All posts by chillininconejo

Berg started life in the San Fernando Valley in late 1968 when the federal hourly minimum wage was $1.60 an hour and Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. That same year Wisk Laundry Detergent escalated the war against “ring around the collar”. While studying English Literature at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Berg met Brian. Since then Berg has spent his time playing banjo, raising a family and practicing the fine art of entropy. He currently resides in an Eichler home in the Conejo Valley. Brian.......

OK, I’m a Deadhead…

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My name is Brian Stark, and I’m a Deadhead.

Maybe I’m dating myself, or maybe I’m making a confession, but I’m a Deadhead. Although the Grateful Dead as a full band have been gone for a decade, the years I spent immersed in their music and traveling circus will be with me forever. I was a relative latecomer to the party, but from about 1985 through 1995 I was pretty-much plugged into the Dead full-time.

My first attempt to see them live was in 1986 at the Ventura County Fairgrounds. I had tickets ready and had managed to get the day off work, which was a chore. I worked for Adventure 16 in West LA, and since all the employees were going to the shows, you had work within a schedule that would keep the store open somehow. As a newer employee, I only got to go to one show. The day of the show finally came, and that was the day Jerry Garcia went into a diabetic coma and the show was cancelled. I didn’t stop trying though, and I eventually attended about 100 shows in the ensuing years, and collected hundreds of live shows on cassettes (remember cassettes?).

Unless you were there, it’s likely that you wouldn’t understand what the deal was all about. I’ve met hundreds of other Heads over the years and there were as many reasons to get into the scene as there were Deadheads. For me, the band’s lyrics and musical style hooked me quickly. Somehow it seemed that they were always singing just to me. Jerry’s guitar style also has a unique and hypnotizing effect. There was also a subcultural appeal and a feeling that you were part of something bigger than just an audience. I’ll be the first to admit that not every show had the same magic, but it was worth the trip just to see if you could be there when the proverbial sh*t went down. I am still a regular listener. Just yesterday at the office I listened to 3 full shows on the “Archive”. I can still listen to a snippet of a live show and tell you what year it was played, and maybe even the month.

Every Deadhead has their favorite era of the Dead, and has a favorite year. I’m one of those that gravitate to 1977. Specifically, April of 1977. That was the pinnacle of their sound to me. My favorite show is from the Auditorium Theater in Atlanta on April 21, 1977. Other favorite years are 1973, 1970, and 1989 (mainly because I was there). If you want to hear the Grateful Dead for the first time, or get reacquainted, head over to the Archive Site.

My days with the Dead gave me more than entertainment though. Here are some of the things I gathered along the way.

1. When my car leaves me stranded in the middle of nowhere, I never panic. Being stranded is just part of the journey. Once my friends A.J., Tim, and I had a breakdown at a rest stop on the I-5. We were in my dad’s old brown pickup. The place was full of heads on the way to shows at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds…none of which had any mechanical knowledge. We did finally get the motor running after parting with foodstuffs we used to feed hungry heads that tried to help. I remember AJ handing them a box of cereal out the window as we drove off. At another show I dropped the transmission on my old ’65 mustang a few blocks from the Oakland Coliseum. I was with my sister, it was her first show. We had to walk a mile or two through the roughest neighborhood to get to the show and just left the car behind. Today, I can handle any road emergency.

2.  I’m pretty good at not judging other people, and I feel thankful for what I have. I was part of the group I called the college deadheads. We traveled when we could get away and we weren’t living on the road for very long at a time.  Others lived on the road though, and they didn’t have the security we did. But, we all mixed at the shows. I met lots of people with different stories, but we were all brought together by a love of this band. When we were at a show, we were brothers and sisters. We shared and traded what we had even when we weren’t getting the best of the deal. Sometimes life is just about sharing and helping those that we can without the judgement. If you had a “miracle ticket” to share, you could be a saint for a day.

3. Somewhere along the way, I learned about the value of discretion. Not everyone sees deadheads as harmless, and that would include law enforcement personnel. So, sometimes you need to be discreet. I can remember going to shows with my brother and we would bring preppy oxford shirts to the show and leave them in the car. Before leaving the show, we would ditch the tie dye and change shirts so we could plausibly deny being at the show.

