Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Here comes Joe

Troy Sophomore Joe Herlter played a Relay for Life benefit show put on by Moore Media Records on Thursday, May 19, 2009 at the Towers RFOC cafeteria on the campus of Central Michigan University. The show held a special significance to Hertler, who found out recently that his Grandmother had been diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer and has six months to live. His apprehension was apparent at the beginning of his set as he struggled through one of his most familiar songs. Things seemed dire for Hertler, who couldn't seem to pull it together until the middle of his set, but eventually his experience and cool head prevailed as he finished the show to great applause. Hertler's pre show rituals include consumption of everything from vocal chord soothing tea to inhibition releasing vodka shots, the latter of which he attributes to his early show falters. Hertler's passion for music is contagious, as is his charisma, which he puts to good use in this particular show. Hertler uses music in an almost cathartic manner, with a macabre specialty in songs pertaining to young heartbreak and personal tragedy. His Grandmother has been a great influence on his life, and undoubtably, an influence on his music. There is a good chance she will continue to impact his music for many years after her passing.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Kendo King

Untitled from Chris Lamphere on Vimeo.

On Wednesday, April 15, I met with Tyler Dunham, president of the local Kendo Club, at Rose Arena on the campus of Central Michigan University. Dunham is an unassuming fellow with an almost perpetually humble sensibility about him. The kind of guy who draws little attention to himself in spite of the fact that he is capable of breaking teeth and smashing skulls if necessary. That quiet hombre standing in the corner of the bar that you don't want to mess with, no matter how brave the liquor is making you. Dunham was gracious enough to humor my ignorance and enlighten me on the basic tenants of Japanese Kendo.
Before Kendo, the Samurai practiced with real swords, which made the profession extremely hazardous, even in times of peace. Kendo was a practice sport developed to curb the high mortality rates of Japanese swordsman outside of battle. Bamboo swords replaced their lethal counterparts, and specialized armor was developed to provide additional protection in sensitive areas such as the face and groin. A typical match will last two minutes and be scored based on form, posture, location of strike, and “vocalization of spirit”, which is essentially a scream or a shriek used to both exhale air and intimidate the opponent.
After Dunham explained the rules and equipment of Kendo, he and his sparring partner Katina Mangus agreed to a demonstration bout which lasted close to five minutes. Kendo is a sport of strategy, skill, and speed. Its' popularity in Mount Pleasant is stifled by the fact that the average uniform and weapon ensemble will cost around 500 dollars at the low end. But, as Dunham testifies, the rewards are well worth the investment.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Depressed and Depraved

Depressed and Depraved from Chris Lamphere on Vimeo.

Derek Bacon resides in a dilapidated two bedroom trailer with his brother, sister, mother and father on the outskirts of Cadillac Michigan. His family epitomizes a cross section of America that the rest of us have conveniently pushed under the rug. His family has remained under the poverty line for the better part of the last decade. Efforts to change the situation remain frustratingly fruitless. It would be funny if it wasn't so needlessly tragic. Tragic and typical of disadvantaged families in the onset of the 21st century. The outside of the trailer is littered with the filth and waste of the family dogs, who must remained chained to the porch for fear that they would wonder off and become stolen. Their pelts seem infested with vermin, and open infections on one of the poor beasts ears must be regularly salved with antibiotics to prevent further spreading. Bacon's father works part time as a taxi driver, which nets him around 300 dollars on a good week. Work for the rest of the household is both temporary and extremely unstable. Derek's older brother Dave recently lost his job working for a factory that produces car doors for Fords and Chevy's. Lost his job not for shoddy job performance or coming in late every once in a while, but because the factory moved to Mexico. Derek also became terminated from his job at McDonalds, which he cannot collect unemployment on because the firing manager decided to block it. On more than one occasion, Bacon has claimed that the circumstances that have created his environment seem to be out of his control. It is hard to comprehend a omniscient force that oppresses people for no other reason than to prove it can. Talking with Bacon long enough will make one a believer. As he puts it, “Every time we get something going, something else goes wrong. I got to go to work, oh no, the car breaks down. Instead of going to work, I have to walk to the store with my Dad to buy parts to fix it.” Although their world seems grim, the Bacon families demeanor remains consistently half full, which inspires simultaneous feelings of hope, rage and heartbreak. Good things don't always happen to good people, the bacon's are a prime example of this.