Some Thoughts #72

    Summer is always a low energy time for me.  I don’t take to the heat well, and while I love the outward energy of summer — the socializing, mingling and general out and about on the streets time of year and the inherent good times that usually follow - it’s still nothing like the transitional seasons, for me. For awhile there, it seemed that there were a lot of shows happening locally - and it was awesome.  And now as I look back at my photos and the dates - it seems they are almost all from April and to think of April now is to think of raw energy - sprouting new with life.  That was before the heat and the drought settled in to stay.  And this summer especially has been quite a scorcher.  It seems like months now since it has rained.  I never thought that me, the sun-lover that I am, would be doing rain dances and cursing the sun that shines every day.  For all that I complain every summer about the heat - I don’t think I can ever remember a relentless unforgiving unwavering heat wave such as this one.  It’s been about 100° for an entire month and the intensity has taken it’s toll.  The garden is parched, most of the grass has browned, the veggies are dying or seriously stunted and even the trees are wilting and many are dying.  Ya know when the trees, usually the stalwarts of strength, are dying that things are in dire striates.  Look at the wild fires all across the country.  This isn’t normal.  I know in recent years we hear more and more about it - with this year seeming to be the worst.  I can’t say when I noticed the change - but thousands of acres of forests burning for months on end is a tragedy.  I think of the time and energy spent to defend the trees and look at how quickly we can lose them.  We hear more about the potential loss of homes in news coverage that about losing the forests - but the fact that all these trees and forest habitats are being scorched is a horrible thing which will ultimately have a lasting impact.
    Jeremy’s artwork on the cover here shows the mood of the summer well I think.  While his illustration is about Kylesa’s van being broken down and their tour being canceled and the old adage “when it rains it pours”; for me it shows the summer’s intense heat and the desperation for a drop of rain.  (Jeremy’s art is great and always fits just right.  Thanks so much Jeremy!)
    So for many reasons I have been feeling kinda numb.  I can’t help but feel this foreshadowing of worse things to come. One of my numbing fears is the daily acceptance of all the atrocities of the world - the numbing injustice, arrogance, corruption and the intensifying of it all.  We take it all in, barely process it, or dwell on it and one day we realize how far gone we are.  When I say  “we” I mean more society as a whole - cause many people are fighting every day to make things better.  And I suppose in the grand scope of life - perhaps things are just as they have always been.  But somehow to me, it all seems more critical and crucial and on the brink of not only change but catastrophe.  And I think the worst thing is the way in which we, as a whole, do just accept it without challenging or questioning or standing up for what we think is right or should be.  And the way in which we continue on these paths will have us one day wake up and see how horribly wrong things have gone.  And I guess I mean everything from the impact of our actions on others, to the ways in which we accept and encourage violence, the ways in which we place convenience over practicality, the ways in which we don’t realize the results of our actions - the impact on the environment or our neighbors.  I don’t know - there are too many examples and it gets kind of depressing. 
    Sometimes it seems as though things change over night - when usually it’s a slow gradual process.  And that is what I am talking about noticing more, or being more aware of.  The ways in which computer technology has taken over to the degree that mailing addresses and human interaction is almost an exception to the norm.  And on and on and on.  And sometimes things really do change over night - as in your whole life can be affected or changed in a single instant -- whether for good or bad all depends.  But it’s amazing how powerful the MOMENT can be.  One event can make everything else irrelevant.  One event can make everything meaningful.  Little things can change a lot.
    So in order to forsake this doomsday gloom of a feeling -- I have to counterbalance this with the positive.  I’ve been reading a lot of good books, as always.  In fact - I think I’ve fully given into my book addition and I’ve been combing the used bookstores with rabid abandon.  A few highlights of new ones worth mentioning are: Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War Years, 1960-1975 by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.  This is one of the most inspiring and informative books I have ever read.  In her first book, Red Dirt (also wonderful) she wrote of growing up in Oklahoma (growing up “Oakie”) with a family background full of wobblies and a proud sort of politics.  In Outlaw Woman, she continues her life story as she got involved in civil rights and women’s liberation.  What I found so incredible about this story was first of all that as a history professor - she enriches the factual account of what happened in the 60s and 70s with her own experiences and it all weaves a very complex and intense story that will blow your mind.  What is also really awesome is that she was really a very active and dedicated woman.  She was at the forefront of many struggles and battles, and yet is not a well-known name in the history books - partly because she was so radical that the FBI was after her, and partly because she was not one to seek the spotlight, but rather to work toward the goals of liberation. She was (and is) truly a fighter. This is an incredible book and I highly recommend it. (City Lights Publishers, SF).
