Culture 3.0

Culture isn’t what it used to be. Thank goodness. But it isn’t like the old archaic forms of expression aren’t putting up a battle. But they are soon to be history and are only able to maintain the illusion that they are still relevant by the loyalty of old money and old bodies. Without the tiresome habits of network TV watchers, MFA program promises, broadcast radio, producers of tedious monstrosities called “the full length play”, record company contract serfs, art gallery wine and cheese parties,  chapbook poetry writers, and formula special effects vehicles we call movies.

They all pretend not to notice the future digging the graves for past genres, even as they jump into the hole to help them. These are the people who cannot change, so of course, pretend nothing has changed. As long as there are enough gurgling incontinent season ticket buyers and nostalgic sponsors, it pays to milk the game to the end while emerging culture can be snubbed as a side show staged by impudent upstarts.

But its not like cultural investors haven’t hedged their bets by buying into the new technology. They’re just not conveying the mantle of culture to the unworthy till an institution can dominate it. That doesn’t mean the originators and developers will not have made their mark over a 30 year period. It just means they will be coopted by the same opportunists who threw up roadblocks to progress until they could dominate the new forms.

Its hard work pretending not to notice what is staring you in the face. No one goes out anymore to listen to poets read out of notebooks except their friends and other poets waiting their turn. Its boring listening to talking podiums read what you can read for yourself at home off the internet, while smoking or drinking whatever you want in the comfort of easy chairs and consumer electronics. The loyalists sneered at the performance movement called slam poetry while that movement itself is being pressured for even more cultural change to stay relevant on the edge.

This change is not a distant glow and low rumbling, open to interpretation about what it is and when it will arrive. No, change has been screaming and yelling on the front porch, pounding its fists on the door to be let in for quite some time. The ruse of being unaware of this unwanted visitor is belied by the barring of the door and directing the old school to enter thru the back door, as if it were the new front door. As if the reaper wasn’t forcing a game change fast enough by himself, the price of this exercise in futility keeps skyrocketing. Its like, demand falls off so you double the price for customers who are getting poorer and poorer.

Alright, I have a personal agenda and contempt for tribal snobs. In addition to kicking slam poetry up a notch and replacing both studio movies and network TV with an expanding (and cheap) internet scene and satellite TV, I have a long standing grudge against full length play based theater and all the class pretense that goes along with it. Yes, I know there used to be a counter theater. But that was then. This is now. Sitting through a full length isolated-from-current-issues-play is cultural waterboarding plus tasers.

Live theater as we know it is dead. As soon as life support becomes too expensive for the survivors to maintain this pointless illusion, the plug will be pulled. Make no mistake about it. Video and internet productions increasingly outstrip the four-wall rituals we call theater. So is there no hope for live theater? Yes there is. But first, we must assume the American Theater phantasm is only perpetuated by brain eating pundit zombies, academic whores producing MFA programs, sponsor sell-outs, and class traitors. Having eliminated this part of the problem the solution is obvious.

Remember, the average person, and many above average people, are perfectly happy with sitting at home in their 1500 dollar easy chairs, in their underwear, drinking their favorite cold beer at store prices, watching their gas plasmas with killer sound systems on broad band cable and satellite TV, as the internet belches forth millions of classic, free, or low cost offerings that they can talk about, or not, on hundreds of culturally related sites. The soon to be extinct cultural gatekeepers think this is irrelevant. This comment is based on long and painful personal experience.

I propose a new model for live performance that will not be based on a dying past. The model is split between salons and venues. The salons are close knit associations of compatible artists and writers who perform and interact with their peers. Participation is by invitation only. The purpose of a salon is not primarily entertainment. It is cultural interaction between peers. This should be the first exposure of new work, not institutional endorsement after admission by gatekeepers.

The model for public theatre venues is more aggressive. It assumes that plays should be fringe festival length – not over one hour. Other cultural forms will have to fill the evening out – music, stand up, skits, or group raps or slams. If serious food is not next door, an appealing menu must be part of the venue. The nite out will be one stop or not at all. Real time streaming to the web and chat will be a must for the under 50 crowd.

