Ya’ll are some fools! I’m yelling and gnashing my teeth and screeching at them in modified Common to pay attention. But these gentry don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about. You know that? Then they get robbed and laughed at and their goddamn feelings hurt cause they wanna talk to me and I tell them their Common ain’t shit — nobody can understand what the fuck they talking about! Don’t come to this end of the city like you know what this place is! But they come anyway.

Don’t you know? One time in ancient history someone came up with the idea that says, to fool and become an important human being you first must be white; secondly — totally understanding; third — never totally actually directly responsible (accept this); and fourth — that you will move through space outside of history (just like an astronaut!) and come to truly know yourself only by trying out other people’s cultures.

Except if you can’t fucking speak Common, how the fuck . . .

I don’t get it either, and they think I’m like them, and then they get Sensitive when I’m like that’s not how you use Jawn and that’s not what Salty means here, and that’s not how you act on the train, and you never heard of Belmont Plateau? You been living here for ten years five years three years you never heard of that place?

All these young white punks fresh from college and suburbia, responsible young moms as far as the eye can see, touring upper class parents here to survey the neighborhood — YOU KNOW SOMETHING? UPENN THROWS DOWN HALF ON A HOUSE IN WEST PHILLY IF YOU WORK FOR THEM? SO HOW CAN I GET A JOB? Gentry keeps coming in, crawling over Malcolm X Park and the block of Osage the city bombed to the ground, and nobody has any memory and everything is so charming, and they don’t even know we’re here and don’t even care! Cause they don’t know Common? BUT IT DOESN’T MATTER CAUSE THEY THINK THEY DO!!

You know, I never lived in a place that was gentry-fied before. I was living out by 48th and Baltimore down the street from my aunt. They call that area Middle Hill now and my aunt stays holed up with her cat in her Victorian rowhome with her Classic Olde Philly accent (the only one the realtors recognize, anyway) looking at her property taxes like she don’t know what she’s gonna have to do. And I moved back to Olney, out by the empty fields where the HK Mart used to be, and the abandoned middle school at Godfrey . . . Live by my parents finally — my stepdad’s got a grill, my mom’s got a little library going, and my little brother, he builds stuff that keeps things DRY. You know they say Levittown is a swamp now? That and the whole shit by Cobbs Creek — lotta places. It’s from the overflowed rivers and all the old backed up drainage systems in the city, and they only send out the truancy officers to those parts, rounding up all those badassed lazy kids and throwing them in detention schools, which YOU KNOW, are the only kinds of free schools this city GOT anymore, and my nana woulda been pissed to have her taxes go to those nasty kids! But what she doesn’t know is that we’re all living with the possums and raccoons now, and those loudass coquís. Her basement’s been flooded and her house is falling down empty.

And me, I go to work downtown for this young gay PhD couple taking car of their dogs. They work at the experimental charter school district — not the Penn one, the other one sponsored by PEW down by the Delaware. You know, the Delaware’s off limits, too. Might as well call it the Columbus River, if you hear what I’m saying, and let us merry men stick to our trashy creeks up the way . . .

And we’ll keep speaking in Common and remember the old blocks and these fools will stay making some other city on top of ours. Cause they don’t know that we’re here, and they don’t fucking care.

 

GENTRY was recently performed for LIVE at Kelly Writer’s House (available to listen here), and originally appeared in the space invaders edition of the Metropolarity Journal of Speculative Vision & Critical Liberation Technologies (available 4 free here). It was also assigned reading in a University of Pennsylvania undergraduate English department class, but Eighteen, who lives blocks away from campus, was not present to give any context to the piece whatsoever.

What happens when you don’t have a physical body or can exist in multiple places at once?

The Life Online workshop debuted at the 2014 Allied Media Conference in Detroit, inviting participants to share their experiences & memories of life online. We discussed early online memories, anonymous/fractured personas, strange/unsafe/nurturing cyberspaces & supervision (or lack thereof), and speculated what’s to become of our cyberselves in the growing state of big data algorithms and total identification.

It’s been a long time coming but the worksheet available at the AMC session is now available for download in PDF form. Click on any of the pictures below.

Life Online worksheet page 1life-online-worksheet-02life-online-worksheet-03

1st PART: HOW TO USE THE WORKSHEET (sheets 1 + 2)
You are collecting memories, remembering what used to exist, how you used to feel, what kinds of things you did and where, when you first began to have an identity somewhere other than In Real Life. You will use these memories for an important 2nd step. You can fill out the worksheet questions alone, individually, or read them out loud, with a group.

In our experience reading the questions off one-by-one with your group, then going back over them one at a time together is a super fun thing to do. People get excited remembering and sharing things they don’t really talk about in public. It’s also really cool when your group is made up of people from different age groups/generations, places, genders, and cultures because the things people remember can be super different and interesting.

If you are doing the worksheet as a group activity or part of a discussion, we recommend marking a good chunk of time just for talking. You can also have someone who keeps track of time so you don’t all get waaay way off track all hype talking about chatrooms and IMs and TOP 8s.

~ Write, map, draw your responses ~

  1. Describe an early or past experience you had online.
    This can be a description of virtual place/s or space/s, an event, a habitual occurrence, a feeling or atmosphere–– anything!
  2. “Where” was it?
    Examples: A chat room, fansite, forum, MMORPG, message board, AIM/Yahoo/MSN chat window, blog or journal platform, text exchange, etc.
  3. What were the “physical” characteristics of the virtual space/s?
    Examples: Design/layout & colors, event sounds, other users present, etc.
  4. What were the “cultural” characteristics in the space/s?
    Examples: Etiquettes, community morals/rules, handle/screen name conventions, in-jokes, taboo actions/behaviors, etc.
  5. Did you choose to “be” someone other than who you were In Real Life (IRL)? What was this virtual self (or selves) like? Describe the personality, abilities, appearance, relationships, or anything else you remember.
  6. What were your actual physical surroundings like? Were other people present? How old were you? What was the device you used to get online like? Did you have rules or limitations for using the device or being online?

