It seems to me that the Cyberbuss Costume Ball had that same quality as Burning Man of being totally uncharacterizable and subjective for each person, so I figured I'd put up this section for people to write their experiences and/or thoughts. Usually this sort of thing doesn't work since people seem to only want to read a webpage and not contribute to it, but what the hell, here's my attempt: whether you were physically at the event or not, type something into the big ugly white field below, click send, then reload this page and you'll see your contribution. To start things off I put a goofy email I wrote to a friend in the east coast after the user comments.
at 06/10/99 19:47:52 )
at 06/10/99 19:47:52 )
was absolute madness as expected. I got there Thursday night when, if
there had been any work done yet, it wasn't obvious. Ok, fine, I had Van
Glorious to keep me warm and cozy, so I sort of went into a setup mode
where, according to the very good advice of Smokin Joe, I didn't think
but only reacted. So instead of attempting some breakneck setup pace I
just walked around, doing my chores one by one, slowly and thoroughly,
without multitasking either in action or thought. So first things first
I setup the "Cyber Lounge" in The Cabana, where people would participate
and/or watch the chat and/or cam images. This is when someone let the
gremlins out of their cages, and it seemed like every little thing I was
doing ran into some obnoxious little complication. First I spent 20 minutes
debugging a fucking phone cable, then one of the computers froze up everytime
the modem was accessed, then the voicemail messaging screwed up the dialtone
so the modem wouldn't even dial even after I disabled the "wait for dialtone"
thingy, and way too much etc. So after various Jerry riggings where I
attempted to take things slow and blow by blow, I got the computers going,
on to the next task.
So I installed
my desktop pututer in my van, where it'd be sending out the RealAudio
feed. I put the monitor in the driver's seat, which was swivelled 45 degrees
to face the center of the van. Everything seemed to find its place, nice.
Next up was the mixing board, that Mackie which I've had one of those
mental blocks against using. I got almost instantly aquainted with it,
it's really well designed and fun and easy to use, nice again. Then I
put my old guitar amp on the roof of Van Glorious and aimed it towards
the center of the slowly-taking-shape morass of the street, and I put
3 or 4 microphones here and there poised alluringly on mic stands. Talking
into one filled the whole street with echoing voice, so soon enough Gespacho
was on the mic with his usual talent for shining when the spotlight is
on him. He was calling out "Cyber Sam, please report to the Cabana" and
"Do not feed the freaks", etc, and it all sounded perfect in the moment
in the lazy vibe that somehow had to assemble all the various junk piles
and scaffolding into an atmosphere of otherwordliness for the event.
event was in the Bay View section of San Francisco, which is on the far
southern outskirts of the city and is pretty much the only neighborhood
that parents warn their children to stay away from. I think it's the only
exclusively black neighborhood in the city, but it doesn't feel urban
at all since it's built on the ruins of some previously industrial incarnation.
So it actually has the feeling of country with its wide streets and sprawling
two-story industrial buildings and view of the big sky and the ever-present
wind and the generally slow vibe even during the work week. It would feel
pastoral if you substituted cows for the rusted out abandoned cars. And
there's lots of strange characters around, like the guy who drives by
from time to time in his overloaded pickup truck scavenging for junk,
and who was taking the tires off some abandoned truck when another scavenger,
named Frank, who lives nearby in an encampment in an old industrial grassy
field, and who helps us with all our events, confronted the guy and said
the truck was his. Of course the truck wasn't his in any conventional
sense, but I suppose it fell into his scavenging territory and was therefor
at least his to strip. After some scuffle the guy agreed to only take
the front tires.
Frank has an absolutely amazing living situation right down the street
from where The Ball was taking shape. It's in a grassy forest that I think
was once a naval base and is now loosely dotted with various salvaging
and mysterious industrial companies, and Frank is the quasi watchman for
some organization that buys old city busses and stores them there, and
he lives in one of them surrounded by young weedy trees, and there's even
chickens running around and, I swear, a little post-industrial horse stable.
I'd love to photograph it, and Frank's got that street smart thing happening
where he quietly understands everything going on around him, and he's
even got some far off trace of a New York accent just to make the whole
package complete. If you need a replacement bumper for your car, Frank's
your man, and in a day or so he'll have the exact part you're looking
for, and the price will be set according to the underground scavenger
economy where $200 is the absolute most anything ever costs. I'm going
to make the obvious Mad Max analogy just to add that if they had wanted
Frank to do a scene in the movie, they wouldn't have had to alter a single
one of his mannerisms or nuances.
