The Way It Is

Posted: August 20, 2015 in Music, Rant
Tags: , , , , ,

Pus & Zero B0y — The Way It Is

Download: PUS & Zero Boy – Adventures in Rhyme – 04 – The Way It Is

I turned this in as my final essay to a Student Colloquium at CCS / UCSB on Female African-American Literature in 1993. Last male standing in the class, this effort got me an A+. Great Depeche Mode inspired synth solo. Nothing has changed: this track holds up well today in 2015.

I was born down south San Diego
left all alone so I got switched to the home
of Mom and Dad – they’re not my real parents
but they’re the ones who loved me best, y’all.
so I made a lot of friends through trial and error.
I learned the hard way not to think or care
about foolish opinions that don’t belong to me.
I try to be happy and who I want to be,
now I’m not saying that I’m a hard lucker
and I’m certainly not a big bad motherfucker.
when I get a lot of money, I tend to share
and when I get real drunk I like to say [yeah!] – beastie boys
I’m never too busy to get busy
and a lot of my friends get busy with me.
I don’t know everything so I go collect knowledge;
I went through high school to end up in college.
I caught a cool class from my good friend Sara
she told me of the problems I should work to take care of.
things aren’t equal in the land of the free
and I know that it isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.
I live my life as best as I can;
I smile and say hello to my fellow man.
I’m not going to tell you how hard I hit,
all the women I’ve been with or any of that shit.
I don’t pride myself on being a jerk
‘cause like Kool Moe Dee [I go to work] – Kool Moe Dee
this world I’m in ain’t the perfect place to live
but I’m not going to keep it just the way it is.

Alright,
maybe I’m weak – I get beat in a fistfight
but before I get up I’ve begun to write.
I pick up my glasses and back home I go
‘cause next week I’ll dis you on the radio.
I’m not the type of guy to reply with violence
but like Bell Hooks it’s hard to keep my silence;
to tell you like it is: ignorance is hell,
so pick up a book and educate yourself.
I can’t stand to see you dismiss my sisters –
think you can rape her just ‘cause you kissed her?
listen very carefully to the words of this song –
you’re not only ignorant – you’re wrong.
now you go home and you beat your wife
and I’ll cheer my head off when you meet her knife.
you haven’t really recognized their rights yet
and you’re wondering why they seem upset?
women cross lines in all races and creeds;
a little respect is all they need.
I make sure my mother gets across on a green light
and I make sure my girlfriends get home at night.
I learn and I write, make music then preach
I’ll get a college degree to continue to teach.
I turn on my mind and mix me a drink
to write something funky to make you think.
I’m not always sure of what I can say
‘cause the PC strictures make my hair turn grey.
some stuck out of luck dumbfuck says it’s none of my biz
but you know it is, that’s the way it is.

(Analog solo a la pus and zero boy)

I light my pipe, sit back and kick back
because I know I just pumped out a fresh track.
I’ve got some homework but I know I’ll be done soon
then I pop in my tape and I [pump up the volume] – MARRS
sometimes I get drunk, bounce checks, and get high,
think about what I want to say and I sigh,
I can’t seem to get it out right through my teeth,
a sharp bladed dagger that’s stuck in its sheath.
because other people don’t let me live
I’m getting plenty of time just learning to forgive.
I guess I’m just waiting for the world to get wise:
talk to your friends and you’ll realize
that I’m not out for world peace,
just tolerance, understanding – some relief at least.
I take time to turn on and tune in,
writing white raps with a big old grin
because I’m slurring you can guess that I’m sauced
but at least my message is coming across.
I get funky on a track ‘cause I’m badder than Cheese Whiz
want to know why?
that’s just the way it is.

[inspired by Sara Seinberg — thanks to Bruce Hornsby]

It has been a hot minute since I have fired up the ol’ WordPress blawg and wrote myself a letter. This effort has an audience of one: myself, and once you accept that, it gets easier. In this feed- and filter-driven 24 hour news cycle of technology, when you are staring at a blank page, it is asking you to be creative and say something. Say anything. It is much better on a cosmic, spiritual scale to create content than to passively watch the social network feeds go by.

I used to write poetry and stories to capture what I was feeling. This “blog” is full of it; when I was unemployed I kept busy (because ADHD) by pumping tons of those “witless driblets” into this online database called WordPress from a stack of hand-written journals that I subsequently burned in the mountains and the deserts in campfires. They’re all now indexed Internet content and ashes. Ribbit. Fuck you. Enjoy.

Once upon a time I built pages for music I composed, wrote, played, produced, rapped and sang on. Labored over, instead of going to class or doing homework, I caught them on magnetic tape and transferred them to a computer. I figured out how to embed those songs here with a play button. I still have a couple of handwritten cassette tapes I can refer to for source material and memories. That includes a page for M0nster Zer0, a band I was instrumental in–ha, ha–when I was in high school.

