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No bosses, No sunroofs

Outside of Eugene, Oregon and the intentional communities movement, pretty much everyone has a boss.  There are some acceptable bosses, but overwhelmingly people are, i observe, dissatisfied with their bosses.  The miracle of the income sharing communities, is that we are largely able to run our cottage industries without the oppressive or disagreeable part of the boss role.  At Twin Oaks we have managers, who have labor and money budgeting responsibilities, but they very rarely tell someone that they need to do something.  They often request people do things, but this is not what bosses do, they tell people.  At Acorn we have even ditched the title of manager all together, and things run just fine thank you.

bosses be like

When Occupy sparked, there was much conversation at Twin Oaks as to what Occupy Twin Oaks would look like.  What would be our demand for a more fair and just society in the already fairly idyllic world of the commune?  As we got further into this investigation, we realized again who wonderfully fortunate we were.  “Seconds at 6:15″ was one rallying cry that dinner seconds should be available earlier rather than the current 6:30 PM time.   If this is what we are demanding, then things must be pretty peachie.

There are of course trade offs.  To not have crime, we have to give up living in the city,   To share cars together we have to give up access to the sunroofs in our cars.

sunroof

Don’t even think about it

This might sound odd at first, or perhaps even unfair.  But when we get a new vehicle which has a sunroof in it, one of the first things we do is disable the sunroof.  We do this because if we don’t some member will leave the sunroof open and the interior of the vehicle will get soaked.  So the least responsible of us dictate the self protective behaviors we embrace that strip us of personal freedoms.

This irks me until i remember that i am one of the people most likely to leave a sunroof open.

 

 

 

 

Becoming a Digital Nomad

When i was growing up, one of the most transformative adventures one could take was walking off the land you knew with a small bag and a daring attitude and sticking out you thumb and hitchhiking away.  This is still true, except the clever traveler will add to their small bag an internet connected device.

There is a growing knowledge base of digital nomads and the first and perhaps most important piece is hitchwiki.org.  If you have ever hitched much you know there are places that are hard to get through, good spots where drivers are likely to pick you up and routes to avoid.  The problem is that regular maps and guidebook almost never tell you where these places are.

Did you know there are dramatically different laws on hitching, state by state - source hitchwiki

Did you know there are dramatically different laws on hitching, state by state – source hitchwiki

Hitchwiki tells you not only what the laws are in different regions but also what the local customs are and how to best catch a ride.  It also has user edited maps of the roadway system, including stories and advice for how to have a successful journey.  Knowing the hitching culture and hot spots dramatically increases your chances of getting where you are going.

But what if you don’t know where you are going?  What if your adventure is not highly scripted and you are looking for like minded people who might put you up, without asking you for money?  Many people have heard about couchsurfing, but there is a better radical hospitality system called BeWelcome.org.  It is better because the people who are involved in it are more interested in connecting with travelers in a meaningful way and less about being party tourists.  While BeWelcome is far sparser than couchsurfing, it is designed to accommodate hitchhikers and it makes sense to populate this democratic and transparent site with new people, rather than continue with the for profit beast.

bewelcome-rev-bw03

It is also worth pointing out that the software developers who created BeWelcome built much of the Couchsurfing site, before leaving the WalMart of peer to peer hospitality for ideological reasons.

But lets say you have no money and want to eat.  Enter TrashWiki.  Another site which has content contributed by many users, it is dedicated to finding food and other valuable things which have been thrown out.  In some cases this is where the good dumpster are.  In other cases it is where pre-dumpster things can be found or where you can find dumpster diving partners.  Better than OK Cupid if you this is your area of interest and you are looking for a match.

Digital nomadism is about using the power of the internet to take a step away from conventional lifestyles and instead trust strangers, rescue waste and see new parts of the world.

 

 

 

Paul’s Plausible Proposterous Proposal Party

What do you give to the person who wants nothing (for themself)?  Perhaps  you would give them an idea.  Ideally it would be an idea so novel, funny, daring, newsworthy and crazy enough that it just might work.  This is where i need your help.