2nd PART: TALK ABOUT HOW LIFE ONLINE FEELS NOW (sheet 3):
A whole lot of us experience life online nowadays almost explicitly through using Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Google, and other corporate owned social media networks that gather all manner of information/data from us in exchange for using their “services.” For a lot of us, these cyber spaces are very different from the ones we first encountered years ago. Many of us feel like we have to exist in these cyber spaces and networks in order to know what’s going on In Real Life anymore. Even the way we access these cyber spaces/places—the physical devices and interfaces we use—might be really different, from a big desktop computer to the smartphone in our hand. We think it is important and useful to compare and dissect current cyber spaces of today from ones we remember.

  1. Why do we all use these online spaces? Why do they look and feel and run the way they do? What are the consequences of my participation in these online spaces?
  2. Who made these cyber spaces? Why? What do they gain from them? How were they built and how do they run?
  3. What’s missing from these cyber spaces of today?
  4. How can I tell??
  5. Is there a kind of life online that I wish existed? What would I do differently than what currently exists?

Yea I miss the days when cyberspace was space. Now it's like a shitty mall full of mirror stores.

3rd PART: HOW DO YOU FEEL? REFLECTING & DOING
The worksheet is a meditation. It is a tool to help you think about what used to be, and how you felt, and how you feel today. For those of us in Metroplarity, life online used to be glorious anonymity in an AOL role-playing chatroom, a familiar digital dormroom in a text-based Multi User Dungeon, a PHPbb forum where your avatar, signature, and post count were the currency of cool, before Likes and Followers existed. For us now, life online is frustrating, surveilled, and a distraction from things we wish we were doing. We wonder what life online is like for children, teenagers, youth, for people whose lives IRL are being negatively impacted because they don’t have a connection to the networks. We wonder how our lives will be shaped by the ambitions of the governments, advertisers, and telecom corporations who harvest our data, and the privileged gatekeepers who will decide what to do with it.

This is a meditation.

BONUS PART: RECOMMENDED READING

WHAT CAN AN ALGORITHM DO? by Josh Scannell

The consequence of “whitewashing” data collection obviously materializes in the policing of the “real world.” IBM claims that their data analytic programs helped reduce crime in Memphis by over 30%. Microsoft, with the NYPD, hopes that the Domain Awareness System’s capacity to do things like digitize and compute bodily radiation levels and human spatial mobility will effectively nullify the emergence of criminal behavior. Every time a body is stopped and frisked by the NYPD, the relationship that is enacted is not a one-to-one, but also a production and performance of data, virtualizing the dissolving and dangerous body of crime into a graspable and controllable horizon of the real. These spectral data bodies are not preempting the real; they are actively producing the real. Data is neither representational nor hauntological (Derrida 2000), it is ontogenetic.

WHAT DO WE SAVE WHEN WE SAVE THE INTERNET? by Ian Bogost
Do we have such a “better world” thanks to the “free and open” Internet that we can feel 100% great about “saving” it? You’ll say “yes,” I know you will. Even to pose the question is considered obscene. You might even say so, posting angrily on multi-billion dollar services like Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr. Such “discourse” is the very point! The system is working!

BIG DIARIES: THEA BALLARD ON THE SURVEILLED EXPRESSIONS OF YOUNG WOMEN
By far the more formative of these platforms was LiveJournal, a space of intense feeling and ecstatic opinions, often a way to self-consciously posit myself as a person of a certain taste in a way that felt impossible elsewhere. Entries see-sawed between meditations on insecurity and an uneven family life, proclamations of new indie music or fashion magazine discoveries—a hint of honest, unhinged adolescent emotion tempered by re-imagining myself through cultural signifiers. This was viewed by a small circle of friends and a few internet acquaintances acquired through pop-punk message boards and Last.FM. But the fact that it was viewed at all served as a validation of my existence, injecting realism into the imagined selves about which I wrote.

COMING OF AGE WITH THE INTERNET: REMEMBERING WEB 1.0 by Jacob Savage
Back in 1994, AOL wasn’t even hooked into the World Wide Web—you couldn’t browse web pages—so we did the only thing we could do: we went into chat rooms and pretended to be people we weren’t.

PEOPLE WHO WRITE ABOUT THE 90S INTERNET AND HOW CYBERSPACE WAS THIS CRAZY SPACE BACK IN THE DAY by Maggie Eighteen
WHAT WERE THESE CYBERFEMINIST ACADEMICS DOING ON THE 1990S INTERNET?
WHY GLAZE OVER THE BASE? THE EMBARRASSING INTERNAL SEXUAL WORLD WHICH WAS THE NET? THE PREDECESSOR TO NOW? WHY FORGET THE MICRO GOVERNANCES & TRIBE LAWS OF AOL GUILDS? OF BULLETIN BOARDS AND FORUMS? OF MIRC? ::WONDERS WHY THEY NEVER MENTION ALL THE UNDERSTOOD RULES OF MARKING ACTION:: OR HOW THE CHATROOM COMMANDS DICTATED OUR BEHAVIORS? THE IMPORTANCE OF A FONT AND COLOR, THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE 10 CHARACTER AND 16 CHARACTER SCREENAMES? THE MALICIOUS TOS BOOT?
THE LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAG?

http://cyborgmemoirs.tumblr.com/tagged/life-online


A/S/L: Where Looks Don’t Matter and Only the Best Writers Get Laid by Elvia Wilk

Rather than proving to each other that they were humans, users of the developing system had fantasies of transcending their bodies altogether

