Wednesday, December 16, 2015

For Those Who Stay

Working at the shelter is a uniquely personal and interpersonal experience.  Each week, and each shift even, you have hundreds of interactions ranging from the small and minute to the grand and conflagrating, which you evaluate and reflect upon, dismissing some and acting upon others.  It’s all quite taxing psychologically, and you shouldn’t be surprised when memories and anecdotes crop up in the most random places in your daily life, giving you, hopefully, not too long of a pause, but making you think of life in new ways.

On one of my last evening shifts, a longtime resident, who, due to frequent intoxication, eschewed forgetfulness and disregard on many a shelter night, said, “Wow, you’ve been here a long time, haven’t you? It’s really been an honor.”  I thought about telling her this would be one of my last nights, but I held back.  We reminisced for a little and then she proceeded to list several of her friends who had passed away in recent years.  “CJ...Kathy...Nicole…”  She talked about how it had been hard without them, but that she would survive.  She went back even further, and began talking about her family’s cattle ranching business in Nebraska, and the ornery pony from her childhood, but then she said, “I’m a survivor.  My father told me always, I must survive, and that’s what I’ve been doing!”   

Some might say I put a long time in at the shelter--five years, 2010-2015.  Five years is a David Bowie song covered amazingly by Seu Jorge, as well as the average career time for a NFL running back.  A resident the other night put it in a different perspective when he said he had been locked up in Florida for ten years, and was struggling to readjust to de-institutionalized life.  I can’t even imagine being confined in one space for that long.  It’s said that when that happens, you begin to lose almost all sense of who you were before you entered that space, and your sense of fairness in the world--with corrupt guards, carefree judges, and incorrigible inmates--begins to deteriorate.  The man told us he wanted to avoid recidivism at all costs, but said that everywhere, even in Boulder, it was hard to find someone who truly wanted to help him rebuild.  While in prison, he discovered Buddhist meditation and found it to be one of the only effective ways to ease his isolation.  He thanked the shelter for being there, but did not seem to have much faith in what seemed to him like another institution.          

Life is suffering.  My mother, like a lot of parents, used to tell me “life isn’t fair,” and I never really understood the reality of that statement (because of my privilege) until I worked at the shelter and saw firsthand the poverty and struggle I had previously only known through reading about it.  I decided that I would work every day of my life to change that, and while I may not always hold to that resolution, I can say that I sleep well at night.  There are some who adhere to the quote from author Jan Mark: “There’s no such thing as fairness. It’s a word made up to keep children quiet. When you discover it’s a fraud then you’re starting to grow up,” but I refuse. Maybe I refuse to grow up--potentially a source of insight(s) for a future teacher--or maybe it’s my youthful rebelliousness, but that’s what got me into this work in the first place.

I thought about using this space to go on a rant about capitalism, but I’ll just leave it at this: As long as there’s a free market-driven economy with cheap and unsustainable values (low pay) attached to human resources (labor), and unsubsidized private property (high rent/mortgages), you will have homelessness.  It’s a system predicated on having winners and losers, always. The man who went to prison for ten years attempted to get free money from a bank without a weapon.  A man with a suit and tie and briefcase and command of the English language can do the same and live comfortably for the rest of his life.  He can even complain about those who “don’t work hard enough and are just asking for handouts.”  Well buddy, you can’t take those riches with you when you go, and I’m fairly sure where you’ll end up in the afterlife.  Woe to those who aid and abet him!
I often tell friends that this job is a conglomerate of other jobs: counselor, clerk, security guard, parent, meteorologist, nurse, supplier, teacher, flight attendant, cruise ship director, barista.  Well, maybe not all of those but you see the picture; the list goes on with what you’re willing to take on.  One encompassing role this job enables us to be is a leader, a decision-maker.  I’ve learned how to act in the face of emergency, in the face of conflict, where previously I would have balked at the scene, like an innocent bystander, or redirected the problem to someone else.  The important thing to remember is that you have to act, that people are looking at you for guidance or support in a situation, and the problem is worsened if you let them down.  Stay calm.  Lean on each other for support.  Acknowledge the pain.  Acknowledge the success.  That’s what really makes everything we do at the shelter possible.  Not the consequences.  Not the boundaries.  Not the self-care.  Not the politics.  But the humanizing of each other through love and support and empathy.  To truly serve another human being is sacred and should be revered.      

