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Barred For Life: A Review in ScannerZine

Scanner Zine
May 13th, 2013

It could be very easy to misinterpret this if you judged the book purely on its cover. At first glance, this appears to be more about tattooing than Punk Rock. There are lots of photos of people with tattoos, both heavily and lightly inked, of BLACK FLAG’s iconic bar logo. I don’t have a single tattoo and I plan on keeping my skin clear of ink, but if I did, I would not personally choose the bars. The actual scope of the book, however, transcends mere tattoos.

The book is basically a visual document of a tour Ebersole undertook in 2009 looking for those with the BLACK FLAG bars tattooed somewhere on their torso. The book captures approximately 400 of those FLAG fans in sharp monochrome photography in all manner of settings. Each fan gets their own little spiel about what BLACK FLAG mean to them (with some being poignant in the extreme), favourite track, album and singer. It’s an interesting way to spend a spare five minutes and there are no clear-cut choices when it comes to singer/track/album preferences - even ‘The Process Of Weeding Out’ gets a few votes! Those featured include a few notable names too - Frank Turner is on the final page, owners of Equal Vision, Slang and Deathwish Records appear, Tripp Underwood of UNSEEN and Erik Larsen (ex-AVAIL) also make appearances.

However, it’s the narrative of Ebersole that I found engrossing. It’s basically his own life story in Punk Rock. I always enjoy these stories and Ebersole writes with clarity and passion and without any sense of egotism or superiority. It’s a familiar rite of passage that many of us took - especially those who are still moved by this Punk Rock thing some 30 years later - but as with all tellers of such stories, it’s the small differences that make the bigger picture that much more interesting and unique. He tells of his sense of feeling an outsider, of how a few people directed him toward eye-opening and life changing events and sounds and of his eventual disillusionment. What’s clear is he does still love Punk Rock and the way he winds the history of BLACK FLAG (fact and fable) into the narrative probably makes this the most enjoyable book about BLACK FLAG out there. Interestingly also, Ebersole is quick to point out that BLACK FLAG was probably never his most favoured Punk band.

Giving this a sense of official authorisation, Ebersole has also interviewed BLACK FLAG alumni Keith Morris, Chuck Dukowski, Dez Cadena, Ron Reyes and Kira Roessler. Not stopping there, photographers Ed Colver and Glen E Friedman are included in conversation, as is tattooist Rick Spellman who is responsible for Rollins’ back. The interviews are really great too - particularly Dukowski’s. Ebersole states that both Greg Ginn and Henry Rollins were offered interviews and both declined; that’s probably more detrimental to Ginn and Rollins than the book itself. The interviews look great too, being printed on four huge ‘bars’ across double pages.

The whole book has a very original feel to it, mixing high quality visuals with an excellent yet understated narrative that’s laden with knowledge and comprehensive, uncluttered interviews. If Rollins’ Get In The Van is too angst-ridden and depressing, and Stevie Chick’s Spray Paint The Walls a little sterile, then this is the perfect antidote to any faults those books may have.

Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Back to Stewart Dean Ebersole's Author Page




Drawn to New York on The Rumpus


By

May 3rd, 2013

The New York Comics & Picture-Story Symposium is a weekly forum for discussing the tradition and future of text/image work. Open to the public, it meets Monday nights 7-9pm EST in New York City. Presentations vary weekly and include everything from historical topics and technical demonstrations to creators presenting their work. Check out upcoming meetings here.

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Peter Kuper came to present a summary of three decades of his work at this week’s symposium. In his bag was a small stash of copies of his soon-to-be released book Drawn to New York, fresh off the press, as well as his usual kit of on-location sketching materials signaling the next book to come.

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Kuper began by pointing out that storytelling through comics has always been a significant part of the human experience as evident in the very early cave paintings. The stories that we choose to tell one another are significant preservers of the culture, perhaps more so than anything else. He followed this slide with a stream of images representing generation after generation of visual artists influenced by the city of New York. For as long as there have been people, there has been a desire to leave a mark behind. But this universal desire has been blown to wild proportions in New York mostly because it is so hard to mark.

The city seems to offer endless possibilities and opportunities for artists. There are vast amounts of surfaces to cover, be them walls on the street or in a gallery, sidewalks and subway cars, newspapers, journals, magazines and books, storefronts and benches, posters, flyers, napkins and canvases. But the marketplace dips and rises and the rapid renovation alongside the decay of the city’s infrastructure propels the visual history of the city as an independent meta-structure while its physical origins are erased with a single beat of the urban drum.

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For instance, images which began their lives as graffiti embedded onto the concrete itself, have emancipated themselves as icons of the city.

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The popular Sunday Funnies characters who reflected the urban daily life of the old tenements have faded along with the crumbling newspapers they were printed on, but have since become coined in the journalistic language. Or the story of MAUS that began as loose pages in Raw Magazine which was sold through the mail and went on to win a Pulitzer Prize and took its place in the pantheon of american literature.

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The city constantly calls its artists’ gaze onto itself and inspires obsessive documentation of its daily life, yet it does not promise to sit still long enough for one to feel a familiarity or a citizenship. Kuper explained that it is easy to see how Jack Kirby’s alienated points of view in his earlier illustrations have evolved into the stories of “The Fantastic Four” and other superheroes who remain forever outsiders no matter how many adventures they go through.

Most of the illustrated marks that have long since evaporated from the physical grid, scraped off the post boxes or discarded with the daily paper are forever embedded as the backdrops of the NYC fantasies, legends movies and fiction. They shape not the city itself, but the perception of it and the imagination of the artists to come. It is largely the images themselves which attract artists from outside like moths to the flame that covers their tracks. For an artist striving to survive in New York what is left is to take a place in the imagination and to reflect that of those before him.

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So many of those images are apocalyptical scenarios where all that is left to recognize is the city’s famous skyline which lends itself well to destruction and floods.

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Kuper talked a lot about the important role of nostalgia while living in a place that seems to contradict the basic conditions for creating a life for oneself. The city never ceases to inspire yet there remains the need to feel one has arrived somewhere where he belongs.

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Through the eyes of Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo we may learn about a cityscape that once was, and through the eyes of Ben Katchor’s Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer, Kuper finds himself reminiscing about a city which has never existed. The nostalgic emotion provides the crucial emotional connection to the city Kuper has made his home.

Kuper added the best way he has of feeling at home in NYC is to venture away from it and realize how much he genuinely fears being anywhere else. He told us about his most recent out of town vacation. He arrived at La Guardia Airport only to find out all flights had been delayed indefinitely on account of the air traffic control budget cuts. He then canceled his flight and thought of nothing that would make him happier but the sight of Manhattan’s skyline.

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Kuper’s personal story began in 1977 when he disembarked a bus from his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio during his first vacation from college. The song playing in his head, which he sang out loud to us, was Frank Sinatra’s classic “New York, New York.”

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The city he beheld was dirty, decaying, dangerous and poverty-stricken but he felt he had arrived in heaven.

