Saturday Walkabout

After working two weeks straight for ZinZanni, CELLspace, and Yerba Buena Gardens, I spent a rare Saturday off doing as little as possible. So, like Traveling Matt from Fraggle Rock, I set off on a nice urban hike through San Francisco. My random goal was a viewing of Terry Gilliam’s Brothers Grimm at the Presidio Theatre on Chestnut St. Below are some thoughts and observations of the day:
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Approaching 36

I enter into my 36th year humbled and amazed. These past twelve months have been a time of upheaval, precarity, despair, and loss. I walked into the void where things fall apart, and that nothingness has left me directionless. I don’t know if I want a guiding star because I am falling into the deepest, darkest places that I thought I had visited in the past. I need to work these things out, or begin the process of discovering them. I want to confront the darkness, my fears and insecurities, and become the person I have always been.

The pain that exists there, cob-webbed nooks in my lifetime of travels, will creep around inside me forever. The emotions that are wrapped around those locked-away places are twisted and gnarled, like a rope that a tree has grown over (or a knotted muscle from an old accident). The ropes lead to other places, tangle together, creating walls and rooms. In one of those rooms I scream and I cannot hear myself. I look on through a thick, stain-glassed window.

Luckily, that window can open, and I am on a journey that will lead me to that room where the shrieking me is. Do you know where the monsters are in the darkness of your memory? I used to scare myself silly as a child, having frequent dreams of trapdoors, imagining dead people walking up the steps from the mortuary. I was afraid those visions and I’m afraid now. The adult that never confronted what scared him most is currently trying to find out what the hell those horrors are.

This 35th year seeps into my life’s journey like the experiences I had in Atlanta about 10 years ago. At 25, my life imploded, I betrayed my best friend, lost many others, and sunk to the bottom of the pit of loathing. I spent two years climbing out of that hole, traveling alone in Europe, living alone in Greenville, not dating, learning to love myself, and eventually traveling across the country to land in San Francisco. I arrived into the present without a job, room, or clue. My mother, always the prophet, predicted that I’d fall in love with someone in SF and never move back to SC. She was right on both accounts.

So, ten years later, I stand alone again in the endless darkness of the present moment. Every action I have made led me here, where I’m learning to breathe again. I didn’t realize that dealing with my shit would be a lifelong thing, but know now that it is. I am preparing myself to be up to the task to find myself in the moment, to relish the emotions that come and go in the emptiness.

Today, a simple phone call set me off. I could go into the details of the phone call, but it would be a waste of time. Instead, I began to breathe and observe the emotions and present feelings. This led to an hourlong process that happened mostly in public, in my heart. I was angry, why? Because I don’t express myself that well. Why? Because expressing myself is bad. Why? Because it makes me feel dirty. Why? Because I’m a failure. Why? Because my (biological) parents got rid of me. The last answer came to me in my room as I wrote in my journal, and I instantly began bawling.

I didn’t cry because it was all an illusion. I cried because it was an obvious discovery that finally crept out of its musty hole. I know that I’m not any of those things, but I am all of those things. They are the ropes that have tree trunks grown around them. Hard to find, pull out, and discard. I can deny this all I want, but know that it is true. It is also not true. There’s just the conditioning that goes with forgetting where you are at the current moment.

Which is headed to my 36th birthday. This past year, I have observed the metaphor and symbolism of the things that come into my life. Why did the woman bless me last Thurs. when I sat in a bar and focused on my heart via breathing? Why did that butterfly die on the trip up to Oregon? Why did the body worker give me a seed to nurture myself 6 months ago? Why did I find the tarot cards, and pick the 7 of pentacles, a man with a hoe? What am I planting with all of this, what will grow from it? How are my friends, community, and family providing the soil for this transition to grow out of?

What is in store for year 36? I am lost, sad, broken, yet alive, observing the seconds, and connecting with the atoms of the universe. I’m a mess, peaks and lows come when they want to, but I am here. The world falls apart, people die and are born, and I am pushing those stain-glassed windows open to hear the beautiful sound of my screaming. Years ago, I dreamed of my niece, Anna, standing in front of a collapsing building. She had no idea that things fell apart behind her, and just smiled as the wind gently blew her blonde hair. I instantly woke up form the horror of that toppling building.