Most staff who have worked with me know I like to play reggae and ska music on the computer in the staff office.  I like reggae because it embodies pure positivity and a desire to be enlightened, and calls for an end to suffering.  I like to think on those early mornings watching that beautiful sunrise through the east windows and telling residents to “take care,” “stay warm,” and “have a good one,” that the spirit of positivity will reverberate throughout the building from the souls manning dorm supply and the breakfast line to the clients accessing our services to the community at large that interacts with them.  In those rare, precious, and peaceful moments of contentment, I remind myself how blessed a community Boulder is to have this building and a bounty of resources for those less fortunate, not least being the labor of people who truly care about helping their fellow person(s).

How do we pass on the feeling that we are blessed to those who have been left without housing, proper medical care, or given a raw deal in life?  I’ve found the shelter to offer a myriad of ways to examine one’s privilege and sociocultural background, and how everyone who walks through the front door’s positioning plays out on the shelter culture.  It is an endless discussion that vastly exceeds the scope of this writing, but know it is there to be examined. I leave it now for the future.   

I like to think a providing force exists, maybe it’s not a supernatural one and is instead just a natural one, and that humans helping other humans collectively to survive was the original intent of this natural force, before communities got corrupted by power, modern industry, and social stratification.  I tend to blame these forces for the problem of homelessness when I get frustrated, or when people ask me what can be done to solve it, and I guess it’s helped me throughout the years even as unfettered capitalism and income inequality continue to grow unchallenged.  Perhaps it will always be this way, but we always have a choice...

As I finished up my conversation with the long-time resident in the courtyard, and was walking to the door, she said, seemingly out of nowhere, “ over us.”  I hadn’t told her I was leaving.   

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Jurassic World Stirs Up Excitement and Moral Debates

I waited 22 years for this moment.

That's almost as long as I've been playing saxophone.

When I ask my students the year of their birth, and I discern they were born after the year 1993, two comments quickly come to mind.

First, you probably don't know that the World Trade Center was bombed once before.   Besides news archives and other historical sources, a record of this event was kept on Biggie Smalls' radio-friendly track “Juicy” up until recently, when those in charge decided to make the song more radio-friendly by censoring the line “Blow up like the World Trade.”  You can hear this bastardized version most days on any revivalist hip-hop/R&B station in a town near you.  It's probably owned by iHeartMedia another revision of history known formerly as Clear Channel.

Second, you probably have never seen the original Jurassic Park, a hallmark of American cinema.  I sometimes add Independence Day to this revelation.  I then go on to pronounce the merits of the film interspersing random quotes (“Dino DNA,” “Hello John,” "Hold on to your butts," “Clever girl...,” etc.) into my speech, which by this point has lost all viability of being a teaching moment.

Well, that moment is here.  The next generation will finally get its chance to experience the ultimate fantasy of children everywhere as Jurassic World serves up a collage of familiar images, themes, and motifs.  There is a zoom-out shot of a black bird.  Shots of the lab featuring DNA strands and dinosaur eggs.  Tones from John Williams' original movie score stoke our sci-fi sense of wonderment yet again as we embark in helicopters and jeeps to explore the Costa Rican jungle island. Once again, dinosaurs escape, and once again, we are woefully unprepared.

We should be clear: Jurassic World is not a remake.  There are nostalgia-grabbing references and shots of the old park, which still lies in ruins, but director Colin Trevorrow and executive producer Steven Spielberg made sure to distinguish his film(s) from the old franchise.  That's why there's a scene in which Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) chastises a subordinate park overseer (Jake Johnson) for wearing a shirt with the red-and-black logo from the old movie.  He is quick to tell us its monetary worth on eBay—fitting for a character who seems to be hoisted straight from Comic-Con.

