Sunday, December 28, 2008

Mill Avenue Nights Saturday December 27th 2008

The drum circle had two drums today, they placed themselves off away from our stilt-bronze-man statue and next to the fountain. The region between the Valley Art Theater and My Big Fat Greet Restaurant has a couple strangely-placed stone blocks that just jut out of the walk, all of them good for sitting on, and they’re clustered around a waterfall/fountain—this is up against the side of Valley Art. With the echo chamber of the closely set buildings (probably about 4 meters apart) that area in particular worked really well for resonating the sound of the drums.

And a guitar.

I don’t want to forget that one of the newbies on the Ave had a guitar and was strumming along with the drums. I keep wondering about bringing my violin out and rocking out with everyone else. Not on a night as cold as this one, though, since my fingers would absolutely fail me.

Vince joked about how people had started to call it the “square drum circle” instead of the drum circle because of the presence of the bronze-stilt-man and the dais that it’s built on. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s obvious in part that the installation of this particular form of urban art was directed pretty much at disrupting the drum circle. A lot of the other acts have been as well. Expectedly, the drum circle formed around it anyway.

While I was waiting I met a young man named Raccoon—he chuckled over my makeup when he noticed it wasn’t a pair of sunglasses; Josh often jokes that I look like a raccoon myself. He had a scruffy beard and mustache, spoke a lot about Sedona, and used a mystic tone in his speech. His hair, at odds with his scruffy face, happened to be shiny and well conditioned, almost like a shampoo commercial. He happened to have a set of drums also. I hope that Raccoon comes out more often.

I also had a chance to meet a strange newcomer to Saturdays, a tall young man wearing all black, medium length hair, and an intense speech. He wanted to tell everyone about the equations that make up the universe, which he contents use imaginary numbers and division-by-zero to elaborate on philosophical principals in a theory-of-everything sort of way.

The major criticism that he received was from Omar Call’s friend, Jim—a well-dressed, straight talking presenter—who didn’t like how Weird-Math-Guy happened to be basically dismissing his wife and child (a newborn) in order to present his strange math and attempt to instruct people on Mill Ave. She didn’t look happy herself, lurking inside the doors of Urban Outfitters to keep the child out of the cold whilst her husband plied his thoughts.

I let him borrow my notepad in order to illustrate his equations.

The biggest problem that I had with them—aside from everything being zero or infinity—is that they didn’t really explain anything. Certainly he had some interesting ideas on how the imaginary numbers interacted with the universe, but each of his states could compressing into two possible states: zero (not null) or imaginary infinity. Certainly complex numbers (i.e. imaginary numbers) are used in quantum physics, but they’re used to define particular states of quanta that are orthogonal. It’s not special nor that surprising. In fact, for particular quantum mechanics orthagonality using imaginary numbers is good for describing interactions that “turn” quanta in different phase directions.

When using highly philosophical math it becomes extremely silly to set up giant, complex equations and then either multiple them by zero or divide them out of zero. The most grand equation that will always equate to zero is a lesson in frippery. I am not talking about multivariable calculus or differential equations here where multiple variables interact to becomes zero. I mean: no matter what variables it will always be zero.

(x * y) * 0 = 0

That’s a totally useless equation. It tells us nothing. Where x and y can be anything. It’s literally informationless—there is no difference in this equation that makes any difference—this is the problem with half of the equations he wanted to use.

He had some other neat stuff going on, however, in that he really wanted to explain his position. The problem became, though, that he had gigantic jargon issues. He couldn’t properly talk to a lay person because he was using too much math jargon which makes no sense to non math people (and possibly just suits to put normal people into dummy mode.) He also didn’t like that people didn’t care for his math, or had specific critical observations about how he was presenting it. And didn’t care that he wanted to say, “And don’t tell me you can’t divide by zero.” It’s not that you can’t it’s that the answer is an undefined number. To this end it’s not really a useful answer.

Even philosophically, “undefined” or indefinite is just another way of saying that we don’t know—in math a lot of these answers are distinguished as “no solution” among other interpretations of division-by-zero and it’s various paradoxes. His algebra was just a bad allegory for his attempt to collapse the universe into the philosophy.

I gave away his diagram so I will have to get it again if I want to show everyone.

Street philosophy is certainly a good place to learn and amaze.

Good night and good dreams—especially to every null to infinity out there.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mill Avenue Nights Friday, December 26th 2008

Cold.

Nothing else can really be said for the night. The temperature has dropped precipitously since the solstice; plummeting down to the low 40s. Anything hovering around and below the 50s is weather that makes my nose run. I hate that. I don’t know what was up with the dew point, however, since we couldn’t see our breath yet—which is something we had going on a few weeks earlier with less bone-chilling cold.

There are just particular types of cold. There’s the cold I recall from Minnesota. It drove me forward, stomping through the snowy forests; recalling a witerbite through my boots and into my feet, but nothing that reached down into my bones the way that Sonoran cold does.

Mill Ave was largely depopulated of the ordinary night-clad folk visiting clubs and bars, but they were certainly still there. They just didn’t choose to stop and dawdle in the chill so much. Possibly because a number of people were out in short sleeves, swinging their arms in the frigid air. Walking off of the Ave, the wind would pick up between the aisles of buildings. My cheeks felt cold from the bristling breezes.

All I did much on the Ave was talk to some of the streetrats and enjoin in a few gatherings outside of Valley Art theater; but there was little to discuss. Most of them have been huddling back at their squats or hiding in what housing they’ve been able to find during these colder days.

It’s particularly difficult for the itinerant culture during the winter. Fortune, of course, favors those out here due to the fact that we’re at a low altitude and latitude. The desert can reach freezing at nights, though, so anyone sleeping outside is at something of a risk. I still recall some of my nights sleeping out near the Mill Ave bridge. Cold causing all of us to shiver even as we were huddled together, listening to every passing car, and flicker of lights thinking it might be the police.

At least jail would be warmer.

Strange for me, of course, since unlike many of my friends I did have a place that I could go to if I chose to—and I did, often taking some of them with me. The number of street rats who I kept in my dorm room later that year was a little amusing. Possibly less-so to my patient and kind roommate at the time. Who managed to suffer well through the sick kids that I let sleep in my bed while they were taking their medication and recovering.

Healers. Can’t go far without us fostering some ailing stray under our wings.

That was a great deal of time before.

Now the chill simply hurts my fingers and makes it hard to type.

I hope everyone else had a warm Yule. Be well out there everyone.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Have a Merry Vexing Christmas and a Sprightly Yule all

Mill Avenue Vexations Have a Merry Vexing Christmas everyone.

This little title was released almost two years ago now, for Christmas. It is one of the very first tribute stories that we ever wrote.

If you haven’t read it before you might as well catch up.

I even have a black Santa cap like Vex is wearing on the cover now. For those who haven't had the fortune of reading this yet (get to it!) it summarizes a little bit like a cabdriver Dicken’s story, as Vex tries to unravel the lives of various fares. Three exactly. Each of whom have a little bit of trouble in their past, present, or future.

I hope everyone enjoys.

Merry Christmas and a Sprightly Yule to all.

Link to Mill Avenue Vexations.

CameraFRAUD.com, the cameras are watching

Shushing over the dark asphalt like octopus ink, thundering on hooves of rubber our car rides into the night; streetlights flashing bars of stereo-glow through the windows like a fan over an interrogation lamp.

“Here it comes,” I say.

And Kazz, smiles, the tinge of starlight making his teeth steely white in the dim flicker. He reaches up to the windshield and displays his middle finger.

It follows a small machine set along the side of the street like a heliotrope following the sun. A giant “SCREW YOU!” memorized by the traffic camera’s CCD, shot down wires in digital pulses, and stored somewhere for a muzzy eyed, blowsy faced political tech to scan it over while looking through reams of footage of the street.

These are the speed cameras of Phoenix, set out along the 101.

A terrible fraud meted out upon the city without vote, without democratic decision, and without ethical worth. These have been discussed before as a revenue source for the city—their blinding flashes chitterling scintilla bright against the dark as they photograph cars—and that they supposedly decrease crashes and make the roads safer (an effect not shown in any evidence.)

Instead, they defraud the public, produce a surveillance society, and slowly line the pockets of the Redflex Corporation.

Most of the time the tickets delivered from their cameras aren’t even legal and you can just throw them away; sometimes the process servers are corrupt and lazy, appear at the doors of people who aren’t home, or lie about the delivery, or pass them onto children who then forget.

Fight back with CameraFRAUD.com or at inform yourself on the subject. These cameras are not our friends, neither is Skynet or Terminators or whatever other machine masters purloining the public good for their own corporate greed.

We really need to stand up to these pathetic attempts to lie to the public, defraud the community, and generally make us less safe in an attempt to chew through extra money at the expense of civil rights.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"I quit," says YHVH played by Omar Call of Mill Ave

2868215.47 The Phoenix New Times just published an article on a guy who I know from Mill Avenue. Omar Call Preaches Atheism on Tempe's Mill Avenue by Niki D’Andrea.