So perhaps he needs more precise make up

So perhaps he needs more precise make up

This Friday is GPaul’s 30th birthday and we will be in NYC continuing with our community building Point A work.  I am responsible for his under organized birthday event.  Pleasantly, he personally wants little, demonstrated by (among many things) his willingness to stay in a tiny shoe box room in the barn at Acorn for years after he could have moved into a nicer one.

What we want collectively is at the other end of the accessibility spectrum:  High visibility, inspiring,  urban based, income sharing, intentional communities.  And what I am asking from you, even if you can’t join us for this post Pride Friday night party in NYC is exotic memes.

 

Taxi harness at Burning Man

Taxi harness at Burning Man

What  preposterous yet plausible proposals do you have for how to spark new urban communities?  Some examples might help.

Party til Occupation. Both  the mainstream media and progressive activists were surprised by Occupy.  A call was made for a broad protest, as thousands have in the past, and people showed up in Zuccotti Park and ultimately across the country and started building political community.  What had not been expected was that people from different classes and races could work intimately together using consensus to improve the treatment of the poor and the homeless and highlight corruption in banking and politics.

What if (after finding a suitable site) we decided to hold an open ended party.  Different collective groups from the city take responsibility for making sure there are people and party goodies for some specific set of days for perhaps the first month or so.  Then if it turns out that people are enjoying the party, renew the invitations and simply start pretending that permanent occupation of the site is a desirable and possible outcome.

startup community

CommunityCupid.org.  Instead of a one on one dating site, this new social network helps people find others to live in community with.  This does not need to be a single place based residence, it could be buying clubs and other aggregate discount services.  And the structure of the site and the data is such that it is designed to bring people who are looking to spark community into the conversation.  A relatively simple solution for starting up such a project might be as a Facebook plug in.

These are two examples of unlikely, but desirable projects.  I am hoping you can add your own to be part of the birthday fun.

On Friday we will gather all the cards and all the participants we have and each person attending the party will draw 3 or more cards and choose the one which they think they can defend to the group the best. Then they will present the bold proposal of their selection and the rest of the group will evaluate the proposal to see if it is worthy of pursuing.

If you are in NYC this Friday, then email me and I will tell you where this event is in Brooklyn.  If you can’t participate, but would like to submit a preposterous plausible idea you can either email me or leave it in the comment field.

 

 

 

Shuttle Driver to the Perfect Party

When i was in Death City getting Willow a second passport, i got 4 text messages asking if i could drive the shuttle home from Trout’s bachelor party (which was 100 miles away in Louisa VA).  Showing not surprisingly that people have trouble keeping track of where i am. It also shows that i am a first responder shuttle driver.    A reasonable assumption actually.

i need to get one of these cool hats

i need to get one of these cool hats

Earlier in the week i had been a shuttle driver for Fox’s bachelorette party.    Mostly, this is the short but menacing drive from Twin Oaks to Acorn.  Menacing in that getting home after the party can be tricky somethings, trying to guess how long the party will be fun, if this person flirting with you is going to stick around, if you will like the next band of DJ as much as you do the current one, if you can stay later and still get up early for that shift you probably never should have scheduled yourself for.

Which shuttle is best?

Which shuttle is best?

And i am the first responder principally because i am generally willing and often available on short notice.  It does not take long, it is highly appreciated and i hardly drink at all, making me a great designated driver.  I am also on the insurance of both communities as a dual member and have access to both fleets of vehicles.  I am a like a universal donor.

Building Better Parties: Fox and Trout got married.  They did up the celebrations quite right, if you ask me.  They had two ceremonies and 2 pre-parties.  One of the ceremonies was a mainstream legal wedding, with family and close friends and a minister.  The second was held at Acorn with all the significant number of commune friends this popular couple have (pictures in a pending blog post), but it was hardly legal.

Luna at the party after the wedding

Luna at the party after the wedding

Before the commune wedding there was a bachelor party and a bachelorette party.  The communes often struggle with exclusion and especially around gender binaries.  The question of came up “Can i go to the bachelors party as a gal?”  The stock answer is “You should be at the party if you think you should be at the party.”  Gender is a personal choice.  You can be girl enough to go to the bachelorette party, even if your chromosomes think differently.

