Culture

Living, Mostly

It’s hard to believe that it’s been close to 15 years since I first started an online publication. It was a steep but incredibly rewarding learning curve- talking music, film and culture from the perspective of a third-culture kid who had just returned from a lengthy stay in the US.

I loved punk rock, I loved Hollywood and I had a lot of stories about growing up in Indonesia to tell. The outlet, Sound the Sirens Magazine (born from a Kid Dynamite song), was my way of reconnecting with some of the bands, friends and life I had left behind in Philadelphia and Stockton upon my return to Jakarta.

Online publishing was a different beast then, pre-out-of the-box content management systems meant the landscape for web publishing was relatively sparse, but ripe for those looking to find an outlet for their stories.

I connected, I wrote, and I communicated with old friends, new ones, bands, labels and writers who shared the same focus.

At its apex, Sound the Sirens Magazine received some 3000 unique visitors a day and interviewed artists and bands biting at their chance to find an audience. Some of the bands today are some of the biggest in the world, and looking back, it was a privilege to have connected with them during their ascendancy.

Travel and time changes a lot, and as the magazine shifted countries again to Australia, it had to evolve and change as the life around me did. It changed its name, to The Marshalltown, it spent a lot less time being updated, and somewhat found itself like many of its contemporaries- uneasy with transitioning from content and substance to journalistic instant gratification.

I tried it, and I hated it, and I still do.

So for the past few months I’ve been working hard to find a new spot on the already packed vista of online publishing; one free of click-baitism and marketing schemes.

Thus the launch of Three Zero One Three; a new publication about living mostly.

Every idea here, every story, every piece of writing is about a connection through shared, interesting, and sometimes towards-the-fringe ideas.

Ideas about travel, reality, at-home and life living the things we feel are worth it.

Some of the writing here will go against the grain because that’s who I am, and some of it, through age and grace, will be seeing familiar ideas with fresh perspectives. Along the way, there will be plenty of different voices who will share their own views and opinions; writers and individuals from all corners of the globe.

It’s called Three Zero One Three because it’s the postcode in Australia where I currently call home but there are no borders and boundaries here.

Welcome. Let’s make the act of reading and writing on the internet enjoyable and personal again, all of it.

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Culture

No Longer Homeland

As a child I was fortunate to have travelled quite frequently in and out of Indonesia via Soekarno Hatta airport (Indonesia’s flagship airport situated in what was once marshland in the outskirts of its capital Jakarta). One of the most lingering memories of the airport was not its antiquated brick floors, its old fashioned crème paintjob or its lack of acceptable catering and entertainment options (the one Dunkin’ Donuts it had held its ground firmly until Starbucks moved in a few years ago); it was rather the painfully slow immigration line you had to endure every time you arrived back into the country.

Like almost every other immigration line the world over, it was hobbled by the slow manual process. Made worse by the airports combustible frequency in which airplanes seemed to arrive on any given day and you have what makes for an endless queue of already impatient and weary travellers. The traffic outside was no better of course, but efficiency was never high on the priority list in the capital.

Fast forward 10 years and I find myself living in Australia as an Australian now (my passport says so), I’ve found that whenever I return to Indonesia for social or family visits, this inefficiency has morphed itself into a strangely effective but costly work around an old problem.

I had to give up my previous passport which meant that Indonesia was no longer my legal home. It’s a little bizarre to think that a place you called home for more than 16 years has suddenly become foreign soil; not by heart or by familiarity, but my legality. Foreigners traveling to Indonesia from certain countries are eligible for a relatively painless Visa process called the ‘Visa On Arrival’. As it states, those traveling from a select list of countries can purchase a short stay 25 day visa for the duration of your stay. At the price of USD$25, it isn’t the most exorbitant amount in which you will have to pay for on a holiday (the cost of a US Visa for Australians is roughly $15) but the sole advantage of this situation is getting to skip that never-ending immigration line. How? Perhaps due to design or by bureaucratic-inefficiency-turn-dumb-luck, the line in which you purchase your Visa On Arrival also has its own immigration booths, far from the ones which locals and residents use. It’s a breeze. An inefficient, messy breeze.

Perhaps the biggest drawback to the Visa On Arrival process is that there is no shorter term Visa than 25 days and there is no option to re-stamp once you have left the country. I have on many occasions taken short trips during my stay in Indonesia to places like Singapore, and even if I’m only traveling for 2-3 days, I have to purchase a new Visa when I arrive back into Jakarta, shelling out another $25. Does skipping a sometimes 40+ minute wait in a line warrant the $25 price tag?