    Next up is The Dog Who Spoke with Gods by Dianne Jessup.  For anyone dedicated to animal liberation and the love of animals as equals, and for anyone who has a soft spot in their heart for a dog, or who has tried to fight animal experimentation in anyway - this is a book that must be read.  It’s a fictional novel about a dog who ends up in a college experiment lab and the girl who dedicates her life to saving him.  The dog is exceptional, as is the bond between the two.  I’m a sucker for stories for intense animal lovers, and I have this kind of bond with my dog.  And I found the whole story to be believable because Dianne Jessup knows her dogs. (St. Martin’s Griffin)
    Tribe 8 front women Lynn Breedlove’s first novel Godspeed will catch your eye with a blue mohawked girl with a bike and a 40 on the cover.  This the story of a speed-freak, bike-messenger dyke in San Francisco and her love of a girl and her love of speed.  It’s written in a fast-pace tweak with plenty of references to bands and characters outta the punk scene.  Jim bails from SF and goes on tour with an all-girl band and ends up in NYC - squatting and fighting the system.  While so much of this was familiar - enough of it was from a different perspective from within the punk scene that it was even more enjoyable.  It’s new this year and in hardback - and worth it.  (St. Martin’s Press)
    I think we’ve all gotten tired of the 9-11 coverage and the endless media onslaught and patriotic wave being shoved in our faces.  And while I find most of it hard to stomach a year later, the alternative perspectives are always still good to get a hold of and this comic book collection, 9-11: Emergency Relief is one of those worth checking out.  I’m not all that well versed in the world of comic artists - but Fly is in here!!  And there are a wide ranging variety of perspectives and documents of what these artists experienced and saw.  I think this is one worth being in the collection. (Alternative Comics)
    I just finished a fun novel called Second Hand by Michael Zadoorian about junk and junk collecting and searching for the treasures that others have left behind.  There’s also plenty of family relationship issues and some junk store romance and the girl the junker falls for even works in an anti-animal cruelty shelter.  That twist was pretty intense.  This one starts out “When I die, I will leave nothing but junk.  If I went to my house, to my estate sale, after I died, I would buy everything.” I was hooked in. (Dell Trade Paperbacks)
    And on the really exciting front, there is a whole slew of newly indie published books by many of our punk rock scene peers.  I’ve been thrilled to see some of these life works come to be, as I’ve watched the stages of them and the blood and sweat poured into their creations.  Every so often I am reminded how truly special our little community is.  This summer I was digging through an old box of zines, long put into storage in a closet.  I was looking for a particular old issue of Cometbus, which I didn’t find.  But I did find a whole bunch of zines that I had long forgotten about.  Zines done by really good friends of mine, who no longer write zines.  Zines that came out on a regular basis and were staples of the scene at a given point in time.  Zines that inspired me and lead me in the direction I have since followed.  The world of zines is a beautiful one.  And I’m glad that I have held onto all the ones that I have.  Sometimes I really struggle with the archivist and pack rat in me that wants to save everything, and unfortunately as time goes on I become more selective with what I save.  But when I look back on the selections from years gone by - I realize what a treasure these zines are and I can relive the time all over, kinda like reading old pages outta my journal.  Truthfully - looking at the old zines combined with reading those old journals and looking at old sketchbooks kinda through me back into a time period that feels like yesterday.  I feel like nothing has changed and yet in emersing myself in the words of then, I realize that much has indeed changed.  Even reading through old issues of Slug & Lettuce took me on a bit of a ride through memories.  So anyway, the point is that many of these great zine writers have since published some books -- first up is the new Cometbus anthology called Despite Everything: A Cometbus Omnibus.  I jumped up and down and all my screeched when I got this.  This is the thing - 608 pages sounds like a lot of pages - because it is a lot of pages - but the number doesn’t really even mean anything until you hold it in your hands cause it’s almost 2” thick and flip through it and it’s pure Cometbus delightful ecstasy. This is a collection of the “best of” the past 20 years of one of the most popular zines out there.  If you love Cometbus as much as me (and how could you not?) need I say that you HAVE TO GET THIS! (published by Last Gasp). 
    On a similar note - there is also a new anthology of the old East Bay zine Absolutely Zippo.  This one is really fun to read because it’s such a time warp.  Back when the East Bay was just getting a “name for itself” within the punk scene - when the clichés were original and when the bands that have since gone on to become famous were just the small local bands made up of friends.  Lots of weird stuff in there too - but it’s quite enjoyable as a collection.  The highlights for me were Larry Livermore’s scene report columns and Aaron’s random writings and of course the band news of the late 80s and early 90s.
    And last but not least I just got two more new books that just arrived - Sean Carswell (from the zine Razorback) has a collection of stories published called Glue and Ink Rebellion (from Gorsky Press).  Yours for the Revolution is Carissa Van Den Berk Clark’s novel about a punk girl and her discoveries within the punk scene and world of activism in a futuristic setting that now takes into account the war on terrorism and post 9/11 world.  I read one of the first drafts of this and it was awesome.  This has been re-written and revised many times since and I can’t wait to see how much has changed. (Bloodlink Records).
    As if all these great books aren’t enough - I also just got new CDs from Kylesa, Contravene and all he older Antiproduct stuff collected onto CD and this music is my current inspiration.  I’ve never really been one to drop quotes, but sometimes they are appropriate and I’ve been coming across some good ones lately.  In A Cafecito Story,  Julia Alvarez writes about an organic coffee farm that demonstrates the principles of sustainable living.  She writes, “One thing I’ve learned from the life I’ve lived: The world can only be saved by one man or woman putting a seed in the ground or a story in someone’s head or a book in someone’s hands.”  I couldn’t have said it better myself.  So long live the storytellers and the zine writers and the independent self-publishers and the artists and gardeners and all their sources of inspiration and creativity.  Enjoy the summer and dream of fall and a cool breeze.  But ya know - get out there into the world and hang out with your friends and have fun and make things and do things which will give you stories to tell when the season winds down and inward.  Remember, the moment counts and it’s all that you make it.
—Chris(tine) July 2002