Here at Mind on Fire labs, we’re relentless in our pursuit of knowledge. I and brave volunteers will often offer our very selves up for social experimentation. In the name of science, here are the results of our virtual party experiment:
I wasn’t sure what to expect–a big bash or an intimate gathering. It turned out to be the latter, and it was very nice to have a virtual toast with two of my best friends even though hundreds of miles separate the three of us.
Cheers, G and Lessie, and to those of you who were with us in spirit(s).
Updated: Chandelle and Jeremy joined us! (late, but this is a *virtual* party!)
All right, folks, come hither and hearken unto my latest hare-brained scheme:
Have any of you heard the Jonathan Coulton classic, First of May? If you haven’t, here it is (warning: there’s literally some fucking language in there). If you have, I know you’re all like “MST LISSEN NAO”, so here it is. See how we at Mind on Fire take good care of you?
What I’d like to do is assemble a community cover of the song, which I would then post on May 1st for all the world to hear. It’s a fun, accessible, NSFW song that celebrates spring and all the things we enjoy here in MoF-land. I wish I could claim that I thought this up all on my own, but that credit goes to Bill Shunn. He even did it for a better cause.
Anyhow, if you’re interested, here are the prerequisites. You must:
- Be able to sing (or chant or shout or read the words in a sultry or Woody Allen voice or approximate singing) anywhere from one to four lines, and the full chorus (my idea is to create a composite of everyone singing the chorus together).
- Be able to record an mp3 of yourself singing the above.
- Be willing to provide a square photo/avatar and a web home that I can link to.
If you want to join in the virtual chorus, please comment below or send me a message via email (mindonfire, preceded by john@) or twitter (johnremy). The First of May is coming up soon, so you have until the evening of Tuesday, April 21st to let me know, so that I can send instructions and give you time to record and for me to collect and edit the final audio. Feel free to invite your friends and neighbors and tweeps!
Pitch: For all you exmos and/or SF lovers, I’d like to pitch Bill’s Shunncast. He’s releasing the audio of his entertaining and poignant Accidental Terrorist memoir, which helped Jana and I survive, with humor intact, our transition out of the Church. It explains why Bill, who was serving a mission in Canada, is still–sadly–not permitted into the country some two decades later. Also: stalked by stake presidents, and testicles in a jar.
Think of your top five heroes (sorry, your mom’s my hero too but she doesn’t count)–people you admire from afar. Imagine that you wake up one workaday morning, and find that one of these people has invited you to a tea party. (albeit a tea party sans tea and finger sandwiches, in a warehouse in a barbed wire zone on the LA River.)
If I had to name my top heroes right now, the short list would include Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow, Sarah Vowell, Joss Whedon and Amanda Palmer. They’re not necessarily household names, but they’re all powerfully creative people who are not bound by any single genre or medium. They defy convention and definition and splash their creations all over this scene and into the next. And today Amanda Palmer performed an impromptu “secret show” in Los Angeles and invited us to attend via twitter.
This is how Jana and I found ourselves huddled in the cold wind next to an auto-wrecking shop in the heart of industrial LA with 50-some other twitterites and fans of Amanda. Fucking. Palmer. We were all one-day members of the plan-free cult. In the post-show interview, Amanda repeated the theme of “plan-free.” Did she have another solo album in the works? Probably, but she was “plan-free.” To a number of questions about her past, present and future, she sounded the refrain: “Plan-free, baby!” I’m over-simplifying things, but it seems that Amanda isn’t an architect of life so much as she’s a DiYer, working with whatever’s handy. Certainly today’s secret show was a manifestation of that credo. I was full of plans, but I had to give them up–to become plan-free for a day if I wanted to have the opportunity to meet Amanda. Was it worth it? Let’s dive in, shall we?
