Saturday, February 26, 2011

Two things of beauty today

There were more than two. I got an email today that was personal but these are the two things that I found today that I'd like to share because it's important to try and amplify those things that illuminate what for no better word being available we call our souls.

Two things of beauty today


 The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer

Thoughts on the death of an empire or personalization run amok.

One reason I stayed here was a curiosity I had, given I tend towards a disastrous life, to sit right down in the belly of the beast and witness the destruction of an empire. I arrived just before Bush the anti-clown pulled off his coup . And I've been here and there ever since just watching this thing being dismantled. Ny blackout, the infrastructure broke we are led to believe because a tree fell on a line somewhere and started a cascade. Then 9/11, then Katrena then, and it's only been ten years, a slow creep of the survelience police state and prisons for profit using the slave labor within to produce most of the refrigerators and all the flak jackets to the new record of over a million citizens in prison, to the straight up fraud followed by the pillage called the bailout, two ongoing wars without end and the gulf poisoned while oily shrimp are sold to the plonkers and scrotums searched at each airport and now just recently at railway stations and get this, it's after you get off the train. They don't even bother to disguise it's just there to get you used to the brownshirts.

And I put my face on and make like I'm not very pleased with it all and glare at millionares at private parties and now have come to a point where even those I'd trusted to tolerate me not jumping wholeheartedly into the system reject me because, well not to put to fine a point on it I lack a certain motivation and drive. Self medication also. So I'm still in the market, still on my feet so to speak and noticing too how the stylized hopelessness I do for a living is being matched in uglier forms by the society around me. I've learnt in ten years what a couple of generations of Americans are themselves waking up to. You live beyond your means and take that shit for granted and the plummet that follows it's withdrawal is a bitch.
So I'm focusing on tomatoes, 11 varieties, heirloom, got over 120 plants up and running. All new to Hawaii so some of them will fuck up but I'm taking care of them and protecting them and watching over them because as those of us here who lived off the streets know because we proved it to ourselves. The oldest currency is small useful things and sometimes moments of laughter in an otherwise complicated and grinding existence is a small useful thing. And those who receive it instinctively want to return the favor and so the purists, without even asking, get money in their hats.

People like laughing however I'm banking on them being more grateful for exotic tomatoes in the next wee while. Tomatoes can handle me popping off to gigs also so they are a good death of an empire transitional fruit or vegetable or whatever the fuck they are.
I sometimes feel like one of those mad guys who mutters gibberish and you're scared to lean in and listen in case they make sense.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Thoughts on variety entertainments future ( via performers net)

"A huge share of the nation's economic growth over the past 30 years has gone to the top one-hundredth of one percent, who now make an average of $27 million per household. The average income for the bottom 90 percent of us? $31,244."

You charge minimum $500 for a solo act for example. 90% of the us earns just over thirty grand in a year. That's roughly one weeks income you charge.

My point is that markets that have fueled whole variety careers no longer exist or are gasping their last. I did a birthday last year. It was one of the ten percent people. A NBA player.
Have you kept records of birthdays? Bar and bats stable? They tend to be lavish. I've yet to work a middle class one.
Ma and pa lashing out may have been an earner over the last decades but the idea that the part timers will simply go back to their real jobs without any wholesale shrinkage in the overall market is without evidence.

Quite simply. More people have less money and with that trade shows have a smaller market base and with that there are less trade shows .

Might be able to chug along a further year or two, competing with the same amount of performers seeking dwindling markets. Underbidding all the way.

I'd caution against undue optimism. 41 American states are technically bankrupt this fiscal year. Federal Govt has no more bailouts available. The pell grants have even been cut. Unemployment is growing and the only records kept are those on benefits so it's a phantom percentage but I think the great depression was 26 and the current 'on the books' is around 10.

My point is there's a whole generation of us who leeched off a financial excess that has and further is, grinding to a standstill.

But I could be wrong. However any argument against cannot simply be a matter of optimistic faith

There is always opportunity. New markets among the top ten percent. They are the only people who can certainly afford parties and they will probably have more of them to distract and separate themselves from the bewildered herd. They will need encouragement. That's our job yes?

The whole middle class budget is rapidly shrinking. However knowing that for some money is no object and working out lavish looking spectaculars that themselves cost a bit to produce is probably a good bet.
Jazz your show up with a couple of grand of tech and charge ten times what that tech costs at least  could me viable yardstick.

When I can finally afford a computer and timidly teeter out of my rehab facility. I'm doing Sandiago in April , I intend to start an event based performance singularity called... Wait for it...
Test this theory out. Because with the middle shrinking and the lower end all but dead all that's left is exclusive opulent mega mega.

That's where the live stuff will be viable. Then there's producing online curiosities of between one and three minutes to exploit potential traffic and incidentally build up a creative portfolio. I'd suggest people look at that.

I have a go-pro hd camera but at this stage my 'clown in recovery' fullface monologues are crippled by my computer being run over by the ex wife. Kinda my version of the dog ate my homework.

And my books slowly being edited but that's just me.

I've been traipsing round for nearly thirty years now. I'm trying to look at things objectively and not simply as someone getting older.

There are some younger newblood acts but there used to be a whole European street based factory of performers that flowed everywhere and I don't see that renewal there once was. Which is ok. Less dross as well.

But economically politically and environmentally everbodies just not as carefree as they have been the last thirty years.
So that means those of us who distract for a living have to work that much harder to be noticed and seen to be indispensable at gigs.

Where was I? Just prattling before the ex cons arrive back in the dorm before 11. They go out to party. I found their dope plants here at the drug rehab center hidden in the garden last week. Oh yes and today is 100 days clean and sober and that and the mind that doesn't fucking stop is all I have to celebrate. Along with the sandiago gig. And nicks visiting off a cruise ship some week soon.
Transmission ends.....

I do like to gibber, and I swear too much. I'm lonely.

"In some cases, market and technology changes simply speed up an occupation's decline once it goes out of fashion, Shatkin says. Stage performers -- a category that includes magicians, jugglers, clowns and dancers -- suffered a steep five-year decline of 61%. Increased interest in movies and home entertainment technologies, including video games, he says, has decreased the demand for live performances."

Oh no's no more 6 flag jobs!

80's 90's and hiccuping into the next decade most of the western world was flush with "living beyond our means" easy credit and the backbone mirage of ever increasing property values to underwrite the blindly optimistic tinkerbell rationally unsustainable bollocks as way of life.
Middle class is not dead but worse, bleeding out and deliriously delusional with short bursts of undirected/misdirected rage.

Disposable income is redundant, fear stalks the suburbs, all those comforting  live stage jobs like renn faires are doomed.

 Due to the fact that round 07/08 the indicator that used to be published monthly (m1/m2/m3- fucked if I can remember) anyway a data point that investors used that publicized how much American currency had been printed that month . Well that was withdrawn and nobody knows how much currency's been flushed into the system since then but the estimates are nightmarish. That is stealth inflation held at bay by nothing more than an ever increasing flush and confidence and the fact that most of the world still uses greenbacks as the defacto dosh with which to purchase petroleum .

This trains been roaring towards the washed out bridge for a few years now. The things I've outlined are not opinions. They are irrefutable factors. But thank god for tv. Look at all the neat stuff I could buy if I wasn't unemployed and now that I am look at all the programs I can watch that follow people who still have jobs. I can live vicariously through them. Fishermen and tow truck drivers and hock shop owners and gold prospectors and cops. Notice how some of these televised jobs deal with recycling other peoples shit that they've stored before going broke. Bit of a clue huh?

Anyway. Back to us performers. Two types typically. Ones job is to preserve the status quo. Keep people comfortable. The renn faires the 6 flags the amusement parks. Change is happening so fast there's little status quo left to preserve. Surplice to requirements as the concept of "austerity" takes a big bite out of the flabby middle class ass.

The other type of performer doesn't do 'multi-talent' is not reliant on any one market but has some unique appeal. Less of the best and more of the only.
Much harder to do and thus far fewer are qualified. Theres no market for followers when no ones been defined as leading.

The "wow" that used to be almost entirely marketing driven with only the need for a polished but pedestrian show to punctuate the whole commercial feel good circle jerk that if you look at the corporate market you see the naked emperor clothed in a shiny website typically. These are already withering, most of the promo is just the ra ra money marinating years thats heart stopped beating round 05 but the patients not brain dead quite yet.
Anyway I'm ranting obviously but yeah corporate is still viable but the markets shrunk. The upper middle class is still doing the cruise ship thang but that markets just one gas- hike from oblivion.
The future? Hell I don't know. Performing for tramps under bridges for moldy bread? Producing your own web-based eccentricity to exploit the long tail? 

