greetings from sunny #occupy (…and this one’s long, i warn you)
please note: there are a LOT of photos from my travels in this blog…so this entry doesn’t take 10 minutes to load, they’re resized below, but all of them are clickable for you to see the full-size versions…
i’ve got classic blog constipation, which always happens when too many fucking things happen at once.
currently Not getting Blogged:
• the tour with neil (but HERE’s a new update on kickstarter for backers, in the meantime)
• jason webley’s shows
• playing #occupy up the coast (i’ve hit seven cities now, and counting)
• announcing the upcoming dresden dolls show in mexico city (dec 9th – tix HERE/RSVP HERE)
• more dolls in australia & new zealand (most of january, and YES, i am trying to find a way to get to christchurch. it’s just taking a while, hang tight). dates/tickets/RSVP links are HERE, btw.
not to mention i’ve way overdue on a decent manifesto about music and the internet (though i laid out a decent manifesto in a number of tweets this morning that managed to make the news)…and a ton of other shit.
with all these things to talk about, i figure i’ll focus on one thing: occupy.
it’s hard to blog about. lots to say. all of it fuzzy. like the movement itself.
occupy is a small seed. and yet it’s as huge, vast and complicated as the very unwieldy problems it’s trying to address.
i feel excited and sad for my generation, for the world, for my country. excited because i am so happy to see people mobilizing. trying.
waking up and going out and doing.
sad because it’s also underlined how jaded and difficult we are.
sometimes we forget that the world is absolutely fungible, morphable, re-creatable. we forget (maybe want to forget) that governments and systems topple ALL THE TIME, that human peoples have a habit of looking around, saying “nope, nope, don’t like this one bit” and gathering enough force, energy, and will to create a change. i’m sure at every single moment in history where a regime has seen a giant shift, there’s been those standing by, thinking that the impossible (change) would never happen, could never happen.
is that you?
could you honestly imagine a different kind of country, where business and government run without corruption, where the wealth of the land is fairly shared, where people actively took responsibility to take care of each other instead of just trampling their way to the top as an accepted way of life? or does that sound stupid, naïve, an impossible hippie-dream? what if everyone who thought that was a actually a pretty good idea stood up in solidarity and forced a change? would you stand up?
if occupy does nothing else, it’s made people wonder that.
i’ve been shocked by the number of people (even pals of mine) who actually are trapped by the idea that things can’t – and won’t – get better…so “why fucking bother?”
that’s, sadly, exactly how greedy people in positions of power need you to think. it makes their jobs incredibly easy.
right around the time i played wall street, i went out to dinner with an old friend of mine. he’s in his 60s.
i know him well, and know most of his stories, but he told me some i’d never heard. about vietnam, about how he avoided the draft, about kent state, about how it felt to be in a generation trying to affect true change. about how it actually worked. it worked. they changed things.
if occupy does nothing else, it created that single conversation…a conversation i’m sure has been resonating around the world (i know, i’ve been listening) as the older generation tells the younger generation what they learned from (and how they felt in) the 60s and 70s.
movies and wiki can tell us some things…
but the stories that come from the lips of our elders, they’ll die with them. we listen.
i already blogged about visiting occupy boston (HERE) and wall street (HERE).
when we got to the west coast, i took off-days (or went before soundcheck on show days) and played occupy LA, occupy oakland, occupy portland, occupy vancouver, and occupy seattle, in that order.
it’s strange to think that some of these places are already gone.
my mission in going to all of these occupy sites was simple and twofold:
one was to ninja-entertain and hopefully inspire the folks already at said site, but much more important to me, was to attract attention to the site’s existences by bringing local fans/friends out who otherwise might never have taken the time to visit.
in every city i also encouraged people to try to bring donations to the site (each occupy has a pretty well organized website with a needs list). i’m not sure how effective it was, but hopefully it helped some, and even if it didn’t help directly on the day of my ninja gig, the general spread throughout twitter hopefully encouraged some awareness.