Ideally, the food/alcohol component of the venue will also serve as an after event discussion forum. Think: absurdism, surrealism, true performance slam forms, That is, if we are serious about getting people out for live cultural events. These after hours soirees will be the democratic replacement for self serving theatre boards and grant fed institutions.

This is what is necessary to hold on to the live community part of cultural expression. Most forms of expression, globally and locally, will be on the internet or satellite. That is a given. The big question that few people are asking is “are we going to do what is necessary to keep the face to face part of cultural alive and relevant.”

Ballot Strategies for Pirate Party

I would like to offer some strategies to help the Pirate Party get ballot qualification in California.  Do I have any special expertise in this area? No. I just want to start the process of developing a comprehensive plan to achieve this goal. We do have a January 3rd, 2018 deadline to qualify for the June 2018 ballot. One way to start a process is to get something on the table. So here are my “Top 10” ideas for consideration and ridicule. And yes, I would be willing to work on all of them.

Become a leader among political bodies attempting to qualify for the ballot. By producing events and statements that encompass all reachers for the brass ring you will not only attract attention to the general concept of examining unheard of political groups but you will give the Pirate Party instant recognition for being bigger than themselves.

I assume every internet geek knows the value of Search Engine Optimization. If no one competent wants this thankless job we will have to pay an outsider. And everything we send out, no matter how inappropriate, should contain the Secretary of State online registration link.

Send out regular press releases and feeds responding to current events and statements by pundits. Normally these will be ignored. But there are slow news days and news stories where the writers are pressed to get “another view.” There may be occasions where we will be asked for an on air response. These should sound clear, compelling, and spontaneous. We may need to practice the spontaneous part. Pirate Party Toastmasters anyone?

Produce videos and podcasts on our core issues, preferably with people we admire and containing footage from ambushed public officials. Offer a regular “Pirate Spot” column to radio stations. Reagan did this between political gigs. Make “public input” statements at public meetings for the purpose of getting the video, with the officials and staff as your backdrop. I do this.

Make voice over parodies of public meetings. Some of these go virile. Since they are public officials in a public meeting there are no permission issues.

Create your own speakers bureau for service clubs and high school civics classes. You will gain greater acceptance if your list includes speakers from a broad spectrum of political parties and bodies. Did I mention a Pirate Party Toastmasters? Members of service clubs are usually active politically and will talk you up, for better or worse.

Parades and festivals. There are often places for tables at parades. I’ve actually seen pirate ships in parades. One or two well made floats could be shared around the State.

Sponsor contests. These generate publicity before and after the event, due to having a winner. Examples: Geo Cacheing (Treasure Hunt?), Song Parodies, and for strictly colleges only – a marathon Barnacle Bill the Sailor lyric contest. A Yale University contest racked up over 90 lyrics. Probably the least offensive entry, not the winner, will be quoted by the press.

Petition for various Ballot Initiatives (maybe two or three at a time) where you incidentally register people to vote,  casually bringing up “other” options. A ballot issue will often pull in people easier than a “Register to Vote” sign.

Sponsor Candidates Nights (if you’re not running). I did several of these. It will be a political crowd that shows up. Pirate Party organizer will be part of your intro and qualifications. Did I mention you should always have voter reg cards with you, even when you go to the John?

Now for the youth vote. You know, the people who will be dancing on our graves. Most are not registered. Sponsor a band event with local youth bands, maybe thru Pirate Punks if they’re still around. Youth bands usually work for the door, assuming a low minimum. We spring for the venue, which is often lower for non profits. At the reg table, have something to eat.

Those are my ideas. I hope I’ve inspired a flood of others. I know, it looks like thousands of hours. But that may be what it takes.

What Has Five Bodies But No Head?

The last election was not the first time many people felt they did not have a real choice. Of course, “not having a choice”, or rather only having highly filtered choices, is what our system is all about. Occasionally, a minor rebellion to create some serious alternative is beaten back with the programmed responses:  “You’ll be wasting your vote.” “Voting for the lesser of two evils is the responsible thing to do.”  “We have a better chance to change one of the parties from within.” The result of this strategy is to discourage the entrance of new players in the game to begin with.

Obviously there are structural barriers in our system that prevent break outs from below. New parties end up wasting all their “none of the above” political capital on transient candidates who will be moving on long before the first barricade has been breached. Motivated more by rage, righteousness, and indignation than substance, the upstart party then slides into oblivion.

