OMG: 25 Years of Live Music

Spent part of last night moshing to The Legendary Shack-Shakers, and once again, I forgot my ear plugs. This time, I have no excuse. I bought six pairs for Burning Man, gave away one, and had another on standby. Why did I forget them again tonight!?

So, once again, my ears ring the tune of tinnitus. Back in 1984, after going to a Van Halen concert, I remember thinking how cool it was that my ears rang the next day during school. Now, after many musicians have “come out” and shared their stories of becoming deaf due to playing in front of huge PA systems, I keep forgetting my damn earplugs!

Sigh.

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The Right Side of Things, or, Waiting for the Jesus Bomb

I keep an open mind about new ideas, so don’t mind experiencing situations where my values are questioned. This job provides these experiences daily. Today, in Waukee, IA (a Republican suburban town just outside Des Moines), I set up my Wheel of Fortune at their Fall Fair. My first players, from Des Moines, loved our message and even signed up. Throughout the afternoon, three different families walked away from the game while I was in mid-sentence. The word “Pentagon” clicked the ignorance gene in their minds. Or maybe their reality blinders lowered from their halos.

I want to talk to these folks, and see why they don’t agree. When I do speak with them, I get into arguments where we just talk in circles. Or we fall into illogic where their comments just don’t make sense:

“The whole budget [pie chart] should be the pentagon!”
“Even if they’re wasting our money?”
“Who cares. They know what’s best for our freedoms!”

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The Numbers Nine, One, and One

Numbers represent powerful images for humans. Seven means good luck in some cultures, the number of God in others. Thirteen looms negative for many people while others attempt to connect this number to earth-based origins. In the Hebrew language, letters are also numbers, creating amazing possibilities and combinations to consider.

The numbers 911 will always stand for the horrors of that day in 2001 when the towers fell and two other jets crashed. What used to be the number to call for an emergency has now become a symbol of an image that most of the world watched through two letters – TV. 2,973 also has a new meaning for most American citizens: the number of people who died on 911 due to the jet-bombs that changed the world.

Now five years later, the letters TV once again show the images over and over for us to relive the moment and the grief that ensued. Radio covers the spectacle via news, music, and the ever present sound bites that we all easily swallow. Like a wound that never healed, we will not forget the day, and the Spectacle will not let us.

So many angles cover this day, so I won’t bother giving my story and $0.02 worth.

I keep asking myself “how am I supposed to feel” after five years of a postmodern, post-911 paradigm? Grief comes in stages and moves through each of us in different ways, so I can’t buy into the flag-waving, scab-pulling images and sounds that try to tell me what to feel about that day. I like dealing with my grief in small, personal ways, and in private or with friends.

Back to numbers. Since these symbols (Indian in origin and relayed to Europeans by Arabs in Baghdad) hold so much weight, I thought I’d spend this powerful date on our calendar reflecting on other numerical combinations.

  1. Native Americans killed by European Americans: ~39,000,000
  2. World War I deaths: 22,000,000
  3. Deaths in USSR during Stalin regime: 13,000,000
  4. Deaths due to German Nazi government: 12,000,000 (source, ibid)
  5. Deaths in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia during US Vietnam War (1960-1975): 2,000,000 (source, ibid)
  6. Iraqi deaths due to 1990 UN embargo: ~1,000,000
  7. Filipinos killed by US Military (1898-1910): 600,000
  8. Deaths in Darfur, Sudan (2003-present): ~400,000
  9. Japanese deaths from US atomic bombs: ~210,000
  10. US Civil War deaths: 191,963
  11. Iraqi deaths since Operation Iraqi Freedom: ~41,650

Back from Burning Man for a Brief Hello

Still decompressing from being at Black Rock City, and briefly visiting San Francisco. Woke up this morning and mentally screamed, “I’m in Iowa!” A bit disjointed from being ripped out of the hyperreality of BRC and not staying home in SF. Where is Iowa anyway?

A busy weekend starts tomorrow with the carnival games opening up for a whirlwind Jim Hightower tour. Then off to do two music festivals on Sat. Yep, that’s six gigs in three days.

Will post more on Burning Man later. For now enjoy this Stencil Archive I posted showing over 70 pics of 2006 stencil art on the playa. The DPW had their own graff wall going, a two-story structure out near the Man had walls representing, and the base of the Man himself got hit up by a few crafty taggers. I also ran into my old friend Chris Benfield working his stencil booth at Ill Ville.

“I have an international stencil web site, so will post your stencils there,” I told the unknown person behind a mask.

“I know,” Chris said, taking the mask off for a cheerful reunion, hello, and tagged T-Shirt!

Farewell, Granite State

This will most likely be my last post before I hop in the van and head across the Mississippi. Looking around my room, I’m not sure if all of my things will fit back into the two suitcases I started out with. No worries there, because the van has room to grow. Also, just how do I pack for this carny trip across the Rust Belt? Fortunately, I will only sleep in the van Saturday night before my Bread & Puppet performance.