I remember making DJ Lurk compilations every year for 15 years, many times multiple disc sets, of my favorite music and giving them out by the dozens for free. Custom, handmade printed paperboard CD case insets, printed on an inkjet, and CD-Stomping labels on them. Those comps keep me grounded, and company, because you should always make your own mix tapes.

I used to record two hour sessions of vinyl-spinning to capture all of my music collection the way that I heard it blending and surfing together. That’s how it was on Pete Tong’s Essential Mix program on Radio One: a two-hour uncensored journey. I made this effort because the Woodweaver gave me a Sony DAT recorder that could do two hours per tape; that was hot tech at the time, and I wanted to use it. There are 12 Essential Mix @ Mordenkainen’s Parlour tracks, labelled with exact dates. They have incredible power to return me to years ago.

More recently, with a MacBook Pro and a shitty pair of USB controllers attached to Traktor, I would record DJing live at the Edgemont Compound, the Isle of Lesbos, Below the Chateau, or at a Dirty Little Mansion. This content has names and maybe rough dates, but I was asked to show up and spin, so I did. I get to wonder who this particular character is, because I can’t believe that I produced that. But it is undeniably The Froggacuda.

So there it is as evidence: a poem, a mixtape, an occasion: captured somehow so that I have to go back and verify that it actually happened for my audience of me. Memories that are fleeting ghosts. Content that is hard and unrelenting to experience again and try to put into perspective in the present tense.

Is this thing still on…?

You Betta Recognize

You Betta Recognize

I used to rock a Kermit the Frogg icon that had some iron-on 80’s T-shirt lettering at the top that simply said “you betta recognize”. No exclamation point or nothing. Kermit has some sort of Muppet hand-gesture going on, and it’s just delightful. Recognition: think about it. I’d like to recognize this phenomenon called Dubstep. It is–apparently–a relatively new and popular type of electronic music that has made its way into commercials and Hot Topic and youth culture in a way that I have not witnessed in a while. Little does the average Dubstep fanatic (or Skrillex-only brostep lover) know that this style of music has been around since the mid-1990’s. Vanity Fair is bemoaning that culture has been stuck in a rut for the last two decades, but I think that they are just not looking hard enough for novelty in this sea of multimedia we all swim in.

Those of you who have been to the Man-Cave known as Mordenkainen’s Parlour in person know that I have a lot of loudspeakers. And I have full control over the effects and equalization that eminates from these units. Kleptus, as I write this, is sanding the Saltillo tiles he laid upstairs at Edgemont as I write. Without playing music, the grinding sounds coming from through my roof sounded way too much like these 60 BPM Hybrid-esque breaks that have rocketed to public consciousness.

I am going to embed the video that I think was the springboard to Dubstep for me. I am a music fanatic; a DJ, even. I still marvel at these Video Disc Jockeys that can real-time juggle slices of video as they are mixing good tracks together–it is beyond me. However, I subscribe to the four elements of hip hop so fundamentally that I apply that litmus test to things I listen to when I detect an entire subculture developing in front of my ears. When I saw the dedication of Marquise Smith to a performance of a single track that he loved so much he believed in it, then you can understand why Dubstep is here to stay. Witness this. Recognize.

This reminds me of Mr Fantastic,  Robert Muraine out of LA who auditioned for So You Think You Can Dance? and was subsequently featured on an Ikea commercial. I really think that the expression of dance actually adds the appropriate video element to an audio element that I already am entranced with. As a DJ, I always ask myself this question: how would I dance to this? It’s a fundamental concept if you are running a dance floor. It’s actually where all good DJ decisions come from. I remember in the phenomenal documentary SCRATCH, Africa Bambaatta would just hand unknown records to his DJ and say “the break is about two thirds from the start”. Boom. Play it. Trust. Recognize.

That is musical teamwork. Think Run DMC or Beastie Boys and how fast they can trade rhymes back and forth. Have you ever witnessed freestyling rappers beyond, say, Eminem in 8 Mile? Switch gears to DJs. Now shift again to (break) dancing. If I can extend you one more time, here is the least represented of the four elements of hip hop: (graffiti) artists. Speak, Mix, Dance, Art. This is how I judge musical culture.

Tyler Rae--PEACE!

Tyler Rae--PEACE!

I am getting older–I turned 40 in 2011–and I am trying not to become calcified as an “old guy”. I shamelessly use my godchildren–Tyler, Taylor, and Bélen–as Soundwave’s “little friends” to get a real idea of what is going on in their lives as a present tense report of what they are facing in this minute in America, and like all the brilliant young minds I have seen lately, are NOT CONCERNED about the future. Because they have not lost faith in their elders yet.