here’s something interesting to be learned about the new way we all communicate:
we emailed every single occupy website but in the majority of cases I REACHED THE SITE THROUGH TWITTER, usually INSTANTLY.
every occupy had a very active twitter feed, and i was usually on the phone with someone helping run the site within minutes of tweeting that i’d like to show up and ninja.
email: slowwwww. twitter: fast.
and when you’re trying to get something done like that using twitter instead of email, it’s sort of like screaming for a doctor in a crowded restaurant instead of in the woods. there are hundreds of people there ready to help you find your way.
every occupy, in its own flavorful way, reflected its host city (and whether that host was friendly or not seemed to make a large difference…and not necessarily in the direction you’d expect).
what was bizarre was how INCREDIBLY similar the feel of every occupation was; yet how different the energy was depending on the city.
some things are basic: you put a bunch of people in a public park and create a mini-camping ground, and there’s going to be a lot of the same issues.
everywhere, people must work together to make shit happen.
here are some of the more interesting and intimate moments, for better and for worse:
at occupy vancouver, a man with a tambourine played along with me.
at every occupy (almost), a kid zone…
at occupy oakland, a man filled with love tried to hug and make out with me during the the first verse of “ukulele anthem.” i let him until someone thankfully tore him away:
via jdaisy on flickr
at occupy boston, i was followed by a girl after my set who suggested that i always issue a trigger warning before playing my parody of “friday” in case there were sex workers in the audience.
via Chris Van Wick on flickr
at both occupy LA and oakland, there was a giant open plaza right in front of the corresponding city hall.
– in LA, it was jam-packed with hula-hooping people trying to dodge the skateboarders and the soccer ball that was flying around as very loud techno blared.
– in oakland, there was wide open space, and a single solitary man giving a person a free backrub on a professional massage table.
(this one gets the prize for “best juxtaposition”)
at almost every occupy, there was food for all, books for all, and a medical tent.
LA had a “people’s print lab”, where you could get a shirt screen-printed:
at occupy boston, i started talking to a boy who fell over. he got up and fell over again and we called him a medic.
he was high as balls. but the medic team was there within seconds and hauled him off to take care of him.
also in portland, i stumbled upon this tattoo on @kaylacheri’s arm:
it’s a lyric from my song “do you swear to tell the truth…“…it says:
and i still get laughed at but it doesn’t bother me
i’m just so glad to hear laughter around me
at almost every occupy, you could feel the sense of togetherness.
i’ve never felt so much hope concentrated in one place, with such a general sense of unease thrown in for good measure.
the largest group i played to: seattle (about 500)
the smallest group i played to: vancouver (about 100)
here’s some of the vancouver crowd:
i kept my set short, usually only 5-6 songs, except in portland, where I felt like i was almost playing a giant pajama party to occupy, and we just went on and on.
“ukulele anthem” usually closed the set, and i busted out “working class hero” by john lennon (sxip played guitar in NYC), “the world turned upside down” (which i originally heard played by billy bragg, but it’s actually by leon rosselson), and my now-standard uke set of “do you swear,” “map of tasmania,” “in my mind”…and…whatever else people requested. i busted out “friday” (hooker at a truck stop version) by request only.
at occupy wall street, a dude came up to my main #occupy contact, and asked him if i could get the hell out because i was “hijacking their movement.” he hadn’t seen the set i’d just played, or what i sang about.
two days before i got to vancouver, a girl named ashlie gough died in her tent, overnight.
when we got there, we didn’t know her name. all the papers told us was that she was “in her 20s”…after a bit of time, it was stated that her name was “ashley” and that she had died in her tent overnight, presumably of an overdose.
that made me think she’d died alone.
it was a haunting image, in my mind, of this girl dying alone, in her tent….surrounded by people, an entire mini-city of rah-rah comrades, and slipping away from life with nothing but a thin four walls of nylon separating her from this huge hive of occupiers.
