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I saw “Maggots and Men” last week at Frameline. It was amazing. Like seriously amazing.

When I go to see art produced by people I know, and starring people I know, my expectations are low. I don’t mean that my friends aren’t talented. I mean that I’m already on their side and pre-disposed to be positive. I’ll laugh at the in-jokes. I’ll forgive hammy behavior. I’ll wince with them at hard moments, not be thinking “someone else might have done this better”.

“Maggots…” however, exceeded every expectation I had.

When I moved out of my apartment on Valencia St. 15 years ago, Cary (the Director) moved in. We had known each other through Epicenter and the punk scene. Indeed, the house I was moving out of, and that he was moving into back then in 1994, was a hub of the queer punk scene. My housemates had helped found Q-TIP (Queers Together in Punkness) and also produced shows under the name “House of Failure” (our phone number was 552-FAIL… what a happy coincidence for the “beautiful loser” generation). I’m not aware of any touring queer punk bands of that era didn’t drop by at some point, even if just to change outfits or use the bathroom before the show since we were only a half block from Epicenter.

When I saw that his movie was finally finished I knew that it was the one thing I couldn’t miss in this year’s film festival, even if it was just to see what an old friend had done over the last 5 years. “Maggots…” is the re-telling of the Kronstadt Uprising of 1921. The last hope of the real Russian Revolution, sailors at the Kronstadt naval base made 15 demands to the revolutionary Bolshevik government, which might have altered history and prevent the Soviet Union from becoming the tyrannical, farce of a revolution that it became. After a few minor victories, the sailors -- many of whom had fired on the Winter Palace during the 1917 revolution -- were killed, jailed, or forced to flee over ice to Finland. (Kronstadt, like the Spanish Revolution of 1936, has always been an anarchist talking point.)

“Maggots…” certainly owes a debt to Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin”. While I don’t know if anyone has every been a better visual filmmaker than Eisenstein, “Maggots..” is a beautiful, beautiful film. And brilliantly scored.

Cary also made the incredibly smart decision to make the film narrated by a rebel sailor in Russian, with English subtitles.* In this way, the film could be made with its mostly transgender/gender queer cast of friends and not have the varying levels of acting ability affect the final product. ** I was overjoyed to see lots of people I knew on the big screen of the Castro, (including House of Failure housemates) but this film rose above the art-of-friends category and is seriously a film I would recommend to anyone. It’s gripping, assumption-challenging, and, in the end, tearfully sad. Of course, the place to see it is at a film festival because it’s only a 50 minute movie and it deserves to be seen on the big screen. Watch for it! Request it from your local festivals!

While the movie does not have much humor, the funniest part of the screening was when asked a question about the maggots filmed in the movie, Cary told how they had to grow them for the film a number of times. He said that his relationship to them really changed after all that. After all, they’re really only “going through their own transition”.

The film doesn’t over-polemicize. With its mostly trans cast, it draws out questions between revolutionary moments in history and a time when gender can be revolutionary transformed, but doesn’t try and make them direct parallels. It’s a beautiful look at the potential of revolutionary moments to be beautiful, perhaps even challenging folks to appreciate that beauty before stronger social forces can organize to take back control. It's also a love letter to rebels who have the courage to take up these fights.



*There is an agitprop retelling of the history of Kronstadt by a theater troupe in English as well
**An example of this is the Bratt Brothers’ early film “Follow Me Home”. It’s a masterpiece in some ways, painful to watch in others. The Rainbow Grocery joke was hilarious though.
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So, I don’t like to talk about it publicly, but San Francisco and I have been going through a bit of a rough patch. Don’t get me wrong; it’s still my home. It’s still where I want to be. We still have a commitment. It’s just that we’ve been together a long time and there are some things that have been building up.

It started when SF didn’t have a place near BART that [livejournal.com profile] smallstages and her son could afford. It got worse when I realized that at least half of my close friends are now in the East Bay and often when I run into an acquaintance that I haven’t seen for awhile, that’s where they’ve disappeared.