I wonder if this sort of intimate venue isn’t the optimal outlet for Amanda’s performances. It gave her just enough room to create genuine, momentary connections with her fans. I’ve been to many concerts over the years, but the generosity displayed in this show was singular: the pre-show camaraderie between fans, her fans willingness to give to her (from the sacrifices they made to make it to the show to the PB&J sandwich that @manakatie gave up to the famished singer) and Amanda’s generous gift of the show itself. We adored Amanda, and it seemed that she adored us in return. This artist who can command sold-out performances in the thousands used real-time social media to create an intimate gathering with an all request show and time at the end to give each fan a lingering hug. Would this magic be possible in 2000-seat concert hall?
Amanda spoke briefly and jokingly about how we as humans have developed to handle the concerns of the village, and not a world of villages. But the twitters and facebooks and myspaces of the world are designed to overcome our deficiencies in this area and to enhance the perceived intimacy we can experience within meta-village groupings. And this is definitely the sense that twitter gave us: it created a a burst of a community between AFP fans on twitter in LA and it gave us the sense that Amanda was speaking directly to each of us. She felt bad that *I* was shivering in the cold outside the venue! And *I* failed to bring her the tutu that she wanted!
What amazed me was that she needed 50 people to fill the venue, and while it was possible that anywhere from five to five hundred could have turned out, she came very close to the mark (maybe the high fifties/low sixties). I’m not sure how much of this was smart management of information, or just plain pure luck.
And not only were these folks hardcore AFP fans, they were hardcore about twitter and their iphones. At some point I saw that @amandapalmer had tweeted to her fans in line: “i feel your pain outside. we’re opening doors in just a second. hang tight.” I pointed this out to my neighbors in line, only to be met with blank looks. “Oh, we thought you had something new.” I looked back down at the post time, and said to them, “You’re right. That was so three minutes ago.”
The other fun thing about starting on twitter was that we could make connections with people from the online discussion. We recognized @andythecurefan who had tweeted “damn it amanda, this is confusing as to where it’s at, but the thrill is amazing. thank you. i will be wearing a Cure shirt.” And by Robert James Smith, he was and we mentioned it. I know this sounds goofy, but how often can you go to a concert and already have talking points for individuals standing in line?
I was in the middle of a conversation (a face to face one) with a fellow fan when I realized that I had already tweeted about her, offering my opinion that she had nailed the location in the midst of all the guessing. I was silly with excitement when I made the connection, saying, “You’re @read_a_book!”
Amanda came out and walked the line asking fans for clothes. She was trying to assemble an outfit for the show, but ended up wearing her standard touring uniform (which was beautiful–no complaints from the fans, except for the one fan who doesn’t want to see Amanda’s underthings, and that one fan is only a product of my imagination).
The set was short but was made entirely of requests from the crowd. I wish I could share how empowering this made us feel. I asked for my theme song, “Runs in the Family,” and got it. A nice young lady (who became twitter-famous for sharing her PB&J sandwich with Amanda) asked very sweetly in a moment of post-song silence for “Leeds United,” and Amanda obliged, saying something to the effect of “that was the most civilized request I’ve ever heard!” Just for fun, while struggling to choose between two requests, she started a mash-up (even calling it a mash-up), singing the lyrics of “Oasis” to the tune of “I Google You.”
About two songs in, I realized that I was so drunk on Amanda that I would’ve done just about anything she asked. “John, jump up on stage, strip naked and scare away my fans with a silly Monty Python song and dance” would’ve had me singing “SPAM SPAM SPAM” in the buff in a heartbeat. Fortunately for everyone’s sake it only lasted a few songs before dying down to standard fanboy levels, but I now understand a bit more about the meaning behind the words enthralled, bewitched and enraptured. Thank you, Ms. Palmer, for infusing my vocabulary with some life.
After the set on stage, we moved to a comfy couch section, where we all had graham crackers and milk and took a group nap. Well, almost. We sat in a circle around Amanda while she played an ode to her childhood (home) on the ukelele and went through an interview for CurrentTV’s After Ellen show, which should air in a couple of weeks. I’ll post a link when it does.