The days of disposable middle class income are finished. Street festivals are like a civic marketing ploy, they will be the last to go as councils like corps give one last convulsive effort to extend the business as usual fallacy.

Clowns and humor are my areas of study. 
Clowns are used as a social lubricant in times of change. They make change digestible. 

Think Chaplin and keystones and Keaton . They existed in those generations that existed in the transition from horse drawn buggies to a full on mechanical age with cars and trains and velocity suddenly increasing for the Everyman. 

And what was their subject matter generally? Velocity, running on foot away from chasing cars, everything deliberately speeded up, trains, lots of physical peril involving forces and velocity. And they survived these challenges and made us laugh. They helped a generation digest change.

As performers, clowns, variety performers, whatever. Those who can distract with beauty and those who first define a change and make it at least subtexturally obvious and digestible . Will find work. More likely probably invent their own new markets.

But the other type. The type who merely reinforces a status quo. Whose mantra might as well be 'rubber chicken rubber chicken rubber chicken'
Well for the next convulsive wee while they're fucked.

That actually cheered me up. I am without a doubt one sick fuck.

Also... There are some strange words in the above that make no sense.
Let me explain.
My ex wife ran over my computer a month ago the last time we had the misfortune of meeting. She didn't mean to. Just as I never set out to make her life a panic attack ridden misery. Shit just happens.
So anyway she ran over my computer entirely innocently and I am left with an itouch that randomly inserts fucking gibberish in place of words I use but sometimes perhaps misspell .
And the incy bincy eeny beany screen does not scroll in any way when I go to edit after my usual method of posting then correcting my howlers.

So fuck it, you'll just have to make do as I do.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Astute political zingers.

Mon Feb 21, 2011 2:20 pm The latest post from: ... black.html

White Is The New Black
By James Howard Kunstler
on February 21, 2011 8:55 AM

Let it be remembered that as the world was blowing up, Fashion Week gave the New York news media a case of the vapors. But let them tell it. In the immortal words of The New York Times's Cathy Horyn: "...amid the parkas and the managed pant-suits there was a story here: the amount of embellishment and new technology...."
The mantra of New Technology is on everybody's lips, of course. New Technology is the New Jesus. It's descending from out of the holy ethers to float us across the rivers of Babylon to the New Jerusalem - although, now that fashion has got its hooks into the stuff, I dunno, it could be game over for New Technology. Nothing goes out of fashion like fashion. The same newspaper, by the way, tells us that "long-form blogs" are also joining the Dodo and Paris Hilton in the Museum of Extinct Curiosities. But I wouldn't want to try this on Twitter. And the mosh-pit of Facebook seems an uncongenial place for my brand of high-toned comedy. I guess I'll have to soldier on here.
Around the same time that Kanye West was perusing the gift bags at the Alexander Wang show on Pier 94, I heard a curious thing on NPR. Some cheeky young envoy from the realm of New Technology was complaining that the "public space" of Twitter and Facebook had to be respected world-wide as "the new town square," and wasn't it appalling that the authorities tried to shut these things down in places like Egypt, Algeria, and the lesser kingdoms of Arabia?
This is the kind of virtual thinking that passes for mental exercise these days in the land ruled by Lady Gaga. Hello. We (meaning the USA) do not run these foreign countries - I know it may come as a surprise to the paranoid conspiracy crowd. Even when these faraway places blow up and their former tyrants beat it to Monte Carlo, Zurich, or Riyadh, we do not step in and run them. We try to meddle a little, of course, but in the moiling red mists of revolution nobody even has the authority to pay attention to one of our perspiring attaches, and they don't want to hear our bullshit anyway, even when it comes with a suitcase full of cash.
The idea that the rest of the world owes Jeff Zuckerberg and the creators of Twitter a certain respect is unrealistic, though it goes against the grain of our own First Amendment and the cardinal beliefs of Rachel Maddow. The clinical psychologists often speak of boundary problems - the inability to recognize where your stuff leaves off and the other person's stuff begins - but what we're seeing now in the American thought-sphere is explicitly geographic (and ethnographic) confusion. We don't understand that we are not them, and they are not us.
Likewise, the infantile idea that these nations in the throes of revolt will slide from disorder into natural democracy like falafels into a pita pocket. What you generally get in political upheavals throughout history are protracted periods of confusion, factional fighting, and violence. More often than not, they resolve in the rise of a new tyrant, some figure who seems to know what he is doing when everybody else around him does not - which is the essence of human charisma, being a declension of the following:
1.) People who know what they are doing.
2.) People who seem to know what they are doing.
3.) People who pretend to know what they re doing.
4.) And people who don't know what they are doing.
Most of the human race is composed of the fourth category, which is why the figures in the categories above them claim their attention and allegience. Sometimes, the results are very unfortunate.
The world is now blowing up politically at the same time that it is blowing up financially, and there should be little doubt about the relation of these two conditions. At a time of rising resource scarcity (oil, metals, fertilizers), and capital scarcity (unpaid loans vanishing in the black hole of default), and raucous weather in places where grain crops usually grow (Russia, Australia, Argentina), you can be sure that things will get weird.
They are finally getting weird in the streets of the USA now, too. Wisconsin is surely just the first of many hashes that cry to be settled - and that state is not nearly as broke as broke as Illinois, New Jersey, and California. A lot of stuff is shaking loose out there. Our charismatic leaders, alas, have been drawn mostly from category 3, and out of all their pretending comes a banking system that is flying apart like a Chrysler Slant Six engine that somebody poured Karo syrup into, thinking it might work as an "alternative fuel." The reverberations will be felt in every household, business, and office in the land.
Some wags out there are even blaming Ben Bernanke for the worldwide rise in food prices, and the cause-and-effect relationship there is rather plausible. You juice the world money supply with an artificial $100 billion a month, at least, and the juice flows somewhere, lately into stock and commodity markets because who the heck wants bonds when no issuing entity has a prayer of staving off some kind of default, and the interest rates are a joke anyway.
Americans lost in the Techno-rapture and the inane transports of Fashion Week have no idea how fragile our vital supply chain system is. If the lands around the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea continue to fall apart politically, you can be sure that something required by the oil markets will get broken over there - whether it is an oil terminal, or a shipping channel, or a royal skull - and before you can say Mike Huckabee the shipments of food to America's supermarkets will be interrupted, with predictable results.
This could be a helluva week. We've flattered ourselves for years about how wonderful it is that everything is connected in this world - the Tom Friedman fantasy about the eternal sunshine of the global economy. Now, we're more likely to see the dark side of connectedness, as the planet's goodie-bag deflates and folks in colorful costumes start fighting over what's left.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

W is for Windsor

Windsor International Buskers Fest, Windsor, ON


      Never has so much love, indifference and sweat been invested in a car park.


Ken sets it up, his wife Patty's role is to help him avoid a mental breakdown and this year Robert Nelson's wife Kumi stepped efficiently and unasked into the role of onsite programmer.      


It's really hard to vent your spleen at a diminutive non-paid Asian whose day-job involves serving you coffee at altitude without poaching your genitals.     


And really there was nothing to complain about. Same couldn't be said for various staff members of various service establishments at various times. We left ashen faced chambermaids, simmering bouncers and fragile front-of-house staff in our wake, but we traditionally tip heavily and apologize profusely so it all worked out in the end.


Ken had to stand outside some offices like a naughty schoolboy forging doctors notes that explained which of us suffered from Tourette’s.


    And that's because we're all highly strung individuals, so creative, so generous with our gift of producing laughter in others that we sometimes digress from society's norms. It has to be understood that this is just a natural side-effect of our genius and what’s more, to be honest, we're really not much good for anything else.      


Ken understands this.

Here are some cast.


    Alakazam's subtext and chosen quest relates to physically manifesting an arcane sexual statistic. It is said that one ejaculation contains enough sperm to impregnate every female on the planet. Al's chosen hobby is to do the same thing the long way. Obviously that's a great many people. If any woman reading wants to bump her name up on the list and get seen in the next ten to twenty years rather than later on when he's all wrinkly and jaded, I've heard he sells priority sessions on e-bay. Al's act involves juggling, microbike riding, pole balancing and being a cheeky young scamp that woman of all ages want to sleep with.


