Monday, September 17, 2018


On Saturday September 8th, the Rise For Climate mobilisation brought more than 250,000 people outside to call for a just transition to a 100% clean energy economy.  The actions took place in more than 900 cities in 95 countries, with over 150 protesting here in St. Petersburg. The events came ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco between September 12th and 14th.  While it sounds like something that alternative granola-crunchers might put on, it actually brought together so-called climate business leaders, politicians and big greens to discuss things like “inclusive” and “resilient” economic growth (based presumably in a form of magic consumerism that doesn’t deplete resources).  While talking a half decent climate talk (this week signing an executive order to make the state’s electricity zero carbon by 2045), California Governor and summit host Jerry Brown has also approved over 20,000 new oil and gas wells in his eight years, leading to hundreds of millions of barrels of climate pollution, and taken nearly $10 million in fossil fuel campaign donations.  Activists, oddly suspicious of all these contradictions, marched again and blockaded the summit to demand the apparently-too-complicated solution of leaving the shit in the ground right now.  Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, apparently attending his first environmental conference, compared the protesters to backers of the Mexico-U.S. border wall, hypocrites fighting against their own interests.  All leave for local cops was blacked out for the duration of the invitation-only summit.

Down here, things were a bit more subdued, as they often are. Activists got together in Williams Park to march and ring “climate emergency” bells, cross-pollinate information from different groups, and listen to music and speakers.  Organisations included anti-frack specialists Food and Water Watch, Quakers, Food Not Bombs, Uhuru Solidarity Movement (who have an anti-capitalist environmental event coming up on September 20th), Organizing For Action (aka Obama For America, which must be a different Obama than the one who sabotaged the Copenhagen talks), Indivisible FL-13 and The Center for Sustainable and Just Communities, whose steady-state economics and post-incarceration programs tickled my radical fancies.  The efforts of all these people and everyone that was involved inspired me to consider certain elements of the climate crisis, which I share here in a spirit of solidarity, constructive criticism and respect.

Smart environmentalists clearly understand that being opposed to the Trump environmental agenda is far from enough.  But it’s also obvious that hiding behind the usual tactics of distraction and scandal, the administration is sneakily putting the boot in to the climate at a furious pace.  In late August the EPA laid out its so-called Affordable Clean Energy proposal (or ACE) to replace the Clean Power Plan.  While claiming to rein in emissions, ACE uses a sleight of hand: in theory it obliges coal plants to become more efficient.  But this will make the fuel slightly cheaper, leading to a grid increase in its use that will probably result in higher total emissions than would have otherwise happened (known as the rebound effect).  This is why efficiency improvements without other measures such as basic limits on emissions are inadequate or worse.

The EPA’s own analysis finds that using ACE instead of the Clean Power Plan (a plan that was, at best, a slow step in the right direction) will increase coal’s share of the electricity market by 13% by 2035 and lead to up to 1,400 additional deaths from local pollution.  Climate change deaths worldwide will also increase. The coal plants will still probably die, as the precious free market has decreed (see recent announcements at our friendly local establishment for example), but they will take a bunch more human beings with them.  The administration is also planning to announce the rollback of rules forcing oil and natural gas companies to monitor and repair methane leaks in their wells, and to “streamline” oil and gas extraction in national forests.  This sort of thing might explain why the EPA has seen over 1,600 resignations since the Trump circus moved in, bringing it down to levels of staffing not seen since the 1980s.


Between the stage in Williams Park and the semi-shaded area where most are gathered is a thick band of sunlight, symbolising the difficult terrain between us and a sustainable planet.  Warming things up (or trying to distract us from the warmth) is Miami’s Earthman Lanny Smith, a family friendly artist and musician spreading a message of environmentalism.  This is the second day of his Florida Climate Action/Solutions Tour, running through the midterm elections, with a Rise Up block party in Tampa coming later the same day.  Democratic Pinellas County Commission candidate Amy Kedron also uses her time on stage to make use of music, but it seems to be aimed at a different demographic. John Lennon’s Come Together (used by Kedron as a call-and-response refrain) was a campaign song for a losing candidate who got sent to jail before election day.  It’s recognisable, but where’s the new music that symbolises invigorating political thinking? The issues that revolve around the climate battle may, on certain fundamental levels, be as old as the 1960s, industrial capitalism or humanity in general, but the art and scenes that move us need to be constantly refreshed.  The new politician -- whose views on the environment do seem promising -- then got even more modern and original by quoting the famous Gandhi line about your oppressors laughing at you.