Amanda was a delight to listen to in conversation as well, which cannot be said of all rock stars. I don’t have time to go into the interview in much detail now, since after yesterday’s excursion I really really need to work long and hard today, but I finally got my answer to the connection between Guitar Hero/Dresden Dolls/Arthur “Killer” Kane of the New York Dolls (never expected to be able to ask Amanda the question in person!). Answer: there is none. Well, only the connection in my mind–I will still think of him when I hear the song.
After the show, I got a long, sweet hug from Amanda, and Jana got her prosthetic tattooed with AFP-Love. She said in her interview that her attitude towards her fans was, “come with all your weirdnesses and we’ll love you.” And she does. And this is one of the amazing things about her fan-base: we accept each other in all our weirdnesses.
So, to answer my earlier question, was it worth it? And is it worth my writing about it now? Here’s my take: the best things in life–the memorable experiences, the ones that make us feel alive and connected are the ones that involve risk. Yesterday, I felt alive and part of something larger than myself. I got to touch genius (literally and figuratively) and to be inspired by a true muse. How can you put a price on that?
One of the many reasons I don’t post with my IRL name here (I won’t say “real”, since xJane is just as real in many ways) is because I am attempting to manage my image. In our internet age, I still find it to be very important to not ruffle feathers in a public way (so that I can find a job, even with a company I may not agree with) while at the same time ruffle feathers (feather-ruffling is something most people need more of).
Accordingly, I can say that I am not embarrassed about anything on my Facebook page. (Except, perhaps, who my “friends” are, but that cannot be avoided in many cases.)
Here are some recent articles I found interesting about Facebook: the first (hat tip to @greaterumbrage) is the humorous Facebook survival guide for adults. A great way of explaining “the Facebook” to people who ask. In fact, I may just send this around to some people I know…
Linked to in that article are two more of interest (to me, at least, and enough so that I want to share):
A discussion of “Facebook drunkfail”, also a humorous take on the subject (please please please Google “Kevin Colvin”, regardless of whether or not you click on and read that link, and read the first page that comes up. I think John bought me a drink from him once at the Edison…). A serious subject, though, and the major reason I (a) post here as xJane and (b) carefully edit my FB page (and (c) have two Twitter accounts).
Finally, this was probably in the news but I missed it because I live in a hole right now (luckily, a fact of life I’m used to), but Obama’s speechwriter committed a Facebook drunkfail that made it farther than Facebook. Here’s one woman’s take on it—one that I happen to agree with.
(I thought about posting links to these on my Facebook page but decided that was too meta for me…)
Apparently some aspect of the LDS temple ceremony will be portrayed on HBO’s Big Love (tonight?). Here’s a picture that was forwarded to me, apparently from TV Guide:
Mormons are decrying this as sacrilegious and disrespectful, of course, but as one of thousands who was hoodwinked into going through the ceremony and socially coerced into accepting its secret oaths and tenets, I think that just about any public airing will help to diminish the power of the ritual. While I would hesitate to characterize Mormonism as a cult, the temple is where it gets the closest to acting like one. So this airing is a Good Thing. And it may be the first episode of Big Love I actually watch.
Late to the party on this one, I know, sorry. It turns out that conservative (read: religious) states have the highest porn rates in the country. Probably because they’re not allowed to have deviant (read: fun) sex at home.
Meanwhile, people living in enlightened areas of the country have other outlets for their sexual urges, since sex is not dirty and can be discussed rationally with one’s partner(s).
I’ve been listening to this recently and it’s kept me going as law school ties me up in its basement, feeding me only bread and water, and negotiating a ransom exchange with my
family husband. I keep getting the feeling that the majority of my family would like me to settle down and start having children, rather than dicking around with this law school rigamarole. My parents seem entirely nonplussed by it and most of my sisters are just baffled by the fact that I might want it. So I feel like it’s an uphill battle, not just in the classroom, but on the couches of my family and in conversations with them.
