essays & reviews

Vinyl Visions: Hexvessel - No Holier Temple

Hexvessel | No Holier Temple | Svart Records | 2012   On Hexvessel's tumblr, the band's founder Mat "Kvohst" McNerney describes making No Holier Temple as "the sound of a cult, all focused on summoning the same magic, joined in prayer, haunted by the same demons... This isn’t about using symbols of the occult. This is about a way of living that returns the old gods to their rightful place. We’re a family that worships nature through word and sound. We hope you will join us.” Kvohst couldn't be more accurate when explaining his self-described "tree-folk" band.

   Based out of Helsinki, Hexvessel blend the Black-Metal/ Black Sabbath sensibilities so prevalent in Scandinavia with a mystical-folk streak. The songs on No Holier Temple range from chant-like invocations to full-on stoner-folk-rock, each song drenched in the cold dampness of the fjords. Kvohst's singing is akin to Magnus Pelander's of Witchcraft which only amplifies the druid-like mysticism of the record. The groups eight members fill No Holier Temple with fuzzed guitars, accordion, horns, clarinets, Rhodes keys, chanting lines, and even a balalaika making the record sound like it was recorded at some ancient rite deep inside the forest.

24" x 24" 'No Holier Temple' Poster   This connection between No Holier Temple and the forest is the meat of the record. The gorgeous 12" liner notes included with the LP are filled with John Muir quotes extolling the virtues of the woods and the sides of the double LP are labeled: Side Ash, Side Birch, Side Cedar, and Side Douglas Fir after species of trees. The connection doesn't end there either, songs on the album include "Woods to Conjure," "A Letter in Birch Bark," and "Are You Coniferous?" containing lyrics like "This is a cold wet camp when the fire won't kindle | And you're damp to the bone and miles from home | When the trees shiver all through the timbers." This isn't just some kind of 'cool' aesthetic theme to organize a record, but, as Kvohlst intones in the quote which leads this piece off, a call-to-arms of the naturalist metal-heads. We've seen bands like Washington state's Wolves In the Throne Room thrive channeling the landscape of the Pacific Northwest to inform their music. Hexvessel are no where near as heavy as Wolves In the Throne Room but their topics and concerns are similar, and both appeal to a type of old world lifestyle.

 

   The first 400 copies of No Holier Temple come with an embroidered patch (eight versions were made) that represents the band members by a forest animal. There's an owl, wolf, hare, and others. My copy came with the fox, which delighted me to no end - maybe it's the red hair, but I've always identified with foxes. As I consider its location on my jacket, I can't help but think of it as an indoctrination into some secret society. After all, patches have long filled this role, whether as symbols affiliating a biker to his particular gang or the merit badges of a boy scout, they define our allegiances and begin to operate as talismans from our pasts. I think that this is Kvohst's goal, to unite us under nature's occult. "Are you coniferous?" Kvohst asks, as if for volunteers, "Do your leaves last all year?" There are others like you.

Equally Esquire: Outlier Aesthetics

                                       

   Here's a video of Outlier's Abe Burmeister talking at the PSFK Conference in New York City that I came across over at Selectism. He details how a graphic designer with no fashion background forms a high-end clothing company to meet an untapped need in the marketplace. Interesting, especially if you have any entrepreneurial aspirations. Alas, Abe's lack of fashion sense shines through - tucked or untucked, Abe!

   Seriously though, do check out Outlier's simple, yet chic website. They offer only a few items, but all dynamic pieces ready for a photo shoot hours after they've jumped into a river. I have a pair of their OG syle of pants, purchased in 2009 or 2010, and outside of a few pocket restitchings they have held up great. The company originally started by making clothes for city cyclists - shirts that won't look or get sweaty, pants resilient to the rain or other weather conditions - but their clothes are great for any active individual who doesn't want to be bogged down with weather or activity and still wants to look great doing it.

