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.


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.


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.


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.


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 Moiré 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.


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.


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.


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?


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.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Westboro Baptist Church Protest at Glendale Community College

Tonight at around 6pm people are forming up to counter-protest the Westboro Baptist Church. They will be assembling near Glendale Community College in order to spread their insane message of bigotry and hate.

Anyone who would like to join us can visit Better Than Faith and see the map and other information on the counter-protest.

I look forward to meeting people there, and actually taking a gander at how GCC has changed over the years.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mill Avenue Nights Friday November 21st 2008

Dawn, Shamancat, Sebastian, Vince

It’s been a while since I’ve seen Dawn and her dog. They used to come out to Mill Ave pretty much every night years ago, but since I haven’t seen her around much at all. It wasn’t long after I reached the red bricks that I found her sauntering past, hippy skirt and dusty-gold dreadlocks in her wake.

I managed to stop her for a bit and inquire as to her health and whereabouts, which are both good. Apparently she’s spent most of the summer in Chicago. A place rapidly getting cold so she’s returned herself to these warmer climes—which has precisely been my idea on the matter.

She used to spend her time selling hemp jewelry bound up with the requisite glass and plastic beads in interesting designs. However, two years ago or so she stopped due to harassment by the local police who had taken to mistreating transient-looking individuals and Mill rats in order to “clean up the streets.” Even now there are propaganda messages posted alongside some of the Mill information signs.

This has changed slightly, according to Dawn.

“Yeah. I was set up near ASU the other day and the police came to tell me that I couldn’t sell there. ‘Go to Mill Ave,’ they told me, ‘It’s okay. We know who you are and we like you, it’s okay.’ In their words a Mill Avenue Council has been set up and word has come down from the mayor not to mess with vendors selling stuff on the Ave. The shops and culture have taken several major shakeups and hits due to the economic downturn; and he’d like to see a return of musicians and other reasons for people to visit our little carnival. However, they still don’t like spanging (panhandling)—but it’s interesting to see this change in attitude by the distant powers-that-are.

Sebastian Rain Valintino is an interesting fellow who I’ve seen a few times on the Ave already and it was good to be able to stop and talk to him. He has close cropped hair that curls in tight bunches—possibly due to his Italian ancestry. Looking at him from a distance you’d think that he had a very light goatee or beard, but really it’s a carefully pinned tattoo around his lips that extends in sharp fang-like markings. At first it reminded me of a Celtic brooch pin, but upon closer inspection it’s designed from two bridled-arcs and fangs around his mouth. He also has his left eyebrow tattooed (no hair) and a small teardrop from his left eye.

By way of explanation the tattoos around his lips are an Irish-Italian mixture relating to a Bear Clan and Wolf Clan, hence the fangs. I did not properly document his reason for the eyebrow—but he explains that the teardrop is for his uncle who is in a Federal penitentiary for killing several police officers in a firefight.

I also ran into Shamancat who was standing around with an older gentleman. We didn’t discuss much but he might be making his way down to Sedona. Which, he suggests, that he might go see the “spaceships.” Sedona is well known for its alien and UFO cults, occultists, esotericism, and other supernatural activity. It’s a real hub of the weird.

Vince appeared on the Ave today. He was wearing a gigantic tweed/wool trench coat that reminded me of a German barrack coat. Grey and dismal, but possibly massively warm. Turning him into a giant, woolen version of Cousin It.

I also had a moment to visit with some of the other newer street rats. One in particular, a girl who kindly warned me not to sit on the ground due to an anti-homeless law that the police do like to enforce. She mentioned she’d had a wound on her foot, thus her boot was loosely tied. I couldn’t get her to let me look at it, but the skin lividity in the area was fine, no visible signs of infection (shooters or puffiness) outside of the region. She also promised to go to the medical van tomorrow and get it checked out.

The Preachers Tonight

Out tonight were Jim and Valerie. They brought with them a number of props. I had some discussions with Valerie about typesetting, desktop publishing, cover design. A lot of the things that go into my prints of Mill Avenue Vexations—my seminal work that is attempting to capture the evanescent zeitgeist of Mill Ave in fiction.

I gave her a book but warned her that she might be outside of the audience. Being neither street-rat nor goth.

She described an interesting in writing but never knew how to properly get it printed. I told her about how manuscript creation is often very separate from the editing required to produce a book. Fortunately, when writing a work thou need concern thyself little with how it’ll format when it’s done—it’s the words that matter. Let the typesetter and binder (even if that person is thee at a later date) worry about that when it comes around. Plus, Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop can be used to produce an extremely professional work and the learning curve is only a few months.

Maybe she’ll decide to write something and take my advice. I even explained to her that booklets come in pages of 4. Since every letter-sized page is folded in half producing two pages to a side, and two-sided, meaning each sheet creates 4 pages.

They eventually got set up with amplification in front of the Post Office and the SFTS showed up to talk to them. Pretty much tying them up the entire night.

The rest of my observations of them is available on my Better than Faith observations blog.

Bloody hell, Pushing Daisies being canceled

I don't even know how to properly wrap my mouth (fingers) around these words; but it appears that ABC is on the verge of canceling the sublimely wonderful TV show, Pushing Daisies.

This erudite, British-like black comedy done in a similar style to Dead Like Me has been a dramatic source of fun and adoration for me and many of my friends. It's barely gotten its ball rolling and already the network is kicking it to the curb.