Tyler Rae has a buddy who makes Dubstep music, and frankly, he is pretty damn good; I am encouraging her to use her formidable skills to manage this artist.

Taylor has been crushing it in both his schoolwork and on the basketball court.

Taylor--LAKERS!

Taylor--LAKERS!

Bélen earned $10 from me by selling me a cat scratcher that she proved that my über-kitty Brother would actually use and love–after I stepped her through the process of selling product at outrageous prices and then applying a “family discount”. Kleptus and I then showed her the Marquise Smith video and gave her an impromptu (albeit poorly demonstrated) lesson in dancing to Dubstep in my living room.

My lovely niece Michaela just brought my first “blood” nephew into the world: Breslin Franklin Geddes, who is by all pictures and reports a bundle of joy. I asked when I could start sending video games and Lego kits.

I actually receive quite a bit of passive-aggressive shit that I don’t have kids of my own; hey, I don’t need them–I have plenty of responsibilities to insure these life forms generated by my friends and family grow up happy, healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Belen at Sheep's Canyon

Belen at Sheep's Canyon

What does this have to do with knighting Dubstep a relevant musical phenomenon that is worth paying attention to? There are a couple of reasons, but the most important is that Dubstep is the product of young people. Music is its own language, like math–although I have always been better at music than algebra or speaking Spanish–and as a language, it has dialects, is a creative endeavor, and is constantly morphing. Dance is a physical interpretation of a piece or pieces of music. Playing music, whether a live instrument (and that includes turntables, people), singing, or pre-recorded–hell, even clapping or whistling along–is an act of creation. I grew up doing yardwork with my dad, and when engrossed in a task, he would idly whistle. This is his equivalent of Michael Jordan hanging his tongue out of the side of his mouth when he was contemplating just how to dunk on an outmatched opponent. It made the chores go by faster, and fostered my personal philosophy that everyone has a soundtrack going on in their head-space. Some of us also have a laugh track and a sound effects track as well. I’m so in love with media that this is the best way that I can describe what ADHD is like. All of this is going on in my head, all of the time. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Dubstep accurately represents how gritty, slow motion, and ridiculous the present tense is. DJ Lurk firmly believes that the BPM meter has flipped: we have had enough of trying to communicate music at ever-faster beats-per-minute. 165+ BPM craziness has been around since the drum machine was distributed to the masses in a programmable and affordable unit. For crying out loud, Google “Happy Hardcore” and try to dance to that. It was a mid-1990s staple. But now we have rolled over to the bottom of the BPM spectrum. This is a stroke of genius.

Dubstep is fundamentally SLOW. As in slow down. Look at Marquise Smith: he is interpreting everyday–nay, every MOMENT–life. He ties his shoes. He’s just waiting for a friend or public transport. All the while amusing himself–and us–with an incredible display of interpretive dance. You can WORK to Dubstep. Folding laundry–a task I loathe for some reason–becomes fun when listening to Dubstep. I mentioned (and linked) Robert Muraine before; he’s a street performer from LA. Check out his audition for “So You Think You Can Dance”; spoiler: you betchya!

Muraine is not quite using Dubstep per se, but a parallel style that can sometimes be labelled as “Glitch”. Again, this is not exactly the type of club banger that you regularly hear on your normal 128-136 BPM dance circuit, yet talented dancers thrive when translating strange beat signatures, weird synthetic noises, and general wubwubwub. This stuff is not old people music; it is a blend of new, ever evolving technology with the oldest communication in the world: beats. And I find that there is almost no better way to understand the mindset of today’s youth than to figure out what they are listening to and how they dance to it.

It is possible that technology like samplers and drum machines makes our music lazy; a great 20 minute example of this is the Amen Break, which is the most popularly over-used sample in the history of music. On the other hand, I think that all of this tech allows for more freedom, more creativity, and the awesomeness of remixing and repurposing music. There is a whole movement of people who use loop pedals and effect units to do incredible things with just their voices as the only instrument they are playing, whether it is just straight beatboxing talent like Eklips or the jaw-dropping stylings of Hyperpotamus. Here’s a fan-made video set to Benny Benassi’s track Cinema remixed by the king of brostep, Skrillex, that was brought to my attention by the mighty Woodweaver.

