Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Conversations with Scott Beibin

I've got like 20 tabs open after hanging out with Scott for a couple hours. He's running Evil Twin Booking Agency for a bunch of super interesting people in the modern progressive radical activist scene.

I was telling him about my idea for Radical Change 2012. He pointed me to the reality sandwich website and told me to watch for evolver

He told me a bit about each of the artists he represents. Mitchell Joachim designed these awesome stackable cars and has a bunch of cool designs for green buildings

We talked about a bunch of festivals that got me excited about that scene again.
Gadget Off is a hacker festival with some connection to the 2600 zine community.

Creative Capital finances a variety of art projects and performances.

The Last Hope another hacker conference.

Rothbury Festival in Michigan.

Bonaroo in Tenessee.

Lightning in a bottle festival in Santa Barbara. This came up in a bunch of conversations. These people appear to be awesome -Do Lab. I saw them rehearsing for a dance performance this weekend. It looked amazing and fun.

Solar Saucer solar powered dj boothe.

On a completely different note, Scott does marketing for a variety of 'green' companies and was talking about how great these Icel battery guys were.

Saturday, February 07, 2009


Its 7am and I'm early for events today. Every morning so far there have been a variety of unpublished breakfasts on a wide variety of topics that you were supposed to RSVP for.

Lunch operates the same way. There's one 'community lunch' and then a number of sponsored public lunches, and other unpublished ones. It gives me the sense that within TED there remain layers of exclusivity.

I'm cool with it, and happy to be invited to the party at all.

The vertical lunches and breakfasts serve a nice purpose getting people interested in specific areas together for extended social interaction.

I love the diversity of the presentations at TED. Having a mix of live music, dance performances, technology demonstrations and permaculture presentations brings together a wide range of people and encourages cross disciplinary thinking. The breakfast and lunches provide a more focused counter point to that.

The organizers put effort into facilitating connections between participants. Before the confernce they send a bunch of emails encouraging people to fill out their profiles. They suggest people you might want to interact with at the event, and provide a book with pictures of all the attendees and their profiles as part of the bag of schwag they hand out during registration. As much as connecting me with specific people, reading thru the profiles helped convince me of the power of the community and to take the interactions seriously.

Its definitely been a great conference, and there's alot to learn from it in how to conduct events.

I'm looking forward to TED India Nov 5-7 in Mysore.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

DIY Church

I just spent a day with my mom up in Paso Robles. My mom has been a dedicated Christian for 30+ years. On a very practical level she spends at least an hour a day in prayer and often much more. Sometimes she'll get the guitar out and sing praise and worship songs by herself.

My personal belief is that God is neither Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim. But that each tradition has something to offer. I grew up going to church with my mom, so I learned to sing and pray with the Christians. All else being the same I might even call myself a Christian. But most of my conversations with Christians get disagreeable when we start talking about Jesus as the only way to know God, the nature of sin, and hell, and a bunch of other stuff. In the end I figure the Christian moniker doesn't win me friends with Christians or non-Christians, so I don't use it.

Hanging out with my mom is always good though, because I have so much respect for her spiritual path that I can't just write off the entire Christian community.

In Goa talking to a fellow who had been traveling the better part of the last decade. He described his experience interacting with Missionaries in different communities around the world. He said that they try to fit in, but then they start talking about the devil and stuff whenever they can, and everyone gets weirded out and wonders why they can't just be normal.

I remember this aspect of children's church when I was a kid. The youth pastor used to tell us how if we didn't tell our friends about Jesus they would go to hell, and when they were burning in hell they would know that we could have saved them if we had had the courage to tell them about Jesus in school. It's like using fear and guilt to train people to be unnatural, to not pay attention to the situation but to plow through and give a pitch even if ones whole body was screaming not to.

My mom used to run a church with her second husband. He was a preacher and she pretty much did everything else. My whole life she has been totally dedicated to ministry. And while it hasn't all been fun, I've definitely seen miracles play out in her life that make me believe in some magic that goes beyond physics and statistics.

I love the praise and worship part of church. If we could just sing for an hour or two I would give gladly, hug everyone warmly, come with anticipation and leave feeling high. Occasionally I still go to church, get elevated during worship and then become depressed when the pastor starts talking about how Mary had to have a virgin birth because if she had had sex then Jesus would have been born in sin like the rest of us.

My mom gets antsy in church too. Sometimes she finds these super out-there movements within the church that feel totally tapped into the spirit. I went to a couple of services with her where there was no sermon just people spontaneously singing, and praying in tounges. I think there's a whole 'spirit' movement for people like this. But, its hard to scale a 'spirit' movement if being in the spirit means having a very personal direct experience of god.

My mom is excited about home churches right now. I sense its something of a movement, possibly a reaction away from the mega churches that grew up in the last decade. From my point of view much of the evil perpetrated on the world during the Bush administration drew power by communicating very effectively with the established Christian leadership network.

Talking with progressive friends with no particular spiritual views other than a uniform dismay at much of the rhetoric that comes from the Christian Right, we bemoan the fact that we don't have any similar community gathering. Wherever you go across this whole country, the expectation is that you can show up as a total stranger at the local church and people will shake your hand, smile and welcome you into their community. How precious is that ? Its almost worth nodding along with the pastor while he talks about whatever, just to feel the human warmth of sitting next to other people.

Home churches seem like a DIY way of getting this. Without the ambition that comes from striving for more members or a larger building there is the simple joy of hanging out with other people searching for God's presence. It requires a personal faith in ones direct connection though. Regular church has an expert who can channel Gods word. It's easier to hear a man speak than to put in the time in prayer, worship and studying that genuine direct connection requires. But with the home church, maybe there's no man, there's just a group of people who like to hang out together while they pray, worship, study and seek god.