I failed to notice that my beautiful niece stood firm, unwavering, and in the moment of her own happiness. I was that building then, and now, but I am about to be that grounded child. Like Roland at the end of the Dark Tower, I am starting the story over. Except I have a magical item with me this time. It is the clue to find the balance of falling in this endless void and illusion. It is the fact that I live, I feel, and I am here.

Last week Rob Brezny gave me yet another totem to carry, feel out, and savor. My horoscope (I usually take them lightly) from last week fits my current circumstances:

Please speak the following series of declarations at least once a day in the coming week: “I want to drink in the brilliance of someone’s beautiful eyes today. I want to dream of the kind of intimacy I will someday be worthy of. I want to learn to enjoy everything that I do and everything that happens to me, even if it’s not what I expected or thought I needed. I want the end of every story to be quickly followed by the beginning of the next story. I want to go home to a home I have never known.”

Oregon Country Fair Note Excerpts

These excerpts are from a letter/journal I kept on the recent Oregon trip. I wrote this letter for my best friends Todd and Mark

I’ve been waiting for this trip for months now. Haven’t been on the road outside of the Bay Area for a long while. Rent was too high, I was too poor, and my life fell apart. But you and Mark know best what that urge to move feels like. Headed to a festival makes this trip even more enjoyable. Getting there via a veggie-fueled bus and performing acts just like icing. Guess I don’t have to mention mountains, clean air, and trees…. Dunsmuir, CA

RoadView01

Jonathan and the universe gave me a gift a few hours ago. A buttefly hit the windshield back down on Grant’s Pass. [While taking a break at a rest stop, I wanted] to take the butterfly wings off of the windshield to put on my altar. About to pluck its wings, I saw that it was alive! It’s abdomen was smushed pretty bad. I peeled it off and put it on a piece of moss I had just picked up. It wasn’t flapping its wings, so I knew that its life i this reality was over. But it refused to die, twitching legs for most of our stopover. It eventually died, but I couldn’t bare to take its wings.

So the universe gave me a gift: beauty dieing. Nature’s infinite circle of renewal. Once again, death came to me in a pure form, and allowed me to test the waters of grief. The death of the butterfly sent a direct metaphor to my center of being. Quines Creek, OR

Butterfly

Magic does happen in the world. We drove into the Oregon Country Fair (OCF) with no nighttime/employee wristbands and no parking stickers. 24 hours later, we had 5 wristbands, one extra and two of them gifted to us for free, and two parking passes. I feel that the OCF is a special place for me to be at the right moment.

Walking through the OCF is like being in a faire land theme park. Booths, gates, and artwork line trails and fill meadows. Raw lumber and branches hide alot of the architecture and gates blend in to the forest. This lifestyle is vibrant, creative, and all-ages. The OCF celebrates its elders and many families are present. Day one of the OCF

OCF

Tired tonight after ding six shows today and staying up most of the night last night. I spent most of the night in a solemn mood. At one point an Iranian musician showed up to the place where I was hanging out at and began to drum and sing traditional Middle Eastern music. I began to think about the tribe of Ishmael and the wandering lifestyle of the Roma. My inner fears began to open up, and I realized that I was a bastard who had never seen my mother. I am the landless people, I thought, the child of Abraham cast out into the dessert. My current life changes had even made me tribless. I felt like the lonely wandering monk once again.

I left the sweet music and walked into the craziness of the Saturday night fair. At one point, I came across a tree that had an altar under it. Someone was randomly kneeling in front of it. The tree seemed out-of-time; it had a strange quality to it that nothing else had. I knew the night was over when I walked up to a jug band that had an inbred violin player. Bald, cross-eyed, and drooling, he played his violin held out in front of him. The washboard player was staggering drunk, and the guitar player wasn’t too far behind him. Sunday, July 11

After a week of magic, tests, and travel, the veggie bus crew points its compass south. After a lazy morning on some property (Pica Flores) near a creek by the McKenzie River, we spent most of the day looking for veggie oil and processing it for the drive home. Travel goes slow when you run on veg, and I enjoyed every bit of the work that goes into being a fuel bootlegger.