Sam had said that something was missing from this year's Ball, that last
year there were lots of local kids hanging around and playing with all
the stuff. So finally a group of kids came over on their BMX bikes, and
they played around on our little tricycles that we somehow had so many
of, and then in a spectacular moment of contrast they picked up the microphones
and started rapping about Standard Rap Stuff like their monies and honies.
The whole street was filled with their little 12-year-old voices, and
even while they taunted each other about how "Yo, your flow is weak, yo",
you could see they're just kids and like all kids they just want to giggle
and forget about being cool, and so I turned on the effects rack and put
the harmonizer on their voices which made them sound like they were on
helium, and so the whole street was loud with them wondering what the
hell to make of the effect. I have it all recorded, I'll put it up.
So I got
the live realaudio feed going, and it worked great except that every 30
minutes or so the damn dialup connection would freeze up and I'd have
to redial the damn ISP. So when it would crap out I'd get a barrage of
beeper messages telling me "The audio's out again, fool" or something
like that, which is nice of them to let me know but it gets old since
when those messages come in I'm working on something else. So I have to
go back and redial then restart the audio stream, and meanwhile my van
would be better named the Spaghetti Box than the Wrybread Box since it's
getting absurdly filled with wires going here and there, and it's one
of those setups where I'm not even sure which wire's doing what or going
So then it's
time to get the FM transmitter going. The plan is to broadcast whatever's
going out over the internet and then have various boomboxes placed around
the area tuned in. It's been like 5 months since I had this thing working,
so I had to get reacquainted with it and brush off any residual playa
dust from the connectors, and then I went to get the antenna which was
supposed to be in the Cyberbuss roof compartment, and I found the PVC
tube that usually contained it, but ugh the damn thing's empty, someone
must have used the antenna for god knows what, probably as a flag post.
So oh well, no FM, I decided not to stress about it. Remember, only react,
earlier I started the cam feed going, which worked reasonably well except
that it was sort of hard to keep interesting since no one had time to
walk around with it for very long, and besides it could only be mobile
as long as our batteries held out, which was about 2 hours for every 6
hours of charging. So I put it on the hood or roof of The Buss and tried
to change the angle whenever I passed. It went well except that it froze
up, say, every 4 hours and the whole system had to be rebooted, but compared
to the other systems it felt like it was going smoothly.
the night the lighting turned out to be an issue, since the camera was
mounted behind the bandstand and the stage lights pretty much blinded
it, and putting it anyplace else was too dark. Oh well, I rolled with
it, and put it on the roof of Van Glorious pointing out into the relative
dark murk and I asked people to let me know if they thought the camera
angle was useless, and so for the next 20 or so minutes I'd get a page
every few minutes saying either only the word "useless" or some variation.
A big problem was that where do you put a fragile $2000 laptop and camera
amid a bunch of costumed marauding freak types in a setting where smashing
things is more or less encouraged? And plus the spot has to have easy
access to power, which of course isn't easy.
we worked with it, and when ZD TV and the Discovery Channel showed up
with their camera crews Sam took our mobile cam for a walk, since the
concept of a "wearable computer" makes for an obvious angle for the media
types, and besides, it was time. So I had to sit in Van Glorious the Spaghetti
Box with the ZD TV camera crew for an on-camera interview, with them asking
me various questions about "community on the web", which I pretty much
have nothing to do with but I tried to go along anyway. We went through
the interview once, then they said they had to redo it because of some
sound issue, and so she asked me the exact same questions again and I
tried not to look at the camera again and I tried not to be irritated
by the blinding light again and I tried to ignore the soundman's constant
scowl again, and I answered the same damn questions with what I imagined
was a slightly increased flourish, and I tried not to draw attention to
the strangeness of doing this whole thing again since that obviously wouldn't
translate in the finished clip. And then we finished and I had to do it
getting off here, since I think I jumped from Friday night to Saturday
circa 9pm. Just to backtrack a bit, Thursday night I slept on the roof
of the Cyberbuss, Friday I went and sprung Van Glorious from her parking
garage for the first time in 3 months, and that night I slept in her while
she was still the Breadbox. I tried to do as much setup as possible Friday,
but of course it's hard to get everything going, and I had to wait for
various other things to fall into place before I could finish my stuff.
