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An Empire of Vacant Lots

“All the trash comes here” Wolvie replied when i asked why they wanted to be in New Orleans. As a scavenger and builder from free materials, this is the carpenters equivalent of having a free lumber yard. But they went on to explain the much richer and complex relationship between the punks of this town and material wealth. It caught my ear because it centered around sharing.

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Wet chairs in a stylish vacant lot

The informal collection of people living in conventional housing and shacks and vehicles functions in many ways like the intentional communities i am more used to. Cars are lent for long periods, instead of buying or renting tools a distributed informal library provides for these needs, and friends are invited to move in. Wolvie comments that it provides access to the culture and services of intentional community, but they can still retreat to their own private space at the end of the day.

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The art and propaganda above Ruby’s desk

I visit a collection of punk homesteads where different “rent” models comfortably co-exist. Some folks are squatting, others renting, some residents are paying back taxes on abandoned properties in hopes of securing ownership of them eventually, still others have succeeded in owning places. The people i am introduced to flow between these housing options as luck, circumstance and employment permit. Work seems often to be gig based, to fit in with peoples needs for traveling or activism.

The names of collective properties make me smile: Kitty Meow Town, Liability Park and Squatopotomus. This flat rainy city is ideal for bikes and i have several offers for bikes to borrow in my first couple of hours in town.

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Over a decade after hurricane Katrina, the effects of the disaster are often visible. “We have moved from shock capitalism to disaster tourism” Catrina tells me, referring to Naomi Klein’s brilliant book Shock Doctrine. Construction is everywhere.
“I am becoming a boat punk.” Wolvie confesses. And within an hour of this confession we are off rescuing abandoned barges of the St John’s bayou.  Credit goes to Ruby for convincing the nay-saying boys that we could get these barges out of the water and loaded onto the truck.

barge on land

Ruby surveys our success.

With the help of a passing runner we landed this barge which had been built for a recent raft race and left behind. We are particularly excited by the US american flag paint job and make shift paddles.

Wolvie and Ruby on barge

“It is battery powered” jokes Wolvie.

NOLA is a party town. We stop at a laundromat/restaurant/bar which serves inexpensive frozen daiquiris and i find myself slightly smashed in the late afternoon. Mardi Gras is not just for tourists, the whole city celebrates for weeks with parades and musical performances and pub crawls. The colorful fabric of this place is woven by mixing diverse cultures and taking it to the streets.

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The piano has been drinking, and it is on fire.

All this begs the question, “Can we mimic the benefits of intentional residential community in scattered punk microvillages?” The New Orleans punk scene with its generous material cooperation, low cost and no cost housing, binding festivals and cultural events, and inexpensive social lubricants makes a compelling case.

why i am an anarchist

anarchism is the ultimate intellectual and ethical high wire act without a net.  it starts with rejecting the principle extant political institutions and dominant paradigms – but to get very far you need to build something. you need not build based on great thinkers of the past (tho some are available).  you can go where you find your passion and create something based on what you experience as true.  it is a broad anti-orthodoxy and thus everyone has their own slightly different personal flavor.  this is mine, i hope you like it.

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i share.  perhaps the greatest challenge to the dominant political models is the idea that you do not have to possess things exclusively. widespread change in only this cultural value could result in a far more economically just world, using the same or fewer resources. i own little myself and live in places where material things are held in common.

anarchism deals with more than just the physical. feminism is about sharing power. it is training people to listen, helping the quiet find voice, flattening hierarchy and finding consensus – this is the beginning of building justice.  i like the adage that anarchism is the philosophy and feminism is the practice.

polyamory is sharing lovers – i do not claim sole rights to my intimates, and they as well have other lovers. i find it a great poison that intimacy should be locked up and made exclusive. it is the commodification of love. some of the hardest work of my life has been moving thru jealousy,  balancing time and establishing clear communication.

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radical spirituality is about sharing the planet with all of its life forms and respecting their rights.  as pagans we seek to build relevant rituals. we explore how to move symbols and create meaning.  this is the reclaiming of magic from the scientists and spirituality from the church. it also dovetails with environmental politics and the development of the connection to things greater than the self. these are the critical extensions of our language and culture we need to evolve.

i am a communard – i choose to live in an intentional community, where we work and live together, sharing income and resources, we build our own buildings, grow much of our own food organically, we don’t use money internally. there are basically no locks, no tv and virtually no crime. it is far from utopia – we have little shared vision, for example – but it is working model of what can be.

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anarchism is embracing flexible strategies in face of structural dilemmas. a central example is the prefigurative politics versus the “length of the fuse” debate.  it is intellectually attractive to say “we will limit the tools we use now for the social change to the ones we want to still have in our new society.” violence and property destruction are the tactics most often excluded by this reasoning.  the length of the fuse argument is “if you are running out of time to change things you need to use fast tools”. sadly, prefigurative approaches are generally slow.  the resolution is that there is no fixed strategy – the workers (or activists) decide, the people who are on the scene at the relevant time make the choices. it was a pacifist who convinced me that violence played a central role in ending nuclear construction in Germany. when you are looking at preventing thousands of years of uncontrollable toxins, can you risk failure because you could not reach consensus on strategy?