As you can see, my mind is already on the road. I have two, maybe three, more gigs in New Hampshire before leaving the state, but I made the road trip official today. Today, I took my toys and put them on the dashboard in the van.
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Mike the Gentle Caveman

My friend Mike Fordham died this week in Greenville, SC. After taking a few aspirin because he wasn’t feeling well, he got up to go to the bathroom and had a massive heart attack along the way. Carol his wife started CPR but he had already followed the bright light out of here.

Mike and Carol didn’t have any children, but he is survived by his community of artists, queers, freaks, geeks, and all in between. Guess that tells you something about who he was. The best thing about Mike was the fact that he busted stereotypes. Looking like Charles Manson, Mike actually had a big heart under that mean exterior.  How in the hell could a mean-looking guy be so damn nice? Why is little Mikey so easy to hug? Damn, I’d never want to get on your shit list!
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HappyFt’s Psychogeography

As I walked down the alleys running parallel to chi chi Newberry St. in Boston, looking at layers of quick tags and throw-ups, I realized that I’m not the average tourist. While tourists in Boston hit the Freedom Trail, or drink at Cheers after shopping at Faneuil Hall, I scan years of graffiti for the elusive stencil piece. If you mapped my wanderings this past Tuesday, you’d see an odd path that revolved around one thing: photographing stencils. This history that I chart across the planet creates my psychogeographic story.

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Art Car (Activism): An Anecdotal History

The early-20th-century advent of the automobile brought about many changes to society and how humans organized themselves. In a time when inventions revolutionized the way we communicated, travelled, and entertained, the auto created a powerful framework of the era. Over 100 years later, it still creates that firm, romantic symbol of freedom, uniqueness, and materialism that developing nations like China are quickly becoming aware of.

This modern, Fordist symbol has reached icon status among the American population. The automobile stands as a model of the first step to that hazy, idealized concept of the “american dream.” Put that money down, get that bank loan, and drive away with one of the most expensive things you’ll ever buy. A house with a family will soon follow, complete with (a 30-year mortgage) a pool, a grill, and a lawnmower.

This blog entry will use personal anecdotes to show the power of the car as an icon, and then show how this concept is currently being revolutionized by my current employer, Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities (BLSP). For a week now, I have thought about my own personal relationship with the automobile, and am surprised to see the obvious arc that propelled me to the job as CarnyMobile Operator. Today, at a Hot Rod convention in Gilford, NH, the loose strands came together, making me realize that changing American’s concept of their rides is serious business. I could be a catalyst for this change, or at least the current well-planned attempt.
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CELLspace – 10: War in Iraq – 3

The spring equinox passed Monday, reaching the beginning of year 4 for the Iraq morass as well as year 11 for CELLspace.

Three years ago, I co-produced the Funky Puppet Supper at CELLspace. At that time, CELL had just been shut down by the SFPD and the collective scrambled for ways to keep the space open. We couldn’t allow more than 49 people in the space and went about 7 months with no events. Jonathan Youtt and others started the Mission Village Market, hoping to bring in the rent money. Mia Rovegno and others produced a series of “Save the Cell” events in other venues. Zoe Garvin and others furiously wrote grants. Even our landlord gave us a few months break on rent to help out.

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NeoMysticism for Serious Times with the Secret Chiefs 3

Live music moves me deeply in my heart and soul. I realized in the early 1990s that certain kinds of music pulsed and lived through me. I knew because I’d hear a band and instantly remember their melodies (not their lyrics). Seeing some of these groups live, and hearing the music with my whole body, I would trance out and sometimes dance myself into exhaustion. These neomystic events come to me as a gift, and I have been moved by bands like Phish, Beck, Yair Dalal, Emil Zrihan, Ozric Tentacles, and Radiohead.

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Save Al’s Comics


Donate to Save Al’s Comics (or offer a store to rent)

When I moved to San Francisco in 1997, one of the top priorities of my transition was to find a local comic store to patronize. This may humor those of you who do not collect or read graphic novels (comics), but I liken it to the drinker who finds a local bar to call home. I have read, collected, and bought comics for most of my life, and at the time read several titles that had 10 to 30 year story lines (Cerebus and Bone). Finding a local store, setting up a subscription bag, and bugging the owner provides me with quality living through culture and community.

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New Years, Death, and Fall

Fall has always been my favorite season. As a child, turning leaves meant that the brutal heat and thunderstorms of summer were going away. Cooler weather and shorter days meant interesting views through naked trees and muted tones of reds, yellows, and browns. Since moving to San Francisco, I discovered that fall time is the Witches New Years (Samhain, pronounced sow-wan) and is also Yom Kippur for the tribes of Israel. Both of these holidays deal with aspects of death and rebirth.
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