In the six week intervals between the calls he would make to the head of the animation studio he was promised to work for, he pounded the pavement with his portfolio gravitating towards the siren call of the city’s glamorous architecture.

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Ever since, every day has held for him the promise of a thrilling adventure “minus the 20 dollars walking out of the door fee,” Kuper jokes. He flipped through a few spreads of the sketchbook diary he regularly carries around with him and of which excerpts have been published in this new book. The overlaid scenes he records vary in style. The diversity of the moment he observes accommodates his love of experimentation with various mark-making materials. From a multi-colored pencil, collages of ticket stubs and restaurant bills, water colors, stencils to micro-pens and ink brushes.

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 Throughout his talk, Kuper inserted numerous allusions to the movie industry and described his sincere adoration of cinema. “This is the best movie ever!” he exclaims whenever he catches a movie set in New York on TV. He becomes somewhat excited by what he phrased as “real-estate porn.” Every so often he would watch something like “Rosemary’s Baby” and find himself giddily peering over Satan’s shoulder, as the characters behind him venture into “the next room,” or “turn into a corridor” both quite fantastical situations in a NYC apartment.

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Whereas New York has always been one of the main backdrops in the movie industry, the everyday experience of the city is much more similar to comics than film. The city randomly organizes its people into isolated static frames/moments, pausing (or not) at traffic lights, bus-stops, queues. Creating a story means contemplating the mysteries of the tissue connecting them. Asking what might be the element holding together a subway car packed with languages and outfits, and whether it’s strong enough to stop them from disappearing completely from each-others lives as it screeches into a halt is a sequential artist’s question. Kuper demonstrated this with his wordless story “One Dollar” accompanying it with a jazzy tune playing from his iPhone.

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 Comics is a medium that is a direct reflection of the musicality, the architecture, and the sense of time that may be perceived as both static and dynamic at one glance.

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It is clear to see why the city has always been a Mecca of cartooning, but having said that, he refrained, “I consider surviving here in this medium for such a long time an achievement in its own right.”

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Another unique aspect of the city Kuper touched upon was the way its architecture challenges the definitions of high and low. The city’s population disappears underground and then resurfaces only to disappear once more to the top of a sky scraper or into the depths of the urban jungle. The skyline dips and ducks, the streets are strewn with gaping holes. Everyone has a different destination but the rhythm is unanimous. Just as they pump the city with a continuous stream of traffic, the visual chronicles of the city all merge into a single musical continuum. Throughout art history, the terminology for artforms that have crossed over set lines has often been deprecative. Such is the term “Ashcan School” for artists who turned to document the underbelly of the city life, or the term “Graphic Novels” describing the literary works of Lynd Ward and Will Eisner. However, the contrast and resistance are authentic to the nature of the city. Kuper said he based the design of his book on this notion of blurring the lines. As a visual artist he derives inspiration from the worlds of comics, illustrations and fine art alike. Thus, he laid out his paintings besides sketches, and gag cartoons beside introspective portraits. Kuper said he also deliberately mixed the chronology of his work to emphasize his thesis that an artistic quest has nothing to do with definitions. Just as every stroll around the block challenges the containing, permanent quality of architecture simply by introducing a new point of view to the continuum.

Kuper admitted that while the sustained notion of discovery may numb any visions of terror or overwhelming sadness with a false sense of satisfaction, they also mean he never stops seeing. This is his way of paying tribute to the homeless, the impoverished, and the isolated.

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After the events of 9/11 he wished art could do more, ultimately realizing that “creation in the face of destruction was of the utmost value.” In this context Kuper mentioned the importance of political publications such as WW3 as a vehicle of streaming confrontational images into the media which would otherwise remain outside the visual landscape.

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Kuper explained his choice of recent years to take on long-term projects and cut back on editorial illustration jobs. He said his political illustrations had a greater relevance during the Bush administration when mainstream magazines like Time were willing to publish more political and angst-driven illustrations. However, now there seems to be an editorial attitude that strong political images are less important and can be toned down, as if now “everything is fixed.”

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Image 1:Peter Kuper, Drawn to New York, PM Press 2013

Image 2: Banksy, 2005

Image 3: portait of Keith Haring

Image 4: Richard F. Outcault, Merry Xmas Morning in Hogan’s Alley, 1895

Image 5-6: Peter Kuper, Drawn to New York, PM Press 2013

Image 7: Eric Drooker, Flood, Dark Horse Books, 1992

Image 8: Winsor McCay, Little Nemo In Slumberland

Image 9-16: Peter Kuper, Drawn to New York, PM Press 2013

Image 17: George Belows, Cliff Dwellers, 1913

Image 18-19: Peter Kuper, Drawn to New York, PM Press 2013

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About the author: Keren Katz has a tattoo of a helicopter by Peter Kuper above her right knee. She is the illustrating half of The Katz Sisters duo and also the half that is not fictitious. Her latest graphic novel “The Night Poetry Class in Room 1001” debuted in April. Check out more her projects here, and more of her books here.

Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Back to Peter Kuper's Author Page




Drawn to New York Review on Ad Astra


by Nicole Burton
Ad Astra
May 18th, 2013

“Clearly New York was a dangerous place where terrible things could happen, but also a place that could turn ordinary people into superheroes.”

Kuper’s recently published work is building on the available literature making an argument for “graphic biographies” – not for people, but for places. Cities. Something attracts us to these massive collections of social activity that take on a life and personality all their own, and actually change us in the process. Radical artist (and former New Yorker) Eric Drooker postulates in the beginning of the book that people move to NYC as much to find careers and connections as they come to find themselves. Drawn to New York is a dedication to that power.

The book is a mash-up of a few different categories of work. There’s an intimacy in the quick sketches that are clearly drawn in the moment, on the subway, in cafes, (which conversely make you feel as close as you can be to that original scene, while also conveying that this book is really allowing you to peruse someone’s private journal/sketchbook –which is just the best thing in the world). As you peruse these pages, your eyes taking in a mesmerizing quantity of geometric shapes (so many right angles, so many windows!), a section of sketches will be punctuated with a longer piece of sequential art that tells a short story. As you read, the work more or less gets better and better; I can only assume this is because it is ordered chronologically, but I’m not sure.

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The power of Kuper as a “New York artist” really shines in his highly-detailed stencil comics (made with multiple layers of stencils and spray paint), like the collection of New Yorker facial expressions, or his 2 a.m. trip to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge, or his commentaries on gentrification and crime.

Beyond the actual aesthetic of his work, the variety of perspective here is pretty broad, and is perhaps a part of Kuper himself being a New Yorker and an outsider (he’s originally from Cleveland–-which, oddly enough, has its own amazing graphic biography by Harvey Pekar.) His work goes from feeling like a love letter to an observation by an anthropologist of a place that is completely his “other”.

Towards the end his work has gotten pretty sophisticated, with pieces of comics journalism coming in about major NYC events, like his strip, “The Wall”. This piece, and every other, seems set in its conveyance that this great city is great for the same reasons it is so unstable: it is constantly in movement.