For example, the Playa Phone people were going to be there, installing
their 5 Playa Phones in the lounges and feeding a signal into my mixing
board for my realaudio feed. They didn't get that going until Saturday
night, so I couldn't confront until later the inexplicable bug of having
the line level signal full of hum even though it sounded fine through
morning I woke up after a good 3 hours sleep and started work again, and
a few people had stayed up all night putting togher the installations.
Roby and Ryk were finishing Roby's amazing junk statue, which was looking
like some nursery for postindustrial silery robotic detritus. Roby said
he hadn't taken more than a 10 minute break all night.
the final setting was in place: at both ends of the street were massive
40-foot high black tarps acting as walls, and at one end of the block
was the Cyberbuss acting as a backdrop to the stage, and at the other
end was the Bianca's Smut Shack "Love Dodge" painted RV. Both sides were
totally sealed against entrance or exit, except a little tunnel at the
stage side which was the admission gate and the "human car wash", which
is a gauntlet of fabrics dangling and brushing against you as you pass.
event was supposed to start at 6pm, but it didn't get any sort of steam
going until nightfall, which was probably 9pm or so. There were lots of
other events going on around the city, like the "Swim Whim" which was
held in some swimming pool somewhere and featured "the Blackrock Desert
Syncronized Swimming Team" or something like that. So all night there
were waves of new people showing up, I guess correspoinding to when other
events finished. Suddenly there were lots of people around, almost all
in costume, and each of the sound systems was crowded. So the DJ Booth
inside the Cabana had a bunch of people dancing around it even though
the DJ was stuck on 70s pop, and the stage would from time to time have
people dancing when the band was good (obviously, the Tom Jones tribute
band didn't get the crowd moving much), and the "Cyber Cube" at the other
end of the block had it's own little faction dancing around.
I made it
until about 4 or 5am, and then I went into Van Glorious for some attempted
sleep, and I woke up around 8am to blasting Led Zeppelin and I looked
out and there were still a good 100 people dancing on top of pretty much
anything they could get on top of, and everyone was going really hard.
The police showed up at around 9:30 and put a brutally abrupt stop to
the music, and if it weren't for them I wouldn't be surprised if the party
went on until like 3pm. God bless heavy hallucinogens.
were a couple of cops wandering around, but they had probably the biggest
and most consistent smiles of anyone, with one always leading the other
around to show him some new curiosity he'd found. Of course they maintained
their cop distance, but there wasn't any antagonism in either direction.
In the light
of day we were all sitting in the now silent rubble, on top of all the
mattress that were once Rina's Romper Room, and on all the found counches
under the shade provided by the many scoffolding structures, and near
the elaborately constructed stage, and Gespacho yelled out with just the
right irony "Leave no trace!"
And so the
cleanup job got underway, and I went to work coiling my 30 or so cables
and deconstructing my various systems and getting the spaghetti out of
the Breadbox, and everything went just as slowly as when we were setting
up, although anything that wouldn't come down easily got smashed.
break in the Cyberbuss, Sam said to me "Did you hear? We won the war",
and he was talking about Kosovo but I thought he meant something much
more abstract, and I had to agree. The fact that this bit of mania was
pulled off at all felt like a victory, both against the forces of normalcy
and also for human cooperation. This was a shit load of work, and a lot
of people had to collaborate, both we as organizers and builders, and
also the city which could have easily shut us down with any of their traditional
methods like denying some damn permit. And 100 or so people came together
as organizers and builders for this event, and worked their asses off
to make it happen, and the traditional motivator of money wasn't an issue
And now it's over and I'm recovering from all the exhaustion. I was exhausted Friday after that little bit of sleep and after working without a break for so long, then I was exhausted Saturday after more of the same, and Sunday I and everyone else took exhaustion to that higher level of complete disorientation, and now it feels like those 3 days lasted 3 weeks, and my head is swimming with various disjointed memories of this and that glorious snipped of madness, and I feel elevated and want to hold onto this feeling but of course this too shall pass, as they say.
Thanks. Always interested in your take on things...
I think mine would have definitely included something about Man (not people) and his Machines (PC, forklifts, you name it...)
And of course, because I can never really get away from it, I'd have to mention lil bits I learned or saw in others And certainly something about drunken dancing with you and Anton.
Then I'd have to deal with the drugs bit. I still remember it dawning on me about a month ago when I asked Sam whether most people would be on drugs and he said yes... I definitely had quite the freaky (as opposed to phreaky) moment coming to grips with this.
Oh well, one day I won't. It gets lesser each time...
|[an error occurred while processing this directive]|