One of my favorite commune “out of it” stories comes from the Super Bowl of 2004. Since you have likely forgotten, this was the year of the famous “Wardrobe Malfunction” which apparently helped spawn YouTube. I was in Morningstar kitchen and there were a dozen people there. It was two days after the Super Bowl in question and i said “If i were to say to you Janet Jackson’s left breast, how many of you would know what i was talking about?” No one could answer (i did not know if it was left or right, but i knew it would not matter). This year, like every year, there is a Super Bowl. Apparently the teams are quite close as far as the bookies are concerned. And supposedly they are some of the best teams in the game. I dont care that much, but i still hear these things. What i also know from indirect experience is that almost everyone thinks sports needs to be watched live. When i asked my sports fan friends about re-watching old games, even very exciting or close ones, they are nearly universally dismissive of this idea. Often saying strange things like they would prefer to watch a terrible live game than a brilliant one which was recorded even very recently. Often it is explained to me that i simply dont understand sports if i cant understand why this is true. Perhaps my ignorance is contagious. A whole collection of Oakers are planning on watching the game tomorrow. They have recorded it (probably without the $4.5 million dollar 30 second ad spots) and are going to show it on the digital projector with a bunch of people watching and pop corn and beer. But wont it spoil the game if they already know who has won? This is the lovely part, they are not going to know. Or at least they are going to try not to know, with a voluntary media and internet black out for about 24 hours. In the mainstream, it would not even make sense to try it. In the commune context, with a few strategically placed notes and requests to some of our more opinionated members who will have seen the game at the “proper” time this is actually possible.
Maybe i will watch the big game tomorrow in a place where time does not matter.
Update: There was a grand event in Degania (which i missed) with pizza and happy communards, until 3 minutes before the end of the cliffhanger game when the video failed and no one knew how it turned out. Yikes.
“Is this a friendly game?”
This question gets asked with some regularity where i live, and it has a unique and very specific meaning here. For most of the games we play, it means that we are going to be forgiving when people make mistakes or want to change their move/play. Specifically, it means that if no other game decision has been made by another player, you can go backwards and fix your play on your turn and not be penalized for it.
Occasionally this is frustrating, especially in a game like Dominion, where you might have preferred the inferior play of your opponent, before they got help with their play (either by figuring it out themselves or thru a helpful co-player). And this begs the question, what is the role for “friendly” in competitive gaming culture. i would argue it is huge. In fact, it is more important that people feel good about the game, especially after it is over, than it is that we play by especially rigid rules.
And for “serious gamers” the situation gets worse in games like Magic, where we have Armenian Rules. At the risk of being deemed racist, this rule is at the center of much of the “friendly” play at Twin Oaks and Acorn. The way the Armenian Rule works is if you are manna starved in a particular hand in Magic, you can, by your own determination, draw a land instead of your normal card from the draw.
We also permit the “paradise Mulligan”. Some games permit players who draw a poor or initially unplayable hand to shuffle the cards back into the deck and draw a new hand. Normal Mulligan rules in Magic, for example, are that when you draw your second hand you get one few card. This is a tax for your bad luck or poor deck design. In friendly games we are not interested in bad luck taxes, so you can just draw another full seven card hand. And if you bad luck continues you can draw another one, and so on.
Serious gamers retort that these types of rules are just an excuse to build a badly designed deck, and that if people built better decks this would not happen. And they are on some level right. And since Magic can be an expensive game to build decks for, by using Armenian rules and paradise Mulligans, poor communards need not invest hugely in specific cards that might make the deck work better.
But more importantly, as with most games, Magic is more fun if the score is actually close. Having one player stuck early in the game damages the game for everyone: it degrades the win, it is harder to learn anything, it can discourage you from future games.
We have something of a mix here at Twin Oaks and Acorn. Some folks are uninterested in who has the most points, but rather are in the game so that they can they play some lovely combination of cards or strategy. Most players are excited about a close game, where you have to think hard or get lucky to pull it out in the end. Some folks believe that adhering to the rules makes the games more fair and a truer test of skill.