4. The human digestive system is amazing. I can’t tell you how many veggie burritos I ate after shows, and I lived to tell about them. One can imagine that these burritos were probably not prepared under the most hygienic conditions. The parking lot scene was always fairly dirty, and I never saw a health inspector at a show.

Are you a Deadhead?
What’s your favorite show or memory?
What’s your favorite year?

Life and Beauty in Small Packages

I was recently gifted a bonsai. Later, after meeting Travis who owns the California Bonsai Studio (, I learned that my bonsai is a maple.

Most of us have owned a bonsai.  Some of us have pulled off to the side of the road to buy a bonsai from a bonsai pimp operating out of a van….a lot like buying a TV from the Gap.  Needless to say, all of the bonsai’s I’ve had never made it. I usually placed it in a niche that I felt needed sprucing up.  I never thought about what the Bonsai wants and needs.

This time I contacted Travis at his bonsai studio.  Besides learning that Bonsai and Banzai are not the same, I learned how to take care of my bonsai…..not to mention a deeper appreciation for it.

Travis is remarkably interesting.  I like to think of him as the James Dean of bonsaing.  As Brian aptly writes in our video, he’s an Artist.


Living Post Modern

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Can you imagine living in Whoville? Or what about Mayberry? If I had my druthers I’d live in The Shire; small but beautiful, idyllic and fruitful.  Safe.  I live in Thousand Oaks. And in Thousand Oaks I live in a neighborhood. And in this neighborhood I live in a house. And like all environs a house is an influence as much as it is a reflection.  This is similar to Plato’s theory of forms in which every form has its ideal of which it strives to be.

When I began looking for a new home, a new form, I started with my ideals.   As George Harrison succinctly and beautiful advises us, “All Things Must Pass,” so the house in which my wife and I made a family had passed.  It was now time to get along.  I was challenged, fascinated, discouraged, and even at times frightened.  Along the way I found myself asking why anyone with any sense of practicality, let alone sensibility, would have carpet in the bathroom?

On a Saturday, at the end of a tether, by happenstance my wife comes across an add in the The Acorn for an open house the following day.  So weary of seeing another granite countertop accompanied by stainless steel appliances and the coveted hardwood floors and vaulted ceilings, I rallied the troops and off we went to schlepp through another house.  Oh, look a Thermadore.  Over the course of months I was forced to imagine myself living in countless homes in countless neighborhoods with countless neighbors in countless scenarios.  I could be the man of the house with the “entertainers dream backyard,” or the proud owner of a “three car garage,” or I can have an en suite the size of a Roman bath.  Because, honestly, as Americans, and deservedly proud at that, we make everything absurd.  Tofu is good for us so lets put it into everything.  This type of behavior is reminiscent of Kierkegaard’s “Faith by virtue of the absurd.”  As a transgression, when are we going to start teaching that Abraham’s will to commit filicide is bad moral judgment because its murder, regardless of God’s will?  Can you imagine how different our fate would be today if Abraham said no?  Perhaps it would have been the first of many no’s that we should be saying.

On a sweltering day we go to the open house.  Now mind you that we are doing this by rote, so everyone should understand their roles.  But I still turn to the rug-rats sitting behind me and remind them to behave.  “Just don’t do it.  Because I said so.  This is not our house.  No Mark, you can’t take a dump in their bathroom.  Don’t touch anything.  Oh for the love of Cleopatra, just stay in the car.  I’ll be right back.”

We walk through the house.  As a family.  With two kids under ten who seem to know more than me.  While the kids helped themselves to the complementary fruit medley, I had the singular opportunity to wonder through the home.  Debbie acted as a go between touring the house and watching the kids.  I look at Debbie and repeat verbatim what a college friend’s father said to him the first time he saw the dorm room: “At least you don’t shit on the floor.” All in jest of course.  Over the years I have become accustomed to saying that because it seems so absurd to me that that was the first thing a father said to his son as he sent him off to college.

I’ve now had just over a year to take in the scope and breath of our move.  Undoubtedly we bought the house.  Thanks to the divine intervention of fate, my wife found it. An Eichler. A what? For most it’s those homes with the funky facade.  You know?  There is a sign on the corner of Lynn and Calle Manzanas that reads, “Eichler Homes.”  Still No?  Imagine yourself settling deep into a plastic sofa, with a martini in hand, and a cigarette between your lips, spending a leisurely evening spinning Sinatra records.

