Thursday, October 10, 2019

GIT UP, GIT OUT, CUT THE BULLSHIT ARRESTS OUT

Published at Dissident Voice

Hundreds of people from across the Southeast converged on Atlanta on Friday September 27th for the Southeast Climate Strike & Rebellion. Organized by a coalition including Earth Strike and Extinction Rebellion, it came at the end of a global strike week called for by the school strike movement in which millions railed against the systems that are failing humanity.  At least 19 were nicked for offences ranging from carrying PVC pipe for a trampoline prop to standing briefly on a piece of land designed exclusively for fast-moving metal death machines.

The plan was to occupy an intersection in the swanky commercial centre and planet-eating business district of Buckhead, and hold a family friendly festival with speakers, music and colourful banner waving fun.  But business as usual means big pots of dosh for some people, so police made sure to squash that vision of community on behalf of their employers at every turn. Not quite grasping the way a low carbon transport system is intended to work, cops used a line of bicycles like riot shields to aggressively push activists back onto the sidewalk and prevent the occupation.  Photos of riot police in the media, avoided; unquestionable dominance of car culture, sustained. 

As several hundred relocated to Midtown via Atlanta's MARTA train (“almost like being in an actual city,” cooed Florida visitors), snatch squads continued to pick people up with flimsy excuses and instill fear along the way.  A man from Extinction Rebellion Winston-Salem (NC) was minding his business far away from the road when two cops meandered through a crowd and tackled him to the ground without warning for the crime of wearing a mask.  Police also arrested a 17-year-old from the same chapter, then told local media that they didn’t arrest any minors (a claim that was later deleted from the article when the journalist realised it was false) (chapter legal fund).

Having outmaneuvered the eco-friendly bike fuzz, a second intersection was then held for around 20 minutes.  Unfortunately a lack of material blockades and numbers allowed police cars to find a gap and harass protesters out.  After regrouping and eating together in a park, the crowd used a semi-consensus model to decide their next move. A march down a trail ended with a raucous noise being made in a shopping market.  Coppers on bikes gave way to Fire & Rescue on bikes for no clear reason. The only group preventing safety were the APD (despite their absurd claims to be providing it) and self immolation was never on the official agenda.  But if the cops keep blocking nonviolent dissent there's no telling how desperate people will get as famines, extreme heat and societal collapse bear down on us. 

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, supposedly a progressive climate leader, has a standard plan to bring the city to 100% renewables by 2035.  Naturally, half of that will be achieved by paying someone else to make the cuts (through Renewable Energy Credits, aka offsets), and the pledge has the useful benefit of making many people believe that it is a commitment to carbon-neutrality when it refers only to electricity generation.  Anybody that truly understood the latest science would know that carbon offsets are pointless when the entire global economy now needs to be decarbonised, would know that 2035 is too late for anything, and frankly, would have ordered police to step aside and allow the mass action to go ahead, because this is a fucking emergency that threatens the safety of everyone on this planet.  Instead, violent suppression, spurious arrests, helicopters and a tonne of cops were deployed to send the message that an actual adequate response to the armageddon that faces us is unacceptable.  Token targets that fail to address the problem are all that will be tolerated in a city with a notorious sprawl problem and the world's busiest airport (21 years running!)

On that same Friday Boston rebels held a bridge for three hours with no arrests.  Earlier in the week a coalition of 2000 blocked the streets of DC leading to 32 arrests, while in San Francisco the financial district was occupied and a massive mural was painted on the roads covering two blocks.  Five were arrested in a roadblock in Denver.  Despite the Southeast Climate Strike & Rebellion not going as originally planned, people still sacrificed for the cause, compelling the public to ask why they would do so unless we faced an emergency, and many lessons were learned.  For one thing, when the Earth becomes unable to sustain human life, be sure to thank a cop.

