Category Archives: Autumn 2010 (10/1/2010)

Tuli Kupferberg – 1923-2010

Tuli Kupferberg died on July 12, 2010. Unlike many of our countercultural heroes, his death did not come at the hands of security forces, nor was it the result of a long history of substance abuse. Tuli lived to the ripe age of 86. His passing, while sad, was not unexpected.

Tuli had always been an elder in the scenes he was a part of. Ed Sanders was only 25 when he opened the Peace Eye bookstore in New York’s Lower East Side in 1964; Tuli, the bookstore’s weird upstairs neighbor, was 42. Together, Ed and Tuli formed the Fugs, one of the most outrageous and groundbreaking bands in history, whose music still has the power to shock and please after nearly half a century. They became lifelong collaborators and friends.

Tuli was legendary for his songs and poetry, but also for his irreverence. His disregard for sacred cows and social niceties landed him many admirers but also alienated many potential allies. “Goodbye to Tuli and the Fugs and all the boys in the front room,” wrote Robin Morgan in her breathtaking Feminist break-up note to the New Left, Goodbye to All That. To Morgan, Tuli was just another guy who hated the women he loved.

But what exactly had he done to piss her off? I rode down Robin’s street tonight to ask for details, but she was not out. Rent-stabilized apartments had kept her and Tuli a stone’s throw away from each other for forty long years after she’d trashed him in her essay. I wondered: was it awkward when they ran into each other at the laundromat or the Chinese restaurant — or did close proximity provide chances for reconciliation?

That and many other questions would now remain a mystery. Tuli’s meal of choice before facing a firing squad? His planned escape route in a disaster, or if implicated in a crime? Had anyone ever used him as a doppelganger — or as an alibi? I’d attempted to interview him several times, but always without success.

However, Tuli did come by my sidewalk book stall once, and stopped to chat. His long illness had already begun but not yet advanced. With his layers of dirty, multi-colored clothing hanging down in strips, he looked like a cross between a biblical prophet, a bag lady, and a clown. Imagine the town crier moonlighting as the village idiot. The wild gleam in his eyes burned like hot coals, though he was already well into his 80s. His playful, prankster nature was clearly in evidence, as well as his pride at being a lifelong rascal and full-on freak. When the M21 bus rolled up, he shuffled off to catch it with surprising speed.

Tuli will be missed. Now we the living must step up to fill his shoes, at least the parts that fit. His late start should be an inspiration for those still waiting to take a chance or to form a band.

community skillsharing breaks from the bubble – a look at free skool networking

Everyone’s knowledge is valuable. That is the main precept of skillshare-based education. I have been participating in Free Skools for a couple of years now starting with the Denver Free Skool, where I was worried whether I would be allowed to volunteer. Now I am involved with the East Bay Free Skool where I saw the project reborn with Enola D’s initiative. There are Free Skools that don’t even advertise–they exist by word of mouth. I like to call them Underground Free Skools (UFS), and they have been the most invigorating classes that I have ever attended. If you don’t think there is a Free Skool in your area there might be one operating underground wherever skills are shared with respect and without coercion. I think there is a very large movement of free education and it is the goal of Free Skool to remind everyone what is possible, and not to glorify in our own abilities or knowledge.

I have gathered together for you a small representation of this larger movement showing how they operate and giving you some insights from Free Skools in Baltimore MD, the East Bay CA, Santa Cruz CA, and St. Paul/Minneapolis MN.

East Bay, CA

The East Bay Free Skool (EBFS) exists to empower individuals to share their skills and knowledge by providing resources to teachers. This includes finding class sites, reimbursing copy fees, and publishing classes in a two month calendar of events.

The collective reviews all proposed classes. If the class occurs in the East Bay (from Richmond, CA to East Oakland, CA), is non-discriminatory in nature, attempts to create a safer space, and is free or donation based with no one turned away for lack of funds, the class is accepted to go onto our website and printed in a calendar of events.

The “non-discriminatory in nature” agreement in our class requirements has been a topic of much thought and discussion. It refers to the subject matter of the class. EBFS does not publish classes that teach discrimination.

Classes that have requirements of the students are allowed if it is necessary for the discussion to occur or creates a safer space. For instance, a class that is only for female-identified persons is not deemed discriminatory in nature if it is necessary to facilitate an open discussion. A class might require attendees to be over 18 in order to create a safer space. These guidelines have changed over the year and a half that the current East Bay Free Skool has been active. The Free Skool movement is autonomously organized and other Skools have different requirements.