Guns N' Roses vs. Dr. Pepper

Well, not exactly verses, but it almost feels like it from entertainment news-of-the-strange. It looks like Dr. Pepper has offered — of all things — free soda to the entire nation if Guns N' Roses steps up to the plate and releases the long-awaited “Chinese Democracy” album. An album slated for release way back in 2007 that hasn't yet seen the light of day.

Well, Guns N’ Roses has come through and released their album.

Dr. Pepper? They too are making good on that promise of a free can for every American.

The interesting twist? “Chinese Democracy” is being released for free, streaming out of the Guns N' Roses Myspace right now!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Do you read webfiction?

Another webfiction writer I happen to know has a non-fiction assignment for a class he's in that involves interviewing people about what they read, why they read it, and everything that they might want to tell him about it.

If you read webfiction, drop Alex McG a line.

BIOS by Robert Charles Wilson

BIOS is an amazing little novel published in 2000. I am amazed that I've never run across this little gem until today, but I suppose I'm not a rabid enough fan of Science Fiction. It is a deceptively small book in the mass market edition but it is thick with intrigue and interest.

The main character, Zoe Fisher, is basically born into a power struggle happening through the political sphere of her paternal community -- but she has bigger things going on than just that. Thrust into the political and real wilderness of a new planet, Isis, to test out some new technology. She finds herself embroiled in some very strange, and very personal, events that eventually tease out a very romantic, and endearing set of characters.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mill Avenue Nights Saturday November 15th 2008


An astute reader by now might wonder why I keep bringing her up. Partially because she’s a person from last year, and someone worthwhile. And also partially because she is of the romantic affect that the written word is immortal and by writing her name in my research she also drinks of that immortality.

So be it.

Envy has been coming to Mill for about two years now. She’s worthwhile company for the time she spends. Takes my books. An avid reader. It’ll be less interesting without her around for the next few months. Although, this possibly also means I’ll miss her until I leave again.

Orange Signs

There were a bunch of odd, orange signs on the Ave today. They seem to point to a walk or a march event taking place. For the most part they were big orange signs with blue circles, white arrows within—one in particular said “Walkers please use crosswalk,” another one stated, “Another death happens every two and a half minutes.” Whatever they’re walking for…

Mountain View High School Marching Band

About the time that everyone hit the red bricks I noticed a cadre of drummers circled in front of Coffee Plantation. It is uncommon for anyone to go unmolested by the overzealous, pompous guards of the Centerpoint complex so I wondered what they might be about (or if the Coffee management were asleep.) The drummers added to their midst a flautist (possibly a clarinet, actually) and a young lady spinning glow sticks.

I stopped another young lady soliciting donations, a troupe captain’s hat outstretched—she told me that they were a marching band and they were with Mountain View. That they’ve gotten extremely close to winning state finals.

Good luck to them.

Mill Avenue Evangelicals

Tonight they played some loud music at the SFTS when they were in front of the Post Office at the beginning of the night. Taking the weapon that the SFTS use against them very commonly (music) and turning it back. Although terrible covers of various songs, it was funny to hear something similar to the Beach Boys singing a re-imagining of “Fun, Fun, Fun.” Except that most of the words were replaced becoming “fun, fun, fun while Jesus preaches the word—” or something very similar.

It didn’t take long after the SFTS set up that the evangelicals abruptly changed positions to take up in front of Borders and then, like the clockwork machine they are, the SFTS followed.

Continued on my Better Than Faith observations blog.

Night’s Wrap Up

Pretty much the wind was up tonight. Blustering between the buildings, rustling the trees with a vengeance. I didn’t wear my hat tonight, which made something of a problem when my hair kept trying to whip me in the face. I like to use a bandana or some interesting hat to keep it in check.

Ah, yes, and to anyone who wonder’s about my makeup.

Priss Stratton from Bladerunner. Watch the movie. Thou’ll understand.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Mill Avenue Nights Friday November 14th 2008

The Mill Ave Coaches

These carriages ride up and down the Ave, giving visitors the experience of riding a horse-drawn buggy. They are elegant, white painted buggies with green and black velveteen upholstery, smiling cowboy coachmen (and women) who treat their fares like high class taxi riders. The horses are beautiful, huge dusty brown and white creatures with chests larger than kegs and flaring nostrils—Clydesdales with their huge hooves and scratchy manes.

A ride costs about $20 for twenty minutes.

The Clydesdales sound different from the mounted police; the clop of their hooves echoes a more pastoral, polite sort of canter as they draw the carriages rattling past. Snorting gently against the patting of passersby and interested parties. During my observation more people seemed interested in touching the horses and getting pictures than slaking their curiosity in the business. I hope that they can keep it up.

Mill Ave Trivia

I met a middle-aged man tonight who paused to talk to me as I sat and wrote in my book. He had some things to say about how much Mill Ave has changed in the past twenty-five years or so. Including that there once was a car dealership down at the end of Mill, near Mill’s End, in fact. Possibly where the hotel is right now.

Dana Brothers Dodge.

I’ve never seen it, so I am hoping to find old pictures of the property.

Envy & Cole

It’s been a long while since I last saw Envy. Early last year in fact. She is one of the more lively and talkative street rats, and is still hooked up with Cole. We spent a while speaking, standing aloof of the crowds whispering by on the red bricks; I leaning on my cane and she straight-backed, Christopher Paolini’s new book, Brisingr, in the crook of her arm.