Here are some of my jumbled thoughts about Eichler living: geometric mid century modern love affair.  Symbiotic relationship. Post and beam construction.  Glass.  Windex.  Lots of natural sunlight.  Terrazzo floors, radiant heating, flat roofs, redwood ceilings, luan walls, tiny garage. The Jetsons.  Atomic age. Eames.  Frank Loyd Wright.  Simplicity.  Blurred boundaries between inside and outside. Transparent.  I Love Lucy.  Fungi Shui.  Cold.  Drafty.  Hot.  Creaky.  Leaky.  Intimate.

Eichler homes are architecturally and therefore historically significant.  Joseph Eichler’s planned neighborhoods were for everyone.  Unfortunately there aren’t many of them so his dream remains allusive to most.  Some will argue that his design was too esoteric to appeal to the average aesthetic.  To this day I firmly believe that home building has made no compelling advances beyond boxy rooms, narrow hallways, unnatural lighting, conflicting architectural styles, and the all too prominent garage that seems to be the focal point of the home’s front (being that for most the car is the single most coveted gizmo besides the television, and since the advent and proliferation of both our homes have since been designed to make them the centerpiece of domesticity).  And what’s the deal with postmodernists that insists on the combination of discordant styles and ornamentation that is flagrantly non-functional? A sponge painted salmon colored Corinthian column!  Really?  I’m bewildered and dumbfounded that new home construction ignores the practicality of such Eichler elements as natural light, open floor plans and above all, a genuine understanding of how to utilize space that promotes peace and harmony.

I’ve lived in such memorable places as The Somis House, The Dump, The Rio Bravo, The Chocolate Factory, the Albion House two doors down from a crack den.  Now an Eichler.  So who cares?  We should.  Our homes impact us in the profoundest ways imaginable.  As I said earlier, “they are as much an influence as they are a reflection.”  By that I mean our homes influence our mood, our health, our attitude, our actions.  They are also a reflection of their own influence upon us.  We are our environment and what we make of it.  For us to be civilized our homes, our towns, or villages, or metropolises must nurture healthy living.

Besides doing my best thinking in the car and on a solemnly walk with the dog late in the evening (all thoughts being lost before I can write them down), I’ve had enough time to think about the home I live in and its influence.  I’m certainly not the person I was before living in this Eichler, let alone the person I was just a minute ago.  These thoughts are generated from experiences that are translated into actions.  For the most part the Eichler experience has and continues to be impressionable.  I’m at ease here.  I want to go home at night not because I’m anxious to leave work….that I am.  It’s because my family is at home.  The kids that I bought at Costco are at home and that I consistently remind I can return.  My stuff is at home.  The moment I roll up to the driveway there is a powerful feeling of relief because I want to be here.

The Thousand Oaks Eichler Community, otherwise known by my children as “Eichlerville,” is a visional experience.  Each home is a living incarnation of Eichlerness that is uniquely interpreted by its owner. Your eye wonders across its beeline front, clean curves, bright contrasting colors, and its ambiguous doors. There is something very allusive about an Eichler because the outside reveals very little of what’s behind it. Eichler incorporated an atrium as a center court. Imagine a square donut. The front door leads to a private outdoor experience that continues throughout the home.

There’s a mind-boggling amount that has been written about Jospeh Eichler and his homes if you’re interested.

The Thousand Oaks Eichler community, like the incorporation of the city itself, is fifty this year. This year the Eichler community may qualify for California Historical Register. Today, Sunday, the neighborhood celebrates with a block party (several home owners have graciously agreed to open their home to tours).

I encourage us all to preserve what positively defines us. My hat off to post modern living and Eichler whom unknowingly gave us something infinitely more important than just a house. He gave us an experience.

Namaste, Berg.