    Checkerboard Guy is this guy. And the checkerboard thing is like a marketing ploy that grew like a particularly vicious virus until it devoured him whole. He has a great big cuddly juggling show that he can perform in fifteen languages as well as seven obscure Afghan dialects.      


Reid Belstock is a clown who has a rare gift of being as funny as himself as he is in character. He's a hilarious mass of contradictions too large to list here. He's the sort of person who, at a meeting, you just focus on the wall and wait for him to ask a question so that you can be entertained by the way his brain works.     


Dado looks like Zippy the Pinhead and sounds approximately Irish and spends his career attracting rainfall. Probably a really sad person to be but a really funny guy to watch.      


Davio is French Canadian, and if that weren't strange enough he speaks passable English and balances on women's bottoms before climbing a pole and striking impossible poses that last for ten seconds and take years to master. Sometimes whimsy frightens me.     


Hotnuts and Popcorn: Slick, sick and pass the shtick. Barely clinging to their sanity, every risk dynamic conquered, the only challenges left being general social norms and in-jokes. If they don't get rescued and taken off the street soon they'll either marry and breed or join the foreign legion. Pulled off a three peaker ninety-minute late night show masterfully so there's still gas in the tank.


      Stickleback Plasticus. Peewee and Em deftly use ironic manic enthusiasm as a comic device and are one of the few acts that are funny every-time you watch them. Bear in mind that as performers we get to watch -if we want to- acts as many times as we wish, and that over time, very few acts cannot be digested as formula. Formula aside, no one deals with energy levels like Stickleback. The Don Kings of ballroom dancing plus all the spontaneity and guile of street theater purists.


     The Cowguys: Brian and John have a sort of bovine burlesque that involves juggling and the sort of hideous puns that really should only be used in wartime. They have classical training and it's like Shakespeare and Bozo were put into a meat shredder and they've made sausages out of it.      


Chalkcircle: Bev and Ulla are two Australian woman who sit in the blazing sun scratching the surface of the planet with coloured sticks. Patterns form and then they leave. I've never understood Australians.


      Anti-Gravity Theater... What can I say? A cynical panto-sham with a drinking problem. The only redeeming fact being I don't have an ounce of self-pity in me.      


Nick Nickolas is one of those freaks of nature science is still struggling to understand. When small organisms were discovered living in unbelievably hot volcanic flues deep in the ocean, scientists actually called them 'nickyboys' until they were forced to change it to something suitably Latin. Nick has been credited with many things and discredited about twice that often. He is the reason for childproof caps and also for Mormons' special underwear. He is a magician and juggler and a sophisticated urbane raconteur. Even so it is advised that even if he asks you nicely, don't pull his finger.     


Marie Claude is a face/body painter whose work and its quality carries her from major festival to major festival. She unleashes animals from the faces of small children and then sets them free. And that's apparently a good thing.     


Mad Chad Taylor should be an ambassador for real Californians because he is in fact very real. It's a bit of a shock really—enthusiastic chainsaw juggling, genuine, upbeat, thoughtful. Freaked me out when I first met him. He's the kind of guy who can go to a strip club and it doesn't seem dirty. He's what Alakazam could be with the right dosage of saltpeter.     


Lee Zimmerman is the other sort of Californian... sort of Randy Newman, rock and roll show with puppets; deadpan, ironic, self taught, highly skilled and witheringly articulate. Had this great monologue about being the bottom feeder of the festival, with the elevated jugglers being the sharks at the top of the food-chain and him being the only performer who really was risking his life rather than it just being a line because if he went home with no money his wife would kill him.


      A challenge known well in advance that's unique to this festival is that it, more than any other Canadian festival, (with Halifax coming a distant second) is a tourist draw as much as it is an opportunity for a community to celebrate itself. It's Windsor and it's just over the river from Detroit.     Every weekend, American tourists pop over in large numbers to exploit the slightly cheaper goods and services of their northern mini-me in a sort of 'living beyond, but within our means' sort of 'more bang for your buck' sort of a way.

And before I'm deafened by foaming reactionary flacks, convinced in their own tediously facile way that I am anti-American, I can admit that Windsor depends on it. It's just another example of the dynamic of a border town.

Copenhagen has the same thing with hordes of Swedes arriving every weekend to drink a cheaper kind of beer and have sex with a slightly different kind of blonde.     


Now at this festival, which, in my opinion, is a two-and-a-half day fest held over four, the Mayor steps up to the mic and in his immaculately kept, politically astute and faultlessly jovial way, opens it and thanks the sponsors without whom none of this would be possible and to whom we're all exceedingly and sincerely grateful. (Sung to the tune of 'We are the world, we are the sponsors')      


He really was remarkable. All the performers were crying and the sponsors and spectators alike were rushing up and hugging one another. One elderly woman was so touched she there and then donated all her worldly goods to nobody in particular and walked naked into the river.   


Bear with me, I have a disturbing habit of coming to the point when you least expect it. My point—such as it is—is that the Windsor fest is as much about getting Americans over the bridge to open their wallets at bars and casinos as it is to reward the local townsfolk with a festival that brings them together to celebrate both their diversity and ours. It tries gamely to do both and I think succeeds to a degree at both. For example, it is sponsored by both the Casino (tourists) and a mental health organization (locals.)      Lots of others as well but those two sum it up for me.


At the majority of festivals, even though there might be significant numbers of tourists, the performers are generally aware that they are bringing something to the community and that that is their prime function. While at Windsor (though good hats are made and undeniably good times are had) there are times when after strenuous efforts and much laughter, a show ends and at least two thirds of an audience turn their backs and insensitively head off to the next piece of free entertainment.     Why? Because they're tourists who owe Windsor nothing more than making their money last as long as it can before they head home.      


There was one world-class performer who held it in for an hour or more until safely away from the site before slowly subsiding into tears and as some of you will understand, it had nothing to do with the money. Just tired and spent and undervalued and used.     


Ken's great; and more than a producer. And it's necessary that Robert's (butterflyman) there and the locals who turn up year after year as volunteers to support it and others who bring the whole family to laugh and cheer and celebrate are the reason most of us attend. But just because we're romantic doesn't mean we're stupid and the tourist showcase thing just might have to be addressed. (At this point My name gets scratched from every festival casting list in North America because it equally can be argued that the performers make as much as they do anywhere else or else they wouldn't be there.)     


Oh, but the moments make it all worthwhile, and really that's our strength. We can take tired old formulas and create beautiful original irrepressible moments. I'll just list one or two.


Moment    Pee Wee and Em were starting their show with a couple of hundred people gathered in the daytime, just mucking about creating atmosphere, character and focus when Em notices three children in the crowd, seated and staring intently at the ground.      So she makes her way over and asks in a stage whisper

  "What are you doing?" The children, serious as only children can be, point to three bugs on the ground and state,

  "They're not moving." Em considers this and then asks,

  "Are they dead then, do you think?" The kids nod solemnly. After another brilliant pause, Em asks,

  "Shall we bury them, then?" They nod.  So Em picks up the dead bugs and the kids follow and they walk through the stage and up onto the grass bank behind the stage and they dig a small hole and bury the bugs with all the respect accorded the moment and then walk back down and the kids sit down. The moment is over and the build-up continues.


Moment      The festival is over; canceled early by a sudden downpour. Performers have been milling on the covered stage waiting for Robert's decision...on or off; now it's off. There's another tent in which 100 or so public have sheltered hopefully. Nick can't help himself. He cobbles a show together in his head that is not the show he's been doing all season, just bits and pieces he remembers along with whatever props are at hand, and wanders over. He asks everyone whether they want a show and of course they do, although they don't completely trust him at first because he's a bit loose and weird and he's standing on a table that's not too stable.      It doesn't take long and it's all ripping along and even though the first two thirds of the show was uphill, we're over the hump and Nick's juggling three balls while trying to strip from the waist up and finally he's done it. His slightly less than pristine body is exposed all sweaty with seismic cutaneous waves sweeping across what years ago might have been a tight form. He's juggling and exclaims,  "Ladies and gentlemen, the body of a god." and I swear the kid was all of seven years old and quick as a flash he yells,  "Yeah, Buddha." 