He's carrying a white megaphone and wearing a shiny silver-metal backpack that resembles a vacuum cleaner — an example of the "industrial design" he loves so much.

A couple of people ask if he's going to "fire up the jetpack" and fly away.

But more ask about the big, black sign that reads "Damn God America" in gold block letters.

Usually, street preachers share the word of God. For the past several years on Mill, you haven't been able to walk from one bar to another without tripping over someone sharing the love of Christ through an amplifier or a stack of Bible tracts.

But this blue velvet guy is a different kind of preacher. He's a devout non-believer, and he preaches atheism.

I’ve seen him out on the Ave since last year; I met him the first time right before Yule as well, which means that I’ve seen him out there for almost exactly a year now. He’s definitely an interesting presence with his sign that says: DAMN GOD AMERICA.

Other things that he’s done has included dressing up as the Christian god, YHVH, holding a sign saying, “I quit.” He has quite the ensemble and often wields pithy phrases with gusto.

Omar is a soft spoken, well versed person who promotes positive atheism and a dialogue with passersby about the behavior of the street preachers. I have never had much of a chance to talk at length with him, but thespian types are exactly the kind of person that I want visiting the Ave.

After his first appearance on Christmas day, he started to return to Mill intermittently now and again and had talks with Kazz. Since he’s become part of the ecology of the Ave he sometimes makes it into my anthropological observations.

He is always well dressed, carrying a white bull horn, it hasn’t been until this year that he’s begun to wear that interesting metal backpack that does indeed look like a rocket pack.

Link, via the Phoenix New Times.

Update

The folks over at BetterThanFaith.com have posted their own reactions to the New Times article about Omar Call. Ostensibly to correct irregularities of fact in the information published by the New Times.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mill Avenue Nights Saturday, December 20th 2008

The bracing chill of wintry weather brings foggy breath from pursed lips; huddled crowds, conversing over cold fingers, white exhalations like smoking lungs speaking warm words into substance. For most of the night, everyone gathered out in front of Borders; but eventually the crowds lingered also around the drum circle and we had drums.

The drum circle finally found itself, shook off its sleepy cloak, and started up around 10pm. The street rats there shifted in a tide between nineteen and twenty six people, one third of the population female. Pretty much also all huddled into talkative groups against the cold.

I got to see Mark and Cairo—a young man I’ve seen on Mill for quite some time, who carries a bokuto like I used to (although sheathed, and now I carry my steel-fiberglass cane instead of my bokuto.) He introduced himself as Cairo Seijuro. Mark, for those who don’t know, is one of the biggest fan of Vexations as there ever was. As a result, I made sure that he got a copy of Lost Sphinx Cat.

I did get quite a few booklets passed out tonight.

Monkey sent to the hospital

Our friend, Monkey aka Mikey, ended up being taken out of Borders bookstore and trundled off by the paramedics. No news on what happened to him but it did not appear life threatening. Speculation is wild, but the facts are thus: he was strapped to the gurney, which is not uncommon; and he had no apparent IV, there were no debris from injections or ampoules, drop bags were not open, and they did not have vital telemetry set up. This tells me that he was at least stable.

I suspect we’ll see him back on the Ave soon and we’ll all know then what happened.

Nathan

I met him, bouncing his skateboard on his foot standing, waiting, watching the evangelicals. A young man with a mohawk growing out, short brown hair on the sides of his head and the mohawk itself blonde. He says that he’s just out of San Francisco, wondering at the rusty-razor chill wind.

Diana and Danielle

I am not sure exactly where to put this one. I’m certain the BetterThanFaith people want my observations on them, but since I have some base anthropological thoughts on the subject I will just double up my observations. You can read this entire section also on my Mill Avenue Resistance observations blog.

A few of the Resistance had already appeared by the time that Kazz showed up with his speaker and microphone. When he started up, Jim was on the mic for the evangelicals (this is Valerie’s Jim) and he stepped down an instant later. To which there was a quip from Kazz, “Yeah, he’s afraid of me.”

Almost instantly a woman with straight, lank dark hair stepped up and started talking to Kazz. Her name, I would learn during my later interview of her, is Diana. I missed a lot of the conversation between her and Kazz, but I think that they discussed some of the ordinary first-day evangelical sound bite memes. (More of this on the Resistance observations blog.)

I spoke with Diana and Danielle, sisters. I could be wrong about Diana’s name, she could be Diane—but I recall thinking of the Italic goddess Diana, Greek Artemis’s likeness as the goddess of the hunt. Danielle wore this lovely little matching woolen sweater and cap, topping off round spectacles and also watched quietly like I normally do.

They haven’t yet visited Mill before, so I welcomed them. And I learned that they are basically a nomadic family who go from place to place evangelizing. Sold all of their worldly possessions and now they live out of an RV. I hope that they had a good time. I gave Diana a copy of my book as well just because.

As usual I spent some time steering the conversation, deflecting mirrorspeech when I could. This is because likely with the simple memes I’ve heard it all before and it’s just going to be a turn off to both of us. I understand they they’re out “working” to convert or evangelize people, but it’s hard to actually get to know anyone through their work when it is such a homogenizing and normative force. As a result I began to describe some of my thoughts on the civilizing influence of urbanization.

I have some thoughts about how city centers and cultural locus are extremely important to community. That Mill Ave serves this purpose for Tempe, especially with the proximity to Arizona State University. How cities have burned into a culture were everyone’s neighborhood actually persists at work and away from their residence. The modern work ethic has drawn people out of their local communities and made a tribe out of their workplace to the extent that most people know their co-workers much better than they do their neighbors.

In some ways this is good because it diversifies the set of resources that people have to draw upon; but it also has some collapse problems in that people therefore are disconnected from the communities that they must rely on for social interaction in times of crisis. It disconnects them from the proximity of culture.

Town centers like Mill Ave can help to bridge that.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Woman accused of piercing kittens to make them “gothic”

Pierced black kitten From all of the gothic community: Just don’t do this.

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. - Humane officers said a Pennsylvania woman marketed “gothic kittens” with ear, neck and tail piercings over the Internet. Officers with the SPCA of Luzerne County removed three kittens and a cat from a home outside Wilkes-Barre.

Officer Carol Morrison said the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals raided the home on Wednesday after getting a tip that the woman was selling the pierced kittens on eBay.

“It’s unbelievable anybody would do this to kittens,” Morrison said.

There are various gears of ethics when it comes to the treatment of animals in our culture. By in large we try to be as humane as possible when we impinge on their lives to produce our food, fur, and—in the case of domesticated pets—companionship. Kittens cannot consent to piercing or tail docking and any sort of invasive body modification should really be done by a veterinarian for health reasons.

This may not be the worst example of animal cruelty, especially to domesticated pets whom look to us for protection and care, but it’s still a lapse of judgment that should not be condoned especially by the goth community because it is bearing our banner by proxy.

If thou, or know someone, who has witnessed animal cruelty thou can visit the Pets911.com Animal Cruelty search to find contacts in the area.

If thou’d like to help pressure the District Attorney to prosecute this case, please contact Jackie Musto-Carol at the Wilkes-Barre Courthouse at info@jackiemustocarroll.com or call 570-825-1674 and urge her to press this case to the fullest extent of the law, including jail time for this sick individual.

Link, via GOTH Magazine.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Yes, but what are we going to replace Borders with?

With Borders closing on Mill Ave, Downtown Tempe is losing more of what little it had to offer. While there are many people out there happy to see it go, I am not just yet. It is leaving behind a wake of empty spaces on Mill as it goes. I would love it if Downtown Tempe finally got a grocery store, and what an almost perfect spot. Whole Foods had been opening larger and larger stores in the early 2000's but they realized how these stores underperformed their smaller predecessors and they have recently switched to designing smaller new stores. The space Boarders leaves is 25,000 square feet, the same size as the Whole Foods planned to go in 690 Stanyan in San Fransisco.

Some musings from the blogger at khamm.net.

I don't think that the vacant location in the Brickyard is a good place for a grocery store. Maybe the parking lot formerly known as Long Wong's; but not the Brickyard. Why do I think this? The space is positioned wrong.

A grocery store just doesn't work well at the community center of the type that is Mill Ave--unless it functions like an open air fruit market/bazaar that I've been talking about. Remember IGA? That was perfectly positioned, just a mile maximum from Mill Ave proper and in a magnificent place. Of course, that's dreadfully gone now.

We have a Walgreens on the corner now, which takes up some of the retail slack of the general bric-a-brack that people who live on and near the Ave will be looking for, but it doesn't qualify as a grocery.

There are numerous spaces off of Mill Ave proper that could hold a Whole Foods, or something else, and that niche is wide open. The space that Borders currently possesses, however, is more ideal for another bookstore or some other type of retail outlet. Ideally, though, I think that location should gain some sort of a community central element.

