The BBQ place on the corner of Divis and Grove used to be called Pitts. It was a dinky old place, and was potentially a cover up for dirtier business, but made great barbeque and had been around for years. Now, instead, we have a new BBQ place, that have no smoke coming from their chimney, with pic-nick tables and chairs occupying half the parking lot, the other half of which belongs to one of the few weed dispensaries left in the city. Across from that now, instead of the plant store that used to be there, is a bougie restaurant, (apparently with a great mescal catalogue, but who gives a shit about that!) which has adjacent to it a big ass garage, which, in true gentrification style, has also been turned into a day-time eating and drinking establishment. So. You have rich ass white people eating in a parking lot expensive ass meat, across from a place where more rich ass white people sit in an open garage drinking expensive ass cocktails as they watch the World Cup. On Sundays there is farmer’s market, where all these people flock to, to buy $8 juices and $2 peaches. Up the road, a giant Victorian house built in 1900, which once used to house a church was recently purchased by real estate developers for $1.4 million, 40% over the asking price. Meanwhile, rent is rising to astronomical prices around the whole city (average rent right now is over $2,900!), and typically cheaper neighbourhoods such as the Mission, Dogpatch, Excelsior are rapidly filling up with middle-income tenants, who still basically earn more than you or I could make in a decade. And, much like Brooklyn being the cheaper solution to Manhattan-workers, Oakland is now also being overrun by techie yuppies. So not only did they push people out of SF, they are spreading like a disease, pushing people out of Oakland too. Soon the whole Bay will be theirs and that whack-job who wants Silicon Valley to be its own independent state, might just get his wish. But who gives a shit?
In a similar act of absurdity, whole favelas in Brazil have been demolished to make way for new stadiums and sporting grounds in light of the current FIFA Soccer World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games. I know how that is. Greece hosted the 2004 Olympics, and it’s all just one giant embezzlement scheme to put money into the pockets of the few, covering it up as “public benefit works,” lying to our faces. Of course a chunk of those facilities has been left to rot, empty and rusting. Meanwhile, the amount of people who can’t afford housing anymore in Greece is rising. Empty buildings, people without a home—the state can put two and two together, they just don’t give a shit. These blood-sucking fucks have spent millions on the World Cup, because they know that when you don’t have clean water, electricity or even a place to sleep, having a 46,000-capacity soccer stadium is exactly what the people need! They sent boats down the friggin’ Amazon to get the material to a town you can’t even get to by land (that doesn’t even have its own soccer team!) to make a stadium just for this FIFA-extravaganza sporting fiasco. The definition of deliberate futility. Capitalist expansion in all its glory. But of course we are all posers and still watch the games on TV, instead of massively boycotting FIFA and its evil government-backed corporate-ass-licking scum. But hey, it’s just good ol’ sporting fun, right, who gives a shit?
So, it’s print week, we’re putting together the whole magazine, I’m finishing up my late reviews, people are working on layouts and Diana hands me a letter. It’s from USPS. To send out the magazine to our international distributors, we use ISAL, which is the International Surface Air Lift service. We have drive to the airport each month, go through security check and into multiple offices, fill out all this paperwork each month, and it’s generally a pain in the arse, as most things National Security are. So, each country we ship to has a different code. Apparently we’d not been using the right codes, something we were unaware of, since 2011. This lead to a financial discrepancy which they decided only now, three years later, to notify us of. And they demand we send a check for the financial deficiency in 30 days! I know USPS is struggling financially, and maybe they’re debt-collecting left, right and centre, but if they are auditing little corporations like MRR that just manages to break even each year, then they must be in real trouble.
The second of the Three Strikes of Unluck (they always come in threes, hear you me) was when we got a hand-delivered notice last night stating that our rent was going up by $415 per month, effective August 1st. This will total our rent to $5,660 per month. (gasp if you will) Add to this our print bill, which approximates to $3,800 – $4,000 per month, our electricity, gas, water, phone/internet and waste disposal bills (roughly $450 a month), plus ~$400 or so every couple months for packaging materials and office supplies, (mailers, boxes, packaging tape, printing paper), the monthly staples of toilet paper and shitworker coffee (because dozens of punks come through here every week), plus quarterly or yearly registered costs, like our PO box, our postage meter, our resellers permit, and last but not least, our yearly taxes.
If you can’t be bothered to do the math, that’s over 10K a month in combined expenses, which we have to hustle day and night to cover. MRR has no rainy day fund. Not because no one ever thought of it, but because there is barely any revenue left at the end of the month to put aside. If we do make some extra cash, it either goes straight back to the people who have generously loaned MRR money over the years, or it goes on funding other projects to help MRR stay financial afloat, such as the Los Crudos discography we are going to work on. Savings Account has been set up because the prospect of having to move is no longer just a scary item on our “to look into” list, it’s a scary reality we now wake up to every morning. Much like the trash compactor in Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope, we feel like the walls are closing in on us—fast. So, I’m waiting to see what the Third Strike will be and preparing for the worst.
Moving on to another item on list of Shit that Pissed Me Off This Month, I want to discuss something that preoccupies some punks but maybe not enough of them: sensationalizing / misappropriating fascism.
First let’s get those little definitions out of the way. Sensationalize: verb; to present information in a way that is intended to provoke public interest and excitement, to increase viewership or popularity at the expense of accuracy. Misappropriate: verb; to dishonesty or unfairly take for one’s own use.
How these two concepts merge? I’ll tell you. When a magazine sells Totenkopf (skull) buttons and T-shirts with swastikas, or a band uses the Celtic cross in its logo or the Odin Rune (or Norse Rune) in its poster, this is sensationalizing swastikas, it’s misappropriating Totenköpfe. In their effort to be “edge” and “shock” the squares, they are also demeaning the horrors that millions of people suffered from the monsters using these same symbols.
For some fortunate enough to have never directly experienced the results of fascism, Nazis have taken on this illusory mythical dimension, distorted by underground culture (pop fiction, grindhouse movies, punk, gangs, hooligans) the passage of time and the collective ability to ignore and eventually forget… Unless someone pops that bubble for ya. Running from neo-Nazi worms and neo-Nazi cops three years ago during the massive annual anti-fascist march in downtown Athens will do that to you. Perhaps to those removed enough fascism is something “exotic” or “cult,” like the Yakuza, or the Hells Angels. The difference is that if you came across these groups and you were sporting their colours and couldn’t back your shit up, you’d probably get a fractured scull rrreal fuckin’ fast! Punks may not fight you but they sure as hell won’t fight for you.
Given the general rise in extreme right parties around Europe, and the rise of “dumb punk” it’s no surprise really that the spineless worm ideology might crawl its way into certain punk heads. In so many punk scenes it is such a given that fascist sympathizers or neo-Nazi supporters are absolutely not tolerated, that it almost seems absurd that in the year 2014 we’d have to point out why fascism is a deep rooted problem. This is not to say that white power flirting skins and meatheads don’t exist in some scenes, just that not all of them manage to infiltrate it, let alone coexist without being questioned. So, when I see bands that use these fascist symbols actually be a part of an established punk scene and get away with it, I think “How the hell did that get past so many punks? Don’t they have something to say about this? Don’t they care? Do they even know?” After all, knowledge is power.
I won’t claim to know how it is elsewhere, but in Greece punk and politics go hand in hand, so there is absolutely no way a band that flirts with fascist, white power or neo-Nazi notions would be given space or the time of day. What is most likely is they’d get their ass handed to them on a souvlaki stick.
But hey, it’s just punk rock music, who gives a shit, right?