Sometimes there is no right answer

Sometimes there is no right answer

Many attendees were impressed by these events.  I was happy to get people there and home.

 

 

 

 

Tripper Error

Doing the “Louisa Bus” which is also called the “town trip” is one of my favorite jobs for the communities.  This is the centralized shopping job in which a single person drives into town with a collection of requests from members as to the things they want purchased for them.  As one person recently described it i am the “personal shopper” for the entire community.

I love the job because i get to learn about things which i never knew about before.  I get to sort of do a favor for everyone who submits a request.  People are generally quite pleased when their request slightly magically turns up where they wanted it.  I get to go to the food bank and rescue pre-dumpstered food.  Most weeks i can do both communities town trips at the same time.  And i am pretty good at getting all of the requests (sometime terrifically under specified) correct.

Pretty good until yesterday.

Today is anniversary.  Twin Oaks is 47 years old and one of our customs is the traveling brunch, where multiple cooks in different kitchens prepare somewhat different meals all over campus.  The day before these festivities is a big day for the town trip, because all the cooks put in requests.

Ezra put in a request for “Brisket in a Tube”.  i had no idea what this was, but was, as usual, confident that people in the stores would know.  I asked the deli gal at Food Depot, no clue.  I asked the deli guy at Food Lion, he did not know but he gave me a large piece of brisket and i assumed the tube part was unnecessary.

When i gave it to Ezra he pointed out that it was not brisket that he was asking for but rather biscuits.  In my defense, Ezra does have quite exotic spelling and he had left out the “u” in biscuit, so my mistake was somewhat understandable.

Ezra's Brisket in a Tube for me

Ezra’s Brisket in a Tube for me

Later in the day i went back into town and correct my mistake.  Biscuits are out this morning.  And Ezra also just presented me we the above dish, with the cooked brisket in a toilet paper roll.  And while the deli staff may have never heard of it, but today we are pioneering new culinary delights here on anniversary.

 

 

Aliens- The Truth- The New Activism Frontier

I believe in Aliens.

There I said it.

As you may know, I am pretty open about a wide-variety of things, including, but certainly not limited to my polyglamorous relationships, my obsession with twerking, and my desire for some radical heteronormativity in my life. (while of course still maintaining my polyglamorus status.)

I must come out of the space ship, although I hold some reservations about coming out of the space ship. I feel like I will be judged negatively and that the anti-nuclear activists and the communities movement will shun me, that I will have gone too “woo woo” or maybe people will think I’ve simply gone of my rocker. Perhaps if this was just a small part of me people would understand.

images

But, its not.

I think spreading the truth about Space Aliens and their involvement on earth is some of the most important activism we can do. I want to be the Chelsea Manning of Extra Terrestrials. The information NEEDS to be out there and people NEED to know that aliens are among us.

You may be thinking “wow paxus has finally snapped.” As if I haven’t already, excuse me.

The rest of you are thinking ” gee, I wonder why he thinks this.”

And a small number of you, the true truthers, are thinking “yes I believe too, please go on.”

I will gladly tell you the story of how I first became aware that Aliens are real AND living on planet Earth. I am especially excited because this is not one of the stories that I tell on loop at every event ever.

When I was in the Czech, protesting nukes, I met a women named Eleanora. Eleanora was, well, odd to say the least. Her diet is one example, she specifically like invertebrates. She always said in her weird, practically indistinguishable accent “It es so much easeiar to eat dah invertabras, you do not eben ned to peek meat off das bones! You jest squeese it out.” Of course I found it to be ridiculously adorable and we spent many nights together, discussing the protein humans are missing and how nukes may destroy the planet, you know, typical radical type stuff. Another odd thing, she introduced me to twerking, before twerking was a thing, she shared a great love for it.

One night we had plans to spend time together in one of the downtown areas of the czech, she called me and told me that she could not come out that night, she didn’t feel very well. She sounded like she had been crying and I asked her if maybe I could just come over instead. After some conversation she agreed.