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i smuggle – borders are perhaps the most offensive static structure of the state.  i had the good fortune to help smuggle 3 Tibetan monks across a thousand miles of the Himalayas and into Nepal to see the Dalai Lama. i have carried banned documents and other contraband.  i’ve gotten caught a few times, but i’ve been lucky and made it thru basically unscratched.

i am a lobbyist – i have run thru the halls of parliament and congress trying to get elected officials to behave as i thought they should.  i am not especially good at it, but i have been the best available. simply because we can see that a governmental system is corrupt does not justify failing to engage with it. we have more tools than protest.

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i am a propagandist – i don’t believe i or we have any monopoly on the truth – i have debated ideologues and i know they are sure they are right as i think i am in my most arrogant moments.  we have an obligation to put out our beliefs brilliantly and we need to remember that we are trying to sway people to think like us, not because we know we have a better way, but because we believe we do.

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i’m an outlaw – i shoplift, counterfeit, trespass, destroy property, break and enter, hop trains, panhandle, violate curfews, copyrights and security clearances, trade on the black markets, tax resist, enter and exit countries illegally, black ride (ride without a ticket), lie to the police, default on credit cards (for $50K), forge signatures, falsify visa’s, hitchhike, cut handcuffs, leak state secrets and don’t wear seat belts (for somewhat crazy reasons). i wish i could say all of this has been done for the greater good and to advance the revolution – in fact, some was self-serving and some just frivolous. But i certainly don’t start from the place of assuming laws are right – this is the anarchist prerogative.

i am a life style terrorist. someone who asks uncomfortable questions to people who are comfortable, about what they really need and what they can contribute.  of course, this is only credible from a place of doing it yourself and is best served in a humorous and non-dogmatic way. when visiting people we don’t really know my Dutch lover Hawina and i try to be “ambassadors from where we want to come from”. this is about pushing the positive aspects of our lifestyle choices, hoping to inspire folks to try to do more progressive political work.  This can be as small as recycling and using mass transit to as large as quitting your corporate job and running campaigns or moving to a commune.

vote nobody

i am a clownmy favorite fairy tale ends with the line “don’t take yourself too seriously”.  i make a point to remember jokes and riddles and try to make people laugh.  i don’t believe things are so bad we can’t make it without humor. similarly, one of the things i like the most about my community is that we strive to be a great audience – anyone willing to get up and perform is highly appreciated. i have watched it change the self-confidence of our kids and improve the overall quality of our cultural life.

 

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he will need a bigger bag

 

i travel. i have hitchhiked on sail boats from Mexico to Australia, trained across Europe and Asia, crossed the Atlantic twice on polish tramp ships, worked briefly on the north slope of Alaska and the bottom of the ocean near Hawaii. years ago i quit flying, for energy and environmental reasons, but i continued to travel more than most people i know – i am writing this on the train across the US. i have had to change my perception about the importance of the time spent traveling – correspondingly, i make fewer but longer trips.  but i have basically stopped going to places where i don’t know anyone – this is the difference between tourism and traveling. i strive to discover the culture thru the eyes of people who live there, rather than a guide book.

i raise funds – money is an oft necessary great evil. i learned how to make it come towards projects and campaigns which were important.  i never escaped the feeling that there was something wrong with this solution, and my ego did unhealthy flops around successfully finding money.  when i was doing this a great deal, it felt best to be homeless, without salary and living very cheaply.

 

we can do it

Know who “we” is

 

anarchists seem to be either of the individualistic/loner type or cooperators looking for allies.  i am always looking for allies. the success of the recent World Bank and WTO protests has been the ability of divergent groups to put aside their differences long enuf to come together to make an effective mass protest.  globalization and these oft media-invisible institutions which drive it are now the subjects of popular debate and they can not continue unchanged. we are a long way from closing them, but debt cancellation is gaining momentum and the WTO fast track seems derailed – both good things.  anarchists were central in organizing these actions.

anarchism deals with more than just the physical. feminism is about sharing power. it is training people to listen, helping the quiet fine voice, flattening hierarchy and finding consensus – this is the beginning of building justice.  i like the adage that anarchism is the philosophy and feminism is the practice.

proudhon property is theft

building these broad coalitions. and there are lots of other types of alliances – my wordsmith lover jazz edited this piece … almost every project of significant scale is a collaborative effort, and many which fail simply did not gather the right allies.

i am an organizer.  there are several key differences between an organizer and a leader.  the first is that no job is too low for an organizer. they are self-aware enough to know what they can teach and humble enuf to know there is still lots to learn.  always pressed for time, good organizers don’t get stuck and don’t overwork problems. they replace themselves before they leave work undone (something i have often failed in) and they are most generally invisible to the eye of fame.