I'd love to see an arcade or a spot to draw in the college students; possibly a cafe and meeting places. I know that we have Starbucks and Coffee Plantation but we don't have any sort of casual entertainment anymore.

Stumbleupon is impressive vis-a-vis EvE Online mining scandal

So we got this article posted on Vox ex Machina about the newest drama to hit EvE Online. It's about a terrific bug in the moon mining that allows large corporations to exploit moon masses for basically infinite minerals.

Stumbleupon found this article, and hyped it to hell in back. We have managed to exceed—and survive—the greatest numbers of the slashdotting that took out the server earlier this month. Over the past two days we have absorbed over 15k impressions just from Stumbleupon, punking us straight up into 10.2k impressions in a single day. The spikes from the slashdotting (and Redditing/Digging) only reached 4.8k and 5.0k on their respective days.

Moon mining was added to EvE online in November, 2004 during the Exodus expansion, a patch originally called Shiva. Since then certain people have been taking huge advantage of this. One corp in particular, Band of Brothers, which has basically been the pet of CCP (the parent company that runs EvE) had been siphoning this exploit for a very long time yet managed to sail through this unscathed.

Who knew?

Wow to Stumbleupon; and thank goodness for the quick caching that I wrote into the Wordpress installation, otherwise we’d be down again.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Burger King unleashes a cologne for men

As if we didn’t think that the Burger King In Yellow was creepy enough (see a short story on this subject) Burger King has decided to take the uncanny and weird to a totally new level:

A Burger King cologne.

Just in time for the festive season, the company has released its very own men's body spray, Flame.

Not recommended for vegetarians, Flame is being promoted as "the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat".

While the smell itself might not inspire confidence, the price will.

Flame is on sale for the credit crunch-busting sum of just $3.99 (£2.65), suggesting the Burger King promotions department has realised their contribution to the fragrance market might work best as a novelty stocking-filler.

Flame, a body spray for men, was launched this week online and in a selection of US stores – it is sadly not available in the UK, and now even has its own website, the appropriately named firemeetsdesire.com.

I like meat as much as the next elf on the street, in fact being an entire race who love the thrill of the hunt, it’s rather in our blood, but—there is a point at which I do draw the line. That’s generally when I smell like meat. Not just the sweaty, rushing, blood-throbbing meat that we fell in the woods, but the succulent, cooked food that sits on a plate waiting for a fork to stab into its juicy center.

Yes. I do have a badge that asks people to please not eat me!

So this isn’t high on my list of scents that I would want to wear.

Link, via the Telegraph UK.

Afterthoughts: So, when is Burger King coming out with a scent that smells like French fries?

A personal book signing for a fan

Just received a copy of Specter in the Spectacles via post to sign for a fan!

That's right, kids, this is my very first book ever and I have a fan, mailing me a book, so that I can sign it.

Now—I just have to figure out what exactly to say. It's for his daughter whom he wants to get to read, so I should probably be sane...

Who ever thought that I’d get to the point where people actually wanted me to sign stuff?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Brother Jed

“Fish don’t live in pine trees.”

Still no news from his website when we'll be seeing him next at ASU. I just thought I'd bring this bit of nostalgia back to everyone.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Codex Gigas

Literally meaning, “Giant Book,” this is the largest extant manuscript of mediaeval illuminated text that we have. Also called the Devil’s Bible, it has been getting some interest lately because it’s appearing on National Geographic.

The book itself is amazing, take a look at the Wikipedia article on the subject.

Writer Stephen Rose has some things to say about its presentation on National Geographic, which decided to trod into superstition and Christian themes when presenting the Gigas Codex.

According to legend. Right. This is pure hoodwink territory. As described the Codex itself is religious subterfuge, right down to its popular name. As far as I can gather, the entire deception is based on the presence of a prominent illustration of Satan, a figment of human imagination which, according to the New Testament, Jesus managed to defeat by pointing out that a house divided cannot stand. No small insight in a world still wracked by false dualisms.

Well before this illustration was drawn, Cro-Magnon painting in the caves of Lascaux offered an incredible sense of the inherent creativity of human beings who respond to the spark or force within themselves. I make bold to say that this spark is closer to what Jesus had in mind when he challenged the imperial values of Rome and promulgated a Beatitudinal way than the hoary superstitions that are the staple of mass media exploitation of the religious impulse.

Every time hype production values are applied to superstitious elements of sacred texts, we are in humbug territory. For the National Geographic to play this game is a serious shame.

It isn't uncommon for the most powerful meme in a particular society to attempt to insinuate itself over ancient documents to forward its own goals. It is a bit shameful and stupid that people tried to plaster them over this particular document.

Link, the Huffington Post.

Borders on Mill Ave closing down

Verified by a worker in Borders, they are closing up on January 31st.

After they have left us, we will have no more bookstores on Mill Ave that cater to contemporary works! So, we really need someone to take up the slack—even a small mom and pop outfit would be welcome. Please.

May not be able to take up the location that Borders is vacating, but something would be welcome.

The closing comes on the heels of about four shops opening on Mill in recent months, as the area attempts to recover from more than a year of economic woes. Several Mill Avenue merchants have said Tempe's downtown is struggling because of the economy and competition from Tempe Marketplace, near Rio Salado Parkway and McClintock Drive.

Vic Linoff use to own Those Were the Days book and antique store on Mill Avenue, which closed earlier this year. He's now leasing out the space in the building he owns.

"We have a lot of difficulty leasing our space, but that is not surprising given there are more stores closing than opening," he said.

There is some commentary that everyone is blaming the Tempe Marketplace; and in fact this is true. In some ways it is to "blame." Because it is pulling away a lot of the retail power that Mill Ave has.

However, this is like blaming an invasive species of animal for trashing an ecosystem because it's better adapted than the other animals. It's just doing what it tends to do. The Tempe Marketplace is a giant mall that is pulling away the economy from Mill because Mill was built too much around the type of retail stores that work extremely well in the Marketplace.

Mill simply needs to respond by diversifing into niches that large retail stores do not cover. Especially those niches that malls are extremely bad for: kiosks, bazaars, eclectic stores, and book stores that cater to the cultural Bohemian.

Link, via AZ Central.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mill Avenue Nights Saturday, December 13th 2008

Little newbie Christine really needs to calm down a little bit. It is apparent that she’s a bit hyperactive and possibly mildly Aspergers—something that most geeks can probably relate to. She doesn’t seem to understand that assaulting other people is a very bad thing, after striking Osiris with an image she had drawn, throwing water in my face, and other things. She’s been stirring up a lot of animosity with the group through hyperactive behavior and assaults. I figure, though, that as long as enough people are firm about what behavior is bad she’ll eventually calm down.

The drum circle group is fairly mellow and do deal with people acting out rather well, however, the frat crowds and the drunken outsiders who visit are not. So it may become a problem if she gets too abrasive with one of them.

She’s a young blond girl, wearing a hoodie, constantly talking about her boyfriend and pretty much insinuating herself into every conversation.

Others that I found out there

Remi came by, drunk off his respective ass.

Jimmy also ran about offering hugs to all comers—I got about three.

Vince made an appearance but I didn’t get much of a chance to talk to him. For the most part he stood around and discussed theology as per his regular status as Preacher Man.

I also got a chance to talk to Ogre (Paul) and his girlfriend. I haven’t seen him since last year. Apparently he and his kaywng have been together almost 13 months now, which is going strong and is good to hear. He’s been avoiding the Ave due to drama that permeates the place—but it’s still cheerful to have him back in the group.

Osiris also came out again, which is good because I like having him around.

Jim, our wheelchair bound friend

I had a chance to sit down an interview Jim for my first recorded interview with one of the people who comes out to Mill as an evangelical. He is not connected to the Way of the Master evangelicals, but he has been out there for years now and I haven’t gotten his story.

I am going to start making interviews shortly of street rats and evangelicals, and anyone else, to post on this blog about their experience on Mill Ave. This will also be added to my anthropological research.

Anyone who would like an interview and a biographical post, go ahead and contact me by commenting and we can get together.

Mill Ave street preachers

Of whom Jim is sort of included in a cursory fashion, they were out caroling, cavorting, and so on. I have more about them in my Mill Avenue Resistance observations blog.

Hanna is awesome

She is a petite blonde girl, ASU student who started out in CSE but moved instead to a Mathematics major, if I recall correctly, because CSE at ASU yet seems a bit too far behind the times and tended to put her to sleep. Her joining the Ave is definitely a good influence. As readers are about to see.

Near midnight a newcomer joined our little revelry and since she looked like someone who might like Vexations, I gave her a copy of Lost Sphinx Cat; the result of which became a trade—a trade for Pop-its! Little micro-explosives made of wads of paper, gunpowder, and flint (or some sort of rocks) that when struck against the ground, or any other hard surface, make a crack! sound.