It really depends on how lucky you are with your bags coming out of the carousel once both sets of queues merge post-immigration. My longest wait time after paying for the Visa On Arrival? About an hour before my sole piece of mid-sized luggage trundled its way on the archaic luggage carousel into my frustrated and tired hands.

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Culture

Unraveling a Hoax and Hoax Culture

In the hour after the initial report of Fast and Furious star Paul Walker’s death, I did what I always do when there is significant news breaking; I spend as much time getting the news from as many different sources as I can. This was a case of both “unbelievable” and “truly unbelievable” as much of what was disseminated immediately following the report was that the story, reported first by TMZ, was a hoax. The hoax had been reported by a website (which will not be linked to and has since been taken down) that could generate stories refuting celebrity deaths when you change or input any celebrity’s name. This website created a wave of social media chatter refuting the TMZ story calling the death a hoax. It unraveled the fabric of truth and trust of social media news, as legitimate news sources had only quoted TMZ for the story. It certainly left me hoping that it was indeed a hoax, but left me frustrated that immediate news can very easily be erroneous news.

The confusion amplified perhaps, by the reputation of TMZ and their penchant for gossip. While they may be gossip hungry, they have in the past been noted for being correct on celebrity deaths (see the death of Michael Jackson) in the past. I had to take both sides with a grain of salt and waited until a more “credible” news source confirmed the tragic event. Through it all, social media sites I visit and use for news immediacy (namely twitter and occasionally reddit) were flooded by both calls of sadness and sympathy, and the unfortunate and idiotic act of what can be umbrellad under “hoax culture”. It’s easy to make jokes connecting the film franchise Paul Walker is most known for, The Fast and Furious, and the circumstances of his death. Yet as I scrolled through all these “jokes”, I found none of them remotely funny, and generally speaking, just sickening. And for some reason, there was a running joke of posting pictures of other celebrities next to Paul Walker’s name, as if this were some form of comedic tweeting. Who are these people? I know this sort of behaviour is nothing new, yet I am continually dumbfounded. Are these people serious? Is their internet personality a reflection of who are they in the real world?

Thankfully, the many people I do follow on twitter take their influence and social media accounts with a little more integrity. And through some patience, there were journalists and others involved in the media who did the work and waited until official confirmation before spreading the news. It’s just now, with such global reach available to everyone, we have the added responsibility of heeding our sources with added reserve, while watching what we say and write.

The story here of course, is that two young men lost their lives in tragic circumstances, leaving behind family and friends and fans behind. I am frustrated by both the immediacy and the free-for-fall nature of social media, twitter in particular. I am still one of those old curmudgeons that feel that influence and reach is something you should have to legitimately earn. Perhaps scrolling through the “trending” topics and reading the tweets that come from topical hashtags was my own mistake. Maybe I do not understand “trolling” and “hoax culture”, but I know I do not perceive it to be anything more than a sad and pathetic nuisance. God forbid being a family member or close friend having to discover of terrible news in such fashion.

I enjoyed his films and think that his work will go underrated as we remember them in the years ahead. I hope that his family and close friends were informed of the terrible news in a dignified manner, far away from the drudges of social media.

It took Paul Walker’s social media accounts to confirm of his tragic passing, ironic perhaps that the medium I find most frustrating to deal with when finding the truth, was the one source you could rely on for it.

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Culture, Music

The Bitter Reality: “Black Flag” is dead

In a strange but not entirely unexpected turn of events, Ron Reyes has quit/been fired from “Black Flag” once again. In a bizarre on-stage firing at the tail end of their recent Australian sojourn, Reyes was unceremoniously booted with two songs left on the set list. The band of course, was one half of the two “reunited” renditions of the once legendary punk band. In a long and revealing statement, Reyes has stated that the band “fell very short indeed and the diminishing ticket sales and crowds are a testament to that.” But more telling than anything, it seems that Reyes had an inkling this entire project was doomed to fail. In the statement, Reyes says;

[quote]“The writing was on the wall since before we played our first show. So many things went wrong from the start. I was into things like having a good drummer, rehearsing and spending time on things like beginnings and endings of songs, being a little less distracted with tour life and a little more on the ball. You know things that would make our efforts worthy of the name Black Flag”[/quote]

It’s funny and painfully sad to think of course, the once great legacy of a band that influenced so many has fallen into such disgrace. Like Reyes, we expected as much. Back in July of this year, we wrote a piece titled ‘Black Flags and Idol Suicides‘ and in it, Brad Abraham asks the simple question that plagued the formations of both these bands; “why?”. Why did we need “Black Flag” and “Flag”? The truth is, we didn’t, and we still don’t. The farce in which this has descended down to is testament to this notion.

