Category Archives: Punk Ethos

Make your own scene

One of the things I love about being a skateboarder, besides skating, is the tradition of doing things for ourselves. Making our own scenes, creating our own publications, etc. But I really really love the art created by skateboarders. From my friends Jeremy Elder (, and Mike Moore (, to widely known artists who came from skateboarding like Shepard Fairey and Michael Sieben, skateboarding fosters a lot of creativity. The list is long. Anyway, here are a few things I’ve got on my walls…

Owl, by Jeremy Elder.

Alternative Tentacles Jello Biafra board – graphics by Shepard Fairey, board manufactured by Powell.

Fist, but Jeremy Michael Elder.

Sun and bird, by Jeremy Michael Elder.

Skateboards. Photo by Tony Gale.

Various stickers, by Jeremy Michael Elder.

Cockfight skateboard deck, graphics by Michael Sieben.

Fickle Skateboards Austin Motel/Stupidfest 2018 graphic, and Sphinx cat graphic. Both will be on the wall after I finish riding them. Not only is the art cool, but the decks themselves are works of art — totally hand built. Laminate layed up in Lew’s workshop, glued, pressed, cut, finished. Only thing he didn’t do was produce the veneers.



Books and Smart Friends and Bookstores

This will be kind of a rambling post, but there is the thread of a story here, so please keep with me…

I am lucky to have many talented friends. Artists, musicians, scholars, etc. Many of these friends come from the world of skateboarding, which attracts a lot of creative types (and some idiots too, but what doesn’t?).

I’m also lucky to have a really really smart wife, who’s working on a PhD in the Humanities. Because she is smart, and is involved in smart-people-stuff, I’ve met a lot of other really smart and interesting people from the wild world of academia — a world that I would otherwise not experience.

One of our friends is George Henson. George is a Spanish language instructor and is about to receive his PhD in Literary and Translation Studies. In other words, besides teaching Spanish, he’s a literary translator. Over the last few years, George has translated a number of great Spanish language authors, and recently scored massive points by being the first do to an English translation of any of the novels of Sergio Pitol, one of the most important living authors working in the Spanish language. The novel is The Art of Flight.

This is a big deal. The Dallas Observer interviewed George about his work. So cool!

Obviously I am really happy for our friend, who is finding a lot of much-deserved success and gaining a great reputation in his field.

So, a couple of weeks ago there was a book signing for this new translation at the Wild Detectives, which to my knowledge is the only independently owned bookstore in Dallas. George was there signing and speaking, as well as Dr. Ignacio Ruiz-Perez from UT-Arlington, who was a student of Pitol.

The Wild Detectives is such a great place. I wish it was closer to my neighborhood, but it is worth the trip to the Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff. It’s a bookstore and coffee shop/bar in an old house. The book offerings are just fantastic. It’s not massive — but the book selection is well-curated, and seems to concentrate on smaller publishers. As a result, there isn’t a square foot of shelf space that doesn’t contain something fascinating to read. After the book signing event, I picked up a couple of new books. I could have filled a shopping cart. It’s not even the kind of stuff I’d normally think about reading, which is what makes it so great.

The store has a small area set aside for events like readings.

You just feel smarter walking into the place.

They also have Mexican Coca-Cola in a green glass bottle. So there you go. Case closed.

Which brings me to one final associated topic — Deep Vellum Publishing – the company that has published George’s translation of The Art of Flight. The company was started by a fellow named Will Evans. You can read about Deep Vellum’s mission here, so I won’t hack it up in this post. I’ll just say that Will started this thing from scratch, and aims to put Dallas on the literary map.

Allow me just descend to a lower rung of the intellectual ladder for a sentence, and say that these endeavors, the independent literature-loving bookstore and the small publisher, their DIY natures, their missions — are PUNK FUCKING ROCK. It takes energy to make good things like this happen. You have to get on it with damned near demonic power. Jerry Lee Lewis — young, sweating, destroying a piano’s keyboard with wild proto-rock abandon comes to mind.

So I’m looking forward to going back down there again, buying more books, drinking a Mexican Coke, and maybe consuming food with the skinny young hep-cats at one of the many eateries near the bookstore, which will all make me feel cooler and smarter for at least an afternoon.

Dudes who got it right

Age gives an the advantage of perspective on earlier years. Is it an advantage? Maybe. I guess. I’m sure that in future decades, should I be lucky enough to have a few more, I will think that as of today I didn’t know a damned thing. However, I think these dudes are a bit of an exception.

Henry with a few of his books.

The guys in these pictures — they got it right.

Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye, and Jello Biafra. (You can click on these images to go to their sources).

In my mind these guys are the Trinity of Punk Rock.  When I want to listen to some punk, it’s going to usually involve Black Flag, Fugazi (or Minor Threat), and the Dead Kennedys.

But when I say they got it right I’m not talking about the music. I’m talking about everything else.

These are pretty much the three smart dudes from punk. They are the ones who have grown into intelligent, progressive, well-spoken adult human beings.

I am constantly amazed by how many people I know who “love” punk rock, and are skateboarders, grow up to adopt a repressive, conservative political and social ideology. I think part of this conundrum stems from the fact that punk (at least the kind from the 1980s) tends to be very aggressive music, and thus it attracts not only smart people but some fairly not-quite-as -smart people too. I’m sure a lot of young people are just trying to “find themselves” or enjoy being part of an outsider group, so they get into it. I’m sure this happened with my generation. My friend Bosco says young people are often just “trying on different uniforms.” Then they grow up and become their parents. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Sometimes not so much. Honestly, I have never “worn the uniform” of anything but a skateboarder. But as I’ve gotten older, and these guys have gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate them more and more.


I just find it fascinating because these three guys, while they have grown up and evolved and become more sophisticated in their thinking and more articulate in their communication, to me, seem like they kind of got it right in the first place.

Somehow, from a young age these guys had a clarity of thought that a lot of people just don’t have. Some people never get it. I think Henry probably had a rougher time with his youth, but he made it, and if you listen to his spoken word, he is right on target on almost everything.

I am reminded of a quote from Bike Snob NYC, regarding the music of Jello Biafra and the Dead Kennedys. Here’s the quote. Click through and read the whole post though. He’s a great writer.

As I got older, however, I “matured,” and my outlook on life became more pragmatic.  I no longer grouped things into “good” and “evil” categories based on where they fell on the Jello Biafra Outrage Scale.  (The more shrilly Jello Biafra sings about something the more evil it was.)  I no longer automatically rejected anything “mainstream,” and I stopped assuming that anything that was part of the mainstream was somehow automatically tainted.  Most of all, I laughed at my own naïveté, I dropped the attitude, and I got down to the non-ideological business of becoming an adult.Jello. Photo from

But then, years later, something amazing happened, and I realized that all those albums I used to listen to were right.  Well, maybe they weren’t right about a lot of the specifics, but it turns out that the general message–that mainstream culture is vacuous and bankrupt–is pretty much entirely correct.

In the last 7 years I’ve had the chance to see Henry and Jello both do spoken word performance. Both these guys are downright masterful in this craft. Entertaining, engaging, thought-provoking, and just provoking. Really good. Ian doesn’t do spoken word, but I keep up with him and if he is ever in this area I will surely to see him play. I saw him with Fugazi back in the 1990s.

Well, that’s all I’ve got to say today. Go have some fun.