Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Getting down to business...

Once I was all settled and had met people and had my desk built and could actually dial both in and out of the office, I turned my attention to getting to know my program. My first full week of work all I did was read and ask questions. I grabbed the original grant for the 9 site program and read the whole thing. I grabbed the original grants for the other two sites (each with its own grant) and read those. I read the entire CIPAS report (still don't know for what it stands but basically they kind of critique your afterschool program and offer "expert insight" into improvements and what is going well) as well as all the materials the program provided the CIPAS team.

Then, after reading hundreds of pages in binders at my desk, I started reading hundreds of pages online at my desk. Since the funding stream for my program came out of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act it made sense for me to learn about the damn thing. Then I read about the 21st Century Community Learning Centers itself and about how the funding has been stunted (at one point it was actually reduced) even though NCLB contains numbers for the amount of dollars to be earmarked each successive year. After that I began reading about federal grant opportunities. CCDF grants, TANF funds, DOJ grants, the Federal Projects Titles I-V, even the CDC, Staples, and LEGO have grants out there.

What did I do with all the info that could possibly pertain to the program? Well, I put it in a folder I made. As my first month went by the only section that really had anything in it was the sustainability section. I had found models to use, pdf files pertaining specifically to 21st CCLC sites, lists pertaining to NH grants and even smaller, Manchester only grants for which the program could apply.

Another big part of my job is to create databases and track people/funding and events. Well funding, not so much - but people, I'm all over that. I began compiling the names and contact info of every person with whom the program had ever worked. This, of course, was no easy task. Since the program never really had a good administrative assistant (apparently it had one that was mediocre at best and ended up screwing up more stuff) none of this information was really easily attainable. Sure, there were folders from past providers and companies, but I had to take names off of emails and search MOUs (Memorandums of Understanding) for contact people and then use the internet or go back to another email to get contact information. Not that I ever complained. It gave me something to do and I plugged along like a good little VISTA. Eventually I had a bunch of names and, after repeatedly asking Donna "so who was this person?" and "what is our relationship with this person?", I had an inkling of what the program was really doing and with whom it was currently working.

But once I had all these names I didn't really know what I supposed to do with them. Then I looked at my work plan again and I figured it out. In order to "build the capacity" of the program I needed, and still need, to figure out what the teachers, children, parents, and providers think of the program. And, it occurred to me, if I needed to recruit people for sustainability subcommittees why not kill two birds with one stone? That's when I started emailing people...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Initial fears and worries...

When I first turned my attention to my work plan I was... pretty frightened. Was I really supposed to get all this stuff done in one year? How was I, a 22 year old just out a college (with a B.A. in music performance and philosophy) supposed to get corporate sponsorship for an afterschool program as well as partner with sports teams and facilitate meetings? Basically, I realized that I didn't actually have to do that stuff. My job, as the first year VISTA, is to set in motion what needs to be set in motion to start the relationships that could eventually turn into corporate sponsorship and partnering with sports teams. Here I was thinking that I had to write a hundred grants to come up with hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep this program running when all I am really supposed to do is increase who knows about the program.

I looked at my VAD and suddenly understood that I don't have to get money from people - though it would be great if I did - all I have to do is increase awareness of the program. That is actually what my year of service is all about. I just need to get people involved and the get the program out into the community. Now, facilitating meetings... that's something that I do actually need to do and I worried about it. I had lead discussions in classes and small groups in college and I'm not afraid to do public speaking, but I won't really know the people there that much and, perhaps most importantly, I don't know what they think of me.

I'm just a lowly AmeriCorps*VISTA member. Most people don't even know what that is. The often unknown status of my job title combined with my age and, to some extent, inexperience, is something that I still see as an inhibitor to my success. Why should the Executive Director of such and such program meet with me? I'm just a guy trying to do some good stuff for kids... well, as it turns out that is exactly why. I'm a youth with some dedication, vision, passion, and work ethic to get things done. I've found that many people actually enjoy talking to me and hearing about what my goals are for the year and what I have been tasked to do. Sure, every now and again I get self conscious and it's really hard to stay afloat under the sheer weight of what I'm attempting to do - but as long as you keep moving forward you find that things get done. The AmeriCorps oath, which I think is both the silliest thing ever and perhaps the most appropriate statement, is that "I do affirm that I will get things done." In some respect, as long as I do something that is beneficial for the program that ends up helping some kids, I can sleep in the bed I've made.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Work Plan...