This lead to a great deal of merriment.

Until several mounted officers came by, stood for a while, and then approached to tell Brian that we were littering. I’m not sure that I fully support this sort of “stop that because your littering,” because certainly they could have just asked us to stop because they felt like it was disruptive. Littering? The amount of paper litter produced by these tiny things isn’t even enough to make a single tract or flyer handed out by the other various groups. And we could have been asked instead to simply clean up some tracts/fliers or even the bits from the Pop-its.

Littering?

It is easy to disrespect people who use obviously stupid reasons to stop a behavior rather than plead for calm. As police officers they will always be facing a certain amount of animosity from the public because they’re being told what to do; but when the rule of law from their mouths is so transparently asinine it’s only going to feed into the notion that they’re not worth respecting.

Try keeping the peace with a little bit of actual respect for the citizens rather than using bad rhetoric; people really do not want to be part of a problem, leave it at that rather than insulting them.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Mill Avenue Nights Friday, December 12th 2008

Upon my arrival I bask in the electric glow of the lights strung through the trees on the Ave like frozen fireflies. They rest their wings, asleep, on trunks and hung like glowing fruit in the canopies above. The traffic is sparse, but there are definitely people about, it’s only about 6pm and I have come to see the STFS meet at Borders.

Borders is closing up shop! Come January 31st we will see them no more. They are offering 20% off on most of their wares, so everyone should show up and get their fill. I have been asked, “So, what do you think will take its place?” I think it’s likely that nothing will—the economy of Mill is hard up and not in a good place. Especially with the Tempe Marketplace not that far away, sucking away the retail vibe. Which could be good for the Bohemian atmosphere.

Just not so good for the income.

At this rate it’ll be a restaurant. However, what I think that Mill Avenue District should do with it is: booths and kiosks.

That’s right. Until some major store is called to move in there. Which may take months. Open up the space for a mini-bazaar. Let various small-time entities set up tables, booths, kiosks, tents, and the like as if a marketplace of its own. Let us have an indoor swap meet. In fact, how about we invite both the Resistance and the Mill Ave evangelicals to have their own little corners? How interesting would that be?

Well. I suppose that it is much more in the interest of the Mill Avenue District development to move in another big name retail store into the spot. Another bookstore would be good. Because with the exit of Changing Hands Bookstore and the closure of Those Were the Days, we are now down to only Old Town Books and that’s not exactly a contemporary bookstore. Excellent store, though, for antique and out-of-print works.

Orange taxis lined up in front of the Valley Art Theater and My Big Fat Greek restaurant wrapped themselves up in plastic to help keep outside patrons warm against the encroaching winter. With solstice approaching we are marching into the depths of cold; although tonight wasn’t really that chilly, possibly low 60s high 50s.

The median of the Ave has a series of wireframed red lights spelling out: TEMPE.

A small group of drummers set up in front of the brightly-lit American Apparel.

Spent most of the night handing out Lost Sphinx Cat, probably burned through about 20 of them before I ran out of people to give them out to.

Mill Ave evangelical preachers

After the STFS changed membership and transformed into the Resistance they went out to find the preachers, but they didn’t appear. However, I still have some notes that pertain so I have put those on my Mill Avenue Resistance observations blog.

Graffiti Shop

There are some extremely fun gothic clothes by Living Dead Souls. Not just the usual Gothic Lolita clothing (which is there also) but basically an anatomical sweater showing off bones of the arms, chest, and right up into the neck of the shirt the lower mandible.

Marissa and Friend

Actually, I cannot properly remember either of their names—so I might be getting Marissa’s name wrong—I haven’t seen her in almost three years. However, she and her friend look healthy enough. She’s been a Mill rat for almost a decade now.

Says that she’s in a bit of a situation involving her job, from which she’s been shuffled off, which is probably a good thing because they’ve been bouncing cheques. A lawsuit appears to be looming on the horizon for her against the company to get the money they’re owed. In the meantime she appears to have gone into a stint where she’s doing phone work for someone else, so that they can make rent and car payments.

She also has another Carcass in her social circle. (Have I mentioned that the two most common street names on the Ave are Corpse and Carcass?)

Greg and Shamancat

Shamancat came by again today and said hello. He’s been in town for months now and it’s good to see him around. He brought a friend with him, Greg, who isn’t too happy about how Mill Ave has been treating him—when I welcomed him, he said he’d be glad to get on with his travels.

He’s come out of California, San Francisco mostly, and is heading through Arizona towards Louisiana to reach New Orleans before Mardi Gras. Not an uncommon thing for passersthrough.

Greg has a golden labrador retriever with him, don’t know the dogs name but s/he is gorgeous. A leather jacket, red baseball cap lettered SF intertwined, and an obviously heavy backpack.

Shamancat says that he’s rescued over seven dogs and has gotten them all homes.

Daniel Nickels

A larger, heavyset man with a fuzzy neckbeard and a fey look in his eyes. He talked and wobbled as he tried to start a conversation with Vince, starting off that he probably met him on the “flight deck.” Which, according to Daniel, is military slang for the psych ward. He complained that he didn’t feel so well; he had been released from the Veterans Hospital without night med. Only day meds.

“Daniel Nickels,” he said. “Like the money—more dollars than sense. I feel like I might walk right out into traffic right now.”

Vince suggested to him that he might cross the street and talk to the mounted police officer to ask her for a crisis unit. Shortly thereafter he did cross the street and a Rescue arrived.

We saw a lot of Rescue that night. Ambulances and fire trucks driving willy-nilly around the Ave; possibly five separate events all around the corner at the Post Office. Certainly had to have been a busy night for them.

Osiris

He came by with a new cane, which matches the configuration of a modern sheleighleigh, although a lot shorter than the ones that I’m used to; the fighting sticks are short, but their shepherd’s counterparts are a bit longer and are what I was used to from my time spent with my Irish family.

Wednesday, whom I lovingly call Squirrel

She showed up with her boyfriend and possibly aunt/mother? I don’t know—I was too polite to ask, I suppose, probably a failing on my part because now I am talking about her and I’m not being so polite.

Whatever the case, it was very good to see Squirrel. I haven’t seen her since last year. She appears to be doing well. I spent most of my time talking to her boyfriend who just lost his house (a common malady these days) and had spent a bunch of time repairing a vehicle to move to another place.

I made sure that she got a copy of Lost Sphinx Cat and let it lay at that.

Lost Sphinx Cat released into the web and print!

Pulling this directly form my news post on Mill Avenue Vexations.

Mill Avenue Vexations Lost Sphinx Cat by Kyt Dotson is available online for readers to enjoy! And, as usual, there are free copies available to people who can get out to Mill Ave in Tempe.

Augustus Caesar, missing cat, and the little girl who loves him, Holly. Of course, this is a Vexations story, so there is a twist. Even before she starts looking, Vex discovers that what looks like an ordinary domesticated cat is actually a dangerous shapeshifter with an insatiable hunger. Through whatever means the cat landed in a pet store and then in the hands of an unsuspecting family. Vanished under unfortunate circumstances she has to decide how to handle the reunion—if any reunion between loving family and potentially perilous moggie can even happen.

Come, read this story about a bond between cat and girl that transcends the nature of the beast—that in the end, not everything is exactly how it seems. From monsters to housecats.

Cover design by Rebecca Gunter; and the entire back page is dedicated to an advertisement for Pets911.com a website dedicated to animal welfare, adoption services, and of course lost & found boards to help reunite lost pets and their families.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Webcomic review: Dead or Worse

We’ve been officers; we’ve been grifters. We’ve been rich; we’ve been poor. We’ve been the thick, the thin, and even the watered down—but never the booze. When you can’t shake the dust from your boots or the blood from your knuckles you know that you have it bad. You have it so deep in your soul you just can’t separate the man from the frontier.

Every new town, a new angle.

Dead or Worse is a studied frame of the Old West and the people who lived there. Following a pair of ne’er-do-well friends who play out the grand art of pugilism for a living. Drinking their wages out of the fight purses and winnings.

Sometimes the light is right, the cut of the other fighter’s jaw is direct in line, and down he goes in the third round to a cheering crowd—

And sometimes, things don’t quite go as planned.

So everybody’s got a goddamned angle?

Then again, sometimes you can get it so bad you can’t separate the man from the angle.

If you like Westerns, you like pugilism, wit, and friendship forged through steel and bruised knuckles. This webcomic is for you.

Dead or Worse: THE ANGLES by Luis Boisvert and Brendan Peveril.

Building an IVR with Twilio by Adam

One of my coworkers just put up some tutorials and code about an amazing service called Twilio. How to use it to make an IVR.

The system is a text-to-speech converter that runs off of a telephone line at the Twilio center; when a caller dials in it contacts a web server, yours presumably, which replies with XML documents. These XML documents then give speech for the Twilio service to speak to the caller and define how the caller should interact with the system.