Moment      John from the Cowguys is handicapped by the fact that he's such a nice guy and such a good sport and just by existing in our midst reinforces all that is cruel and unfair and hilarious. He comes up to the busker's area from the public area of the bar and brings with him his dinner and a pint and sits at a table with Pee Wee (judge), Lee (jury) and Nick (executioner.)     

One of them addresses him while he's eating and as he casts his eyes back to his meal he notices his beer is missing and Nick's suddenly right across the room with a half-heartedly innocent look on his face and a suspicious pint in his hands. John laughs good-naturedly then makes a critical error. He says,

  "You won't misdirect me again." Nick returns and replaces the beer, but then in a rapidly moving, spontaneously planned and coordinated series of events, John, with his arms protectively across his plate, manages to have the contents of his dinner disappear, item by item (I think it was steak, vegetables, mashed  potatoes but it really doesn't matter) from underneath his eyes while 'never being misdirected again.'      He's befuddled, sitting there with an empty plate while Nick, Pee Wee and Lee weep with laughter when the unthinkable happens; food starts re-appearing on his plate. The humour at this point strayed dangerously close to potential aneurysm and John finally started to get a bit pissed off as he realised that Nick had actually grabbed his nicely prepared steak off his plate, in the millisecond he wasn't focused on it, with his grubby little fingers.


    It may have its downsides, but what we do to the public and what we do to each other and the skill and laughter that go with it are reason enough to meet up regularly and Canada really does lead the way in this area.


If I've offended anyone, sorry. If I haven't offended anyone, sorry. Thanks for the moments. 


Fanning the flames. Ohio plays second fiddle. Something something while Rome burns something something

Ohio’s turn to revolt: Thousands flood statehouse over anti-union bill

By Stephen C. Webster
Friday, February 18th, 2011 
The massive, government-crippling protests in Madison, Wisconsin have now spilled over into Ohio, where over 5,000 rallied Thursday in opposition to a bill that would eliminate collective bargaining rights for state workers.

Ohio's Senate Bill 5 is essentially the same as what Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker proposed, and it seems to be recieving about the same response. Just last week, more than 800 people showed up to protest the bill while it was still in committee, packing out the statehouse in a show of numbers that Thursday's demonstration easily topped.

The collective bargaining power of unionized workers is a key bullwark for American laborers, who've often been forced to organize throughout US history to force management into offering better pay, health insurance, greater job security, vacation time or even maternity leave. Without collective bargaining, the power of unionized workers would be reduced to their last and most extreme tool in their set: the general strike.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Last political bad soap opera post. Back to normal programming shortly.

Fri Feb 18, 2011 4:52 pm Don't you just love coincidences?
Hundreds Of Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers To Return Home
CAMP DOUGLAS, Wis. -- Senior National Guard officials and family members will welcome home about 300 soldiers from the 724th Engineer Battalion.

There will be a brief ceremony before the soldiers are taken to nearby Fort McCoy to start about five days of demobilization before their release.

The battalion formally ended its mission in Iraq on Monday. The 724th Engineer Battalion was deployed last April with about 400 soldiers from units from Chippewa Falls, Hayward, Superior and Medford.

Ok two more political inputs then I'm out. Bad theatre.

Wisconsin Is a Battleground Against the Billionaire Kochs' Plan to Break Labor's Back
The war on Wisconsin employees isn't just about the budget or Wisconsin: Koch toady Gov. Walker is just one soldier in the billionaire's offensive to kill labor.
February 18, 2011 |
Photo Credit: PR Watch

As some 30,000 protesters overwhelmed the state capitol building in Wisconsin today, Democratic state senators hit the road, reportedly with State Police officers in pursuit. The Dems left the state in order to deprive Republicans the necessary quorum for taking a vote on Gov. Scott Walker's bill to strip benefits and collective bargaining rights from state workers. Newsradio 620 WTMJ reported that the Democratic senators were holed up in a Rockford, Illinois, hotel, out of reach of Wisconsin state troopers. Now, it seems, Republican lawmakers are beginning to waver on their support for the union-busting bill.

Last week, Walker threatened to activate the National Guard in the event of any disruption in services from public employees that, he said, could occur as a result of his legislation.

Gov. Walker claims that his war on the public workers in his state is simply about balancing Wisconsin's budget; believe that and there's a collapsed bridge in MInnesota I'd like to sell you. The fact is, Walker is carrying out the wishes of his corporate master, David Koch, who calls the tune these days for Wisconsin Republicans. Walker is just one among many Wisconsin Republicans supported by Koch Industries -- run by David Koch and his brother, Charles -- and Americans For Prosperity, the astroturf group founded and funded by David Koch. The Koch brothers are hell-bent on destroying the labor movement once and for all.

During his election campaign, Walker received the maximum $15,000 contribution from Koch Industries, according to Think Progress, and support worth untold hundreds of thousands from the Koch-funded astroturf group, Americans For Prosperity. AlterNet recently reported the role of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Americans For Prosperity in a vote-caging scheme apparently designed to suppress the votes of African-Americans and college students in Milwaukee. In 2008, Walker served as emcee for an awards ceremony held by Americans For Prosperity. There, he conferred the "Defender of the American Dream" award on Rep. Paul Ryan, now chairman of the House Budget Committee.

On Monday, AlterNet reported on the gaggle of Koch-sponsored politicians who individually graced the podium at last weekend's Conservative Political Action Conference (including several from Wisconsin: Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Ron Johnson). Rep. Michele Bachmann, also a Koch favorite from next-door Minnesota, kicked off the conference.

Not Just About Wisconsin -- or State Workers

It's said that states are the laboratories of democracy, but the Kochs are determined to make Wisconsin a laboratory of corporate oligarchy. Nationwide, the war on public workers -- and government in general -- is not simply a facet of an ideological notion about the virtues of small government. The war on government is a war against the labor movement, which has much higher rates of union membership in the public sector than it does in the private sector.

Labor is seen by corporate leaders as the last strong line of resistance against the wholesale takeover of government (and your tax dollars) by corporations. So, by this line of thought, labor must die.

But it's even deeper than that. The labor movement holds whatever modicum of workplace fairness standards exist for the rest of workers, be they organized or not. Contracts won by organized workers function as a ceiling for what the rest of the workforce is able to demand. Without the labor movement, there's not a worker anywhere in the nation who has much of a bargaining position with her or his employer. And that's the way David Koch and his brother, Charles, want it.

Midwest Frontier Province of Kochistan

Although headquartered in Kansas, Koch Industries has at least 17 facilities and offices in Wisconsin (by my rough count of facilities and companies noted on the Koch Industries "Wisconsin Facts" page), and operates "nearly 4,000 miles of pipeline" through its Koch Pipeline Company, L.P. Which may account for Wisconsin's evolution into the Midwest Frontier Province of Kochistan.

The conglomerate boasts "four terminals and strategically located pipelines" through its Flint Hills Resources, LLC, which it describes as "a leading refining and chemicals company" that markets "gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, ethanol, olefins, polymers and intermediate chemicals, as well as base oils and asphalt."

The Kochs' Georgia Pacific paper and wood products division has six facilities in Wisconsin. Its C. Reiss Coal Company "is a leading supplier of coal used to generate power," according to the Koch Web site. "The company has locations in Green Bay, Manitowoc, Ashland and Sheboygan."

Is it any wonder that Gov. Walker signed Americans For Prosperity's pledge (PDF) against energy reform legislation?

"I Don't Run a Union Facility"

At the Americans For Prosperity Foundation's RightOnline conference last July, a breakout session for managers and entrepreneurs focused on how to talk to workers about legislative issues -- including the Employee Free Choice Act, which would simplify the process by which workers could elect to join a union. Among the panelists was former Godfathers Pizza CEO Herman Cain, who is currently exploring a presidential bid. (Last month, Mark Block stepped down from his perch as state director of Americans For Prosperity Wisconsin chapter in order to serve as Cain's chief of staff.) The panel also featured Timothy Nerentz of The Oldenburg Group, a mining and defense equipment manufacturer based in Milwaukee. Nerentz illustrated how he talked to his workers about EFCA: "[W]e don't operate a union facility. That's all I have to say."

"Now, you certainly have a right to a union, right?" Nerenz continued. "You got rights, I got rights, all God's children got rights. But you need to know before you make that decision what's involved in that decision." When I pressed him after the panel to clarify whether he was threatening to shut down a factory whose workers chose to unionize, he simply restated his initial point: "We don't operate a union facility."