Or in Kuper’s words:

“This city is change. That’s its glory – it’s a perpetually unfinished canvas, offering up possibility to each successive wave of artists.”

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A showcase of city and artist, with an interesting interplay between the two. That is, Peter Kuper is now, undeniably, a “New York artist”… the city shaped him. And in return, Kuper continues to pay tribute by making art that adds to the city’s ever-evolving mythos.

For more information about Peter Kuper, check out Peter’s book page in the PM Press store site.

Full Book Information:

Title: “Drawn to New York: An Illustrated Chronicle of Three Decades in New York City”
Artist: Peter Kuper
Introduction: Eric Drooker
Published: May 2013 by PM Press
Format: Hardcover only at this time
Size: 10.5 by 8
Page count: 208 Pages
Subjects: Art-Illustration, History-New York City, Regional-New York City
List Price: $29.95

Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Back to Peter Kuper's Author Page




Barred For Life: A Review on CVLT Nation

by Meghan MacRae
CVLT Nation
May 23rd, 2013


It's hard to exaggerate the importance of Black Flag to underground music. They pioneered a touring style that is standard for bands today, plus they basically invented hardcore, or at least set the standard for it. Their four bar logo has achieved almost Che-like status in pop culture iconography, but it manages to remain cool and underground at the same time - as Ebersole puts it: "look closely at those four rectangles and you will see a cute little waving black flag representing "ANARCHY;" the stateless state; a DIY politic. No Gods and No Masters, as they say!" I can't tell you how many people I know or have met who have inked that logo somewhere on their body. With Barred For Life, Stewart Dean Ebersole has put together a photo documentary of how Black Flag has touched people's lives - literally in the form of tattoos. Interspersed with photos of people he and photographer Jared Castaldi captured along their six years of travel in North America and abroad, Ebersole tells the story of being a punker of the 80s in America, and how Black Flag figured in punk rock lore of the time. The result is rad to look at and a captivating read, and also includes in-depth interviews with Dez and Chuck. I would wager at least half of you reading this have a Black Flag tattoo on you somewhere, and you know you're not alone! Check out some of the rad portraits below, and head over to the Barred For Life facebook page here and get your own copy here!


Barred for Life! <br />A Chronicle of the Black Flag Tattoo

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henry

13.Claire Bastarache

33.Mark Pesci

58.Alex Submachine

62.David Wuttke

70.Darius Hart

88.Norman Truman

97.Mallory Harwardt

120.Su Spellman

127.Phillip AcalaB

129.London May

137.Jeffrey Hopson.BK

143.John Guerra

148.James Owens

167.Michael Sacrimpante

204.Jeff Janiak

214.Jean-Luc Navette

219.Mayo Maggiore.Inset1

225.Paolo Martinelli




Barred For Life: A Review in Razorcake

by Kurt Morris
Razorcake
May 17th, 2013

I have been looking forward to Barred for Life for a number of years now. The subtitle says it all: "How Black Flag's Iconic Logo Became Punk Rock's Secret Handshake." As someone who has "The Bars" (as they're called), I was intrigued with what author Stewart Dean Ebersole would come up with. The book is hefty and depending on how punk rock your house is, it would make for a good coffee table book. The general thrust of the book is a plethora of photos of people with their tattoos of The Bars. The nice thing is that the photos aren't just close-ups of the tattoos, rather the focus is on the individual. Sometimes The Bars are hard to find on the person, but they're always there. It's more about their experience with the logo. Each photo comes with some basic information (I'm not in the book, just using myself as an example):

Kurt Morris
Age: 34
Home: Boston, MA
Occupation: Researcher/Librarian
Favorite Singer: Rollins
Favorite Song: "In My Head"
Favorite Album: Who's Got the 10 1/2 ?

In addition to their photo, they also have a snippet of text about The Bars or punk rock or what Black Flag has meant to them. Subjects are from the United States, Canada, and parts of Western Europe. While the photographs are the thrust of the book, there are also interviews with a number of members of Black Flag (Chuck Dukowski, Dez Cadena, Ron Reyes, Kira Roessler, and Keith Morris), as well as those associated with the band (tattooist Rick Spellman and photographers Edward Colver and Glen Friedman). Additionally, Ebersole has written essays about his experience with punk rock and Black Flag that are spread throughout the book and around the photos.

The photographs were well-done and intriguing. I wanted to learn more about each of these individuals, but, obviously, that is outside the scope of this text. The decision to focus on the individual over the tattoo was key in the success of Barred for Life. It shows that the book is about more than just the tattoo; it's about how The Bars has affected so many people. The size of each photograph was generous, reminding the reader that this was the heart of the book. However, by the end of it, the amount of photographs felt overwhelming. There were so many, and unless the person had a funny pose or said something unique, they blurred together. One or two-dozen fewer photos would have still slacked my thirst for The Bars.

That being said, it seems a poor choice to intersperse Ebersole's essays around the photographs. Separating the essays, photos, and interviews into discrete sections would have been a smarter choice. While it's interesting to read how the forty-something Ebersole got into punk and his experiences with it, I found it to be superfluous. An introduction wherein he explained his history would have sufficed.

The interviews are great, though. But it's misleading to call them interviews. They're actually essays by the individuals with no questions interspersed. I learned things about the band and the lives of the individuals outside the band, as well as their thoughts on Black Flag all these years later. It's a shame they couldn't have been longer and included even more members. (Morris and Dukowski have talked about their time in Black Flag quite a bit, but what about Bill Stevenson or Anthony Martinez?) It's unfortunate Greg Ginn and Henry Rollins weren't included, but it's not really a surprise, either, considering their past lack of interest in giving interviews about their time in Black Flag.

While the essays were largely unnecessary, Barred for Life is still a pretty cool book. It adds another level of depth to the history of one of punk rock's most influential acts. This book is definitely recommended for fans of Black Flag as well as those interested in punk rock tattoos. 

Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Back to Stewart Dean Ebersole's Author Page




Bicycle! Reviewed in Razorcake

by Kurt Morris
Razorcake
May 17th, 2013

I enjoy biking around Boston. It's not a bad biking town, although it comes with its share of hazards. Having a bike here requires it to be in tip-top shape. While I take my bike to Bikes Not Bombs for upkeep, others, like my roommate, prefer to do most work on their own. A book like Bicycle! is meant for people such as her, as well as bike messengers and mechanics-anyone who works on bikes regularly.

Bicycle! is broken down into chapters that go in depth about the various parts that make up the bike: frames, headsets, wheels, handlebars, brakes, and more. There are also chapters on winter riding, on-the-road repairs, different geared bikes, and even building your own bike. The material in here is detailed and thorough, with photographs and drawings that show parts and materials that comprise a bike.

While the material may be more detailed than a basic bicyclist may need, author Sam Tracy has plenty experience with repairing bikes (including in the African country of Mauritania) to know what he's talking about. Written in paragraph form, he writes of ways to improve one's bike as well as simple fixes for what ails it. Overall, Bicycle! seems thorough and comes from an author who is quite knowledgeable in the field. Unfortunately, for someone like myself who is a more casual bicyclist, it was a bit over my head. But for anyone interested in taking on the maintenance aspect of their bicycle, this is recommended.


Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Back to Sam Tracy's Page



PM Authors & Contributors @ The Left Forum June 8th-9th

Stop by the Left Forum for challenging panels and engaging presentations by these PM Authors & Contributors & Hundreds of others. Also remember to stop by the exhibition room and check out our new releases including Peter Kuper's Drawn to New York, among others.

For more information on the Left Forum, click HERE.

Saturday, June 8th

Session 1
10am-11.50am 
Room: LHN

The Making of Global Capitalism

In this conversation, Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin demonstrate the intimate relationship between modern capitalism and the American state, including its role as an “informal empire” promoting free trade and capital movements.

Chair:
Nicole Aschoff    

Speakers:
Leo Panitch        
Sam Gindin            
Joshua Freeman

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Session 1
10am-11.50am 
Room: W521

The Theory of One-Dimensional Society, the Specter of Climate Collapse, and Prospects for Social Transformation

Following the presentation of theories of reification advanced by György Lukács in his History and Class Consciousness (1923), and continuing his colleagues’ investigations into the "culture industry" of late capitalism (Dialectic of Enlightenment, 1944), German critical theorist Herbert Marcuse famously came to declare advanced-industrial society as being one-dimensional (One-Dimensional Man, 1964): a world marked by the absence of opposition to prevailing trends, with the stipulated integration of the Marxian proletariat into capitalism and generalized social conformity. This panel will examine the contemporary relevance of Marcuse’s analysis of one-dimensionality, particularly as regards the ever-worsening climatic and environmental crises, driven as they are by the exigencies of the capitalist machine and, crucially, its seemingly widespread acceptance among the U.S. populace at large (the U.S. being the single largest contributor to this problem historically). Dialectically, though, this panel will also attempt to explore the chances for a sustained "ecological general strike," as is being currently formulated by the I.W.W., prosecuted by the masses residing within the world-system’s imperialist core, in accordance with their responsibilities, as theorized by tendencies like autonomous Marxism. Panelists will also seek to examine the contributions permaculture can provide in the struggle for a decentralized, anti-authoritarian resolution to the climate crisis.

Chair:
Javier Sethness Castro   

Speakers:       
Sky Cohen            
Jani Benjamins             
Quincy Saul

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Session 1
10:00am - 11:50am
Room: W604

The Revolution of Everyday Life: Are Situationist Ideas Still Relevant?

PM Press have recently published a completely revised translation of Raoul Vaneigem's "classic of subversion," The Revolution of Everyday Life. Vaneigem's book offers a lyrical and aphoristic critique of the "society of the spectacle" from the point of view of individual experience. If Debord's analysis armed the revolutionaries of May with theory, Vaneigem's book described their desperation directly and armed them with "formulations capable of firing point-blank on our enemies." Donald Nicholson-Smith will discuss the technical and politico-cultural difficulties confronted by the translator of critical texts such as those of the Situationist International. Is such translation really possible, or does the "target" (English-speaking) culture inevitably alter and reinvent the original (French) one for its own purposes? Donald Nicholson-Smith will discuss the value (or not) of the book now that it is almost half a century old with Chris Winks, a connoisseur of the Situationist International and its sequelae. The discussion will be chaired by Eddie Yuen.

Chair:
Eddie Yuen

Speakers:
Chris Winks
Donald Nicholson-Smith
Hari Kunzru

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Session 1
10:00am - 11:50am
Room: W522

World War 3 Illustrated 33 years of confrontational comix

Since 1980 World War 3 illustrated has been addressing personal and political ideas using the medium of comics to illustrate these ideas. The magazine has been an historical document of our history from Reagan to Obama as well as international history. Founding editors and on-going contributors will discuss this history and our future with visual presentations.

Chair:
Peter Kuper

Speakers:
Seth Tobocman
Sabrina Jones
Sandy Jimenez

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Session 1
10am - 11:50am
Room: W503

Penal states, Border choreography, Bare bodies

Statistics show that prisons, detention centers, solitary camps, border deaths and movement of immigrants through illegal pathways have increased exponentially with restrictive and selective regularization mechanisms in the EU and settlers states such as United States and Canada. Politics of difference, xenophobia, islamophobia, global war on terror, nationalism, and imperialism coincides with the increase in discrimination and sequestering of immigrant populations. Therefore this panel explores: legality/illegality, precarity of clandestine immigrant workers and immigrant autonomy through collaborative convergence of clandestine immigrants with immigrant-justice groups, autonomous Marxist/anarchist and native activist groups.

Chair:
Terran Giacomini

Speakers:
Matt Meyer
Matt Graber
Sutapa Chattopadhyay
Thanu Yakupitiyage

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Session 1
10:00am - 11:50am
Room: E325

Left Wing Noir: High Crimes and Misdemeanors

A group of progressive crime writers discuss the importance of incorporating economic, environmental and other crimes in their novels and stories, in a popular genre with a long history of social commentary, and the challenges of being a creative artist in a commercial medium that doesn't want to hear alternative views that run counter to the dominant Center-Right "mainstream" narrative.

Chair:
Kenneth Wishnia   

Speakers:
Steven Wishnia
Irene Marcuse
Lina Zeldovich
Kaylie Jones


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Session 2
12:00pm - 01:40pm
Room: LHN

State Theory and its practical orientation

An open discussion on Alvaro Garcia Lineras theory of the state with Stanley Aronowitz and Leo Panitch. 

Chair:
Stanley Aronowitz

Speakers:
Leo Panitch
Saskia Sassen  

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Session 2
12:00pm - 1:40pm
Room: W613

Primitive Accumulation in Light of the Current Onslaught of Austerity


This panel addresses the damage austerity is doing to the economy and society. Its backdrop will be Karl Marx's analysis of the role of classical primitive accumulation. For all its brutality, classical political accumulation may deserve some credit in promoting the development of capitalism's productive capacity. In contrast to classical primitive accumulation, the modern variant seems to be almost entirely extractive, feeding the voracious appetite of finance capital, by consuming what might otherwise nourish the lives of the people, including those parts of the public sector that serve human needs.

Chair:
Michael Perelman  

Speakers:

David McNally 
Michael Hudson

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Session 2
12:00pm - 1:40pm
Room: E303

Shrinking Financial Capital: Why and How?

We would like to have a facilitated discussion with Cathy O'Neil (from OWS alt. banking) and Doug Henwood (author of Wall Street) on why the financial sector is still a smart target for organized movements. What is finance capital's unique political and economic role in the economy? What tools do movements have for curbing its power in the medium-term? What is a long-term strategy for shrinking finance to bathtub-drownable levels?

Chair:
Suresh Naidu   

Speakers:
Cathy O'Neil  
Doug Henwood

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Session 3
3:40pm - 5:20pm
Room: E308

Labor: Stumbling Block or Ally in the Transition to Building an Ecologically Sustainable Economy?