VeggieLegging

Two nights ago, at Pica Flores, we had a group dinner. The matriarch of the property asked for everyone to introduce themselves. I said something like this: “Hi, I’m Russell. Last weekend was my first Country Fair. This whole trip has been filled with miracles and the fair lived up to its myth from when I lived on the East Coast. I’ve met nothing but kind souls with big hearts, so am humbled by all of your good deeds. I’m currently going through a shadowy life change, and am currently tribeless, so this trip brought much needed medicine into my center of being. I thank you all.” Thursday, July 13

RoadView02

Jobs

Things really started getting precarious for me during the week of April 25. That week, I worked a total of 4 hours for only $30. As the check balance continued to shrink, all the jobs I applied for seemed to go into the deep circular file of the trash can. I had nibbles and upcomings: a temp position at PC Personnel with a booked shift May 3 and potential shifts at Yerba Buena Gardens.

But Al’s Comics had become my meager bread and butter for the last few weeks. Al, a great guy and struggling small businessman, needs about 5 full-time employees to stay on top of his work load. Instead, he works nonstop and has a small group of folks who help him out. I showed up every Monday and Tuesday morning for a few hours to learn the register, some of the basic tasks, and help him help me. We’re both in tight situations, so he could only pay me a low wage. I didn’t mind because it fed me for a few days, got me out of the apartment, and got me access to reading comics. Al’s intention was to get me trained to work full days so he could do many of the tasks that he was behind on, and I was headed that way.

Later that Monday, I jumped onto Craigslist.org to see the job postings. I’d been applying for all kinds of jobs for weeks an only gotten the two upcomings. Today felt no different, except for a tingle when I applied to Teatro ZinZanni for a part time box office opening they had there. I was qualified, sent them my creative cv along with a simple cover letter, and expected to never hear back about it. An hour later Morgan, the box office manager, called me back for an immediate interview on Tuesday. I had two hours scheduled with Al so made it for 3pm.

The interview went great. Morgan told me 500 people had applied for the job and the first cut to 250 happened because half of the applicants didn’t write a cover letter. Morgan stressed the immediate start date of the position and the extreme flexibility for all of May. I assured him that I was very flexible for May, having almost no prospects of work and only potential shifts temping and with YBG. At the end of the interview, he asked me if I’d like to go to the show that Friday. A $135 ticket for free? I’m there! He asked me to describe the show and em it to him.

Meanwhile, YBG’s manager sent me an em to confirm my shifts for the first half of May. Two of those shifts I was given were for the Star Wars premiere benefit party. Being a lifelong SW geek, I HAD to work that shift, but couldn’t commit until the TZ job situation worked itself out. As the potential of my being hired by TZ grew, I had to contact Steve Cho at YBG to tell him that my nonschedule had become a maybe schedule so he was free to give away my shifts if the delay in confirmation caused any problems. He understood and said that I could contact him once my schedule was worked out.

Visiting Al with the updates got me even more excited. He was happy for my strong job nibbles and understood my maybe quitting the 4 hours I was working. At the same time, I kept telling him that I’d help him post items on eBay and wouldn’t mind taking digi pics of the stuff he wanted to sell. The first run was an autographed Star Trek card and a autographed, limited comic book. I eventually helped Al get into eBay, PayPal, etc. and post those items.

The Friday night at Teatro ZinZanni was amazing. I’d been years ago, but this show had different performers and a different menu. There was a great rope act performed by the busgirl. She kept getting tangled up and blowing the performance, but it was all intentional clowning. Kevin Kent, Cookie the chef, kept me in stitches the whole night. His clown bits presented each course and got more absurd as the show progressed. I had a good time and figured that I’d at least have this night to show for the interview process.

The following Monday, I had a Sunday em from Morgan asking for a second, immediate interview. We booked it for Tuesday after my first temp shift with PC Personnel. At that interview, I met the other box office workers. I gave them hard candy as bribes and found out that Candice knew Brian Livingston and had gone to see the Funky Puppet Supper last November. I left there feeling great about the interview but still had no expectations.

Later that night, while waiting for the Fillmore bus to go see Gang of Four at the Fillmore (a writing assignment I took for Indybay), Morgan called me and offered me the job. I began immediately the next morning at 10am and couldn’t say no. I’d get the schedule for May at noon and couldn’t change the dates, so I could then work out all of the other scheduling issues. I got so excited at the bus stop that I kept interrupting Morgan. I finally had a steady gig in show business like I’d wanted for months!