I get the temptation to lean on well known tracks in your actions and campaigns.  With the internet allowing all scenes to operate at the same volume simultaneously it’s difficult to identify styles and conscious artists that resonate with the largest number of people.  Music today is struggling to express its frustration and open new territory, just as we in the same time period have struggled to move forward in dealing with the climate crisis. The promise of a bright future that was present in so many musical movements of the past has stalled and innovation decelerated, despite technological developments that have allowed more people to record music than ever before.  At the same time the actual future looks dark. So the music is not always pretty, or easily translated into political rallying cries, even though much intelligent music is being made.  I’d suggest putting in the effort to make it work though, because without generational engagement we are doomed.  It’s not as if modern artists are unaware or unwilling to engage with these topics. St. Pete’s ukulele punks Community Couch had to reluctantly cancel a date in Richmond this weekend due to the threat of Hurricane Florence, losing an opportunity to promote their new album I Am Breaking Up With Myself: a title that could easily apply to the biosphere.


There’s a lot in St. Petersburg that serves to humble any attempted demonstration of power: cars being prioritised over pedestrians and sidewalks, an overemphasis on keeping tourists smiling, and the heat.  Oh, the heat! In these conditions your slow march becomes less physically daunting towards potential targets (the sight of our bedraggled bodies approaching wouldn’t exactly have filled the executives at Big Bend coal power station with fear), but in this case it does highlight the relevant issue and demonstrate teeth gritting determination.  Organisers made the welcome decision to cut some blocks off of what was already a relatively short route and head us back towards Williams Park. Scientists predict that by 2030 climate change protests in St. Pete will take place within a single block around city hall, activists begging on all fours for the mayor to divert some of the effort used to encourage people to fly down here and rent cars into installing total surface area citywide misting tents.

While I’m not adamantly demanding that we move to immediately abandon St. Pete and the modest advances we’ve made towards decarbonising it, I’m not entirely joking.  I think many in this movement understand that massive issues require consideration of massive questions. If you can’t gather with minimal movement in a park in September without losing your mind, your community is arguably already becoming unlivable.  Heat tolerance levels are somewhat subjective, but only to a point: as Physicians for Social Responsibility state in the pamphlet they’re giving out today, heat waves currently kill more than 1,300 people per year, damaging lungs and hearts, spreading disease-carrying insects and aggravating issues such as asthma and bronchitis.  According to Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, daytime temperatures may be up an average of eight degrees by 2100 compared to now.  Perhaps this area has always been unlivable.  In his 2010 book Losing Our Cool (review here), Stan Cox writes that there is no conceivable way Florida would be so populous today without the invention of air conditioning, and that the curtailment of energy use that is necessary to deal with climate change demands some combination of adaptations to higher temperature, including migration.

As bay area thermometers rise we will be ever more dependent on AC, creating a receding target for our purported goal of 100% renewables, making for a real goal of a 115% or 130% increase in generation, as if it isn’t hard enough.  As sea levels rise (possibly by as much as 2.5 feet by 2050 and 7 feet by 2100, according to the Tampa Bay Climate Science Advisory Panel), our offshore wind turbines and solar farms will become ever more difficult to maintain.  Meteorologists are now discussing the inevitability of a Category 6 hurricane (a level that doesn’t officially exist yet), with Tampa at major risk of storm surges of 17 feet, which would put most of it underwater.  A major economy, tourism (itself an unsustainable driver of carbon pollution due to travel and consumerism), will completely dry up as the area becomes more hostile to relaxation.