In several ways EBFS interacts with the capitalist structure to be inclusive and to empower teachers. EBFS funds itself through benefit shows at local venues that include skill shares, music, and food. We ask for a donation at the door with no one turned away for lack of funds. EBFS is working to save money in order to reimburse teachers for their class materials. We choose to use commercial spaces as classrooms. In this way EBFS interacts with capitalistic ventures in a non-capitalistic fashion, attempting to inspire and empower others to live with less capitalism in their lives. Some of our classes ask for a donation from the students. We feel that this empowers the teachers, keeps things sustainable, and encourages more teachers to participate.

As an insert to the paper calendar, we print a teacher form. To propose a class, fill out a teacher form and drop it off at the Long Haul Info Shop located at 3124 Shattuck Ave in Berkeley, open 6-9pm Monday through Thursday and 3-9pm Saturday and Sunday or send an email with the class name, description, location, date, time and any contact info you want published to eastbayfs@gmail.com.

Usually the benefit shows occur every other month to coincide with the deadline to submit a teacher form for the next paper calendar. On Saturday, October 16th EBFS is hosting a show at the Actual Café (6334 San Pablo, Oakland) with Androgynous Elk, Annah Anti-Palindrome, Beltaine’s Fire, and the Detach Dolls. On Wednesday, December 15th East Bay Food Not Bombs, EBFS, and Ashkenaz Music and Dance Community (1317 San Pablo, Berkeley, CA) are working together to put on a dance party. Please contact EBFS if your band or venue would like to participate in the future.

Donations of art supplies and classroom materials for the East Bay Free Skool can be dropped off at the Long Haul Info Shop on Mondays during the weekly Free Skool meeting 7:30-8:30pm, which are always open to the public.

EBFS hosts a wikia web page (www.eastbayfreeskool.wikia.com). There has been considerable criticism of the appearance and accessibility of the website, all of which is valid, but there is currently no techy inter-web person volunteering for EBFS. The fact that the Free Skool is a personal investment of time, patience, and skills and is limited to the abilities of those involved is one of the most rewarding aspects of the project. We have learned how to use our energies in a way that continues the spirit and function of Free Skool without coercion. If there is no web master the web page will suffer, but we will not.

We sometimes take a month off to recuperate our energy. Last August we were planning to do just that when Autumn, a Free Skool organizer, announced she would be out of town during the crucial design, printing, and distribution time. Getting everything done without Autumn seemed like too much. So we announced a month hiatus. Then an intrepid traveler from Salt Lake City came to a meeting and said, “Why don’t we just make a calendar for August?” And so we did. It was printed on 81/2″x11″ paper instead of our customary 11″x17″ and was produced in the Slingshot office with cut and paste technology rather than the digital procedure we have been improving on. Thanks to a little input from an inspired volunteer we were able to publish and hold classes in August.

Other Free Skools operate in different fashions. There is another Free Skool in the Lake Merritt area of Oakland called the Ecovillage. They host mostly free or donation based events and have a website at www.ecovillage510.org. There are many ways to inspire free education and a Free Skool is not necessary to promote that function. We were discussing at one of our earlier meetings what we would do if there was another Free Skool in the East Bay. Would there be a split of energy? Would we be able to cooperate? So far we have found that doing nothing but encouraging each other works quite well.

Experimental College of the Twin Cities

In “Toward a University of the Common: The Experimental College of the Twin Cities” David Boehnke and Eli Meyerhoff describe the goals and vision of the Experimental College of the Twin Cities (EXCO).

“EXCO is a free school dedicated to transforming education on the principle that everyone can teach or take classes and all classes are free. Emerging from struggles within universities for equal access, workers’ rights, and democratic governance, EXCO creates an alternative institution, a microcosm of the university we desire, and that also serves as a means to transform current institutions. EXCO seeks to change the relations between life, work, and learning so that we can change the terrain of struggles altogether. In opposition to universities’ governance structures that discipline, neutralize, and frustrate collective learning, EXCO’s participants cooperatively run their own learning projects. As an institution that is owned through participation, it provides conditions for communities and movements to self-organize and co-create their educations.”

In St. Paul, Minnesota in the fall of 2006 students fought against classist admissions policies at Macalaster College. Macalaster announced in 2005 that it would change its admission policy from “need blind” to “need aware”. In researching ways to combat the administration, student activists looked towards the Experimental College model at Oberlin College in Ohio as an example of resistance and empowerment in a form that was desirable to create.