For me, it is really all about dropping heavy-lidded into a sort of trance and almost seeing the composition; your body will then attempt to express this feeling through dance, through singing, through art, and through making your own music. Trust me, I still love the 80’s stuff I grew up on that was new and fresh and edgy, but there is no purpose in becoming trapped in your own set of oldies but goodies just because that is where you are most comfortable–and possibly nostalgic. Today’s youth culture is more vibrant than ever, and it is less frequently older generations that push the boundaries of sound. They used to say that teenagers built the original World Wide Web because they were the only ones with enough disposable time and passion to actually figure out HTML. The same thing goes with music. And art. And dance, and song. Pay attention! Recognize!

The OTHER Virtual Lilypad

Posted: December 14, 2011 in Tumblr
Tags: , , ,

…is on Tumblr. http://www.tumblr.com/blog/froggacuda

There has been no song I have listened to more consistently in 2011 than the cover of the Pixies’ “Where is my Mind?” from the Sucker Punch original soundtrack by Yoav featuring Emily Browning. For those of you who have seen Sucker Punch that haven’t made this connection, Emily is Baby Doll in the movie, thus she is in the video–this Australian siren has a pretty set of pipes and is featured all over the OST. I saw Yoav live in San Diego about eight years ago–opening up for Tori Amos of all people–and he is abominably talented as well. This phenomenal version of a spectacular song is just hauntingly beautiful. There really are not words. Check out this (apparently) German fan-made, wonderfully reconstructed version below; turn it up and full-screen this shit.

If you are just reading past the video and have not yet seen it, STOP. Go back and watch it. Context is very important in this world of too much information, and you will not get a true understanding of the rest of this blog post without watching the above. I don’t care if you have seen Sucker Punch or not; if you saw it and hated it: fine–I am talking to you Beth Accomando (and trust me, I love Zombie Beth). The availability of soundtracks and footage across the Internet allows for the basement creation of a six minute version of Sucker Punch that does a great job of substituting for the whole movie. The real question that I have for myself is this: why do I keep coming back to this song over and over again all year long? It is because the title is really, really thought-provoking: WHERE IS MY MIND?

This is how my parents still see me.

This is how my parents still see me.

This question seriously resonates with me because I am 40 years old now. I used to be smart–really smart, as proven by years of crushing K-12 curriculum and standardized tests at the top of my classes without any effort. Then I realized that I was more black sheep than white and got into the bad habits that I continue until this day: drinking like a fish, smoking like a chimney, eating as an afterthought maybe once a day, never seeing medical professionals, prescribing myself my own medicine, depriving myself of sleep to the point of just passing out on my couch each night, working until my fingers bleed, giving everything I have to the world right now. It is being present tense rather than living in the past or praying for the future, and it’s the only way that I know how to conduct myself to maximize my value to humankind. The problem is that this head-down approach causes me to lose my mind, and as I get older, sometimes I just stop what I am doing and I ask myself…

Where is my mind? It is–and always has been–fascinated with death. I “flunked” my first IQ test in my early years because I was grappling with the fact that I would never talk to my great-grandmother Massie ever again. When the score came back that I was a moron, my Mom–bless her heart–stormed into the school and demanded a do-over. IQ: 143 as opposed to 80-something. My teenage years of writing depressing poetry document this preoccupation well; I still believe that that the close presence of death smells like Pez candy. Over the years, I lost the rest of my grandparents as they moved on to the next level; these deaths are expected, but they are still sad and thought-provoking. Yet you see and hear about death all of the time: from horror movies to the nightly news; from video games where you can earn “extra lives” or “resurrect” or “respawn” to Steve Jobs‘ apparent sainthood, the Seal Team raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, and the execution of Troy Davis. Death and taxes: we are all just inured to it. As you get older and live more years, gaining more experience, you encounter instances of death that are more shocking than the normal background noise of life happening until it doesn’t anymore. Then it’s all you can do to not think about what dying means to you.

Ansel Adams: Moon and Half-Dome

Ansel Adams: Moon and Half-Dome

For me, personally, the untimely but beautiful death of my close friend Bela Chris Feher is strikingly haunting because he died doing what he loved to do: that is his legacy. That is setting the bar pretty damn high, and I don’t forgive him for leaving me behind. Bela was my friend, and I miss him every day; I would have loved to see what he would have thought of Occupy Wall Street. Remember, BC Feher is the guy who would send long diatribe e-mails to the Federal Government calling them out on complex conspiracy theories. I still find myself thinking “oh shit–you know who would love this? Bela!” and then I have to chiggity-check myself. I refuse to take his contact info out of my phone. I can’t watch Aliens or listen to The The or mention D&D without reminiscing about Chris. Because he is dead. And he left behind some truly epic stories, and that is precisely what I aim to do.