I am not arguing in general for adaptation over mitigation; until we can adapt our way out of global famine and an atmosphere like Venus, mitigation remains the superior option.  But in our goal of mitigation we have to consider whether we wish to focus our finite efforts and financial resources in an area that is incredibly vulnerable to already locked in climate change.  We cannot pretend that climate migration applies only to places where other people live. If, for six to eight months a year, you spend your free time inside a home or car with working AC because it’s too hot to go out, you may as well have already left town.  That’s not a community by any traditional standard: it’s a recipe for maximum energy use and social isolation. At the very least, we need to move away from the policy obsession with getting more people to come here, whether seasonally or permanently, because it’s likely going to happen anyway.  Without local population growth the main argument for continued economic growth and the destruction that it guarantees falls away.

The truncated march wasn’t without noteworthy moments.  Not far into the route was a sign that read “No Parking: Replacing Bike Loops” -- well that’s more like it!  Gradually replace the parking spots with bike infrastructure and the cars, with nowhere to go, will start to disappear from the roads pretty quickly.  Minutes later I have a conversation with a fellow activist who was recently hit by a car while cycling (the violence on the roads being an issue I researched a few weeks back for a fundraiser against distracted driving).  Despite the physical pain she was still marching, putting moaning about the hot weather into some perspective.  The crowd gets a better idea of its not inconsiderate size when it gathers on the steps of the Museum of Fine Art.  Photos are taken under a banner for the current “This Is Not A Selfie” exhibit.


It might have been hard to hear the people onstage from across the sunlight barrier, but there is at least no difficulty in seeing Earthman Lanny Smith as we return to the park.  He’s wearing an impressively large paper lantern of the planet, designed somehow to allow him to still deliver his eco message over funky licks and harmonica beats. I’m just glad that I’m not attending another rally with another guy with another damn acoustic guitar.  Nothing against that style, but in this context it’s been done to death more than our planet’s biological limits. I will take this other age extreme of children-friendly music.

Earthman’s song Act of Love shouts out, once again, to Gandhi and his struggle against the English empire.  As with singing classic songs, it’s a reasonable move, but a safe one unlikely to invoke much fresh inspiration (at least Lanny is making original music).  Combined with the fact that the climate movement is fond of asking what future generations will think of us, it’s strange that historical figures like Gandhi are evoked more often than the current struggle against the American empire, of which the climate justice movement certainly needs to be a part.  In direct opposition to our objectives, the point of empire is to snatch and secure resources for use. This goal was openly stated by one of the least hawkish modern presidents in the Carter Doctrine.  There is no other reason to have over 800 bases in 80 countries, and troops or military personnel in 160.   The military is also one of the world’s largest climate criminals, and its technology cannot be reformed.  U.S. fighter jets that use thousands of gallons of jet fuel per hour and around a quarter of the global total will never be made eco-friendly.  

In Guam - a U.S. colony located between Japan and Indonesia - we can see both of these forces at play.  The military is currently planning to build a live firing range that could poison Guam’s main aquifer, harm local endangered species, and disturb historic indigenous sites, not to mention further provoke potential competitors for resources in this region, far away from U.S. national territory.  One speaker today does point out that the vast cost of this military spending could be deployed in the domestic low-carbon economy, reducing the desire for fossil fuel interventions, and this is a good point. But unless we challenge the notion of empire itself, the jets will still be deployed to secure the materials for our solar panels and smart homes.  Inspiration from the past is all well and good, but without making the obvious parallels to similar power structures that must be confronted in the present it rings hollow. And we want to rise up ringing!

To reiterate, I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade (though a little rain would have been welcome) and am sure many participants are aware of this information in general.  I am glad to have been involved and happy that it happened -- I would not have considered compiling these thoughts had the event not sparked them, and I hope that they will be issues worth considering as the movement, you know, moves forward and plans new actions.  In defense also of the organisers and participants, it is, again, hard to act or even think on a particularly deep level when your brain is being fried like an egg inside your skull.  The relaxed delivery of the music of Earthman Lanny transitions into a short meditation event to close things out here in Williams Park, extremely welcome after a physical sun beating.  Rise up and go outside while you still can.