TEENS REACT TO 90s INTERNET

KIDS REACT TO OLD COMPUTERS

A BRIEF GUIDE TO INTERNET NOSTALGIA by Gavin Haynes
…featuring the Hampster Dance, AskJeeves, Badger Badger Badger, and a few more.

some throwback 90s memorabilia jawns
http://cyborgmemoirs.com/map
http://oneterabyteofkilobyteage.tumblr.com/
http://www.internetarchaeology.org/
http://www.oocities.org/
http://reocities.com/

OrDeR Of ThE ShAdOw Wolf cyberzine
http://www.legowelt.org/cyberzine.htm

One of these days we’re going to have enough time out of our day jobs and personal projects and group organizing efforts to write some beefy articles up on this chumpie, but until then we’re going to keep updating you with media from our efforts in the meatspace.

Here’s a bit of backlog coverage from two events, The Apiary Corp & The Dream Oven‘s Come As Your Madness smut reading in September 2013, and the 11th annual Philly Zine Fest in October 2013

Ras Mashramani readily reads a bunch of filth at Little Berlin in the world’s best ambivalent dial-up monotone (this is one of the multitude of reasons she is loved).

Jump ahead a month and here she is reading a piece about cyberspace adolesence and chatroom survival called The Nightspace at Philly Zine Fest 2013 At the Rotunda, October 12th, 2013

R.Phillips (also of the Afrofuturist Affair) reads from Literary Social Vision & Building Benevolent Institutions Part 1 at the same fest. If you like hard SF, do yourself a favor and get turned on here.

“Like newborns to an umbilical cord we remain tethered to institutions all our lives.”

Then she follows up, reading the excerpt “Zero Point” from the tentatively titled Slice Convergence and Non-Local Spaces. She read this at the last Laser Life and everybody’s head exploded (then reassembled by reversing the thermodynamic flow of time)

Don’t miss us. We regularly post about our upcoming events here in our Events Calendar, and more readily at our Surveillance Facebook page.

And feel free to invite us out too 😉

WE’RE FROM THE CITY, WE LIVE ON THE EAST COAST.
WE RECEIVE AN ELECTRONIC REQUEST FOR DISPATCH TO THE MIDWEST
THE FARGO MOORHEAD ZINE FEST?
HAVE ANY OF Y’ALL EVER BEEN TO FARGO BEFORE?
FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA?

take the picture already

Yes, Fargo, North Dakota. To those of us who grew up in those big coastal cities (Philly and LA in our case), Fargo opens up as a charming city—the largest city—in North Dakota, right across the street (or creek or train tracks) from Moorhead, Minnesota and the buffalo plains of the midwest. Downtown Fargo was full of cute cafes, independent boutiques, hip eateries, hip churches, a comic book store, a record shop, a tattoo parlor, an awesome public library, and a strong bicycle culture to boot. We were surprised, when originally Ras was worried about being “a black” in the midwest and I was worried about having to deal with the class rage of interacting with happy-go-lucky privileged white people at every turn. It did indeed seem like an attractive place where a nice sense of chummy and shallow “diversity” can flaunt itself proudly without ever having to be accountable to people who aren’t white, middle class, straight, or men.

main street

But then there’s Joyce Hatton and the Fargo Moorhead Zine Fest (FMZF).

the zine fest in the High Plains Reader!

FMZF flier at the art supply store

gettin caffineaquainted

After I made my first (intentional) zine well, I thought ‘well, what now? Zines are for white punks, so there’s no community for me to share this with.’ And then I found POCZP [the People of Color Zine Project]! I totally fell in love with the online community, and thought ‘wouldn’t it be great if I could have this kind of safe, supportive, openminded community in my physical space, too?’

I decided a zine fest was the way to go, so I started making that happen. I had no idea how to do it, but I just started taking steps that seemed to make sense. My idea of zines being for white people didn’t just happen, it grew out of misinformation about zines, and zine fests that weren’t diverse, so I thought really hard about what I wanted for FMZF.

The goal was that FMZF be a diverse event, meaning: people of many different races, ethnicities, cultures, religions, genders, sexuality, and classes have knowledge of the event, feel comfortable attending FMZF, and have had an opportunity to make a zine prior to and/or during the event so that each person feels zines are accessible to them and therefore feel included.
My goals for working with POCZP are to:

1) to build community in Fargo-Moorhead, share POC zines, and create safe spaces for POC and allies to have an honest, open sharing of ideas and experiences.

2) find ways effectively and easily share the POCZP’s mission and zine making with physically, emotionally, or ideologically isolated POC in rural areas and small towns in the Midwest.

So the work of FMZF fits in perfectly with that! And the reason those are my goals is because that’s what I want in my own life, and wished that I’d had when I was younger. I think that helps me to be effective and passionate because I’m truly working to fulfill needs lacking in my own life. All workshops and activities have been free and open to children because I’m also very passionate about using zines to validate and empower children.

The idea of me having a POC-led event talking about ways we can empower ourselves and each other was terrifying to me at first, due to a mix of safety concerns, internalized racism, and who knows what else. But with the help of Daniela Capistrano, the founder of the POC Zine Project, I found the courage to do it! And many thanks to Metropolarity! It was awesome getting to know Eighteen and Ras. They really helped make FMZF wonderful!

time for the zine fest!!