Stimulus Spending Seen as Too Friendly to Unions

You'd think that a big business like Koch Industries would love the idea of stimulus spending, since it's bound to improve the economy. So, what gives? Why do these guys hate the stimulus funds so much?

Well, it seems that too much of it, in their view, goes to preserve the jobs of unionized workers -- like autoworkers and teachers -- which, in turn, preserves unions as part of the U.S. workforce. So that's why, presumably, Americans For Prosperity President Tim Phillips today sent out a newsletter touting an anti-stimulus bill introduced by a House member from the Midwest Frontier Province of Kochistan:

By the way, newly-elected Congressman Sean Duffy from Wisconsin (emphasis mine) made one of his first efforts in Congress a bill that returns non-obligated stimulus funding to the taxpayers. Now his bill has been included in the continuing resolution the House is working on this week. It’s great to see our efforts to end government overspending become the core of actual legislation and not just something we all rally for.

Bus Follies

While we're on the topic of e-mail blasts, I received quite the indignant one today from something called the Campaign To Defeat Obama, a.k.a., Our Country Deserves Better PAC, a.k.a., Tea Party Express. The e-mail expresses great consternation at the fact that Organizing For America, the remnant of the Obama campaign's organizing effort (now part of the Democratic National Committee), helped get protesters to Madison to protest at the Wisconsin state capitol. "They sent out 54 messages on Twitter alone!" the e-mail shouts (emphasis theirs). They accused the Obama administration of sending in a "mob" to the state capitol to "bully" state lawmakers to abandon Walker's bill.

In the e-mail, Tea Party Express Our Country Deserves Better Campaign to Defeat Obama screams:

Organizing For America is responsible for most of the chaos, and has been filling bus after bus with protestors and shuttled them to the State Capitol. This was not a spontaneous uprising - this was an organized effort by Barack Obama to further his radical, leftist agenda.

Tea Party Express worked with Americans For Prosperity during the mid-term election campaign. What did they do? Filled buses with activists to get them to rallies and protests.

Today, however, it seems Americans For Prosperity had a hard time finding takers for their free-bus-trip offer for those wanting to support Gov. Walker's union-busting, worker-bashing bill. As of scheduled departure time, reports the Racine Journal Times, only six people had boarded AFP's Racine bus to Madison. Several key Republican lawmakers, according to recent reports, are beginning to waver in their support for Walker's labor-bashing bill.

If only "Rep. Paul Ryan On Wisconsin Protests: "Like Cairo Moved To Madison"

Memo to President Obama: Given the absence of intelligent intelligence and the inadequacy of your advisers’ advice, it’s not surprising that your handling of the Egyptian uprising has set new standards for foreign policy incoherence and incompetence. Perhaps a primer on how to judge the power that can be wielded by mass protest will prepare you better for the next round of political upheavals.

Remember the uprising in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989? That was also a huge, peaceful protest for democracy, but it was crushed with savage violence. Maybe the memory of that event convinced you and your team that, as Secretary of State Clinton announced when the protests began, the Mubarak regime was “stable” and in “no danger of falling.” Or maybe your confidence rested on the fact that it featured a disciplined modern army trained and supplied by the USA.

But it fell, and you should have known that it was in grave danger. You should have known that the prognosis for this uprising was far better than the one that ended in a massacre in Tiananmen Square; that it was more likely to follow the pattern of people power in Tunisia, where only weeks before another autocrat had been driven from power, or Iran in 1979 and Poland in 1989.

Since your intelligence people, including the CIA, obviously didn’t tell you, let me offer you an explanation for why the Egyptian protesters proved so much more successful in fighting off the threat and reality of violence than their Chinese compatriots, and why they were so much better equipped to deter an attack by a standing army. Most importantly, let me fill you in on why, by simply staying in the streets and adhering to their commitment to nonviolence, they were able to topple a tyrant with 30 years seniority and the backing of the United States from the pinnacle of power, sweeping him into the dustbin of history.

When Does an Army Choose to Be Nonviolent?

One possible answer -- a subtext of mainstream media coverage -- is that the Egyptian military, unlike its Chinese counterpart, decided not to crush the rebellion, and that this forbearance enabled the protest to succeed. However, this apparently reasonable argument actually explains nothing unless we can answer two intertwined questions that flow from it.

The first is: Why was the military so restrained this time around, when for 50 years, “it has stood at the core of a repressive police state”? The second is: Why couldn’t the government, even without a military ready to turn its guns on the demonstrators, endure a few more days, weeks, or months of protest, while waiting for the uprising to exhaust itself, and -- as the BBC put it -- “have the whole thing fizzle out”?

The answer to both questions lies in the remarkable impact that the protest had on the Egyptian economy. Mubarak and his cohort (as well as the military, which is the country’s economic powerhouse) were alarmed that the business “paralysis induced by the protests” was “having a huge impact on the creaking economy” of Egypt. As Finance Minister Samir Radwin said two weeks into the uprising, the economic situation was “very serious” and that “the longer the stalemate continues, the more damaging it is.”

From their inception, the huge protests threatened the billions of dollars that the leaders and chief beneficiaries of the Mubarak regime had acquired during their 30 year reign of terror, corruption, and accumulation. To the generals in particular, it was surely apparent that the massive acts of brutality necessary to suppress the uprising would have caused perhaps irreparable harm, threatening its vast economic interests. In other words, either trying to outwait the revolutionaries or imposing the Tiananmen solution risked the downfall of the economic empires of Egypt’s ruling groups.

But why would either of those responses destroy the economy?

Squeezing the Life Out of the Mubarak Regime

Put simply, from the beginning, the Egyptian uprising had the effect of a general strike. Starting on January 25th, the first day of the protest, tourism -- the largest industry in the country, which had just begun its high season -- went into free fall. After two weeks, the industry had simply “ground to a halt,” leaving a significant portion of the two million workers it supported with reduced wages or none at all, and the few remaining tourists rattling around empty hotels, catching the pyramids, if at all, on television.

Since pyramids and other Egyptian sites attract more than a million visitors a month and account for at least 5% of the Egyptian economy, tourism alone (given the standard multiplier effect) may account for over 15% of the country’s cash flow. Not surprisingly, then, news reports soon began mentioning revenue losses of up to$310 million per day. In an economy with an annual gross domestic product (GDP) of well over $200 billion, each day that Mubarak clung to office produced a tangible and growing decline in it. After two weeks of this ticking time bomb, Crédit Agricole, the largest banking group in France, lowered its growth estimate for the country’s economy by 32%.

The initial devastating losses in the tourist, hotel, and travel sectors of the Egyptian economy hit industries dominated by huge multinational corporations and major Egyptian business groups dependent on a constant flow of revenues. When cash flow dies, loan payments must still be made, hotels heated, airline schedules kept, and many employees, especially executives, paid. In such a situation, losses start mounting fast, and even the largest companies can face a crisis quickly. The situation was especially ominous because it was known that skittish travelers would be unlikely to return until they were confident that no further disruptions would occur.

The largest of businesses, local and multinational, are not normally prone to inactivity. They are the ones likely to move most quickly to stem a tide of red ink by agitating the government to suppress such a protest, hopefully yesterday. But thestaggering size of even the early demonstrations, the face of a mobilizing civil society visibly shedding 30 years of passivity, proved stunning. The fiercely brave response to police attacks, in which repression was met by masses of new demonstrators pouring into the streets, made it clear that brutal suppression would not quickly silence these protests. Such acts were more likely to prolong the disruptions and possibly amplify the uprising.

Even if Washington was slow on the uptake, it didn’t take long for the relentlessly repressive Egyptian ruling clique to grasp the fact that large-scale, violent suppression was an impossible-to-implement strategy. Once the demonstrations involved hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Egyptians, a huge and bloody suppression guaranteed long-term economic paralysis and ensured that the tourist trade wasn’t going to rebound for months or longer.

The paralysis of the tourism industry was, in itself, an economic time bomb that threatened the viability of the core of the Egyptian capitalist class, as long as the demonstrations continued. Recovery could only begin after a “return to normal life,” a phrase that became synonymous with the end of the protests in the rhetoric of the government, the military, and the mainstream media. With so many fortunes at stake, the business classes, foreign and domestic, soon enough began entertaining the most obvious and least disruptive solution: Mubarak’s departure.