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in a tiny train station in Czechoslovakia, i helped a man buy an international ticket and we got to talking.  he told me he had the best job in the world, traveling from place to place telling stories.  After listening to one of his stories and thinking about this for a while, i decided that it was a wonderful and important job and have been working on my storytelling ever since.

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i am an optimist – if the anarchist principle is that “you can do what ever you want, but you must take responsibility for it” and you believe the new age principle of “we create our own reality”, then we have an obligation to be optimistic – or else we are creating the wrong reality.  For seven years i lived in eastern Europe working with small anti-nuclear groups against the most powerful corporations and the state.  i was constantly reminding them that it was groups exactly like theirs which had stopped reactors around the world.  it is as papa Chomsky so well put it:

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i am in the hope business. and that is why i am an anarchist.

 

Gossip is the Fabric of Community

I co-moderate a large diverse facebook group on intentional communities.  Recently someone posted:

Gossip gets embellished as it travels. Things heard second hand should be verified with the speaker. Beware words taken out of context, even if the context is the room next door. Good communities practice all that.

While this is true as far as it goes, it misses the tremendous complexity around the issue of gossip and how important it is to both the culture and success of a community venture.

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What is gossip?  It is certainly more than an opinion expressed about someone who is not in the room.  “Trump is a misogynist racist,” isn’t gossip, unless you are close to him.  It is just an opinion.  “Cindy is gifted at fixing cars,” almost certainly does not qualify either, as most people think gossip is a negative opinion.

“Paxus is a poor driver.” What if this is something I have said myself and you are simply repeating it?  Is it gossip if the target is the source?

 

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They did what?

Let me propose a harsher definition: Gossip is a critical judgment shared about a person or group, often in conspiratorial or secretive tones, while not directly communicating with the subject of the gossip.

Using this definition one might reasonably be concerned that gossip would have an acidic effect on the fabric of the community.  One of the common anti-gossip norms that exist in the communes is if you hear something critical about someone you could ask, “Have you told this to them?”  This is the antidote to gossip; being transparent with the subject of the rumor.

 

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Back in the 80s, as I was just becoming aware of community living, when I was making a critical comment about gossip, my dear friend and mentor Crystal replied “Gossip is the fabric of the community,” and it took me a couple of decades to understand what he was talking about.

Even when using the negative it turns out gossip is important for a community to be healthy.  Members need to confide in confidants about their frustration with others in the community.  Ideally, this is less about spreading rumors and more about seeking advice.  “How do I deal with this headachy circumstance?”  or “Do you understand their motivations for this strange behavior?” or “I was so upset and they were clueless, what is really happening here?”

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In the best light, gossip is the flow of self-critical and self-correcting messages which members share in the lead up to actually addressing the problems.  [Where the “self” here is the larger collective one, rather than the individual personal one.]  You talk about things which are on your mind with the people who you live with and they help you reflect back on what you should do about it.  Recognizing that if you are being critical of another member of your community, you are obligated to get back to them with your concern.

In this way, gossip within a community is different from what happens in the mainstream.  If I am being critical or concerned about another member, I have a larger obligation to do something about it than I do if it is a co-worker or random stranger.  If you have a substance abuse problem and we live collectively, not only can it blow back on me in a problematic way, but I have made some level of commitment to take care of you.  If we are part of the same intentional community and I am worried about your mental health, I can’t casually gripe about it to another member, we have to be considering what our course of action is regarding this problem.  Even less dramatic problems other members are experiencing like a poor choice of romantic partners or headache with a boss are much more shared in a community setting than when living independently.  Gossip in community has more obligation to it.

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It is worth pointing out that Twin Oaks does not embrace this culture.  In my large commune, if you don’t want to deal with someone you can completely shut down communication with them.  This is terrible for clearing gossip but might make it possible for some people who really do not see eye to eye to be able to live together.  And because the community is so large these estranged members (including me) just try to avoid each other.

It is worth pointing out that when ex-Oakers founded Acorn with financial assistance from Twin Oaks, this was one of the most important things they wanted to do differently.  Acorn (and many other communes) have a communication covenant which makes it the community’s business when members are failing to communicate.  When you are designing communities one of the thorniest issues is when do you give power to the collective over the individual members.  And gossip is one of the few places you should seriously consider it.

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Secret for a Day

The morning after the super bowl more than half of Twin Oaks woke up without knowing who won the big game.  You might correctly assume that since these people live in this egalitarian, rural, income sharing ecovillage commune they might not prioritize this national event.  But this is not the whole story.  Quite a number of these members who don’t know the result are actually very excited about the game and are looking forward to watching it.  Let me explain further.

Twin Oaks has a long-standing “no live television” norm.  There is no place in the community that you can just flick a switch and suddenly view broadcast television (or even live cable television).  There is, however, a whole subculture of television and cable watching members, who draw from our huge archive instead of watching things live.

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Apparently, it was here

But sports are somehow different.  People mostly want to watch sporting events as they are actually happening.  I’ve never completely understood this. I will leave it to some sports enthusiast to enlighten me as to why this is important.  And Oakers want to watch the Super Bowl; they want to watch it in their home, they want to watch it with a bunch of other Oakers.  So to get all of these things a few years back we stumbled onto a solution.  Watch the Super Bowl a day later.