She just got back from visiting California and will probably not be seen on the Ave for a few months—an understatement from her—as she’s pregnant and already having back pains. I made sure that she and Cole received a copy of Volume 9.


Of course, he came out with his amazing colored contacts—white against his olive complexioned face. I’m still waiting for the day that he puts together his horror troupe and starts making amazing movies al a Troma.

Even without the drum circle present it’s still possible to collect street rats around the bronze-man. As Ben and I sat and chatted about the recent changes to Mill Ave (mostly on my side the sudden proliferation of eateries—which makes me wonder how that has affected Monti’s business)—and the different stores that have come and gone from the Andre Building and other locations across the street.

We were drawn into a surreal, confusing conversation with a street rat so drunk that we could smell him like a perfume of alcohol from feet away. He wanted to know if the “government” said “F-you” and told us we had to fend for ourselves would we fight? Could we trust our family? …very, very drunk.

The Street Preachers

The night began with the discovery of street preachers in front of Urban Outfitters. They came with a large, tall sign depicting their god, Jesus, being whipped and insulted by Roman soldiers. Among their crew were Tom (a grey-blonde haired man of some celebrity) and Ed, an older man who I’ve known for some time as I’ve been coming to the Ave.

There were also some people set up in front of the Post Office—the same two that we met on Halloween. While they did come over and visit with the preachers in front of Urban Outfitters I am not sure if they’re connected. I believe it was thought that they were with The Door, but right now I’m not quite sure.

The elder with the trumpet and his semi-charismatic partner, a man who looks like he was taken directly out of a 40s Humphrey Bogart film, probably The Big Sleep. He has a raw boned, handsome look and his eyes simply look through people or past them.

Further observations and narrative at my Better than Faith Mill Avenue Resistance Column

Night’s Conclusion

Pretty much we concluded the night by gathering a small cadre of street rats around the bronze man. We caught up on the passage of time. A few have come in from California and one other from Nebraska. I got to make the acquaintance of Evil Chuck—a punk/metal rocker type who wore ragged clothing, carried a CD with the new Slayer album, and a vibrant personality. And Shawn, a black-clad who mentioned that he was happy to see more goths coming out to the Ave, as we are a twilight bunch on the red bricks.

There were also fireworks.

Apparently from a basketball game.

The first few hollow gunfire booms caught me by surprise as they echoed between the buildings and startled the bats into a frenzy, their tiny bodies flickering bright white and yellow hither-and-thither as they flitted between the trees. The fireworks, though hidden invisibly behind me by a tall building, reflected themselves in fractured mezzotint patterns, repeated and spit across the windows of the unfinished Centerpointe Towers. They compete, however laughably, with the red beacons flashing atop the towers. Flashes of red, blue, green, white—scintillating like dying flowers, falling and burning pedals that eventually fade to embers and disappear in the lower windows.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Just a reminder: Flu season

People may not think on it much, but heart-failure patients like myself are constantly keenly reminded of our own mortality come doctor’s visits—and especially flu season. So when this time of year starts rolling around, and people haven’t gotten their flu shots… Well, notice gets made.

It’s not just that I have to wade through all of my conspiracy theory friends who expect that the flu shots have some sort of alien or shadow-government hand on our throats. But, influenza is something of a annual problem, and it’s hotspots can be bad.

Worse, the illness can put those of us with little or no immune system in the hospital quicker than anything.

Oh yeah, and Google has released a wacky little app that tracks flu trends, who saw that coming?

No, it is not called Flugle. One good thing that it does do, however, is throw up listings of flu vaccine locations.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Welcome to Veterans Day

Isn’t it a little bit interesting how the proper nouns of holidays lack the apostrophe to make it possessive? It’s not commonly written as Veterans’ Day. Like we have some sort of aversion to possession when it comes to holidays—or maybe it’s just because it’s easier to write and think of without offering it to them. It’s in their honor, after all, not for them.

Today was originally named “Armistice Day,” when it was proclaimed into the public zeitgeist by President Wilson back in 1919[1]; however, the US Congress had other ideas and eventually amended the act that created the holiday to make it Veterans Day. The one that we celebrate now.

Interestingly, it’s probably only a bank holiday now. Especially with veterans pouring out of Iraq. A little weird how we treat our veterans, even during a time ostensibly when we’re not actually at war, but playing war anyway. Most workplaces don’t observe it, few people do, although I’m sure there’s a place for patriotic displays of flag waving and other puffed up ceremony like marching bands and parades—but none of this is designed in any way to highlight the staggering lack of proper funding for veteran hospitals and hospices, in spite of the wobbling mound of money thrown into our defense budget.

For those of us who haven’t had enough American jingoism for one day, how about I leave everyone with the best thing I’ve got: a video game developed in Japan about the President of the United States taking back the country from a fascist coup d'état—by the Vice President…

Believe in your own justice, Mr. President! Metal Wolf Chaos.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Mill Avenue Vexations Volume 9 Released

I am proud to announce the release of Vexations Volume 9: All the Night’s a Stage. The first few copies of it have already been handed out for free on Mill Ave last Friday and Saturday and there are still quite a few remaining. So, if thou desire one of these lovely booklets, make thy way out to the Ave and snap one up.

Otherwise, they are available for free online at the Mill Avenue Vexations story section.

The cover was drawn by Rebecca Gunter and the internal artwork once again is done by Allan Gallo. This is number one of six for this publishing season, so we should have a breakneck pace of releases coming up!

Wish me good luck.