Conejo Country…Music that is..

profile picLast year, a study by Country Music Television showed that more than half of all Americans self-identify as country music fans. That is more than any other genre of music, so it’s safe to say that, at least for now, country music is the most popular music in the country. The Conejo Valley, as it would seem, is right in the middle of this action with a number of country bands calling the Conejo Valley home. We even have our own country music festival, the Oak Heart Music Festival. There are 242 days before the next festival though, so in the meantime, you’ll have to seek out some of the local country acts.

Website has a local country chart for country music just for Thousand Oaks. The charts are pretty dynamic, so the bands move around. A regular on the top 10 is Thousand Oak’s Sean Callero, currently #1. We can tell you, this kid is the real deal. At 19, he is putting out some very mature music. Check him out at In the number 2 spot this week is the Three Rivers Band, a local country cover band that plays current country hits, some classic country, and some southern rock. They just played a free show at the Lakes in Thousand Oaks last weekend following the parade. They claim TO as their hometown even if a few members hail from Simi. Find the Three Rivers Band at In the 3-spot is a newer arrival on the country top ten in TO, South of Ziggy. They hail from Westlake Village. Their sound has a bit of variety ranging from country to blues, to pop (country meets the Beatles?). They play original tunes and are fine musicians. Find them at

All three of these band are from the Conejo Valley and deserve some Conejo County love! Next time you need a country band, give one of these fine bands a call.

Just to prove we aren’t too snobby about our local bands, Chillin will give an honorary Conejo status to Justin Honsinger from Simi Valley. This kid plays very authentic classic country and you owe it to yourself to give him a listen.

Here is a taste of Conejo Country courtesy of the Three Rivers Band – Recorded live in T.O. after the big parade. Their next local show is October 24th at St. Paschal’s Fall Fest in T.O.

Here’s Sean Callero at the Canyon Club

Here’s South of Ziggy

The Tao of Tea

Tea is deeply personal.  It can also be very sociable.  It’s to be brewed with the upmost care to detail.  The water.  The heat.  The correct ratios.  The kettle.  The gaiwan.  Or you do like me who is in a hurry because Threes Company is about to start.  Boil tap water and pour over carefully crafted Pu erh.  Camellia Sinensis.  We’re not talking Lipton lemon, or any of those other “teas” that we can all buy at Saveon.  We’re talking about teas that are to be respected.  White, Green, Black, Oolong, Pu erh, and the incredible Kombucha that The Healing Tree brews themselves.  Teas that were hand picked in small batches, nurtured with nothing but sun and water, and rich soil.

Tea can be both light and invigorating or dark and heavy.  Its all in the processing.  Its also about what you prefer, your state of mind, your present mood, and what you wish to gain from a cup of tea.  In the morning a heavy or dark tea is appropriate whereas in the afternoon a white or green tea is refreshing.   In the evening an herbal, like camomile or Tulsi, will prepare you for a good nights sleep.  Teas possess both culinary delight and medicinal properties.  There is enough historical data and modern medical and scientific studies to support the healthy effects that tea has on our mental and physical state.  Yet, despite all the claims about tea, the number one reason we drink tea is because it is delicious.  Same goes for anything in life, we do it because we like it.

In this brief video, we go beyond flavor to discuss how concepts of Taoism are infused in the tea culture.


Chillin’ at The Healing Tree

Brian and the Berg just sat down with Moe Lam over at The Healing Tree Tea Bar and Apothecary in Thousand Oaks to sip and talk about tea. We ended up not only learning all about different teas and their histories, but a wealth of information about Traditional Chinese Medicine and German New Medicine and how they can be used together to promote health of your body AND soul. Sit in with us on this video and see how generous Moe is with his time, knowledge and talent. Then head on over to The Healing Tree and begin improving your life. Find out more at The Healing Tree


The City Turns Half a Century (that’s fifty)


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This year marks half a century ago when The Beatles came to America, the Civil Rights Act was signed into law,  President Johnson escalated the war in Vietman, Tokyo hosted the 18th Summer Olympics, the world was introduced to Diet Pepsi, and “Bewitched” premiered on ABC in September (who can forget the insufferable sarcasm of Endora).  Whewwwww.  This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the City of Thousand Oaks and its Eichler community.  Befittingly, the City and community partners are giving us a parade.  And what do we think of when it comes to a parade?  A long procession with horsies, fire trucks, grand marshals and grand poobahs, little cars perhaps, marching bands, cheerleaders, community leaders, politicians, special interest groups, banners, but no clowns….they can be intimidating.  On September 27,  festivities will kick off at 9:00am, followed by a daylong celebration, including live music brought to you by Brian’s band, The Three Rivers Band ( that goes on stage at The Lakes sometime around 11:00am.