And in the end it brings up the more philosophical questions as to what is the purpose of games. Some will trivialize them as a waste of time, others will point to them as a social lubricant, i use some games pedagogically. I think most players simply enjoy them, which might just be enough all by itself.
Check out these pictures of the back to the land movement in the late 1960s.
The new kids on the block are actually the old kids from the block, they are just back with a very politically potent offer which will hopefully be a new direction for the squatting movement – but i am getting ahead of myself, let’s begin at the beginning.
Freedonia is awesome. They have pioneered a new approach to squatting which makes it more resilient. They have tricked the police into giving them abandoned buildings. They host clever workshops, feed local and poor people for free and throw bad ass parties. All in an undisclosed location, in the shadow of serious urban decay, somewhere on the east coast of the US, far from anywhere Dick Cheney would think of hanging out.
An adventurous group of Freedonians (which is quite redundant phrase actually) set off on a bike tour to New Orleans. They called themselves the Vultures. There were puppet shows, there were narrow escapes from the police, there were complex polyamorous topographies – all the good things you would expect from our intrepid travelers. And there were lots of talks around open fires about how to step things up back in Freedonia.
Normal people would have looked at the impressive accomplishments of this full featured set of squats and said “well, we have done quite enough and we are already impressive and sustainable just the way we are”. But the Vultures would not know normal if it came at them with a knife (i’d bet on the Vultures in this fight though, normal don’t got a chance).
They decided they would kick it up a level and start income sharing. They returned from their bike tour, promptly broke into a house not far from their original places (which they had let others move into while they were on the bike tour and they did not want them to leave when they returned) and squatted it. And thus Vulture House was born.
They then offered to all of the other Freedonians to join them in this income sharing adventure. Readers of this blog will not be surprised that i think sharing and especially income sharing are instrumental in saving the world. We don’t know how many other local squatters will bite, but the Vultures are pretty compelling.
Stay tuned for more tales of intrepid revolutionaries from undisclosed locations.
The facilitator did not think it would fly. “How many people would help organize a sober New Year’s Eve Eve party?” But when more than half the room raised their hands in the Acorn Community meeting, the follow up question became obvious “How many people would attend such a party?” Almost the every hand went up in the room.
I’ve tried several times to organize large sober parties at the communes, there has not been interest or willingness to give up a major holiday for this experiment. But the case for New Year’s Eve Eve was pretty compelling. For starters, New Year’s Eve was not going to be sober, so it is physically draining to party hard this way two nights in a row. So a sober party first is an obvious fix.
But funologically sober parties bring a score of other advantages. One is talented people who don’t like to be around intoxicated folks so much jump at the chance to help make sober event happen. Purl performed a charming surreal puppet shows and enthused karaoke facilitation as part of the night’s complex mix of activities.
One of the things which i did not pull off at this event, because i was too busy driving shuttles to Twin Oaks, was a real new year’s resolution game. Using some as-yet undefined combination of appreciative inquiry and transparency tools, i wanted to craft robust resolutions that people would be excited about attempting, and compassionate with themselves around lapsing from. Just like Validation Day fixed Valentines Day, just like the communes institutional sharing fixes brittle agreements, i wanted to try to fix the generally reckless process of making a new year’s resolution. And at the center of this unfulfilled plan was sober, heady talk.
One of the things the commune does, which i deeply appreciate, is to throw multi-generational events. At this party it meant having littler kids in the early stages and the teens show up when the Magic card game started around midnight. Willow was the youngest, i was the oldest. And what was clear was that it did not really matter what your age was; what mattered was how you played, and age held little advantage in this deeply competitive game (i was one of the first eliminated).
One of the things i realized only after the event was that while the communes tend to run in the hippie direction in terms of membership, many of our friends who came to this party are punks. The punks are, because of their culture and because of the differences, inherently more edgy. Pulling intoxicants out of the mix made it more comfortable to have edgy, different people in our midst, especially for those who had never met them before.
People seemed to enjoy this well attended event, with a bit of luck, it will become and annual tradition.