There are some tremendous pop culture holes in my life experience. Turns out the 10 years i was out of the US living in eastern Europe were the 10 years that the wildly popular TV show Seinfeld were airing. Socially critical pieces of cultural information – like who is the soup Nazi – are lost on me. I did not see Fight Club for many years. And it was not until the Twin Oaks parody of The Big Lewbowski trailer came out, did i actually see the real thing..
This video was being shown off last night at a small party at the far edge of Bed Stuy last night and i realized it is just too good to leave it unpromoted. There are lots of in-jokes for the commune, but if you have some experience with us, you might laugh as hard as i did.
One of my favorite aspects of life in the commune is that we are constantly trying new things. This is especially true in the arena of party design. Ali threw a new DJs party last night. We have a cache of regular DJs who know what we like, can get an empty dance floor hopping with the right sequence of songs and serve us well. With no disrespect for this collective resource, Ali wanted to explore some of our less conventional and newer music selection talent. She did it at the warehouse.
When designing parties, one has to make a bunch of decisions which affect the event. One of the critical ones is how much space do you create for the participants. Too little and people will leave because it is too crowded. If you create too much, the party will feel under attended and people may drift off or cluster in some smaller area.
The warehouse is huge, the night was rainy, there were three nice spaces created – the dance floor, the hangout room and the smokers lounge outside. All of the spaces had some folks, but the party would have been well served by another twenty people. Technical difficulties prevented us from hearing a few of the 30-minute sets that our alt-DJs had prepared; time to head to Acorn.
After all the sets that worked, the Acorners left en mass and we scooped up a few Oakers who were interested in continuing the evening. We considered a couple of places at Acorn to play and ultimately decided on the Rec Collective – short for Recreation Collective – a lovely single-room straw bale building which currently has no residents.
Considerably smaller, only 6 or 7 people could dance at the same time here. One person felt comfortable enough that they were able to for the first time to dance topless, earning the party at least a B grade if not an A. But the right combination of music and people who did not want to go to sleep made for an event which did not end til 4 AM when I drove home the last shuttle.
When I examine it thru a funological lens and ask “What made this after-party so charming?” Of course, part of it was the choice of music and the people interested in dancing. But as I look deeper, some of it was also that the participants all knew each other well enough to trust each other, but many had lots to learn and share with the other participants in the conversations which went on amongst the people who were not dancing.
For myself at least, there was a feeling of having taken a chance and gotten lucky. Sometimes the after-party does not really work out. Especially if they are in a different location that the original, the new site needs to be prepped, technical difficulties can derail the effort, the group needs to hold together while things are being set up and not drift off to bed or to the arms of some romantic interest they have been chatting with.
Ali is capturing funological principles & adages:
“What is the best way to run the last shuttle from the party?”
“To not do it because no one wants to go home.”
And while some people ultimately did go home at absurd o’clock, this after-party definitely had a dreamlike quality to it.
It has always struck me a odd that the decision making system most often employed by radicals and revolutionaries (in my experience) is a conservative one. While group culture can certainly effect it, consensus tends to gravitate towards the status quo, especially for complex or tricky decisions. Unable to convince everyone to try something different, the group will often keep doing what it has been doing.
I was talking to Tree on the phone about this phenomenon and she mentioned that one of the things she discovered in her research on Sociocracy was the opposite tendency. Most people who examine this Dutch developed decision technique walk away feeling like it is a more ornate and slightly different flavor of consensus. But I think Tree has identified the critical cultural difference.
Like consensus, Sociocracy uses a collection of decision making tools to help it guide the group towards resolution. There is however only a small amount of overlap between these tool sets. Sociocratic elections ask “who is best to do this job?” first, rather than “who is willing to do this job?” which often results in different people being selected than other selection methods. In my experience when the Twin Oaks visitor team was using Sociocracy, when we did it right, we could dramatically reduce the amount of time we spent talking about topics, especially by using the quick reaction round technique. This was where everyone in the group gave just a single sentence response to the proposal.
[The above graphic distinguishes Sociocracy from consensus in a way many, including Tree, find problematic - see her comment. On the question of whether Sociocracy is importantly different from consensus, we might disagree. Tree feels it is well inside the large consensus family. I think the different aspects make it at least a different dialect, and possibly even it's own language.]