As an AmeriCorps*VISTA member I have a work plan, also known as a Volunteer Assignment Description, or VAD. At the PSO in Maine not having your "VAD" was a cardinal sin and we New Hampshirians (New Hampshirites?) were pretty confused about what the hell a VAD was... which is why the Vad-a-saurus was drawn on a post-it note that I have somewhere on the binder from the PSO.

Anyways, despite the VAD debacle, we, the PlusTime VISTAs, realized that what we knew as our "work plans" would soon be guiding, however loosely or strictly, our entire year of service. So far, my work plan has been going pretty well, but originally, I wasn't quite sure what the hell to do with it. Each VISTA site is a 3 year goal though each VISTA only has to serve for one of it. Therefore, a good VAD takes into account the fact that the first VISTA, in this case me, will be starting the goals and attempting to get the groundwork set for potential other VISTAs or other members at site. It is a lot to chew on so I will discuss the VAD in a later post. I have included my 3 overall goals below:

Goal 1: The 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) afterschool program will expand connections to the human services, arts, business, communities and increase program visibility in Manchester.

Activities: (Action Steps: Year One)

1. Create a database to organize and track potential funding and volunteer sources.

2. Meet with the director to identify program needs and specific ways each source could be most beneficially incorporated.

3. Develop ways in which to contact these sources such as emails, letters, phone, etc.

4. Expand relationships with the local professional sports teams (Monarchs, Fisher Cats)

5. Meet with local college representatives to discuss volunteer recruitment strategies

6. Provide support for 21st CCLC, program-wide events and activities

Outputs: (Performance Measures)

1. Five community sources will be contacted and become engaged in the program

2. A database for funding and volunteer resources will be created

3. At least ten members of the community (not previously aware of the program) will take part in a program event/activity.

Outcomes: (Changes in behavior or attitudes)

Community awareness of and support for the program will increase as community members become more engaged and discover ways to participate.

Goal 2: Community exposure of Manchester 21st CCLC program will be substantially increased through the use of intentional and coordinated media/public relations plan and materials.


1. Assess current materials and prior activities

2. Become familiar with local media sources and specific contact names and numbers.

3. Support creation of media plan and time line including update of 21st CCLC website

4. Develop, draft print media materials.


1. A*VISTA member will critique current 21st CCLC media outreach

2. A*VISTA member will present a list of area media contacts and materials

3. A media plan will be presented

4. The 21st CCLC website will be updated to reflect all current programs and activities and complement the media plan.

5. New 21st CCLC media materials will be distributed in the community according to the media plan


As community members gain a deepened understanding of the program and its purpose, levels of awareness and support will increase for all programs.

Goal 3:

A comprehensive 3-5 year strategic sustainability plan for Manchester 21st CCLC will be successful in its intention to maintain support for the continuation of afterschool programs.

Activities: (Year One)

1. Support the coordination of committee member recruitment.

2. Coordinate and facilitate sub-committee meetings as needed and appropriate.

3. Coordinate and manage sustainability planning timeline

4. Record and disseminate minutes for all sustainability subcommittee meetings

5. Support the on-going sustainability outreach work


1. Sub-committee meetings will be conducted in a timely manner and records disseminated

2. A sustainability plan will be developed


Implementation of a sustainability plan will ultimately result in the continuation of Manchester’s afterschool programming options, which in turn, will enhance overall family and youth development and strengthen the Manchester community.

The First Week...

My first day of work was on Tuesday, August 28th. Technically, I started the day before but that was another training at PlusTime in Chichester... so that doesn't really count here. Anyways, I work at the school district's administrative offices. I showed up and met my site director (with whom I had only met once during the interview process), Donna Mostovoy, and she showed me around. Apparently, there are guidelines for what is supposed to happen on your first days. I was scheduled for a 3 day orientation (yep, now that I had finished my pre service orientation) at the site.