My commute was fresh and exciting. Riding the old, historic street cars would be a fun way to get to work each day. Later, I found out that the F Line could be unreliable (full cars pass you by, you can wait and never get a train, etc.), but the commute down the Embarcadero made me feel like I’d just moved to San Francisco.

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One of the many photo moments during my commute on the historic F-line trains

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My new commute destination: Pier 29 and Teatro ZinZanni’s tent structure

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Fresh air, blue skies, and Coit Tower look down on the TZ box office

There’s a good bit for me to learn, with alot of paperwork and details to remember, but I’m already picking it up and enjoying the job. I went out with the box office staff my second day at work (Cinco de Mayo) and had a tequila shot to celebrate all the promotions and hirings. Everybody works hard and has been great in helping me out. I’m sure more thoughts about my TZ job will pop up on here in the future.

So what about the Yerba Buena Gardens shifts? Once Morgan gave me my May schedule, I immediately called Steve Cho to confirm the two Star Wars shifts. They were the only ones for the whole month that I could fit into my TZ schedule, the movie premiere benefit making May 12 a 14 hour day! Before I even clocked in that day, I knew that I was going to have a good time. There were stormtroopers all over the Metreon. The Emperor and Darth Vader were wandering around, as well as Han Solo and Chewbacca. Even R2-D2 crawled around the tent area.

Lucas
George walks by my pass-checking station

I spent most of the night at the gate to the tented area checking passes and keeping people from wandering in to the private area. George Lucas walked by a total of three times and stopped once to sign autographs after the show. There were other stars there, but I had no idea what they looked like. The work wasn’t that hard, and I was given breaks to eat the catered food in the tent and sneak into one of the viewings (I caught 20 minutes worth and will only say that R2-D2 kicked ass!). I called my childhood friend Mark to tell him where I was and what was happening. We geeked on it for a few minutes before I had to go to work.

stormtroopers
“This is not the worker you’re looking for. Your business is done here, move along.”

Things got a bit crazy after the viewing. Mayor Gavin Newson called an auction of Star Wars stuff, sounding extremely happy, yet fake, while he did it. This was for charity, and raised thousands, but ended oddly with some other guy saying “Live long and prosper.” Gavin covered the gaff well with a “and may the force be with you.”

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Gavin works the crowd after auctioning off Star Wars schwag for charity

Pod called me to go out for a drink and I told him to grab my camera and get his ass over here. He got to shoot a few pics of me with the stormtroopers, and have a few stiff drinks, but didn’t make it in time to get a good shot of them inside the Metreon (ah, the irony). Two other friends wandered by and ended up inside. I saw them doing the electric slide and the YMCA…to my dismay. One faithful fan, who wore a suit and had tried several times to talk his way in, finally got in at the end and got one of the leftover bags of schwag that the attendees walked away with.

So after only one week of having a 4 hour gig, I found myself working over 40 hours. The sleep, meditation, and visits to CELLspace just didn’t happen. I did keep up with the Tai Chi but had to run down the Embarcadero to catch the BART train to get to class my first Monday at TZ. Damn F line…

And what about Al? He’s slowly getting hooked on posting items for auction on eBay. I met up with him this past Sunday to shoot some loot for him to post. Checked in on him while I was doing laundry and the Lily Munster model was hot already. I’m now on call to help him with computer training and to shoot loot for him to post, so I’m glad I’m still able to help him out.

comics
One of the great covers I photographed for Al’s Comics’ new eBay blitz

stencilStencil Pleasure Once Again

Ah, the smell of stability. Stencil Archive is finally online in a reasonable form worth mentioning to the outside world. After about 6 or 7 months of stencil pain from various fronts, deleted postings or otherwise, Spring of 2005 brought a fresh blooming of creative goodness.

The stencil mural I worked on with Josh MacPhee and a few other artists looks great and has been well-received by the neighborhood.

I just got the permissions to work in Stencil Archive’s photo albums. What exactly does this mean? After months of collecting a stencil pics backlog, now numbering in the high hundreds, I can now get in there, fix some errors, and post an ass-load of art from all over the world. I haven’t stopped shooting stencils in the Bay Area, and a few amazing souls have braved the troubled waters of Stencil Archive to submit pics when they found those rare openings of past stability.