the news had sobered the mood, and put everybody on edge. when we visited, her tent had been taken down and a small shrine put up. vigils were held. the family requested that nobody take any pictures of it or make ashlie a “poster child” for the movement…
it reads: “gregor (robertson, mayor of vancouver)’s using the overdose death as grounds to shut us down…
there are overdose deaths in vancouver EVERY WEEK. perhaps we should shut vancouver down?”
i thought about playing her a song, wondered what i could play that would make any meaningful mark.
at the show that night (at the vogue theater, with neil), i played “i will follow you into the dark” on uke.
i told the crowd the song was for her.
somebody called out her name. they knew her.
i talked about how haunted i was by the idea of her being alone when she went, among all those tents, but i didn’t know.
“she was alone,” the person called out. it was a theater of 1200 people, and here it was, silent, save for me having a conversation with this stranger from the balcony.
“she was alone?”
and so she was.
love of mine
someday you will die
but i’ll be close behind
i’ll follow you into the dark…
if heaven and hell decide
that they both are satisfied
illuminate the NOs on their vacancy signs
if there’s no-one beside you
when your soul departs
then i’ll follow you into the dark.
a few days later, i got a message from one of ashlie’s best friends, sacha.
she included some beautiful pictures of ashlie, of the two of them together, of ashlie smiling and radiant.
then came the mind-blower. sacha had seen a youtube clip of me playing the song.
she said it made her break down…ashlie had been an amanda palmer (and a neil gaiman) fan.
i had no words.
photo by andrew ferguson via flickr
at every occupy, there was art, art, art everywhere.
someone in LA set up a mini-theater:
public art-making station in LA:
my old friend markus nechay and his pal scott, painting in boston:
art is powerful.
now’s the time to use it if you got it.
there’s a great article at the village voice that @indeciSEAN sent me: villagevoice.com/2011-11-16/news/occupational-hazards/
the point is valid.
we need new ways of changing things.
some parts of the old ways work, but not all.
jason and i were talking about this the day over lunch with his friend, oliver.
oliver’s just come back from a few years of living in morocco, and he’s been experiencing extreme culture shock getting back to the USA.
the quality of life here, he maintains, is not as good as many people “think” it is. i’ll get on board with that, having traveled a lot.
people in the media constantly point their fingers at “over there” and tell us to thank our lucky stars that we’re not living in certain other foreign countries.
but how happy are you, really, ounce for ounce, compared to someone who lives a life with less wealth than you, but more intimacy with their loved ones, more focus on their community, their art, their health, their pace of life, their priorities? i’m not asking for an argument. i’m just asking asking for a consideration. if you’ve already made it, good.
if occupy does nothing else, hopefully it’ll mean a lot of people considering these things:
how happy am i?
what am i really working for?
WHO am i really working for?
everywhere, attempts to keep recycling happening…
bus stops are handy for hanging signs in all cities…
one thing always remains true: you have to occupy yourself, then look around and see where else you can stand up.
and right now, with the mothership in new york closed down and considering it’s next steps, ask yourself:
if the revolution comes calling, what would you be able to offer?
a tweet? a phone call? an hour? a song? a blanket? a lifetime?
if you wait for the next person in line to do it…
you know the drill.
it’s us, or it’s nobody.
as Brendan Burke, of the #OWS security team, says in that village voice article:
”The occupation is the tip of the spear of a larger movement.
This doesn’t have to be about holding ground anymore.”
it HAS TO, by definition, mean something bigger.
now comes the hard part.
here’s “the world turned upside down”:
(if that embed doesn’t work, here it is on youtube and here it is on vimeo)
please support in any way you can. if and when your city gets shut down, STAY INVOLVED IN THE DIALOGUE. GO TO MEETINGS. TALK. LISTEN.
currently, here’s a little bit of what’s been happening:
• OCCUPY WALL STREET (NYC) was cleared without warning in the middle of the night, this week….by the next afternoon, occupiers were allowed back, but there’s now a set of rules which they must adhere to. the times posted a blog about it, “sleeping vs. lying down and other murky issues”…the public library has been cleared…twice. judging from twitter and the awesome ustream and livestream feeds (check out @TheOther99/@TimCast), it’s getting hard for occupiers to hold things down like they once were, but they’re holding strong. and people are inventive.