See everyone on the Ave.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Mill Avenue Nights Saturday November 8th 2008

The Thirsty Dog

There is a new venue on the Ave, which I am extremely excited about. It’s called The Thirsty Dog and it’s actually a little bit difficult to find. This is because they’re not directly off Mill like most of the other shops—instead, they’re on a side street, around the corner from the Post Office.

Mill Avenue has long suffered a dearth of stop-and-get-out style food shops that cater to the, “I want something now,” crowd in the way that gas station and convenience store stop-and-rob style locations do. For a while there certainly was the gas station on the very end of Mill at University—but that’s a CVS now (of course, we can get what we want there, but why walk all that way?)

Why indeed. The Thirsty Dog is staying open until 2am Friday and Saturday so go check them out and say hello for me.

The Drum Circle

I keep hearing from my fans that they’ve been avoiding the spot due to a change in culture. This I’ve witnessed myself—insofar that I’ve been on the Ave—but I haven’t had much time to comment on it. Indeed, for the past two weeks the number of drummers has diminished somewhat and I haven’t seen much in the way of talkative folk who actually used to come around.

The gathering still persists, however, and I do see people who I’d like out on the Ave. The problems that see extant happen to be a general apathy for the get-together itself. It is the fundamental hangout spot, but perhaps we’re suffering uncanny beginning of winter blues or something similar.

The Ave

So far Saturday, I met several of my favorite people. Starting with Mark, my favorite fan, who of course got a book! Then Ben appeared with his amazing eyes—he went as a zombie Joker from the new Batman on Halloween. And Jimmy came out as well.

One of the evangelists, Erin, also appeared and I had a good time talking to her on the street in front of Borders. She’s been up to the same stuff. I didn’t get a chance to offer her a booklet, but then again I’m never sure if any of the evangelists would want to read my things.

Jim also came out, he’s another one of the evangelists with the wheelchair of great age (I say in case anyone has forgotten him.)

The Centerpoint condos, which are essentially dead-in-the-water right now stood up behind us, blinking their eerie red lights at the sky. Driving down the freeway into Tempe proper they are the most prominent building in all of Tempe, standing in grim defiance to the single red light atop A Mountain. I still find their presence perturbing, and I know it’s going to get worse.

Met my friend Gonzo and his wife—both of whom are working on novels—and we got a chance to speak for a while. I haven’t seen him in literally years and now he’s bald (shaved) so I almost didn’t recognize him.

The rest of the Ave was fairly drab, although I did like visiting the Drum Circle and The Thirsty Dog (and proffered booklets there, although, Omni did suggest that I was being unfair, giving semi-bored clerks something to pass the time.)

The Street Preachers

I am going to start up a column on the Better Than Faith website for a friend of mine in order to give a blow-by-blow of the experience of recording and witnessing the activity of the SFTS and the evangelists who come out to Mill as part of their “Mill Avenue Resistance” project. They have become a major spectacle and event on my Ave and as much as I’d like to give them more airtime they’ve been eating up a lot of my words over here and I’m sure a lot of my readers want my anthropological analysis of Mill itself and not just the hottest of the hotspots.

However, here are still some highlights from the spectacle that is the evangelists vs. the resistance.

The night started out a little chilly with a stern breeze from the south. The smell of dust and car exhaust mixed with anticipation and chuckling chatter. Among the evangelists there were concerns about setting up in front of Urban Outfitters because there is a busker with extremely powerful amplification there who often sets up before them and then drowns them out with wild, powerful riffs on his electric guitar. So they prepared themselves for a night in front of Borders.

The Resistance rolled in like a fleet of warships on the cusp of an oncoming storm. They struck with a force unseen before on the Ave with two giant speakers and a bullhorn on the field, numerous signs, and a roiling mass of supporters. (Not to mention Lizard Man, the god incarnate of the unwashed, also arrived yet again.) To say the least—the noise levels were off the charts and made it a little bit difficult to actually take notes of the event.

To add to the fray, two longtime rivals of the opposing sides also arrived: Todd and Jeremiah. Todd with his booming, clarion voice which needs no amplification and Jeremiah with his small but extremely clear amplified-speaker. They were perhaps the true highlight of the minor skirmish. Rachel, Todd’s girlfriend and primary artillery, did take the mike a few times and managed to deal blows of her own. And Rocco also took to the mike—but largely the night belonged to Todd as it commonly does.

Even a sleepy reader at this point will notice all of the “war” allegory that I’m using here, and there’s a reason for it. Primarily because while the Resistance don’t seem to view their debates with the preachers to be battles insomuch as loud disagreements, the language that the evangelists suggests that they do. Or worse, they seem to insinuate into their everyday lives the language of war.

I’ve noticed a tradition among the evangelists that they may not realize is coloring their take on the world. A deliberate addition of hostility to their message—I know they say, “What I’m saying is offensive,” and they’re only half right: what they’re saying isn’t just offensive, it’s designed to be an offense: as if an attack or assault on other people. The supposed “other.” This hostility is steeped in a lot of their behavior, their martyr complex, and the wholesale subversion of memes used by the SFTS and others and blatant transference of their own bad behavior onto the “other.”