When I got there she complained about feeling “allown on dis planet.” and feeling like “All the odders like me have jest given oop and become followers.” At first I thought this was just your typical activist breakdown. You know “The worlds gone mad! Nobody cares!”

But, I became fascinated about how often she used the terms “on dis planet!” and finally it escalated into her practically yelling “And dere destroying the galoxy for the rest of us!”

All the emotion faded from her face, realizing she had said a bit too much. I could see it in her face and me desiring transparency asked her to please explain herself. She took a deep breath and told me that she was a Extra Terrestrial from a somewhat nearby Solar System and that she was hear to try and stop humans from poisoning the universe. She said that her species is somewhat related to hers, but that they had blue hair and some other traits.

Suddenly it all made sense, why Eleanora was constantly buying brown hair dye, while being upset about using such nasty chemicals, and why we never played with her genitals. I didn’t complain because I rather enjoyed all the fellatio I was receiving.

How "in over my head" I felt about Eleanora after she first told me the truth.

How “in over my head” I felt about Eleanora after she first told me the truth.

This led to years and years of Eleanora introducing me to her underground ET politcal groups and explaining to me the various species of aliens, some being related to humans, some being shape shifters. Cats are aliens that take advantage of humans parental instincts.

Remember when I hitchhiked on boats?

Well the whole reason was so that I could get far enough out to sea so that I could get picked up by a spacecraft to and go visit Eleanoras family on the celebration of some religion from their planet.

Inflatable_aliens_at_Anonymous_protest

I have more information, but I have been to space and back multiple times since then.

This information needs to be out.

I know this is a lot to spring on all of you, but I swear it is all true. Its as true as my love for twerking.

Transparency is my favorite thing and this is no different.

Adieu.

Identical Pictures on the Same Wall

One of the regular Point A heated discussions is around divergent approaches to resource sharing cultures.  There is the typical communard way of free access to shared goods and then the libertarian solutions of decentralized micro markets.  In home based hospitality services this is exemplified by couchsurfing.org (which is basically free) and AirBNB.com/FlipKey.com (which are renting previously idle living space).

Unsurprisingly, my personal feelings are the more we can keep money out of theses systems the happier we will be with the cultueffects and social impacts.  And I am aware that these decentralized markets (where dynamic rents are exchanged) have tremendous appeal from both tenant and space owner.  In lovely compromise of these diverse systems, one Brooklyn friend  rents out his back bedroom via AirBNB and this pays the rent for the entire flat, and he camps out handful or more couch surfers in the living room, who are paying nothing,

or pay us

or pay us

One of the conventional after market sites on the internet is HoteWire.com which I have found about average air ticket prices and good rental car and hotel prices.  In the case of hotel rooms, they don’t tell you the name of the hotel so as to not be in competition with the hotels own site.  Bryonna and I wanted to run away for her birthday to the beach,  I found an inexpensive two and a half star hotel near the ocean facing Virginia Beach.  It had these two picture on the wall.

These two pictures are precisely the same

These two pictures are precisely the same

It was a cheap hotel.  But I have to wonder, did they think they were putting up two identical pictures in this room and people would not notice, or not care. or would find it funny perhaps?

fewer than 1 in 10 of these shade structures or chairs was ussed

fewer than 1 in 10 of thesethe shade structures or chairs was used

On the other hand, this monopoly of beach furniture rentals produces high prices and tremendous wasted surplus.  The business makes money presumably, but that alone does not justify the resources used to create these items which is then mostly idle and inequitably distributed.  Another small example that capitalism is pushing us the wrong way.

 

 

 

Hold these rocks and look out for the Piranha

Contrasting communities can be useful, because observing the differences helps us to see into the social and cultural implications of the alternative choices.  Until quite recently, one of the stark contrasts between Twin Oaks and Acorn was the number of orientations given to visitors who are considering membership.  Twin Oaks has around 19 over the three week visitor period, Acorn had just one.