Saturday, September 8, 2018

Promo for Cards For Humanity

Cards For Humanity recently provided Radical Beat with some nifty materials, and in return I agreed to write a promotional item for them. I also wrote a bio of my own project for them that you can read below.

Although the smartphone peddlers of the world and paranoid placard wavers at Black Mirror might cause you to think otherwise, there is still a whole lot of life that goes on in the physical realm.  If you’re a creative type in St. Petersburg who needs good promotional materials for said realm and are into ideas such as interdisciplinary arts collaboration, alternative advertising, the barter system, analogue communication, the charm of imperfection, getting cool stuff for free and building altruistic communities, then you might want to investigate Cards For Humanity.  Their personalised, zero cost calling cards will get your work to places that a link never will.

The project takes its name from the popular backroom-giggling party game Cards Against Humanity, which in turn took its name from the horrifically necessary term crimes against humanity.  An imprint of an imprint, taking this journey puts you inside a hall of mirrors where no outcome is certain, but thus is the life of the impassioned artist.  Imprint is certainly the pertinent word as well, as the cards are all handmade individually by letterpress. Partakers can expect a thoughtful process of face-to-face meetings, individualised curiosity, professional design, and a fat box of hundreds of cards.  In return, participants are asked to use their specific skill to further promote the Cards For Humanity concept. So if you’re a musician, for example, you could record an absurd jingle about the project for use in local media, and help further the not-for-profit experiment we are building underneath capitalism.  If you’re a sculptor, you could construct a small monument to the printing press. If you’re a writer, you could put together a few paragraphs full of really clever and funny observations.

Needless to say, you have nothing to lose, and artists of all kinds (the term is used loosely) can always use cards.  And if you are a writer I challenge you to delve in, get some humanity, become obliged to write another promo for the project to contrast this one, and we’ll see how deep the hall of mirrors goes.

You can look at the Cards For Humanity website here.  You can email the project through designstudiocolab[at]  Let them know who you are and how they can help.

Radical Beat Portrait

Radical Beat is an alternative journalism and media project based in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Its focus is the underground music world and the militant political fringe. On the one hand, you can expect coverage of the punk diaspora, the hip hop universe, and any other interesting musical moves that float into the periphery.  On the other, climate change, human migration, transport justice, anti-monarchism, the war industry, class inequality and capitalist instability. It deals in live gig and festival write-ups, local, national and international record reviews, action reports, hilarious observations, radical opinion columns based in fact, promo spots, and the appropriate intersections between them all.  Radical Beat is influenced by punk rock zine culture, professional music paper journalism, hip hop wordplay and edutainment, alternative comedy, on-the-ground grassroots media, and hard hitting investigative reporting. We cannot spread urgent political messages without spreading compelling entertainment, and we cannot make satisfying entertainment without in some way considering the issues that affect our lives.  The project’s goal is to cover the political topics that give good art its beating heart, and the art that makes politics comprehensible.

Radical Beat is written by James Lamont, and can be found at this link.  Updates can be followed at Facebook.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Living For Logan: Jolly Fuckers/Laser Mouth/Broken Things/Low Season
Friday, August 17th, 2018
Fubar, St. Petersburg FL

Published at Apathy & Exhaustion

Another Friday and Fubar is continuing to fix all that is fucked up beyond all reason with the world.  Last week was a pro-immigrant fundraiser for RAICES, while this week the beneficiaries are the good people at Living For Logan, a foundation that pushes for an end to the dangerous practice of distracted driving.  The soon-to-be national organisation began in honour of nine year old Logan Scherer, who was killed in 2016 in a particularly heartbreaking case of vehicular violence, on I-75 in nearby Brooksville.  Over the years I’ve begun many reviews with some kind of transport anecdote or rhetoric; it’s a pet subject for me, and it helps encapsulate the whole evening as an event. In this instance however it is especially pertinent.