Partially too, I’ve isolated myself over the last few months, mostly with book editing stuff. SF and I were together, for sure, but we hadn’t done anything fun recently. I started to think we had lost our spark.

Thanks to The Folsom Street Fair, the city’s annual huge pervfest, I remembered some of the things I love about San Francisco.

First off, our store had our annual free organic produce booth. Day-to-day retail workers know that you hear far more complaints than praise on the job, so it’s great to see our customers barely clothed and telling us how much they love the store. Also, in a sea of expensive sex tchotkes, folks who didn’t know us were extremely happy that our booth had no catch. “Can you handle our organic bananas?” was a very well received pitch. In fact, two men made quick use of their bananas in a crowd-attracting scene right outside our booth. Banana peels make great slappy sounds

Plus, I don’t do this very often anymore, but I do love a Sunday where we start drinking beer at 11 AM. It was a typical Folsom St. for the most part: I got happy-drunk, friends dropped by, we flirted with strangers and gave out food… but man, who booked the bands this year? There’s never been name bands at Folsom. Granted, they are only “name” bands to us children of the ‘80s, but still: The English Beat and Berlin?

I left our booth to make the English Beat show but forgot that with so many people, it would take a good half hour to walk 4 blocks. Still I arrived at the stage as they were starting “Twist and Crawl”. It wasn’t hard to get to the front; I even managed to put down my cheese bag under the stage.

It was so nice. I immediately saw that my people were there. An anarchist who I knew from mid-‘80s “radical student” organizing, my old queerpunk friend Aloofa, Larry-Bob of Queer Zine Explosion fame. Now, the English Beat were never my favorite Brit ska band, but I liked ‘em plenty enough to have a great time dancing (I can’t say anyone was skanking) to their old favorites with all the other 40-ish year olds. Aloofa swore Dave Wakeling changed the lyrics to another oldie to “Hands off He’s Mine” for the occasion. I actually managed to heckle him effectively when he announced that they were going to play “Mirror in the Bathroom” for the first time in 20 years. I yelled “Hey, why don’t you play ‘Stand Down Margaret’ too?” and he stopped mid sentence and laughed. I only heckle with love.

When they did play “Mirror in the Bathroom”, the leather dyke next to me, a stranger, grabbed my shoulder and yelled, “I can’t believe they’re playing this!” All us old folks were laughing and yelling and dancing in the street. Awwwwww.

Anyways, it was just what I needed. I needed a drunken party full of friends and nice strangers. I couldn’t make Berlin because they were at the stage at the opposite end of the Fair, but I was satisfied and ready to go home. Thanks Folsom St!

(I just posted about another event filled with friends and nice strangers that you should consider going to if you are in the area.)
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So, obviously I haven't been on LJ much for a couple weeks. I agreed to do the zine for Lance Hahn's memorial. That, combined with my thanksgiving cheese buying responsibilities, left me really no time for anything else.

The zine included about 20 submissions of art or writing, childhood pictures sent by his sister, some writing of Lance's that his partner found while cleaning up his desk, a couple of things from the surviving Epicenter logbooks, and a million pictures and J Church/Cringer graphics scanned from our personal collections.

I mentioned this in the intro I wrote, but it was really hard to put this together. I thought it would be easier for me because, while we were friends, I was not as close to him as some other people were. After spending this week receiving nothing but Lance memorial news, submissions and stories in my e-mail box, I'm glad that I could help spare Lance's closest friends this task.

It was overwhelming. I wasn't able to get Lance's voice out of my head but I also couldn't stop listening to his music. Obviously I also had to keep reading the submissions and e-mail questions. I started and ended many of these days crying. The outpouring of love for Lance is remarkable and speaks to what a special person he was.

Two old Epicenter friends came over on Friday and we spent 8PM – 3 AM eating food, drinking beer and putting the 40 page zine together. We did it old school, cut and paste, gluestick, 8.5 x 14-folded in half-style. I spent most of the next day printing 250 copies.