Honestly, I was really surprised. I still wasn't sure about this whole VISTA thing though I was optimistic it would be both an educational and enriching experience. Donna had already acquired a magnetic swipe card thing for me so that I could actually get into the district offices (you know, authorized personnel only kind of stuff), as well as cubicle space, a chair, and a desk was available for me as well as the laptop I've been using ever since. Luckily, I didn't have to use the crappy desk straight out of the 70s with the broken drawer because a coworker was leaving her position and had purchased a desk that she never used... which I promptly jumped all over and spent at least half of my second day at work building.

For about 4 hours I put together the nice, L-shaped desk using only a screwdriver and one of those silly little hex tools, you know, the Allen wrench. I had been given a short tour of the district offices and had met many people though I remembered few names. Many people, I found, were just walking around wondering what the hell I was doing (and who I was as they had forgotten as well). Thankfully, everybody here at SAU#37 has a little sheet on the edge of his or her cubicle/office stating his or her name, position and department. But that really only helped them as they were at my cubicle and could read my name but I still had no idea who they were... this problem persists to this day as well. I really do not know a lot of the people around me here. I know the names of most of the tech guys, some of the Federal Projects people, and some of the Accounts Payable/Payroll/Business Administration but there's another 50 people here I still don't know and they probably have no idea what I'm doing here.

Which brings me to one of the first things I learned at my site as a VISTA - the Manchester School District is a very funny place to work. Funny, however, is not "ha ha" funny here but more of the "odd" connotation. I can't judge every person who works here, but the district as a whole seems a bit dysfunctional. However, that will be a post unto itself as that involves the unique circus spectacle that is Manchester politics.

Anyways, my first week went well. Donna took me out to lunch (even though I had brought my own but I just didn't have the heart to tell her) and nothing was really expected of me, I felt. It was a very low stress zone in which I found myself having time to acclimate to my new surroundings. This turned out to be pretty necessary as the beginning of the next week things turned into "real life" and it was time for me to deal with my (dun dun dunnnnnnnn) Work Plan...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Definitions and vocabulary...

  • CNCS - Corporation for National Community Service. This is the biggest umbrella in this whole system. They funnel the money down into the states that then disperse funds to different organizations which then finally makes its way into the direct deposit of VISTA and Volunteers.
  • AmeriCorps - The domestic Peace Corps started by Lyndon Johnson given the task of "eradicating poverty." It comes up every now and again with different Presidents as well - Bill Clinton for one.
  • PlusTimeNH - NH's AfterSchool Program Advocate. PlusTime is the fiscal agent through which my stipends, and those of many others, flows. PlusTime is located in Chichester, NH and the people there, mainly Traci Fowler, Gary Faucher, and Renee Lindley are the ones with whom I interact the most.
  • VISTA - Volunteer In Service To America. pretty simple. not to be confused with the new, sucky, Windows operating system. (plural VISTAs)
  • PlusTimeNH AmeriCorps*VISTA Member - That's my title because I'm a VISTA through PlusTime... and I often find myself explaining what my title actually means and involves. This is a common occurrence as an AmeriCorps member, whether VISTA or Volunteer or those other ones I don't know a lot about.
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers - Funding stream authorized by the (in)famous No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Funds are earmarked for dispersal to the states for the formation of out-of-school time educational initiatives. If a site is granted a 21CCLC grant it will be level funded for the 3 of the 5 years. In the 4th year funding is cut 25% and then an additional 10% in year 5.
  • Manchester, NH - where I live and work. Manchester (Manchvegas or, my favorite, Manchattan) is the biggest city north of Boston and is uniquely situation both geographically and politically. It is also an Immigrant Resettlement Site and, at one point, was voted the #1 small city in which to live in America or something like that.
  • Manchester 21st CCLC Afterschool Program - my site. I work inside the Manchester School District, SAU #37, and the afterschool program is in 11 of the district's schools. There is one site coordinator at each school and then my site director, Donna Mostovoy, oversees the operations of the program as a whole... which is a ton of paperwork, emails, responsibility and phone calls.