Recently, Acorn realized that we needed a second one and Belladonna facilitated the first one this week.  It was on consent.  “Why do you need a whole orientation around consent?”  You might ask.  “Isn’t it enough to just tell people they need to ask before they can touch anyone?”  It turns out it is not.

No i dont want to kiss you

No, i don’t want to kiss you

For a recent visitor group at Acorn i gave our only orientation, which is mostly a tour of the community to one visitor, let’s call him Rod.  At the end of the tour i gave my rant on consent (see the official rant below).  I stressed that this appears to be one of the most tricky areas for visitors to get right.  That we have lost otherwise lovely visitors, because they messed this up and made an inappropriate pass at someone or were simply too physical without checking in.  I explained that part of what can be confusing is parties where it seems like members who have never been intimate before are kissing and cuddling with no sight that they have had these perhaps awkward and buzz killing consent discussions.  “Things just seem to be flowing, without words, can’t i flow too?”

No is the answer.  Just because you can’t see or hear the consent conversation, does not mean it is safe to assume it is not happening.  Rod indicated that he understood.  I felt good about our communication.  I felt like i had been clear about the nuances and the problem.  I patted myself on the back for advancing our healthy culture.  And as is frequently the case when i am self congratulatory, i was wrong.  Rod would later go to an Acorn party, get a little drunk and try to kiss someone who did not want him to kiss them.  His membership plans then unraveled.

So as good anarchist do, we change our internal culture around communicating consent.  And while Acorn still largely maintains a “you need to figure this place out yourself” attitude towards most aspects of community life (an approach one frustrated visitor describe to me as “The way Acorn orients people is you throw them into the deep end of the pool and say “Hold these rocks and look out for those piranha”) with consent stuff we are definitely stepping it up.

I did not make it to the workshop, but i heard great things about it and a bunch of Acorners as well as visitors went.  Belladonna Took and Strandbeest did an amusing role play of poor consent practices, intoxication, party etiquette and direct communication were all stressed.  Afterward i told the visitors who attended. “This is what we want you to export to the world.”

Aster suggested oven mits

Aster suggested oven mitts

 

Acorn’s Official Advice on Relationships and Consent Culture

We would like to cultivate a responsible sex positive culture, where sexual expression and engagement is not repressed or discriminated. That being said, idiosyncrasies and complexities of relationships here are not always readily apparent to newcomers, with premature involvement often yielding messy or unexpected outcomes. Being self-governed, we try to avoid strict policy statements that often oversimplify or fail to fully represent various member viewpoints; as such, we encourage relational choices of those involved to be made with thoughtful discretion, through an emphasis on interactive communication, personal responsibility, and clear boundaries.

If at any time you’re uncomfortable with surrounding situations or interactions, please feel empowered to communicate your needs and concerns. If you’re uncomfortable conveying your concerns face-to-face, please talk to any of your orientation cos (or anyone else you feel comfortable approaching) and we will make sure you have an advocate to support you and help you resolve discuss your concerns with.

Your involvement with current members may produce power imbalances. It is each person’s responsibility to go about relationships in a respectful, consensual manner. Your membership decision will not be influenced by romantic/sexual encounters during your membership visit.

 

 

 

Dumpster Dialog

“What are you doing?” She asked in her hot pink jogging outfit, removing her headphones.

She did not look much like this, but you get the idea.

She did not look much like this, but you get the idea.

What we were doing was obvious. We were climbing into the dumpster outside her graduate student housing at UVa and removing things of value. Several unopened containers of Naked Juice are at my feet and a blood red vacuum cleaner.

“We are retrieving things from the dumpster.” I said in a friendly tone.

UVa uses huge dumpsters

UVa uses huge dumpsters

“Why?” She asked. I thought this was clear as well, but given that she was willing to engage us, I thought she deserved a more complete answer.

“It is a resource redistribution system. People who have less [I motion towards Ocelot, a new Acorn intern, who is brushing off a salvaged consumer electronics device] rescue things from the dumpster which have been thrown out by people who are better off.”

“We have seen a lot of people doing it today.” She has stopped about 20 feet away from us.