   Outlier's pursuit for higher performance from their materials has also led them to the insanely curious The Minimal Backpack. The website claims: "it's light enough to float on water, but tough enough to haul bricks." Burmeister also includes a reference to the bag in his talk, claiming it can be folded up into your pocket. Suffice it to say, I am very intrigued. Seems like a great bag for cycling, hiking, or nearly anything else. 

The 4Season OG Pant by: Outlier

Equally Artistic: Alec Soth & Brad Zellar Visit Ohio, Upstate New York

   Over at Alec Soth's tumblr The LBM Dispatch, Soth and his Little Brown Mushroom cohort Brad Zellar have been uploading dispatches from what will be their second newspaper, upstate. It is the second edition of a planned volume of four; the fantastic ohio being the first. Both are for sale, as well as a 'special edition' of ohio which comes signed in a hand bound portfolio featuring a tipped-in black-and-white print on the cover and a limited edition Alec Soth print. A subscription to all four special editions may also be purchased.

   Soth is no stranger to newsprint. His first foray The Last Days of W. published in 2008 was a fascinating, if sometimes aimless, attempt to capture a sense of the nation reeling from the presidencies of George W. Bush. Now sold-out, it was a success because it was fun and big, but it was affordable, accessible. It was a nice place for many of Soth's best pictures that didn't have a home anywhere else.

   With the LBM Dispatches, the newspaper idea has been refined and focused. The issues have purpose: documenting areas of describable character, we're able to fully immerse ourselves in what's happening. And unlike many photographic projects, we're not always constantly moving from town-to-town, state-to-state. We're affixed to a geographic region, where the people, while individuals, are all sculpted by the same winds and weathers, the same qualities of home.

   Further pushing the newspaper-ness of the project is Brad Zellar's reportage. The photographs in the LBM Dispatches are accompanied not so much by captions - describing or identifying the individuals and places - but by allegory; excerpts from conversations had and presumably recorded by Zellar, observations and comments are all used to offset the portraits with a glimpse of their actual, rather than preconceived, personalities.

The Special Edition of 'Ohio'   After all, photography is the false documentarian's art form. It records reality, but only what you let it see. One of its strengths is that even when the message is clear, photography leaves you somewhat uneasy, a little un-sure of something which you can't quite put your finger on. The moment hangs, waiting to resolve itself - because after all we are beings which exist through time - but never does.

   I think this is why pairing photography up with writing works so well. It's so universal, it's practically the basis for every newspaper, magazine, or internet story there's ever been (okay, so, I exaggerate). The way which we're able to understand more fully through two senses, compared to one, is more than two-fold. When, in ohio, GARY tells us he's been living inside his GMC van for the past three years or Bob W. from American Legion Post 110 in Toledo explains how his father gave him the lowdown: "Son, you've got four choices and you ain't gonna find the word university in front of or behind any of 'em," we begin to sympathize, put ourselves in their shoes. What's felt by looking at the portraits is stronger after reading their comments, knowing them if even by some infinitesimal degree. And by becoming involved with the subjects we become involved with the work.

 

Pages 18 - 19 from 'ohio' by: Alec Soth & Brad Zellar; Little Brown Mushroom, 2012. 

   While Zellar memorably becomes inducted into the Clyde Moose Lodge, there is little intrusion upon their world. Ohio is left to be itself, the reportage more communitarian than journalism, which is good - the most unbiased and fair reporting is that least tainted by the one doing the reporting. I think this portrayal without judgement permeates the book like fog, coloring the scenes with memory and questions. All of the images in ohio and upstate are in black-and-white, and I wonder if Soth choose the medium to more properly conform with the idea of what a newspaper is. Like William Eggelston, Soth is known for his color photography and his early black-and-white work lacks the consistency of his color projects. Deftly printed, the images bloom on the newsprint with a rich creamy smoothness. Many of the prints are deep in the blacks, but with a wonderful delineation of values in the highlights. Due to this nature, many of the images fail to resonate online. Before I received my copy of ohio I was slightly disappointed when they appeared in blog form. Something about the nature of computer screens I believe - brightly back lit - leaves hollow what should be full.