I have to say that there are other sites out there that are really holding the stencil community together right now. Many artists have started their own photoblogs of stencils, while others are creating their own dynamic sites. I’m still very happy to see that support for art form gets bigger and better, and I hope that folks will start stopping by, or subscribe to my RSS feeds, to see the new uploads on my site. It’s all about community to me, so I look forward to getting back in to that routine of putting new pics online regularly and eming amazing artists and fans.

I also had a good visit with Klutch while he was in town supporting the Vinyl Killers community at Hotel des Arts. We spent an evening wandering around the Mission looking at all kinds of graff. I also got to see the vinyl on the walls of the hotel, and will of course post pics on to my site.

May 1, Mia Rovegno premiered a segment of Street Level TV that had myself and Josh MacPhee chatting up all things stencils, and walking around Valencia St. looking at different art. Called “Stencil Art Archivists,” Mia got really jazzed about the street art world and thinks that it might be a bit of a larger piece she wants to create. She’s currently planning on taking the segment to NYC, and Pod might take it to Berlin.

Finally, I recently got a call from the San Francisco Art Institute asking for a copy of my Scott Williams archive. Scott is receiving an award from SFAI and will have a show there in the near future. They were grateful to receive about 800 megs of pics that I’ve taken and collected over the years. I seem to be his main archivist, so it felt good to contribute to his show and award celebration.

So where to start? I guess I’ll hit up those archives and dig into some major photo uploading for the next week or three. If only I had the free time that I did two weeks ago….

“Zizek!” Sneak Previews at the Roxie

When the documentary “Zizek!” rolled onto the screen, an unkempt man stood in a generic, almost suburban setting, and described a bleak picture for humanity and our so-called love for one another. Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, the man standing on the manicured lawn, stayed in the lobby of San Francisco’s Roxy Theater until this scene ran. He admitted, in a talk after the viewing, that watching that scene dropped him into a “suicidal depression,” and that the whole documentary was like having your eye taken out of its socket so that you could watch yourself.

Not knowing much about Zizek’s critical theory beyond what a friend and fan had described to me, I found the man on screen to be a compelling thinker and eccentric genius. Mixing his love for film, modern culture, Lacan, Marx, and Hegel into extremely focused thoughts and ideas left my exhausted brain wanting more. Throughout the documentary, clips of Zizek’s interview with a too-happy, air-headed TV feature journalist run to the amusement of the Roxie’s audience. One of the documentaries last scenes shows the journalist bouncing in his seat, exclaiming “I never though I’d have so much fun talking about this!” Leaving the theater, I had to agree that watching Zizek’s life, and listening to his thoughts, was a deep, humorous, perplexing, and highly entertaining experience.

Producer Astra Taylor gave me a brief introduction about the project. Funded via The Documentary Campaign and the Canadian Conference of the Arts (CCA), Taylor and editor Laura Hanna’s film crew spent one and a half years on the documentar, finishing the project the night before the Roxie’s April 21 sneak preview. They flew the documentary to San Francisco to show it while Zizek visited the area and plan on a Fall premiere on the festival circuit.

Between shots of his readings to packed houses in Buenos Aires and New York City, the viewer is allowed to watch Zizek analyze his son’s playing, speak about how his Stalin poster scares some people away, and stand horrified as a fan tracks him down for an autograph. At one point he shows the camera crew his kitchen, and all the clothes that he as apparently staged in the drawers and cabinets. Another scene shows him standing in awe of a stairwell featured in Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” and then feigning a death by suicide at the bottom of the long drop. The audience consistently laughs at his quips, asides, and frenetic reactions to the various subjects that race through his mind. The Chronicle of Higher Education calls him “the Elvis of cultural theory” but my take is that he is “the Groucho Marx of cultural theory.”

Aside from the man himself, and the odd portrayal of his life on screen, Zizek’s nonstop monologues takes the whole documentary to a much deeper and thought-provoking level. Many categories are touched, but parts of the film are broken into segments such as ideology, philosophy, and psychoanalysis. He speaks about Lacan as we watch an extremely sterile French TV video of his hero, and he mixes Stalin and Marxism into many of his dialogs. To do justice to the content of this deep thinking, I think I would have to watch the documentary a few more times to reliably discuss the many details of his thoughts.