To get the lowdown on the parade, Berg and Brian met up with John Short at Conejo Creek Park to chill.  John met us on his Harley on a very warm and dry Saturday morning toward noon.  If you’ve never been to Conejo Creek Park, it’s time you do (and while your there get yourself a library card.  Physical books, like vinyl records, provide you with genuine experiences).  Brian scoped out a nice shady spot under a tree “down by the river” where we sat down to speak with John.  John Short is all things Conejo.  His relentless support and volunteer work over the years includes president of the Thousand Oaks Little league, board member of the Conejo Recreation and Parks District, chairman of the Investment Review Committee for the city of Thousand Oaks, player in bringing back the Conejo Valley Days, and chair of  The Thousand Oaks 50th Anniversary parade.  As is with all the individuals that Berg and Brian have recently met through their Chillin’ efforts, John is genuine and personable.  He personifies Conejo pride.  As Brian succinctly puts it: “The most involved man in Thousand Oaks.”

John originally presented the idea to the City approximately five months ago.  A municipal parade usually takes up to a year to plan.  John’s been able to accomplish the daunting task in less than half a year.  Maybe he’ll be available to organize my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah?  To quote the TO Parade website, “”Remembering the past, honoring the memories” is our theme. The parade entries will replicate life 50 years ago when Thousand Oaks was founded.  Join us as we take a step back in time, when life was simple, and not as fast paced. When sheep roamed the hillsides and occasionally the streets, and you could see lions and tigers, and even elephants.”  I’d like to see an elephant at The TO Meat Locker waiting in line for a tri-tip sandwich.  And those sheep better watch out.  In order to make all this happen, John has worked tirelessly, bringing together over 90 volunteers with 20 committee members.  We should expect 125 entries with equestrian units.  15 of the 18 former city mayors will be dusted off for some baby kissing, and there will be 3 original law enforcement officers………so don’t be caught double parking.  At the end of the parade expect there to be built the largest Lego chain to set a Guinness Book of World Records that will raise money for the Dream Catcher Foundation (  All in all, the festivities are expected to draw 3 to 5 thousand Conejovites, or are we Oaksians (perhaps you all can make suggestions and sent them to Chillin’)?  Chillin’ encourages everyone to bring their Conejo pride and to have a good time while still being conscientious and safe.

Hats off to John and everyone who has contributed to the parade. Volunteers are still being sought! Check the Parade website for volunteer info.


Heaven is Under Our Feet as Well As Over Our Heads



For this episode Thoreau comes to mind when he says, “The finest qualities of our Nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling.”  I also like Muir when he says, “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”  These men, and others alike, have a simple yet profound lesson for us to learn:  Our human spirit has realms of expression and potential far greater than those usually realized by civilized life.  By living within Nature, Thoreau and Muir explored and discovered the infinitued of the human spirit, finding that it can achieve much more important, beautiful truths when not restrained by the limitations of urban living.  Which brings us to introducing you to a few of our friends whom are making a positive difference on an infinite level starting with our origins…..the soil.

Laura Maher and John Szczepanek of Eco Restoration Partners are bent on helping us adopt a friendlier approach to  how we relate to our landscape.  Eco Restoration encourages us to divorce ourselves from the “Home Depot” garden by promoting and collaborating “in the creation of strong, healthy, bountiful suburban gardens.”  They “provide suburban garden support and organic soil building services…. (by creating) beautiful, pesticide-free, pollinator habitats filled with perennials and edibles.”  Their “succession planning will transform (our) understanding of soil, water, food, and our community,” much the same way as did Thoreau and Muir.

On a hot and dry summer afternoon Berg and Brian met Laura and John at our friend Chuck’s Eichler home ( to learn about how Eco Restoration helped Chuck transform his property from a depleted tract of land into a sustainable urban garden rich in nutrients, life, and food. Years of pollution, chemical indoctrination and petroleum based agriculture has all but destroyed our earth.  It all starts with the soil, says John.  Soil is the fundamental ingredient to our sustained existence.  Treat your soil like your favorite car.  Take good care of it because in return it will care for you.  Get it under your fingernails and on your skin to appreciate it.  Smell it.