Enter this song. I remember hearing this as a kid and identifying with the need to “get out” of something, of being trapped in an insular community (in this case, not a “town” but a religion, a family, and a path of life that included marriage and children and nothing else).
To spend my life here
Is more than I can do
I know somewhere down the road
My dreams will come true
And so they are.
If I stay here forever,
What will I have to show?
But if I make it over?
Well, then everyone will know!
This is another lecture that was put on at my school, this time by the ACLU, in response to Prop 8. The California Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments about the Constitutionality of Prop 8 a week from tomorrow. In preparation for that, the local ACLU chapter invited to gay people who grew up in religious families to tell their stories to us—one whose family eventually accepted him and the other whose family is not as accepting.
My first thought at arriving at the appointed time & place was that I must be in the wrong room. There was far too good a turn out (including a number of professors). The president of our local chapter introduced the two panelists and said that she felt it was important, with Prop 8 looming on the horizon, to put a human face on the reality of our homosexual friends and neighbors. She wanted us to hear the story of people struggling for acceptance in their family, community, and faith, but that it was not her story to tell. Read more >>
not a huge surprise, I suppose…
RT @pizzocalabro RT @consumerist: Identifying Yourself As A Lesbian Gets You Banned On XBOX Live : http://tinyurl.com/cc48g8
When I first migrated to the Mormon Matrix, it seemed to me a flawlessly elegant combination of history, science, and society. I immediately benefited from my conversion, upgrading my interpersonal skills, self-esteem, and sense of life purpose. It didn’t take long for me to start finding flaws in the system. At first it was slow: an Old Testament massacre here, a little history of cosmology there, learning about multiple, difficult to reconcile versions of the “First Vision” (Mormonism’s riff on Muhammad’s first encounter with Gabriel).
It didn’t take much at first–a little apologetics patch, an upgrade to add some complexity to my worldview–but soon I was running into bugs way faster than anyone could fix them. Eventually, I discovered that the system was a porridge of kluged narratives and borrowed rites, and discriminatory legacies were coded into core doctrines.
Since the system was a hack, but I was stuck in the system for some time, I started to hack the system. I became a doctrinal hacker. I inserted as many references to Mother in Heaven as I could. I found quotes from leaders that supported my liberal political values. I excised the hateful memes embedded in Elders’ Quorum lessons and emphasized simple and elegant principles. I found I wasn’t alone in my self-awareness: there was the Irvine Outhouse Intellectual group, feminist Mormon housewives blog, and the greater community of DAMU and ExMo bloggers.
I’m no longer hacking Mormonism. But now that I’m thinking in these terms, I can see this pattern repeated throughout my life. Rules and social structures, systems–I feel like you learn them so you can break them and transform or beat or excel within the system. This was my approach to high school, it explains my frustration with monotheistic belief systems, which tend to set themselves up as perfect and totalizing. It also captures my experiments with gender bending, my fascination with poetry, modern art, graffiti, AdBusters, flashmobs, philosophers like Pierre Bourdieu and Judith Butler and punk rock/DiY culture.
There are some systems we’re all stuck with, or at least stuck in. Global capitalism, to take one example, with its devastating cycle of production, consumption, and human and environmental degredation. We can’t really swap it for a better system, and it’s so all-encompassing that we can’t really transform it from without. But there are hackers who are trying to mess with the system, to throw wrenches in the gears of this efficent machine, and to make us more aware of bugs in the program, the inelegance of its code. Perhaps most importantly, hacking huge systems even in small ways can help us overcome the sense of powerlessness we may feel. Looked at in this way, Mahatma Gandhi was one of greatest social hackers of the 20th century.
I’m still thinking at a pretty meta level here, but I hope to play with these concepts here over the next few months. I’d love to hear your thoughts as well.