Crisis of Non Faith

On Saturday I turn 32. This normally isn’t the type of age people think of as a milestone, but for me it is. I graduated from college ten years ago this May. Since then I have done a lot of unusual things, things that I didn’t necessarily think I would do, and things I am not really sure I should have done. Lately, as anyone unfortunate enough to be a friend of mine on ye old social network site, I have been feeling largely at odds with the universe. Perhaps it is karma kicking my ass left and right, trying to knock me off my stubborn seat.

The fact of the matter is I don’t have faith. And while we are going to get to music in a minute this is an important point. Faith to me is a very frightening word. It feels like a suspense of reason in that word. So, because I don’t have a magic afterlife or a personal savior or any of that stuff, I have to rely on humanity. Humanity has been failing me a lot lately. I see a world that doesn’t feel familiar to me. It doesn’t feel safe, or smart, or nurturing. I see a lot of people hiding behind screens, texting, tweeting, blogging, updating facebook pages (I am guilty of this stupid shit too) and generally being self involved assholes with no accountability for the stupid, ignorant, and down right mean shit they do. It’s getting a little overwhelming.

But as always, the universe continues to give me clues and hope. This week, as I stare down another birthday, trapped in the adult world of mortgage payments and passive-aggressive shit heads, the universe gave me a sign. His name is Mike Hall.

Mike Hale used to play in Gunmoll, a band on the awesome Gainesville, FL label No Idea Records. He now plays in a band called In The Red somewhere in California, I think. Earlier this month Mike quit his job as a carpenter to play music full time. Mike is just a regular guy, like so many other people , who just has a dream of playing music. Currently, he is crossing back and forth around the globe playing music as much as he can. Dude is chronicling his life basically at in the colum For Those Still Standing. Also, as if that wasn’t rad enough, Mike has a new album out that you can check out for zero dollars here. The dude is on tour and if you have a chance to see him, please do. At 34, Mike Hall is an inspiration to everyone. He’s turning his back on convention and doing what he believes in. To me, that is as revolutionary as you can get.

Mike is currently featured over at the awesome DIY site with a video on the Pink Couch featuring the title track of his new album “Lives Like Mine”. I have embedded it below.

Mike Hale – Lives Like Mine from If You Make It on Vimeo.

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On "Re-Education Through Labor" by Rise Against

I am a sucker for pop punk and I am certainly a sucker for political punk. Major Label darlings Rise Against fit this perfectly. A few yeas ago I was really drunk and bought “Siren Song of the Counter Culture” because I had one of their songs on a Fat Records Comp and I was in the mood for some pop punk. They put out another album after that. I didn’t buy it, because I don’t like buying music put out on major labels.

But a few weeks ago I saw their new video “Re-Education Through Labor”. This video is very interesting. The Chicago four piece is located in an underground, unidentified location. They are rocking out like rock bands should. Intercut with this footage is a group of motorcycle riders. We shortly find out that this black clad gang are putting bombs together and then stuffing them into back packs. The motley crew then disperses amongst the city, riding their bikes under the midnight sky. The romantic scenes of wind wiping them in the face follows them as they break apart. One by one they approach towering buildings and lay down the bomb stuffed back packs. I’ll leave it to your imagination to guess how this short film concludes.

So what strikes me about this is that Rise Against is the new youth generations Rage Against The Machine. A major label band with deep political rhetoric that utilizes the imagery of radical action as a means of promotion. I’m not so interested in the debate about selling out, or calling them out for being radicals on the payroll of an international corporation. Though I think these discussions are important, I am more interested in the impact that this video, sure to be on heavy rotation on MTV (this is after all where I saw it. Well it was probably MTV2 or something of that nature) and with over a million hits on YouTube, is going to have on the young kids.

Rage Against the Machine didn’t last too long for me. It was mostly musical. The second album didn’t show a lot of growth for me and by the time it came out I was fairly heavy into my local music scene that was way more accessible then the rock bands of Lollapaloza and Rolling Stone. I wonder though now, in these days of direct media how a band like Rise Against fairs amongst it’s target audience (which I clearly am not, though, as it’s been pointed out to me they are catchy as hell). This radical idealism is being used to sell albums and concert tickets. The imagery being shown would, under current laws be considered terrorism despite it’s obvious echoes of Fight Club. And yet the video was paid for and is being promoted by the same conglomerate the destruction of this video is celebrating.

What does this all mean? It can’t simply be written off as bullshit, and yet the romantic notion of (mostly) white, punk, svelte kids is being broadcast next to Brittney Spears. Is anyone taking it seriously? Can it have any impact if it does in fact sit next to Pop Princesses like a commercial that unfortunately music videos are considered to be?

This is obviously not a new discussion and it certainly won’t be the last. But it is interesting to me that bands, born claiming radical politics, can manifest popularity and sell themselves with this imagery. Part of me feels like this is arrested development. While direct, violent action is an option, it’s not necessarily the best option. I can’t help but think of the lower working class toiling in those buildings after hours now the victims of some one else’s ideology. This was the point made in the movie Fight Club that makes that book have a bit of truth and hope in it. But this video doesn’t but the bricks in their hands. It seems idealistic and romantic and I don’t think this is something that should be taken lightly.

I’m not really sure how I feel about destructive action. The mild, quiet, gagged in the closet Buddhist in me finds these ideas difficult to reconcile. While I understand the frustration and passion that fuels these ideas, I can’t help but think that destruction only builds destruction and not the chance for rebuilding in it’s wake. At least I haven’t found a tangible connection. But that’s just me and it’s not based on any type of study or reading, it’s just how I feel inside.