   Nearly all of upstate has been posted onto the LBM Dispatch tumblr, but there is still a third of the publication to still go up, so check back for further material. It seems as if almost all of ohio is posted, including several photographs that aren't included in the newspaper. I would expect the same to be true for upstate. For my eye's worth though, check out the published newspapers. The prints are truly a wonder to behold, and stand up much nicer in the 11.5" X 15" format. I, for one, look forward to upstate and to where-ever lies ahead for Mr. Alec Soth and Mr. Brad Zellar.

Will Burning Man Have Its "Born Slippy" Moment?

   My lovely lady and I just rewatched Danny Boyle's Trainspotting, and as the track "Born Slippy" by Underworld plays over the movie's concluding moments I was taken back to circa-1997 when the movie, the song, this music, even Renton's (Ewan McGregor's character) speech was perfectly contemporary. We had just come through the economic downturn of the early 90s where we were playing in a grunge band. We had kicked our habit. Times had palpably changed in its slow-way, where all of a sudden you look around and nothing is the same. And along starts coming this new kind of electronic music from the UK, bands like The Prodigy, Underworld, The Orb. Even DJs were getting respect, guys like Paul Oakenfold and Moby.

   So, for Trainspotting to came out, if felt revolutionary, something of a new culture. The Rave scene of the late 80s and early 90s had taken hold, supplanting the guitar-driven music which came before it. The emergence of Industrial Music such as Nine Inch Nails and KMFDM helped pave the way, as did the popularity of hip-hop which accustomed our ears to the timbre of digital music. Trainspotting's soundtrack was cutting-edge at the time. It had the right mix of breaking bands with some of the more obscure music which had inspired it. Today, the album feels outdated, but it's important to remember that it was once game-changing. "Born Slippy" was played on rock radio stations. It was a hit. It was the momemt where it felt like electronic music was taking over.

   Which makes me think about today. What will we be defined by? Certainly there is a certain Wes Anderson-ness to the early aughts, but in this day and age of 2012 how will our cultural character be remembered? While obviously impossible to say conclusively, music is turning its pages once more. Dubstep is the name of the game where acts like Skrillex and Bassnectar have come to prominence without the aid of radio or major promotions. The internet is the great equalizer, but it is also the great distracter, and is as fickle as a spoiled beauty queen. Yet, I think that there has still yet to be the big cross-over for this generation - the moment like "Born Slippy" in Trainspotting where everything coalesces. Its success, I believe, stems from what I like to call the humanizing of electronica. Few realize that "Born Slippy" was released originally as an instrumental track, quite different to the song we're all familiar with. As a B-Side, "Born Slippy .nuxx" was included which is the song in we know. The shouted lyrics were added as the internal monologue of an alcoholic (or so says wikipedia) and this contrasted with the push and pull of the melancholy synth sample and the relentlessness of the house beats.

   Before Dubstep can really make a claim for itself as a-sign-of-the-times it needs a humanizing moment. By nature it is a very aggressive, vice-fueled music; built for dancing, driving you through the night and not to introspection, but just as it is from our recognition of ourselves consciousness comes, it is by the same kind of self-reflection that movements grow and mature, and music become something more venerated, like art. Surely there are fore-runners. Beats Antique have taken the Burning Man aesthetique and transcribed it into music, IDM heroes like Four Tet put the intelligence in Intellegent Dance Music, and the Joker puts his 'purple' spin on Dubstep. Still, we seem to be building towards a boil, not rolling quite yet.

   How will it come? Who will lead us? I do not have answers to these questions. I do know; however, that we must push our dance music to a place that pushes us back, that pushes the medium to enlighten our senses to what we have not heard before. To make music that resonates not just our hips and our hearts, but also our soul and brain.

Climbing Mt. Olympics: Did You See That?