There are brief visits to the chaos theory and the unpredictability/inevitability of confining nature to man-made pens.  Lowery, the park overseer and a poor replacement for Samuel Jackson's character, even comments after all hell breaks loose on the island, “You should put that in the marketing for this place: 'Eventually one of these things will escape and eat a bunch of people.'”

Indeed, that is the basic plot for many an action movie, and several critics have remarked on the meta-level that the film resembles the park featured in it as a spectacular mega-attraction meant to be consumed.  There are also undertones of Sea World and Blackfish, but really, who doesn't love to see a giant alligator dinosaur (Mosasaurus) jumping out of the water to eat a shark?  At least these creatures are CGI.  I'm sure the seal from the famous Planet Earth Great White Chow-down enjoyed that scene from the grave.

The acting and dialogue, especially from Howard, is a little spotty, but the cast and crew get the job done.  Chris Pratt plays a strong, moral hero (Owen) separate and distinct from his prior roles, rarely devolving into the antics that made him popular in Guardians of the Galaxy and Parks and Recreation while still serving up a lovable, stern character.

His ethics, about not raising animals in social isolation and the ramifications of GMO dinosaurs, as well as weaponizing them, play a central role in the story and provide fodder for intellectual debates for years to come.  He sees the limits of his behaviorist training of velociraptors, but also recognizes the power of social construction as the raptors come to learn he is the alpha.  This is developmental theory in the context of extinct reptiles.

Owen's humanist sentiment applied anthropomorphically to dinosaurs clashes with Claire and John Hammond's successor Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan), in addition to the paramilitary antagonist Hoskins (Vincent D'onofrio), who all believe dinosaurs to be money-making/military assets, and call them just that. This little bit of anti-capitalist soul-searching was refreshing, and I was wondering whether the movie would lean the other way.  We can also be happy the movie is not racist.

These thematic battles combined with wild yet tactful action scenes adds up to a great representation of the franchise.  The film gives you a lot to talk about.  In the end, man has no control over its world. Nature does.

All you Hitchcockians should watch out for Pterosaurs.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Whether Amazon is Bad for Books

(as found in the New Yorker article “Cheap Words” by George Packer:

Jeff Bezos originally thought of calling his company
The relentless downward pressure on prices that Amazon enforces
has successfully fostered the idea that a book is a thing of minimal value—
a widget.
“I just don’t see what value you add.”
Amazon’s shape-shifting, engulfing quality,
its tentacles extending in all directions, destabilizing and intimidating,
is a ruthless predator.
A rising power with stock options and an enormous audience,
a titan of the digital world that helped lay waste to it,
Amazon has more control over the exchange of ideas than any company in U.S. history.
A monopoly is dangerous—
a single owner of both the means of production and the modes of distribution:
the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer,
Earth’s most customer-centric company assembling an ant farm
Amazon’s conquistadors galloped onward.
Amazon’s unparalleled power along with paranoia, resentment, confusion, and yearning.
What remains constant is ambition, and the search for new things to be ambitious about. 
An unrealized dream grandly called the Alexandria Project is to warehouse two copies of every book ever printed.
Amazon began as a bookstore unlike traditional bookstores—
books were a gateway drug—the feeling of your beloved indie bookstore,
full of hip, book-loving people.  
Many of them functioned as cultural centers, people browsed and exchanged ideas,
making their bets on books a matter of instinct rather than metrics.
It’s a tiny little business, selling to a bunch of odd people who read.
What purpose would they serve if reading went entirely digital?

