Legos at SXSW
SXSW Interactive did offer one place for the DIY crowd, right as you stepped inside the front doors of the convention center: an enormous pile of Legos
There was no sign, no attendant to prompt people that they were available for use. SXSW knew that if you just dump a bunch of these constructive toys on the floor, the geeks will know what to do.
As high-tech designers hustled in and out of the front doors, they passed by Oliver, who was selling woodcut prints on the sidewalk.
Oliver and his woodcuts
Oliver just learned how to do woodcuts five months ago. For him, it seemed a practical and cheap medium where supplies such as wood are easy to find.
He said Austin has a surprising amount of woodcut artists in town. Yet he claimed there was no low-cost resource in Austin like Portland’s Independent Publishing Resource Center.
And that’s why he said he’d like to move there. Times have been tough, he says, “with all the rich Californians moving in and taking the high-paying jobs along with the Mexicans taking all of the low-wage jobs, leaves little left for the locals.” Continue reading
No, I wasn’t expecting much for the DIY crowd at SXSW. At a conference that charges hundreds of dollars to attend (even the low-end student rate is around $300) and refuses entry to anyone without a badge, there isn’t a lot for folks who prefer to do things their own way. So this blog will be providing an alternative view on the SXSW conference.
One of the immediate ironies I spotted on the list of panel discussions was one titled How Social Networks Are Killing the Revolution. It turns out the panelists had very different ideas of what the revolution meant, often referring to people as customers. They weren’t listed in the program by what movement they’re working on, but what company they work for, including a woman from the Detroit Red Wings! Maybe they’ve got a secret commie agenda?
Some of the audience members actually expected some meaningful conversation to come from this panel, voicing dismay that they would recommend social networks that engage in questionable practices such as invading user’s privacy. I could ask the same question to many self-identified activists who use MySpace and Facebook religiously. Most seem to accept that to get our revolutionary message out there, we have to sacrifice our morals to some degree. One of the panelists conceded: “We’re screwed.” Continue reading
On my recent electronic music show, Plugged In, I had the pleasure of having a friend guest DJ a set of old skool Electro. He ending up bringing an dazzling tool to do this. The open source hardware monome can mix and add effects. Its extremely minimalist interface gives you no visual indication of what the buttons do, they just flash in amazing patterns. Its beautiful to watch, especially when you turn the lights down.
The machine takes some musical know-how, but also a bit of DIY tinkering, as you buy the components and them assemble them yourself. And it is fully customizable to be connected to your computer and programmed as you like. As the website FAQ states, “by having separate light and button systems, the device can be reconfigured infinitely. new applications and uses are continually being invented.”
The other evening I was biking along Portland’s Waterfront Park and passed four people in red uniforms and matching berets. After a double take I turned my bike around and stopped to see if my suspicion was correct. Indeed, it was Portland’s Guardian Angels on patrol.
The last I heard of the volunteer community safety group was over a year ago when they were reported to be increasing their patrols of the MAX trains. They’re still here and in fact, they’ve been in Portland since 1983.
I first heard about the group while in New York City, where they were founded in 1979 to combat crime on the city’s subways. Guardian Angels began conducting their own patrols and making citizen arrests, often without the support of government officials. Like many, I had been intrigued by what seemed like vigilantes taking the law into their own hands.
While individual members probably have varying opinions on law enforcement, the Angels are nothing like the Black Panthers. They make sure to operate within the law while on patrol. Guardian Angels are trained for confrontations before hitting the street, but they usually will alert the police when encountering crime or suspicious activity. Does that make them snitches for the police? “We’d prefer to focus on prevention,” one of them replied to me.
These days they’ve also moved onto the web in their volunteerism with CyberAngels, an online form of patrolling that has included the monitoring of chat rooms for sexual predators.
Before continuing on they handed me one of their recruitment flyers. It contains a bullet-point list of reasons to join, including “self-defense” and in the corner: their logo with that creepy eye in the pyramid. What’s up with that? Bicyclists take note: they made sure to tell me as I was riding away that they’re looking to start bike patrols.