Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mill Avenue News Day

Too much was going out on Mill Ave this week, especially concerning the ever developing disaster that is, well, development on Mill Ave.

To an extent that a long post was written up over at Mill Avenue Vexations. Aptly entitled about the vacant windows and vacant heads. As with the Mill Avenue the Beautiful series a lot of what happened to hit AzCentral recently reflects the economic blight and bad planning that are stifling culture on my favorite street.

It's never too late, however, to actually turn this around by changing the face of Mill to something more like it is meant to be: a Towne Square.

A place for not just a meeting of products and people, but of minds and ideas. There is a lot of space to actually hold and cherish.

The revolution is us.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mill Avenue Nights Addendum: February 20-21, 2009

The fracas on Saturday got me a little bit amused. I posted about the evangelical quality of this on Better Than Faith, but I’m wondering aloud now about the coming together of community and the perception of crowds.

For those who aren’t aware of what happened on Saturday. An evangelical street preacher named Jonathan decided to set up his amplification on the corner of 6th and Mill next to where the Hippie Gypsy and Bun Devils are situated. This is because the corner that houses Urban Outfitters had been taken over by Bruce, a spray-paint artist. After Jonathan set up, people began to crowd around in a manner similar to what generally happens around these forming debates.

James, the owner of Bun Devils, did not take this well—he and one of his workers saw the brimming crowd as a direct threat to his business. Together they presented a heated harassment to both Jonathan and people who came to crowd and argue back against the evangelicals and their amps. The result was a little interesting with Jonathan telling people to go buy hotdogs—but the worker from the hotdog stand, flustered, demanded that he wanted Jonathan to buy a hotdog (but Jonathan didn’t have any money.)

Tension ran a little high with James and he felt like attempting to chase them away by setting off his car alarm. For thirteen minutes. A blaring noise event that was annoying but not at all dissuading to the crowd near the evangelicals amp—it didn’t even manage to register as more than an irritation as it didn’t drown out speech, or provide anything more than, “Oh someone’s car alarm is still going off.” That ended when a trio of bike police rode up.

It took Jonathan and his crew almost an hour before they finally moved across the street to Coffee Plantation.

There is a great deal of contention about the use of public spaces between vendors, evangelicals, and the general passersby. The United States prides itself in enabling people to make their own social contracts to live by in public spaces, especially when it comes to speech and presentation. James and his workers may have felt marginalized by having a crowd on their corner, but they were incorrect in asserting that the evangelical and the crowd didn’t have a “right” to be on the corner. If the crowd didn’t have a right to be there…then neither would any customers who may have decided to buy hotdogs.

This also came up on Friday with the True Vine Baptist Church visitors. About whom I have discussed the concept of a forum in the past. Years ago when Pastor Ed was out on our Ave, he faced an angry black man selling hiphop CDs who shouted loudly at people who got in his way in order to preach at him. He managed to tie the TVB evangelicals up for several hours by shouting over them. The concept of the forum came up again, Friday, when Kazz—the leader of the Mill Ave Resistance—mentioned that the TVB are particularly hostile to anyone else setting up near them to present alternate viewpoints.

The TVB, of course, does not control the public corner—they manage to do so only because they have numbers (ten to twelve people) and hopefully unlike The Door, they would not be outright violent if people who disagreed with them chose to use the corner as the forum it is and to respond to them. With equal amplification if necessary, as the Resistance does. Kazz fears that in order to actually create a debate, or at least a reply, he will have to act against the wishes of the TVB to totally control a given corner.

A great deal of people like to pipe up and use the freedom of speech as a cudgel to beat down critics, as if invoking freedom of speech only acts in their favor. Freedom of speech is not freedom from criticism—in fact, exercising thy freedom of speech invites criticism. It is a real, necessary, and sufficient practice in response to speech is to add, develop, and produce contrary opinion.

Right now the TVB present only a saccharine claim to being reasonable, “leave us alone, please be polite, you can get your turn,” but really this is a flimsy respect. They have chosen to speak out to the street using the same rights that the street would speak back out to them and when that happens I expect that they will do the right thing and respect the law.