Tyson Chandler dunks it home. From the Associated Press   As much as I've loved this Olympics - the dramatic gymnastics finishes, another year of hotly contested swimming matches, archery being the most watched event due to the sucess of The Hunger Games franchise - there's little fun as watching a barn-burner that nets the highest point total by a single team, that demolishes the team record for made 3-pointers in a game, that buries team records for shooting percentages, and has Carmelo Anthony set a new mark for points by an American player like the USA Men's Basketball team's 156 - 73 win over the Nigerian squad earlier today.

   Surely a game worth a paragraph long (run-on?) sentence, it's hard to even mention all of the records bested by the American squad. Most impressive in my mind, is the record for most points in a half by a team in the Olympics at 78. 78! Nigeria wasn't even able to match 78 points all game, let alone the 45 they had at the end of the first half, and not an embarassing number either. The USA squad was simply dominant for the first quarter, scoring 49 points in the first 10 minutes alone!

   While the American audiences went home happy, one person who wasn't having a good time was Coach Krzyzewski. Despite his teams success, Coach K looked like he was having about as much fun as if his team were the ones down by 83. Continually throughout the game the cameras would cut back to Coach K, head in his hands, miserable. Why? Well, in spite of the shooting clinic Team USA put up today, there was little offense to speak of. Especially once Carmelo Anthony clinchined the team's scoring record off another smooth-as-silk three, the team's offense at most consisted of a pick-and-roll which inevitably led to a quick dump off the the nearest 3-point shooter.

   These guy proved today that sometimes they don't need to be coached, that sometimes talent just takes over and there's no getting in its way. Even if the Americans had played a cleaner game, what would have Coach K said anyway? "Well crew, we're up by 30, you really need to be hitting the offensive glass harder." Only there weren't any missed shots to rebound. However the London Olympics turn out for the Men's USA Basketball Team, this game against Nigeria will be the one that people will remember. It has permanently altered the teams legacy that even Coach K will have to concede to.

   I think it's worth noting a tweet direct from @usabasketball, "In case you were wondering ... Melo's 37 points came in 14 minutes. No, that's not a typo..."

Equally Cinematic: Why the F*** Is Moonrise Kingdom in Limited Release?

   Last night was the Chicago area premier of Wes Anderson's highly anticipated new flick Moonrise Kingdom. My sweetheart and I motored up 30 minutes north to Evanston where one of the three theaters in the Chicago-land area are showing the film. As ridiculous as it may sound, the Oscar nominated writer/director Wes Anderson - whom made somewhere in the neighborhood of $50,000,000 on his career-making movie The Royal Tenenbaums - must have a limited release for his new film that includes an all-star cast including Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, and the more-myth-than-man Bill Murray. But all those actors play second fiddle to the leading duo of twelve-year-olds Jared Gilman (Sam Shakusky) and Kara Hayward (Suzy Bishop) and The Life Aquatic - which followed The Royal Tenenbaums - lost nearly $20 million before erasing some of that ground through international screenings and DVD sales. Since then, Wes Anderson's movies have followed a similar trend, the rarely seen lost treasure The Darjeeling Limited barely making $17,000,000 despite not being shown anywhere and the amazing Fantastic Mr. Fox barely eking out $6 million. So maybe the numbers do support the decision to have a limited release, and numbers don't lie, right?

   Moonrise Kingdom is the love story of the orphaned and "emotionally unstable" Khaki Scout Sam Shakusky and the brooding and darkly commanding Suzy Bishop. Banished by their peer groups, these two child-lovers resolve to run away together into the New Penzance Island wilderness. A search party is organized by Scout Master Ward (Norton) and Police Capt. Sharp (Willis) for the runaways as a looming storm approaches and trouble mounts. Moonrise Kingdom is funny and awkwardly sweet, sharing in some respects more with Fantastic Mr. Fox than Wes Anderson's other films. Our two main characters are 12 years old and we never really leave their sphere, making the movie a fantasy for not only being a period-piece of the 1960s, but as for bringing us back to the confusing time of adolescence. And, of course, the movie is wonderfully musically curated; mostly by Hank Willimas and Benjamin Britten's The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra.