The PSO - Portland Maine August 21-24

As an AmeriCorps*VISTA member I had to attend a Pre Service Orientation. Most VISTAs, and AmeriCorps Volunteers, attend regional events. Being a resident of NH I should have gone down to Maryland for mine. However, I had the unique experience of going to Maine's PSO. As far as I know, not many states have their own PSOs. Because Maine could garner the resources, and also because Maine is a state unto itself in some respects, it holds its own. Of course, why the hell was I, a PlusTime NH VISTA, there? Well... it just kind of worked out that way. The PlusTime VISTAs and I traveled up to Maine for August 21st through the 24th, 2007.

We stayed in a Holiday Inn, in Portland Maine, not far from the small University where the actual PSO was being held. Carpool groups were created and whoever drove back and forth could fill out reimbursement forms for the mileage. I traveled up to Maine with my college roommate Ross, who was also going to be a VISTA. By knowing someone who was not only going to be a VISTA, but also going to the same PSO as me, I think my experience was slightly atypical, though it was clear that people were finding it easy to make friends. All the PlusTime VISTAs got along great and, since we were kind of the black sheep, we had a very easy reason to gel together as a group different from "all those Mainers." Of course, conference things like this are always slightly unnerving. However, the feeling goes away once you realize that all you have to do is sit in a room, talk a little bit, eat free food, and stay in a free hotel. Ross and I even got to watch free movies and, since the hotel had a bunch of cable channels, we watched episodes of the O.C. on the Soap network.

So what happens at this PSO? Basically there is a gigantic binder that you get upon arrival and you are taught the roots of the AmeriCorps programs and the Corporation for National Community Service. But that really doesn't take very long. We watched a video that detailed it, though most all of the pictures shown were of Volunteers and not VISTAs - they are just more camera friendly because of the work they do. After that we started talking about poverty... and then had lunch... then talked about poverty... and more poverty.

I don't really want to seem jaded by my experiences with the whole "poverty insights, concepts, and strategies" sessions but they were quite long and, as I have found, not highly applicable to what I am actually doing... or the work plans of other VISTAs I know. However, it did seem to make sense with many of the other Maine programs, given the communities those VISTA members were going to enter and the goals they had. See, part of the PSO involves orienting people to new surroundings. My friend Anna is a VISTA in Concord, NH. She is from Buffalo, NY. There was a girl going to be a VISTA in northern Maine and she was from South Dakota. I was very surprised by the amount of travel some people did in order to do their year of service. All in all, the PSO was shaping up to be a history lesson with lots and lots of diversity awareness counseling focused on the impoverished. That was day 1... and about half of day 2.

The other pertinent events that occurred at the Maine PSO were the ones where we actually gained skills we would need in order to fulfill our varied work plans. We role-played as community organizations attempting to partner up for mutual benefit and pooled our "resources" to go after a federal grant. We performed light-hearted skits based on prompts dealing with communication techniques and understanding the hidden rules of social groups and classes. I also drank a lot of tea, ate more cookies than I would like to admit, and, honestly, drew a flip book using an entire post-it note pad. However, the tea, the cookies, and the silly post-it notes were really some of the things that brought the PlusTime NH VISTAs together. Lauren drew a dinosaur labeled the "AmeriSaur" which then mated with the "Ideal-a-saurus" and VISTA was born. I actually still have the post-it notes and, of course, that binder with all the resources it contains. If I've learned anything from conferences it is that you should really just keep everything you get and find a place for it somewhere. Even if it doesn't seem to make sense to you right now it may end up being beneficial at some point.