Cars and cell phones are both responsible for a wide variety of suffering, so it stands to reason that when combined the results are devastating.  In the case of the automobile -- described by the novelist Ilya Ehrenburg as a machine “destined to wipe out the world” -- we have over a century of inconvenient data.  Every year, approximately 1.2 million people are killed on the roads globally.  Most of these deaths occur in the Global South, but in the U.S. the numbers are still staggering.  According to the National Safety Council, in 2017 there were around 40,100 road fatalities: 110 souls violently ripped from their bodies every single day, with thousands of people left behind to mourn them.  Every year, this group includes several thousand children.  (For the sake of comparison, Britain, with a population one fifth the size, had a toll 22 times lower in 2016, at 1,792; a mere five families a day had their lives changed forever.)

We are told that this is a great victory, because the number of deaths per vehicle miles travelled (VMT) has dropped significantly in recent decades, even though total deaths are still higher than almost every year before 1950.  In other words, the growth in the number of vehicles and miles travelled has heavily diminished the influence of improved safety regulations.  We treat these deaths as the tragic but inevitable results of an unbending transport system (what Bush Sr. dubbed a non-negotiable “way of life” at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992) rather than making deep efforts to move away from the policy and infrastructure choices that are killing us.  In light of all this, I don’t think it’s unreasonable that my opinion about the private car can be best summed up by the new Turnstile video for Bomb / I Don’t Wanna Be Blind.

Mobile phones are responsible for their own grisly death tolls (such as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where armed groups have often fought over cobalt mining, a battery mineral essential to phones, electric cars and other devices).  But they have come under increased criticism lately for their viciously addictive qualities.  Seemingly innocuous features such as red notification icons and the pull-down-to-refresh mechanism have been purposefully designed to maximise the desire for repetitive checking, the Silicon Valley equivalent of filling your food with as much salt and sugar as possible.  And these tricks work, even when they pose a massive danger to life. Research from the government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2013 found that at any given daylight moment in the United States, 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or other electronic devices (I have been unable to find more recent reliable numbers, but looking at NHTSA documents from 2016 suggests to me that this figure may now be approaching a million).  Locally, Florida is just one of four states where texting and driving is not a primary offence (meaning a driver cannot be pulled over for it).

These factors show that simply shaming or fining individuals that text and drive is not enough, as the blame does not lie solely upon their shoulders, but upon a lack of control over corporations (they might also be worth bearing in mind next time someone is ignoring you and you go to smash their phone to pieces with a hammer).  Tech industry insiders responsible for some of these very “innovations” now put serious limits on how much they let themselves and their children use these devices, and companies are making very public efforts to move us away from screens, even if it is over to other kinds of digital trappings.  Which, at the very least, is a fein towards action that the car manufacturers might consider now that the forceful normalisation of their products has been going on longer than any of us can remember.

* * *

That’ll be a cold season in hell though (another reality the motor companies are helping to bring about).  At least we here in St. Petersburg have a comfort blanket in Low Season, providing a thick melodious excellence on par with a good Dag Nasty record.  This is evident right off when Chad, Eric and Andy smash out an unabashed three minute instrumental (is this a trend right now in punk, especially for opening bands?  Did I miss the Pitchfork article? Because if so I want to encourage it). Vocalist Todd then strolls up out of nowhere, part Greg Attonito from Bouncing Souls and part Glenn Danzig, and despite my not being a massive fan of the work of either of those guys, hot damn it works here.  As usual, supporting front and centre is Dave of Car Bomb Driver. You won’t see an actual car bomb driver being distracted by their phone. In fact, it might be worth thinking of all cars as low level bombs of sorts, and acting with caution accordingly. Anyway, back on point, Low Season make consistent mid-tempo solid punk, with enough references to local culture to feel legit.  Fucking quality. They’re working on an unnamed 7” and tape for which I am pretty excited. The four member act with four letter names also released Four Songs a few years ago and I suggest you listen to it.