Written in the style of SchNEWS (now freshly archived). A bail/support fund for the action can be found here.  See Extinctionrebellion.us for more actions coming in October.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

This review was never finished, but is being posted for the scraps of satisfaction that it might provide. "Last edit was on November 16, 2018." Perhaps culture historians will use these unfinished insights to speculate on my writing methodology, and how it inevitably led to my dying as a penniless critic. An actual complete review can be found by our man Tony over at Apathy & Exhaustion.

Pennywise
Never Gonna Die
Epitaph, 2018


This link is for Jim Lindberg.  If somebody knows how to get it directly to him, do us all a favour and make sure he reads it.  Not only will it give him a litany of alternative terms for “hypocrisy” such as insincerity or casuistry, he can click the dictionary tab to make sure he actually comprehends what it means.  He wrote a really decent book once, so he should be able to manage this problem he seems to have. The entire band might contribute lyrics, but ultimately, the singer is responsible for the words he spews and any inability he might have to tell his bandmates that they are California goofballs.  Thesaurus.com: never set out to write without it.  

I come out swinging with this criticism because there isn’t a whole lot else that I dislike about Pennywise’s newest album, Never Gonna Die.  

Perhaps all his girls are now old enough (the first was born around Full Circle) to start hating his guts and he’s remembering that youthful energy much more fervently.  

Bottomed out with Reason To Believe. Kinda like the common view of the punk “explosion” itself. Seems to have come out of nowhere, but if you look closely, it built up over time.  PW have been gradually improving their game throughout the decade. Making a recovery at all is hard for most artists, and their evolution through the 90s was slow, so I think it's impressive.  It’s like the band made a ridiculously un-punk 10-year plan for getting back on top after coming to terms with the barrel of dishwater that was 2008’s Reason to Believe: record one album with a new singer, then record old songs with the old singer, then finally one of new material, and for fucks sake, take time doing it.  You can’t expect to just effortlessly dump something out like it’s 1993 and you’re still full of youthful vigour. Pennywise here have taken their craft seriously instead of phoning it in.  They have reached inside and found some of that old magic.  It sure makes those of us who have increasingly seen the band as a guilty pleasure feel vindicated for not chucking them completely out of rotation.

Not that it particularly dampened my enjoyment of you at the time, Pennywise, but thanks for doing your least impressive work when I was in the optimal punk early 20s age bracket.  Really appreciate it.

You wanted their output to mature with you. 

Highlight goodbye bad times.

The topics were never really the issue as much as the uninteresting way that they were delivered.  The key here for non wordies or less wordily inclined is that I am loving most of these grooves without checking the album sleeve.  She Said in my opinion is a bit weak, a lightly spruced up version of a mid-career song with its warbling

Buried at track 11.  Slipped in there - racists and trolls in the title track, little rioting Banksy piece on cover.
Trump. Never entirely understood the right-wing association with PW.  Their rebellious but mostly spade-is-a-spade lyrics could be interpreted by different kinds of folks, which in itself is no bad thing.  Was it because the 90s, the skate punk golden age, was also the pathetic high watermark of modern American liberalism, when Clinton was shoving through firebrand progressive policies like shitting out subsidized corn over Mexico and molesting young women?  The only thing dumber than die hard fans of the Democrats is conservatives who don't see how right wing they are. Their unwillingness to really confront this audience is evident in the both the low volume and choice of quotes here: a Trump supporter could hear them, guess that on average the band is not his biggest fan, but still not hear anything that bothers them or makes them confrontational.  Yes, Trump is slyly admitting, when he says he “loves the poorly educated,” that he is manipulating a perhaps ill-informed segment of his base. But he’s also appealing to those people, the ones given few learning opportunities, dumped on by neoliberalism and that the alter-globalization left failed to convince with decades of summit hopping.

The name refers to racism and hatred and stuff, but you know there were plenty of sneers.  “Those clowns are still around?” or “are they really trying to reference the most overused statement about the status of a genre in the history of human expression?” 