These interactions can run a gamut of different interactions in key presses, tones, et cetera.

In the example I am linking he goes over how to make a simple voicemail menu.

I am hoping to put this to work on one of my own projects.

Link, via Adam's Continuity at BlackAcid

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Vexations Fanfiction

Oh yes, it is that thou art imaging the title of this post correctly: I just saw the first installment of someone writing fanfic for Vexations.

No kidding.

I will see if I can convince them to post it up on Fanfiction.net so that everyone can see it and enjoy. Until then, I'm going to keep the news off of the general wires until something substantial can be shown off to readers.

Meanwhile, thou all can look forward to Lost Sphinx Cat upcoming this weekend.

World! Of! Goo!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Have a merry pagan Christmas, and a sprightly Yule too

With the advent of the Christmas season reigning strong in the hearts and minds of the American public, it’s a good time to come out and revisit the strange scintilla of spirit that actually rests over these holidays. The retail industry tried to start as early as they could, barely letting Hallowse’en slide out the back door before they started putting out the Christmas decorations and ornaments—we had a really interesting Thanksgiving with turkey’s sitting side-by-side with the egg nog and snow angels.

The supposed War on Christmas touted blindly from the television is blathering on; but really the secularization of Christmas happened way back during Dickens era and now it’s been bled dry by Wal-Mart and Hallmark to the point where it has few of the original allusions to what people think it should—but never really had in the first place.

Except for people who celebrate Saturnalia, maybe.

The so-called atheist movement has gotten strange bolstering from bus advertising, and even a poster set next to a Christmas tree (excuse me Holiday tree) in the capital city of Washington Olympia. Only to have their sign stolen—then returned. TV pundits like Bill O’Rilley then brought out their vituperative voices to screed the governor of the state for following the law. Perhaps people need to re-read the 1st Amendment that we all cherish so much.

As for everything else Christmas, I will leave everyone to settle into their Yule spirit and quote—and link to—my favorite Pagan blog on all subjects religiosity and mythology.

The Wild Hunt.

December brings many things: snow, cold weather, people acting horribly at shopping centers, and journalists seeking a new angle on holiday reporting. A favorite in recent years is to talk of the "pagan" origins of the Christmas holiday. These often come in the form of editorials rebutting the inane "War on Christmas" prattlings by Bill O'Reilly and his ilk. For example, Pete Langr of the Budgeteer News has this to say.

"It’s ironic that the effort to put Christ back in Christmas is both so profitable and so willing to focus on the Christmas tree and on the word “merry.” The Christmas tree itself “has nothing to do with other religious holidays celebrated in December” says my letter writer. Except that the Christmas tree was apparently co-opted by Christians from a pagan celebration in which evergreen boughs were hung in the home. In effect, the pagans lost an earlier culture war. Perhaps they bartered buttons saying 'take back our winter solstice celebration.'"

And so on, and so forth. Some reporters have even tried to debunk the "Christmas traditions aren't really Christian" debunkers.

"Despite popular belief, the idea of Christmas trees did not come from Pagan rituals. In fact, the first Christmas trees are believed to have originated in 17th century Germany. It took two centuries for the idea to catch on in the U.S."

Too bad the Bible somewhat refutes that notion.

Preparing For the “Pagan Christmas” Rush, link via The Wild Hunt.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Mill Avenue Nights Saturday, December 6th 2008

We arrived on the scene a bit late into the twilight gloaming, with dark gently descending over the marches of empty white tents. Streetlights illuminated the red bricks of the sidewalk and the asphalt streets, hiding the dust, scratches, and errant debris that remained strewn from the Art Festival during the day. Some random sculptures—a green plate-like molding, and a spiderwebbed red-and-black bristle of almost-coral—stood out between some of the tents.

A lively crowd gathered outside of hooters, eyes staring upwards at a TV. An announcer’s voice booming back down to the glittering pupils as they watched the distant screen. Pugilism and 20/20 vision. A fight had been progressing on the screen and the crowd found themselves in hushed gazes in the middle of the street.

Yes, that’s right: the middle of the street.

When the Art Festival is in town all of Mill Ave gets shut to vehicular traffic. We get to walk down the middle of the road without a care. An event that brings joy to my visitations as I get to walk, twirling, between the lonely tents and through the street without fear of being run down. Nor having to wait for the WALK signal to bear me safely through.

Our street rats certainly came out today, but by in large the drum circle wasn’t. We did have some drummers at the entrance to the area but they were playing bongos its sounded like and singing a strange variety of songs including Tool. Which…did not lend itself to the bongos so well.

Remi

Apparently I have been spelling Remi’s name wrong. A danger of linguistic homonyms as I thought it was spelled with a ‘y’ all this time. No problem. This can be fixed.

Other Mill Rats

There were quite a few of the old guard hanging around the bronze legs and I had a time to actually speak with them and handed out the remaining copies of Volume 9. Next week I will have Lost Sphinx Cat to hand out! By in large it received a fair amount of glowing cheer and hands reaching out for it.

Amidst the Mill rats were also a few new faces but I didn’t get much of a chance to talk to them as the evangelicals were far more interesting.

The Mill Ave Evangelicals

Kazz from the Resistance took a while to reach the Ave due to hold ups at his house, so when he arrived it was wearing into 9. The Way of the Master evangelicals tend to turn into pumpkins at 10pm, so there was going to be little dialogue between Kazz and them. Erin, Suzanne, her daughter, Al, Jim, Sean, Trevor, Lee, John, others…

I actually finally got to meet Vocab tonight. He’s a hiphop artist who also writes poetry and sometimes breaks out into raps directly on the street. Lee had a white amp speaker with him and let Vocab use it for a little while; but eventually when different members of his cadre were using the mike, Lee cut them off.

During his little rap, Vocab even said my name. He’s actually pretty good. I have received a CD from him of his work. I will try to review it at some point.

After some caroling most of the larger Way of the Master group did vanish from the Ave but remaining behind were still enough for some fun discussions between the Resistance and others.

Also to note, Richard came back today! He has been missing ever since I first came back from Michigan—and as much as I was happy to see him, he really didn’t spend a moment to talk much with me. Just enough time to say, “I had to go off and do my own thing,” when I asked him where he had been. I am just glad that he is alright.

More of this is written up on the Mill Avenue Resistance reports blog.

Mounted police and furlough

I was walking down the street from the evangelicals when a mounted policeman came charging past. I believe that Kyle or Cael had to leap out of the way or get run down—although I think that the horses are actually trained not to stomp on people. Cael came back and said that someone had broken into a tent and wrecked someone’s art.

And then got promptly run to ground by the horse.

General population wandering around

I got to meet some random people as well on the street. By in large people passing by were fun to talk to and many of them took booklets.

I also got a chance to talk to Nikki, a reporter from the New Times, who might do a story on Vexations so we’ll see where that goes.

Then there were the two guys dressed up in Star Trek shirts—right down to the silvery communicator symbol on their shirts. Neither one was a red shirt. I think one was blue and the other one was black. Brothers who say that they dress up every time that they go out, tonight just turned out to be Star Trek.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

First Friday, Art Walk Nights, Friday December 5th 2008

FIRST FRIDAY!

Yes, I went to First Friday for the first time in about two years. I went there once before with my wonderful kaywngse, Nutmeg, but it really overwhelmed me. I can’t get around very well because of my congestive heart failure, and hopping gallery-to-gallery really began to wear me out. Tonight I picked a totally different tactic:

Stay in one bloody place!

Doing so allowed me to keep track of the Mill Avenue resistance, meet some lovely freaks and wonderful people, and also gave me a chance to mingle with the crowds. The evangelicals set up right across from the Phoenix Anonymous protest, so I was also able to go over there and learn what I could about them.

Also I got to see Lux again (wearing an awesome outfit, see Plague Doctor's I have Met, below.)

And to top everything off, we sang Cthulhu carols to everyone with cheer and glee.

Phoenix Anonymous vs. Scientology

Certainly people have seen these people wandering around by now protesting the Scientology Corporation on street corners. These protests have been going on for months now and they’re actually quite difficult to miss. I haven’t been involved and while I there were some offers from various organizations for experience essays and observations on the activities of Anonymous by various anthropological journals and newsletters, I felt like my time was better served sticking to Mill Ave.

However, tonight I had some good chances to observe them in protest.

The Phoenix Anonymous wear masks to protect their identity when they protest because the Scientology Corporation have a documented history of harassing, gas lighting, abusing, and otherwise criminally mistreating protestors.

Several artists from the Art Walk even joined in with the Phoenix Anonymous by performing their own protest. Materials distributed by the Scientology Corporation were plead for from passersby who had received them and then promptly destroyed. One particular girl with red hair felt so strongly about this she spent hours wrecking the propaganda. “I feel like they’ve intruded in our space,” she said. “These people are spreading their indoctrination on my doorstep. Don’t piss off artists.” As I watched pamphlets and CDs from the Scientology Corporation were bent, spindled, scratched, and raked into ruin—each one receiving a handwritten message: Go away!