Let me be clear: I am not depressed, nor do I consider keeping an eye on He Who Rides a Pale Horse unhealthy in the least. Death is the second bookend, and our entire existence is spent putting this fact off until tomorrow. This inescapable event supersedes other important life measures and milestones: your spouse, your career, your family, your children, your accomplishments. Terence McKenna informed me that my responsibility as a Shaman are to view the “wiring under the boards” and return with critical information for the rest of my tribe; that is why I am exploring “Where is My Mind” in writing. Carlos Castaneda taught me that if you look fast enough with an empty mind over your left shoulder that you will see Death waiting. That is an incentive, my fellow human beings. I guess I’ve been at a Mexican standoff with the Grim Reaper long enough now that I just shrug. 40 years and you still can’t kill me! Come at me, bro.

Come At Me Bro

Come At Me Bro

I blog because my mind (aha! there it is!) wanders through the drudgery of everyday existence, past the wasteland of mortality, and suddenly stumbles on to a garden of legacy: what can I say I have truly accomplished so far in my life? What am I leaving behind when I level up? Can I die today–hoka hey–and be content that I was net-positive to the bank balance of humanity? I am certain that everyone at one time or another has had the distinct feeling that they are being watched, or on hidden camera: did I just hear laughter, an audience, a echo of soundtrack? There is a distinct deja-vu-esque prickle of awareness like some sort of prehistoric monster surfacing from your subconscious and thrilling up your spine: a frisson of “da fuq?” Maybe it’s a twitch of your Kundalini. A repeating black cat in The Matrix. Perhaps it is God watching your particular sitcom on His omniscient media center. Too many thoughts like this will drive a person insane; as A-Pope said:

Great wits are to madness near allied / And thin partitions do their bounds divide.

Seriously, ask yourself this question: where is your mind? What has that powerful, agile, sexy beast been doing the last five minutes? Do you remember what it feels like when you learn something earth-shakingly new and a big lightbulb goes on? Admire, acknowledge, and respect yourself for a minute; your body is a temple; verily, an Oracle of Delphi, where your brain, and your heart, and your soul, supposedly reside. Admit it to yourself: you are unique and totally, 100% perfect as is. You exist; that fact is relevant enough to take a deep breath and continue on and forward: there is only one You. Until you die. Then the bookends–and everything in between–go to the thrift store, and you have your legacy. Speaking of legacy; TIL from Reddit that The Pixies – Where Is My Mind? was transmitted to team behind the Mars Rover in order to “wake it up”. Wake up!

"Da Fuq is this?"

“Da Fuq is this?”

I write things down because I have always wanted to leave an important and cohesive body of work behind me for someone else to discover, enjoy, and maybe get lost in. Shit–my Dad even wrote a book; talk about setting the bar high, /grumble. Perhaps the Virtual Lilypad is an easily-accessible site for anthropology studies of privileged white males in San Diego from 1971 to 2011 and beyond. Maybe someone else will stumble across my original work and it will move them in a positive direction. At least I have generated a record that I existed once upon a time, and I have provided poems and DJ mixes and art to the international community. The world–especially the online, electronic world that we all increasingly participate in–suffers drastically from a lack of original content that can endure the test of time. For every single person that presses record and captures something, I guarantee that there are at least 1000 other people currently on this rock we agree to call Earth that will point to your effort and express “that is how I feel!” You just need to be brave enough to give yourself full credit. For me it is surviving 40 years of being on this damn planet. It’s a fucking accomplishment. And I am not dead yet.

QUICK: It is autumn, and it’s time to start organizing the fresh tracks of 2011. This year–number 16–I thought I’d be a little more agile in product and delivery. Here’s to your 2011 Halloween: originally called “2 INSPIRE”, after three tries–and I have never before “retried” an entire mix–it morphed into “The Greatest Trick” in August. Let me know what you think. 375mb direct download from my iDisk.

“the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled…was convincing the world he didn’t exist. And like that…he’s gone!” ~The Usual Suspects

Communication is Leadership: everyone row in the same direction

Communication is Leadership: everyone row in the same direction

INTRODUCTION

Communication is the bedrock of the human condition: there is perhaps no greater accomplishment of homo sapiens than being able to share an idea, a concept, or an opinion with a fellow ape. In the 21st century, there are more ways to share your own unique perspective on the world to the world than ever before in the blink-of-a-galactic-eye that we upjumped animals call human history than ever before, yet I keep running into the same old problem: people don’t know how to communicate. I am not talking about using the right emoticons in a text message, or being unable to get their video running on their GoToMeeting videoteleconference, or attaching a file or photo to an e-mail message. I am talking about the raw ability of people to actually communicate: that is, to exchange information effectively. I have recently run into two situations where this lack of what I consider to be a fundamental skill–like walking upright and breathing regularly–has driven me to take definitive, tie-cutting, self-preservationist action.