The panel will discuss the important role of labor’s role in building the transition to an ecologically sustainable economy and some of the problems we face in a society where jobs are scarce. Panelists will include union activists and labor educators.

Chair:
Jenny Brown

Speakers:

Sam Gindin
Howie Hawkins        
Steve Downs

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Session 3
3:40pm - 5:20pm
Room: E329

Unpacking the University-National Security State-Corporate Complex


Our major universities, as key institutions serving corporate and state power and imperial “national interest,” are currently undergoing a transformation. While still rhetorically giving voice to the goals and expressed values of a liberal education -- those of openness, tolerance and democracy -- the modern university has increasingly become an essential component of the "university-national security state-corporate complex." In short, universities worldwide are being retooled to serve neoliberal ends and an offensive is currently underway to restructure the entire higher education system in service to capital and empire. The panel will examine various elements, illustrated by case studies, of that broader agenda.

Chair:
Liza Featherstone 

Speakers:
Steve Horn
Allen Ruff
Chris Hebdon

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Session 3
3:40pm - 5:20pm
Room: E322      

Ecofeminist Ecosocialism in Action: Perspectives on Contemporary Movements for a Planet Beyond Capitalism

This panel begins with the premise that a transition to an ecosocialist world society is possible only to the extent that the movement and its outcomes are ecofeminist in character. Our aim is to highlight ecofeminist dimensions of movements that seek ways beyond capitalism and crises. The panel participants address the following themes: How resistors set up direct deals to take control over energy, food and related parts of the political economy, how activists in the USA are organizing an ecofeminist, ecosocialist movement, and how and to what extent global social movements build convergence across gendered, ethnicized class and geographic borders as an alternative to the corporate and United Nations ‘green economy’ agenda. The panelists seek to contribute to a revolutionary feminist and ecofeminist analysis of contemporary social movements and problems in 21st century political economy.

Chair:
Terran Giacomini

Speakers:
Terisa Turner   
Abraham Mwaura     
Quincy Saul
Sutapa Chattopadhyay

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Session 4
5:30pm - 7:10pm
Room: Schimmel

Ecosocialism: Coming to a Horizon Near You

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and other recent so-called natural disasters, many people on the Left are awaking to the magnitude of climate change, and to the importance of an ecological critique of capitalism. What is the next stage in the evolution of anti-capitalist thought, action, and organization, in this new era of climate chaos? What is the ecosocialist movement, and what is ecosocialism as a political and ideological orientation? Join some of the co-founders of Ecosocialist Horizons, a group that has been organizing around these questions for many years, nationally and internationally. We invite you to a join a conversation, an organization and a movement.

Chair:
Joel Kovel  

Speakers:
Quincy Saul
Kanya D'Almeida
Terran Giacomini
Abraham Mwaura 
Ben Barson
Terisa Turner
Leigh Brownhill     

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Session 4
5:30pm - 7:10pm
Beyond Bloomberg: The Future of New York

From his perch at City Hall and with the aid of both imperial wealth and an often imperious personality, Mayor Bloomberg has pushed a vision for the city that has charmed the chattering classes and confounded critics. What is the Bloomberg legacy and what progressive possibilities exist in the most unequal city in America? A conversation based on a special issue of The Nation. Featuring Doug Henwood, Kim Phillips-Fine, Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, Josh Freeman and The Nation's Executive Editor, Betsy Reed.
            
Chair:
Betsy Reed         

Speakers:
Doug Henwood 
Joshua Freeman

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Session 4
5:30pm - 7:10pm
Room: W510

The Question of Strategy after Occupy

Panel Discussion

Chair:
Vivek Chibber

Speakers:
Barbara Epstein
Sam Gindin
Charles Post 
Michalis Spourdalakis 

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Session 4
5:30pm - 7:10pm
Room: W610

Free Puerto Rican Political Prisoner Oscar Lopez RIvera

Chair:
Professor Ana M Lopez   

Speakers:
Jan Susler, Esq.  
Graciano Matos
Clarissa Lopez

Book: Oscar Lopez Rivera: Between Torture and Resistance by Oscar López Rivera
and edited by Luis Nieves Falcón    

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Session 4
5:30pm - 7:10pm
Room: W522

Politics and Literature: Victor Serge Today

After years of obscurity, Victor Serge is emerging as an exemplary figure, both as lifelong revolutionary and a major 20th Century novelist. Ignored in academia, Serge’s books command a growing ‘invisible international’ of readers. New translations and editions are appearing, including the first complete English translation of Serge’s classic Memoirs of a Revolutionary. In life, Serge incarnated many dualities: French/Russian, anarchist/Bolshevik, revolutionary propagandist/literary artist. At this round-table, Serge translators, scholars and members of the Brecht Forum Serge Study Group will discuss topics as diverse as Serge’s newly recovered Mexican Notebooks, Serge’s anarchism, Serge’s revolutionary humanism, and Serge’s ‘double duty’ concept while seeking the unity underlying Serge’s apparent eclecticism.

Chair:
Jenny Greeman

Speakers:

Chris Winks
Mitch Abidor
Casey Butcher
Richard Greeman

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Session 4
5:30pm - 7:10pm
Room: E301

The Intertwining of Red and Green: Ecocide Can Only be Stopped with the Defeat of Capitalism

The only way to save the planet is to end capitalism. In the production of commodities, the processes of exploitation and expropriation/extraction are inextricably intertwined. Our struggles against both should be similarly linked. We will discuss the economic mechanisms that make capitalism inherently expansionist, and therefore ecocidal, and how capitalism generates both class domination/struggle and ecocide (omnicide, in fact). And yet our corresponding movements—labor and environmental—have often been at odds. A ghastly contradiction has been set up between our need for clean air/water/food, and our dependency on jobs (increased industrial production) for immediate survival. Capitalists push this contradiction in their favor; we will explore how we can push it the other way. We’ll discuss the need for environmentalists to ally with and support working class struggles, as well as for the working class to incorporate the fight against extraction/expropriation, in particular through imperialism), into their struggles. The environmental struggle can only be won if capitalism is eliminated. Only the working class, by liberating itself and abolishing wages, can defeat capital and end capitalism. A red-green alliance is essential to strengthen our collective capacity to challenge our common enemy.

Chair:
Stephanie McMillan

Speakers:
Ron Whyte
Mario Kawonabo
Jalen Matney

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Sunday, June 9th



Session 5
10:00am - 11:50am
Room: W615

Catastrophism

This panel includes several authors of the book Catastrophism: The Apocalyptic Politics of Collapse and Rebirth, The panelists will explore the politics of apocalypse—on the left and right, in the environmental movement—and consider whether the lens of catastrophe can distort our understanding of the dynamics at the heart of these numerous disasters and possibly impede our ability to transform the world. Doug Henwood, Eddie Yuen, and Jim Davis will consider the reasons why catastrophic thinking is so prevalent, and challenge the belief that it is only out of the ashes that a better society may be born. The authors argue that those who care about social justice and the environment should jettison doomsaying—even as it relates to indisputably apocalyptic climate change. Far from calling people to arms, they suggest, catastrophic fear often results in passivity and paralysis—and, at worst, reactionary politics.