Not exactly Eminem but you can judge the political climate by how willing Pennywise is to alienate some of their hymn bros. 

Middle age, not just pretending to be young (Time bomb)
Blue album cover quality.

You can hear Never Gonna Die in full on Youtube.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

DEMAND CLIMATE TRUTH

Speech given at Extinction Rebellion Tampa Bay protest on national day of action

Attention, people of St. Petersburg.  We are here, as local residents and members of Extinction Rebellion Tampa Bay to demand emergency action over climate breakdown.  We are here to call on all levels of government to take such action, from the city, to the county, to the state, to the country.  This is part of a national day of action across the US, and as part of a new international movement against extinction.

In October, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a stark report, calling for a 45% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, to avoid a runaway global warming scenario that threatens all life on this planet.  For the United States this translates to an approximately 85% cut within a decade.  The report called for, quote, "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society." Despite these urgent remarks, the IPCC is a historically restrained scientific body, with many commenting that these conclusions were still not honest about the urgency of our predicament. They must therefore be treated as a bare minimum baseline for action.

When it comes to our local government here in St. Petersburg, the most up-to-date publicly known targets for carbon cuts are as follows.  A 20% reduction by the end of 2020.  A 40% reduction by 2025.  And an 80% reduction by 2050.  Looking at these numbers, we can discern two things.  The first is that there are individuals within city government who genuinely care about climate change.  These targets would not exist if that were not the case.  So that is not in question.  The second is that city hall knows full well that the targets the city is currently committed to are not going to save this community or this planet from extreme weather.  They have read the IPCC report.  They have conducted a vulnerability assessment of our region.  If we do not do what the science actually demands we cannot expect places less vulnerable than here to do the same.

So these are the four demands of Extinction Rebellion, directed not just locally, but at all levels of government and all of those in Tampa Bay.  Governments must tell the full truth about the climate and wider ecological emergency, reverse inconsistent policies and work alongside the media to communicate with citizens.  Governments must enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and to reduce consumption levels to no more than half a planet's worth per year.  We must have the creation of a citizen's assembly to oversee these changes, as part of creating a democracy fit for purpose.   And we demand a just transition that prioritises the most vulnerable peoples, remediation for environmental injustice and legal rights for ecosystems.

These goals will obviously be a huge undertaking.  There will be many challenges and fierce conversations about what it means to decarbonise our entire society.  But if governments will not commit to these goals when they are so obviously necessary, we need to ask why.  Perhaps the most fundamental obstacle will be a change in the primary objective of government.  That objective is the reason that businesses of increasingly obtuse value keep popping up in our community, why half empty condos seem to be more important to local planners than having affordable housing, and why resource use, centrally the use of fossil fuels, continues to grow worldwide, and that is the pursuit of economic growth on a finite planet.  Multiple major recent studies have shown that you cannot lower your overall consumption of resources while increasing the size of your economy.  GDP growth will wipe out efficiency gains every time.  And most of this growth does not even benefit average people.  Year after year we are told the economy is getting bigger and healthier, and yet millions of us continue to struggle because most of those gains go to the people of the business classes.  The rising tide is not lifting our boats, because we cannot afford boats.  While you may be able to make certain energy switches and move numbers around in such a way as to engineer a cut of 20% or 40%, you cannot make a 100% cut without challenging fundamental assumptions about what and who our economy is for.

Perhaps the St. Pete government already has plans to improve their current targets.  That would be wonderful to learn.  To such forward thinkers we say do not think of us as adversaries.  We are opening up political space for a more honest discussion.  Use that space to do what you know to be necessary.