Strangling the Mubarak Regime

The attack on tourism, however, was just the first blow in what rapidly became the protestors’ true weapon of mass disruption, its increasing stranglehold on the economy. The crucial communications and transportation industries were quickly engulfed in chaos and disrupted by the demonstrations. The government at first shut down the Internet and mobile phone service in an effort to deny the protestors their means of communication and organization, including Facebook and Twitter. When they were reopened, these services operated imperfectly, in part because of the increasingly rebellious behavior of their own employees.

Similar effects were seen in transportation, which became unreliable and sporadic, either because of government shutdowns aimed at crippling the protests or because the protests interfered with normal operations. And such disruptions quickly rippled outward to the many sectors of the economy, from banking to foreign trade, for which communication and/or transportation was crucial.

As the demonstrations grew, employees, customers, and suppliers of various businesses were ever more consumed with preparations for, participation in, or recovery from the latest protest, or protecting homes from looters and criminals after the government called the police force off the streets. On Fridays especially, many people left work to join the protest during noon prayers, abandoning their offices as the country immersed itself in the next big demonstration -- and then the one after.

As long as the protests were sustained, as long as each new crescendo matched or exceeded the last, the economy continued to die while business and political elites became ever more desperate for a solution to the crisis.

The Rats Leave the Sinking Ship of State

After each upsurge in protest, Mubarak and his cronies offered new concessions aimed at quieting the crowds. These, in turn, were taken as signs of weakness by the protestors, only convincing them of their strength, amplifying the movement, and driving it into the heart of the Egyptian working class and the various professional guilds. By the start of the third week of demonstrations, protests began to hit critical institutions directly.

On February 9th, reports of a widening wave of strikes in major industries around the country began pouring in, as lawyers, medical workers, and other professionals also took to the streets with their grievances. In a single day, tens of thousands of employees in textile factories, newspapers and other media companies, government agencies (including the post office), sanitation workers and bus drivers, and -- most significant of all -- workers at the Suez Canal began demanding economic concessions as well as the departure of Mubarak.

Since the Suez Canal is second only to tourism as a source of income for the country, a sit-in there, involving up to 6,000 workers, was particularly ominous. Though the protestors made no effort to close the canal, the threat to its operation was self-evident.

A shutdown of the canal would have been not just an Egyptian but a world calamity: a significant proportion of the globe’s oil flows through that canal, especially critical for energy-starved Europe. A substantial shipping slowdown, no less a shutdown, threatened a possible renewal of the worldwide recession of 2008-2009, even as it would choke off the Egyptian government’s major source of steady income.

As if this weren’t enough, the demonstrators turned their attention to various government institutions, attempting to render them “nonfunctional.” The day after the president’s third refusal to step down, protestors claimed that many regional capitals, including Suez, Mahalla, Mansoura, Ismailia, Port Said, and even Alexandria (the country’s major Mediterranean port), were “free of the regime” -- purged of Mubarak officials, state-controlled communications, and the hated police and security forces. In Cairo, the national capital, demonstrators began to surround the parliament, the state TV building, and other centers critical to the national government. Alaa Abd El Fattah, an activist and well known political blogger in Cairo, told Democracy Now that the crowd “could continue to escalate, either by claiming more places or by actually moving inside these buildings, if the need comes.” With the economy choking to death, the demonstrators were now moving to put a hammerlock on the government apparatus itself.

At that point, a rats-leaving-a-sinking-ship-of-state phenomenon burst into public visibility as “several large companies took out adverts in local newspapers putting distance between themselves and the regime.” Guardian reporter Jack Shenkeraffirmed this public display by quoting informed sources describing widespread “nervousness among the business community” about the viability of the regime, and that “a lot of people you might think are in bed with Mubarak have privately lost patience.”

It was this tightening noose around the neck of the Mubarak regime that made the remarkable protests of these last weeks so different from those in Tiananmen Square. In China, the demonstrators had negligible economic and political leverage. In Egypt, the option of a brutal military attack, even if “successful” in driving them off the streets, seemed to all but guarantee the deepening of an already dire economic crisis, subjecting ever widening realms of the economy -- and so the wealth of the military -- to the risk of irreparable calamity.

Perhaps Mubarak would have been willing to sacrifice all this to stay in power. As it happened, a growing crew of movers and shakers, including the military leadership, major businessmen, foreign investors, and interested foreign governments saw a far more appealing alternative solution.

Weil Ziada, head of research for a major Egyptian financial firm, spoke for the business and political class when he told Guardian reporter Jack Shenker on February 11th:

"Anti-government sentiment is not calming down, it is gaining momentum…This latest wave is putting a lot more pressure on not just the government but the entire regime; protesters have made their demands clear and there's no rowing back now. Everything is going down one route. There are two or three scenarios, but all involve the same thing: Mubarak stepping down -- and the business community is adjusting its expectations accordingly."

The next day, President Hosni Mubarak resigned and left Cairo.

President Obama, remember this lesson: If you want to avoid future foreign policy Obaminations, be aware that nonviolent protest has the potential to strangle even the most brutal regime, if it can definitively threaten the viability of its core industries. In these circumstances, a mass movement equipped with fearsome weapons of mass disruption can topple a tyrant equipped with fearsome weapons of mass destruction.
"Education is a progressive discovery of our ignorance." - Will Durant

Tuesday, February 15, 2011



    Zushi is a small fishing and flower growing village at the end of a railway line an hour or two out of Tokyo.

    I had moved out of the city to try and escape a heartbreak. I tended to try and escape myself by moving away from nodes of my life’s pain. Every mirror I met tattooed the pointlessness of this gambit on my withered soul but stubbornly I stuck to the only flawed gambit I possessed.

    Japan sold Beer and Whiskey out of vending machines that had internal timers turning them on and off, usually off by midnight and on again sometime of a morning. I had found a local malfunctioning unit permanently on. That and the slew of self help books I'd bought was my solace as, is my wont, I marinated in my self pity, devouring good advice until I lost the capacity to focus.

    This desperate foundation had its small advantages. I had one good NZ friend in Japan, Rob MacLaren, a fellow clown I'd shared years of imaginative misadventures with. He was more or less an adult while I was an arrested child. He's set me up in the beachside apartment and would visit and try not to smile too ruefully at the scattered “How to be happy” paperbacks that were scattered about the place with the empty bottles. Rob was one of the first of many to curse me with the unwanted responsibly of being a 'comic genius'. His love for me eclipsed the frustration he and others had felt of my effortlessness talent wasted. My love for him meant I would jump at any mad suggestion he offered. He had suggested I come to Japan in the first place. We went back to our mid teens.

    We'd both been in Stalker stilt theater, a dark pretentious romantically masochistic stilt company that had lasted a couple of years and a couple of national tours before imploding under it's own catholic residue. It took all and gave nothing. We were all on unemployment apart from the director and eventually the collective generosity expired.
But we had stilt skills out the yin-yang, and we had trained in cultural isolation such that our methods and movement vocabularies and skill-sets were unique. We had copied no-one.

Rob and I had scaled a Cathedral on stilts for a photo-shoot, visited an abandoned mental hospital atop a hill on a pitch black night where you could not see the ground and the driveway dropped off sheer on one side, we had walked through the deserted capital city Wellington [The Windy City] during a ferocious gale, wrestling each step forward so when he visited me in Zushi and we saw the quarter mile sea-break with the lamp-post at it's end we knew we had the afternoon covered.

    There was a drop-off either side, twenty foot down to a service road on the inside and a fifteen-foot drop down to rocks on the outside. The top was only three foot wide with one dogleg kink at the halfway point. Any mistake would mean physical disaster. 

    Taking small deliberate steps we set out, staggered so one wouldn't take the other out if anything went sideways. The wind was brisk and gusty and the lone lamppost seemed impossibly far away. The concentration and focus required to not put a foot wrong while keeping balance and keeping forward momentum to avoid stepping over the sides was of an unknown quantity as there was no going back once committed.

    We each screamed with excitement and fear and mutual joy as we tottered under grey gusty skies towards our objective. It took a good twenty minutes to make it out. First one, then the other, made it to the lamppost where we clung ecstatic. The best of friends celebrating our common madness.

    The occasional fishing boat would re-enter the harbor and the crews would gawk at us. Two twelve foot long legged anomalies waving happily from a seemingly impossible position. Pan-cultural oddities.