The last part of the PSO, besides the time spent drinking at the hotel before bed, was the swearing-in ceremony. Ross and I woke up late - on purpose though - and drove up to the state house in Augusta. See, Ross and I had the unique advantage that we had already met with our site directors and knew that they were not coming. None of the Maine people had had such an opportunity... which is why we went late. So we showed up and were sworn in by the Governor of Maine's wife. She seemed nice. We all pledged to "get things done" (the broad AmeriCorps pledge) and were quickly on our drive back down into NH. The PSO was over and Ross and I had reimbursement checks both in hand and in the mail. All in all, it was a good time.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Starting anew...

A statement of purpose...
This blog will now serve as documentation for my year of service as a PlusTimeNH AmeriCorps*VISTA (Volunteer In Service To America) at the Manchester School District's 21st Century Community Learning Centers Afterschool Program in my hometown, Manchester NH. Once I get back from the Thanksgiving holiday I will update this by detailing what has happened to me since my year of service began - back in August - beginning with the PSO (Pre Service Orientation) and begin to move up to the present.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Fluxus as Fragmentation and Continuity

Fluxus can be defined, loosely, as an on-going activity and this will be discussed in greater detail as we move forward. In this talk I will explain both the history of Fluxus and the problems associated with it as well as answer two vitally important questions: 1) How is it music? and 2) Why is it important or relevant? These, I feel, are the two most common objections Fluxus must overcome as well as two of the most simple to answer once an understanding of Fluxus is attained.

It is said that no part of history arrived from a vacuum and Fluxus is no different. Many factors such as Dada, Futurism, Chance and Indeterminism, and the increasing sophistication of society once fueled the initial stages of Fluxus. Yet, what is Fluxus? We need to know what it is in order to accurately define its beginning. This is, however, the first fundamental flaw of history and one of the many conventions Fluxus rejects. This is because Fluxus was never a movement, which of course makes it very difficult to define. From the first festival even through today, Fluxus has never had a true leader and has never attempted to introduce certain tendencies into the ongoing community of the arts.[i]

The “chairman” of Fluxus, however, was George Maciunas, one of a number of people who took a course in experimental composition taught by John Cage at the New School for Social Research in New York. This class, given from 1957-1959 was the start of Fluxus in America. Yet, people were already doing similar activities in Europe, and even one person from Korea would be extremely important later on, as Maciunas found out when he left New York to escape debtors after compiling material for a magazine. This was published, in Germany, as Fluxus, a word for change, and the name stuck. Prior to this publication, what George Brecht, Dick Higgins, Alison Knowles, and LaMonte Young were doing had no name.

By naming their activities Fluxus a certain concretization was avoided because no person doing Fluxus would call themselves exclusively that. This is a key aspect for its survival as it was, and is, comprised of a loose collaboration of artists, musicians, poets, and writers that sometimes do similar things in a certain vein and enjoy that while they do it. A prime example of this is Nam June Paik, one of the seminal figures in Fluxus from the first festivals onward. He was not only a Fluxus artist but a great innovator for video installations and the use of televisions in performances. LaMonte Young, a minimalist before the likes of Steve Reich and Philip Glass, has a Fluxus career of less than a decade and compositions from only a 3 year span, 1960 to 1962.

Of course, we still don’t know what Fluxus is. In a manner of speaking, Fluxus is an experimental art form where sounds of everyday objects, events, and activities are used to eliminate the elitism of the Western art culture. Hearing things you generally only see, or completely take for granted, feeling things you never take the time to appreciate, and using commonly known objects as things other than themselves to heighten awareness are the main ideals behind Fluxus, why, we shall see later.

Fluxus began with two forms of expression, the Event and the Fluxkit. Events could be anything, performed by any number of players, at anytime, place, or even nothing at all. The key to these Events is that they were always auditory even through the visual medium, that is, no matter what could be seen, the sound was, at the very least, tantamount. Famous examples of these are Dripping Music by George Brecht, where Dick Higgins climbed a ladder and poured water from one container into another, LaMonte Young’s Composition 1960 #10, where one is to “Draw a straight line and follow it,” any of Dick Higgins’s influential Danger Music series, including Danger Music Number Twenty-Nine, with the instructions “Get a job for its own sake,” or Alison Knowles’s Proposition, which states only to “Make a salad.”