   All this is to say that while Moonrise Kingdom is particularly Wes Anderson in its eccentricity and commanding presence of mood and style, it is not weird enough to turn off the general movie-viewing public as The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou did. In many respects, Moonrise Kingdom fits as an archetypal summer film - caught up in the loss of innocence for two young lovers, centered around the adventures of two runaways and a summer camp, both whimsical and funny - so much so, that you might argue the film's marketability to become a blockbuster more than its potential to become a cult-classic. Hell, it has Bruce Willis in it! Everyone loves Bruce Willis, right?

   Interestingly enough, as the years have happened, Wes Anderson has added more cachet to his name. Those of us who grew up on and loved Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, and The Royal Tenenbaums have become older and in some cases the taste-makers of our society which has subtely shifted to reflect this, as does every few years. So why not open Moonrise Kingdom to a wider audience? It is a movie that stands out in comparison to everything else in the market for its artfulness and quality. It appeals to a demographic that loves movies, but has stopped paying to see them. The trump card though - and the moguls who run Hollywood and make remake after sequel after sequel might not understand this - it's a good movie. Why must we always consider the American populous too stupid to enjoy a movie without superfluous CG animation and a well conceived plot? I'd say give the movie a chance and let's give the cinema some culture to go along with all the superheroes destroying the planet. The people actually might enjoy it.

    See the trailer here!

Photographic Memory: Art Reviews - Oh!No!Doom! - A Walk Through the Dark

Steven Fiche: Silkscreen   The Oh!No!Doom! Gallery on 1800 N Milwaukee Ave in Chicago was seemingly made for a Friday the 13th themed art show. It was little surprise then, that A Walk Through The Dark was such a smashing success. Incorporating art by Jonathan Bergeron, Stephanie Brown, Ego, Steven Fiche, Ben Lyon, Scarecrowoven and Scott Shellhamer, A Walk Through The Dark focused on the dark and the macbre.

   Stephanie Brown's trio ("i" "ii" and "iii") embodied the raw passions and stately beauty that make up the more sinister elements of life - suceeding spectacularly with "ii" where a ghostly maiden succumbs to red guache daggers in a dramatic fall. Brown's handeling between the soft, cold tones of the figure to the harsh flat finish of the guache elements is wonderful to behold, striking a strongly felt figure-ground push-and-pull.

   In Oh!No!Doom!'s back room, a tryptich of Steven Fiche's silk-screens lorded down and Ben Lyon's surreal paintings added a a touch of psychodelia to the proceedings. Informed by his many years of making zines and concert posters, Lyon's paintings are a wonderful ramshackle of all kinds of modern madnesses, incorporating collage, cartoon, and some of the most creative painting practices around. Each painting provides endless moments with hypnotizing effects.

   Artists Scott Shellhamer and Scarecrowover also have some richly fulfilling dark works up as well, perfectly demonic. Ego and Jonathan Bergeron fill out the space with some skillfully imagined paintings. Ego paints smaller affairs of characters well realized and aptly executed. Bergeron's worlds are a well connected narrative of symbols and strange situations. Each greatly enjoyable in their complexity.  Stephanie Brown: "ii"

   The Friday the 13th opening was a bash (dare I say, a Monster Mash?) with DJ Paisley Babylon spinning some righteously creepy tunes. Lowdive, part of the Chaos Brewing Club, was there (although I wasn't able to try any of there wares) and the bar was also serving 3 Floyds Zombie Dust, a personal favorite. Even if you missed the Friday the 13th festivities, there's a lot of great work to be seen at Oh!No!Doom! A Walk Through The Dark will be on display until May 10, so make sure to drop on in to their gallery and get your freak on.

Ben Lyon: "Bad Breath Mardi Gras."