A decade later, the company is a megastore,
not an indie bookshop,
selling more books than anyone in the history of the world.
Judgments about which books are increasingly driven by promotional fees—
ten thousand dollars to be prominently featured on the home page.
Editorial suggestions for readers with algorithms make recommendations for future purchases.
Original writing wasn’t even called content, it was known as verbiage simplified to verbage.
Even its bitterest critics reluctantly admit to using Amazon, unable to resist its unparalleled selection, price, and convenience.
“I drank the Kool-Aid.”
Transactions are as quick and thoughtless as scratching an itch,
just you and the BUY button,
which already knows your address and credit-card information,
and items you don’t yet know you want to buy
in a warehouse near you.
You don’t have to think about how much the cashier, with her wrist in a splint, makes per hour. 
The Internet’s invisibility shields Amazon from the criticism directed at its archrival Wal-Mart.
A high-tech version of the dehumanized factory floor satirized in Chaplin’s Modern Times,
Amazon’s warehouse jobs are gradually being taken over by robots.
Pickers holding computerized handsets are perpetually timed and measured as they fast-walk up to eleven miles a shift, expected to collect orders in as little as thirty-three seconds.
A stress expert said, “The evidence shows increased risk of mental illness and physical illness.”
None of Amazon’s U.S. workers belong to unions; the customer would suffer.

“Proceed as if your goal is to put everyone selling physical books out of a job.”
Ceaseless innovation and low-wage drudgery makes Amazon the epitome of a successful New Economy company, pushing American culture under the control of ever fewer and more powerful corporations. Its brand of creative destruction might be killing more jobs than it makes.
The quest for publishing profits in an economy of scarcity drives the money toward a few big books. When consumers are overwhelmed with choices, they all tend to buy the same well-known thing. Americans don’t read as many books as they used to – too busy doing other things with their devices.
Writing is being outsourced, because the only people who can afford to write books make money elsewhere.  The real talent—the people who are writers because they happen to be really good at writing—they aren’t able to afford to do it.
Analyzing surveys and viewing patterns does not describe a path to artistic excellence. You can easily argue that it stymies experimentation, that it prevents innovation, because the audience is telling you what they want.
The prospect that Amazon might destroy the old model of publishing—fifty to sixty percent of the list price goes to Amazon or another retailer, the price of best-sellers below wholesale and so low a serious threat— How long before publishers have to slash the cover price of all their titles?
Amazon had carefully concealed that number from publishers. “We don’t discuss our business negotiations with publishers.”

Bezos announced the Gazelle Project, that Amazon should approach these small publishers the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle.
One of the few people in publishing willing to criticize Amazon on the record, faced with his own professional extinction, and perhaps the industry’s, knew that they would stop being favored by the sites algorithms if they didn’t comply, realized that Amazon had their house keys and their bank-account number, and wondered if that had been the intention all along.
By the next day, the BUY buttons had disappeared from Melville House’s titles on
“When are you going to get with the program?”
Like dinner with the Godfather, he capitulated, paid that bribe and the books reappeared.
Amazon effectively had a monopoly in digital books and was selling them so cheaply it resembled predatory pricing.

Amazon’s obsession with secrecy and aversion to scrutiny creates problems for people whose job is to expose what powerful institutions want to hide.
The humanists brought a strain of intellectual irony that set them apart from the company’s cult of relentlessness, and formed a counterculture that never fit easily in a company ruled by computer engineers and MBAs who valued data most and believed only in measurable truths.
That gives you some idea of the level of business focus.
Bezos announced that the next eighteen months would be devoted to making serious profits, suggested eliminating the editorial department, and simply squeezed its suppliers harder.
Amazon demanded ever-larger co-op fees and better shipping terms.
The arrogance level in Silicon Valley is very high.
The virtue of markets in solving social problems.
Sell more devices and sign up more Prime members.
What we want is traffic through our device, and we’ll do anything to get there.

As I recover from being punched in the face by Amazon,
a shared sensibility for a certain kind of fiction or nonfiction writing unites everyone along the way; the only point that Bezos enters that chain is to take all the money and the email address of the buyer.
There’s an entire community of people locked in a death struggle with Amazon and the distracted American reader, and Bezos stands in the middle of it and collects the money.
What gave publishers the idea that this was some big goddam business? It’s not—
Steve Jobs once remarked, “Customers don’t know what they want until Apple shows them.”
Amazon’s view is the opposite:
Publishers are tastemakers deciding what customers should read, listen to, and watch.
But gatekeepers are also barriers against the complete commercialization of ideas, allowing new talent the time to develop and learn to tell difficult truths.
When the last gatekeeper but one is gone, will Amazon care whether a book is any good?
Then Amazon will have eliminated the human factor from shopping, and we will finally be all alone with our purchases.
“People forget that John Henry died in the end.”
Machines defeated human beings.
Sweet words