What if a new mindset, disguised as a political party, promoted the heretical idea that this established process needed to be changed first before any challenge on issues can succeed. Agenda Item #1. They would not claim ownership of this goal since it is a premise that all excluded political entities could embrace. It would be a cooperative venture, for if it prevailed, they would all win by having the artificial barriers abolished.

The first filter is access to the voting ballot. The one and only voting ballot, where precious time and money has to be spent for voters to see you. For electoral purposes, you are not even considered a political party until you clear this hurdle. If you file papers indicating you are currently trying to achieve the exalted status of a “ballot qualified political party” you are awarded the provisional title of a “political body.”

In California there are five political bodies attempting to gain ballot status for the June 2018 election. The former Unified Progressive Party dropped out and has decided to work as a caucus within the Democratic Party, where they have had some early success. For the record, the functioning political bodies are California Pirate Party, American Solidarity Party, California National Party, Constitution Party, and the People for Justice.

Some of these bodies have one or more issues in common. So you could say they are in competition with each other. But there are good reasons why they should be working together or at least becoming knowledgeable about what each other is about. The strongest bond they have in common is being effectively shut out of normal political discourse and participation. They are all burdened by restrictions imposed by the two-party monopoly, even though new ideas tend to originate from outsiders. All political bodies should be presenting a common front to roll back this affront to democracy.

The first objection we hear from the average citizen is “we have to have some standards or the ballot will become too cluttered or confusing. This will not encourage democratic participation.” Before the backlash against “foreign ideologies” in the early 20th Century there was no problem. This was because what made a ballot official was not who printed it but the fact that one person turned in one ballot on a specific day with at least one person listed who filed for an office. Why do all ballots have to have a preselected subset of people running? Groups printed and circulated their own ballots which was less ballot restrictive. With the introduction of machines in counting votes, standardization was cited as the reason we have limited ballots.

The irony today is, machines, that is computers and computer programs, have made the restricted ballot obsolete. Secure ID technology has arrived, making voting online practical and inclusive. For people who have limited access, there will be voting stations where they can use official computers, the way we go to testing centers now to take standardized tests on computers. The disabled will still get assistance to vote the way they do now.

The only technology problems with online voting are the same tech problems we have with the present system. Those problems revolve around proprietary software and hardware owned by corporate contractors. Many of these contractors have a vested interest in the outcome of elections. Many anomalies have been noticed in proprietary voting equipment with the most “backdoors.” With state of the art encryption there are no compelling arguments against open source voting software. The popular fraud solution of “paper voting trails” is grossly inadequate.

On the core issue of information security, accessibility, and proliferation the Pirate Party will simply have to take the lead. They are the geeks of the political body front. For other issues they may have to step back and support other political bodies. So how will the disenfranchised political bodies support each other in the competitive world of limited independent voters and even more limited attention spans? They will cooperate in punching through the second filter. This is the filter of entertainment. If it is not entertaining today’s voter will tune you out. The power elite have more money, which is the third filter. They can buy more professional productions, media whores, and ditto time on TV. Knowledge presented in a compelling way will reduce this advantage.

To be brutally honest, none of the five functioning political bodies in California are making a compelling presentation to convince dubious voters to reregister. When approaching people who know little or nothing about you, to not just sign a petition but fill out a personal official document, you are going to have to sell sell sell. That means a schtick, a repertoire of answers, and an environment of entertainment. Most people have to be bought, entertained, or at least intrigued to gain their attention. Since no billionaires or celebrities have appeared, the political bodies are going to have to cooperate with each other to create an energetic scene.

Its hard to imagine anything else working. Just as the insiders stage phony debates, the outsiders are going to have to stage their own outsider debates, produce multi political body videos around common issues, and sponsor spectacles as a gift to the public.The concept of supporting a political body must become mainstream and fun. Mailing lists and social media are still relevant but no excluded wannabe will attract established media attention by themselves. That requires a coalition of wannabes, creating events that have the feel of “fairs.” Any registration defector from the electoral con game is a victory, even if your body doesn’t get all of them.