The worst of this is how they refer to their Bibles as swords. Jeremiah took to his metal stand, grabbed his mike, and realized he lacked a Bible—so he calls out, “I am without my sword; could someone toss me one?” And sure enough a Bible is delivered to him. The concept of “spiritual warfare” is lovely enough as an allegory to rally confidence, but when it is delivered up as if us-against-them and the most important item of the mythology is being conflated with a weapon of war and murder? Surely it speaks to the beating heart of all the wannabe alpha males in their group but it alienates everyone else who does see them as a hostile, aggressive, and invading force delivering offensive language—and apparently want to be known to be dangerous.

To the evangelists: Think about this before thou really screw up.

A case for encryption: Adrienne Bailon has nude photos stolen

I don’t even know how I stumbled across this one, but I think it created for me a different evanescent thought than most people. Singer Adrienne Bailon of the Cheetah Girls (she's the one with the light brown hair) has had some “practically nude” photographs of herself taken from a stolen laptop and used as blackmail against her.


The post from

Several practically nude photos have been stolen from Adrienne's laptop, and sources tell us the scumbag who took 'em is trying to shop them around to the highest bidder.

It all started when Bailon was at JFK airport in late October, and noticed her laptop computer was missing from her bell cart. She filed a report with the Port Authority -- but later that day her record label received an anonymous phone call from a man saying he had her laptop and would return it for $1000.

If thou secure information that thou’d rather the public didn't readily get their hands on—say, by encrypting it—this sort of event could be dramatically reduced.

Think on this for a moment now. All of us have private things nowadays in forms that we carry around with us every day. We sometimes put them on thumbdrives, into our phones, onto our laptops. If I had nude photos of my little self I would certainly not keep them anywhere unsecured. If someone wanted to grab my photos and blackmail me, they'd first have to be extremely determined.

I suppose that working for Elaine at Black Hat Magick Detective Agency has changed my outlook on how to protect my more personal thoughts.

The gossip aggregator over at says, “Either way, the lesson is don't leave your stuff unattended at the airport, kids. Someone might just steal your private, naked pics and blackmail you over them.

Or, how about protect it with something like PGP.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Mill Avenue Nights - Friday November 7th, 2008

Today I went to a meeting with the Secular Free Thought Society (SFTS) based at ASU to get a look at how they organize themselves. By in large the meeting was fairly boring, involving logistics and some internal maneuvering that needed to get done. What I did like was that there were visitors from a local Humanist group—three elders, two women and one man—who had things to say to the group about how they struck themselves out into the world.

Speeches were made as to the origins of Humanism and its dichotomy to religions. The Humanists are largely atheistic in their worldview, and seem to be politically active, by in large they described themselves as, “Old Hippies.”

The SFTS group (who would quickly be marauding) ate at Chilies because they hadn’t gotten food, I went to get the sights and sounds of the Ave—and found some evangelicals. I also stopped by and talked to Josh, my friend the chef, who wants to start a Voltaire Fanclub for Tempe because of the terrible showing at one of his concerts. Which I would wholeheartedly support should he get it off the ground.

I finally hit Mill at about 10:30pm and discovered a group of evangelicals passing out tracts. Mostly the tracts were the Million Dollar bills of the giant type and the tiny type. I counted four girls and one boy. A brief meeting and I learned some names.

First is Johnanna, a Latina girl who seemed to have an Azteca accent when she spoke English—and once said something in Español that I didn’t catch due to road noise—her American English is strong, but way too Harvard (which made it obvious she was ESL); her mirror-speech was unshatterable, I think because I couldn’t modify my argot simple enough to get points across. We spoke for a while and she pretty much just regurgitated lines of extremely common mirror-speech and I couldn’t get a word in. She has some interesting things to say, some self-depreciating language, but largely it would be nice to know what brought her to this life and why she’s on Mill Ave. Hopefully I can get a chance to speak to her as a person and not as a mirror.

Natalie (I could have her name wrong) who is a small girl, with a short haircut, and sciurdae features. Her presentation a bit more forceful that Johanna perhaps in that she’s a veteran of speaking to people. She tried, unsuccessfully, of course, to pull out Pascal’s Wager—except that she doesn’t realize that the Wager doesn’t work on people professing a different belief (like Paganism) it only works in the event of a dichotomy “there is a God; there is no God,” it becomes extremely meaningless when it’s between “there is the Christian God, YHVH, or there are the Children of Danu,” since then it becomes extremely easy to point out that it is therefore equally likely to be Amaterasu, Odhinn, or Huitzilopochtli—a blood-drinking hummingbird warrior god of the Aztecs.

Jonathan, who made himself the de-facto leader of the group using insular heteronormative social behaviors because he held himself as alpha-male and pretty much controlled the girls therefore—I will go more into this shortly. I had a discussion with him different than the others involving my name. I gave him my street name first, as is proper for speaking to people on Mill Ave; it’s an exotic name so he asked if it was my “real name.” A term which I find extremely amusing: all names are real. However, I believe he wanted to know if it was my common name—which it is not.


“Are you confused about your identity?” Johnathan said. His posture stiff, face open, but eyes roving as he spoke. His dress, simple but modest for the Avenue, consisted of a pair of brownish pants and a pale shirt, carefully ironed before he had buttoned it up. The entire time speaking to me he clutched a book—probably a Christian Bible—against his hip. Unsmiling, he awaited my reply.

“No, not really,” I said. “My identity on the street is simply a collection of social mores, protocols, and expectations that differ from other interactions. I don’t interact with people on the street the same as I do with say…the City of Tempe.”

“Don’t you feel like you live double life?”