SITUATION ONE: Read My Mind

As a self-proclaimed King of the Nerds, a hard-working employee, a small business owner, and a 15 year IT veteran, I have a constant stream of requests coming in to assist people with an alphabet soup of apps, platforms, strategies, tech help, troubleshooting, and plain old good advice from a geek. Most of these pleas for assistance I handle with my inimitable blend of slightly-pedantic schoolteacher and humorous, patient, step 1-2-3 teach-a-man-to-fish wizardry; I like to see people do great things with their ideas, and I understand how frustrating a simple tech impediment can be for someone who just wants it to work. Occasionally I will run into a situation where communication breaks down because someone is making the assumption that you can read their mind. And they will get very frustrated because you cannot read their mind. This also breeds the Catch-22 situation of either requesting additional clarification–thus angering them further–or making your best guess–and then running afoul of not having delivered what was in their mind. This is maddening, and I am certain that most everyone has run into this situation before.

Spock IS able to read minds; however he has to lay his hands on you to do so

Spock IS able to read minds; however he has to lay his hands on you to do so

Case in point: while assisting a small company with the creation of their corporate website, I was bluntly accused of not following the proper policies and procedures. Since I had never seen these policies and procedures, I asked for a copy of said P&P, and none were produced. Instead, a stream of angry invective about “common sense” and a slew of unrelated issues were produced with how unhappy this company was with my performance. Seeking to understand where the communication had broken down, I continued to probe the issue by pointing out the obvious disconnect: I cannot follow P&P if I don’t know what the P&P are. And lo! the client was enraged further. For the first time in my life, I was sincerely agog at the wrath of the client. There was only one option: I calmly handed off all of my projects and responsibilities to other team members and quit working with that company.

From my training and experience with teaching both high school and college classes, I am fond of reminding people that “the only dumb question is the one that goes unasked”. Without bending the thrust of this idea through ridiculous situation-based specifics, I strongly believe that anyone who is asking a question is trying to communicate effectively. You have to extend this basic credit to a person who wants clarification. It should also cause you to listen to the question, both the content and the context; and this simple act of communication–between a someone asking a question and someone responding with information–is literally how the world works. No amount of technology, power, or skill is going to change this most basic of things on a fundamental level. It just boggles my mind that some people are so caught up in themselves that they make no attempt to listen. Willingly or unwillingly, they are breaking the time-honored chain of communication from one individual to another. The only recourse is to join them in the obstruction: stop attempting to communicate and effectively, give up.

"He said 'this one's for Becky', as he watched the last one fall..."

"He said 'this one's for Becky', as he watched the last one fall..."

Choosing to walk away–or as Kenny Rogers puts it in “Coward of the County”, turn the other cheek–is incredibly difficult for me to do. It is like choosing to fail, and I avoid making that choice at all costs; there HAS to be a way to compromise, remove this impediment, or find a win-win situation. On the other hand, I really don’t like to choose to fight, but in the most reductionist, simple terms: communication comes down to fight-or-flight, and you gain more information by fighting to communicate than by fleeing and guessing.

And, if you really want to talk about policies and procedures, it is now my policy to not do any more pro bono IT work or consulting. It is very much why lawyers are so careful not to hand out advice willy-nilly; it can be construed as an attorney-client relationship, and now you are on the hook to see the issue through in one way or another. This is colloquially called the Cocktail Party Client phenomenon [PDF, 123kb]. There was also a phenomenal Reddit thread (that of course I can’t find) from a lawyer walking all the way through how much work one “free” piece of advice from a lawyer could cause–and this was via experience, not theory–including the fact that the lawyer had to prove in court that there was no attorney-client relationship (thus NOT representing the “client’s” best interests) and a running total of dollars lost versus a paying client who would benefit from all the skill and knowledge of the attorney in a proper relationship. Doctors also can’t–or shouldn’t–give free information for approximately the same reasons. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but IT people: you must protect yourself in the same way by getting an agreement in place or by resisting the urge to fix things for free. Although this goes against every fiber of my being to help, teach, assist, educate, and un-frustrate people, the same technologies that enable people to communicate often fail to do so effectively.

My final thought on example #1: Read My Mind: if I had a do-over with this same client, I am pretty damn certain that I would handle it exactly the same way as I did the first time. NOBODY reads minds, and when you explain to someone that “I cannot read your mind” if their response is “everyone else does; why can’t you?” then it is time to end that relationship post-haste. It is unreasonable to expect someone to be a Jedi mind-reader (presumably like everyone else), and unconscionable to excoriate someone who “can’t”.