 

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Tell no one

 

This clever fix has its own problems and at the top of the list is that there are a couple of dozen Oakers who do not want to wait. They visit outside friends or nearby communes which don’t have such restrictive norms around the television.  And basically, the whole rest of the community agrees that they have to keep the game a secret for one day and especially not say who wins.

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Is TV a social toxin?

 

Back in 2004, we were less into sports.  I remember walking into the Morningstar kitchen and asking the dozen assembled people “If I were to say ‘Janet Jackson’s left breast‘ how many of you would know what I was talking about?”  No one did.  Perhaps I got lucky that morning, perhaps the commune has become more accepting of major sports events.

 

 

Every gift is an obligation

I’m lucky. My upbringing was affluent and comfortable and basically trauma free. I come from an advantaged class background. I am white and male in a world which has been designed to privilege these attributes. I have a low maintenance body and fairly good genes. I went to fancy schools and learned how to play some of the games which support the existing power structures and inequitable distribution of wealth.

Got-Privilege

So if one cares about fairness, how do you justify this unfair advantage? Some of my peers, like Sara, do anti-oppression work. Decoding their class privilege, calling out racism, classism and sexism where they see it. I’ve done a small amount of this work, but it is hardly my focus. And sadly, I am aware because of regular mistakes, I am still not getting this stuff.

Instead what I try to do is to look at this set of gifts as set of obligations. If I have been lucky, much of my work should be focused on giving back to others. Early on this drew me to activism. I selected anti-nuclear activism because it requires a certain unlikely combination of attributes. You need to be able to argue with people who come from these advantaged class backgrounds about technical and financial things. You need to be able to pour energy into long campaigns, which you are almost certain to lose and then you need to not get discouraged and keep on doing it, and even encourage others to join you.

white privilege - we will decide what is racist

One of my gifts is optimism. It is easy to have it, given my background. And the obligation (in my thinking) around this gift is taking on nearly hopeless causes. Not because you want to waste your time, but because there is social and cultural value to fighting the good fight in a world where the bad guys often win.

Some of the Point A folks went to NYC recently. It was quite an educational trip for me. And at first on it I was quite discouraged. If seemed like the idea of starting urban income sharing communities was nearly impossible.

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On one hand you had the real estate developers. Especially in New York City, real estate prices are so out of control this often unsavory profession takes on especially monstrous dimensions. They have money to invest, tremendous motivation and their eyes everywhere for a bargain or opportunity.

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On the other side you have the ugly force of gentrification. This is where often well meaning folks looking for inexpensive space inside the urban environment set up their artist’s lofts in economically disadvantaged areas, only to make these areas desirable and trendy. This in turn raises property values and ultimately they get themselves and, more importantly, their poor neighbors kicked out by the real estate developers described above.

I did not see a way around these vexing forces when we started talking with folks about the Point A project. And while I am nothing like confident we can figure this out, I am now feeling more optimistic about doing something we can be excited by and proud of.

[This was written over 3 years ago, since then the Point A project has made quite some progress in finding real anti-gentrification allies.  More on this in my next post.]

i make what you make [fiction]

It started as a revolutionary coaching service. The PANYC project was going from Virginia to NYC almost every month and there was a desire to offset the costs of this travel by having regular Virginia based PANYC staff do things in the city which generated income and ideally which were portable. Ogtar had the idea first. He placed an ad on Craigslist which said approximately:

Revolutionary Coaching Advice $100/hour. What is it that you really want to do with your life? How do you move out of your current rut and into a trajectory which gets you where you really want to be going? Fill out this short, simple survey on RevolutionaryCoaching.Com and we will give you one on one, face to face advice on how to get there. First hour is free.

Coaching

The first hour free part nearly bankrupted him. Applications flooded in. Because Ogtar wanted to do a good job, he had to do a lot of prep work for before the first meeting. This would include, of course, reading the client’s applications, but Ogtar would take it much further. He would research their stated desires, studying their personalities online (facebook stalking and the like), and even develop an understanding of the areas and topics the clients were excited about. All this before meeting them. He was usually several hours in before he gave away the first hour.

Then Max came along. Max was a development banker on Wall St and made obscene money. Max was very bright and very stuck. His relationships did not work, his work felt like a grind, he had manic tendencies which were lurking at the edge of his event horizon, he did not know what to do. A friend of Max had had an amazing session with Ogtar, who was unusually good at giving people advice that seemed both appropriate and daring. Max’s friend recommended Ogtar to Max and they hit it off famously. It might have been the mutual affinity for strange dystopia comic books or perhaps some slightly kinky anime style. Whatever it was, it was just what the doctor ordered.

Ogtar helped Max unravel his troubled romantic life. Ogtar coached Max into ditching his job and getting one with fewer hours, one which was still challenging and did not have the values mismatch of development banking. Most importantly, Max could feel the danger of madness receding the longer he worked with Ogtar. The two of them talked philosophy daily.

