DIY News Roundup: May 2013

The DIY News Roundup is a recurring column collecting reporting on DIY culture from around the globe. 

  • Makers will converge on the SF Bay Area on May 18th & 19th for the 2013 Maker Faire.  Highlights of the DIY festival include hacker races, workshops and presentations by Adam Savage and other makers.  There will be a special workshop on the 17th for those interested in creating a Makerspace.
  • Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society, chronicling the birth of such movements as flash mobs and Santacon, is published and now available.
  • The Atlantic posts a collection of Chinese DIY Inventions as evidence of “a rise in prominence of inventors and entrepreneurs” in the blossoming nation. The photos include homemade submarines, aircraft, robots, cannons, bicycle boats, prosthetics, and more.
  • Oregon Senate Bill 578 is introduced, proposing to prohibit “harvesting of wild mushrooms without wild mushroom harvesting permit” in the fungi-rich state. A variety of affected groups, businesses and individuals expressed concern at the public hearing.
  • Grow: How to Take Your Do It Yourself Project and Passion to the Next Level and Quit Your Job! by Eleanor Whitney is crowdfunded through RocketHub and will be published by Microcosm Publishing in June.  The book is “a practical field guide for creative people with great ideas for independent projects that shows the way to success and sustainability on your own terms.”
  • Learning is for Everyone and The Urban Conga in Tampa, Florida win the 2013 Deconstruction Award for building a “Tree of Technology where the machine parts were used as fruit of the tree satisfying a hunger for knowledge in the world of electronics.”

New Edition of Mushroom “Bible” In The Works

At the recent Fungus Fair in Santa Cruz, celebrated author David Arora announced he is in the process of revising Mushrooms Dymystified, known to mycologists and other fungi enthusiasts as the definitive text for mushroom identification. Presenting at the fair, Arora mentioned offhand his progress with the new edition.  He said his aim was to make the edition the most accessible yet.  Referencing the personal stories he shared of fellow foragers, he wants the language updated to reflect mushroom culture.  Mushroom edibility would no longer use archaic terms like “choice” but his own colorful vernacular.

Brew it Yourself: Part 1

I used to hate beer.  Most Americans experience beer and alcoholic beverages as a rite of passage into adulthood, but I refused to follow the crowd.  Despite their fowl taste, most of us are introduced to beer through the cheapest, most processed versions available.  I remember someone once explaining to me a kind of golden rule to appreciating (bad) beer, in an attempt to get me started: after ten cans the foul taste will go away!  Even hardcore vegetarians and vegans can be found making exceptions for these beers, many of which contain animal products like bone, bladder, and dried blood. But I wanted nothing to do with them.

Then I moved to Portland, Oregon.

The wet city in the Pacific Northwest contains more brewpubs per-capita than anywhere else in the world, even Germany.  I was surrounded by exotic Scotch Ales and fruity Lamics.  It wasn’t long until I was trying beers left and right and attending such world-class beer events as the Oregon Brewers Festival and the Holiday Ale Festival.  So then with so many great beers out there, why did it take me so long to find them?

Last year’s documentary film, Beer Wars, answers my question with a sobering story.  Through an inside glimpse into the beer industry, the film illuminates how the giants of the market reinforce their dominance and squelch micro brewers using every tactic available.  Distribution companies and grocery stores are manipulated to ensure that the smaller companies have little to no room in the trucks or on the shelves.  We watch as the humble brewmaster of microbrewery Dogfish Head is served with litigation from Anheuser-Busch.  Even though the suit is bogus, it is obvious that the corporation is aiming to simply bankrupt the little guys in legal fees.  Why?  Because they can.

 

It doesn’t stop there.  The film reveals how the beer giants are consolidating to become monolithic in size.  Miller and Coors have joined to become MillerCoors while Anheuser-Busch was bought out by international giant InBev to create Anheuser-Busch InBev and become the largest beer company in the world.  To round out their brand identity they’ve also created fake craft beers under dummy names (like the Blue Moon Brewing Company) to compete with the microbreweries, fooling even the beer snobs.  The mass shooting in Connecticut earlier this month took place at a beer distributor that had recently experienced consolidation.