We’ve seen the evangelical preachers on Mill Ave repeatedly attempt to use the very law that protects them in order to censor or stifle contrary opinions. Such as David from the Way of the Master evangelicals stopping the police to ask them if they could do anything about the nay-sayers who brought out amplification just like the evangelicals did; the group also got restraining orders against other evangelicals who were handing out tracts and information “too close to them”; Jeff and John from earlier attempting to talk to the police about separating the groups by forcing one to go to another corner; The Door committing assault, calling the police, and then demanding that the police remove their detractors.

I have studied numerous groups on Mill Ave and the evangelical preachers insofar are the only groups who have chosen to wield such heavy-handed tactics to stifle organized retort—and, equally so, sometimes people who oppose them (local businesses mostly) attempt the same.

As an outgrowth the actions and reactions on the parts of the police have been positive—with the gross exception of the violent intimidation by The Door, who are dangerous and malignant—and they have hopefully repeatedly educated the public and business owners that the law is blind to the polite. That if the evangelical preachers are permitted to use amplification so too are their opposition; that if a group is permitted to stand on a street corner, so too are their opposition. That all debate, talk, discussion, however animated, falls within the ability of all parties to make their own social contracts until the point the law is broken.

The evolution of these various groups has been interesting.

And perhaps not unhealthy for Mill Ave.

I and the rest of the Mill rambling public look forward to when their growing pains begin to settle and the various sides manage to find some truce, however uneasy, about their use of everyone’s public corners.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Mill Avenue Nights Friday, February 13th 2009

Friday the 13th!

I didn’t get much research done today, mostly I just had fun and frolicked. After straying through the annals of the Ave, and I got a lot of copies of Mill Avenue Vexations: Something Funny Happened at Matsuri handed out.

By the way, it’s being released tomorrow, February 15th 2009.

I stopped by Graffiti Shop, handed a copy to Lawrence (signed of course), and trawled the Ave for other people who might be interested. Met with some of the street rats whom I enjoy and love to hang out with. Talked to Bunny and Nightshade; met with Crazy and even went to a poetry slam.

The poetry slam was pretty interesting. Lots of artsy folks were hanging around, but I didn’t get much of a chance to talk to many of them, however, I did use it as an excuse to hand out more copies of Vexations.

That rocked.

For anyone who didn’t get out to see me, there are copies of Vexations in Graffiti Shop. Only 4 copies. So…get burning when the burning is hot.

I will put 4 more there tonight.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Mill Avenue Nights Saturday, February 7th 2009


Tonight, I met Spikebravo from YouTUBE on Mill Ave. He’s a bald headed, spectacle wearing actor who has a penchant for teaching. When I came across him he was talking to Suzanne (one of the Way of the Master preachers) and had a strange depth discussion about Gnosticism.

I took him in a circuit around the Ave, talked about about HappyCabbie, and the total slump that the economy is in. With the way that things are going, people are being laid off on a fairly regular basis. In the past two weeks, three of my friends have lost their jobs to lay offs, downsizing, or other economic woes.


I re-met Susan (and go her conact info) on Mill Ave tonight. She’s a petite brunette, con-goer who I have seen on Mill Ave for many years now. She recently broke up with her boyfriend (lucky for her he did not take her copies of Vexations.) Although, I have not seen her in almost two years.

She says she hasn’t been to many Cons in the interim but is hoping to change that. I have been pondering changing that myself, having not a chance to go to many myself at all.

Break up with your SO, lose your Vexations

This one is a common litany I keep hearing! Sometimes when people are together they don’t ask for two copies of Mill Avenue Vexations—so, when it comes time to break up…well, one or the other ends up taking them!

Just tonight, I heard another story about how someone lost heir bookets. “But they were given to me!” “Wait a sec, some of those books are from before we even got together.”

As much as I’d like to advocate an idea of mixing certain property when together with a kaywng, people might want to think about stuff like this just out of respect for the fact that people do eventually go their separate ways.

Losing your stuff

A young lady at drum circle, with a hula hoop lost her canvas bags tonight. She described them as two large canvas bags, one black, one white, both with long spotted loops. They vanished around 11:15pm and although Susan and I scanned the area of the Tempe Government building, they were not seen again that night.

I hope that they get returned to her.