SITUATION TWO: Occupy San Diego and the Threat of Legal Action

A sympathetic OWS protester in Munich (AP Photo/Joerg Koch)

A sympathetic OWS protester in Munich (AP Photo/Joerg Koch)

It is no secret that I am fascinated by the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon that is sweeping the globe. Although a lot of assumptions can be made about my politics, civics, and sympathies by this fact, I have carefully considered where I stand on the #OWS issue, and I can assure you that you don’t have any concept what my actual position is. The corollary to “I can’t read your mind” is, conveniently, “you can’t read mine”. In a nutshell, I am enthralled with the real-time adventures of the American people voicing their discontent by exercising their Constitutional rights to be n

oticed, seen, and heard. Some people describe this as “democracy in action” — I think that it is certainly “communication in action”, and as such, deserves paying attention to and forming your own opinion about so that you can participate in the melee in one way, shape, or form, whether it is on the ground at an #OccupyEverything event, around the watercooler at your job (if you have one), or heated and valuable Facebook wall discussions. Trust me: I have actively participated in all three in the last 168 hours.

I have been following the OWS movement since early September, when I first got wind of it. I am very interested in what sort of reactions and results happen because of regular people deciding to come together and test the exercise of their rights in America, especially in this economic depression, this political landscape, and this unprecedented age of information. The Internet has transformed communication at its core: it really can only be compared to the invention of movable type and the printing press; perhaps even the written word and language itself; i.e., communication. Much has been said about the role of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and other new media in communicating real-time information, as evidenced by the “Arab Spring” and the riots in the UK, but now we see this come to the American heartland. What are we Americans–who invented a lot of this tech–going to do with it?

OccupySD protesters being arrested for refusing to take down tents at the San Diego Civic Center (AP Photo/ Gregory Bull)

OccupySD protesters being arrested for refusing to take down tents at the San Diego Civic Center (AP Photo/ Gregory Bull)

So when the OWS movement came to San Diego, I figured “think globally; act locally” and started trawling the websites, Facebook pages, Twitter and Tumblr accounts, LiveStreams, and other Internet-based intel that were available to get some local boots-on-the-ground information as to how this event was happening in real-time. The experience was eye-opening, to say the least: not only did it take an inordinate amount of browser windows to keep track of all of the latest breaking rumor, news, announcements, and innuendo, everyone participating had the best of intentions, yet were engaged in an organic exercise of “telephone”. Because all of this chaos was happening within 30 blocks of where I live in San Diego, I was enthralled with the way that my sleuthing and juggling of two different browsers packed with 20+ tabs of information would see the same event ripple out with dozens of voices and opinions, none of which quite aligned. It was an awesome firehose of information, and yet I couldn’t get over the fact that if this communication was coordinated just a little bit better it would make all the difference in the world between having a geek like me able to piece together all of the relevent info from a dozen technologies and a regular person being up to speed on the latest by checking a Facebook page.

Violating my pro bonorule from the previous example, I decided to jump in as a volunteer on the LiveStream chats and lend my skills to squash rumors and promote advantageous information sharing across these social networks, calling out my sources with links and pleading for representation on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Meanwhile, let the opinionated move the chat room along with discussion and conversation. It was a powerful, organic solution that included either loops of relevant video production and occasional live events brought to you by a number of dedicated personnel including video producers, tech people, anonymous donations of equipment, and most importantly, several dedicated LiveStream anchor personalities. It was the height of professionalism when I could depend on the LiveStream coming up and someone like Kym or Kali was dependably giving us on the receiving end of the latest on-the-ground information backed up with a full audio-video stream.

Protesters marching on October 7, 2011 at the start of the Occupy San Diego movement (Nelson C. Cepeda)

Protesters marching on October 7, 2011 at the start of the Occupy San Diego movement (Nelson C. Cepeda)

I was so impressed, I decided to get directly involved. I have been to #OccupySD locations dozens of times. I have been invited to moderate committee meetings due to my percieved neutrality, focus on coordination, and leadership via discussion and compromise. I have personally driven to multiple locations to provide boots-on-the-ground reporting to the members of the live chat so that they could get accurate information out. I have donated a significant amount of time, money, and effort just to insure that people can get factual, relevant, real-time information out of the Occupy San Diego movement so that we don’t come across like a bag of dicks. This is an inside joke from the Occupy SD “Media Team” worth explaining. One person trying to figure out if the LiveStream was actually live said “if you can hear me, say ‘bag of dicks'”… I said “bag of dicks” in chat. That went out to roughly 150 people on the LiveStream, including international news media. Oops. Now search YouTube for “Live TV News Bloopers”. Shit happens. Let’s get back to getting accurate information out, right? I will just get back on the phone and try to continue to negotiate win-win situations, and having everyone associated with OccupySD row in the same direction.