Fliers were all over the Fargo-Moorhead area, there was a write-up in the local alt weekly, the High Plains Reader, and there had been a number of small workshops leading up to the fest itself. Come Saturday, we found ourselves setting up in the basement of a Unitarian church, wondering who and what was to come. Aside from the tablers, there were to be performances and workshops by Spring Ma, Unedited Media, Quese IMC, and a screening of REZ by director Dominique DeLeon followed by a Q&A. That plus our own workshop on the particular way our humble science fiction collective has manifested movement building through speculative imagination. Joyce had gone to great lengths to bring together a lot of excellent crews under one roof…

It was a humble space with modest attendance, and perhaps you cannot tell from these words and images, but a deep and important well of life-sustaining exchange was discovered that day. Trust.

young Spring plays her first set of guzheng tunes

Young Spring Ma brought her dad and her guzheng and lent a mindful ambiance to the day, performing three sets in her most excellent princess attire.

anti-oppression info

rad librarian Becca

Rad librarian Becca with her own zines, in part with the MSUM Women’s Center.

queer american literature

The money shot from Becca’s How I Learned About My Visual Impairment

burrow and the "don't diss my ability" collab zine

Burrow and the Don’t Dis My Ability collaboration zine she put together, which came in a large print format as well.

"don't diss my ability" zine in large format

Unedited Media

Unedited Media spoke about their formation as a collective during Occupy Wall Street and their introduction to media documentation and representation. They shared how they ended up in the midwest, documenting resistance events (against struggles primarily affecting native communities which the rest of the country would otherwise think was ancient history), and how they make media respecting the people involved in a given struggle, not simply just vying for the most shockworthy or attractive shot.

what they do

Sept 2nd, 2013 Blockade of Illegal Activity in White Clay. from Uneditedmedia on Vimeo.

Idle No More Keystone XL tar sands pipeline blockade

WE WON'T BE SILENT THEY WON'T DEFINE US

The feminist librarian crew of the Women’s Center of Minnesota State University Moorhead repped with a zine library and open, intersectional mindsets. We heard quite a few of their anecdotes that made clear “feminist” is still a very dirty word out that way. Their binders full of zines were really worth going through…

from que(e)ry issue 1

HO’ING AROUND spread out of Womanimalistic #1

and this highly #relevant gem from the 90s

GQ Joyce

Joyce with her excellent zines on overcoming cancer, seeking sobriety, safety, strength, dignity, and community. And the illustrations! Did you know? She’s the midwest coordinator for the POC Zine Project. 😀

cause it's just great

Spring Ma’s formidable cuteness displayed itself on all levels

things for the kids

The fest was a kid/family friendly event, so we brought a few things just for them and covered up any cuss words they don’t need to be knowing just yet.

picking through the youth appropriate buttons

Metropolarity table spread

We brought along work from Suzy Subways, Annie Mok, Patrokolos, and other neighbors that had print materials to send along.

all that's left & arkdust zines

You can get our zines here and here, by the way. 🙂

what do we think of when we hear sci-fi

Starting the workshop with ‘what do we think of when we hear the word sci-fi?’

Quese IMC & Joyce during the workshop

Quese IMC and Joyce discussing intentions for the Quantum Time Capsule mini workshop we held (which we personally experienced firsthand at the Rockers BBQ thanks to our boo, the AfroFuturist Affair).

collecting quantum time capsule intentions

interactions

fargo-moorhead-zine-fest-weekend-day-two-115

Quese IMC makes the circle

Quese IMC came and made a circle and one could say that he spoke of the undeniable history of violence against native people, against peoples, and cycles of violence, cycles of learning. One could also say that he came to be heard and came to hear us, and in the circle there was humility, and in humility, paths to healing. I would later write that he gave us some medicine.

Marcus “Quese IMC” Frejo is an award winning indigenous hiphop artist. His music has been in film and animation, both major and independent. He has performed with the likes of Run DMC, Ludacris, Knarles Barkley, Atmosphere, The Pharcyde, Kumbia Kings, DJ Grandmasterflash, Petey Pablo, Clipse, Poor Righteous Teachers, Mos Def and Tinariwen, just to name a few. Quese IMC is one of the founding members of the world-famous group, Culture Shock Camp. He truly loves the artform of hip-hop expression and uses this instrument to bring forth awareness, consciousness and change within people and communities, not by force but by invitation. This invite consists of building bridges with the people and aligning ones ideas and spirit so that true spiritual change can be moved about through the power of word, music, art and connection.

Quese IMC was born in Oklahoma and is from the Wolf band of Pawnee and Bear clan of Seminole Indigenous People. He also has roots from Silao, Guanajuato. Quese IMC has been writing, performing hiphop since the age of 7. He continues to work with and within indigenous communities across the country, as well as inner-city youth programs, high schools, universities, youth conferences, multi-cultural impact building and cultural exchanges. Quese IMC also works with programs geared towards suicide prevention on and off reservation communities.

REZ screening by Dominique DeLeon

The zine fest officially ended at 5pm and shifted to a screening of Dominique DeLeon’s short film and graduate thesis at NYU, REZ, “a film meant to honor a late friend but also shed some light on the plight of the 7th generation.” [more]

Daniel Nightbird is an Ojibwe teen living on the Leech Lake reservation who’s taking care of his young sister alone. Down to his last dollar, when he’s suddenly evicted it sets in motion a desperate search for a safe place on the Rez, which is harder to come by than even he imagined.

Rez Teaser Trailer from Special Boy Films on Vimeo.

Apparently, his board of reviewers did not quite believe that native peoples living on a reservation might dress in certain attires, act in certain ways, or experience certain struggles, and questioned the legitimacy of the narrative as depicted in the film. Upon sharing this anecdote with the lot of us, we all scoffed and shook our heads. Is it really so difficult to believe that struggle out of oppression needs to look a certain way for it to be real? You could say this is exactly why events like FMZF need to take place.