Monday, April 8, 2013

Guns and Poaching

 As the national debate over gun control rages and subsides, the ineptitude of Congress is highlighted and the threat of another mass shooting continues.  The media promotes and thrives in two-sided impasses like this because they can appear fair as well as contentious, attracting lots of readers and knowing the script. You hear the standard arguments on both sides (need I repeat them?), but there’s one argument I stumbled upon that incorporates a larger worldview on the issue of gun violence and tips the scale for me: poaching. I’m not saying it’s the strongest argument, far from it, but it’s one more consideration to throw at the puzzle of gun control, with room for ponderment and debate.

While watching Wild Russia: Siberia, a Planet Earth offshoot at a friend’s house, I noticed how often the narrator Clifford Wells would say the words “endangered” or “critically endangered,” and I couldn’t help think about the reasons why these strange and magnificent creatures were diminishing. Wells cited only  “increased human activity” as the culprit, which could be a lot of things, roads, railroads, mining, pipelines, pollution from construction, but no doubt over-hunting and the use of guns had a part to play. 

Is it possible that proper gun control, say bullet tracing, could put an end to poaching or over-hunting? Is it possible that proper gun control could have prevented the decimation of multitudes of once-thriving species? Would we still have massive herds of buffalo on the Great Plains or packs of wolves in the Ohio River Valley if we had enacted gun control around the time of the Louisiana Purchase? Maybe we should all just blame it on Jefferson.  

Certainly, there are other types of poaching and resource extraction that don’t involve guns that affect the environment just as negatively or worse. Hunting of animals by humans has been practiced for centuries, it’s just the more modern form that has gone awry, whether it’s seafloor dredging, commercial farming, or cutting down bird and insect habitats for paper. There is a sustainable way we need to hearken back to before we deplete all that we cherish.   

It reminds me of a scene from Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder, where a purple dwarf star morphs into a DNA repository for all the endangered species of the Universe. The Encyclopod decides to save a sample of human DNA, and Fry wonders out loud, “But I thought you only saved endangered species?” The creature offers a curt “farewell” and brisks away.   

I’ve always thought the world was a better place before guns; fighting with swords and bows, while admittedly more gruesome, is something an adolescent boy obsessed with fantasy and science fiction can’t shake off, but at least it was harder to kill something. You had to really want to do it. You had to be hungry and in need of protein or cold and in need of clothing to hunt down that wild animal for its meat and fur.

For most, it was probably an unpleasant experience or necessary chore, something they didn’t want to do all the time, hence natural population controls. Guns come along and it’s suddenly easier to kill something. Wars become quicker and more widespread, massacres and war crimes more commonplace, and the fate of wild animals and their ecosystems put into question. Guns and the more chilling effects of industrialization are inextricably linked.    

Here is where the media zeitgeist comes back into play. Guns and the fear of guns. People have documented and commented on the negative tone of news stories which always seem to focus on murders and robberies and accidents. You may be a responsible gun owner who goes off into the hills and gets his jollies shooting rounds into beer cans, but the story you hear on the news is “man gets shot in hunting accident.” Or “three die in car shootout” or “kid gets shot in eye by bb gun” or “police shoot man for pulling out wallet.” These news stories happened, but you don’t always hear about the “man who had a safe time with his buddies shooting pop bottles.”

Fear is a multi-edged sword (or mace) in that we fear these horrible news stories happening to us, so we go out and buy guns to protect us from such incidents. “Protect yourself from that cat burglar watching your house.” “Make sure you’re strapped when you walk past that crack dealer on the corner.”  The reason we have so much gun violence in America is because a lot of us are just paranoid and afraid.

There is no question that common sense measures (background checks, owner registry, ammo tracing, limited capacity magazines, etc.) are necessary, and do not restrict the Second Amendment rights of American citizens. The gun lobby, like a lot of lobbies, may be the real reason change has not come. There is plenty of regulation in other industries, but the ones with the most powerful lobbies in Washington, not so much.

