Thursday, March 29, 2012

You Tell Me You Don't Care For The Sun.

I agreed to go for a ride with my workmate Remi today. He's recently come from France to race the national road series with John West Cycling. I like Remi a lot, but i cant help being a little intimidated when i hear about the racing he did in France.

We met up with another John West guy, Dean, who i knew vaguely from around the traps. They talked together about an easy day, around 130km. I just shut the hell up and sucked wheels.

We made our way out to Humevale, not exactly what I'd call easy, but nothing too outrageous either. As i rode behind the two guys, i listened to snatches of their conversation. Remi is 27 and has raced some big races in Europe. Dean is 22 about to go to Belgium to race with a team. I have high socks.

So they were talking about the cobbles, and which wheels to run, how many miles they were doing. Occasionally Dean would turn around and ask me if i knew someone or other. I usually did, but not as well i let on.

The racing scene in Melbourne is pretty small, really, but the A grade guys are partiucalrily cliquey, and people like me don't register much on their social radars, making it difficult to shoot the shit.

But, then, after half an hour or so of me just listening, Remi decided to hide from the wind. So it was me and Dean. He asked me about my racing, what my goals were, my training. He talked about his time at the AIS (when he didn't have a day off in eight weeks) how excited he was about Belgium, and how he was destroying ks in preparation. The kilometres slipped by.

By the end, we'd done 120km with an average of 30km an hour. If we're following Phil Anderson's rule (If your training ride is under 30kmh average, you aren't training, you're practising) it was my first ever training ride. Here's to many more.

But the real realisation i had was at how stupid my intimidation was. Sure, these guys ride bikes faster than me. But their just young guys who ride bikes.

That's enough.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Can't Stop It.

So, yet again, I find myself, and my extended family, embroiled with the issue of cancer. In this case, it's my brother in law.

He had surgery to his frontal lobe yesterday morning, roughly the time i was out at Humevale Rd, with Dave, doing strength endurance efforts.

The morning was clear, crisp, and surprisingly cold. The sky was blue, with a few touches of cloud here and there. I struggled, I'm afraid to say, with the fact that i could be having such a good time, while someone fairly close to me was having such a shit time.

It's a simplistic sensation but one that we have all felt: thank christ it isn't me, or mum, or my sister. Which in turn makes you feel horrible.

But right then, as Dave and I made our way up the climb twice, I felt pretty damn good, despite the shit storm that is going to be my sister's life for the next while.

I can't work out whether my failure to be more upset is a result of having already experienced the death of a family member through something as dumb as cancer, or the fact that riding my bike provides me with what most people might call 'perspective'.

At any rate, i should have felt awful yesterday, but instead i felt great.

I'm not sure what to take from that, if anything.

Oh, and as an aside, looking at my stats, and the search words that brought people here was not funny for the first time. In fact, it freaked me out. I want nothing to do with some of those key search words.

So i'm going to stop swearing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

You Are All That You Hate.

This morning I got up and did ten lots of one minute strength endurance intervals. I got two punctures.

Then I went to work, became very stressed at the amount of work I had to get done, and became grumpy.

Then I got a call from my Mum saying she had bad news and that my brother in law (my older sister's partner) has just been found to have a massive brain tumour. He's in the Alfred as we speak having all manner of scans.

Then I went and rode the Tour de Burbs bunch, and didn't get dropped. Felt fucking good man.

Now I'm home and it's eerily quiet

Friday, March 16, 2012

Just Another Southern Boy Who Dreams Of Nights In NYC.

It's a rainy day here in Melbourne. But not in a ravishing grim kinda way. But in a punk influenced country kinda way.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Crimson Moon.

As some dude said in the comments section of this youtube clip: "This isn't a song, it's a religion."

That pretty much sums it up for me.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

This Is Looking Like A Contest.

We here at Death Race are never ones to shy away from anthropological study. It was with this in mind that we managed to find some pants that weren't only suitable for a crust punk show, and proceeded down to Rod Laver Arena to see Taylor Swift in concert.


I know right? Wasn't it only yesterday that i was raving about death metal from the bowels of Japan?

While I may be kvlt as fuck, with a penchant for only the most severe musical brutality, i also have a sickening penchant and interest in the slickest of pops. And it was because of this that i found myself as possibly the only male under 40 and over 5 at the Taylor Swift concert, a nearly six foot figure, surrounded by tween girls waving glow sticks, hepped up on Fanta, and probably closer to tears than usual.