Dress appropriately for dumpster diving

Dress appropriately for dumpster diving

I consider saying something about how this income disparity thing is a real problem. But I can’t figure out how to say it without making it sound like I am insulting or blaming her. I can see the other crew has finished with their dumpster and is heading towards the van.

“Lots of people moving out. So many nice things are being left behind. We have to go now, have a great day.” i offer as i jog with Ocelot down the hill to our comrades.

UVa forces students out of university housing nearly immediately after their final exams. Most students do not budget their time well towards the end of the semester and careful packing is often the casualty. We grab the vacuum cleaner and other treasure and head down the hill.

Despite our friendly chat, I assume she called campus security after we left. I did not want to chat with them as well, so we beat a hasty retreat.

Chuck it for charity

Chuck it for Charity – Poster

UVa should be credited with reducing the amount of perfectly good things which are thrown out. They started the “Chuck It for Charity” program which makes it much easier for students to put things of value into the hands of Goodwill and the Salvation Army, instead of into the land fill.

And as this and many other dumpsters attest. There is still a place for people who are willing to get dirty to extend the life of these many material goods which were destined for too early a grave.

Only Stupid People Dont Change Their Minds

On Friday’s i do the Louisa town trip for both Acorn and Twin Oaks.    This is basically a centralized shopping task, where any member of guest who wants something purchased in town fills out a pre-formatted form and slips it into the appropriate drawer in the main office at Twin Oaks (or writes it on the right clipboard at Acorn) and the town tripper goes and satisfies all the requests.  If you get your request in before 9 AM, there is a 95% chance you have it where you want it by 1 PM the same day.  This is a powerful and convenient system.  You don’t have to handle money, you don’t have to do the accounting, you are not even expected to thank the tripper.

Last Friday i got this TOR (Twin Oaks Request)

Willow's first TOR

Willow’s first TOR

i believe it is the first one Willow has ever written, it is certainly the first one i have ever gotten.  And my immediate thought was “He might stay.”

i have always assumed that Willow would in his later teens go off and do something that might result in him never returning to the commune.  In the last few years he has talked about becoming a lawyer.  This is after some years of him saying he was never going to go to school.  Parents who worry about their children’s college/employment plans before they are 15 are people who apparently don’t have enough to worry about.  Kids change their minds.

He says he wants to be a lawyer

He says he wants to be a lawyer

But the emotional impact of getting this first TOR was significant.  It was more than just a request for chips.  It was Willow stepping into the complex set of systems which make the clockwork community of Twin Oaks work.

The last two teenagers who grew up at Twin Oaks did not go away to college, unlike the half dozen before them who all did.  Instead they stayed and became adult members of the commune.  [One of the most common questions we get at college speaking gigs about the communes is "What do you do about kids education?"  For the college part, the answer is "We send them to college." The community does not simply write a check for the totality of tuition, fees, room and board.  Instead we go thru the entire financial aid package, do some combination of loans and grants and money from other places.  But what we make sure is that any one of our kids who wants to can go to the school that they get accepted at.]

To go from a kid member to an adult member is a non-trivial jump.  Your quota goes from something like 14 hours a week to 42.  You need to do a three week visitor period, but you dont go thru the regular membership input process, instead, if you make full quota as a visitor after 3 weeks we simply accepted you as a member.

wise parents

Until this TOR i had never really thought seriously about Willow following the lead of our most recent teens. When they became adult members they moved out of the residences where they grew up and where that their folks live, into different buildings in the community, where their parents did not live.   It is worth pointing out that both of these kids continue to have fine relationships with their folks.  And it is some type of vote of confidence that the commune is attractive enough to hold it’s own kids.

i am guessing Willow won’t stay.  He has an adventurous streak and will perhaps go see the world, or become a lawyer, or a lion tamer.  But who knows.  Kids change their minds.

—-

The title of this post comes from an interview with former UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.  When asked why he was seeking a second term, having initially emphatically claimed he was only interested in one term as Secretary General he replied in part “Only stupid people don’t change their minds

 

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