I’m for banning certain types of weapons and/or at least making it real hard to obtain those weapons, but for me, the issue lies more deeply in our culture and how we interact as a community.  Are we being friendly, honest and transparent with our fellow citizens, or lying and manipulating to gain constant advantages of power and money? Is the greatest accomplishment in being human the power to dominate and destroy or do we have a softer, nobler and more holistic side?  Does the history of poaching and the extinction and endangerment of thousands of creatures due to unregulated human behavior teach us anything about failing to have gun control?  

I think so.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Print Extinction Level Event

Is anybody else worried about the possible extinction of paperback books? The decline in newspaper and magazine sales is evidence of a disturbing trend that the experience of reading, specifically print media, is dying away. The fact that you’re reading this, maybe on a tablet, possibly on a smartphone, most definitely on a computer of some sort, is a testament to the continued digitalization of media and the decline of what for millennia was the accepted form. Sayonara papyrus reed paper!

The popular rise in tablets and smartphones has predictably cut printing by nearly 10% according to some IT experts. This should make an environmentalist like myself happy, since less paper means less trees and water being used to make it.

However, I can’t shake this dark, dystopian fear of no longer having a paper trail. Editors and publishers could log in, on a market-driven whim or perhaps government-influenced decision, and “misplace” words, censor ideas, or change the identity and meaning of the whole piece. I’m talking about unsanctioned changes by the author, and this would most likely be long after the author is dead; God forbid a living author having to keep checking his online manuscript for the aforementioned errors.

Writing blogs as I do, I’m worried that even my Google docs are at risk. The cloud makes it easier and easier for third parties to solicit high-profile data and influence ideas to make them more palatable to consumers. You could argue this happened before on a much slower time-scale by market research firms, polling surveys and even king’s councils, and perhaps that’s natural for economies and societies to rule themselves, but the speed that this data, which makes internet videos viral and horrible singers pop sensations, is crunched into corporate policy and market trends is unbelievably fast. No single man or woman is above it. Contrast that with the speed that ideas in books spread and you’ll understand the change that our society is in the midst of.

Unauthorized editing already happens in theatre and film adaptations of books, usually to the begrudgment of readers and the fan base. A powerful studio with millions of dollars and lots of influence (look up the MPAA) comes in and says ‘Hey, this lovely, pastoral children’s story needs to be amped up with special effects and action scenes that never existed in the book because we need to sell 3D glasses and movie tickets to kids (and adults) who will never read the book.’ In fact, Hollywood, and it’s little sister television, is arguably responsible for the low levels of readership in America, contributing to the sad statistic that 20% of Americans did not read a book last year.

Perhaps it’s just paranoia and maybe I read too many books like Fahrenheit 451 and 1984 as a child, but the possibility of unauthorized editing and potential censorship is still there, and the likeliness of it happening even once is very high. To my knowledge it hasn’t happened yet in digital literature, but we likely wouldn’t hear about it if it did.

Putting those fears aside, you can still make an argument that e-books and e-ink are bad for readership habits. Many people find themselves getting interrupted by the urge to surf the web on tablets and computers, and you can’t really lay out on the beach and read without getting distracted by glare, running out of battery, or worrying about sand and water creeping into the crevices of the device. These things can all lead to losing the desire to read for pleasure.

You may be one of those folks that really enjoys their e-reading, and I don’t want to knock you off your high horse, but I think we can agree there are tangible benefits to the experience of reading a paperback or magazine that can never be taken away. As long as future generations of media producers and consumers understand and respect that, and as long as fire brigades don’t go around burning piles of books and superstates don’t invent languages without seditious ideas, then I think the world will be just fine...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Weight of Consumption review

Last week was a frenetic blitz of rehearsing for our ensemble dance entitled “The Weight of Consumption,” one of Pick Up America’s Denver-based art projects choreographed by our very own Kelly, featuring as accompaniment, The Recycled Peace Drum, a shopping cart behemoth of a drum recently painted at the Hanuman Festival in Boulder to resemble a Dr. Suess creation.

