11 am

    Is it just me or did Freedom Communications turn off the comments section on the vvdailypress.com? You aren’t going to let Freedom Communications out do Team eXiled like that, are you?

  • 17. yabadabadoo  |  September 12th, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Welcome to the beginning of the rest of your life, Yasha.

    The sooner you get morbidly obese, the better for you.

    American dream it is and you are about to become a zombie too.

    Join us, Yasha! Join us.

  • 18. Lyle  |  September 15th, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    I wonder if Levine inspired this Victorville article?

    Hard Times In The High Desert
    Joel Kotkin
    http://www.forbes.com/2009/09/14/cities-exurbs-suburbs-high-desert-opinions-joel-kotkin.html

  • 19. Jyp  |  September 19th, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Wow. Ames is right: Russians are fearless nuts. This guy gets his picture in the local hick paper.. then writes an article calling the hicks “murderous retards” channeling Reagan!

  • 20. Russian chick  |  September 23rd, 2009 at 6:35 am

    Congratulations, Yasha! I am happy for you. The pic is nice indeed, very hot.


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