“Heh. Double? If I thought about it that way I would have a thousand lives. I have a different identity to every group that I interact with. I behave differently talking to my bank, to my friends, to the street rats, at work, to the City of Tempe. I am probably just a lot more sensitive to it, I guess, because I study these things.

“I write. And in order to do a good job writers try to discover how people empathize, what faces and masks they wear. One of my favorite teachers, Father Prat, once told me that as I went further into writing I would eventually hit a point where I would start asking questions like: What makes people tick?

“And he’s right. How else do we writers create characters on the page that real, living, breathing people fall in love with? Empathize with? Cry with? I am essentially giving people who know real people a chance to find a connection with something totally imaginary.”


There was certain amount of almost overtly sexist heteronormative behavior on the part of this group as well. Something that we don't see a lot in the urban USA. An almost tribal sense of “you’re a woman; therefore you’re not as capable as men.” With the group that comes out on Saturday I saw this with Jerimiah who sometimes says, “Please don’t swear, there are ladies present,” and it’s obvious he doesn’t think about saying this because he’s said it to a woman before (talk about putting a foot in the mouth.) More than once I saw the single male acting as alpha, trying to herd the girls, constantly saying things like, “Just making sure the girls are alright,” and at least once telling them he was uncomfortable with them going off in a pair to get food.

This sort of behavior instills a wall between them and the rest of the community who don’t have this sort of outward expectation that women lack responsibility or capability. Especially on a busy street, surrounded by police officers, and various mundane watchful eyes. Certainly any individual alone may run a particular risk of danger from the drunken mobs, but this is an age of cell phones, and walking in groups/pairs, where it’s hard to get out of eyesight or earshot of Mill.

My discussion with Jonathan wound to an end about the time the marauders appeared because I wasn’t interested in participating in one of their rituals. Johanna offered to pray over/for me and I just don’t have enough time for it. I’ve seen it numerous times with other groups and the rite doesn’t change very much. In fact, even this time I got to see it happen again. So I’ll take notes on it now.

The group gathered together around a single Mill visitor (sans one girl whose name I did not get) and Johanna spoke over him. She evoked the names of two of the Christian gods, “God” and “Jesus.” But I noted that she did not bring up the third that commonly comes in that group “the Holy Spirit.” The entire event lasted almost three minutes, involved bowed heads, and a sonorous sing-song voice affect that is used in a lot of cultures and rituals as a hypnotic.

Of the SFTS tonight there were many. A group exceeding almost eight. Rocco, Kazz, Brian (and his orange hair,) even Ezra—I am missing numerous names here, but they will be filled out as I learn to recall their names properly.

Also visiting the Ave is a group that I’ve seen before consisting some shock punks, and one young man wearing a lizard costume. The monstrous mask displays a giant reptilian head with fangs extended and tiny eye holes in the throat. He wore a crudely written sign made out of a piece of notebook paper, with the words: Hug the Lizard Man $1.

Eventually the hugs became free.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Cayman Islands vs. Hurricane Paloma

After seeing Ike do his business I’ve been wondering if we could do without hurricanes ruining our everyday news. But no, Paloma has come off the ropes and is rushing right for Florida, by way of the Cayman Islands. I think it’s probably a tourist.

The best news that I’ve seen on this so far is from the Associated Press, Hurricane Paloma Heads for the Cayman Islands (is it just me or is Google just awesome for things like this? I wonder how the newspapers feel.) Is it just me, or didn't Cuba get a hammering two months ago already?

Ah yes, the Spanish Main—the northern part at least—it used to be a haven for the Golden Age of Piracy, but then as pirates began to vanish from the seas, the Flying Spaghetti Monster began to warm our planet. And now that area, once the great demesne of pirate folk, swallows the brunt of that wrath.

(I just had to sneak a Helljammer reference in.)

Mill Avenue Vexations Volume 9 cover design released

Volume 9: All the Night's a Stage cover design has been released.

Be sure to keep an eye out for it on Mill Ave this upcoming weekend and weeks. The booklets, of course, print in black and white—but with enough input from fans color versions can be printed.

Perhaps special editions of this will be available soon. They cost about $10 to help pay for press and artwork costs.

Of Presidents and dogs

Hm. I'm just over here, this beautiful Friday when I accidentally forgot the power cable to my laptop when I went to work; thus cutting short my entire day... I've been thinking about something that came out of the recent election, which was part of Obama's acceptance speech he spoke about getting a puppy.

Also, taking into account that one of his daughters, like me, is asthmatic, I threw up a post to this effect over at the brand new PETS 911 Animal Crossroads blog.

First Dogs go so far back that there is a museum for them! Now that's some weird obsession. I wonder what kind of archivists they employ. Think about it, do they keep letters to the dogs? Vet records? Pictures, x-rays, press clippings?

Well. If the Presidents get a museum, why not their dogs.

Link to Obamas to choose First Dog, hopefully shelter adoption.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Recipe for a lovely cassoulet

Yes, thou read that right. I am talking about a word that for some reason has become the nom de guerre meme of the election of our next President, Barak Obama. A stew.

According to a blog in the Dallas Morning News it was seen in Times Square on a sign. Some seem to be positing that it is, in all essence, a hearken to the great Melting Pot of America—although it’s a reference to a French ban stew—and others want to suggest that it is “elitist.”

Elitism, the so-called language of war used against the new controlling party instead of the word “liberal” has become a poorly chosen rallying cry over the past few weeks. Whispered, as if people are trying to give the word some significance beyond the quotidian meaning of “expert of a field.”