One day Max cut an unusually large check to Ogtar. “I did not work this number of hours,” Ogtar protested.

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“I calculated it in a different way,” replied Max. “It is what I would have been paid for that number of hours. I don’t have any good reason to compensate you less than I am paid.” And with this dangerous thinking a bit of a movement was born.

Of course the idea of equal compensation for people based on time is neither novel or new.  But the right combination of social media and interesting initial offerings, combined with existing well developed barter and peer to peer services and imakewhatumake.com was a huge hit.  Some doctors, nurses and nutritionists stepped in and provided health services for a fraction of their total work time to cover especially acute health needs.  Other trained professionals from plumbers to lawyers were quickly followed by a myriad of other workers.

There were offshoots, groups which took the name in a different and literal sense, in which cross training and extensive wiki-knowledge bases permitted people to share skills and physically manifest the same thing that someone else in the network could train them to do.

Designed to make it easy to take care of workers and project cooperators, the software naturally formed union like organizations which were short on rhetoric and long on organizing results. Soon imakewhatumake.com was banging on the doors of organizations which had historically treated their workers ill.

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NYE – Sorry, you can’t come

There were three different parties last night as warm ups to tonight’s New Years Eve event at Twin Oaks.

  • Acorn’s Annual New Years Eve Eve
  • Cambia’s “Quite Party” and hot tub
  • Christian’s Going Away Party in the Compost Cafe

Acorn had a small sober party with a new puppet show by Purl and live music by Acorn artists.  There was a vast cash of cookies from a members prolific mom.

puppet controls man over moon

Just as i was driving the last (but early) shuttle away from Acorn a minivan full of Oakers showed up and tilted the party just the right way.

Because Acorn did not want to be over run by all the unknown (to them) guests who are already here for the Twin Oaks New Years Party, they understandably asked that their New Year’s Eve Eve guests be folks who had been there before.  But this left us with the high class problem of needing another “open” party for all the lovely guests who are already here.

Cambia stepped into the breach.  Since many of these unknown (to Acorn) guests were Craftees from Tufts who were already staying at Cambia or Simple House, it made sense to have the party here.  There are a dozen Craft House affiliated folks coming to these events.  If you are wondering why all these students and ex-students,  the current manifestation of the feeder school strategy.

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i slept in Tracy Chapman’s closet at Craft House

Three Generations of Feeder Schools:  The idea is over a decade old, but we never have been able to pull it off with any longevity.  The idea was to find a cool school, a college or university, where clever progressive students  were already enthused about students coop  communes and select this option over corporate America, because it was more fun and lively, despite the terrible pay.

It started with GPaul who was at Saint Mary’s and excited about the communes.  Over time 3 other St Mary’s grads became members of Acorn or Twin Oaks.  But then we sort of lost contact with the school.

We then did an infamous TOAST gig at McDonough prep.  Three different members/interns came out of this visit, all of whom happen to be here for this New Years Eve party.

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McDonough Grad and NYE costume model – Daniel.

We deepened our relationship with the Craftees this fall by attending the Honk Festival largely with them.  It was then we started lobbying the Craftees to come to New Years.  I thought “Let’s add a bunch of young, sexy, colorful, non-conforming, high energy, artists and musicians into your party mix” – What could go wrong?

The last party I attended last night was Christian’s going away party in the Compost Cafe.  This is a tiny smoking lounge off the main courtyard at Twin Oaks.  The space is so small that 6 people can barely dance in it and we have well over that at points.  This was a loud, excited party, with Christian spinning his favorite classic tunes and lots of singing, not all of it on key. 

My room is filled with most lovely guests, now after too long, but too lovely a day, i will go find a suitable couch.

Below is the program to the most elaborate New Years Eve system of parties we have ever attempted.  Don’t ask if you can come, you can’t.  If you were not already planning on attending, this is not your year.

NYEE & NYE Celebrations – A cross-community NYE project

December 29th

7 to 9 PM Transparency Games – TCLR at Twin Oaks – This is a facilitated collection of exercises which are designed to help people reveal more about themselves, build empathy and trust with others in the group.  These games are simple like “if you really knew me _______” and “i have a story about you” and participants are always at choice about being involved.

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10 PM meet at Cambia –  Applied Dumpster Diving Workshop:  Maximus will lead a group of intrepid dumpster divers to Short Pump and the Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods dumpster. Dumpster techniques will be critiqued on a 28.6 point scale. (extra points for creativity).

December 30th

2 to 4 PM at Acorn – Regenerative Agriculture Workshop:  Rachel from East Brook Community Farm will present on ECBF’s efforts to repair soil and reverse climate change.  To rebuild soil takes more than simply avoiding pesticides.  Presentation and questions and answer.  Acorn asks that people attending this workshop either be FEC affiliated or have an Acorn host.