REZ director Dominique DeLeon speaking

on what kind of films he wants to be in in the future

The screening closed with a Q&A with DeLeon, as well as REZ’s lead actor, Al Seaboy. When I asked what kinds of films he wants to be in going forward, he said he wanted to be in works about real people, real stories, like REZ.

packing up

And in the quiet of the early evening, we packed up, said our farewells, and started to make our post-fest dinner plans.

goodbye FMZF 2013!

end to a weekend group photo

Being in Fargo and meeting with the people at the zine fest gave me a lot of much-needed perspective. Being raised in a mixed, blue collar family and living in a city like Philly, it’s always been easy for me personally to run my mouth against people who come from financial privilege, white middle Amerikkka, the liberal white middle class, oblivious whiteness, period. So it was humbling to interact with a white community that is surrounded by nothing but white supremacist culture & unquestioned colonialist narratives, yet are somehow able to see that there is a problem with it (by listening to the people saying THERE IS A PROBLEM!) and working to change their attitudes, perspectives, and power structures for oppressed people out that way. Respect. This is to say nothing of the awe and uplifting, sustaining feelings I had to be around Joyce and the fruits of her labor in creating something out of nothing — an intersection point for people of color, a place for sharing, listening, visibility, and empowerment.

(Also, tumblr & internet networks & empowerment through media is strong at work. People make fun of tumblr activism but I think they forget a time before internet networks were an easily accessible reality.)

Later I wrote in my journal, “Quese said that his jewelry wasn’t his. He just carried it with him, and it became a part of him over time. And later it would go on to be a part of someone else. Exchange of information. New contexts. New meanings. New stories. New worlds. Thanks, Fargo. Thanks, Joyce.”

<3 eighteen


If you’re in the Fargo-Moorhead area and want to get hooked up with a solid crew, why not introduce yourself to the FMZF Auxiliary Programs squad?

See the entire photoset from our trip to Fargo here.

::in blaring sports announcer voice::

WELCOME TO MEDIA BLACKOUT, WHERE WE REVIEW THE ZINES & OTHER MEDIA CLUTTERING UP OUR BAGS AND BEDSIDES. GAME ONE FEATURES THREE REVIEWS. LET’S GET IT ON!

A R K D U S T by our own Alex Smith
arkdust-by-alex-smith-1

Alex writes fiction that reads like an absurd reality show super hero comic with the emotional weight of the last really good movie you saw, combined with total “crazier things have happened” subway riding plausibility. Ever since starting the queer sci-fi/fantasy reading series, Laser Life, we’ve all begged and begged Alex for some take-home print form of the arresting stories he would diplomatically drop on us lowly commoners. So when he announced he would be making a zine to debut at the April 2013 Laser Life, we all counted our pocket change and patiently held our breath till the appointed day.

A R K D U S T is a fangirl dream. It contains five short stories by Alex, plus an excellent bonus story and interview from his partner, Shane Jenkins of Razed By Wolves, another mainstay of Laser Life, whose stories touch on the surreal fantasy vapors that always start to creep up from behind our spines when watching Princess Mononoke alone in the dark. All this in an old-school Kinkos xerox 8.5″ x 11″ format!

arkdust-by-alex-smith-2

“Wow. Wow, really? Look, Wondra could snap your wanna be Ricky Martin ass in half and mail your spleen to Hook if she wanted to, so why not keep all the “bitch” comments tucked away into that turd brain of yours. I mean seriously, you’re the shittiest stool pigeon ever, how do you even find out any of this underworld shit you’re always reporting to Hook with as high a profile as you keep? I feel like Hook’s just too lazy to use Google on any one of his many goddamn smartphones because your information can’t be too insider. Like, every fucking wanna-be carjacker and armed insurrectionist knows who you are!” – A Little Light

arkdust-by-alex-smith-3

The air outside was crisper, a refreshing spray of April breeze tickling at his flesh. He pulled his Harrington jacket a little tighter. The street was alive with drag queens and leather daddies and kids voguing in knock-off Yves St. Laurent, punks with spikey pink hair and Camaros with their trunks rattling under the weight of anthemic bass. Henry kept his eyes trained on the misshapen sidewalk, at the crack vials and used condom wrappers crackling under his Doc Martens. He was busy thinking about nothing, letting the wild night’s conversations slip over and through him, so much so that he’d walked a bit past his bus stop and had turned to go back when he saw the boy of velvet standing in front of TRINITY, under an awning, patting his pockets, shaking nervously, his muscles rippling out of his thin green shirt. He looked like a shadow. When the boy found his pack of cigarettes, the boy cursed to himself that he’d lost his lighter. A kind of ghostly sadness crept over Henry when he saw the boy standing there without a light, and this sadness grew as he watched wave after wave of clubgoers pass the boy, and though the boy’d ask, none of them had a light for him. Henry quickly patter himself, but remembered he’d stopped smoking a year ago. – Clones

arkdust-by-alex-smith-5

Get a copy of A R K D U S T by contacting Alex at theyarebirds @ gmail. com or follow Alex’s new queer superhero tumblr, the A\terv3/rz3.