Suzanne’s daughter, mirror-speech and huggable gods

I had a bit of a talk with Suzanne’s wheelchair bound daughter—whose name still escapes me—mostly because she’s a writer and, being an author, other writers interest me. However, our discussion rapidly descended into mirror-speech after she asked me if my cane was purely ornamental. It’s not, exactly. It’s ornamental in that I don’t precisely need it (I can just sit down and rest more often) but it’s extremely useful in that it allows me therefore to stay standing for longer periods of time.

My legs weaken more quickly due to my congestive heart failure.

She took this as an opportunity to start talking about the afterlife and how this must mean that I’ve thought a lot about what happens after I die. Which is true, I came to terms with that a long time ago. She went on about her Christianity and how she thinks that my conscience should tell me that Christianity is true—can we say, “Culture Shock?”

“What you’re experiencing right now is something out of pop anthropology: culture shock. It happens because as people we have trouble separating ourselves from our own peer groups to realize that other people actually have different worldviews and cultures than we do.”

In fact, when I was younger it took me a while to realize that most Christians don’t get a chance to actually meet their gods like I do. Christians live their lives talking about how they know Jesus, and how they talk to God, or have experienced Satan, or other elements of their religion—but they’ve never physically met them. Not actually. Press them long enough and they’ll admit to sensations and feelings and not visitations.

My people? Our heroes are actually out there and we get to see them sometimes. Personal revelation in the grand scheme of empirical evidence of the Universe is inherently not compelling for anyone but the person who actually experienced it. And then, of course, we can readily elaborate that our experience with our gods and heroes involve hallucinations—with the intent to discover them. The experiences my people have may be very palpable and real, but these experiences are still trivially illusions of the mind—exactly like the experience of any Christian of one of their gods.

Wouldn't you rather have huggable gods? Rather than gods that only come through musty, aging books...

It consistently amuses me that the Way of the Master preachers like to use visual tricks as part of their tracts. As if to say, “the senses can be fooled!” suggests that there is indeed something supernatural and true. Yet, they don’t seem to follow therefore that their very own tests, the optical illusions, the linguistic trickery, all suggest that in fact their experiences themselves are suspect. That when they cannot corroborate them with other people or even with reality itself, suggests maybe that there’s a high chance that their experience is also illusion.

Instead, it become a reason to present a profound disrespect for everyone else, for their own cultures. A special pleading comes into play, “But we have the truth, ours is true, and yours is wrong,” making it a shadowplay of words and mistreatment. Where their illusion is more important, more true, and more proper than anyone else’s—say something about their illusion and they’re up in arms; they say something about mine and they stick their nose up at it.

Yet neither of us can readily deny the force of gravity. An empirically demonstrable phenomena—which they attempt, however idiotically, to equate their own non-demonstrable personal experiences with, ignoring that my personal experiences hold exactly the same weight compared to gravity. None. Chuchulain, the Morrigan, Bridgette, all of these gods are equally likely as YHVH and Jesus and Satan.

The difference is. I’ve actually met the Morrigan. I have never met Jesus. He’s invited, certainly, but he’s not once appeared at Concost. Anyone think that’s strange? It’s an open invitation for my ancestors, my gods, and my friends—yet the only gods that appear happen to be those that I expect to see, those that I’ve grown up with, those whom I know. And not a single one that I don’t expect to see. I’ve never met Zeus, Shiva, the Buddha, Amaterasu, or Quetzecoatal.

The saddest thing about all of this is that when people descend into this mirror-speech they’re not even talking about themselves anymore. It’s not even the witnessing type where people generate bad experiences that they have saved themselves from; it’s entirely an enculting meme attempting to encase another person. There’s no personality there—no person.

Nobody will ever experience a connexion with another human being with this sort of behavior, they will only build divisions and demands. When this mirror-speech is being employed there is a great deal of disinterest being shown as to the very person that they’re speaking. Sure, the speaker feels passionate or even concerned that someone else is going to Hell, or a lake of fire, or wheresoever, but that concern has hijacked their ability to connect with other people.

I may be dying, but I’m not about to dismiss the one best thing that I have this world:

Other people.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Friends of Mill Ave - Jim Coleman: More than 8 years on Mill

Jim Coleman is an elderly man, frail of feature, but strong with character and warmth who I see on Mill Avenue often. The first time I noticed him was many, many years ago; sitting on the corner, offering tracts, with a gentle smile and a good joke for anyone who cares to listen. This is a write-up from an interview with him December 13th 2008.