Members of the Secular Free Thought Society also decided to check out the Scientology display. The display consisted of two yellow canvas tents on metal poles (it was interesting listening to them wreck the tents because of the clink-tang-tang-tang sound that pipes make when they strike the ground) and red clothed tables at which stress test administrators sat. One of the tents housed a lonely TV endlessly repeating some programme to a trio of empty chairs. Various members of the Scientology Corporation stood around wearing red vests and jackets displaying the logo on their backs.

Rocco, Colleen, and Todd (there may be more) received stress tests. Afterwards Rocco posited about the nature of the testing mechanism, the e-meter, which appears to be a primitive galvanic skin response meter—aka the basis of what has become the lie detector. It appears that the e-meter has some sort of a sensitivity dial that allows the person running the test to adjust it on the fly, which, I was told was provided to “help keep the needle in the middle.” I also discovered that the devices were unable to output any diagnostic records. They don’t record anything; they have only one dial, which is being constantly modified by the tester. These devices certainly cannot have any diagnostic use because the conditions of the test can never be repeated and they cannot be critically examined after the fact.

A member of the Phoenix Anonymous, wearing a Guy Fawkes mask from V For Vendetta, also spoke out about why he was wearing a bullet proof vest. In a recent incident at the Scientology Corporation celebrity center a man was gunned down by a security guard for wielding “samurai swords.”[1] According to news articles on the subject the man was a member of Scientology.

As the night was winding down we noticed a press release from the Scientology Corporation that stated a man implicated in DDOSing their websites had been arrested. “DDOSing the Scientology websites in the name of Anonymous.” According to the poster—a huge thing hung over the rental sign for the building that Scientology had rented offices in—the Secret Service had also been involved in the investigation.[2]

The Evangelical Christians

Most of this is going into my Roosevelt Resistance Report (the name of the street we were on was Roosevelt, so I changed it from Mill Avenue to be funny.) But we did see some of them out there tonight, in fact bits of the Friday and Saturday Mill Avenue evangelical crews: Trevor, Sean, Lee, John, Linda, Valerie.

The SFTS and Mill Avenue Resistance were also out in full force.

Dialogue was minimal, but there were certain repartees.

Interesting event happened when Trevor was walking past the Scientology site and decided to voice his opinion, “Jesus is Lord, do not listen to these people. They are false teachings!”

Cthulhu Caroling

To wrap up the night finally, we all got together with the speaker and the microphone and sang Have a Scary Solstice songs to the passersby. Wonderful songs like “Go Summon Up the Dead Ones” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Yog-Sothoth” go to bear the grace of my mellifluous voice to the diminishing crowds of the night.

Whatever strange dweomer that we enspelled the crowds with that night, the Great Olde Ones watching from on high. Fomohault gazing down into our souls, dead and distant—

Someday they will return.

People WORTH Seeing: Plague doctors I have met

Wandering past the evangelicals I got to see Lux! She’s the interesting little critter that I saw when we went to protest the Westboro Baptist Church, and apparently she has brilliant taste—something that apparently I am good for picking people for. When I first saw her it was impossible to tell who it was as she was masked and costumed as a Doktor Schnabel von Rom[3] (Picture), otherwise known as the Plague Doctor outfit.

The plague doctors wore outfits with bird masks and a doctor’s cap, with a wax coat to keep disease away from them. The beak of the bird mask often would be stuffed with potpourri or burning incenses and salts because the prevailing theory of disease was miasma—better known as “odor is disease.” The thought at the time was that stenches were the source of illness, since illness often coincided with stenches. Thus, good-smelling things would keep away illnesses and as a result censers and open pots of burning incense were found in the homes of royalty and noblemen to ward off the Black Death.

Kudos to her for the amazing outfit!

This is where I am going to put in a little bit of a teaser: I am working on a Vex Arsenal story that involves a character dressed up in a plague doctor outfit. It is slated for release this winter after the publishing season is over. The series is almost 70% done and once it’s ready it will go into serial release. Vex Arsenal: The Holocaust Star. It will be released alongside the re-release of The Byzantium Outcast.

Subscribe to the Mill Avenue Vexations RSS to keep abreast of news!


[1] http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/us_world/NATL-Sword-Wielding-Man-Shot-Dead-at-Hollywood-Scientology-Building-.html

[2] http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/cac/pressroom/pr2008/140.html

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plague_doctor#Other_effects

Thursday, December 04, 2008

...

A post in which I realize that yesterday, I spoke too soon.

Vox ex Machina just got linked out of Slashdot—fortunately, the sky has not fallen (yet) because the article we were linked out of happens to be collapsed.

Apparently the post walked right into a firestorm of discussion about the direction Funcom has been going with Age of Conan. Concerns about the company remaining in business are bristling with a community that survived a horrible beta release process of the MMO.

For those interested the article in question is on Vox ex Machina entitled, Age of Conan: How an MMORPG Dies.

For one, I found one particular post on Slashdot to reflect my own thoughts on this matter:

Honestly, I'm far more concerned with the fate of The Longest Journey, one of their other franchises.

The original was one of the greatest point-and-click adventure games of all time. The sequel was okay, but left too many unanswered questions. The original left the door open, of course, but it also told a complete story with a real ending.

From the Elrond, Duke of URL.

The Longest Journey is one of my favorite Adventure franchises ever. The releases are very slow, but the story is stunningly compelling, beautiful, and heartbreaking—the last one actually drove me to tears over something I already knew was coming. I hope that even if Funcom suffers from their poorly accepted MMO that they won't then collapse under their own weight.

The worldwide economic recession aside.

On the server front, looks like the berserk traffic that tore down my server yesterday is going to continue pretty much for a while. I am right now working out moving the site to a different, more stable server.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I think I just discovered exactly how much of traffic Willowisp can handle

And it's not pretty. As of this moment, voxexmachina.com is dead in the water.

kitteh@willowisp:~> uptime
  7:45pm  up 48 days  7:32,  4 users,  load average: 133.25, 125.97, 90.26

Yes. It looks like it has managed to hit almost 133 load. There were 11 comments on Ceroptera's Age of Conan article, and climbing. While people are positing it was a DDOS, I think it was something much more mundane.

I think that it’s basically the social media version of being slashdotted.

This is assuming, of course, that he didn’t secretly post something about nudepatches and mods to Reddit when I had my back turned.

>.<

This is my make it stop! face.

Update 2008-12-03 9:06pm: Looks like we managed to get it rebooted; let’s see how long this lasts.

Dumping the responsibility for protecting citizens on mythological characters is silly

I have just read one of the most brilliant quotes on why the separation of religion and state is important, and why invoking the deity of a single culture or religion in government mandate is silly:

“I’m not aware of any other state or commonwealth that is attempting to dump their clear responsibility for protecting their citizens onto God or any other mythological creature,” Buckner said.

This quote comes from an article about a lawsuit over a Kentucky anti-terrorism law that mentions the Judeo-Christian god “God” even though it really shouldn’t.

Establishment exists in the Constitution because religion in government is a doubled-edged sword—there is no one religion, even in individual religions there are sects that hate each other with such intensity that they murder their brothers over points of doctrine. To have freedom of religion one must first be free of the religion of her neighbor. That means that no one religion gets to dictate the culture of government proceedings and that they must remain neutral in those regards.

The mythology of different cultures are amazing and interesting and often beautiful, but it is not for them to lead the government of We the People around by the nose because not all of us people are Judeo-Christian.

Would those who claim the current god in that legislation really take putting Zeus, Shiva, or the Morrigan into the law sitting down?

Really?

Why should anyone else? Furthermore, as moral and sane people neither should those that do for any god in legislation for the same reason.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mill Avenue Nights Saturday November 29th 2008

Expanding my interviews

I have finished up most of my interviews of new and old street rats and have decided that it’s about time that I expanded my interview process of other visitors. This is going to include the more long-time evangelicals as they’ve become part of my observation mandate.

So, I asked Jim if he’d be interested in an interview. I will try to do that next week.

APS Fantasy of Lights

The parade crashed through the Ave and sprinkled electrical dust on everything. Well, not exactly, but it did cause the city to turn on the trees—and by this I mean, they turned on the Xmas lights that wrap around them. The usual white trappings are now across the Ave with some additional changes: colors.

On University and Mill Ave there are trees with green-lit trunks and strange bunches of red and blue “fruit” glowing in them; further down Mill Ave we can find trees that have red trunks, and blue, green, and white “fruit.” These differing trees always occur at intersections. They seem to be the new variety offered by the city to interest people.

The parade culminated in a giant firework show launched from Sun Devil Stadium at about 8:30pm (that was the finale moment.)