So what can i report? Well, here are some things that immediately struck me: Firstly, Swift can really sing. Like, her voice is super strong, and really quite dynamic. That was a surprise. Secondly, she's a born entertainer. In the old, costume change and lots of props and fireworks sense of the word. She had the crowd under total control. Admittedly it isn't hard to hold the attention of eight year olds when you are Taylor Swift, but the point stands. Thirdly, i reckon you could divide the crowd into two distinct groups: the younger ones, who like Swift's stories about teenage angst, because the idea of growing up is exciting. These fans are generally 5-12. Then there were the girls about my age who seem to want to reminisce about being 14 again, when listening to Taylor Swift was kind of ok. So there's this bizarre atmosphere of hope tinged with nostalgia.

I was sitting next to this little girl, who was probably about six. She was there with her mum. This girl looked so incredibly overwhelmed, I kinda felt sorry for her. She looked a bit like i did when i first saw Slayer. Mouth open, not really breathing, with the occasional excited squeak. Anyway, I kinda wanted to talk to this girl, ask her what her favourite song was, whether she was having a good time, and how much her poster cost from the merch stand. But i didn't, partly because I'm pretty confident her mother was already pretty wary of the mid twenties man sitting next to her daughter, who seemed to know all the lyrics to all the songs. Fair call, i would have been wary too. But anyway, i kinda observed this little girl throughout the performance, and essentially watched a small human being's day (and possibly month or year) totally being made. So wide were her eyes, so concentrated was her gaze toward the sparkly girl with the guitar, i'm not sure she even knew where she was.

Which brings me to Taylor herself. It's pretty easy to dismiss her as yet another bubblegum production, with very little actual musical merit. However, and as hard as it is for me to admit it, she is clearly a decent musician. Throughout the set she played a variety of instruments (guitar, banjo, piano) and engaged with the crowd in a genuine and pleasing way. She didn't seem fake, she didn't seem tired, and she really seemed happy to be there.

At some points i found myself watching 14 000 young girls lapping up the message of what on the surface seems to be stories of finding the right man, marriage, the boy from the football team, and other facets of a pretty grim patriarchal picture. But then between songs she would say things that countered the messages that appeared to be contained in the songs, until i realised that the over arching narrative of Taylor Swift (oh dear god, what have i done?) is really the idea that it's ok to be a fourteen year old girl and not have a boyfriend, that you don't have to aspire to fairy tales to be happy.

Sure, hardly ground breaking stuff, but it seems to have hit a chord in the 8-12 market. It seems, then, that Swift provides a degree of comfort for people. So, here i was, covered in glitter, surrounded by small children, wondering how the hell it had come to this, when i looked around. All i saw were very small people having a total fucking ball, trying to connect with this projection of an idea in a floor length dress (her Dixie Chix tattoos are temporary i found out to my sadness).

The only difference between this show and the Iron Maiden one i saw in 2008, was the average age, and amount of leather.

Good one Taylor.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Hidden Mist From A Dark Island.

I went to the Bendigo Hotel the other night. I hung out with my old mate Ash, which was rad in itself. Her boyfriend was playing in one of the black metal bands on the bill. They were good, and they played some real tight, real atmospheric black metal.

Then this Japanese death metal band cam on. They all had thick waist long hair, with incredibly intricate sleeve tattoos (which, from what i understand, is still kind of a big deal in Japan, and essentially marginalises you from most of society). They were wearing Kimonos (those long, dress like garments worn by men). Basically, they looked totally badass.

I watched the crowd intently, watching for any possible racist sentiment. There was none. Then they started playing.

Holy fuck.

Was i ready for metal they asked me? It had been months.

Fucking oath i was.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Never Said I was Hero.

All day I've been trying to figure out a blog post in regards to the latest social media explosion. In case you didn't know already, it turns out that there are some people in Africa who do bad things, and exploit children for warfare.

Maybe read this first. I dunno about the rest of that journal...defending property rights? Really?

So I've been thinking about Kony, and the video that brought the whole thing about. I've been cautious about the whole thing because (and this is a topic of another blog post i have planned) of the online culture of what I'm going to call 'Hater Hate'.