It’s funny that a punk band from Chicago, Van Sponsorship behind them and probably a nice tour bus can spark so much in the way of thought sometime. Of course I spent this glorious day inside my house like a vegetable, and these ideas are just a distraction from my own reality, that truth be told seems a lot more complex and pressing to me at the moment. Selfish I know, but I can only do what I can do in the moment that I am presented with these choices. I can only grow and evolve as fast as I do. This is life.

The link to the video for “Re-Education Through Labor” by Rise Against is below. The Universal Group would not let me embed it. Major Labels just really fail to get it.

Bike Punk Day #1

I am psyched to call my self a bike punk finally. Even if I am a giant poser. You see, I’ve wanted to be more of a bike rider since I moved out of my parents house. I just happen to keep moving to the suburbs a lot and buying a house, keeping a corporate job, blah blah blah. And though the deep inspiration (read:guilt) I felt the night I saw World/Inferno Friendship Society in the basement of Al Fishway in Washington DC. They introduced their song “Thumb Cinema” with a tale of some punks in San Jose screaming “BIKE PUNK” when they played at a bike collective. I felt left out. I drove to the show in my car. I wanted to be a bike punk.

The freedom of riding a bike is the only freedom I have ever known outside of riding a skateboard. As it stands I can not skateboard any longer due to a bunch of head shots and unending vertigo. So biking is about the only shot I have at finding that freedom. So here I sit, nearly $700 dollars later new bike and more debt. Some punk I know, but sometimes the financial hit is the only thing that makes me commit. I have to earn it. Besides I am a suburbanite all my life. Suburban Punk through and through.

So today was my first real bike day. After a trip to the bike store again to get helmet, pump, lock and gloves I headed home as fast as my car and traffic would allow and rocked it into the basement. I attached the hand pump and slapped on my helmet and headed out to the first and best destination I could think of, the Library. After all, this whole process is about changing my life, getting exercise, readjusting my perspective on the world and finding that calm abiding that my life in front of screens so severely lacks.

Let me tell you what, riding on the streets is scary as fuck. I still don’t have the whole direction of riding down. Some people say you should ride against traffic so you can see ahead of you, but that just seems like certain suicide. I rode with traffic on my short 1.2 mile trek down the road. The cars passing me at top speeds all seemed to veer away from me as they passed, but the sounds of the engines and tires moving behind me honestly made me pedal a bit more then I really wanted to. I have always respected my many friends who live on bikes in DC. And while I have heard terrible and many stories of accidents they have incurred at the hands of motorists, I truly am beginning to understand the danger they put themselves in day in and day out. I think in the suburbs I am probably a lot better, but I am definitely not going to be hitting unknown streets until I feel a little more attentive and alert.

I arrived safely at my destination, a bit winded (did I mention I am an out of shape, pudgey fat ass?) but sweaty and stoked. I hooked up my bike to the bike rack (how awesome are libraries?) outside and headed in to return my borrowed wares. After wandering around and picking up a few items (McMafia by Misha Glenny and Me of Little Faith by Lewis Black) (I really like the paranthesis in this paragraph, don’t I?) and I checked out. The sky outside was ominus, dark, thick gray clouds rumbling quickly above. Oh yes, another challenge for this cherry popped biker. Needless to say that my ride back was a lot quicker then my ride to. But I pulled up to my quaint little townhouse just as the first big drops of rain started to fall. I was victorious.

I have not felt this level of physical exhilerance outside of the bedroom in a long time. I was out of breath and tired and I think I ate like a million bugs, but I totally felt alive, like my body had a purpose. Each momevent of my legs felt like an accomplishment against every day I have lived over the last nine years in a way. I was free to go and do anything, without the rules and expectations that mundane life brings. There is no pathway beaten out for me. I can go anywhere there is land, so long as my lungs take in air and my water bottle still has water.

* * *

This is my Bike Punx Mix Volume One Made off the Top of my head:

1. Bikeage – Descendents
2. Thumb Cinema – The World/Inferno Friendship Society
3. Bike Test 1 2 3 – Bomb the Music Industry
4. Of Chivalry and Romance in a Dumpster – This Bike is a Pipe Bomb
5. Bike and Bridges – Defiance, Ohio
6. Some Sinatra – The Secret Stars
7. Not a Track Bike (Live) – Thorns of Life
8. Pajammin – Good Luck
9. Bike Song – Zegota

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We Interupt this blog for an important public service announcement

We regret to inform you that we are currently offline. It appears our brain has ceased to function in the ways necessary to write about music. We are a bit overwhelmed at the moment by life, the universe and everything. We are sorry we could not bring you planned contents such as “Supporting Caste vs. All I Ever Wanted” or a reflection on Run DMC being inducted into the hall of fame (editors note: Raising Hell was the first tape I ever bought with my own money). Unfortunately we have hit what is called a writers block, a dry spell if you will. We have nibbled at a few poems here and there, but we haven’t so much touched the novel we are working on, or busted out a short story in months. While this blog was intended to keep the practice of writing on a irregularly scheduled but frequent basis, we just seem to have lost the fuel to keep it up for the time being.

Rest assured we will be back with content soon. We can’t really say when and we can’t really say what that is either. These things happen to writers. Not professional ones that work for news papers or the AP or NPR or any of that shit. This weeks This American Life had a really good story about a kid that hopped in photos of all the clubs in his high school for the yearbook. I had a friend do that one year. It was funny. You should listen to that. It also had a ghost story. Ghost stories make me sad.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by. Sign up for the whole subscribe to the feed thing on yr right there. Then next time there is something worth reading you can read it. Alright, until then, keep yr shit real and yr unit on you.

Franconia Station Manging Editor and Staff.