The memorial was last night and really a special, if often too-crowded, event. Lance's sister brought home movies. There were videos of J Church. The room was covered with pictures, graphics, album covers, and flyers. I don't know how many people were there over the course of the night but it was a lot, especially when you consider that Lance hadn't lived here for 7 years. It was part memorial, part Epicenter reunion, and part punk show (without bands). Punks aren't great about showing their emotions, but people did their best. Old grudges were even overlooked for the night, maybe even forever, who knows?

It was really good to see a lot of the people there. It made me miss Lance, miss a lot of those people and even miss the old days a little even if I don't want to go back. The '90s Mission punk scene was a special time even if it sucked a lot too. I think many of us were mourning that loss and the loss of our own youth as well as mourning Lance.

I may have extra copies of the zine after I mail out the ones that were requested by out of town submitters. Let me know if you are interested.

*My original Lance Hahn obit is here in case you missed it the first time.
gordonzola: (Default)
For friends of Lance:

A memorial for Lance will be held on 11/11 at the Hemlock Tavern, starting at 4 PM. There will be an open mic to share Lance stories as well as J Church/Cringer music and videos. There will be no bands. It's also a potluck so bring some food to share.

I'm putting together a memorial zine for the event so if you knew Lance and want to share a memory, a story or a picture, please contact me or leave a comment below.
gordonzola: (Default)
I never really understood Lance's songwriting until I listened to radio in Hawai'i. Island reggae, Hawai'ian pop, and other Hawai'ian songs have a sense of history. There are lots of elements that, out-of-context, I might find sappy or overly nostalgic. But they not only work with those songs, they are crucial elements to the genre.

Lance's songs, especially the Cringer and early J Church ones, had that same element. I'm nostalgic and sappy by nature, mind you, so they always appealed to me. But there was no real punk genre for it. His bands mirrored his personality more than most songwriters I know. Both Cringer and J Church were intellectual but friendly, political but approachable, fun but taking themselves seriously. Unlike many of the bands Lance (and I) admired, his lyrics were never preachy. He always sang as one of us, not to us.

Petrograd
"Sometimes I wanna go back
Sometimes to the beginning
Sometimes I wouldn't change a thing.
Sometimes the things I've done, It seems like martyrdom
Sometimes it doesn't mean a thing
Don't wanna,
Won't be sad
Like the sailors
Of Petrograd
…"


Lance was a sweetheart. Everyone who's written about his death so far has called him "one of the good ones". He could get away with writing lyrics like those, which could easily be read as pretentious on paper, because his personality came through in his singing. He wasn't comparing himself to the theory of the Great Revolutionary, he was connecting through history to the emotions of the people he admired and wanted to relate to. Ones who died anonymously in service to their beliefs but who were just ordinary working folks doing what they felt was right..

He'd also just probably read an Alexander Berkman book and wanted to write a song about it. He was always reading.

Lance was an auto-didact, a student of history, especially anarchist history. I mean geez, he even put Leon Czolgosz, unlabeled, on a J Church shirt. He was also sweet, kind, thoughtful, and quietly funny. He knew how to make people feel good but more than that, he cared about making people feel good. He carried a million details in his brain, surprising you with something you said offhand at some show or some party months before. He was a special, special man.

Lance lived above me on Valencia St, half a block from Epicenter Zone. Lance's apartment was referred to as jokingly "The Crash Pad" after an SF Weekly reporter dubbed it that in an article.* Our apartment was already name "House of Failure" because our phone number was 552-FAIL. Oh, those early '90s…

Here's Lance on our back stairs watching some illegal punk show we put on in our backyard when the 1st floor tenants went out of business. 1993
failure stairs071

It seems symbolic that many of his songs remind me of our shared neighborhood. Early J Church is so time and place for me: all songs about the Mission in the early '90s., While traveling out of the Bay Area for an extended period, and leaving from my apartment on Mission St , "November" made me cry while riding a train through Eastern Europe. I had made a Mission District bands cassette and as soon as he mentioned rain on Mission St, I started bawling.