If you’ve had a listen to the new “Black Flag” album (that may be thrown into doubt now with Reyes’ departure), you can hear the sound of a tired, aged, decrepit band struggling to find relevance where it didn’t need to. Abraham goes on in the piece to ask a few more pertinent questions and with the recent turn of events, they are more relevant than ever:

Why subject your fans to this tired display?

Why ruin something that was perfect?

Why bring middle-aged dissatisfaction to youth rebellion?”

Why indeed, for this mess. Speculation is that Greg Ginn will continue the band with someone else on vocals, but it would seem that such action would do little to change the situation. There is nothing wrong with remembering the past, especially one that is so gloriously influential and historically significant to an entire youth movement. But to let it break and burn like this? It’s just sad. Could it be that a small part of this debacle is due to the current climate of monetary possibilities these bands did not once have? Are we all partly to blame? Our culture of famous-now, money-now music industry means one-time cash-starved beacons of struggle and revolution can embark on a new monetized rehashing of their once lauded legacy. There is no stopping that, but don’t expect us not to comment when it disintegrates.

How did Brad Abraham get it so right? How did he nail the whole situation right on its head in one sentence? It is in this case of Ron Reyes, Greg Ginn, Keith Morris and the rest of the parties involved masquerading as the corpse of Black Flag, a statement that bears repeating;

For the aging punk rockers who have carried out this charade, one lesson will be imprinted on them- you can’t repeat the past.

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Culture, Headlines

Bill Cosby is Far From Finished

It’s hard to imagine a comedic world without Bill Cosby. For the longest time it seems that Cosby has been part of the comedic fabric of our existence. Decades and decades of material and generations upon generations, Cosby has been a constant. Comedy of course, has been changing and evolving, and the slate of current contemporary comedians are mostly cut from a different mould than the one Cosby was cut from. He’s been at for 50 years, and yet while his humour is somewhat outmoded to what we get from successful stand up of today- Aziz Ansari, Sarah Silverman, Jimmy Carr, Russell Peters et al.- there’s just something about Cosby that still resonates in the digital age.

Far From Finished is a brand new stand-up special Cosby filmed for Comedy Central; a left field home for someone whose humour is acquainted more with the PG crowd than the crass, overly sexualised brand of current humour. It’s evident from the beginning too, where Cosby, who spends much of the special sitting down rather than standing, opens the show with a disclaimer about doing a special for Comedy Central. Yet as the routine unfolds, you forget the need to hear humour that is more akin to some of the aforementioned comedians. In fact, it’s refreshing. Cosby spends much of the routine talking about the ins and outs of marriage, the fraternal bond between friends, and the hilarious differences between the two. One bit that stands in particular being his routing about forgetting his home security code and dealing with the consequences of a fed up wife and an equally fed up security operator.

There are of course, the hallmark qualities of a good Cosby show; his blips and bloops, his Cosby facial mannerisms and his deft timing. Through it all however, you do immediately get the sense of his longevity and his age; much of his physical comedy is left to his face and hands. Yet while he’s discernibly older and a little slower, there is still a vibrancy to him.

The DVD version of this special is much longer than the version that aired on Comedy Central this past week. Both versions are recommended for those who enjoy Cosby humour, but the DVD edition is broken down into parts so that the viewer can ease from and back into the routine. His legacy is more telling than a singular special, but this one is more about adding to one. It may not be as memorable as his 1983 masterpiece Himself (how could it be?), it is a simple reminder than Cosby is indeed, far from finished.

 

Bill Cosby: Far From Finished is available now on DVD/Blu-Ray and as a digital download. You can check out some clips and highlights here.

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Culture, Headlines, Music

One for Massachusetts

It’s been more than ten years since I’ve been to Philadelphia, a decade removed from its heritage and first hand lessons in American history. Equally historical were the venues scattered on South Street and Arch Street where many of my earliest punk rock memories were formed. In the Theatre of Living Arts and the Trocadero, nights of sweat, blood and bruises became as much a part of my Philadelphia story as the times I spent learning about the Liberty Bell. These moments defined the city and all these years pass and I still breathe the packed monoxide air of those age-old venue floors. It’s been even longer since I went to Boston. So much so that I only vaguely remember the wood-clad structure of my hotel, who for architectural reasons beyond me, built their vast spaces horizontally instead of vertically. But I do remember the No-Name Restaurant, not it’s food or it’s locale, but the name, a tick for clever marketing and little else.