Paralyzed totally, two months later he could drive and started to come down to Mill Ave, visiting almost every week for a long time in '99. The reason for his paralysis is Guillain-BarrĂ© Syndrome—an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks the nervous system. Jim has recovered a lot of his original motor control, but unfortunately any direct damage to nerves will never recover. As a result, when we see Jim, he’s usually in his wheelchair.

He recounts his experience in the hospital as a catalyst to his eventual repeat visitations to Mill. “My legs don’t work, what’ll I do, what’ll I do. Well, I figured—nothing’s wrong with this motor-mouth.”

With this in mind, he visited another patient in the hospital and spoke with him about his Christianity. When he was out doing physical therapy at a pool, he met a black man who mentioned to Jim that he might as well take it down to Mill Ave. So here he came. He says that when he first started coming out to Mill, he came every night for a while. His wife also came out with him every night in those early stages.

Ever since I first started seeing him, he’s always sat there quietly with a buffet of pamphlets that he gives out to people. He doesn’t use the amplification or shout really, but he will talk to anyone who talks to him.

One thing that I’ve always appreciated about him is that he actually made an in with the street rat population—joking that he is in fact a Mill rat, since he lives right off of Mill Ave. I have seen him getting people warmer clothing, and sometimes taking kids off to eat slices of pizza.

He still tries to visit three times a week—Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday—but he can’t always do it all week; since he uses his income to help pay for what he does. And it does run out. But he tries as much as he can with what he has to help out the street rats and the homeless population.

He is careful to point out that he avoids being belligerent or “in your face” and thus feels that he can get a better connection with people. He used to hang out on 6th street and Mill for about the first six years he’d been coming out to Mill Ave and when the other Christian groups started to appear, he flocked with them for a while. Certainly he’s seen several come and gone already since over the past decade there have been six different groups of street preachers.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Refuge of Delayed Souls

I am reading this new online serial, The Refuge of Delayed Souls by Miladysa and it's bloody damn good. I am only up to chapter 30, but I highly recommend it. (This is partially untrue, I am actually much further ahead, but I started reading late in the story and now I'm making up the difference.) The story is oh-so-British to my ears (Irish as they are) and it produces a lovely Arthur Conan Doyle style lilt to the narrative. The chunks are bite sized, the characters are highly emotive and engaging.

Her style is something that I'd really love to learn to mimic, and possibly I will use it to help me determine how to write a little bit more emotively.

A lot of my supernatural writing does involve ghosts and hauntings; but more in a horror sense, rarely in the romantic heartbroken distance of the celestial bureaucracy—this work does that in spades. I especially like how it jumps back and forth between time periods to frame the narrative. It develops its story between past and present to compose the development of the characters.

It's a framing technique that I think deserves some experimentation.

Go check it out.

Prologue link, The Refuge of Delayed Souls by Miladysa

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Mill Avenue Vexations Volume 10: The Girl in the Mirror

Mill Avenue Vexations Volume 10: The Girl in the Mirror 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.

Strange stuff is really brewing in Tempe now that Vex has run into her potential adversary at the Bash on Ash, and in her usual terms, punched her in the jaw.

This doesn't mean that the threat has ended, of course, as while she's taken away an item of some significant power, she doesn't know what it means. Disappearances continue. The city is agitated. And for one of the newer characters, Megan, things are definitely getting hairy: she's started seeing things in mirrors.

Not just any things, but a particular dead girl.

This volume displays art from a considerable number of sources. The cover is by one of my new favorite artists, Del Borovic (*exileddelusion) who did the front cover. And Katie de Sousa (=yumedust), whose brilliant and majestic portrait of Vex is the back cover. Internal artwork and chapter headings are done by Alan Gallo.

You can see the full cover on Mill Avenue Vexations.

So, don't miss Volume 10: The Girl in The Mirror.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Reports late this week

My observation reports from Mill Ave are late this week because I've been too tired to get them fully written up.


Kristina was back on the Ave, and she hasn't been broken in half. Hopefully the bluster and irritation at/about her will die down sooner rather than later.

Borders closed this Saturday, never to open again.

Westboro Baptist Church came to Phoenix on Friday and raised income for various gay venues and a play about a gay boy.