It’s beef stew. The stuff that the everyday person eats. Obama took to the field with the words, “I need your help. I will listen to you—especially, most especially when we disagree.” He may be so far above the everyman. No politician is the everyman, they are in essence a person who has walked out of the everyman and become something else; but something that they can be is an ear for the people.

Sir, I expect thee to keep to these promises. Listen to the people and be our representative to the world at large.

Good luck.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Twittering VoteReport

Advances to the Internet have brought on new and interesting technologies. One in particular that I find interesting is the Twitter VoteReport among others. I will be following on #votereport.

I hope to see thee as well!

Also, for a fun visualization that scrolls around a map to pop up messages, check out Twittervison's Election section. Oh that rhymes.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Mill Avenue the Beautiful #2: Of Condominiums and Culture

The next Mill Avenue the Beautiful article is up on Mill Avenue Vexations. This one outlines the current salvos of gentrification and community in the ongoing culture transition along the Ave.

The Vision of St. Bruno

There’s an interesting Internet story running around right now about a beautiful painting by Italian master painter Sebastiano Ricci, “The Vision of St. Bruno.” Presumed lost, but no more. Of all the places to rediscover fine art: Dallas Texas.

An Associated Press article on the subject says that it’s estimated worth could fetch it more than $600,000 dollars! The vision is quite impressive, to say the least. A depiction of angels and a man staring skyward. And quite a find too.

His work is well-known in European circles from the early 18th century when he worked for most of the major courtly affairs between both London and Venice. His resume includes such establishments as the Royal French Academy of Painting and Sculpture.

This one struck a chord with me when I read about it because I have a friend named Bruno.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Mill Avenue Nights – Saturday November 1st 2008

Tonight the crowds were spare. Only the staunch outers came to ply their time on the streets. Pretty much every venue from sidewalk to preachers to the drum circle. Some bare few people have come out to our Ave tonight.

Perhaps everyone tuckered out from the bulging crowds of Halloween. Perhaps the Ave just needed a rest.

I met a few new street rats who just got into town a few days ago. As other more veteran players along our streets have noted before: “Every time we come out here, there’s new faces.” A great deal of the street rats are migrant in nature, they move around, by train, hitchhiking, or just buses from here and there. This increases somewhat in winter as those from the northern states make their way around California.

The gallow’s pall on the unfinished condominiums and the now-dead movie theater that gateways Mill is even more telling when there’s few people. There’s so few things to distract the eyes from glancing up at that dark shadow, with the red lights blinking atop.

The drum circle ended far early when the police arrived and arrested a young woman and a young man for drinking alcohol. The young woman apparently took a sip of the alcohol from his cup, didn’t know it was until she did, but she put up resistance to the police officers and thus they decided to take her in for whatever disrespect she showed. Tonight, police were out in strange force—packs of them, five to six together, would prowl around individuals in ones and twos as they arrested them at the sides of the street.

I watched one vehicle being searched by an officer near the Post Office while taking notes while the occupants were held on the side of the road. The car strangely off-kilter, open and in the way of traffic as they searched it, sticking out of the right-hand turn lane.

With very little to do, and none to interview, I took a long circuitous constitutional with my friends around the loop of the Mill Ave from one side to the other in order to get the lay of the land. Even walked past the adobe walls of La Casa Vieja as I often do. The newly repaired sign is unfailingly visible. The old one took storm damage in the violent monsoon that struck two months ago.

Drawing to the end of the night, only one member who visits the drum circle with any regularity remained—aside from Remy, who drunkenly staggered about with us in his jocular spirits. She parked out in front of the Post Office as is traditional for the Drum Circle in Exile. But, only one exile tonight.

Copies of Spoofing the Ave—which are humor shorts for Mill Avenue Vexations—got handed out. One went to Lawrence at Graffiti Shop, who made his adoration of the new story well known. Hopefully further copies will garner equal approval. There are still many to come.

Not much else to tell about the night.

Perhaps things will pick up somewhat next weekend.

Until then.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Mill Avenue Nights, Friday, Halloween (October 31st) 2008

Friday again, and we’re out on the Ave. Since I get a ride down there with the ASU Secular Free Thought Society I am getting a lot more of a view of their activity on Mill and less of other areas that have been hotspots. Of course, Halloween isn’t exactly the hype of local culture—but it is a good place to find various clashes.

Tonight’s episode involves a local extremely vocal group who come from The Door—a highly insular Christian outcrop who appear to use cultish and brute behavior to silence and bully critics and detractors who are attracted to their extremely prominent and disruptive demonstrations. I will be documenting some of their bad behavior here while attempting to reflect the activity that they brought to Mill Avenue tonight.

Is it just me or is this starting to feel a lot like Discovery Channel’s Meercat Manor?

Preachers: The Door

Around 7pm there wasn’t much in the way of crowds to see. Just the odd scattering of costumes amidst the normal Mill Ave bounce-about types. A band whose music wasn’t half bad set up in front of Urban Outfitters and would play for the rest of the night. They come up obliquely because the Door demonstrators set up in front of Coffee Plantation—a location normally off-limits to noisy and disruptive people—which is directly kitty-corner from Urban Outfitters. We discovered them as they had laid down wooden crosses in front of Coffee Plant early on to stake out their territory.