Last Wednesday, I went down to the Civic Center (CC) for the first time to attend the PR/Media Committee meeting before General Assembly (GA). I came in my Boy Scout uniform and ridiculous camo hat with a whiteboard of suggestions, requests, and feedback from the chatroom. I had told my friends on the Live Stream chat that I would go represent their interests; after all, I should have some weight representing 150 people or so, right? I was effectively ignored, besides contributing some “let’s move along” Certifed ScrumMaster advice. I figured I had more value going back to the Live Chat and reporting that the Committee had heard me…sortof…and continuing to quash rumors and link to verified information.

It became pretty easy to recognize kindred spirits in the chat room; they were the ones who really wanted to insure factual information dissemination and quash rumors. I am pleased to report that I made quite a few good acquaintances via the OSD chat infrastructure. That is why I took another crack at organizing the online presence of Occupy SD: I stood up the “SMC” or “Social Media Committee” Friday night.

Full regalia for the BSA uniform; although I have all this stuff, I just wore the shirt

Full regalia for the BSA uniform; although I have all this stuff, I just wore the shirt

On Saturday, I went to the Civic Center and moderated a small group of dedicated people in a discussion of Social Media. I think we started out with 10 people, most of whom had come down to have this discussion because I had deigned to appear in person to help moderate the discussion, and ended up with an unruly crowd of 40+. I was there to promote healing. I believe my catch-phrase was to “rise from the ashes like a Phoenix!”. I have never in my life drawn on that many hidden reserves of calm and patience as I did for that meeting. If you did not understand that there were a lot of egos and misplaced anger and flat-out territorialism concerning the flow of information out of Occupy SD after that gathering, well, then you weren’t there. We accomplished having most people leave with a sense of purpose, unity, and urgency: the Occupy SD social media had to do a better job of coordinating accurate information. Let’s get to work; I will help coordinate and broker win-win situations.

It was later Saturday evening that one person, understandably frustrated, uttered the words “file criminal charges”. It was not in any way directed at me, nor my efforts for Occupy SD; however, them’s fighting words, and my self-preservation kicked in.  This is why I quit answering my phone, responding to e-mails, and otherwise participating in the movement for the time being. I have witnessed more nefarious bullshit–circulating chat room logs, threatening legal actions, locking people out of accounts, redirecting websites, hijacking donation sites and their funds, bitching on live-to-the-world broadcasts, accusing people of being “infiltrators”–than I have ever seen in my life. You all should be ashamed of yourselves, and you know who you are. In fact, this clash of egos is the Achilles heel of the entire OSD movement.

Occupy Wall Street, and “We Are the 99%” has to understand what including 99% means. A constituency of 99% it is a movement of inclusion, not exclusion–we all have to get along and agree on basic principles to be able to communicate.  In order to communicate effectively, you have to broadcast at a 6th grade comprehension level in the US. A lot of my friends would insert a Fox News joke here; I have learned to insert a MainStream Media (MSM) joke here because they are the same thing: profit-driven talking heads with fancy graphics and reliably suspect information. When you see an organic movement such as Occupy SD actually get a live broadcast of a semblance of a news report that glues you to the screen because it is actually happening in real-time, this is nothing less than a triumph of communication and technology.

No amount of technology replaces simple, time-honored communication skills

No amount of technology replaces simple, time-honored communication skills

My final thoughts on Example #2: Occupy Wall Street and the Threat of Legal Action: Communication is broken within the OccupySD Media Team from the perspective of the Internet; this audience is measurably 100+ people strong and can occasionally multiply by a factor of 10, and they are figuratively dying to help out, participate, and communicate. They are doing the best that they can with the tools that they are given, and they want their voices to be heard. I don’t see the difference in this 21st century of me speaking in person or through Skype / Facebook / Twitter / Chat Room. I don’t believe my voice is diminished because I am rendered on a computer screen versus standing there in front of you saying the same thing, and OccupySD should pay equal attention to the awesome volunteers that are participating virtually as well as the physically present ones.

CONCLUSION

Communication is broken: we just don’t know how to get our point across effectively any more, from the hundreds of communication technologies to the strangeness of having to talk to another human being in person–like during the SD Blackout of 2011–without your iPhone, tablet, or computer signaling you and demanding your attention with a never ending stream of update messages, SMS messages, e-mails, phone calls, Skype conferences, Facebook posts, Twitter retweets, Dropbox syncs, Growl pings, FourSquare check-ins, Yelp! reviews, YouTube video suggestions, LiveStreams, GoodReads notes, software updates, and the rest of the cornucopia of ADHD business that occurs through your tech. Redouble your efforts–regardless of the platform–to understand whether or not you are listening, and in return, if you are being heard.

None of this technology can read your mind.

None of these gadgets removes the fact that you are responsible for your own actions.