Like the TV journalist, I had a great time watching an entertaining documentary about one of the 21st century’s foremost thinkers. My friend feared that the documentary would be dry and stuffy like a recent film he watched about Derrida, and he was glad to get to laugh at Zizek’s oddities. And to have the light atmosphere with the heavy philosophical subject matter created a great balance for the laypersons who think deep but do not dive into books on thought.

zizek
After the viewing, Slavoj Zizek sat in front of the audience and spoke about the documentary and explained “what he was trying to do” as a philosopher. Analyzing the documentary, Zizek decided to “mock private details” about himself to show how they were irrelevant. “Read my books to understand me as a person,” he said, noting later that “Opera’s Second Death” was a “book from my heart.” He also criticized his own story by stating that he was not a recluse and in fact works closely with “six or seven collaborators” as a “collective philosopher.” He also said that he doesn’t raise his son in a vacuum, and joked that his son was “a good Stalinist.”

While reviewing notes, Zizek told the audience why he was a philosopher. He does not want to explain and account for the unaccountable, and instead wants to “render strange something we accept as given.” Seeing things in a new way to “help us get a small shift of perspective to see the unexpected, implicit consequences” of thought and actions. “We do not know where we truly are,” he stated, adding “we do not know what is really going on. We are in a radical crisis,” he concluded.

Hinting upon subjects that currently interest him, Zizek mentioned our extended use of computers as a means of redefining what what it means to be human. He also noted his interest in how the historical foundation of the radical right stems from the radical left in the United States. “John Brown was a crucial figure to radical history…. Kansas embodies the tragedies of American radical politics.”

As a tepid Q&A session ended, Slavoj Zizek awkwardly walked up the aisle to go to a table and sign autographs for people. As I stood there watching him meet and greet, no one attempted to engage him in a discussion beyond a “thank you.” Wondering what I could possibly ask a man who’s IQ was twice mine, I stood there speechless as well. Before his low-key exit, I did get to answer a question of his, in my mind at least. Zizek was wondering where Modern Times bookstore was, and everyone in the lobby could answer that question. As he walked out the door, I had to agree with him on his main point of the night. As a philosopher, Zizek gave me a taste of that “small shift” in my thinking.

Operation FALCON: Sign of Things to Come?

An unsettling story came to me earlier this week. The source stated that two ACTUP SF activists were arrested by FBI agents. Warrants were issued, computers and other items were seized, and the other ACTUP SF activists were a bit dazed by the precision quickness of the FBI.

Several days later, coroprate newpapers and Web sites reported the success of Operation FALCON. They drew their sources straight from the U.S. Marshals’ press release and, in some cases, locally embedded (see the Philly.com link; may need a subscription) with the officers (see the Philly.com link; may need a subscription). Operation FALCON has been herelded as the largest round-up of fugitives in the history of the U.S.A.

I can’t help but connect the local incident with the activists to the nation-wide Police sting on all kinds of “fugitives” and “felons”. Discussing this connection made me consider whether or not there were other activists rounded up in this national sweep that AG Gonzalez did not disclose to the public. I also wonder if immigrants and activists of color were targeted in this operation.

The use of widespread Homeland Security type measures also point to historical sweeps made by the Soviets and the Nazis, causing one who criticizes the federal government to give pause. In recent history, many totalitarian nationalistic governments arrested, executed, and imprisioned the opposition and the outspoken. It still happens today, with Southeast Asia and South America being examples. One can think “If it happens elsewhere, then why not in the United States?” though our democracy and constitution should protect us from that.

Some of the “fugitives” and “felons” probably deserved to be captured, but to make a huge PR campaign out of it stinks of propeganda for flag-waving Americans. At a time when President Bush’s ratings are in the gutter there’s nothing like a huge police operation to satisfy the masses. And though I don’t necessarily agree with ACTUP SF’s beliefs, I do think they are entitled to expressing them and performing civil disobedience for them. That’s what you’re entitled to do in a free country. Let’s hope that this huge PR police sweep isn’t a sign of things to come. If so, watch your back and know who your friends are.

