Use all your available input

There's a lot in this talk. It's about chemicals and food and saving the environment by tricking your taste buds into thinking that the watermelon grown in some guy's back yard down the street is tuna transported from the Pacific Ocean 2500 miles inland.

What I'm taking from it today, though, is that your eyes can't always be trusted. You need to take in all the available information via all your available senses, and you need to process it through your brain, and then you can decide if you really have what you think you have.

Be careful, though, to not put yourself through an endless data processing loop. Make a decision, but make it a good one.

Backing Salmonboy

One night, New York City-based experimental filmmaker Star Drooker had a dream about a woman with a birth mark in the middle of her forehead. The next morning, he drove to Vermont, and met Trish Overstreet. Within 24 hours they had decided they would get married, open a vegetarian cafe and performance space, have a child named Jesse, and do a film project surrounding the whole thing.

They traveled the country looking for a place to open the cafe. They narrowed it down to either Portland, Oregon, or Northampton, Massachusetts. After getting stranded nearby in a heavy snowfall, they decided on Northampton.

The plan was to be this: They'd open the cafe, they'd have Jesse, they'd raise him in the cafe for four years, then put together the film.

Well, I think it was John Lennon who wrote, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans."

They opened Fire & Water, a vegetarian cafe and performance space, in late 1994. Trish was pregnant.

Jesse was born February 4, 1995 with what Star refers to as "a particular heart." They unplugged the machines 19 days later.

But just because he wasn't crawling around Fire & Water, doesn't mean Jesse wasn't a major part of the place. Star and Trish built an altar with photos and toys and stories. Each night after the performances ended, Star would play a song called "Salmonboy" he wrote for Jesse; sometimes it was three minutes long, other times it was longer than an hour.

Time went by. Trish got pregnant again, and Rain Arrow was born. Healthy. And the couple had to make a decision. It had been a really emotional ride for three and a half years. They had a four year lease on the space, and countless friends who helped out, who shared songs and stories and poems and love. Their initial plan was to start the film after four years, and that time was fast approaching.

They decided to re-up for another four years, and raise Rain in the space. He became such a big part of the place that any evening he wasn't there, you could feel the energy that was missing.

In October of 2002, I sat down with Star and Trish and interviewed them for the arts newspaper I was editing. They had reached the end of the next four-year lease, and they made the difficult decision to close up shop. So many people had come through their door over the past eight years. They found love. They found refuge. They found peace. They found an amazing meal and amazing people and an amazing child who one regular described as "another teacher."

In November of that year they closed up shop. On the last night they were open, 80 people showed up (it was a small space, comfortably seating about 30). The tables and chairs were gone. We sat in a ring around the outside, shared songs, shared stories. Rain dozed in a sleeping bag in the corner. Nobody understood how to walk out the door one last time.

Over the next few months, they started filming. They interviewed many of the cafe regulars. And then, while you'd hear something once in a while about Star or Trish or the project, things largely settled down.

But Star was still working on things. He teamed up with a documentary film producer – someone who told stories in a linear fashion to offset his experimental background – and they watched film and cut film and shot film and cut more. Last year, they showed what they had, then went back to the cutting room.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, I sat in Star and Trish's new cafe, Cafe Evolution, which has an expanded menu but fewer performances (it's a day-time cafe in a day-time town smaller than Northampton), and watched the 110-minute cut of Salmonboy: A Story of Fire & Water. They're at a point where they are ready to team up with a bigger, more commercial outlet, to do another round of editing and to distribute it.

The film is about Rain, Jesse, Star and Trish, and their roller coaster journey. The cafe is a character in it, but you certainly don't ever have to have walked through the door, never mind have been there three, four or more times a week, as many people were.

Star and PJ, the documentary filmmaker, are doing a Kickstarter project, hoping to raise $19,000 to keep sending the film to festivals and work on that wider distribution. Help them out by donating at their Kickstarter page.

Let something interrupt your day

I tend to plan my days pretty tightly. It keeps me productive, but it definitely means a lot of things have to go right (traffic, weather, etc.). Just ask the guy who has the shift after mine at work; if he shows up more than a minute or two late, he gets The Glare.

I even keep a fairly long to-do list for the weekends. Today, I was getting ready to head out to the grocery store when I walked into the office to let JB know I was leaving. I found her deep into The Hero Handbook. With a mother deer and two fawns munching on the bushes not ten feet away outside the window.

I delayed my trip and she paused in her reading long enough to watch the deer eat, then lay down for a little rest, then finally get up slowly, nibble a little, then wander off through the trees to the neighbors' yard.