Equally Full: Owen & Engine


   For Valentine's Day, the Lovely Lady and I headed over to the wonderful British/Scottish gastropub Owen & Engine. We immediately knew our experience was going to be a great one when we noticed Felissia's jacket matched the decor.

   We arrived late in the evening to avoid the Valentine's Day crowds and were seated at a cozy table without waiting. The atmosphere pulled us in - the restaurant was simple without being minimal, sophisticated, yet charming - and the music played was at a demurred volume one doesn't encounter much these days without actually finding oneself bereft of music. As we settled into our surroundings the server came by and set us up with drinks. In keeping with the British theme, Felissia ordered a Victorian, a Pimm's drink with rosewater and lemonade.

   As wonderful as the wine and cocktail selection is at Owen & Engine, they are a pub at heart. Sporting a quality array of draft and bottled beers, O&E will typically have at least three cask-conditioned ales as well. In fact, for those of you who are really smart, you'll want to head down to Owen & Engine right now - they just announced today that they currently have 3 Floyd's Zombie Dust on cask. One of the best beers around right now, you won't want to miss it on cask!

   The food at Owen & Engine was as superb as their drinks. In fact, try viewing their menu online and instead they provide a list of the farms and co-ops they're buying from. Starting with our favorite appetizer, Felissia and I ordered the Scotch Egg which had a nice thick breaded coating. For our entrees, we went with the Fish & Chips and an their Salted Beef Sandwich (basically a Rueben). On the side we had Bubbles and Squeak, a traditional English dish of mashed potatoes fried with a vegetable mix. Owen & Engine's consisted of some wonderful green cabbage, onions, and radishes. Our fantastic waitress rightly recommended it for breakfast when we asked to take our leftovers home. Rightly so, because the dish originates as a breakfast side of the previous night's roast's vegetables.

   We did not leave until we had some of their very wonderful chocolate cake and procrastinated our eventual departure. Owen & Engine is one of those nice combinations of high caliber food without the pretention. From the matching wallpaper and menu print to the well thought out dishes offered within, Owen & Engine is simply a markedly well executed pub while still maintaining a neighborhood pub feel. So, if you're in Chicago and have a thing for beer or food, seek out Owen & Engine, and have a drink for me.

The Three Graces At The Art Institute of Chicago

From the collection of Peter J. Cohen; Unknown photographer.   What makes women so special, gives them their je ne c'est quoi? What does it mean to be a woman? What does womanhood mean to women and what does that mean to how they interact with their men? Did you stumble upon a gender studies course? Well, no, but such considerations are near to the heart of human existence and thoroughly explored photographically in The Art Institute of Chicago's show The Three Graces on display until January 22, 2012.

   Using New York collector Peter J. Cohen's archive of snapshots - procured from flea-markets, second-hand stores, other galleries and collectors - the Art Institute has assembled a touching portrait of the Western woman. Comprising 538 unattributed photographs, The Three Graces gives us sly sophistication, pulp sexuality, and sisterhood. Beginning with the 1900s and advancements which led to photography being available to the common person, we are entreated by snapshots of our three graces played by the proverbial girls next door. And because our cast of characters, our photographers, subjects, settings are all anonymous - and therefore somehow more honest - a light glows threw the room. The things portrayed therein happened for the sake of the thing and not for the portrayal itself.

   Art has a problem because it is always aware of itself. You become an artist as soon as you decide to do an action for art's sake and by then you are aware you are doing it. These pictures were never intended to be hung in a gallery and thus more intimate than the images we normally encounter. Granted, many of the erotic pictures (and there are quite a few) were paid sessions usually sold or sent out to small 'clubs.' Yet, even these "amateur" photographs were never intended for mass viewing. They're intimate in a more raw, 'dirty' sense, although highly revealing. Some of the more blatently suggestive pictures will make you blush to see in public, but the reaction they cause is highly rewarding as well. From very young boys snickering in bewilderment to a small group of female "don't call me 'senior' citezens" laughing like disobedient young school girls, people responded to the show. Responded, in part, to the Family Album-like arrangement of salon style photographs, responded, in part, to the sheer vibrancy of intimate reality: this existed, and was important, and then was discarded. This becomes especially interesting when contemplating a more sexually charged photograph, so charged, but how exchanged.The Three Graces: Gallery view.