Chair:
Doug Henwood    

Speakers:
Eddie Yuen 
James Davis      

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Session 5
10:00am - 11:50am
Room: W626

China, Africa and Capitalist Destruction of the Planet

China has been transformed into the workshop of the world. But it is a workshop with few native natural resources. This circumstance has compelled China to enter into highly problematic relations with foreign resource suppliers, notably with various undemocratic governments in Africa. At the same time China's unique hybrid communist-capitalist mode of production is driving China's ecology toward collapse while its relentless and rising coal burning and resource consumption has dire implications for the whole planet. Fred Magdoff, professor of plant soil science, ecosocialist and author of "What Every Environmentalist Should Know About Capitalism", Tersa Turner, professor of anthropology and author of works on oil and class struggle, gendered development an related topics, and Richard Smith, whose work has focused on capitalist development and China's environment, will comment on these issues.


Chair:
Matt Meyer 

Speakers:
Terisa Turner
Fred Magdoff
Richard Smith

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Session 5
10:00am - 11:50am
Room: W602

Reproducing Cities in the Americas: Knowledge, Technique, and Spatial Practice

This session highlights the struggles for urban space in the Americas through the intersecting lenses of race, gender, sexuality, and class, paying close attention to the politics of urban development, displacement, confinement, and surveillance, as well as resistance. On the one hand, gentrification and neoliberal economics are displacing and confining the urban poor to a growing periphery. Simultaneously, communities that have been historically relegated to the city’s margins, find themselves subject to increased policing if they are to access social programs. On the other hand, displaced groups are making claims to urban space by drawing on their racial and gender identities. All of these processes are intimately linked to processes of global capitalism. By juxtaposing research projects focused on Toronto, Vancouver, Montevideo, Rio and Sao Paolo, and drawing on methodologically flexible approaches, the panel aims to show how site specific research is both theoretical and practical for forming political collaborations capable of challenging global capital across geopolitical spaces. Panelists: Leslie Kern, Department of Geography, Mount Allison University; Karen Murray, Department of Political Science, York University; Vannina Sztainbok, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto; Chair: David McNally, Department of Political Science, York University

Chair:
David McNally

Speakers:
Karen Murray
Vannina Sztainbok
Leslie Kern  

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Session 5
10:00am - 11:50am
Room: W625

Exodus: Breaking out of Prison and Patriarchy: The Life and Times of Russell Maroon Shoatz

This panel will explore the life and times of Russell Maroon Shoatz, and the campaign to free him. Russell Maroon Shoatz is a former Black Panther who has been held in solitary confinement for over 20 years. But he is not only a symbol of human rights violations, cruel and unusual punishment, and the struggle against solitary confinement, but also a revolutionary intellectual. His recently published book, "Maroon the Implacable" (published by PM Press and Ecosocialist Horizons) explores themes from the history of maroon communities in the Americas, to feminism, ecosocialism and food security. The book has been described by Chuck D as "a high document of true freedom for the masses." An international campaign to free Maroon has made considerable progress in recent years and continues to build in momentum, nationally and internationally. This panel is at the intersections of human rights, mass incarceration, the black liberation movement, feminism, climate change and environment and movement building.


Chair:
Quincy Saul    

Speakers:
Theresa Shoatz
Kanya D'Almeida  
Dan Kovalik
Vagabond Beaumont
Bret Grote     

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Session 6
12:00pm - 1:50pm
Room: W522

Pop Media as AgitProp: The Power of Cartoons


Cartooning is a highly effective tool for conveying complex ideas in a widely disseminated format. Avant-garde leftist cartoonists like Peter Kuper ("World War 3 Illustrated"), Ted Rall ("Search and Destroy"), and Stephanie McMillan ("Minimum Security"), utilize the cartoon form to spread propaganda designed to shift the discussion, helping the struggle to save the Earth from ecocidal capitalism. If words won't be enough to save what's left of the environment---try cartoons.

Chair:
Stephanie McMillan   

Speakers:
Ted Rall
Peter Kuper

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Session 6
12:00pm - 1:50pm
Room: E302

Resisting Racism and Militarism in 21 Century America: A Dialogue on the new book "We Have Not Been Moved"

Contributors and commentators shall kick off a lively discussion of the recently-released PM Press/War Resisters League book on the links between these pillars of U.S. empire.

Chair:
Matt Meyer 

Speakers:
David McReynolds 
Ellen Barfield   
Bob Brown    
Tarin Gonzalez         

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Session 6
12:00pm - 1:50pm
E304

Socialist-Feminist Strategy for the 21st Century

Panel Discussion

Chair:
Leo Panitch  

Speakers:
Joan Sangster 
Nancy Holmstrom 
Rebecca Schein 
Maria Poblet          

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Session 7
3:00pm - 4:50pm
Room: E307

The Crisis of Capitalism: Five Years Later

The financial crisis of 2008 seemed to mark an inflection point for capitalist accumulation. How does the post-2008 period compare to that of pre-2008? Is global capitalism still in crisis? How does or did this crisis compare to past crises of capital, and how has or will global capitalism recover, if at all? How will this all depend on ongoing struggles of resistance, reform, and revolution?

Chair:
Ben Campbell

Speakers:
Leo Panitch
Doug Henwood
Radhika Desai 


Anarchist Pedagogies Reviewed in Maximum Rock N Roll

by Alex Cruse
Maximum Rock N Roll
January 2013

In his essay "Ends and Means," Italian Anarchist Errico Malatesta wrote, "All of us, without exception, are obliged to live more or less in contradiction with our ideals." This philosophy both haunts and challenges the authors of Anarchist Pedagogies: Collective Actions, Theories, and Critical Reflections on Education, a collection that frames radical education reform in the contexts of historiography and political theory. Throughout, the authors (among them, David Gabbard, Isabelle Fremeaux, and Alex Khasnabish) take on the onerous task of enacting Anarchist praxes from within "institutionalized" academia—a space in which such theories may never be functionally realized.

This text throughly and elegantly explains the project of tyrannical educational establishments: they hermetically seal-off the production and consumption of information to an elite—who also mediates the valuation process of this information. By working symbiotically with other State-run institutions, certain social and economic narratives are reinforced and normalized. Thus, activists and students of Radicalism/Anarchism may find themselves suspended in and disempowered by the dominate ideological complex and, in the words of Stephen Shukatis, "re-incorporated into the workings of state and capital… creating the image of subversion." This compelling tension is one that contributors revisit in chapter after chapter.

As Nathan Jun notes in his section, "Paideia for Praxis," university-level curricula are insidiously designed by the joint edifices of State and Capital: they codify, organize and promote social hegemony. Academic institutions, then may be read as closed systems, in which agendas strategically (though covertly) replicate the conditions which allow these hierarchies to thrive. Using the logic of Kropotkin, Jun calls for transformative university programs (as opposed to outright abandonment of them) which could unite theory and practice and retain a humanist ethos at their core. Here, he echoes Ivan Illich, who stated that traditional schools are mired in social ritual—and it is the ritual which must be changed before radical reform can be enacted.