Lost Dogs and Trump Supporters

A week ago I lost my dog. Lost, sounds like I misplaced her somewhere. Actually I became certain she was stolen. My personal experience has been that if she got tangled in her lead line she would slip her collar and escape. After running around for an hour she would come home. That didn’t happen this time.

This time the whole thirty foot lead line was missing off the dog run and Ruby was nowhere to be found. At first I decided that she must have gotten her lead line tangled in the surrounding brush on my knoll. Dragging a chain, she couldn’t have gone more than a hundred yards without getting hopelessly tangled. I just had to spend a couple hours circling out from my property calling her name until I found her. I did this and still no Ruby. To me the only other reasonable possibility was, she was stolen.

Even though she was a popular color of pit bull she was a spayed aging female. In addition to this glitch in the theft theory nothing else on the property was stolen or disturbed. It looked like someone took the only safe, non alarmed route to the hill top and bee lined it to Ruby and unhooked her lead line. This event would require prior knowledge or advance surveillance of my activities. This further narrowed down the possibilities in my mind.

After thrashing thru the brush for two days my mind started imagining suspects. A long time friend who was forced to give up Ruby, a few neighbors who seen me walking her on the backside of my knoll, and a crazy looking guy on an illegal ATV who roared thru the neighborhood everynight probing everyone’s access roads. I fantasized that he noted my comings and goings from all points. The motive: He had a market for fresh meat to train fighting pit bulls to tear dogs apart. This is the stuff that goes on in normal minds at wits end.

People started responding to Facebook notices of Ruby’s disappearance. A volunteer dog finder spread the word further. Several photos turned up of dogs similar to Ruby but not Ruby. I continued to walk the neighborhood, putting up lost dog notices as I went. They included a reward and pictures photoshopped by my girlfriend. I was loosing hope and felt like I was just going thru the motions because I had no power to do anything else. There was a short list of suspects in my mind.

How would government or an organization that has government’s ear handle this problem? Based on recent events, they would tap the phones and search cell phones and personal records of everyone in the area and who fit the profile of all hypothetical suspects. That is, as long as at some time or some place at least one person who fit one of the profiles committed a dog napping. Remember, at this point there was no actual proof Ruby was stolen. Then they would put a bunch of pins on a map and respond with devastating force, destroying all possible suspects along with neighbors who made the bad choice to live near a future target who may someday commit a hypothetical crime by one unsubstantiated method or another.

On day seven I checked the kennel again and put up my last signs on the fringe of my neighborhood. Then I went to the coffee shop and speculated about whether tactical nuclear weapons should be an option. After a couple hours my phone rang. “We have your dog.” Ruby’s journey over the last week was nothing like anything I deduced must have happened based on the facts. Apparently my facts weren’t all the facts. Even though I had first hand information I did not have most of the information about canines or people.

Ruby was glad to see me but also had been enjoying bed and breakfast treatment with a family who was still grieving over the recent death of their dog. They refused the reward and gave me the collar and leash from their dog to lead Ruby home. It made me sorry I had fantasized about reducing these five square blocks of doublewides to smoking twisted wreckage. I was certain the dog thief was there somewhere and would strike again and again and again until someone put a stop to them. Sure, a few thousand innocent people would die but that’s the price we pay, actually they pay, for dog freedom.

So what does this have to do with Trump voters? They seem like lost dog owners too. In fact they sound like people who have lost several dogs. They have a little first hand information and have been given an analysis of who is to blame by people who have not lost dogs. Many of these analysts have benefited magnificently in the past by advising owners who lost metaphorical dogs. I can relate. Aren’t you glad I don’t have access to 20 aircraft carrier groups and cruise missiles?

Lake Transit Chopping Block

As everyone knows a big chunk of transit money is grants. One of these grant pools is drying up this year. This particular pool has been getting smaller every year. Now the Transit Authority has to make cuts in service.

Most of these cuts will be lightly used routes and runs. Some routes are untouchable for the time being. Our contracted general manager will look at ridership on each run, how much money we have left, and what changes have to be made in the other routes to smooth over the gap. His recommendations will be made to the Transit Board and they will vote yes because they will not want to study the details.