The full set of Sociocratic tools and structures dwarfs formal consensus in size. There is far more overhead in learning Sociocracy. And central to the difference in these two cultures is how blocks are different. In both anyone can block. In (what I think are the better forms of) consensus decoding the blocks is the groups responsibility. Even though it often comes from a single person, the collective needs to elaborate it and then see if the proposal can be modified to address the blocking concerns.
In Sociocracy, the pressure is flipped. Your block needs to be “reasoned and paramount” if you can not convince the group it has these attributes the block does not stand. This is one of the ways sociocracy is progressive, rather than conservative.
The other, which Tree pointed out in our chat, is that Sociocracy has numerous built in tools for designing temporary solutions which will be tried out and then evaluated. Sunset clauses are regularly used in consensus, but in Sociocracy, everything is up for periodic evaluation, with an eye towards correction and refinement.
The cultural assumption of Sociocracy is “Let’s try something new, and make sure we have safeguards in place to protect us if something does not work.” While consensus more often says “if we can’t get the whole group to agree on changing, then we are better off staying where we are.”
But culture is mushy. I’ve been in consensus based activist groups which did our process on the way to the action – we started with the assumption that we had to constantly be doing things. Our critique was that the status quo around us was not working and our job was to be change agents. The culture of that affinity group was constantly advancing new things and trying novel techniques.
Just as easily you could get a persuasive intellectual in a Sociocratic setting who was always framing their objections in reasoned and paramount ways. And it would turn the organization into a discussion group.
[On a personal note: I have been remiss posting on this blog recently. It has long been my personal adage that "Excuses are like cotton candy. They have a sickeningly sweet taste but there is not much there, really." But in case you are curious, it is influenced in by extended family visits from Willows half brother Fabian from the Netherlands and his half sister Rachel from Death City visiting Twin Oaks. These lovely encounters have thrown further out of whack my engaged (not busy) schedule. Thus resulting in fewer blog posts.]
In the original myth of Prometheus, the hero ascends mount Olympus, where he fools the gods and steals fire from them [The myth then morphed into him going to the underworld.] Returning to the surface world, this fire is given to humanity and used to build civilization. But Zeus becomes angry with Prometheus and condemns him to be tortured for eternity.
Recent information made available thru the Freedom of Information Act indicates some important details of the myth have been left out. It turns out the gods knew Prometheus was coming and was planning to rob them. So the gods hid all of the good fires and left only the worst one behind for Prometheus to steal [Prometheus wrongly assumed there was only one kind of fire]. Thus Prometheus returned to earth with the wrong fire and with the wrong intent and correspondingly built the wrong society.
There is now a place for a new kind of Prometheus. One who works with the gods instead of stealing from them and uses the best fires, which the gods hid from Prometheus in the places we have only now started to look for them – in the wind, in the sea and in the sun.
It is time we started working with nature – instead of stealing from it, harnessing the power of renewable resources in wind, solar and sea-based technology. And with these we can build a new civilization.
During my many years living on the commune, i have never seen a scarecrow, until last week.
So I asked recently while I was hanging out at Acorn about the efficacy of scarecrows. What I did not know was that crows are some of the smartest birds out there, and while scarecrows quite likely will not be fooled by it, other problematic birds quite likely will be.
According to Cracked Magazine (is this a reliable source?) crows have been found to make crude knives from leaves and grass and then use those knives to fashion other tools. National Geographic goes on to discuss crows using vehicles and traffic lights to break nuts and retrieve them safely.
Scarecrows are not scared of a scarecrow as the name leads us to believe, but they are still potentially useful for the much larger number of birds, who are not as smart as crows.
[Edited by Judy Youngquest]
The Grey Lady is Lying to you
On the off chance you thought the NY Times as the last bastion of respectable journalism, i have bad news. The NYT energy reporter Matt Wald, is just a step short for climate disruption denying. Hopefully they will at least print some of the corrections from NIRS.
Originally posted on GreenWorld:
Yesterday, the New York Times ran an article by longtime nuclear power reporter Matthew Wald titled Hearings on Water Permits for Indian Point.
NIRS’ Executive Director Tim Judson found a lot to critique in this article, which bends over backwards to less-than subtly support Entergy’s position on Indian Point. The entire article, with Tim’s comments in brackets, italicized in green, is posted below. Further down, you’ll find a brief report on the substance of the issues raised at the hearing.
Matt, your bias is showing…
CORTLANDT, N.Y. — A giant power plant that kills tiny fish eggs is leading engineers, government officials, politicians and advocates of all stripes into a fourth year of debate about which side represents concern for the environment, and whether the fish are actually…
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