Boston has seen plenty since: thousands of bands have come and gone, the Boston Red Sox won three World Series, the Patriots three Super Bowls, and the Celtics hung up another championship banner. They’ve suffered immeasurable tragedy with the Boston Marathon attacks, and have banded together as a city and a region to lift each others’ spirits in the time after. All these events along with what I can assume are countless smaller, more localized strings of positivism would lead one to believe that the air of sadness and toil that appeared to envelope the city for so long has been lifted. It is not to say Boston is a sad town, in fact, I don’t remember it being so, but as a tourist and an outsider, the many elements that we encounter as being from Boston or part of it, left a melancholia that came with what were inept sports teams, terrible weather, and a gloomy disposition left in the shadow of taller, more famous cities. Boston hardcore, noted for their contribution through SS Decontrol, Gang Green, DYS and Jerry’s Kids, wasn’t exactly the plum of sunshine you’d need to get over lagging blues.

So what is my Boston? My Boston, the one I briefly knew, fueled by the angry and disenfranchised, came to fruition in a band that lasted one album, 12 songs, and a quiet influence that resonated long after their demise. The Hurt Process by Boxer, this is my Boston.

Part post-hardcore, part mid-nineties emo, Boxer still encompasses all that is the city; gritty, desolate, pained- jarring for the senses but cathartic in its connection. This is what Boston was like to someone who had never lived in Boston. Perhaps if you disagree, then it is something you need to take up with your local tourist board.

Boxer was Vagrant Records’ initial signing, the calling card for a label whose stock rose because their bands wore their hearts on their sleeves better than anyone else. We talk a lot about The Get Up Kids with Something to Write Home About and Saves the Day with Stay What You Are. These two are often considered the staple releases of the early Vagrant catalogue, but we fail to see that the very first band they ever signed, released an album just as poignant as the two, if only, not as polished.

It’s the opening line of “Blame It On The Weather” that feels perfectly Boston. It’s the stringy guitars and the pulsing bass line that accompanies it. It’s the percussions that kick in at just the right time, and it’s the voice that sounds like it has smoked a thousand cigarettes that chime in;

Sitting in my ditch of self-loathing and of course my mind is roaming / thinking things are worse than they appear to be

Listen: “Blame it On the Weather”
Boxer – Blame It On the Weather

And then there were the girls, or one in particular whose name may or may not have been Georgia. Her hair smelled like a season and she sounds like a girl who liked music you’d only play on a record player. She probably liked the Velvet Underground on Sunday afternoons but wore combat boots and spiked her hair on a Friday night. She’s someone you’d fall in love with from the deepest of your soul only to break your heart. This is the little Georgia girl Boxer sings about, with a sense of sadness and anger wrapped in crunchy mid-tempo riffs and couplets of disappointment. She’s the one that kept you up at night, 2:18am. She’s the one that you’ll forget someday, just not today, the one you’re waiting for, when the sun finally comes, it’ll be when you’ll stop missing her.

Listen: “Georgia”
Boxer – Georgia

It’s the romanticism of a troubled city that drives people to write great songs about it. It is the way the rain falls on a lonely streetlight that inspires, and I think Boston has more than one lonely streetlight. I think if I get to drive through Boston some time soon, my mind would automatically play these 12 songs in order. Appropriately perhaps, the album’s title understood the city’s plight on both a personal and cultural stake and its significance on a national and global scale. This was a hurting town, whether you were a fan of sporting teams, music scenes or girls named after southern states. Yet on some level, they knew that this sadness would only last for so long. That someday you could finally leave it all behind.

We wait until the sun goes down in Boston, the stars are out / We’ll have our way; our time will shine like the twinkle that’s in your eye

Listen: “One for Milwaukee”
Boxer – One For Milwaukee

There is something to be said about not overstaying your welcome. Boxer knew 12 songs were enough. It was for that moment, the perfect capsule of the streets and places no one but themselves knew and understood. I can’t for one imagine any more songs written or recorded by them. It would be strange and out of place, almost like happiness and sunshine down on Harvard Avenue. I would never claim to be from Boston, and I can’t tell you what it’s like now. I can only imagine at least, with all the things that has happened to the city over the past decade, that there has to have been an uplift of some kind. In fact, I’m sure it’s a terribly nice place to visit. But for an outsider like me, until I get to venture down a sun-soaked path leading to the friendliest bar in town, Boston will always be The Hurt Process, where it rains or snows every night.