The Fluxkit involved a much more hands-on orientation for the audience where each audience member would be able to approach a, generally, small box that could be opened. Inside these boxes were many different things ranging in sizes, shapes, and textures. These things were picked specifically for people to see and really stress the experiential nature of Fluxus. For Fluxus desires to be seen, heard, felt, and experienced in whatever way it is presented. This is its means of transmission and also its survival.

George Maciunas, the self appointed chairman of Fluxus, died in 1978 and with his death brought about the alleged demise of Fluxus. This supposed end to the Events, exhibitions, and festivals all hinged on the fact that Maciunas was the leader of a cemented movement, and without him the individual artists would disperse on their own. However, Fluxus resisted this by not being a rigid movement with exact and pinpoint ideals. The death of Maciunas was not the loss of a leader; it was the loss of a friend and colleague to many artists of the time. As Dick Higgins states in his “Child’s History of Fluxus,” Fluxus cannot die “[b]ecause fluxus has a life of its own, apart from the old people in it. It is simple things, taking things for themselves and not just as part of bigger things. It is something that many of us must do.”[ii]

Despite these words, Fluxus has been relegated to a static place in history. Fluxus museums are available for viewing and the Fluxus Codex attempts to offer up, in a totalizing fashion, every Fluxus performance that ever happened. These are, while being good and possibly necessary, very problematic for the present continuation of Fluxus. Anything that resides in a museum is instantly regarded as over and merely a part of the past. Any Fluxus performances, therefore, can be seen in the same light as Renaissance ensembles. Furthermore, the Fluxus Codex offers up all things Fluxus, which then creates the problems of exclusion and rigidity. By exclusion I mean keeping new compositions or events from being received as a continuation of Fluxus; and any sense of cemented rigidity in Fluxus would serve only to undercut its historically undermining abilities and its resilience to cooption.

In addition, the sum of these factors is the question, “how do I know what is Fluxus and what is not?” This question is unavoidable and seemingly unanswerable at the same time. Attempting to say exactly what Fluxus is would surely diminish it and arguments could then be made that it was, in fact, a rigid artistic movement, but not placing any requirements leads to saying how can anything be Fluxus? Dick Higgins, once again, steps forward here when he said, regarding when Fluxus was growing in following and strength, “[a]nd then Fluxus began to get copied… When teacups were replaced by millions of teacups they weren’t simple any more, so they stopped being fluxus… they stopped being part of life.”[iii]

The fact that the teacups would stop being life is why Fluxus is important. Fluxus is, ultimately, a way in which we can interact with the world. By resisting conceptualizations, museums, elitism, and through its use of the everyday, Fluxus can become to us a model for unearthing the meaning in our world. Moreover, the ontological basis of Fluxus, Fluxkits and Events, allows it to be a conduit for free creativity and discourse while also having multiple perspectives of itself and how it relates to the world. Hannah Higgins, the daughter of Dick Higgins and Alison Knowles, remarks that, “As such, it offers a model for a multicultural, multilingual society that is characterized by both difference and group feeling, and be a sense of connection to the physical world.”[iv] She also notes the close connection between Fluxus and education, where educators make experiences and knowledge available to their students so they may have a stake in the world as it is progressing. Fluxus, then, also allows us to create meaningful experiences for ourselves in our own lives, in our own ways. As she says, connecting to the experiential basis of Fluxus, “At their best, after all, experiences change our perspectives.”[v]

It is philosophically important for something to have the ability to change our perspective as well. Heidegger, in his essay “The Question Concerning Technology” explains how modern technology has taken over and turned everything into a resource filled with a standing reserve, into which we can tap for a use of some sort. This instrumentalization was taken up later by Adorno and Horkheimer to show how this mode of thinking had pervaded even our everyday interactions and relationships with each other. Coupled with the rise of advertising and consumerism, this worldview added to the lack of meaning available in our lives. To fix this lack of meaning and all-pervading conception of others, technology, and relationships, Fluxus is a viable solution. Both Heidegger and Adorno state that art is the way out as it is, from Immanuel Kant, purposive in its purposelessness and thus resists commodification and instrumental use.