Hoegaarden Protest via brewlikeamonk.com

Even more frightening is the surprising number of independent beers that have come under the control of the beer giants.  One of these is Belgium’s Hoegaarden, produced in the village of the same name for hundreds of years. The “interesting facts” section of parent company Anheuser-Busch’s website proudly states that “Brewing has been an integral part of life in the village of Hoegaarden, Belgium, since 1318.”

The real interesting fact left out of their description is that in 2005, InBev (who had already acquired Hoegaarden) announced the closure their brewery in Hoegaarden, moving its production to a larger brewery in another city.  Village residents and officials immediately took to the streets in a mass demonstration against the closure.  Soon thereafter, InBev employees nationwide held a march and strike in response to similar closures and general outsourcing.  In the end, InBev discovered that, low and behold, beer tastes different depending on where it is brewed and could not match the original flavor, forcing them to keep Hoegaarden in Hoegaarden.

Yet a recent Alternet article claims that all is not lost.  Microbreweries are on the rise.  And in the United States they’re growing beyond beer hubs like Portland and showing up on the shelves of local markets and on tap at bars who care about their beer.

But better yet, we can do it ourselves.  Coming up.. Part 2: Home brewing!

Wikipedia Stands Up to FBI’s Take Down Notice

As reported in the New York Times, the widely popular collaborative information website known as Wikipedia has been threatened with prosecution if it does not remove the FBI seal from the site’s pages.  The Wikimedia Foundation – the nonprofit charitable organization that runs Wikipedia – wrote back that the FBI’s was “incorrect” in interpreting its use as an effort to impersonate the agency:

Our inclusion of an image of the FBI Seal is in no way evidence of any “intent to deceive,” nor is it an “assertion of authority,” recognizable or otherwise.

Over the years, Wikipedia has enacted new standards for ensuring the legal validity of the content on its site.  Users must now provide detailed information on how uploaded images meet permission and licensing standards for approval.  Ironically, the credits for the FBI image file on Wikipedia include a warning to users about the same law now being used against the website:

Author Federal Bureau of Investigation
Permission Public domain from a copyright standpoint, but other restrictions apply. In the US, unauthorized use of the FBI seal, name, and initials are subject to prosecution under Federal Criminal law, including 18 U.S.C § 701, § 709, and § 712.

Wikimedia’s author of the response, their general counsel Michael Godwin, took it a step further in his letter and called out the FBI for selectively removing statute language in their notice.  He begins by asking, “May we talk a little bit further about ejusdem generis and your creative editing of the statute?” before ripping into the agency’s gross interpretation in a humorously cordial fashion.

Read the full letter as a .pdf courtesy of the New York Times.

Behold the Gamelatron

The Maker Faire festival is a mecca for inventions, arts and crafts in a kind-of re-imagined county fair.  Organized by the staff of the magazines Make and Craft, the Faire tries to inspire attendees to roll up their sleeves and become makers themselves.  I traveled to the recent Faire that took place in San Mateo, California.  There I found that nothing is too sacred that it can’t be tinkered with, hacked or modified by the many inventors there.

The Gamelatron at the Maker Faire

Take for example, the Gamelatron: the world’s first fully robotic gamelan orchestra.  In a radio piece produced for KUSP, I interview the invention’s creator, Taylor Kufner.

DIY in 2009

Its a bit late, but in preparation for the 1st issue of my new zine, DIY 2010, I’ve been compiling a list of notable events from 2009.  Is there something important to DIY culture that you don’t see here?  Let me know!

January

  • New device uses laser beams to project your own lane from the back of your bicycle,
  • Shooting of Oscar Grant in Oakland, California, sparks months of protests and clashes with police,
  • Canada is no longer a safe place for U.S. war resisters
  • Faythe Levine releases her documentary “Handmade Nation” alongside her book “Craft’s New Wave”,
  • FCC Free Radio begins broadcasting
  • Make Magazine begins airing a new national TV series
  • Bolivia approves of a new constitution that creates a ministry in support of indigenous autonomy

February

  • Artist Shepard Fairey is arrested on graffiti charges
  • Victory for workers at Republic Windows in Chicago,
  • Chicago activists prevent the closure of schools,
  • Immigrants awaiting deportation at at privately-run jail in Texas riot,
  • Students take over NYU,
  • A general strike cripples the French Caribbean islands
  • Chicago hosts Art & Code hack conference