    We both made it back safely, it took longer and our reserves of adrenalin were fully exhausted by journeys end. We took our stilts off, looked back at the wall we'd conquered and shared a profound grin, packed up and slinging our gear over our shoulders casually swaggered back home, another youthful danger milestone invented and past.

    Testing yourself is a muscular reflex of youth. Most survive but there are always, among your generation’s youthful peers, those who serve as a warning. Dead or maimed, early suicides, youthful misadventures, diving off bridges, overdoses, paralyzed trying to get in the girlfriends window, falling out of a helicopter deer-hunting. Youth means it's only in those last 
seconds, if that, a fleeting truth manifests.
“I'm not special.”
For some, exceptionism never wanes. Hey ho.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Classic road-story.

From Peter Panic...
here is a little story for you- you could do a whole book like this-

you spend some time in show biz you have some funny stories.
ask people to talk about the funniest thing they ever saw. heres mine.

mid 90s saturday night harvard square.

we had done some shows, made some money now it was time to drink some beer.

our local was charlies kitchen but ken the hippie balloon dude was all about pizzaria unos.

'the food at charlies sucks'
yeah, so what we like charlies. later dude.

so we go in, order some beers, look at a menu and start discussing who has the best show.

up the stairs comes a lesbian. and another. and another.
cambridge is pretty liberal, it is no big deal...but they just keep coming.

it is the whole rainbow of lesbianism, short hair, baggy shirts, deisel dykes, femm girls,
they just keep coming up those stairs, maybe 25 in all.
they push some tables together and make themselves at home.

oh well good for them. we order some food, they get some beer, it is another rowdy night in the square. i thought to myself- this is why i like charlies better than unos.

there is a busker at the bar, a guitar player with one leg who i did not know.
the girls get him to play some songs and now they are having a sing-along.

these girls are fun. one of them, a slim young femm girl walks up to airborne dan foley and asks him if he can play hotel california on a guitar. their guy did not know it.
dan says 
'i could fake it but your guy is pretty good and this is his moment and, by the way, who ARE you? where are you from?' we did not see this every day.

she says they are a queer performance art collective from san fran called sister spit.
they just came from p-town and they were going to be attending a poetry slam in boston the next day.

 dans like- thats cool, we are all performers too, jugglers and circus tricks.

she goes back to her seat and we give dan a hard time- i think she likes you dan. maybe you can get her to switch sides. her friends seem to be giving her grief for flirting with the enemy. she comes back over. 'we want to see some tricks' what? 'you guys are performers,
show us some tricks'

we are all like, oh, we just got done working, we're trying to eat here.
sorry about the long set up, this is about to go somewhere.

ken is eating the best meal of his life at unos, jim show jim decided to have an early night and a glass of ginger beer, my girlfriend jenny had meant to meet us but she was asleep at home. now lets meet the hero of this story.

mike smith was not a performer, at least not a pro. ex army ranger, worlds greatest short order cook, ne'er do well who hung out on the pitch and was everyones friend.
natural born ring leader, he becomes the default mc.

he gets up, says ok- lets get this show started. he does a cartwheel, realizes halfway through he does not know how and falls on his ass. no worries, the ball is rolling.

they do an acro balance, bobarino brady does a handstand.
they recite a dramatic poem, i juggle a salt shaker a ketchup bottle and a sugar packet.
they sing a song to guitar and dan balances a chair on his chin. now we are having fun, but still nothing to write a book about.
mike turns to bob elgin, lucky bob, and says- your turn bob, get up and do something.

he does not care about bob but he knows we have to hold up our end.

bob is all like, oh, all my props are in the car, i dont have anything on me. bob is a magician. mike says 
'you have to do SOMETHING, what do you need? what if i get you a deck of cards?' bob says 'yeah! yeah, get me a deck of cards. i can do a card trick.'

here we go. i had the cat bird seat for what comes next so listen carefully.

mike gets up. he knows someone in the bar has a deck of cards.
he walks up to the closest lesbian, the meanest, toughest dyke of them all.
dyed hair, tats, peircings, older than the rest. sort of a father figure.

mike- 'excuse me um... miss?'
she looks at him with contempt.
'um, by any chance, do you happen to have a deck of cards?'

she is sitting slouched in her chair, legs spread wide in her leather pants.
her name is lynn breedlove, apparently she is famous.
she says- 'no, i dont have a deck...but i have a dick'
just like that. and she grabs the inside of her leg, about halfway down her thigh.

this escalated very quickly, but no one is really paying attention yet.

mike looks at her. he is thinking- you may look tough, but you were born a woman.
there is no way. so he says-'really?'
she says-'thats right'
he says-' will you show it to me?' he is so sure she is bluffing.
she says 'how about, if i pull it out, how about you suck on it?'

mike is completley crazy, but his 4 aces are about to run into a straight flush.
he says- 'ok.'

lynn breedlove stands up and starts unlacing her leather pants.

mike wears a bridge; he can take out his teeth.

as she pulls out a family size strap on dildo and he gets down on his knees i say-
'mike- take out your teeth'

 he puts his teeth on the table and- god bless him- he puts that monster in his mouth.

it was like an explosion. it was very powerful. it started at the center with her table and our table and spread very quickly to the bar and the back corners of the room, and it was just...

it was hard to look at. it was like staring at the sun.

it did not last long.

he got to his feet, the girls are roaring, the whole place is going crazy, the roof was going to come off the building.

it was too much. from the back of the room people are calling us faggots and queers and what have you. 

the lesbians are ready to rumble, they are not afraid of a fight. they told us they get in fights everywhere they go. something very intimidating about all those girls.
there was this pretty blonde girl with a scar on her cheek, she is swinging a chain.

so this puerto rican nitwit pulls a knife, mike backs him into a corner and cools him down.

by then the bar staff and owners have had enough and they kick us all out. so what- time to go anyway.

now we are outside, and the kid with the knife and his buddies are not so tough anymore.
they take off. we are milling around, talking to the girls, they are slapping us on the back,
telling us we are all right even if we are male.

we did not want it to end. i had the party house nearby, so it was up to me to be like- hey,
um you guys want to smoke some pot? lets have a party.
they were like, yeah sure.

i run to a payphone, call jenny, wake her up out of a sound sleep and i am babbling.
'mike smith just gave a blow job to a lesbian in charlies and now they are all coming over to my house!

she said- i'll be right there. and hung up the phone. she was always good to go.

i run into ken on the street. he had already heard. he was on his way to my house.

i just laughed at him. 'how was your dinner kenny boy? what did you have?'

later i remembered to find a deck of cards and hand it to bob.
'lets see that card trick bob. show us what we missed.'

and he did a card trick for us.

The iron lung literary tour idea/performance concept

The concept

I am going to invent a character, at this stage I'm only certain about his last name 'Mielniczek' [from Peter ex Hoopals last name]
He is a refugee from eastern europe and the last individual still contained within an iron lung. [from this point on I'll refer to that object as 'IL' because i want to avoid google searches concerning it]
He is a writer with a fatalistic view of the world and is engaged in a world wide book reading tour from within his IL.

he reads in public, his IL is coin powered and he has instructed his medical staff not to interfere with the process in which his IL is powered by coins dropped into the generator that powers his IL.

He is miked up and amplified, there is a gauge on the side of his IL that registers the status of the power supply. It goes from green to brown to red. [There is a smaller version of the same gauge visible to him]
as the gauge dips into the brown and then red his breath becomes laboured and his voice strains to keep reading.

I would like this piece to be performed at a ten day festival, I would have ringers in place to make sure i did not die in the first three days, long enough to get publicity, after three days I'd like to experiment with survival.
Income would come from the coins and also I would have my book available to sell nearby.

What do you think?
I think it helps that I have actually got a 56 thousand word 26 chapter book ready to go.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Another type of humility

There's a type of humility that's just naked and defenseless.
You look at the people, the people who have to various degrees from parents(at three) to friends and festivals to those who betrothed you. All sheltered and fed and structured and
It's hard to take. The exhaustion you create when all that energy is seen as squandered down the maw of your own inability to love yourself.
I never stopped loving laughter. I didn't laugh that much myself but I made a lot of it. I am at a place where I have to leave that behind and just for a moment in time. Face myself naked and not flinch as this final exhaustion gives way to a sympathy for myself and others that contains no self pity or anger but instead reflects to the best of my ability all the love I've ever been shown.

Does this make sense?

