A Year on the Streets
The Sutherland Manifesto Celebrates its First Birthday
August 31, 2005
After a long, cold Utah winter, everyone around here is always over-anxious for spring to come. That’s why when the thermometer hits 60 degrees everyone starts throwing on their shorts and laying out on their still-dead lawns. It’s still cold outside, but not freezing, which is certainly something to be excited about.
It was on a 60-degree day in April 2004 that I was sitting in my backyard with my pant legs rolled up, working on my tan, and reading a book called “Tales of a Punk Rock Nothing” by Abram Shalom Himelstein and Jamie Schweser. It’s all about a Jewish, straightedge vegan kid who moves to DC and gets heavily involved the political hardcore scene.
What I found most interesting was that the narrative is written completely in the form of letters and ‘zines (homemade punk magazines generally distributed at concerts, the way-cooler precursor to blogs). It immediately made me think back to when I was playing in a band in high school. I started missing photocopied ‘zines and punk rock cassette tapes recorded in basements and all that good stuff.
I would have been fine with the feelings of nostalgia, but more than anything I was feeling a bit disappointed with myself. I started thinking about how in high school I was writing and playing music, writing poetry and making killer movies (remember “The Adventures of Choo-Choo and Cho-Cho San?” Masterpiece.). Where had all of my creativity gone?
There’s only so much satisfaction one can derive from mowing a lawn or cutting someone’s hair, since it will eventually just grow back. I am obsessed with producing permanent, tangible things. I always feel like I need to be "making" things and I really like the idea of creating something that wasn’t there before.
Before I read “Punk Rock Nothing,” I had already been deedling with a new format for journal writing. I was doubting that my posterity was really going to be interested in the bland, daily reporting style of my journal, so I started writing about my life in newsletter form. There were news stories, features and sidebars with lists of TV shows we watch and folks we hang out with. But reading the book gave me a new idea.
I had taken a web design course at the U a year earlier, and since I still had access to the web space, I decided to combine my journal with some ‘zine elements – record reviews and whatnot – and publish the thing online. And, hence, the Manifesto was born.
Monday morning: You walk into work, sit down, and your coworker says, “What’s new? How was your weekend?” Odds are pretty good that you didn’t really do anything too out of the ordinary or life altering; nevertheless, it’s easy to give a response.
Tuesday morning: You’re buying a 250-roll bag of toilet paper at Wal-Mart and you see someone you haven’t seen since high school. “What’s new? I haven’t seen you in eight years.” You draw a total blank. You can’t think of anything you’ve done in the past eight years at all. “Uh, nothing. Absolutely nothing’s new.”
Thinking back over the past year, it doesn’t seem like a whole lot has happened in my life. But I recently perused the Manifesto Archives, and it turns out I’ve done tons of stuff. I graduated from college, experienced my first bank robbery, bought some cheap sunglasses in Tijuana, recorded my first techno song, listened to the new Megadeth CD, watched an extraordinary amount of television, won $7 gambling in Vegas and even changed my own oil. I guess it was a pretty good year.
Even though I know that there is no one out there in internetland looking at their calendar saying, “When’s this month’s Manifesto going to be posted,” I still try to post a new “issue” every month (despite the fact that I every month I ask myself if it’s worth the trouble) and I appreciate all you folks who take the time to look it over.
Here’s to the next year on the streets…