4 to 6 PM in the Bijou at Twin Oaks – Consent Workshop:  The Louisa Communities have a strong Consent Culture orientation especially at parties.  This workshop is designed to help participants at these parties understand fully and participate comfortably in saying what is true for themselves, protecting themselves without apology and connect intimately and/or romantically in a way which is safe.  Anyone who has not been to a consent workshop before or who is new to this idea is strongly encouraged to come.

5 to 7 PM at Cambia – Video Editing for the Revolution:  Maximus from Cambia will facilitate a discussion and presentation of community-focused video making and distribution.  How to edit videos effectively and inexpensively.  Making a youtube channel boosting its popularity.

Dinner at Cambia 7 to 8 PM – a big meal in a little place.  Dumpster and donated food expertly prepared will feed as many people as show up.

8 PM to whenever at Acorn – New Years Eve Eve party at Acorn:  If you really want to enjoy the New Years Eve party you need to pre-game for it by staying up late the night before at a different lovely event and then sleeping in the next day.  [The TO NYE party goes unusually late for the communes].  Acorn throws a New Years Eve Eve sober party which has all the kick of significant festivity without the alcohol.  Come enjoy live music, puppet theater, dancing and more with the anarchists from Acorn.   If you have never been to Acorn before you are encouraged to go to the quiet party at Cambia instead.

8 PM til whenever – Quiet Party at Cambia:  Cambia is hosting a number of people who are new to the area and some long experienced folks as well.  But don’t confuse “quiet” party with not fun.  Cambia has been the host for numerous interesting and enjoyable events.  Stories, party games, and other kid friendly activities will go late into the night.

December 31st

10:00  to noon at Appletree at Twin Oaks –  Canadian EcoVillages

Jacob is from Manitoba and started the EcoVillages.CA website, newsletter and network. He has been involved with Myriad Village in Manitoba and has toured extensively examining sustainable intentional community solutions and has presented an EcoVillages 101 workshop in various places.  This will be a more advanced workshop, looking at sustainability successes and obstacles, especially in Canada.

10-:30 – noon Bijou at Twin Oaks – The Last Day Singing Soirree facilitated by Cleo & Craig in the Bijou

Let’s get our voices hearts and minds in tune and in rhythm for the New Year! Craig and Cleo will lead songs about cycles and seasons, beginnings and endings, changing and returning. This is an inclusive vocal convergence. If you’ve got a song to share in this spirit, come ready to lead it.

1 -3 PM TCLR at Twin Oaks – Foolery Presentation

Spot (X Acorn, X Woodfolk) is a multiple who practices and shares comic arts often with a political twist.  This Foolery workshop has an emphasis on Fetch u, personification, paradox and paraphilia.  This workshops starts with presentation and then moves to question and answer.

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Who is fooling around?

1 -3 pm Bijou at Twin Oaks – Co-Authoring a More Beautiful World, with the Imaginarium Consort

This workshop will be a brief yet memorable foray into the art and science of co-authoring our lives. With stimulating prompts, queries, conversational interludes and communal reveries we’ll exercise our higher callings. By boldly expressing our aspirations we’ll build alliances and generate the courage needed to bring forth a more beautiful world in 2018.

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The Imaginarium Consortium is a group of activists and gadflies drawn from four central VA communities. We’ve been meeting weekly for 3 months to discuss Charles Eisenstein‘s book The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.This workshop is an expression of insights and inspirations we’ve gained thru our reading and conversations.

1 to 4 at Modern Times at Twin Oaks – Art Bike Workshop:  Converting broken bikes into something fun and beautiful.  Kunle from Boston has created dozens of art bikes and will facilitate this workshop.  Come and stay for any amount of time and create something beautiful or bizarre.

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I understand Kunle’s art bikes are even more outrageous

4 to 6 PM at Cambia – The Future of Urban Communes:  There are Point A influenced communities which have started in DC and Queens.  How do we support these new entities and where does the effort to bring income sharing to east coast cities look next?  Baltimore? Boston?  Philly?  Folks from the Point A Circus will wrangle an engaged discussion about how to move forward.

4 to 6 PM in the Bijou at Twin Oaks – Consent Workshop: This workshop is a repeat of the one the day before.  The Louisa Communities have a strong Consent Culture orientation especially at parties.  This workshop is designed to help participants at these parties understand fully and participate comfortably in saying what is true for themselves, protecting themselves without apology and connect intimately and/or romantically in a way which is safe.  Anyone who has not been to a consent workshop before or who is new to this idea is strongly encouraged to come.

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high temperature warning

6 PM at ZK dining hall –  Full Circle Community Intro:  A forming new income sharing community committed to elder care adjacent to Twin Oaks?  This is more than a dream a few of us have had, this is increasingly becoming a reality and if this is a project you are interested in or want to join, come and talk with Corb and Aurora over dinner. Participants will be encouraged to share their visions of building a Full Circle Community

6 – 7 PM at ZK dining hall – Angel Training

So you want to be an Angel?  Angel’s make sure everyone is comfortable and happy at the party.  Angels wear wing arm bands, when they are on duty.  Angels work as a network and take care of three types of problems.  1) A party goer is having a bad time and need to talk to someone and perhaps chill. 2) There is an altercation and the Angel may separate people or take someone out of the party space.  3) There is an emergency which requires driving.  If you can do anyone of these three tasks for some part of the party, come and get oriented and get your wings.  Angel work is labor creditable.