Leaving Something Behind

If you’re a lefty, liberal, or radical (insert another label here if those three don’t cover you or refuse to be labelled), then you’ve probably hit the pavement for a good ole’ march or two. I imagine that most of the population of San Francisco has done some form of protest marching in the streets, even the folks up in Pacific Heights have probably done pro-dog marches, or one of the many many other marches that happen in the City (permitted or not). Coming from an area of the world that barely walks on the sidewalks, let alone the streets, and only protest when Starbucks gets their latte order wrong, I look forward to expressing myself in public with folks who tend to agree with my opinions.

Marching United States style is also an empty form of protest for making actual change in the world. More than once I’ve felt that my efforts in a march did little to actually chang things. I have imagined the thousands of people in the streets, taking that extra step that Ghandi would’ve done, and causing large-scale civil disobedience. At the RNC march last year in New York City, we had the potential to really give a message to the world, and our country. What if we ALL got arrested for our beliefs, not just the radicals who were planning smaller- scale civil disobedience. I mean tens of thousands of people celebrating life and bogging down the system for a solid shout to the world.

Getting arrested is a little bit above empty at this point too in the US. Arrest numbers in the hundreds make great headlines, but do little in the long run except the usual: jail solidarity, lawsuits, and endless ranting about brutality and the system. Don’t get me wrong, that story needs to be heard, but I’ve heard it over and over for the last 8 years of my life and shit still stinks in the United States.

If there is one march I look forward to every year, it’s the annual St. Stupid’s Day March. For a remarkable 27 years, Bishop Joey (aka Ed Holmes) and the Subgenius/Cacophony crew have created what is intentionally the most stupid march of them all. Simply, freaks of all stripes dress up, meet up, and act stupid in a procession which hits the Financial District on weekday April Fools and goes up into North Beach on weekend April Fools. It is literally a rare chance to make fun of ourselves, mock the system (church, banking, working, etc.), and create a very creative form of civil disobedience (I’m not sure if the march is permitted but know that folks in the march are definitely pushing the limits of public expression).

This year, I wore a pirate’s costume and held a sign that had three different messages. Side one said “Will Loot for Fool;” side two said “Where B Yar Booty?;” and side three stated “ARRGH!” I held plastic dynamite and walked up to gawkers asking them where the nearest bank was. I also walked up to retail windows and tapped the glass with my dynamite. I also intentionally planted a small amount of cannibas seeds in the nicely landscaped flowerbeds along the route.

This year, I thought about the act of leaving something behind. The seeds were a physical item I left behind. All the pennies thrown at the Bankers Heart sculpture are left behind (and Bank America returns them to Bishop Joey every year), as are the lottery tickets that get thrown out at the Federal Reserve Building. Oh, and there there are the socks at the Pacific Sock Exchange.

But looking deeper, what are the less tangible things that St. Stupid’s march leaves behind? Certainly confusion (since nothing is begin protested, many spectators don’t know what the march is about), and definitely video and photos (people came out of stores with phone cameras to shoot the freaks) for the folks back home to laugh over. I saw one group of tourists clicking away and wondered what they’d do with those images (read the signs closely, see the deeper more radical parts of the march, etc.)

On the day when activists get to make fun of themselves, when the main chant is “No More Chanting,” what St. Stupid’s truely brings to the world is a fresh way of recreating reality. People don’t really gawk at the mainstream ANSWER marches because the spectacle isn’t there to pull them in and intrigue them (unless it is a huge march). Imagine if the scale of the creativity of St. Stupid grew like Critical Mass. Imagine dozens of cities having their roving freak show that protests nothing except getting out of the banalities of your cognitariat existance.

Would this make an actual change in the world? Maybe or maybe not. But every April Fool’s Day, on the streets dressed like a freak, I see kids of all ages get sucked in. This year I left something behind for the kids with my “ARRGH!” sign. Almost every kid I arrghed to arrghed back. They read my sign and the subtle anti-war messages that were on there (anti-capitalist too). Subliminal juice for the overstimulated mind to soak in when they get back to their hotel rooms. And maybe remember for the rest of their lives.

stencil Stencil Pain

Just so you know, my life tends to revolve around stencil art. You know, those sidewalk paintings that you see all over the Mission (or maybe a street in your hometown). I make them, collect photos of them, have friends who make and collect them, and even go through withdrawal if I don’t carry my camera with me everywhere. I love them so much I tried to sell a book idea to several publishers back in 2001. No one took the bait, so I taught myself how to make a Web site and created stencilarchive.org. Don’t bother checking out the link right now; the site is down once again.