Dancers and drummers were recruited to what became a volunteer cast of fifteen. We practiced several hours a day in the heat of the afternoon at Guildwerks this past week. Drought, record heat and no air-conditioning combined to make folks in attendance exclaim that the dance studio smelled “a bit like spaghetti.”

The story behind the dance is subconsciously tied to what PUA members have witnessed and internalized over the past two and a half years on the road picking up America’s trash. It recollects a past of abundance and sustainability, when rain fed us, and captures the moment of transition when that system was broken, as we hungrily sucked up the resources nature granted us and became solitary and disoriented. It ends with a realization that we can only get back to having healthy communities if we help each other break the material and immaterial chains that consume us. 

The themes and rhythms were evocative of a tribal rain dance, and given the extremely dry conditions and fires throughout the state of Colorado, many who looked on prayed it would indeed bear real fruit. As we made our final preparations and rehearsed Friday afternoon, the storm clouds gathered, and a vortex literally opened in the clouds above Guildwerks that resembled a dragon’s tail or snail shell. It proceeded to rain much-needed inches the rest of the night.   

We performed the dance twice Friday night. The first time was filmed and recorded live in the parking lot of Denver Open Media, where we were joined after the first act almost spontaneously by a march of Occupy Denver. Fortunately, the break between acts allowed Lily to read her lines as a mic check, the preferred form of communication in Occupy gatherings, and our voices were joined to those of the movement.

Occupy patiently let us finish the dance, and then asked us to join them, which led to a moment of inertia common to protests, and feels like the beginning of a battle charge, when everyone in a large group is focussed on a singular goal and taking to the streets. We decided to take the drum and join the Occupiers because moments like these don’t happen enough historically or presently.

We marched briefly down Santa Fe as First Friday was beginning to jump off. The art walkers stopped and cheered and took pictures, enjoying what to them was just another art piece as performance. Maybe that’s the best way to reach people; Pick Up America, after all, is just one big performance art piece trying to inspire change.  

The PUA contingent decided to head back and transport the drum and crew back to Guildwerks for our second performance. Guildwerks had invited us to perform at the unveiling party of a giant lotus flower effigy, built for Burning Man by the Colorado C.O.R.E. chapter. Several bands and DJs were playing including the ever-rawkus Inte Tribe.   

The second performance of “The Weight of Consumption” was even better than the first. As a drummer, I felt we rocked it and the music and dance was synchronized seamlessly. The crowd applauded us and in their enjoyment of our social commentary and the pondering of its message, our mission with this project was fulfilled. We now must finish building the bottle-brick bench in Five Points, and look ahead to crossing those mountains in the distance.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Blade of Daedulus

Here's a little weapon I created for all my nerdy D&D friends...:)

Blade of Daedalus
This unique broad sword is said to have been wielded by a skeptical young bard from Mosstone within the Tethyr region of Faerun. Mosstone borders the gigantic forest called The Wealdath and hosts a grove of powerful druids who run a school for the town's wealthier children. They focus on awakening spiritual potential and proper respect for nature and creation through prayer and ritual. Daedalus, at first a bright and obedient lad, became disillusioned with the strict dogma of the druids, and insisted there had to be more to the world. He decided to forsake his religion and leave Mosstone, traveling where the winds of beauty and exploration would take him. It is rumored the blade was forged by the elves living in The Wealdath after they heard of Daedalus' obstinate inquiries to his druid superiors and eventual banishment. It is said an elven envoy met Daedalus on his way north, along the Trade Way as it makes its route through the forest, and gave him the sword, granting him the blessing of Akadi, goddess of air and movement. Inscribed along the blade's edge are the Elven words for "silence, exile, and cunning."
Damage: 1d12 +4
Critical: 19-20/x2
Type: Slashing
Hardness: 10
Make: Elven
Usable by: Neutral
Immunity: Paralysis, Petrification, Slow
Once a Day: Silence (Lvl 2)
Once a Day: Globe of Darkness (Lvl 2)
Once a Day: Detect Thoughts (Lvl 2)