March

  • Craigslist accused of facilitating prostitution
  • FCC raids Street Heat pirate radio station in Orange County,
  • Rhizome Collective dies a slow death
  • Twin Cities Activists fight foreclosures
  • Workers at the Stella D’oro Cookie Factory in the Bronx strike,
  • City From Below conference in Baltimore
  • Copyright Criminals, film on remixing, makes its debut
  • ZAPP hosts the Zine Librarian Conference in Seattle, Washington

April

  • Jury Rules in Favor of Ward Churchill,
  • “Tea Party” protests on Tax Day give potential to a new “grassroots” conservatism
  • Protestors battle police outside of the meeting of the International Monetary Fund
  • Feminists from around the globe meet in Seoul to from the Network of “GloCal” Activism

May

  • The Department of Justice drops its case against 1st Lt. Ehren Watada
  • In response to the Board of Educations layoff vote, Los Angeles teachers subjected themselves to arrest
  • California Supreme Court’s rules in favor of Proposition 8 banning future same-sex marriages – prompting protests nationwide
  • Free Skool Santa Cruz hosts the first North American Free Skool Conference
  • Fanzinotheque hosts the 1st International Meeting of Zine Libraries in Poitiers, France

June

  • Los Angeles Teaches Enter Hunger Strike
  • Shell Forced to Pay $15.5M for Complicity in Execution of Activist Ken Saro-Wiwa
  • City of Grand Junction, Colorado prevented from passing ordinances outlawing “soliciting,”
  • Honduran military oust the government of Honduras, provoking months of grassroots resistance from the community
  • DIY activist Samantha Dorsett – founder of DIY punk label Plan-it-X Records and the infoshop Secret Sailor Books – dies

July

  • Los Angeles activists form People’s Assembly for Popular Education & Liberation to start their own summer school

August

  • Occupation at Rosemary Williams’ home at 3138 Clinton in Minneapolis, in protest of foreclosures
  • Radical Faeries lay movement founders’ Burnside and Hay to rest

September

  • Activists converge on Pittsburgh to protest the G20 summit
  • Community Shuts Down Nazi Rally in Riverside, CA
  • A massive walk-out spans California’s universities and campus buildings begin to be taken over by students

October

  • Elinor Ostrom wins the Nobel Prize in Economics for her work proving the success of The Commons
  • Floating structures converge on the Sacramento River Delta for the first Ephemerisle Festival

November

  • Spokane, Washington residents succeeded in bringing an innovative “Community Bill of Rights” to the ballot
  • Indymedia.us successfully fights back a bogus subpoena request issued by the FBI
  • Chicago Anti-Eviction Campaign creates a successful blockade at the home of Lenise Forrest
  • Philly Protesters Seize Street to Demand Housing Rights
  • University of California approves layoffs, furloughs, and massive hikes in student fees – spurring protests and occupations

December

  • Klamath Justice Coalition Halts Logging on Karuk Sacred Sites

Fashion at the Maker Faire

Half the fun at this weekend’s Maker Faire in San Mateo was checking out all the funky outfits. While the steampunk crowd was out in full force, there were many other unique styles on display – many of them handmade by the attendees.

For many makers, form and function can collide, like in the utility belt seen below.  But I didn’t find much wearable electronics – did anyone else see any?

Plant Medicine vs. Swine Flu

So I seem to have picked up the Swine Flu.  And yes, I am calling it that, and not H1N1, after learning that the virus has been traced back to factory farms in the United States (and subsidiaries in Mexico) and that the hog industry lobbied for the much-harder to say jumble of letters and numbers.

In the days that I have been bed-ridden, I’ve received countless messages of support but also some words of warning.  Many are concerned about vaccines such as Tamiflu and cite recent articles that draw in to question their widespread use in treating viruses that are all too often non-threatening.

With all these man-made assaults on my body, I decided to stay as natural as possible for my treatment.  On day one of my illness, I pulled out of my fridge a medicinal elixir that my friend Nicole gave me earlier in the year.  The tincture bottle is labeled “Elderberry Syrup” and is composed of the namesake berry, along with honey, brandy, lime, cinnamon, ginger, and clove.