Essentially what I'm driving at is the fact that if anyone calls into question the validity of the creators of the video, you are labelled as cynical, cold hearted or, on many cases, a hater. What does it matter, the argument goes, about the creators? Surely it's important that we are talking about Africa, about Kony, about the incredible shitstorm that is child soldiery. Haven't we made a positive step?

Well, no. And for two reasons: firstly, it encourages the culture of 'like', wherein we can alleviate guilt and feel we have achieved something, simply by joinig the facebook group. Hate racists? Sure do! Like! Don't like cruelty to animals? Hate it! Like! Don't like the fact that you only just realised that children are being exploited for war that rage on for decades! No! Like! We can feel as if we are involved in change by this simple action, when really we at best do nothing at all, and at worst we propagate the problem by being under the illusion something is being done. Instead, you can call out your friends for using the word poofter or faggot, you can go vegan, or volunteer for various animal causes, and finally, you could educate yourself on what is going on in Africa. Then take the action you feel is right.

Which leads me to my second point as to why i don't feel the Kony video is a positive step. The creators of invisible children give only a third of total donations to African causes (the rest going to self promotion, quite large personal wages, etc). Not only that but they also supply the Ugandan Government with money, weaponry and other equipment. They support direct military action in Africa to destabilise many of the state's within, and believe the West has a right and a duty to involve itself in many African countries affairs.

This is ignoring the fact that Kony isn't even the worst of the lot. There are countless others like him and, to suggest that removing him (what are gonna do? Kill him?) will create freedom, is a simple misrepresentation by Invisible Children. And that's when they go from naive to sinister.

Social media does have the potential to sway government. Suddenly we have millions of young people clamouring for the head of someone who is without doubt a terrible man. But they know nothing of the the wider picture in Uganda, let alone Africa. It's almost old hat to say that African politics is complicated, but it's true. No one is denying that Kony is a shit head. But his removal, or the support of an organisation that supports a state that is actively trying to massacre its gay population, is not going to make the world a better place. It actually stands to worsen.

Basically, I've said all this in blog form because i know if i say it to someone, they'll rip my head off and accuse me of a cold minded cynicism. It's all very well for me to sit here and wag my finger while genuine human rights violations are occurring as we speak.

I totally agree.

But mindlessly joining the hangmans rabble, with no real knowledge about an issue, other than that provided by an organisation with direct interests in certain political aspirations, must be done with extreme caution.

If not, we stand to lose much, much more than we already have.

Don't take my word for it though, i know fuck all about the situation too. The only difference between me and Joe Facebook is that i know that i don't know. Like a known unknown.

And anyway, the internet tells me it was all just a US government social experiment anyway.

Seriously though, if you care, inform yourself. Then take action.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I Guess This Is Growing Up.

My first bike was a sixteen inch Huffy with armadillos on it. It was coupled with a white helmet covered in red back spiders. It was, now that i think back to it, a pretty metal combo.

I didn't learn how to ride a bike until i was seven: considered quite late in the street i grew up in. When i finally did learn (after my mum dragged me outside and wouldn't let me back in until i was riding) i would get up early every day and ride the length of my street, which was probably about 500 metres. When i got to the end, not knowing how to turn 180 degrees yet, i would get off and turn the bike around, then ride back.

Gradually, i started riding with the local boys. They all had 24 inch bikes, often with ten gears (a time when more gears was cooler). We rode all around the suburb, to the parks, down the lane each other, daring each other, pushing each other.

Sometimes i think, when I'm out on the bike, maybe I'm just chasing that feeling those first few months of riding provided. The feeling of freedom was totally intoxicating, and my very first notion of independence essentially grew from there.

Sometimes i think my micro generation (growing up in the early to mid 90s) was the very last generation to experience the real holistic notion of 'outside play'. Back then consoles were very much around but were limited to rich or spoilt kids, and the games themselves were naturally less addictive. So this old cleche of the 'neighbourhood kids' was to some extent totally accurate. It was a good time!

Except for that time that bastard Anthony threw my bike across the road and broke it. Fucker.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

You're A Fucking Sellout, You Used To Be About The Music.

While I'm aware that my readership is limited, thus making the following announcement fairly redundant, I'll make it anyway. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and it seems that my imitation of Brendan Bailey's Blog (or BBB from hereon in) has finally flattered him. With that in mind, and due to Brendan's hectic online schedule, he has asked me to take the reigns of his Monday slot.