They cut off the Ave from normal traffic and let people run about through the street willy-nilly—I love it when they do that. As much as I know it disrupts the normal operations of the city, I have long wondered about if there could be more pedestrian centers. We do have a beautiful bazaar.

People were walking around with cheap light saber toys that filtered strange blue, green, and red lights—some which twisted and twirled through kaleidoscopic merriment as they swirled them in joviality. Welcome to the Ave. Enjoy and be free.

The parade and the crowds that crushed behind it also brought with them a mountain of trash. Discarded wrappers, cups smashed underfoot, tied wrappings of lit-toys that exploded under car tires like backfires.

New Evangelicals

I noticed a fellow who claimed to be a street rat on Mill Ave when he was sixteen; I don’t know how old he is now so I couldn’t say if he was during or before my observations—he seemed to recognize me when I walked past; but I didn’t get a chance to talk to him. I didn’t even get to know what the name of his troupe is (troupe of one…)

He had an honest to gods piano.

I believe it was a KAWAI (I know, that’s Nipponese for “cute” but it’s a real brand) a large, black affair run through with electronics; probably to connect up to his two large speakers on staves. He broke down and ran away before I had a chance to really talk to him. He spent part of his time playing and part of his time proselytizing. I’m sure the Resistance were interested.

I also got to talk to John, who had come out with Lee.

And amidst the groups was Trevor again, although we didn't really get much of a talk in. He got some time on the microphone while I was listening in front of the Post Office before I went to see the people who run the Thirsty Dog.

And then there was also a new young man named Brant who, if he wants to be part of Mill Ave culture, should really learn to be conversant outside of his mirrorspeech or he's going to have a very hard time assimilating into the local color.

The rest of my notes on encounters with evangelicals tonight and the operations of the Resistance will be on the Mill Avenue Resistance observations column. Please direct questions and criticisms of observations there as I can use them to enhance my notes.

The Drum Circle

There weren’t any drums tonight.

Our hangout is pretty much doing well with some wonderful people to stop and talk to. But our drums are lacking.

I saw Vince out tonight, as well as Nikki, and a few others, but largely it was just a social gathering for us to stand and get some attention. I hung around for a while to get news and information on how everyone was doing. By in large people are still being people—plus there was this rumor about Osiris, see below—but really it was another night.

There were about thirty people to be visited with tonight. I don’t have any specific notes on them, pretty much milling around and cajoling with the best of them.

Drum circle / streetrat children

And by this I mean the kids of street rats I used to know. I met Barbie tonight. Her mother was actually before my time, but she's old enough to recall when the RHPS goths were the norm (my particular intra-tribe in the Tempe subculture.) After I offered her one of the books she sat down next to me and regaled me of some street rats that I've known for some time.

She was seven when she was out there with her mother and recalls people from long past, some who haven’t been back to the Ave in years. It was amazing and wonderful to get a chance to chat with her about the nostalgia of the Ave—so much of it has changed since then.

However, being a living, breathing organism and shaped by everyone (all of us) who visit; she is yet another beating heart in the great, glory and breath of life that is our community.

Osiris being hit by a car

Yes. He was hit by a car.

Yes. He is fine.

Thank Gaea that he’s made of some mysterious skymetal that regenerates and protects him from serious harm. What the hell can I say, I am so overjoyed that he wasn’t minced. I just learned tonight that he’d been ploughed over and through and gone to the hospital by another street rat.

It is so good to hear that he’s alright.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mill Avenue Nights Friday November 28th 2008

Tonight the Ave was dead in every way that matters.

The ASU/UCLA game littered the branched streets from Mill Ave with scalpers lurking with their tickets amidst streetlamps, asking all passersby if they wanted to get into the game. Having started at 7:30 p.m. and tickets running $30 - $50 even when I paced the strange, back ways on my path to Mill I ran across several asking if I wanted tickets. And had to turn away every one.

Fireworks boomed and scattered bright motes into the dark sky, crackling and punctuating the time as I wandered around Mill, looking for people. The crowds tonight were actually thick, but without interaction. Their eyes glazed over with intent, talking only to themselves; it was if the spirit of the place had been suspended.

Dawn

Our favorite, lovely hippy girl was out today with her wares. I meant to talk a lot longer with her, but it didn’t work out quite that way. It is extremely good to see her back on the Ave, in good spirits, and selling her items. In fact, she did manage a sale while I was there. I will try to get some photographs of her beadwork to display at some point. The relaxation of police harassment of people like Dawn, merchants, buskers, and other entertainers. I criticized this behavior broadly when it started up (possibly by pressure from the Mill Avenue District council.)

The news that the mayor himself may have been telling the police not to mess with them tells me that at least he is coming around to what Mill Ave means to everyone. In the midst of this economic downturn the presence of these merchants, buskers, and entertainers creates on Mill a microcosm that is different than any other place. It is also the most accessible route to entertainment for the college students for all of ASU. This is only one layer of what can make Mill prosperous—even in the face of the Tempe Marketplace.

Vince

Found Vince today again. He regaled everyone with long stories about how he had is driver’s license returned to him (which had been suspended via a legal snafu) by way of some time and money expense (angling up to two thousand dollars) and about how his life is going. Which looks pretty good on the up-and-up. We sat around the Post Office, chatting betwixt Thanksgiving/football crowds and fireworks, which is really how I like to spend my time.

He did spend a bit of a time talking about the various doctrines of the evangelicals, although I’m not sure the provenance of a lot of his thoughts on the matter. He went into the mythology of the Rapture (an interesting apocalyptic belief common to contemporary Christian mythology) and some of the variations and schisms of the mythos by philosophies about how their gods work (i.e. the Trinity and other elements of doctrine.) But, really, without the evangelicals on Mill it didn’t hold the same sort of weight, because they are really the only bastion of that mythology who visit.

Ah, did I mention someone?

The evangelicals? They did not appear—in spite of having a possibility of giant crowds, numerous passersby, children, parents, elders… Nobody.

Surely, the Mill Avenue Resistance were probably disappointed, but I did find one of this giant bill tracts on the ground at some point. Kazz jokingly said, “I smell preachers.” To which I responded with the “Fe Fi Fo Fum,” but nothing came out of the discovery.

Crowds

Thanksgiving and football crowds are widely variant. The usual mass of the students (the 20-something) are gone from the Ave, replaced by middle-aged groups, and family groups. Numerous two-parents and children groups were to be found, as well as small clusters of teenagers. But mostly it was middle-aged men in threes and fours, guppering and cavorting around. However, here and there were small groups of late 20s heterogender groups, generally very inebriated and stumbling out of bars.

Lastly the street rats. We had our fair share out tonight, but all of them were constantly on the move. Nobody wanted to stay put in the environment of this night. Between the dead-sight crowds, the fireworks, the biggest group we gathered in front of the Post Office was probably five people at most (not including the visit from the Resistance when they came past on patrol) but even in the sight of this lost night, discussion was good.

I would not have changed tonight much, especially not when I had a chance to see Vince, Dawn, and others.

Friday, November 28, 2008

APS Fantasy of Lights

Just a little warning to Mill Ave visitors.

The luxurious display of energy wasting spectacular, spectacular is pouring itself out onto the Ave tomorrow evening to glitter and sparkle a parade down our very own Moulin Rouge.

Just be aware of it. There will probably be closures from 6pm onwards.

There is a brief announcement about it on the Mill Avenue Vexations news space.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Copyright infringement is not theft

And this is why I have a problem with morally conflating copyright infringement and theft. This is a response, however haphazard, to people who want to suggest that infringing on a copyright is morally equivalent to theft in order to make this argument.

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Here is in short the problem that I have with conflating copyright infringement and theft. Theft is concrete, it is well defined and understood. If I take an item from a store valued $3, it can be said that I have committed theft. Copyright infringement is abstract, it is fluid and what constitutes infringement is modified by great latitudes all the time. If I sing Happy Birthday and make $30, assuming a royalty of 10% and I don't pay the holder of that copyright that $3; I have committed copyright infringement. Have I really taken that $3 from them without permission? Do we really want to morally entangle these two concepts? Why morally entangle taking a $3 concrete item from a seller and not paying royalties for making money off Happy Birthday.

How can we talk about the morality of copying if we are constantly trying to resolve it with the possession and transfer of concrete objects—when copyright infringement is not at all a concrete thing.

Copyright infringement has affirmative defenses, like “Fair Use;” how does Fair Use apply to theft?* Copyrights don’t last forever, they expire—the ideas that they license don’t expire; how does this apply to the theft of concrete objects?** Is copyright infringement really a special form of theft with fundamentally different rules and effects?

If so, then why call it theft?

When conflating copyright infringement with theft we commit a fallacy of equivocation. We suddenly make any discussion about copying an object equivalent to the taking of that object.