Some of Nicole’s elixirs. Photo: Julie Sabatier

I asked Nicole to explain the properties of the elixir.

The elderberry elixer was made from locally harvested elderberries.  They grow all over the pacific northwest and are harvested in early fall.  Elderberries are rich in anti-oxidants, vitamin C and are anti-viral and immune boosting.  The elixer is an awesome remedy for colds, influenza and other respitory problems.  It is also soothing to the throat and tastes delicious.

Elderberries (elder sambucus) have been used as a folk remedy for hundreds of years.  They were a main medicine in England and also used by the native people of this area.  Some Native American tribes made flutes from the elder branches and so called it “the music tree”.  It was said to protect from evil spirits and in some traditions was planted on the gravestones of the dead.  It is a very magical tree and has a strong connection with the fairies!

The elixer also has brandy, honey, osha root, licorice root, ginger root, rose hips and orange peel all increasing the medicinal qualities of the elixer.  It was super easy to make, just put it all in a mason jar, let it sit for four to six weeks and squeezed it out with cheese cloth. yum!

Nicole among her garden plants used for medicine. Photo: Julie Sabatier

I made a tea with generous amounts of honey and cayenne and then added her tincture.

I asked Nicole what made her interested in plant medicine.

I have always loved plants but became especially interested in plant medicine when I moved to Portland.  I wanted to learn more about the plants that were growing right around me and how I could heal myself and my friends.  I started reading books, making medicine and sitting with the plants themselves.  I think plant medicine is an awesome way to take healthcare into our own hands and deepen our relationship with the earth.

Nicole and other plant medicine enthusiasts are converging later this month in a conference that marks a renewed interest in the practice.  The 2009 Portland Plant Medicine Gathering will include discussions on such topics as Healing Herbs, Women’s Heath, Columbia River Gorge Flower Essences, Psychological and Spiritual Plant Medicine, Designing an Herbal First Aid Kit, Smoking Blends and more.

Of the conference, Nicole says:

The idea for the Portland Plant Medicine Gathering was born this summer with my friend and mentor Scott Kloos (of cascadia folk medicine) while we were up at Bonnie Meadows on the east side of Mt. Hood.  We noticed a need for more connection in the herbal community here in Portland.  There are so many great healers and herbalists and we wanted to get them all together to share their knowledge.  Our main goals for the gathering were to keep it as affordable as possible and all local!!

The gathering will take place November 21 & 22, 10am-6:30pm at the Bamboo Grove, 134 SE Taylor St, Portland.  For more resources, you can check out some of the conference’s sponsors, including Cascadia Folk Medicine, The School of Forest Medicine, and the Elderberry School of Botanical Medicine.

Don’t Know Much About Mycology

How many types of mushrooms can you name?  Unfortunately, for most of us, our knowledge is limited to what the grocery store can offer – usually three or four commercial varieties.  Yet, nature offers hundreds of species – many of them edible, and some of the best available in the Pacific Northwest.

So I went to a mushroom workshop outside Salem at the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center to get schooled.  The forest center itself provided a perfect learning environment, as the center is remotely located among the Cascade Mountains – a perfect region for mushrooms.  The mountains trap the weather systems moving in from the West and cause large amounts of rainfall.  Rain and moisture are essential for mushrooms to grow.  Once you bring in other factors – such as elevation, flora and fauna – what you find on a mushroom hunt can be quite varied.  The center itself prides itself as being a steward of the land – it not only uses its educational program to foster sustainability but also offers a rare low-impact energy use system.

On our first hunt, we found Chantrelles, Winter Chantrelles, a Hedgehog Mushroom, Lacluster Lacaria, and Lobster Mushrooms – all edible!

On the hunt, it is good to have a knife, a brush, and a basket for placing the mushrooms into.  The knife helps cut the dirty or undesirable part of the mushroom away, the brush helps further clean it before putting it into the basket.  It is helpful to have them as clean as possible before they are placed together with other mushrooms they could possibly dirty.

Mushrooms aren’t only good for eating.  Mushrooms are well-known for their halucinagenic properties but many aren’t aware how they make great natural dyes for color.  After filling a pot with a certain variety and then boiling it for hours, we then had a dye that we could place yarn, fabric, and other materials into.  As can be seen, the colors produced can be quite stunning.