BETA DECAY by Andrew Jackson King
beta-decay-four-by-andrew-jackson-king-2

Maybe it’s because I started to read Beta Decay #4 while luxuriating on my roof in the hot Philly sun, but the short fiction pieces inside Andrew’s zine remind me of all the random pulp novels I used to bring with me on the week-long family vacation down the shore. Except stranger and more ominous, and neatly within the treatment one could imagine given to summer Hollywood movie releases, but the kind you leave the theater feeling strangely bereft and wondering if a milkshake at the diner after is really going to bring you back to earth. Beta Decay #4’s assortment of unrelated(?) short stories gives the reader glimpses of the incomprehensible world as it reveals itself to mundane human perception. Shit is creepy yo (but I’m not trying to spoil it here!).

beta-decay-four-by-andrew-jackson-king-3

Frances closed her eyes. Her mind pulled out from the building, out from the town, out from the metropolitan agglomeration, out from the continents and sea and hemisphere, out of the earth completely. Against the deep black, she saw the planet as a red, pulsing dot, emitting a see of radio waves, microwaves, gamma rays, a nearly infinite spectrum.

beta-decay-four-by-andrew-jackson-king-4

Spread out before Jeremiah was a monolith of coral, splashes of orange and red and yellow. Jeremiah always thought someday he would be able to make out patterns, that after a while, he’d be able to understand the exact way that the organisms grew and deviated from geometrical perfection, but this information had eluded him ever since he was a boy pouring over the dusty picturebooks on his mother’s shelf

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Get MOAR BETA DECAY here (for free!).


UP AGAINST THE WALL: A History of Resistance to Policing in Philadelphia by Arturo Castillion
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I picked up this zine while at a punk/noise/thrash? show at LAVA Space in West Philly, an autonomous organizing space on Lancaster Ave. (Ever since this new show organizer, Zu, rolled up to town there’s been a #brosfallback no racist/colonialist/misogynist/phobic bullshit atmosphere at their shows that’s been a breath of fresh air, especially for someone that stopped going to shows because they were full of violent man babies. Another novel aspect of the shows they organize is the provision for zines & hang-out discussion space, which is embarrassing to find novel because it should be normal if we’re having radical bands play radical spaces. ¬__¬;) Anyway, Arturo was there, and intrigued that someone had made a zine summarizing local black resistance to police, I bought a copy.

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This zine is essentially an academic-feeling summary of racism and power relations surrounding the Philadelphia police, its formation, and how the black communities being terrorized by them resisted in the forms of mass uprisings. Appropriately, it feels like reading from a history text book from middle school, and is easy to digest. And similar to most every classroom history textbook, its author provides no personal bio or reasoning for compiling this particular history of resistance. So while it’s very intriguing and useful to read about black Philly resistance to cops, I couldn’t help but feel displaced by the bodiless and unsituated voice of the narrator (despite having shook their hand!).

In Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America Kristian Williams describes how policing has historically functioned to enforce a white dominated racial order. In the city once the nation’s capital, the predecessor of the modern day Philadelphia police was the civilian-run “night watch,” which monitored the populace from the time of the early eighteenth century. The watch, which developed in Boston as well, was the Northern equivalent of the Southern slave patrols. In 1837 the mayor of Philadelphia declared, “Every colored person found in the street after (the posting of) watch should be closely supervised by the officers of the night.” Whether it was the night watch or the slave patrol, the white population as whole was expected to police black people.

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The introduction of the first black officers reflected the growing size of the black population. In the Philadelphia Negro W.E.B. Dubois described how in 1884 Mayor Samuel G. King appointed the first sixty black officers to the police department, a move that was opposed by whites. These police were put on duty exclusively in black neighborhoods and only permitted to arrest black people. Dubois also noted that none of the original black policemen would ever receive any promotions. Thus, the incorporation of black police was not a sign of racial progress, but instead a means to control the rising black populous.

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Despite the voice behind the curtain vibe, the zine served as a solid reminder that many other histories and conflicts have occurred in this city. It compiles historical facts to demonstrate just how real and tangible white supremacy and racist power dynamics are and how they contributed to the current status quo. What I found most useful and intriguing were the recounts of several street incidents throughout the 50s and 60s where police beatings & other open abuses of power were confronted and stopped by suddenly forming crowds of black Philadelphians. It closes by summarizing the actual tactics and methods used to confront police violence, namely that there is power in quickly gathering groups of people. Useful to read if only to remember, since those in power would love to have us forget. . .

You can probably get your own copy of this and Arturo’s other police resistance zines at LAVA Space shows and Wooden Shoe books, or you can definitely read an updated text-only version of it here.

THANKS 4 READING! ^_~v

On an evening that would see a multi-generational art show themed around “a sci-fi’ed reimagining of education,” the student body of the Philadelphia School District would stage a mass walkout (not the first this year, mind you) and protest down Broad street in tremendous, exhilarating numbers. The impending school closings and continuously proposed budget cuts to schools here in Philly are frighteningly outrageous, with plans to “eliminate all sports, extracurricular activities, counselors and libraries,” and in the meantime, the city and the state governments can’t seem to keep their stories straight from their actions when it comes to allotting funds. They can make deals to let corporations come frack the land and ruin the water, they can keep abandoned homes and empty lots from neighbors who would improve them, they can greenlight casino expansions and spend several hundred million bucks on building a couple new prison facilities upstate, but they just can’t seem to find the money to keep our schools from closing down and firing as much staff as possible?

Some good folks operating under the name Brick & Mortar decided to get an art show going for us to meditate on this dystopian reality, with an open call for submissions:

Brick & Mortar is responding to the Philly School District’s announcement to close 23 schools this year and chop many more into achievement networks to be managed by public and private groups. We asked artists and visionaries: What will our education system look like in 5 years? In 10? 15? 20+? What will it be like to be a student in the future? A parent? An educator? What will our city be like as these changes are implemented?

brick & mortar flier

Metropolarity crew was hard-pressed to submit anything in time, so instead we counted the days until the show. Our highlights follow thusly: Art, video, and fiction from graphic designers, anarchist activists, and most preciously, Philly students themselves (coincidentally working with Girls Rock Philly.)

Click the images for larger views.

GPSE CONSUMER ALERT by patrick st. john
GPSE CONSUMER ALERT by Patrick St. John

"history class" by emma willow vass, age 11
An empty classroom with empty shelves

"the future scares me" by eleanor g, age 13
“Students and teachers are brainwashed by the government.”