While these analyses should not be revelatory to most readers, the authors' proposed educational alternatives may prove more so. A new, Anarchist pedagogy, as described by these authors, entails: (1) the promotion of a type of learning that necessitates self-directedness and autonomy; (2) the production of spaces that emphasize community participation and social/political progressiveness, whose architecture is (3) lateralized and decentralized, as are the power dynamics therein.

Yet, I found that this framework only generated more questions. Is it tenable with the notion of a liberated, atomized self? How can Radicals socially constitute themselves in a way that would satisfy Anarchist telos—that would not simply replicate the top-down authority model of the current system? If we are ontologically defined by our social relationships, can true "autonomy" ever be achieved?

In her chapter, "Anarchism, Pedagogy, Queer Theory, and Post-Structuralism," Lucy Nicholas addresses such fundamental problems using Foucault-dian theory. She argues that, "autonomy can be understood not as a natural proclivity, but as a situated capacity,"or potentially (italics hers.) Additionally, she re-valorizes knowledge, distinguishing basic knowledge0transmission from authoritarian practices. I found such (re-)definitions to be crucial in understanding the structural and semiotic barriers which we, as Radicals, must negotiate.

The text additionally succeeds in its characterization of Anarchy as a workable, embodied approach to existence. Multiple examples of liberated educational spaces within myriad countries were provided in order to demonstrate how new infrastructures of resistance can and have been engineered. In his chapter on "The Anarchist Free Skool," Jeff Shantz discusses the concept of a "temporary autonomous zone." His account of this "heterotopic" environment (a counter-site, or alternative space) echoes the comments made by Jun. Rebuilding programs, rather than dropping out of extant ones, is key to evading capitalistic conferment and debunking the "myth of social mobility," to which advanced educational credentials contribute. However, while such theories are persuasive and eloquently relayed, he comments, "[t]he persistent lack of analysis and vision along with a failure to assess the political context for action and develop useful strategies for meeting stated goals consistently undermined the collectives' capacities to do political work. Clearly good intentions were not enough" (141). Yet Shantz optimistically alludes to the reinvigoration of similar spaces; he too emphasizes that effective resistance must be lived.

Other sections explicate disparate issues such as intersectionality, academic privilege, anarcho-feminims, and the actual mechanics of "free skools," such as Escuela Moderna and the Really Open University (ROU). But because the individual authors return to the philosophies of lived-resistance and collective action, the chapters feel thematically well-integrated; marked tonal shifts do not disorient the reader so much as they create a textual metaphor for the box populi.

As a whole, Anarchist Pedagogies functions as a hybrid manifest/historical anthology/field guide—while it does not ignore the daunting complexities of revolutionizing our education system, each experience and infrastructural critique lead one to conclude that such revolution is irrefutably needed now. Appropriately, the afterword is entitled, "Let the Riots Begin."

Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Back to Robert Haworth's Author Page




Between The Bars: Barred for Life on Phawker

by Jonathan Valania
Phawker.com
April 19th, 2013

Perhaps you've seen Stewart Ebersole bike messenger-ing around town over the years. He no longer lives in Philadelphia but for many years he cut a pretty dashing profile, a tall drink of water with the gift of gab and miles of style, always changing up his look, sometimes a mod, sometimes a rocker, sometimes shaggy-haired, bearded and Rapsutin-like, but always a punk. Always. Black Flag is his brand, having cut his punk rock teeth back in the early '80s as a mohawked college radio DJ, and he's a lifer. He's got the Black Flag 'bars' logo tattooed on his lower leg. Over the years he met a lot of people inked with the Black Flag bars. Young and old. From near and far. Slowly but surely it occurred to him that the bars tattoo was the secret handshake of punk rock. Six years ago he embarked on an improbable odyssey: to meet, interview and photograph as many people around the world with the Black bars tattoo as he could and publish a book about it. Earlier this month, after hundreds of man hours and thousands of miles traveled, he published BARRED FOR LIFE. Stewart will be in town Sunday to celebrate the publication of the book at Tattooed Mom's on South Street from 7-10. Show your bars to the bartender for a deep discount on drinks. We got him on the horn from his current home in upstate New York where he currently resides.

PHAWKER: Why don't you explain the concept of the book?

STEWART EBERSOLE: In short, it's a collection of photographs and interviews with people from all over the world that have the Black Flag bars tattoo.

PHAWKER: Explain the tattoo. How it came about, what it means, etc.

STEWART EBERSOLE:
The bars are four slightly offset rectangles, they are close to one another but as they progress from left to right, they're high low, high low, to create the image of a waving flag. Historically the Black Flag was used as the pirate flag, that was probably from the 1500s all the way to the 1900s, then the anarchists took it over, not like people hell bent on destroying things but the anarchist political movement of the early 20th Century, they picked it up as their flag. In the late '70s Black Flag was called Panic, and they were looking for a new logo and new name and [band leader] Greg Ginn's brother Raymond Pettibon came up with the design based on the cover art for a book called The Black Flag of Anarchism which is sort of the ABC's of what anarchism is and had the Black Flag name attached to it, at that time Black Flag was a roach spray. They were about to be sued by a band in the UK who called themselves Panic first, so they changed the name to Black Flag, and they already had the readymade logo.

PHAWKER: So what made you want to do this?

STEWART EBERSOLE: Originally it started as a joke amongst friends who all had the Black Flag bars tattooed on them. I'd say since Black Flag broke up in 1986, I've probably known about 25 or 30 people with the tattoo, and zero of those 25 or 30 people don't have issues with their tattoo - fading, white blotches, bars running together etc. - so when I met up with four or five of my friends in Columbus, Ohio in 2006, to get a touch up on my bars we were all talking about this. We talked about starting a magazine where all the contributors have the bars. When we started doing some research we found people from all over the world with this tattoo, which is ironic because Black Flag as a band never really extensively toured outside of the US. They are an American band, even more so a regional band from the west coast.

For people all over the world to have this tattoo there had to be more to it. It's not like they are Led Zeppelin, there's not a huge fandom for Black Flag. During my research, I asked people what motivated them to get the bars tattoo. It was always something different, like, 'It connects me to the punk community from which I came, I feel like its dying now' or 'I feel like I am getting older and it is the best way for me to stay connected,' or 'It's a great way to meet other people because if that person has the same tattoo you know they came from the same background.' So I put out the word and set up a tour of the U.S., Canada and Europe to meet and interview all these people and photograph them.

Because the band, for the most part, declined to participate, everything had to be told through the fans, the people that we interviewed and photographed, and then I just sort of laid a narrative under it about participating in the scene, why someone would want to be a punk rocker in the 80's despite being constantly tormented, fucked with and threatened with grievous bodily harm and what not. What would make a person do that? One unexpected twist was that the average age of people contributing to the book was 25, and when we did the tour Black Flag had been broken up for 26 years, so the vast majority of people in our book were not even alive when Black Flag was active. I think that is a testament to the enduring power of the music and the scene that Black Flag created.