• OCCUPY BOSTON: close to home for me, is still standing and has received a temporary order from (superior court) justice Frances McIntyre, allowing the Dewey Square occupiers to remain peacefully, through at least december 1st. there’s quite a bit of pressure for the mayor to disband it, but he’s being more positive than since last i mentioned him: “I’m not ready to break up the encampment right now. Every city is different, how we deal with this issue.” (source: boston herald)
• OCCUPY PORTLAND has been removed, but is holding strong with meetings, “gaining traction among those who want to be involved in something bigger than social service triage.” (via oregonlive) team afp’s very own mr. eric sussman (@southships) – who lives in PDX – passed this on via an e-mail in which we said “for a full rundown of the eviction affair- peep THIS article”
• OCCUPY VANCOUVER’s been asked to vacate by monday (source: CTV)…”You can’t evict an idea whose time has come!” – @OccupyVancouver
• OCCUPY LOS ANGELES…well…shit. the encampment stands. but the city is working hard at dismantling it, ASAP. after stating on thursday that an emergency “restraining order” was being sought to – at least temporarily – stall eviction, no one showed up in court this morning. (source: los angeles times) meanwhile, today, a march off-site led to over 70 arrests. (source: reuters)
• OCCUPY SEATTLE: so this week, “police pepper sprayed an 84-year-old woman, a pregnant woman, and a priest.” (source: mynorthwest.com) the encampment still stands, but as with so many other sites, some are citing concern over the need to “clean up or get out.” (source: capitolhillseattle.com)…there’s a seattle times’ editorial – “Occupy Seattle protesters should inspire, not irritate” – which takes a good look at events and protests around the city, and how people on the outside might turn on the movement due to a feeling of inconvenience/annoyance/etc. good read.
• OCCUPY OAKLAND: after a pre-dawn police raid raid last monday, occupiers are planning on relocating tomorrow morning to Telegraph Avenue and 19th Streets, in a lot next to the Fox Theatre. they plan to officially “move in” after finishing a march through the city that begins at 2pm, starting at the Frank Ogawa Plaza (where they’d been evicted from earlier in the week). tim simons, the organizer of this particular group, said “If people’s concerns are about safety and students, then those concerns are our priority.” – again: TALK. LISTEN. (source: san francisco chronicle)
• OCCUPY SAN FRANCISCO…well, here’s an example of a lot of people trying hard, and one person acting like an idiot. on wednesday, occupiers took to to the city’s financial district and filled the lobby of the bank of america. after a “two-hour stand off,” arrests were made “peacefully” and “orderly” (many of the protesters were just sitting on the floor), but reports of someone urinating in the lobby came out. true or not, don’t do that shit, people. DON’T. if you want to be taken seriously, if you want to help, be respectful…talk…listen…BE RESPECTFUL. (source: san francisco chronicle) while eviction has yet to happen – even though rumored numerous times, as mayor ed lee sees the movement as a “nuisance” – the city is citing concern over sanitation and camp health and safety. (sources: san francisco chronicle articles 1 – 2 – 3)
meanwhile, an example of how to handle things smart-like (or at least, inventively): after a recent eviction of around 20 occupiers and a demand that a new encampment not be established on the grounds, a group set their tents up – but attached them to a few dozen balloons – and let them ascend over Sproul Plaza on the U.C. Berkeley campus…keeping the message alive:
(sources, including videos: ABC affilitate KGO-TV – huffpo)
if you’re interested in finding out more/helping however you can/starting your own movement/whatever, here are some links and resources which will hopefully get you on the ground running, and get you INFORMED:
• nyc general assembly
• occupy contact/directory (google doc)
• occupy locations, US (wiki)
• occupy locations, worldwide (wiki)
….stand up for glory, stand up now.
play your ukulele.
keep amaze and carry balls.
and all that.
i love you.