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Boxer formed in 1995 and disbanded in 1999. Vagrant Records released their one album, The Hurt Process, in 1998. Drummer Chris Pennie recently drummed for Coheed & Cambria and the Dillinger Escape Plan. 

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Baseball, Culture, Featured, Sports

From Broad Street to the Bronx: Embracing The Evil Empire

There has been a plague slowly overcoming me. Not the kind that destroys the body, but the kind that eats away at the soul. I was recently in New York and went to the new Yankee Stadium for the first time and marveled at the statuesque nature of not just the structure itself, but the grounds surrounding it. There was an unrivaled mysticism to it all; being somewhere you only ever see on television. It felt in a way, like stepping on sacred soil. And this wasn’t even the old Yankee Stadium. Its pristine exterior only rivaled by the billions of dollars poured into the lavish interior; highlighted by a baseball diamond so near perfect that one would believe during its construction the echoing mantra was surely “if you build it, they will come.”

The problem here you see, is that I’m a Philadelphia Phillies fan. At least I think I am. I’ve lived through the toils of supporting a franchise with more losses than any other professional team in America. Born a year after their first World Series, I was 27 years old before they won anything of significance. The second baseball game I ever saw was one between the Orioles and the Phillies; so boring and lifeless that a bunt down the left foul line was met with the kind of exuberance reserved for parades down Broad Street.

So these words are hard to write, but ever since I went to see the Yankees play the Mets on June 10th of this year, there has been a slow but growing black tide washing over me. Like the spirit of evil filling my veins; resistance futile. There’s the history, the unmatched global branding in its sport, the legends that have donned the pinstripes and of course, the 27. Winning championships are the pillars of sporting success and with 27, few franchises are held up stronger than the one that calls Yankee Stadium home.

At the game, there was a good spattering of Mets fans. Not sure why or why they exist. But they were there. Hopeful as always, buoyed annually by the promise of hope, but left disappointed by an ineptness that is but the yearly tradition of ‘the Yankees win, the Mets lose’. The Mets lost of course, but it wasn’t just this one game, they’ve been losing forever; a paltry 2 World Series titles to the Yankees 27. If you were living in New York and identified as a New Yorker, why on God’s green Earth would possess you to choose the Mets over the Yankees? I’m sure there’s plenty of that “the team chooses you” nonsense but really? Suppress it, ignore it, will it away. I’ve never understood the choice to be a loser over a winner. Life is about choices. Why pick the Cubs over the White Sox? Why pick Melbourne Heart over Melbourne Victory? Why pick Manchester City over Manchester United (until recently)? Why pick the Mets over the Yankees?

Since I’ve come back to Melbourne, I’ve been in this perpetual rut. At the gym, I’ve started giving the “what’s up?” head nod to the guy always wearing the Yankees shirt (maybe I need to stay away and get a home exercise program, like the Rushfit). Feeling slowly torn from what I thought was right, slowly overcome by an injection of navy blue, white and grey. These colors are bleeding into the red; turning the crimson into night.

Yet, the most obvious and painful realization is that I just like Evil Empires. I am a Manchester United fan, a Melbourne Victory fan and if I lived in Chicago, there is no chance in hell I would suffer a lifetime of being a Cubs fan. I like global corporations, I like law and order, I like money, I like first class and I like nice things. And so maybe the darkness overcoming me is an inevitable turn; an evil just waiting for an Anakin Skywalker or an Eddie Brock to sink its teeth into. I’ve been bitten and the infection is spreading.

The Philadelphia red in me is still fighting; a spirit of brotherhood bred on the tough Philly streets swinging away at Wall Street, but in the end the spirit is always broken. The high rises of success and power are far too great for man to overcome and winning is far too much of an intoxicating brew to pass up. I’ll toss and turn and feel my soul staving off the inevitable, and I will try with every bit of cheese steak left in me to fight away the allure of glory, money and power. Yet I know deep down inside, evil will rise. And I have a feeling it won’t be long before I enjoy wearing my #7 Mantle shirt more than I do any other.

Photos by: Billy Ho
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