In past meetings the General Manager and the Operations Manager noted which runs will be looked at hard for possible cuts. These tend to be routes to the hinterlands, 2 and 4A, and runs on popular routes that are too early or late to have more than one or two passengers on board. Regardless of the number of passengers, if these runs connect to an out of County route they can’t be cut. Otherwise another pool of money will disappear entirely.

There are a couple of special cases. One is that part of the 4A that runs to the Konocti Vista Casino. In addition to gamblers, people work at the Casino and there are two large communities nearby. Years ago, before the 4A was born, this was on the popular Route 4 line. Four was later diverted to Highway 29 outside Lakeport to express itself to Clearlake. If 4A is eliminated 4 will have to reroute its service back to Konocti Vista.

The other special case is the City of Clearlake for a couple reasons. Clearlake receives over have the system’s transit runs on three local routes. All three overlap in a large triangle area in the center of the City. Clearlake’s local area includes the adjacent town of Lower Lake where the High School and Lake County Social Services are located.

Lower Lake is served as an afterthought at the tail end of Route 10. This Route is primarily designed to serve Clearlake Park, a subdivision of extremely bad and narrow roads. Instead, most people go to Lower Lake on Route 12 which loops around town at the beginning of the Route before overlapping Clearlake’s center triangle with the other two local Routes. On Saturday the High School and Social Services are closed. Probably Route 12 could be closed on Saturday as well.

Since schedules take time to design they aren’t done for minor or temporary changes. There is a rumor that all the cuts that could be made without damaging service too much will be made all at once, even though this may be a little ahead of the curve money wise.

The good news is that during periods of forced change, opportunities arise to make other changes. Change requires a period of adjustment so managers who like things to run smoothly don’t change for creative purposes. Change is usually the result of more money, less money, or a new law. The route cuts and changes may reopen cost neutral options for the overlapping local routes in Clearlake. The overlaps produce ongoing transfer and route planning confusion.

Due to three routes overlapping many passengers could misuse transfers for return trips. That is why a rigid policy exists allowing transfers at only specific locations other than the beginning of the route. It is inconvenient and seems unfair to riders. If a passenger is adamant that they got on the wrong bus to begin with, drivers will usually relent and ask another driver to honor a transfer.

The service rule for Clearlake is that any local route change must all serve current stops every hour. By measuring the time allotted between all Clearlake stops on each of the three routes and adding these segments together you get the total amount of time to serve Clearlake. Currently it takes two full routes and most of a third to do the job. It would take a single bus an hour and 20 minutes to serve all Clearlake stops. Passengers would also feel thrashed after such a long local ride.

But I have made an amazing discovery. Using the time numbers and the limiting assumption I have found a cost neutral way to hit all the Clearlake stops every hour using only one route. This would eliminate all transfer problems and most trip planning difficulties in the City. This seems impossible given the hour and 20 minute drive time to travel to all stops. Guess how it could be done. Hint: All three local routes are intersecting loops.

Piracy On the Local Seas

 

The Northern California Pirate Festival is June 17 and 18 in Vallejo. As a registered member of the California Pirate Party I’ll be there. It’s not a joke. The name was chosen because people who value a free internet, open information (which means government transparency), and reforming our archaic copyright laws were called……pirates.

The point is we are now an information society which moves very fast. Freedom and survival depends on the free flow of information. But barriers have been going up fast and furious. California Pirates are focused on these goals but the broader platform and strategies are still in formation. In general there is a bottom up bias in organization. Not too much thought has been given to what this means at the bottom. I would like to share some pirate flavored strategy names to my own attempts to work at the local level in my checkered past.Continue Reading

Liberty Bookstore

This is an intellectual odyssey. I graduated from high school in 1972 with far more questions than answers. This was the first year that 18 year olds could vote in federal elections. Even at this tender age I could tell that the so-called two party system was a scam and con game. My standard college general education did not yield much more in the way of insight. Years later I decided that what was lacking was context – some overall paradigm that would tie the pieces together.

At the County Fair in 1975 I stumbled across a booth. Whether it was a political, religious, or educational booth I wasn’t sure at first. It turned out it was a wanna be political party but there was a flyer on their counter for a Liberty Bookstore at the other end of Santa Clara County. Six months later I got around to checking it out. It was in Mountain View.Continue Reading