Mulching is a key component to healthy, sustainable soil.  Mulch improves the quality of soil by breaking up clay and allowing better water and air movement.  Mulch provides nutrients to soil and improves its ability to hold water.  Mulch is an insulating layer keeping soil cooler in the summer (

When you plant, do so with thought and consideration to the indigineous habitat.  Plant for beauty as well as for usefulness.  Plant to reduce water consumption.  Plant fruits and vegetables so you have control over your diet.  As Laura says, “Chose the right plants to tailor to who you are feeding”.  Plant to promote a safe haven for wildlife like the monarch butterfly, bees and birds.  Plant to maximize the benefits while reducing the carbon footprint. Plant to be rewarded on many levels.  Plant to educate yourself.

The transformation of Chuck’s property is remarkable.  His devotion to learning and leading by example is inspiring.  I’d like to think that Chuck’s transformation has been personal, spiritual and practical.  At the helm is Chuck’s eagerness to change.   And As we are all well aware, change is scary.  The first step to changing is to start.   Eco Restoration is a start.  Eco Restoration is also a step by step process.  They are a partnership.  John and Laura are genuine.  They are good folk with a positive vision to making our home a better place to live.  Spending an afternoon in Chuck’s backyard with John and Laura was educational, sociable, enjoyable and inspirational.

Here are some key words that are highlighted from Chillin’s meeting with Eco Restoration Partners and our neighbor Chuck: draught, going native, beyond saving water, Eco Restoration Partners, aspire, habitat restoration, climate appropriate, pollinate, food source, holistic, soil, mulch, compost, mimic natural systems, complementing, symbiotic, good model, monarchs, bees, birds, choosing, tailer, crucial, environment, resourcing, forage crops, Moringa, kitchen garden, immune system, chemicals, establish, transition, character, and extraordinary.

Brian has recently completed a front yard restoration project by abandoning his lawn, mulching, and planting similar to Chuck.  The monarchs abound.  Berg has begun the first step by removing his lawn and is moving onto step two, mulching.  He also dreams of spending time in a yoga ashram at the foot of the Himalayas.  We encourage you to abandon your lawn, plant for quality, and breath life into our world through a partnership with the soil.


A Special Bonus Video – How to Compost Dog Waste

Chillin’ In The Conejo Theme Song

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Our resident troubadour, AJ, was gracious enough to write our theme song, Chillin’ In Conejo:

Chillin’ in the Conejo,
Somewhere between Moorpark and Lynn
We Live amongst the oaks and the rabbits
In this place we’re in.
But There’s esoteric,
Unexpected, and entertaining things to share.
Each episode is a frontage road.
We’ll take you on our trips to here and there.
Chillin’ in the Conejo,
We deserve what we make of it.
We’ll make it better every day just a little bit.
Mm hmm…….



A Day at the Ball Park with The Conejo Oaks

L1000879DCIM100GOPROThe Conejo Oaks Baseball club is our local team that plays in the California Collegiate League. “The California Collegiate League is a professionally run amateur baseball league for college athletes.  It is best described as a “gap” league, bridging the gap between collegiate baseball and professional baseball…..The CCL conducts its season during the summer months so as to comply with the NCAA rules governing the academic requirements of student-athletes, and operates as a non-profit corporation.”

On Saturday July 12, 2014 Brian and Berg attended a game at California Lutheran University’s Sparky Anderson Field. Joined by their crony, A.J, the three enjoyed an afternoon under the bleachers, on a warm and languid summer Saturday, scarfing hotdogs and nachos while rooting for the Conejo Oaks who won against the California Wahoos. And although Brian didn’t win the raffle, the Oaks won 4-3.  Afterwards, Berg and Brian had the honor of speaking with Verne Merill general manager and David Soliz team manager.

The afternoon was well spent enjoying one of America’s greatest pastimes. Chillin’ salutes The Conejo Oaks and encourages everyone to support our local team. Attached is a clip of the interview, along with some shots of the game.