In all, we watched them hang out for about a half hour. I walked away long enough to grab my camera after we'd watched them eat their fill of bushes and grass.

Sure, my plans were interrupted for 30 minutes. But how could the rest of the day not be awesome now?

Press Release: E.T. & Jaws double feature at the Palace

PRESS RELEASE for Friday November 18th.

BREW & VIEW 35mm Film Series Steven Spielberg double Feature of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial & Jaws
BREW & VIEW 35mm Film series is presented by AmeriCU Credit Union and SIFF

$10/ all ages for movies/ 21+ with valid ID for Alcohol

Friday November 18th. Doors open at 6:30pm
7:00pm - ET
9:30pm - JAWS

Director: Steven Spielberg

JAWS (1975)
Director: Steven Spielberg

Umm, yes, you CAN. Plus: Why wouldn’t you open source?

Go ahead, hit play. This text will be here in eight minutes when you're done.

This project led to the creation of the Not Impossible Foundation.

The Eyewriter let a graffiti artist who is paralyzed from head to toe draw with his eyes. And that's not even the coolest part. The coolest part is that you can make one, too (PDF). Because they open sourced their project, giving you the code and hardware instructions.

Two lessons:

If a paralyzed artist can draw with his eyes, a pair of cheap sunglasses and a hacked webcam, what are you convincing yourself you can't do?

What's on your list that you're saying, "I really want to do that, but I never could" about? Think of the reasons why you couldn't. Now, what are the ways that you could make it work?

Open source it!

Did you invent something because you wanted to help people or because you wanted to make some cash? Because if you wanted to help people, try open sourcing your project – you'll be amazed at what people wind up doing with it and how they modify your design.

Whether you're holding off on starting something or you're a kick-ass mod-design hacker, get started today. Now.

Assault City Roller Derby Announces Home Double Header!

Woohoo! It's derby time! Below is the press release from Texas Terror announcing Assault City's opening double header on May 14.

Syracuse, NY – May 1, 2011: Assault City Roller Derby is excited to announce its first ever double header to be held at the Greater Baldwinsville Ice Arena in Baldwinsville, NY on Saturday, May 14th. In this home opening bout, Assault City's Battery Brigadewill take on the Capital City Derby Dames of Ottawa, Canada, while the Assault Squad will battle the Skyland Roller Girls of Hackettstown, NJ. Doors open at 4:30 PM, and theF irst bout will begin at 5 PM, with the second bout to follow. There will be refreshments, halftime entertainment and loads of excitement.

Presale general admission tickets are $10 each while a limited number of front line tickets are $20 each. Reduced price children's tickets are available. Tickets can be
purchased at or at Black Mamba Skate Park in Shoppingtown Mall. Tickets will also be available at the door the day of the event for $12 for general admission and $22 for front line. $1 from each ticket sold will benefit the Rescue Mission of Syracuse, who provides support and programs for the less fortunate living in and around the Syracuse area.

ACRD is an all-women's flat track roller derby league consisting of working mothers, professionals, wives, and students, ranging in age from 21 to 45. Their goal is to help local communities and promote women's empowerment.Since its inception in late 2007, Assault City has competed on the road in Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, and Ohio as well as throughout Upstate New York.

ACRD is also currently recruiting skaters and referees. Skaters must be 21 years old; no skating experience is required. Referees can be male or female. For additional information, please visit us at

Taking the hippie out of permaculture

Call a person a "futurist," and everybody crowds around to hear a tale of doom – and maybe what we can do to avoid it. Call a person a "hippie," and everybody runs for cover.

I think the difference really is in the language each uses. When someone talks about thinking seven generations, or 20 generations, or 100 generations into the future with our decisions about energy consumption and food consumption, that person is a hippie, and therefore crazy. When someone talks about running out of food and oil in 300 years, and describes what the world will look like if we don't start doing x, y, and z, that person is a futurist, and therefore a visionary.

Let's talk permaculture for a moment. If you ran that through spell-check, you got squiggly red lines. Outstanding. So the word is an invented one, which means we're still on the hippie or futurist path. Let's look at one definition:

Permaculture is an approach to designing human settlements and perennial agricultural systems that mimic the relationships found in the natural ecologies. It was first developed by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren and their associates during the 1970s in a series of publications. The word permaculture is a portmanteau of permanent agriculture, as well as permanent culture.

OK, so now you know I'm heading in the "let's think 7 generations into the future" direction.

Now let me tell you about my Saturday afternoon.