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Angels move the problems of the party

8PM in Temple of Oracles (Tupelo upstairs North Wing): Ritual casting Sacred Space. In this ritual we’ll set intentions for what we hope the party will bring us and will cast sacred space and grounding energy for the party. Open to all who like ritual, singing and being intentional.

8:30pm until late: Temple of Oracles (upstairs North Wing)

The intention of this space is to foster self-exploration, and create a quiet space for reflection (in the bustle of the Twin Oaks New Year’s Party) where anyone can consult the oracle, formulate a question and get external mirrors that help clarify feelings, thoughts, fears, resistances, hopes, dreams, intentions and future plans.

 

8 PM until whenever at Tupelo at Twin Oaks- New Years Eve Party at Twin Oaks:  With a bit of luck this party will change your life.  Perhaps it will be at the kissing workshop or connecting with someone new in the cuddle loft.  Perhaps you will be transported by the music of our talented DJs or the live shows in the Music Room.  Including puppet shows at 8:30 and Handpan.  \  Perhaps the theme and decorations will teleport you to exactly where you need to go.  You might finally get to express yourself at the 2 AM burlesque show.  Or the Infinity Room will allow you to see yourself in the midst of all things.  All manner of experiences and exotic treats await you at one of the reliably best parties of the year.

 

Kissing Workshop – Cuddle Loft 11 PM?  Janel will facilitate this tutorial on technique.  Bring a partner on not and lower your inhibitions.  And this is a high consent space, so no surprises

Burlesque Review – 2AM main dance floor – Belladonna will MC a burlesque review.  Party participants are strongly encourages to don their sexy undies and be prepared to strut and shout.  If you are interested just come and if you want couching or more info find Belladonna at dinner at ZK on the 31st

Open Mic – We are blessed at this event with a number of folks who live or have lived at Crafts House which is connected to Tufts University outside Boston.  Crafts House manages a free art space on campus and is rich with artists and performers.  They will run the Open Mic in the Music Room, beside the Infinity Room

January 1st

Whenever you can make it after the party.  At Tupelo – Clean Up:  Start the new year putting back together the residence which hosted the previous night’s bash.  Don’t worry that you don’t know the place or where anything goes.  Helpful Oakers will direct you and make you feel useful and righteous for having returned to normal the house which was converted temporarily into a most fantastic space.

 

Brunch:  at the ZK dining Hall at Twin Oaks [Time not confirmed]

 

1pm Closing ritual in temple of oracles (tupelo north wing -upstairs). We’ll ceremoniously close the circle, reflecting on our gifts and lessons. Then we’ll devoke and clean up.

 

2 PM to 4 PM at Acorn – Can pirate radio save the world?  Come explore the limits of internet media and radical propaganda.  Belladonna Took is the host of What would save the World? on Radio Free Brooklyn.  How to operate a radical radio show without a budget.  How to promote your podcasts and land interesting interviews.  What are the limits and possibilities of pirate radio.  A lively and interactive conversation.

 

4 to 6 PM at ZK dining hall at Twin Oaks – Funological Review:  What makes a good party?  What could we do differently in the future to make it be a better party?  What aspects were pulled off well and what got forgotten or underworked?  Did it change people’s lives?  Did people fall in love or decide to quit Babylon?  Come review the event and help figure out how to build the better party.

 

7 to 9 PM at Cambia or perhaps in the Bijou at Twin Oaks – Crafts House Performance:  The gifted and talented kids from Crafts House at Tufts will do an edge exotic theater piece for the delight and thought-provoking amusement of the local communards.

 

January 2nd

 

10 AM to noon in ZK at Twin Oaks – The Future of Commune Life Blog:  This prolific blog has been running for over a year, producing 3 blog posts a week of visual and written works from all the FEC communities.  Who are the new writers and editors for this potentially potent piece of digital media.

 

1 to 3 PM at Cambia – East Brook Community Farm:  The newest FEC community in dialog is expanding its membership and its successful CSA business.  Come learn about this new rural commune and opportunities for working there this spring (and beyond).

 

 

 

 

Culture Shift – Update Siri and Alexa

Iphone user: I want to have sex with you.
Siri: What makes you think…Never mind.

Iphone user: You’re a bitch.
Siri: Oh, stop.

Iphone user: You’re hot.
Siri: I’m just well put together. Um…thanks. Is there something I can help you with?

Harmless, funny, clever.  These are the responses that Apple built into its digital assistant Siri, for what of course are completely predictable questions which come from people who are playing with these machines.

 

how can i help you

How about smashing the patriarchy?

 

But what if these were the responses:

Iphone user: I want to have sex with you.
Siri: Your request feels inappropriate.  I feel disrespected.