Other governments in Tampa Bay are doing even less to combat the climate crisis.  In Hillsborough County, energy planners are looking to spend the next decade wasting a billion dollars, to partially convert Big Bend Power Station from coal to fracked gas, a change that will not lower emissions due to the methane releases associated with fracking.  Utilities across the country are switching straight from coal to renewables; this conversion serves nobody other than the executives of Tampa Electric Company.  Profiteers at Tampa International Airport are hoping to spend the next decade increasing the number of passengers in our skies by 73%, with no proposals for how those planes will be less polluting or noisy, exactly when we must cut global oil use by at least half.  These are perfect examples of efforts in the wrong direction.  In a society where we were being told the truth about climate change, their approval would not be considered for a second.  Those of us on this side of the bay must help our neighbours to resist these projects, for it is our collective future that hangs in the balance.

At this late stage in time, it is going to take a mass movement of non-violent disruption to prevent oblivion.  That is what we propose.  We did not willingly pick this reality.  These emergency demands are the result of decades of political dithering over climate breakdown.  Above all we are here calling for increased urgency around this crisis.  It demands that all governments, media outlets, and everyone else in a position of power goes in to work on Monday and begins to draw up a plan of public communication, that explains to everybody in our society why everything must change.  If your instinct is to ignore our message today, or to dismiss it as idealism, consider the following quote from the author Chris Hedges:  "The message of the rebel is disturbing because of the consequences of the truth that he or she speaks."  We are Extinction Rebellion.  We are rebelling against the extinction of this community, and we invite you to join us. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Low Season
Four More Songs EP
Self-released, 2019 



If I had time to review the new Low Season EP, it would go something like this, but with far more unnecessary political sidebars and references to hip hop shoehorned in.


"If the title of this melodic masterclass doesn't exactly impress you, rest assured that St. Pete's Low Season took all the time that others bands would have spent worrying about the packaging and put it into crafting their songs. And presumably, all the time that some other bands would have put into applying layers of Misfits paint to perform numbers with titles like Melting Makeup and Lines Across My Eyes. Each track sounds different to the others and each is bound to be a blinder live. The Four More Songs EP is another testament to brevity in a sub-genre that you should really have the good sense to be sick of by now. And one of the four tracks isn't even a 47 second jingle for Adbusters Magazine masquerading as a proper song (see Devil Inside My TV from their previous offering)."

Monday, February 11, 2019

Worst Party Ever/Dollar Signs/Late Bloomer/Community Couch/Planet Loser
Sunday, January 27th 2019
Lucky You Tattoo, St. Petersburg FL

Published at Apathy & Exhaustion

About a decade.  When asked how long I’ve lived over here, I’ve now reached the point where I can comfortably round up to that answer.  Despite my gradual transformation into a hybrid accepted in full by neither culture, it doesn’t take much prompting for the old country to come screaming back into the focus of my mind.  Take for example tonight’s first orbiters of the Lucky You nebula, Tampa’s Planet Loser.  This dream pop duo is here backed by a full band, but my attention is still drawn to the Branglophile stylings of the permanent members.  Guitarist Ethan is wearing a full-on sandwich board advertisement for Scottish soft drink Irn-Bru, while vocalist Amber is dressed like she just arrived from a chilly council estate, all hooped earrings and baggy tops (much of the rest of the U.S. may have become freezingly unliveable but it’s still winter down here nevertheless).  Amusingly, it fits. Planet Loser’s rhythmic indie pop is music suited to the dark northern climes, the delicate lifting strength of three guitars and a calming female voice. Despite clothing choices, there’s much more that indicates a heartland 80s influence rather than of the decade’s tail end baggy scene; the intro to Feel You Breathe sounds like it's going to be a cover of Close To Me by The Cure.  It’s no less enjoyable to realise that it’s not.