In the opinion of Anthony of Broken Things, it’s almost a relief to do a benefit for a pre-Trumpland issue such as this.  Yeah: there’s nothing like the comfort of working on an overwhelming structural problem that isn’t going to be solved by kicking one man out of office (keep dangling that increasingly wilted carrot, Democrats).  Indie-punks Broken Things have been both the most consistent and least consistent feature of my writing in the almost-decade that I have lived in St. Pete. An incredibly slow and steady friendship, I actually wrote that previous line in March when I was intending to see them at Lucky You Tattoo, but ended up not being able to go.  Anthony was one of the very first people in the local scene that I communicated with (via email) but it took until this event for us to meet. It’s appropriate for a band that makes a thoughtful, no rush bluster, their relatively small canon filled with a disproportionate number of references to car-clogged streets that cannot help but be illuminating.  Tonight’s is another smooth ride, even if the stereo’s blaring. Funnily, one review that I actually managed was their EP Four Songs (not to be confused with the Low Season one from sixty seconds ago).  A full length album in need of funding is hopefully almost with us.

I don’t know at all what to expect from the Safety Harbor-based Laser Mouth.  Their name sounds like a fashion choice for ecstasy riddled clubgoers, with the white sheet they’re erecting on stage encouraging me in a similar direction.  The resulting “bandimation” that is displayed throughout their set can only be described as a ode to Super Meat Boy, and to meat, and to other banal topics given colour.  The duo’s music is as equally bafflingly pleasurable, with a Big Black-inspired drum machine and aggressive guitars giving everything a punk-meets-electronic industrial noise feel.   There’s a traditional structure to the songs, but it’s loud and entertaining as a bastard, with guitarist-singer Marinda Rights baton-passing between them as fast as machinist member Mr Drumz compels them to.  It’s a wonder how two people can make this much noise so casually even with mechanisation, and I find myself in a rare instance of not understanding what is really happening and not caring. I’ve experienced this before in recent years when seeing the likes of UFO Sex Scene and Reality Asylum for the first time, so the key seems to be getting women up behind the mic and supporting the weird.  (As it happens, Laser Mouth are playing with Reality Asylum at Emerald Bar on September 24th, along with the incredibly interesting sounding Slow Code from Seattle.  Score.)

My joyous smile should presumably transition perfectly into our final act, Tampa’s Jolly Fuckers, a name that I have to imagine came about during an early conversation between the transatlantic members and caused much hilarity (and only possibly regarding the track by Sleaford Mods).  Yeah yeah, the yanks love your lingo until there’s a confrontation, then you’re a pretentious dickhead straight out of a bullshit period drama! Less royal baby coverage, more Peaky Blinders!  Anyway, the further influence of Brighton’s son Simon can be heard on the likes of Custard, Bulgarian Cleaning Lady, and a last minute cover of Leave Me Alone by 77 punks The Scabs.  The drummer/singer/Living For Logan volunteer also sounds a bit like Mark E Smith.  Bassist Eric is wearing sunglasses even though it’s one in the morning and the sun hasn’t yet managed to absorb Florida in a 24-hour ball of permanent light.  All this should give you a good idea of the Jolly Fuckers’ aesthetic and sound -- humour punk of the street language old school but not ill advised pirate nonsense.  It’s not exactly my normal bag, but it’s undeniably welcome short and sweet entertainment when you consider the grim subject matter of this fundraiser, and they kindly gave me a couple of free downloads for their Three Cents and a Cavity EP, so poke me if you’d like the spare.

The event ended up netting a cool $270 for the Living For Logan Foundation.  On September 15th they’ll be having their first annual (and much more kid friendly!) Logan’s Drive fundraiser at Rascal’s Fun Zone, in Whiteland, Indiana.  If you would like to donate to the group in their push for less suffering through both education and legislation, you can do so at Donorbox.

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