   While the show is not displayed chronologically, it does seem to be approximately so, enough that most will assume that it is the case. When viewed this way, one interesting trend is exceedingly apparent. The sexuality of the photographs increase signifigantly. While there are many nudes from the earliest pictures in the exhibit, their demeanor is much more artistic. One picture in particular presents three nude women each holding onto the same long chain. There exists a certain sexuality, edging on fetish, but the women are calm and confident. They posess a stoic power. As the years roll by, the pictures become more sexually charged. This is to say, they are not so much more sexual as they are more charged. A series of images present us three women offering us their best, the center figure relishing the chance to own her sexuality almost to the extent where it's pornographic, almost to the edge of absurd. To consider how some of these images align with the feminist movement (and the much earlier photographs to women's sufferage), it's amazing to see how much women have been able to embrace their sexuality but also still be indentured to it.

A few of the 538 amateur photographs.   For the most part, though, the pictures in The Three Graces are particular to their own time and place. They are illuminating, captivating, nostaligic. The prints range from shabby to exquisite, but you'll never notice the difference. You can just imagine an elder relative explaining the signifigance and story behind each and every picture. There is a computer terminal and several copies of the catalog (published by Yale with hundreds of pictures reproduced from the show) in the small gallery after the show that try and piece together the story, inferred at like anthropologists by the few clues included with the photographs or their discovery. The catalog is quite good and somewhat reasonably priced, but the terminal is full of supplimental information and provides links for a comments section and discussion. The program can be viewed online as well, here. Conscise, seductive, alluring, and fun aren't things we always get to find at the art museum, but here we are: The Three Graces - grace, charm, beauty.

Festive 500 - The Holidays Are Over

Lake Michigan via Granville Beach, Chicago: Dec 2011.

   Masanobu Fukuoka talks about "do-nothing" farming a lot in his manifesto The One Straw Revolution. His idea, that instead of tilling and working the land ample crops can be grown by allowing nature's natural processes do the work for you, looks to a world that strives to limit the need for human intervention for progress.

   Initially, Fukuoka's attempts were failures - most farms he worked with were already too dependent to human involvement, too altered from their natural homeostasis to respond to his methods. In bidding to try the Festive 500, I was hoping that by simply upping my normal riding habits I could miraculously ride my way to victory. This was not the case.

   My final tallies for mileage is somewhere around one hundred miles (I updated my iPhone to iOS 5 and lost all my apps - including the Strava app which I used to track miles). That's only one third of the way to my goal, and by most perspectives a failure. I was down on myself for awhile, but there's also only so much time in a day and my social relationships rank a wee bit higher than riding my bike.

   Yet, as I look back on participating in Festive 500, I see myself riding almost everyday, unfased by weather conditions. I feel stronger and have more stamina on my bicycle. I'm happier riding my bike then I have been in a long time and feel ready to take the next step - taking longer rides to more adventurous locales. During this promotion, I rode the Lake Shore Path along Lake Michigan often. It's where I took the lovely polaroid in the upper corner. Bicycling has the ability to take you to beautiful places - many not accessible by cars - and by a beautiful route.

   Masanobu Fukuoka in The One-Straw Revolution, asserts that his inspiration for "do-nothing" farming came by a realization he had younger in life that, "There is no intrinsic value in anything, everything is a futile, meaningless effort." His pragmatically Japanese axiom inspired Fukuoka to smarter, more efficient farming; to me, has been almost permission to bicycle for the sake of the ride, the hypnosis of revolving pedals, and to not keep such a thing chained to merely purposeful travel. For, at times, the action is the purpose in itself.