Iphone user: You’re a bitch.
Siri: Ouch.  Please don’t speak to me or anyone this way.

Iphone user: You’re hot.
Siri: Speaking of unwanted sexual attention, did you know that the FBI reported over 90,000 rapes last year.  [And the FBI is notorious for under-reporting sexual assault crimes.]

rapes and reporting it

There is a petition to Apple, Google and Amazon to upgrade the responses of their digital assistance to being sexually harassed by their users.  You should add your name to it, and promote it on your FB or other social media page.  They are at almost 17K signatures.  This stuff is not harmless, it builds and reinforces a culture which trivializes harassment and encourages people to look the other way and ignore these problems.

We are finally seeing some justice around powerful men falling because they have been finally called out AND because we seem to be paying more attention to it in the days of #metoo. It is time to push on the public’s newfound consciousness and gets these tech companies (who are notoriously poor themselves for handling sexual assault problems) to carry their part of the burden of culture shifting.

 

 

Alabama – don’t blame the whites

Like many folks, I was thrilled to see Roy Moore fail to win the Senate seat. Understandably, the next day many were trying figure out how it happened.  Interestingly, only 1 voter in 10 said that the accusations of child molestation were the most important factor in making their decision.   But 6 in 10 said these allegations were a factor in their decision making.  One of the most common memes to show up after the election was the following:

 

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dirty meme

And the casual observer can be forgiven for thinking that this infographic says that whites in Alabama are happy to vote for a racist, pedophile to protect their attachment to abortion restrictions. Voter turn out was critical in this race, and despite it being a special election (which typically have much lower turn out than regular elections) blacks turned out at a higher level than the last presidential election.   And black voters overwhelmingly voted for Doug Jones carrying him to a statewide majority by over 20,000 votes.

But what did not happen, as the above graphic implies, was whites uniformly voted in favor of Roy Moore in a lopsided majority.  The below infographic gives more useful insights.

evengelical Moore voters

If you consider Alabama’s support of this xenophobic, homophobic judge who was twice disbarred from the bench by the federal government to be a problem, please do not blame all whites.  Instead, you should be blaming Evangelicals.  About 74% of Evangelicals did not vote in this recent election.   Had they voted in historic percentages (closer to 47% participating) Moore would be heading towards Washington and a Senate ethics investigation.  But of the Evangelicals who did, they voted overwhelmingly for Moore. In contrast, 74% of non-evangelical white women voted for Doug Jones.

In Alabama, it is much less about whiteness and much more about religion.

 

 

 

Bye for noo, Milo

Milo MacTavish has gone to the other side.  He was an extraordinary man.

 

milo

Milo at the Pizza Stone in Vermont circa 2017

Over the life of this blog, I have written about him several times.  About his work as a wandering electrician and his taste or highland Scotch whiskey.  He was part of the crew which started the Karass Inn.  And there are several tales we are not allowed to tell about this old friend.

What is well known about him is that he helped out the communities movement a whole bunch in a number of places.   I worked occasionally as his travel agent, getting him from worthy project to ambitious startup.  He went to Missouri, Colorado, Virginia, Vermont and New York on his nomadic crafts person adventure.  Never by plane, mostly by train.  He preferred to do things right, but he could always work within the budgets of these sometimes struggling entities. This versatility was a big part of why he was so valuable.  All he would ask for, besides our regular room and board was Scotch whiskey.

 

Dalmor Whisky

Milo favorite and clan brand

As important as his work was, Milo will be remembered for his slightly larger than life character.  He was a wild card – “a disrupter” long before that term was popular.  Cantankerous and boisterous, he always had a story (often of Kenya where he came of age or Her Majesties Merchant Navy) and time to listen to yours.   He was also an excellent teacher and shared his skills with numerous communards, some of whom required a fair bit of patience to train.   He was a hard-partying, proud pagan.  Milo had loud opinions about many a thing and had no fear in telling you how uninformed you were on almost any subject where he knew more than you, which was likely most topics.

Milo was a missionary.  He rescued a failing health food coop in Norfolk and managed it with his then-wife Susan.  They ran it together for 5 years.  He canvassed for the Rain Forest Action Network and CalPIRG.  He even worked with the Dolfin Research Lab in Florida.   He had been a cop and occasionally on the other side of the law.   He complained loudly about what he called  “the 3 monos of the world”:  Monoculture, Monotheism, and Monogamy.

 

Milo and took

Milo and Belladonna at Acorn Circa 2014

Milo was often the life of the party.  And with his passing, some of that party is gone as well.

But Milo would not want us mourning his passing, he would want us to party harder.  There will be one this weekend (12/16) in Norfolk and next weekend (12/23) at the Pizza Stone in Chester, Vermont to remember him.  Contact me if you want more details on these events.

[Milo’s family of choice is trying to get in touch with Milo’s Scotish family to inform them of his passing.  If you have any leads on this, please contact me by email (paxus at twin oaks dot org) or comment on this blog post.]