Having answered the bigger question, we are left with only “how is it music?” LaMonte Young’s pieces and writings are the simplest and most effective way in which to answer this question. His Composition 1960 #5 is one of the most controversial pieces of music. It consists of a simple instruction, to release a butterfly and the performance is to end when the butterfly leaves the auditorium or area of performance. Whenever LaMonte would intend to perform the piece event organizers would question it and him. He was continuously asked how the butterfly would make sounds to which he would reply, “that I felt certain the butterfly made sounds… and that unless one was going to dictate how loud or soft the sounds had to be before they could be allowed into the realms of music that the butterfly piece was music.”[vi] But it shouldn’t it be able to be heard clearly by the audience? To this he states, “this was the usual attitude of human beings that everything in the world should exist for them and that I disagreed… it is enough that they exist for themselves.”[vii] His belief is that attempting to enslave sounds and force them to obey our will causes them to be uses and conceals any thing we could learn from them.

Having shown how Fluxus is both highly musical and extremely important to our lives and, to an extent, our happiness in those lives, I am left only to show how Fluxus has survived. Simply put, the internet has allowed Fluxus to once again become the force of a loose collaboration of somewhat like-minded artists. The Fluxlist is extremely active in both creative activities and disseminating information regarding Fluxus while hundreds of artists around the world continue performances of both new Fluxus and old Fluxus. This last distinction is key, as Dick Higgins said, “The Fluxus of 1992 is not the Fluxus of 1962… the real Fluxus moves out from its old center into many directions, and the paths are not easy to recognize without lining up new pieces, middle pieces, and old pieces together.”[viii] This quotation, from one of the original members, captures the essence of Fluxus itself and how it is able to resist reification and commodification while being able to offer us a window to meaning, change. Concluding, I have only one more quotation from LaMonte Young in an attempt to sum up Fluxus as succinctly and memorably as possible. “Once I tried lots of mustard on a raw turnip. I liked it better than any Beethoven I have ever heard.”[ix]

Thank you.

[i] See Dick Higgins, “Some Thoughts on the Context of Fluxus” pg. 98-9.

[ii] Dick Higgins, “A Child’s History of Fluxus” pg. 92.

[iii] “A Child’s History of Fluxus” pg. 89.

[iv] Hannah Higgins, Fluxus Experience pg. 207.

[v] Fluxus Experience pg. 184.

[vi] LaMonte Young, “Lecture 1960”, Happenings and Other Acts, pg. 74.

[vii] “Lecture 1960,” pg. 74

[viii] accessed 4/21/06.

[ix] “Lecture 1960” pg. 81.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007