"As the rain falls hard, it fills the cracks on Mission St…"
"No matter who you are, you feel the same when you're wet, cold and alone…"
"We only dream to float downstream, reminded by the rain,
Tied to a tree, cannot break free, reminded by the rain"


It's a sad song about rain making people feel alone, but it does the typical Lance thing. He empathizes with strangers and tries to find a human truth. This un-self-conscious sappiness is a unifying force in Lance's songs. Even the punks have to admit their fuzzy feelings sometimes. It kept his lyrics, no matter how political, from being as dogmatic and alienating as a lot of the other anarcho-punks.

I think my favorite thing about Lance was just running into him in the street. I can think of hours spent on Market/14th, at 16th/Valencia, in front of Lost Weekend, just gossiping, talking about bands, demonstrations and friends. He made this city a better place by just being around, having time to hang out. He also rarely missed a demonstration. He had good priorities even if rather than being in front with a bullhorn he's be bringing up the rear, poking fun at the sectarians and trying-too-hard anarchist kids. I think he'd appreciate that my favorite picture of him was from the San Francisco Rodney King riots. Hip-hoppers and punks were unified in their desire to liberate electronics to facilitate their communication with a hostile world. Somewhere, maybe his room, I saw a picture of Lance coming out of an electronics store with his hands full and his eyes blacked out, like any punk wouldn't recognize his long hair, his slouch and his band t-shirt. Or maybe I just made up that picture in my head.

Lance still seems like a San Francisco icon 7 years after moving to Texas.

My oddest Lance moment was probably seeing him play guitar for Beck at Slim's. It was near the height of Beck's post-"Loser" glory. If I remember correctly, he knew Beck from playing at some German squat show together back in the day, but I could have jumbled up that memory. Anyways, he put me on the guest list, possibly because no one else we knew wanted to see Beck cuz he was like, all popular and stuff. It was so odd seeing Lance play and not be the central feature of the band. The first thing it made me realize that Lance could actually really play guitar. The second was that in another scene Lance's non-traditional singing voice might have forced him into a lesser role if he wanted to be in a band. What a loss that would have been.

The third thing was seeing him walk across the club without kids coming up to talk to him. He was probably the most approachable band guy I've ever met, constantly talking to kids who came to SF hoping to see him working his shift at Epicenter or at some of the bars, taquerias, and cafes he mentioning in his songs, if not his shows. Occasionally he'd have to hide from a creepy one, but that was rare. Usually he'd hang out, talk about their hometown (which he probably had played), and generally treat them as a new friend. There were times he really represented all that the punk scene should have been.



I hadn't seen Lance in awhile when I got the word he went into a coma.. My heart goes out to his partner and his friends there. To many of us in San Francisco, or maybe just to me, his bad health was a little hard to fathom. My memory of Lance is full of mellow energy, happy to see you, happy to chat, always looking for new bands and new fun. I imagine that the last couple of years, being on dialysis, not being able to go to every show, was incredibly hard for him. But I always thought I'd just run into him in the Mission or at a show one day. That he would have beaten his bad organs, that he'd be the same old Lance.

Old Epicenter workers crashing the Epicenter closing party 1999. I believe this was right after Lance's first brush with hospitalization. (Thanks Jeff Heermann!)
goodbye epicenter

In one of his best known songs, Lance wrote:
So where's my sense of humor?
My life is a disaster,
No one has a future,
So let's all get there faster

But it was a cautionary tale. He wasn't a No Future Drunk Punk.. He was writing about going to the local bar and looking at what he might become if he let himself. He didn't want to get ground down like other working class people around him there: unhappy, overworked, underpaid. The narrator in the song reacts to those thoughts by deciding to blow off work the next day and take time doing something important for himself.

Lance organized his life to be a writer and artist. He recorded what… 300 songs? His bands put out albums faster than the Minutemen in their prime. He wrote for MRR and was trying to document the obscure bands of the '80s Peace Punk scene. Bands that meant a lot to people like us even if almost no one has ever heard of them. He was one of the people who make all these alternative scenes and obscure political movements possible. People in every city with a punk scene, or that once had a punk scene, are mourning him

He worked his whole life for it, never getting famous or rich, but doing it anyway. It's something a lot of people promised when they were 18 but few actually did. He meant it, ya know? All of it.

