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.


(Message, at 06/10/99 19:47:52 )

And you made it look (and sound) so easy! Who knew.


(Message, at 06/15/99 19:48:45 )

Thanks everyone for pushing it to da Limit one more time. Let's keep da streets a fhREaKiN'

C y b e r sAM


(Message, at 06/15/99 20:22:38 )

Wrybread hats off to you for wrestling wid da Audio and video gremlin Spagetti.

dA Ball is another reason to push yourself to the limit and then some. After days of pushing on you realize just what you are cabable of. There is no other way of learning this. Everyone needs a reason to push it. You feel more alive then ever. You sleep deeper than ever. You enter a dream state. When you do this to yourself, you expand your horizens and push yourself to the next level.

It was incredible to see all sorts of friendly fhREaKs pushing it to the limit. Thank you all for energizing da Ball. Another street fhREaK with so much heat.

One correction to Wrybreads Comments, I did not tell him that we won the war, I said that "the war is over." The horrible bombing overseas had stopped, and the Ball was over. I learned this after 3 days of pushing it to the limit. i could feel the smoke begining to clear as I looked out from da CYBERBUSS window at all of the post-industrial rubble.

I spend the next three days going to the dump. We took close to 10 tons of shit that we got from dumpsters and throw away days to the dump.



Here's my email to the east coast:

The Cyberball 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.

The whole 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.

Incidentally, 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.

Anyway, earlier 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 where anymore.

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, don't think.

Oh yeah, 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.

Later in 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.

So anyway, 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 again......

The chronology's 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 headphones........

Then Saturday 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.

Suddenly 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.

The actual 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.

Earlier there 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.

Taking a 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 at all.

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.



A response:

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...




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