Lately, stencils have been a painful part of my life. Before November of last year, I was working with a designer on a new redesign of the site. He assured me it was easy, is an activist, so gave me a great deal for his labor. I watched him design the new site and work the code. He sure as hell knew more than I did. All the features that I wanted, he found as “modules” with an open source code called PostNuke.

We worked weekly on the site. I watched him more than helped him, but eventually started uploading content to the new sections that I’d thought up. It was looking good, moving along, until the designer couldn’t make the album module work with my current host server. He suggested that I move the site to someone he worked with. The new host would work with us on allowing permissions that my old host wouldn’t open for security reasons.

I wanted the site to go live in October to crossover with the street art show I was co-producing. “For the People” had great art on the walls, and the scene showed up. It made no money and [content deleted due to accusations of defamation of character by the co-producer] So I never contacted him.

Stencil Archive went live on the Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday for celebrating loved ones who’ve passed into the shadows. The site was live for a few days and then went down. It took my new host’s other sites down as well. They wouldn’t let my site up for weeks while they upgraded their server and security shell. At one point, it went live and was instantly hacked via the PostNuke source code. A temporary headache, but another headache nonetheless.

While down, I had to beg my designer to work with the host admin to make changes. I wouldn’t hear from him for days, and then he’d pull an allnighter to try to get the site up again. I can understand his reluctance. I wasn’t paying him much (the site makes very little money), and he’s got other things in his life going on. He was very supportive when he responded to my pleas and actually got the site up again about three months after it went down.

Stencil Archive went live again with little fanfare this time. It was about 80% complete, so I had to reinstall the FAQ and some links. I had hundreds of stencil pics backed up to upload and didn’t have permission to access the albums. I had to ask my designer to help me with permissions, and he finally responded with another allnighter. It took the host’s server down again.

Last week my new host admin officially took over Stencil Archive. Though I was impressed by my desingers coding skills, he is not a coder. Now my bill for hosting and design just got higher. The admin called Stencil Archive a hobby site, though I’ve always wanted to have a store on there to at least break even on the price I pay to support it. It’s still down, and now the admin is trying to contact the designer to see what changes were made to the code. So the pain continues.

About the same time last week, the For the People co-producer [content deleted due to accusations of defamation of character by the co-producer]

Soon after that, the co-producer started [content deleted due to accusations of defamation of character by the co-producer] I called him on it.

He threw [content deleted due to accusations of defamation of character by the co-producer] Just isn’t my thang.

Anyway, [content deleted due to accusations of defamation of character by the co-producer]…terminated.

So the moral of this story, and the story has only been partially laid out here, is to try to get things in writing. This isn’t the first or second time I’ve been burned by supposed verbal agreements. CELLspace learned this the hard way and I guess I am too. When money is involved in shady underworld art scenes, a handshake is usually the beginning of a road to pain. If you don’t get things in writing, at least save every last e-mail and typed notes you have. It may clear things up down the road, or in small claims.

Sat. Wanderings

smoke Walking in the rain, back in the Mission to this fancy joint called Medjool (A fancy lounge in a fancy hostel? In the Mission?). Going to meet strangers for a stanger’s birthday gathering. She’s Lars, and the Russian hostess is no help in pointing her out. I recall her image, buried deep in her Tribe profile, and approach her at the bar. She’s cool in black, wearing a fuzzy Kangol hat, and a nice smile She gives me an appreciated hug.
Continue reading “Sat. Wanderings”

Oops!

Well, proof that I’m not a coding genius lies in the fact that I deleted the directories for the 1.2 version of this site. I wanted to upgrade to 1.5, backed up my directories, and then noticed that I had junk in there from other CMS-based programs (Movable Type and PostNuke). Thought I was just deleting the junk and I ended up deleting the WP directories too.

Oops! Tried to reinstall the backup according to WP’s support, and kept getting errors. So now the past weeks work is GONE.

I think I can recover some of the index rewrites and template changes. Hopefully I’ll be able to find a way to put the content back too.

Chalk one up for the Newbie…