Bye Lance. You are missed already.





* So funny I had to link. Filling a booth near the Photo Area, Edgar, Wells, and Hahn share a laugh over the crash pad half a block from Epicenter This was also the apartment referred to as "My home, my tomb" in "My Favorite Place".

** If anyone's interested, my favorite Lance albums are Cringer "I Take My Desires for Reality… Because I Believe in the Reality of My Desires." And the J Church early singles collection " Camels, Spilled Corona and the Sound of Mariachi Bands". The "Nostalgic for Nothing" comp is pretty good too. If you want to find one song to download, I'd say "My Favorite Place", "Nostalgic for Nothing" or "Bomb" (J Church) or "Petrograd" "Despair Ends" or "(If I had your) Pen" (Cringer)

*** Other Lance stories from at the same time, Commander cranky, and at a blog set up for Lance stories here. Someone also set up a Flickr Photo pool (which I also LJ syndicated)
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cheeseheadcootieshot
Cootie Shot and me.

Cootie Shot was just as awesome as I hoped.

More coming soon on cheese judging, the Festival of Cheese, drinking the hotel bar out of beer, travelling with a trunkful of cheese (like always), rural northeat teen punks, special guest LJer appearences, and so much more.
gordonzola: (Default)
Ok, the internet is now macro-rama. There's [livejournal.com profile] loltheorists, lolgay, loleverything. I can has cheezeburger is funny. I still read it everyday. But the rest? They have a shelf life of about a day.

The worst was loltheorists where someone made a Emma Goldman/Alexander Berkman macro with the caption "Oh hai. We're here to fix ur gubmint" Dude. There is a very small window of funny available in this genre. It really doesn't work if you completely misrepresent the political viewpoint held by the theorist.

But I'm not here to complain about that. I'm here to say this: I haven't seen any yet, but punkmacros will not be funny. Don't even try it. As I explained to the awesome y/a novelist Sara Ryan punks are walking macros. By definition punks are viusally exagerrations of their political philosophy. what are you gonna do? Put Sid up there with "I can has hairoin?" c'mon. OBVIOUS.

Punks and ex-punks reading this. I call on you to stand together like characters in an OPIV song. Do not support the coming punkmacros! We are not goths! Real punks don't need validation from outside sources. Denounce like Tim Yohannon at a music industry showcase concert. If you see a punkmacro on your friendslist, simply respond with NOT FUNNY.

Thank you. Stay punk.
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Outside of San Francisco, the face of punk was probably Jello Biafra or maybe Penelope Houston. But inside San Francisco, it was Dirk Dirksen, the guy who promoted the shows at the Mabuhay Garden and the On Broadway. He MC’d the night of my first punk show ever, held on the night Dan White was released from prison and billed as a "Welcome Home Dan" party. He was mean, sarcastic , and funny just like I like my performers. He insulted everyone in the venues: bands, audience, scary skinheads… he feared no one.

In fact my biggest disconnect with more "positive" political punk was the lack of insults and heckling. That’s the way I learned punk and, while Dirk was certainly more performative and extreme, it was also what I knew at home. It felt comfortable. I immediately recognized the insults as his way of showing love.

He sometimes got beat up for things he said onstage. I have a foggy memory of him getting attacked at some show . I don’t really remember, it may have been the Toy Dolls because that was the most violent show I ever attended, but it could have been some other time. He heckled some skins and they went after him. Other folks jumped up to protect him starting a bar brawl. That he got bac k on stage later that night was no surprise, that he immediately started heckling the other skins was scary. Everyone braced for another fight but he had judged it right and the skins were beaten by words.

No show was complete until Dirk began saying ,"Go home, animals". I used to stay til the bitter end, long after the bands were done, so as not to miss anything good.

Dirk died monday night in his sleep at age 69. Goodbye Dirk. Thanks for everything.

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