The SFTS decided that they would set up in front of the Post Office. The purpose of which I would later learn was to direct their efforts to provide a counterpoint to the Door’s operations that night. Apparently anticipating the antics of that group ahead of time. When everyone arrived there a trumpeter already had a small boosted set up and was playing there. He eventually turned out to be a preacher from the Door who’s purpose was to act as a forward scout. The Door apparently also anticipated the intersession of the SFTS and have modified their tactics accordingly.

I received a pamphlet from them espousing some Christian mythology. For the most part it was a mundane recital of their less-interesting elemental prose from their mythos book; most of these pamphlets are creative and clever in their presentation but generally unimaginative in their delivery or choice of how to frame their lore. However, an odd linguistic quirk in the text did catch my eye.

Buried in the prose there was the ubiquitous mention of people being sent to Hell (part of the Christian mythos afterworld) except that it didn’t have a capital “H.” A mistake by a copy editor? Over the years Hell has lost its capital “h” when written in ordinary text, but generally only when it is used as an explicative or injective, like “The hell if I know!” or “The hell with it!” But I think that if Hell is being used to refer to a place it is therefore a proper noun, and there are no proper nouns that we don’t capitalize the first letter. It’s weirdly telling that this word so breaks English conventions for these people.

At around 8:50pm we had a visitation by an obvious demonstration from the Door. Along came an effigy of Jesus, dragging a cross, and two apparently Roman Centurions with whips. The costume was pretty grotesque, which is a good thing for Halloween, and the multiple actors did make the demonstration pretty interesting. I wonder if we can get other individuals to put together performance art pieces like the Door does; but to more educational end. There were at least three effigies wandering down Mill, the Centurions had whips—and even assaulted Rocco from the SFTS with a whip, but I have not substantiated the when/how/why.

Around 9:45pm an altercation happened at the Door demonstration site that summoned the police. I had been warned by members of the SFTS that the Door demonstrators had a tendency to physically assault people and then call the police—so I came with the expectation of seeing something. The Halloween crowds were likely to have at least one drunken individual who would fall for this sort of bait.

A man with really blue hair and a nicely done retro-affect decided to shout and yell along with their demonstration. The tactics used to control him mostly involved standing in his face, getting in his way, pressing up against behind him to corral him. One more than one occasion elbows were used to strike him in the sides or stomach—a behavior which he shouted out as he would charge them with assault for. Several extremely barrel chested individuals would deliberately block the view of video cameras while others harassed the blue-haired man.

Eventually the police were summoned by the Door after they shoved the blue-haired man and then manhandled him around their demonstration. It was really hard to tell who was inciting whom in the mess, but watching the behavior of the people from the Door it is very difficult to give them any doubt to benefit from; for the most part they’d riled their blood to the point that they were culpable in what happened. Deliberately blocking video cameras filming also puts a black mark on them—these are not the acts of civil people.

According to Jordan from the SFTS allegations were made, and then proven to be outright lies by film evidence from three different sources that were variously blocked and unblocked during times of the scuffle. After the police arrived and spoke with them man he went on his merry way—but it certainly didn’t raise my opinion of the Door demonstrators that they made false statements to the police about the blue-haired man, attempted to cover up their own bad acts by occluding cameras, and general bellicosity.

This sort of behavior is dangerous to the health of the Ave.

They had quite a show involving reciting elements of various stories from the Bible. Three crosses with three people who hung on them, the Jesus effigy wept and shouted quotes. The Centurions called out asking what to do with him… Standard fare. Hecklers were inserted in the crowds readily enough from the some forty people present.

In closing, I didn’t get a chance to talk to many of the Door individuals from the demonstration; when they behave in this manner they rile themselves up and aren’t interested in actual dialogue. For the most part, I discovered them belligerent, presenting themselves with a spume of disrespectful questions and then when they didn’t get answers they liked from me attempted to batter me with religious rhetoric from their mythology. Those whom I asked questions of to determine the affiliation or why they were on Mill (my standard fare) quickly gave up under interview or refused to answer me after I tried to honestly answer their questions.

One individual in particular (who after attempting to ask me a series of personal questions) then went on to refuse a copy of my newest Mill Avenue Vexations story because he “Didn’t want to have to read it.” It strikes me as grossly disrespectful of other people to approach them with pretences of shouting them down, asking them questions, and then offering nothing in return—for the most part this individual behaved was entitled to abuse my time but not respect me for it.

The words he used reminded me of another individual from Extremely Prophetic who said the exact same thing when I tried to give him one of my books! Surely, people are welcome to refuse my offerings, I have no problem with them; but this is a very odd response.

Preachers Halloween

A great deal of the time I find them out making anti-Halloween messages. This time: Nothing. Only the Centurions abusing the effigies and that’s about it.


The crowds disoriented me a lot more than I expected but there were quite a few out. The vast majority of popular costume happened to be, as expected, The Joker from the new Batman movies. I spotted at least three Benders, from the cartoon Futurama. The rest were a scattering of more standard archetypes from zombies, dark hooded, and various applications of profession uniforms.

One highlight, which amused me, was at least two Doctor Horrible costumes. And at least one person had a girl with him dressed as Penny.


Pfew. Okay that’s enough for now. I have many more notes from last night, but this is the limit of my energy at the moment. If anyone else has thoughts on what happened please feel free to speak up.

And I’m sorry that the Door stuff dominates this discussion, it actually received very little time in my notes; but it was an event that really needs to be handed to the public because, really, this sort of behavior is uncivil and unhealthy.

Have a good night everyone. Anthropologist out.