Hence, BBB will now suffer Heavy Metal Monday's where i will essentially do what i do here, but slightly more self consciously, firstly because people actually read BBB, as well as the fact that some of these people i know and admire. I'm still not sure what I'll write about for the first Monday but I'm sure I'll think of something between now and then. The only rules Brendan outlined was the title has to be all in capitals, followed by a full stop. Oh and I can't be a racist, a misogynist, or a homophobe. This will probably test my comic mettle but, who knows, maybe we'll all learn something.

Anyway, seeing as I have sold out, and finally succumbed to the Big Blog Time, I'm sure my own blog will eventually become dusty and forlorn, such will be my obsession with creating the perfectly rounded blog post each Monday. To start of this tradition of mediocrity, here are some comedians making fun of metal, which made me lol. Note that most of them feature Bill Bailey.

You know, I'm not sure that last one was meant to be funny. And, if it was, I think I find it funny for different reasons.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Lens Of Quartz Reflect The Night Sky

Ok, so now that my vegan smugness has worn off, i can return to other matters.

Today was the first day of Autumn. I started paying attention to the seasons when the drummer from Wolves in the Throne Room claimed you had missed the point of black metal if you didn't know what phase the moon was in, or which wild flowers were in bloom at particular times of the year. Seeing as I am fully kvlt, i hence began to pay attention to what was going on around me.

Despite the fact that last weekend was fucking hot, today was decidedly Autumnal, and the brooding grey skies had me turning down my mix of Blink 182, Fugazi and Propagandhi, and returning to the withering screams of my current favourite music.

It also got me excited for road racing. I'm no fan of riding in cold weather, but this year, being my 'year of riding' i have decided to invest some money in good winter kit, and see the winter through on my bicycle. I know there are gonna be times when i don't want to be out there, but i hope to be able to see a bigger picture...or perhaps the sheer enjoyment of being on a bicycle will be enough.

Anyway, so i dropped some coin on some good bibs, some new gloves, a wind breaker and a new base layer. Coupled with a new bike, I'm pretty excited to get out into the wintery bleakness and ride out some ks with my ipod blasting something suitably grim.

Given this total romanticisation of Melbourne's fairly mild winter, you can almost ensure the next three weeks will be a mild twenty degrees.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

It's Been Some Time

I realised the other day that it had been just over a year since i became a vegan. I was surprised by two things: firstly, that the time had passed quite quickly. Secondly, my non-vegan cravings haven't really gone, they've just sort of blended into the background.

I became a vegetarian out of curiosity and environmental reasons. Six months later i became a vegan because of punk rock, and because of ethical reasons. It's been an interesting ride, partly because it coincided fairly directly with my racing a lot more.

I went from feeling great in the first few months, to feeling pretty shit throughout last winter. Balancing a vegan diet with a high energy expenditure is, while far from impossible, a little tricky on a student budget. But the first few slip ups led to a pretty solid diet.

I made a lot of mistakes, insofar as i mistakenly ate a fair bit of non-vegan food in the first few months. It still happens occasionally, but i tend not to worry about it. I've knowingly eaten non-vegan food a few times when out training in the sticks, with no vegan options available, and I've definitely turned a blind eye and applied the rules of vegenough with the odd veggie pastie. I figure if i allow these occasional bending of the rules, I'm far more likely to remain a life long vegan, rather than folding under the crippling rules of a militancy,the irony being that you often become a post vegetarian, which is not desirable.

But in trying to manage my life style choices, i have learnt a lot about nutrition, a lot about holistic approaches to diet and health - i can thank Casey and the internet for that - which has impacted my life in really good ways.

I'm not sure if a vegan diet is preferable to a meat diet, i don't know enough about it. What i do know is that it has made me more aware of how the body works, and how it fuels itself, especially when under high stresses. If i can, in so doing, remove myself from the culture of animals as means to an end property, then i feel i have made a good life choice.

I still crave bacon, and i still have boring dreams where all that happens is that i make an omelette, but i figure sometimes the easiest choice isn't the right one.

And besides, oreos are vegan, who the fuck needs anything else?

So here's to another ten years of less cruelty in my diet (and potential diabetes).