Not much later, Eugene hosted a Mushroom Festival where hundreds of species were on display.  The Cascade Mycological Society, the local mushroom club, had gathered the species and provided on-hand information on the fungi.  Mycological Societies are great ways to begin learning about mushrooms – most regions have one where you can join regularly scheduled “forays,” where members take a group trip out into the wilderness to go search and identify.

They also invited mushroom expert, David Arora, to speak.  Arora is most well known on the West Coast for his companion books, All the Rain Promises and More and Mushrooms DemystifiedAll the Rain Promises acts as a great guide while you’re in the field, fits nicely in the pocket, and is recommended for novices, while Mushrooms is more of an authoritative text for serious hunters.

Little brown mushrooms at the mushroom festival

As one begins to recognize certain species, it becomes easier to approach, and less daunting.  The amount that society has scared people with stories of death from mushrooms is not necessarily untrue – there are a few varieties that are deadly poisonous and they’re aren’t always easy to identify.

Deadly poisonous mushrooms like this Amanita can change over time, making for difficult identification

Yet just because the deadly ones can be difficult to identify doesn’t mean that all the edible ones are that way too.  Every singe mushroom I have picked and saved can be considered beginner-safe in that they are varieties so unique in shape and character that it is very difficult to confuse it with anything else.

The califlower mushroom, seen here winning best of show in the festival, is one of the mushrooms difficult to misidentify

We have much to learn from mushrooms, says the just-released zine, Radical Mycology (read my review on the IPRC blog.)  Authored by the self-identified Spore Liberation Front, the primer states in its “call to sporulate:”

The complex life of mushrooms provides profound and novel examples of networking between different species and environs not exhibited by most other life forms.  These actions show a sentient concern for not just the mushroom involved but for the surrounding environment as well.  We believe that as one learns more about these habits, and the ways in which they can influence our own human behavior, one quickly begins to perceive the interconnectedness of life surrounding them all the more clearly.

The SLF are referring to one of the major forms and life stages of mushrooms: mycelium.  The mycelium is the “vast underground web-like structure” that is the hidden vegetative body that produces the mushroom “fruit.”  Many mushrooms you see above ground can be part of the same mycelium below.  In fact, one single mycelium network in Eastern Oregon has been identified as possibly the largest living organism in the world, stretching over 2,400 acres! Mycelium have recently been understood to act as kind of underground economy for their habitat, not only providing nutrients for surrounding organisms, but actually acting as a middleman between them!

Oakland’s Art Murmur

The Art Murmur is Oakland’s version of Portland’s Last Thursday. Just as DIY, 90% smaller, but a great spectacle among the grittiness of downtown Oakland. It’s on a small street, with several art galleries, a neighborhood coffee shop called Mama Buzz, a bar off to the side, and one of the best volunteer run art collectives in the area, Rock Paper Scissors- which will let you use their many different kinds of sewing machines, teach you how to worm compost, and entertain you with movie nights.

The Art Murmur, named after “Heart Murmur” is a collection of artists, cyclists, burning man folks, freaks, musicians and bystanders, who together block off the street with performances, music, and tables that sell hand screened shirts, illustrations, and vegan cupcakes. Oakland is exceptionally into industrial arts: from metal spiders that roast hot dogs, to life size hamster balls, you’ll find it at the Art Murmur.

The First Friday of every month is art night in Oakland. All over the city art galleries open up to the public, introduce their artists personally, serve wine, and sell art. The Art Murmur is the most DIY component of first Friday and happens in a very specific location- 23rd and Telegraph for those of you who are planning a trip down to the Bay.

Amy Mosley, one of the founders of the Art Murmur says “the Art Murmur grew from the grassroots organizing of the multitude of non-commercial art spaces that thrive in Oakland, with the ‘murmur’ referring to the little known secret that is the Oakland arts scene.  Of course, the murmur has only gotten louder: originally we were 8 gallery spaces, and now we are nearly 20, all inside a small geographical zone.  At the heart is Rock Paper Scissors Collective, which has worked endlessly to invite community groups to participate, and really diversify the event.  Mostly, if it’s going on in Oakland, it might be happening at Art Murmur.”