"yolanda" a story by suzy subways

from "yolanda" by suzy subways
A devastatingly raw piece of flash fiction.

"english" by nyree jauhar, age 15
The future of English class, overwrought by needlessly employed technology?

"not so distant future" by numar ahmed, philly student union
A one page zine containing radical fiction by Numar Ahmed, a member of the Philly Student Union

"what" by brianna, age 10
Embodiment of emotional reaction, perhaps, to the senselessness of the situation. I dare say we’ve all known this feeling.

There was also a short animation and submitted music playing, along with a few other pieces, which are absent from this collection (bonus video to follow). But to say the least, the show was IT. Seeing work after work of dystopian art & fiction from kids age 10 to 15 about their own school situation is heavy and to be meditated upon. Props to the organizers of this show, which is currently housed at The Soapbox independent publishing resource center (they have a zine library too). The kids are in the streets. There’s work to be done.


the soapbox independent publishing center

pre-party looks

WE WALKED AROUND THE BIG BOX STORE FOR PARTY SUPPLIES KIND TO OUR WORKING WALLETS, AFTER A DINNER STOP AT RUBY BUFFET, WHERE THE NEON LIGHTING AND TENDER PIANO MUSIC (THE LIKES OF HEARD IN MANY DORAMAとか) REFRESHED OUR CASUAL TENSION. TWO SCIENCE FICTION WRITERS. TOO WEIRD REALITY FICTION.

THE PARTY THE PARTY WE GOT LIGHTS FOR THE PARTY. WE GOT DJS TO COME WORK THE PARTY. WE GOT PUNCH. WE GOT CREW. WE GOT CHICKEN. RAS MADE JERK FOR PHILLIPS’ BIRTHDAY, AND AFTER SETTING UP THE QR CODE BACKDROP IN THE TIME CAPSULE STATION, SHE SAID ‘IT’S GOOD WITH BREAD’. CAUSE OF THE SPICE… AND SHE WAS RIGHT.

LATER I ATE A MANGO POORLY. USED IT AS A PROP FOR THE CHRISTENING PHOTOS IN OUR PARTY OUTFITS, AND TRIED TO SINK MY GHOST ALL THE WAY INTO MY BODY SO THAT I WOULDN’T BE AWKWARD, SO REMOVED & USED TO MEDIATION.

A WALL CAST 90S HYPE WILLIAMS VIDEOS (WE THANK PM_JAWN FOR THAT), AOL CHATROOM SCREENCASTS, EARLY INTERNET ADS, PS1 RHYTHM GAME BATTLES (HEY BUST A GROOVE), SONIC THE HEDGEHOG BONUS LEVELS, AND EPISODES OF AMP.

GLOW STICKS EVERYWHERE.

AKIRA IN THE LOUNGE.

COLLECTED DOOR CASH IN A NEON SPORTS BRA FROM FIVE BELOW AND A PROSTHETIC SOFT DICK WHILE REEZY AND MORRISON WORKED THE MIDDLE. BLACK PANTHER (BATMAN?) WITH A CAMERA CAPTURED HUMANS ON THE LOOSE.

BABES DRESSED ALL IN ONE COLOR.

PLATONIC GRINDING.

CREWS AND SOLID GOLD HOMIES WITH SOLID GOLD INSTAGRAM NAILS AND COMIC CON DRILL ARMS.

THE WHOLE MILKY WAY WAS THERE.

WE WEPT WE WEPT WE DREAMT.


The above cascade of words was taken from my tumblr.
Related, official party photos on our Facebook.
Related, at obscure3rdworldcountry
Related, at boredandmoist
And from one of the DJs:
testimonial jawn

Come to our next party.

April 3rd, 2013 saw the Philadelphia stop of Imogen Binnie‘s NEVADA book tour, where Metropolarity crew was honored to read some intimate and non-SF type ish for the people. This was the most packed I’ve ever seen the A-Space, my neighborhood’s conveniently crucial anarchist community space. It’s a big deal when Topside Press puts out your book and you happen to be a witty and excellent trans author writing Very Important Fiction for people who don’t get to have much of anything in media reflecting their experiences.

To say the least, the atmosphere and audience was on some electric vibrating atoms in space tip, and everyone read the best stuff. Once again, all we have to show for it is my shoddy cellphone camera (footage of my opening reading is conspicuously absent *ahem* anyone else obsessively taking videophone footage out there???). ANYWAY, if you wish to peep the past, move on to the videos below. And thank Smoot for throwing it all together. And Imogen for writing a badass novel. And everyone for coming and being attentive.

Ras Mashramani read achingly beautiful moments from the realities of girlhood and other normalized traumas.

Then Red Durkin brought the deliciously enunciated laughs for all and let us know why she is professionally a comedian.

Alex Smith stepped up next with a reality you need to know. Rating: VERY FUCKING GOOD.

Then the author herself, Imogen Binnie, stepped to the plate and read several excellent selections from NEVADA. We understand why she is published.

After, we all partied quietly, as one can sometimes easily do on a chilly spring evening in West Philadelphia — with spirits & jazz cigarettes and stew and candy around a backyard fire. Oh, and some people went to Dahlak Paradise (bar). ^_~

Under these streets, under these, under the train tracks, the shit that goes on in the woods, the shit that goes on while this train is driving by above our heads, the things that go on, on these streets at night when the lights go off, are the kind of things that, that, that people can only dream about, that people can only, it just amazes, it would amaze a normal person, it, it would, it would totally amaze a normal person. Me, myself, like I came down on the train and I got stuck and I been here for 10 years. 10 years I been down here.