My writing relationship with local favourites
Community Couch has until now been series of near misses: arriving late to a gig they did with Piss Ghost (RIP) and Madison Turner; noting their cancellation of a September show in Richmond to push my anti-hurricane agenda; hearing an acoustic set at the first Planet Retro Punk Rock Flea Market while I sat barely out of sight attempting to flog paper manifestations of stuff like this.  I knew enough to know they’d be fun to finally witness properly though. This earworm queercore outfit channels self-doubt into community catharsis, as promised in their title.  There’s a lot of physicality for an act named after a piece of furniture you sit your arse down on; frontfolks Stove and Glen perform sustained coordinated kicks towards drummer Eli’s face during one tune, and Stove’s vicious hugging towards the end of the set encapsulates some of the emotional mixing on display in the music.  My pal Oliver jumps in at one point with a kazoo purchased from the WORST COMPANY EVER, one perfectly worthy of the Liquid Sunshine lyrics “I can't pay my bills, I don't know how we'll eat / I'd pick up another job, but then when would I sleep?”

Late Bloomer
from Charlotte, North Carolina, begin their set by thanking not just our St. Petersburg, but St. Petersburg of Russia.  Careful now. The way things are going with this ever-widening conspiracy (Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard are now apparently Kremlin assets too), it won’t be long until every resident of this city is stripped of their rights under the charge of trying to build a covert Russian enclave in the middle of Florida.  As their name might suggest, Late Bloomer -- like their 6131 Records labelmates Planet Loser -- are pretty deep in the nostalgia game, but at least it’s of a high quality. As they perform their respectable post-grunge college rock I can see the washed-out MTV2 video playing inside my head.  You can see it too, because it apparently exists for the track Life Is Weird, which itself harkens backwards with clips from 1950s television.  If only we could recycle our physical resources as thoroughly as we recycle our culture.  Strangely, both Scott on drums and Neil on guitar remind me of various underappreciated Culkin siblings.   I would avoid making mention of the recently disbanded McCauley comedy vehicle The Pizza Underground, if not for the fact that the producer/engineer on Late Bloomer’s recent record Waiting was Justin Pizzoferreto (known for his work with Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr.).

It goes from
Life is Weird to Life Is Ruff with tonight’s other Charlotte touring band, Dollar Signs.  Life Is Ruff is a dog-friendly EP I would pick up (not to be confused with new one I Need Some Space) both because I was excited to finally see this lot and because at the time of the gig I thought I had a job on the hook and was prematurely seeing my own dollar signs.  Turns out I didn’t exactly, but other funding has thankfully since come my way.  This is a party that sucks you in.  Dollar Signs live are like The Front Bottoms plus Against Me! plus the trumpet bounce of Less Than Jake, fronted by Erik Button’s jovial inviting vocal style.  Bassist Dylan Wachman tells of a strange incident that took place 30 minutes earlier at a nearby sports bar involving a man in a peacoat and his pee, only for the stranger in question to show up and defend himself by proclaiming that “I washed my dick before I left the house.”  Inconsiderate bastard almost crashed the vocal of The Devil Wears Flannel, a great song (from last year’s This Will Haunt Me) that namechecks Orson Welles and Mozart, among others.  It’s in the same vein of lambasting popular music as I’m Better Than You by Kanye West, an old track that brought Dollar Signs to my attention years before West started donning his MAGA hat and talking a lot of foolishness.

Being that it’s an all-ages, booze-free, essjaydubbleyoo sort of hang out, youthful vigour is often present here at Lucky You Tattoo.  But in the case of Sarasota’s emo-ists
Worst Party Ever a significant subset of the crowd are constantly pogoing around the singer with an otherworldly level of enthusiasm.  I was waiting for him and his mic stand to hit the floor amidst all the excited attention and the music to come to an abrupt pause.  Worst Party Ever may or may not be styled after the dialect of Comic Book Guy, a nerd so insignificant that Matt Groening didn’t even give him a name, but their apparent popularity and riled-up base would probably net them more votes than some of the other 3rd parties out there.  The music inspiring such a reaction is much more energetic than their Dashboardy bandcamp offerings might prepare you for. Cries of “four more years!” are met with the response “what the fuck is that?,” suggesting maybe that the political wing of the Worst Party Ever empire hasn’t yet been discussed.  A word of advice: make a few well placed calls to the Russian embassy and Ye and you’ll apparently be unstoppable.