  • The internet came into commercial use around 1991 and became self-supporting in 1995. Lots of stuff happened and the attention of the computer savvy public began to focus on this new, technological tool. Then, in January 2001, the guys from started a project we now know as Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger were the founders of both. 6 months later there were 6,000 articles. Today, as in March 6th at 11:32 AM (EST), there are 1,672,841 just in English. Clearly something pretty big is going on in the internet community. But, Wikipedia is often seen as unreliable, though admirably democratic. It is anti-elitist, though discouraged in its use by academia. It is, basically, "live updating" and self-regulating, though the process involved with editing can be quite cumbersome and filled with flame wars and battles with "trolls" (as well as odd terminology).
  • Arguments for and against Wikipedia can be found and we should all make an informed decision about it. My reasons for this are as follows: 1) Wikipedia is truly one of the best things on the internet. It has the capacity to fulfill the prophecy of the internet as ushering in the age of free information. This could have dramatic, positive effects on the populace and help move humanity towards idealistic goals. and 2) By being so democratic in nature, how the problems inherent in Wikipedia right now get resolved will resound into the current state of democracy itself.
  • Larry Sanger, in his 2004 article "Why Wikipedia Must Jettison Its Anti-Elitism," puts many of the problems out on the table and more than a few of the numerous comments on it are worth a read. Basically, Wikipedia's problems stem from its current, anti-elitist stance, which is also one of its biggest assets. Wikipedia was started because Nupedia followed the traditional path to publishing material which took too long and was too costly, even online. What this stance contains, however, is the right of every nonspecialist to edit the article of a possible specialist and set back the march towards truth and reliability. Conflicts are then taken to the discussion forums and people fight... and fight... and fight and mediation attempts to reconcile the two by coming to a consensus. Just think though, how are the people editing the Intelligent Design article going to come to a consensus (pseudoscience or science)? Also, people really think the things they know are correct. Ask any ten year old, for example, who John Smith was and you will hear a nice story about a good looking man who saved Native Americans by falling in love and will accept nothing else as truth. Of course, others will tell you that he was rather gruff, stepped onto America in chains, and was, most likely, "saved" by Pocahontas merely because Powhatan had other things in mind (I mean seriously... is an 11 year old girl really going to stop a chief from bashing an intruder in their land in the skull?).
  • Wikipedia is currently web based, free and collaborative, but it is hardly the "encyclopedia" academia wants it to be. Factual information is often pretty good but if any undergrad with an intro class to physics can edit the page on string theory one must always be wary of the information on it. Yet, Wikipedia is so quick, easy to use, and seemingly so correct. However, consider your average encyclopedia, pick your favorite, it is basically the same in those respects, though it costs a lot more to own and when someone realizes a mistake a whole new edition must be purchased. Furthermore, everyone knows encyclopedias are filled with mistakes. Wrong dates, cultural biases, and a lack of feasible contrary arguments can be found but it is the mentality of the encyclopedia that gives it the real edge over Wikipedia. More simply put, it is what we are used to using. Wikipedia is still scary to many people, as is the internet in general.
  • I admit, I sometimes feel a tiered system of editing should be implemented, deferring, ultimately, to specialists, but then I realize that that would move Wikipedia away from a large part of what makes it so great, as well as usher in the whole "who guards the guardians?" question where somebody gets to specify who the specialists are. Of course, real knowledge of true things is really not up to the decision of the majority. Regardless of what some person thinks, they could be incontrovertibly wrong. In this light, the problem of Wikipedia is really a struggle of democracy over meritocracy. Who should get to contribute and edit entries in Wikipedia, given that we desire the most truth and reliability? Clearly, the answer here is those people who have studied that/those thing/s sufficiently. But what becomes of everyone else? Would not our actions state, not only that elitism, in the realm of knowledge, is key, but that the average person does not figure into the situation until she can prove herself. What would then happen to democracy as a government? If the populace gets booted from collaborating on what is correct and true why should they have any bearing on elected officials and, subsequently (or what we try to believe) public policy?
  • These are just some things to think about and there should definitely be more research done on Wikipedia as it continues to update its mediation, councils, and key policies and in regard to its asymptotic attempt to reach the truth.
go here to see Jimmy Wales talk. I took some info used in this from here. Go read "The Faith Based Encyclopedia," then "Why The Media Can't Get Wikipedia Right," and then go edit some Wikipedia pages.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

One of these is not like the others...

but they are all really quite interesting.

Secrets of the Mayan Calendar Unveiled (1 of 3) - Google Video
this lecture by (now deceased) ian xel lungold is based on the work of carl johan calleman. i still have a hard time understanding how the Mayan civilization could conceptualize 16 billion years and ian's shirt is totally wacky but his drawing skills more than make up for his tight white pants. his presentation is fantastic and can really get you thinking.

what the bleep do we know - Google Video
note: this video, while being highly informative with splendid visuals and a good ole fashioned wedding dance sequence, confuses a couple of things. i still think that it's worth a watching though.

YouTube - The Elegant Universe Part 1: Einstein's Dream (1/5)
who doesn't want to watch movies about string theory, parallel universes, and (at least) 11 dimensions? go here for more information.

and in case you want to read some real stuff (none of this calendar bull or scientific mumbo jumbo) check out my main man from the year 2036 John Titor. let's hope that cool dude Dr. Michio Kaku can save us before that Z machine makes a black hole or whatever the hell Titor said happens.