The passage above reads like something from a dystopian comic book. Instead, it’s real life under the El along Kensington Ave here in Philly.

If you don’t live by the El in North Philly or if you don’t ride SEPTA outside of Center City, you probably only hear about what goes on under the El when Action News decides to run a passing blurb about some brutal drug-related event where they show a clip of cop cars at night flashing the red and blue. We don’t hear about the history of economics, the lacking access to resources, post-industrial blight and poverty, the relationships between those events and subsequent drug addiction and violence, and least of all, the people living these realities.

Scrappers, 2010

Meanwhile graphic novel after television series after movie comes out depicting brutally violent dystopian post-apocalypses, cyberpunk fictions of complete corporate takeover and total abandonment of The People for The Riches (Governor Corbett, are you there?), the destruction of the environment for terminally capitalistic surveillance states, the scramble for humanity to survive in the zombie apocalypse. . .

Jeffrey Stockbridge shows his chronicle of the living through an ongoing release of photography, audio, and interviews. By his media we get a straightforward glimpse of daily life for those who have not much else available to them but what they can hustle that day. In his own words:

Kensington Blues focuses on the men, women and children who live along Kensington Ave in North Philadelphia. Shadowed by an elevated train, known as the El, the Ave runs approx 3 miles into North East Philly. Under the El, drug use and prostitution are widespread. Many residents are caught in a loosing battle with their drug addiction and live day-to-day to supply their habit and avoid dope-sickness. This drama unfolds every day on the Ave as if it were a stage and the rush of El train above, its curtain. Using photography, audio recordings and journal entries my work explores the state of mind of those who struggle to survive the neighborhood and themselves. By utilizing first person story telling, my goal is to tap into the hearts and minds of my subjects and viewers equally, drawing forth the human condition and encouraging compassion for one another despite the vast differences between us.

It’s been a minute now since there’s been a project that doesn’t just photograph the lives of poor, unfortunate souls for us better-off folks to voyeuristically remark upon––Kensington Blues goes to the great trouble of interviewing people. And I say great trouble because getting people to talk to you about their personal experiences, spending time with them while they write it down, transcribing tape recordings––all that takes time. And in our society today, the adage “time is money” prevents a huge majority of us from doing work like this, even empathizing with work like this.

It should certainly be said that Kensington Blues largely depicts white people. Perhaps that is the result of the artist’s own skin tone and cultural race identity (or appearance thereof), and his subsequent ability to approach willing subjects. Perhaps it’s what you get in old European emigrated working class neighborhoods after the decline of industry in a white supremacist country (where crimes against brown people are routinely devalued and ignored while crimes against white people receive attention and action). Either way, Kensington Blues is real. Sci-fi and speculative fiction often depict dark futures where survivors are abandoned to their own devices, but so do projects like these. In fiction, we’re invited to imagine ways out of these desolate premonitions. What do we do about reality?


Read and listen to first-person stories and see photographs of Kensington Blues at length here. Or check out more from Jeffrey Stockbridge at his professional website here.


(LITTLE GIRLS DON’T DESERVE THIS MUCH ATTENTION )

It’s nice to have comrades who are also neighbors. When you get the call to mob, you know that if you rise to task the evening will turn out well. I got a text one night––there was a book party and reading of Pittsburgh poets at Moonstone Arts and Ras would be one of the Philly artists on the bill.

Since I’ve met Ras, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of listening to them read from a body of work ranging from erotic underage life on the internet to the aftermath of alien abduction. Ras often reads my favorite pieces at the Laser Life, but to date I’m the only person who ever seems to bring a recording device and my phone usually runs out of recording space or glitches itself into brick-mode before I can catch her. This is a shame because her style of reading in deadpan monotone with the occasional twist of inflection is a delicious counterpart to the underwhelmed tales of mundane tech-saturated life and adolescent sexual appetite aided by the shapeless hands of Net lurkers.

For me, Ras manages to name things from a past I forget, which only seemed to exist in fragments of chatroom logged memories until her words made them real again.


NOTE: Audio comes in at 0:04!

WEB 1.0 RAISES A WOMAN
VERBALLY DOMINANT INDIVIDUAL NEEDED FOR REGRESSIVE SHITSHOW – W4MW- 23
AND NOW, I AM THE LOVELIEST
MEME BE A MEME


Check more work by Ras here: http://www.motherwap.blogspot.com/ or just click on the post tag at the bottom.

Type the search tag “Philly” into tumblr, and you will be met with glimpses of this post-industrial rust belt city that are dare-say more a testament to the living, breathing Philadelphia than what most media outlets (fashion blogs included) bother to cover: Heavily filtered Instagram photos from vantage points beneath the El and empty lots in upheaval where homes once stood. Fine photography of endless SEPTA hallways, wet pavement bus stops, and the clouds shrouding the buildings like mirrors, Comcast and Cira.

As Philadelphians past and present, we find purchase in the view from 215. Natives and transplants who have ever bothered to step outside of Center City and its immediate neighborhoods may already know that our metropolis of the fifth magnitude has no need to obsess over Blade Runner futurescapes of Tokyo, Berlin, London, New York, or any other city of renown — Philadelphia already carries the promise, the pulp, and the grit. Perhaps we find affinity with Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, and the other American cities less loved by Hollywood feature. Yet we find ourselves here.

RECtheDirector stands out as one who does as well, a silent surveyor with an eye on corners of the city we may have all trod at least once before, offering more than just mundane snapshots of sentimental skylines or blighted rowhome neighborhoods. We suspect REC sees something — a city worth watching with all eyes open, perhaps. What REC does with the hard lens, we do with the speculative voice. Won’t you join us?

Check out more from REC on their tumblr and follow him on Instagram @recthedirector.