Seems a little weird thinking aloud like this but it in it's own way is a declaration that not because it's a public forum but simply because I write these things down rather than not. Help for me to expunge that part of me that has to distract.

I was once told my developed articulation was a way of spinning word castles so that people would be distracted and forget to ask me the important question.

I think I know what the question is. I had once thought it was 'what are you afraid of?' but it's 'what/who are you?'

At this point all I can say is I'm an individual and I think I'm here to help.
The last two days I've done things, yesterday I bought a man a can of soda but we both knew there was more to it than that. It was an unbidden kindness greater than the sum of it's parts. The kind of thing that gives connection to the unconnected. And I washed someones clothes and dried them. Today I found a relapsed drug addict a porch they could sleep on after testing dirty and being kicked out of where I live. There is nothing as sad to me as someone standing next to everything they own next to the stripped bed that has been their shelter as they face the void of rejection and expulsion and the night outside is mirrored by their own unremitting fathomless immediate future.

I wonder if humility is the statement. If I can love me I can love anyone?

I feel a calm strength. I should quit while I'm ahead and see what happens tomorrow morning.
Probably wake up as arrogant as fuck : )

Friday, February 11, 2011

On my search for humility. : )

I used to drink in part because it curbed my hypervigulance and I was able to care less about a general social anxiety and with that came a refreshing confidence in my abilities to perceive and articulate and be social.

As I journey through this foriegn sober topography I call my present life I'm having to be both brutal and ultimately I presume forgiving of myself.

It kinda yo-yo s. The same tool I use to self critique can be turned on others in self defense.

So I have to curb my self hatred as it's expressed externally as distain for sorry-assed-ricocheting-mad as a meat-ax fuck-knuckles as they present themselves to me on my passage through time and space.

This process I'm going through. This recovery process. Has at it's core a humility I have yet to really grasp.

I'll get there but until then there will be those who get between me and my peace of mind who will unfortunately suffer steaming blue bruises of the mind as I employ the psychic cattleprod that has been my constant defensive companion.
It's nice to have a hobby. :)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The polar approaches to street theatre. Two main camps.

As street performers I believe we all fall between two opposing philosophies. To paraphrase-The exploiters and the ingratiators.

At one extreme is the performer who utilizes hook lines, well known dynamics and standard lines to mechanically construct a show that is boilerplate and treats the audience as infinite fodder used indescriminatly and efficiently in the pursuit of income.

The other extreme is performers whose thrust is more relationship based; their major objective is rapport- their shows being a vehicle for the achievement of a collective warmth. I admit that this second group are the shows I find consistantly interesting. Having been in the business many years, I have seen most of the variations of the 'look at me, look at me' shows and can't help presuming the insecure, overcompensation that fuels them.

And yet I have seen shows soaked in skill where the performer projects a humility and respect for his or her audience that leaves them touched and grateful rather than manipulated and meekly herded up to donate money afterwards.
The exploiters and the ingratiators.
The look at me's and the look at us's.
The overdressed and the naked.

Some shows consistently give more than they ever recieve and its that sort of generosity of spirit that makes me proud to be a member of this street performing fraternity.

What I used to think I was doing.

My work involved testing people. Taking individuals out of the known and in front of an audience seeing how they would cope with that. It was a simple thing. I was extraordinary and I'd insert myself into the ordinary. Behind a corner between point A and B for someone walking in a public place. I called them victims inside my head but more correctly they were participants in a small reality I fashioned.

It is intriguing to watch. Audiences would always form because there was dramatic tension displayed very simply and also because the range of human reaction when faced with the unknown is so vast and universal.

Some people held onto their injured pride after I had triggered some instinctive flinch or stagger or start. Others simply digested instinctively that the atmosphere was benign and laughed along with the onlookers at themselves and my framework.

I enjoyed being unrelenting with the proud. I'd use my audiences laughter as permission to define a common enemy "brittle insecurity"

I had fun with that.

Others would play, matching my aggression with their own and while I had a flyaway they might improvise with an umbrella or walking stick.
Occasionally someone would try and bring the entire proceedings to a halt so that they could refashion the situation with themselves as instating. This was rare and I believe instinctive in a rare sheltered type of authoritarian and it always gave me some cruel pleasure to deny them purchase by way of my extensive improvisational ability to never lose the momentum.

People, my audience, would celebrate the many ways we all have to overcome the unexpected.

I loved that part about my job. It never got old.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Looking ahead

Confirmed Dundas fest yesterday. Looking at Glastonbury in July as well as Canada day and Vancouvers carless day which is fathers day. Compiling a new idea for this years Sonoma site specific arts festival in sept oct as the finishing bookend of the season. Also Pennsylvania arts fest is in the mix and just applied to the seaport Buskers fest which is on the westcoast of the US in April and also port credit is on again and I'm looking to get a new batch of hickory for a stilt workshop in Toronto .

Half of these are confined or in final confirmation and half of them are still in development.
I find I spend a lot of time fretting and ruminating but when I do move I move quickly and can sew up months in a matter of days. It just remains to be seen as to whether these days are those.
I have tomatoes to fall back on.

Monday, February 7, 2011

After midnight .. Brain refuses to cease.

Human beings are unique in that they are the only animal that can not only hold within their minds a contradiction of known concepts, for example that one person can make a difference along with the acceptance of the impossibility of that same fact, or, another example being that love conquers all while equally aware of the inconsequentiality of one individuals singular emotion.That to possess something you have to give away all possesive claim to it is another.

Thus far, as we've lost many long held beliefs , that we alone fashion tools, that we alone make war, that we alone have empathy etc; this ability to hold two contradictory beliefs and from that create a sort of moral imperative.

Is this what it means to be human?

I wonder. If I simply surrendered to circumstance and stopped this grueling internal war of self attrition, would I not be conquered as I have feared, but would I perhaps conquer myself?

It's obvious my mind is restless

Small Pleasures (Μικρές Χαρές) 2008 from MovieTeller on Vimeo.

Here, watch a beautiful short film

Sunday, February 6, 2011

One day follows the next like a caravan.

Used a little anger to clear lots of brush. The sort of brush that completely covers the ground and contains many small things that cling to you, to make for others a horseshoe pitch. I banged in the spikes and put down some sand and it's stood there four days now unused. Something about leading a horse to water springs to mind. I just noticed that nobody here plays in any way and it's been my role in the past to initiate that sort of thing. I'm trying.

The next day my anger and sorrow were more pragmatic. I cleared out around thirty rain filled tyres that were lounging around discarded and ugly and moved them to a considered place where I stacked them interlockingly to form a three sided enclosure and then collected masses of weeding I'd done prior to start a compost station. I wet it all down and still have more to collect and add and hopefully I can produce soil for an idea I have regarding using the thousand or so discarded stacked plastic pots to fashion some vertical gardening modules for potential sale down the line.

My tomatoes are seeming to have a new energy. I have over a hundred. Russian purple ones and Bulgarian purple ones and orange ones and German cherry and pineapple and irac ones and all in all eleven species that have not been grown in Hawaii before are now post seedling, sprouting adult leaves and first branches. Many have tried befor me and foriegn tomatoes tend to get bugs and mildew but I've researched and think leem oil should be enough to keep the mites the aphids and the mildew at bay.

Yesterday I worked for the first time in months for money. I helped waterblast and clean the exterior of a house. I made 60 dollars.

Half of what I earn goes to my ex. That's my rule. I owe her money and it's very important to me she gets it at some sacrifice to me. Fairs fair. Without being ridiculous about it. There were times I'd give her it all so I could suffer my due. No more. While 50 percent is steep it's honorable and that's what I'm seeking.

Also had a stranger, someone who has only known of me online, donate 50 into my paypal two days ago. He was simply being encouraging. It will take a few days before it does that dance between paypal and my bank and then me however it may actually be the key to keeping my . Mac account which will terminate on the 12 th along with 10 years email history if I don't get them their hundred dollar Mac- tax. It's ok in that I will switch to my gmail account and maybe that's for the best.

The above is not a plea

Regarding today. Well I had no intention of writing and posting this and now I have. I shall next try to eat and then collect more stuff for composting. I'm a soil farmer and it's early days.

Also because of the size of my screen I have no way to edit what I write and this itouch selects words for me when I misspell things and I cannot actually see what I'm writing so those words that simply throw the sentence off and make no contextual sence. I'm sorry. I'll leave a comment and list the corrections after I've posted this and can finally read what I've written.
Fun huh?