As much as I'm going to say this is bad for talking about copyright infringement:

Think about how saying “taking an object without permission is morally equal to copying an object without permission” affects discussions of theft itself. Can we really have a sane discussion about stealing a car if someone keeps on pointing out that morally it’s exactly as if I just drove off with a copy of the car?

* The problem I face here is that there is no viable metaphor for “Fair Use” with concrete objects in relation to theft. How can I create a discussion about the “Fair Use” of a stolen (borrowed?) car; when the thief gets charged with Grand Theft Auto but argues that they only used the car for 4 hours (a very small percentage of the lifetime of the car) and did so to make a statement about the car. I would have to talk instead about how the thief really came over, made a COPY of the car, and drove that around instead; because infringing on a copyright involves a copy, which doesn't deny access to the original idea to the holder of that idea.

** Another fundamental difference between how concrete objects and abstract ideas are treated. Concrete objects are possessions and their theft denies the possessor their use; but ideas are abstract and COPYright covers the license to copy it. After the copyright expires it is no longer infringement to copy that object; but are there any concrete objects where my ownership of them expires? Where twenty years after building this car, suddenly anyone in the world can just come and take it from me and it's not theft anymore (once again, a failure of metaphor because we would have to talk about them coming to take a COPY of my car.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Artwork from Mill Ave

© Sam Nelson 2008

 

I picked this up on Saturday from Sam. The lighting variation—which appears as a strange sort of MoirĂ© patterned brightness gradient—is caused because I held it up to my webcam in order to get the photograph that I’m showing here. If I can, I will try to get a much cleaner digital image.

Enjoy.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mill Avenue Nights Saturday November 22st 2008

Some interesting things to regale people with tonight. The SFTS invited some reporters from the New Times to observe what they do so I saw them out there with the group, but didn’t get much of a chance to speak with them; I’m not quite sure that journalists are in my observative mandate for Mill Ave. Of course, I’m happy to see them checking out things on the Ave.

Upon arrival we discovered a huge protest happening on the corner of Mill Ave and University—prominent in the group were flags that were immediately obvious as Palestinian. It seems that there was a protest that night that went as late as 8pm by a Palestinian group about Israel. I did not get a chance to talk to them, nor get photographs (my camera died covering the Westboro no-show.)

“End Israeli Occupation”

Drum Circle and Mill rats

Amid the crowds I found Vince wandering around, but didn’t have a chance to speak with him.

The drum circle I missed out on in a major way, having trouble walking long distances. I accidentally dropped it out of my patrol path in order to shorten my movements. I did see a number of street rats that I know and spoke with them for a while, but I didn’t witness any drums—except for as musicians on the Ave itself—during the night.

I did have some conversations with random Mill goers who appeared to be middle-class Americans. Surprised by my makeup and the way that I dress (the whole goth thing has fallen a bit out of the public mindset recent.) I did not get his name but he seemed to be interested in my observations of the construction of the Centerpoint Towers and the other issues with real estate and Mill Ave nightlife.

Anthropology

I actually had a pair of extremely polite black American women approach me to ask what an anthropologist is. A thing that came up a couple times at the Westboro non-protest at The Laramie Project play showing at Glendale Community College. The term isn’t well known to the public—although there is a TV show which exemplifies it in a pop cultural way: Bones. It was fun to talk to them because they were cut-out of the flesh of Ave passersby themselves.

I have been waiting for people to say things like, “You dress funny for an anthropologist.” Whereas I would like to explain to them that when studying the savages it’s best to dress like them, but somehow I think that the humor might get lost on them. So I’ve kept that one on the back of my tongue for a more appreciative audience.

Preachers

The entire group of the SFTS clustered in front of Borders at about 8:30pm and eventually decided to move away because there was nothing going on. They finalized their set up in front of the Post Office where they pretty much spent the night.

Suzanne is the newest member of the Way of the Master group who I have met. She is a middle-aged woman with long, brown hair and a gentle voice. She had a sensibility that I don’t notice much in the preachers, but she wasn’t one of the shouty-shouty types and lent herself primarily to handing out tracts. She is the mother of the young woman in the wheelchair who comes out to Mill (who I haven’t had a chance to speak to yet—I’ve been spending too much time learning the names of the new Mill rats.)

Apparently her daughter is also a writer who has been working on archaeological fiction—a genre dear to my heart ever since watching all of Raiders of the Lost Arc and similar movies.

The next evangelist that I got a chance to speak with was Trevor. A middle-height young man, with short-cut hair, and a steady gaze like he’s looking for something behind your head. I spoke to him for a little while, trying to gage his gesticulations and body language with how he held his Bible. I also noticed that when he descends into his mirror-speech his voice “goes away” like it’s literally been lost in thought. I’m used to seeing people’s faces become blank or flatten, not their voices—in his case I think he’s way too well practiced with his mirrorspeech and this has created a different cadence to his voice when he falls back to a script.

I am slowly developing archetypes for the people who come out to Mill and he falls far, far away from Suzanne on that spectrum.

Usually I spend little time speaking, and I mostly listen when I meet a new preacher. But this time I felt a little impatient and decided to chisel at his mirrorspeech to get to know who he was as a person. Since he is really out there selling his religious meme, he had little time to actually do this sort of thing because I think he quickly discovered he wasn’t finding a convert in me (I’m too familiar with everything he had to say.) And more than once he missed entire sections of what I said because I must have hit a keyword in his speech that set off his script. Things like, “You must have a lot of faith then; a great deal.” In reply to things about Celtic mythology and how I find it extremely interesting.

He wouldn’t take one of my books, telling me, “That’s okay.”

Apparently he came to his particular doctrine from A.A. meetings. Which he described as false teachings, trying to tell people to either be their own god or develop their own sense of the divine in order to break themselves from addiction. He has a part-and-parcel indoctrination story about how he was steeped in party culture, getting drunk, doing some drugs and eventually dragged himself out.

He also had an obsession with “real names” like other evangelists of his particular type. I will go into why they do this in my post on Better Than Faith and in a later article on here. However, I have some observations and thoughts on it right below:

All names are real; or none are.

This is rhetorical, of course. When someone says, “real name,” they are attempting to apply some sort of disenfranchisement to a name that they don’t believe is what you like to be called by your friends. They feel like you have handed them a subordinate title because they’re not in the right group—and in fact, they’re right, they’re not in the proper group to know your name as you are with friends. Most our society affects this particular thing by offering our family name (last name) instead of our first name when introducing ourselves to strangers. In most cultures this is stratified by levels of formality.

The street, however, has a totally different take on this than the rarified polite culture: we have street names. And these names are as good as any, since they define and refine who and what we are to the people we meet there. These evangelists come into our culture and they experience a strange culture-shock when they discover that we are different than they are.

The general transcript of any conversation seem to run this way:

“What’s your birth name?”

“I don’t have it anymore.”

“What happened to it…?”

“I gave it back.”

“To who?”

“My parents.”

The misunderstanding at this point is where I derive a lot of amusement. The evangelists—or whomever—just really wants a “handle” on me by using the name they thing will have the most psychic impact on my mind, the psychology of names is that when people use them they tend to get our attention and notice. Really, I don’t have that name anymore. I don’t use it anywhere not even with the US Government. It’s not mine to give.

Worse: if Trevor used it, he would insult me over and over.

Have we ever thought about how naming someone who cannot choose their name themselves is a little bit silly? Naming a child nowadays is like naming a dog or a cat. Some creature that responds to a label by training, but not because they would have chosen it themselves. A great deal of people go by nicknames or names they’ve taken to themselves than birth names because often birth names are not even proper to the person—and then there are those who choose their birth names. In a way, accepting the gift; but this is not always the case.

He also had a strange comment about “true names.” Saying that if I were reborn (he must be from the Born Again meme) that his god would replace my heart of stone with a heart of flesh and give me my “True Name.” I don’t know what exactly he meant by that, except that it tells me that he himself doesn’t even understand what he originally meant by “real name” if I could get an entire other more proper “True” name by joining his mythology.

I am named after the daughter of one of the A’Toll Crystalian heroes: Amyrist Embrak A’Toll. One of the first of my clan, in fact.

You can read more about my observations of the preachers on my Better Than Faith observations blog post for this weekend.

GCC Westboro Encounter?

No.

In fact, Westboro made bad on their threat to arrive with their signs, bigotry, and general pissing contests.

Instead, a group that I have never heard of, HERO, decided to show up en mass and delivered unto the theater a massive glut of theater goers. Indeed, they were heroes in this.

As was spoken over and over, we are a community; we have come together for all members of our community; and together, in peace and love, we promote equal human rights for all our members.

I cannot say outright that I'm actually disappointed that Westboro Baptist Church did not appear -- these are people I would prefer not manifest anywhere -- but it does seem a little silly that this was going to be one of their protests and they did not even show up for it.

There we go. That is all. I will link other news about the event, or lack thereof, for anyone interested in the goings on as they come available.