I joined some of the Alchemical Nursery folks in one of those $1 undeveloped houses on the Near West Side of Syracuse to build a permacultured spiral herb garden, with an urbanite construction.

Right, OK, so what the heck does that mean?

Basically, we made a multi-level garden out of broken-up sidewalk that had been discarded at a construction site. It will become semi-permanent (it can always be moved or removed) structure in the owner's back yard that he'll be able to plant things in every year, and with a vertical construction, it allows for more things to be planted.

And from a gardening standpoint, he can plant things that need more moisture on the bottom, since water will drain downward, and he can plant things that need more sunlight on the south side of the structure (the sun's east-west path is in the southern sky, so there will be more shade on the north side of the garden).

How we did it:

We started by laying flattened cardboard boxes on the ground, so that grass wouldn't grow into the garden. We then laid broken sidewalk in the first level of the spiral on the ground.

We mixed sticks and compost on the bottom layer, then began spiraling the concrete up the mounded compost. We added more compost, and continued the spiral upward.

With eight of us there to help out and learn from the experience, from introductions to planting some starters (oregano, chives), it took less than two hours.

Hopefully our host will post some photos soon and I'll be able to share. But basically he has a decorative concrete garden base in his back yard, and he'll be growing some of his own food – nothing weird about that, right? But it's permaculture, so let's learn to embrace it, cool?

It’s spring, so let’s talk sex. And orgasms. And TED.

Note: This video is about sex and orgasm. It includes adult situations but not offensive language. You've been informed.

Howdy. Many of you who read my blog (and I assume that number is dwindling, given the frequency of my posting) know that I tend to go into hibernation in winter. True story. I do. And with the weight loss program I've been doing, it's been worse (though the past couple of weeks I've been a little better about public appearances).

But it's spring: the sun is starting to not only come out, but stay out longer; birds are starting to migrate back to the area; and I guess grass is coming in soon (still waiting to see evidence of that, though).

This is supposed to be a time of renewal. In addition to the weight loss (roughly 28 pounds so far since the beginning of the year – official weigh-ins are in about an hour from this writing, so there will be more blogging this week), one of the things I've been doing is gleaning some knowledge and inspiration from TED talks.

The Technology, Entertainment and Design conferences draw the best and brightest speakers on all kinds of topics. One of my recent viewings is Mary Roach's talk on orgasms (above). Some other favorites include this talk by performance poet Sarah Kay and one by Barry Schwartz on choice (not as in the abortion debate, but as in "which jeans do I buy?").

I can't say enough about TED as an education and personal growth tool. Catch up on some talks (here's a handy index by tag), learn a little, grow a little, and share your favorites.

Brew & View x 3 in December

1. What: "BREW & VIEW" 35mm Film Series/ SYRFILM and Resurrected Tattoos presents CENTURION and SHOGUN ASSASSIN.


Sunday December 5th. Doors open at 7:00 pm.
First movie at 7:30pm
Double Feature only $10/$8 for students with valid student ID/ 17 and over only/ 21 + with valid ID for alcohol.

2. What: "BREW & VIEW" 35mm Film Series/ SYRFILM presents DEATH WISH 3 and VICE SQAUD.
DEATH WISH 3: 7:30pm
VICE SQAUD: 9:30pm


Friday December 10th. Doors open at 7:00 pm.
First movie at 7:30pm
Double Feature only $10/$8 for students with valid student ID/ 17 and over only/ 21 + with valid ID for alcohol.

3. What: "BREW & VIEW" 35mm Film Series/ SYRFILM presents the Palace Theater Christmas Massacre and horror themed party screening PROM NIGHT and SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT.
PROM NIGHT: 7:30pm


Sunday December 19th. Doors open at 7:00 pm.
First movie at 7:30pm
Double Feature only $10/$8 for students with valid student ID/ 17 and over only/ 21 + with valid ID for alcohol.


The Palace Theater
2384 James Street
Syracuse, NY 13206


I wanted to give a quick shoutout here to Jen Pedde and Kelly Lux, two Syracuse-area Twitter rock stars who co-moderate a Twitter chat called #cmgrchat.

The chat is for community managers (and people who hate community managers, except not really). It's still in its growing stages, but in its fourth week, 126 people contributed.

» #cmgrchat transcripts

I'm learning a lot and I think contributing some useful information as well . It takes a fair bit of concentration to keep on track and to keep up, but ultimately it's definitely worth the hour each week.

Do you have any other Twitter chats worth mentioning, or that I should join in?