PHAWKER: Why do you think their music continued to speak to succeeding generations of angry young people?

STEWART EBERSOLE: In the '80s there were punk bands like the Dead Kennedys singing about Ed Meese, Ronald Reagan and the wars in Nicaragua, El Salvador, they basically put a time stamp on their music. Their music is about 1981. People are looking for something more emotional than they are something political in music.  Black Flag was singing about the poltics of people's emotions, so their music doesn't have a time stamp. Ninety percent of the audience for punk rock in 1981 and 1982 was fucked up kids. I was kind of a mess and I know most of my friends were a mess but we were trying to make a go of it and if you didn't fit into the normal world, punk rock was great because you didn't have to. Black Flag was a band singing about about not wanting to go back to the normal world, not wanting to deal with the authority figures, not wanting to climb with the social ladder. Those songs spoke to pissed off kids. And they still do.

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Boredom Is Always Counterrevolutionary: Donald Nicholson-Smith + Iain Boal at CIIS

by Steven Gray
LitSeen
Mar 5, 2013

‘In May of 1968 there were massive protests in France. They are often characterized as “student” protests in an attempt to limit the wider dimensions of the unrest and revolt. In fact, these protests led to a general strike involving nearly 10,000,000 workers. People know how to do things over there.

A small group called the Situationist International is thought to have sparked the uprising. They only had 10 or 20 members, but what they had to say resonated with an increasingly alienated population, and they knew how to spread their message, which had a Marxist as well as surrealist point of view. One of the Situationists, Guy Debord, “described official culture as a rigged game, where conservative powers forbid subversive ideas to have direct access to the public discourse” (from “Spectacle (critical theory)” on Wikipedia), and doesn’t that sound familiar. Third-party presidential candidates are not even allowed to participate in the debates in this country.

Two books were published in 1967 by members of the SI: The Society of the Spectacle by Guy Debord, and The Revolution of Everyday Life by Raoul Vaneigem. Vaneigem was born in Belgium in 1934 and grew up in a “working class, socialist and anticlerical milieu.” He was familiar with miners’ strikes and Magritte. He was concerned about a society overrun with commodities and the rat-race that follows. “Boredom is always counter-revolutionary… A life governed by sanctioned greed is by no means freed thereby from the old tyranny of having to forfeit one’s life merely to pay for it” (The Revolution of Everyday Life, PM Press, 2012). The book is extremely quotable, and includes an author’s preface from 2010, where he states the following: “… the United States of America is now viewed by Europeans as a paradoxically archaic country. Its technological achievements would warrant only admiration were they not belied by a mental stagnation that allows the ‘icy waters of egotistical calculation’ to preside over an inhumanity cynically defended in the name of profit.”

On the subject of overcoming the influence of the church: “Behind the rent veil of superstition appeared, not naked truth… but the slime of ideologies.” There is a direct link from the SI (which lasted from 1957 to 1972) to the punks.

The other night, we went to the California Institute of Integral Studies to hear a discussion with the man who translated Vaneigem’s book, Donald Nicholson-Smith. He has long hair and a gray beard and was in the SI from 1965 to 1967. He is an Englishman with a sense of humor who has lived in New York City for many years. Though he was supposed to be in conversation with Sasha Lilley, co-host of “Against the Grain” on KPFA and co-author of Catastrophism: The Apocalyptic Politics of Collapse and Rebirth, she was having a baby and couldn’t make it. In her place was Iain Boal, a social historian who currently teaches at the University of London and is one of the editors of West of Eden: Communes and Utopia in Northern California. He is also one of the world’s foremost bicycle historians and has a book on that subject called The Green Machine. I spoke with him after the discussion, but I forgot to mention my own bicycle history – lying unconscious on a road one night with my bike nearby.

The two men had a conversation in front of a classroom which was more or less filled. I was sitting next to Csaba Polony, who publishes Left Curve. Nicholson-Smith read a selection from the book, and this was followed by questions from the audience. There was reference to “the organization of appearances” in a culture which is “dying for not surpassing the master-slave dialectic.”

“The organization of appearances is a system for shielding the facts. A racket. It represents the facts in a mediated reality to prevent immediate reality from presenting them… Fragmentary power organizes appearances as spectacle… Worsened by history, the incoherence of the spectacle turned into the spectacle of incoherence [thus Pop Art is at once a current example of consumable degeneracy and the expression of the current degeneration of consumption].” Vaneigem wrote this around the time that Andy Warhol had surfaced as a superstar of surfaces.

Some phrases that came up in the discussion: the “seduction of the commodity” and the “imperialism of the market.” “Anthropology and revolutionary praxis.” “The first synthesis is community.” The world a few centuries ago was a “pregnant automaton.” The book seems to have aged well, considering most of it was written half a century ago.

Two nights later my wife and I watched an episode of Mad Men. It is set in the early 1960’s and gives a somewhat diluted sense of what people were dealing with back then. The advertising world has become more amplified over the years. We followed that with a video called “Obey”, a film informed by Death of the Liberal Class, a book by Chris Hedges.

Another idea flying around the CIIS classroom: the Marxist point of view is that nature is a worthy opponent. A man whose hair and beard were pretty wild raised his hand and spoke in a very reasonable voice, pointing out that nature is not always hostile; it is often a “congenial” force. There was general agreement that the word “nature” is very broad. There was some mention of how much the communists like industrial assembly lines and of the irony of such a subversive book being considered a classic. There was some question if the Left is sufficiently subjective and provisional – apparently not. There are “reified attempts at protest.”

All of this talk about keeping a population diverted (if not hypnotized) with spectacles, while maintaining a food supply, reminded me of the ancient Romans who had bread and circuses.

Iain Boal was a smooth moderator, choosing his words carefully. At the same time he would throw in quick and quiet asides that could be devastating. During a discussion of The Long Now - a 10,000 year perspective (according to Stewart Brand) – he noted it was similar to the Department of Defense estimates for the storage of atomic waste. At another point he threw off a phrase about the “valium-soaked suburbs.” He teaches sometimes at U.C. Berkeley, and the next time he is there I want to sit in on a class.

Nicholson-Smith mentioned the necessity of “historical memory.” Having such a perspective is downright subversive when the authorities want us to slip into amnesia with the aid of pharmaceuticals. We should never forget what has happened, what we have witnessed, including the crimes of the Cheney/Bush administration. When someone in a conservative think-tank (Fukuyama) postulates “the end of history,” there is probably another prison being built.

 

Steven Gray has been living in San Francisco since 1849 and has rent control. Self control is another matter. He reads his work on a regular basis in venues throughout San Francisco. Sometimes he accompanies other poets on guitar. He is co-editor of Out of Our, a poetry and art magazine, and has two books of poetry: Jet Shock and Culture Lag (2012), and Shadow on the Rocks (2011).

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