Around the same time at the University of Minnesota (U of M), graduate students were organizing a union drive. During the unionization attempt, a key slogan was “grad students are workers.” Redefining graduate students as workers clarifies the ways in which graduate education is a profit-making affair, shaped to cut labor and maximize profits from undergraduate tuition.

“In Fall 2007, the clerical, technical, and health care workers represented by the union of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) at the U of M went on strike when they saw the funds for their cost of living raises redirected toward the administration and faculty. During the actions in support of the AFSCME strike (students) helped organize a sit-in that shut down a Board of Regents meeting, a four-day hunger strike, holding classes off-campus, and solidarity pickets at campus loading docks. Questions were raised about what it would take to slow down production at the U of M, and to build workers’ power, to such extents that the Administration would be forced to yield to demands. The lack of a broader movement and the unwillingness of ostensibly supportive teachers and students to try more serious tactics, such as a general student strike or refusing to turn in grades or to stop holding classes, gave rise to questions about the obstacles to building cross-university coalitions and solidarity.” (Boehnke and Meyerehoff, 2010)

Members of these struggles started a chapter of EXCO at the U of M as a way to continue resistance and to create a microcosm of the kind of university they desire.

“How we view education is much in need of a shake up. While education in the U.S. is still spoken about as a path for everyone to better jobs and a better life, this is no longer true and was possibly never true for many segments of the population.” (Boehnke and Meyerehoff, 2010)

“What is needed is not a vision of education capable of saving the existing economy, but one capable of creating a different type of world altogether. Not a corporate university or even a public university, but a university of the common – a university that is constituted by the participation of the people and truly democratically governed, self-organized, and self-valorized to meet their desires for self-education, to build upon their communities’ and movements’ power and knowledge, and to destroy the relations of oppression between them. Articulating such a vision is imperative in our existing situation, because the status quo cannot be defended when the status quo is crisis, with impacts intensifying everyday. Motivated by our experiences and observations of increasingly precarious conditions, we see the double, global crisis of the capitalist economy and the University as an opportunity for redefining the relations between learning, work, and life.” (Boehnke and Meyerehoff, 2010)

“The ongoing challenge for EXCO’s organizers has been to transform EXCO into a community-led form. EXCO’s organizers see diversifying EXCO’s demographics as part of their larger project of overcoming educational segregations and inequalities. Their main strategy toward this goal has been the development of community-led chapters, beginning with the Academia Communitaria, an EXCO chapter of primarily Latin@ people who organize classes in Spanish. Rather than maintaining a hierarchical division between university-based and community-based chapters, we suggest reframing all of EXCO’s chapters as “community-led,” seeing universities simply as parts of the wider metropolitan terrain, composed of overlapping communities and having no special claims to expertise.” (Boehnke and Meyerehoff, 2010)

EXCO does fundraising through grants, donations, and events. They pay for some class supplies and honorariums to facilitators who couldn’t teach otherwise. To find out more visit www.excotc.org

A conversation between Slingshot, Baltimore Free School (BFS), Free Skool Santa Cruz (FSSC) and Seattle Free School (SFS)

Slingshot: Do you have a mission statement and if so what is it and does it change with time?

BFS: The Baltimore Free School is a grassroots, volunteer-run and community-funded project. Building upon a long tradition of horizontal organizing, collaborative learning and participatory education, we believe that the empowerment of people of all ages and backgrounds to share and learn is vital to the health of any community. To that end, we work toward creating a space where the exchange of ideas can occur without the exchange of money; a space where we can learn to relate to each other in new and meaningful ways. By building this infrastructure, we hope to form a microcosm of the world in which we want to live.

FSSC: Free Skool Santa Cruz does have a mission statement: we call it page two of the calendar:

“A radically different approach to living and learning, Free Skool is a grassroots educational project beyond institutional control. It is an opportunity to learn from each other and share what we know, to foster networks through autonomy and mutual support. We see Free Skool as a direct challenge to dominant institutions and hierarchical relationships. The project strives to blur the lines between teacher, learner, and organizer. Free Skool is decentralized, with classes held in homes, social spaces and parks. Part of creating a new world is resistance to the old one. Through this project we want to change the ways we learn and the ways we relate to each other.”

Yes, our mission statement changes over time. We try to re read and revise it each term, as a way to reassess our own visions and goals for the project.

SFS: The Seattle Free School is for the community by the community. All are welcome. No money ever exchanges hands. All we exchange are skills, knowledge and experiences.

Slingshot: How do you advertise for your classes and events?

BFS: We list them on our online calendar/website (freeschool.redemmas.org), we promote with a published, paper, monthly calendar with short course descriptions, and we tell instructors to promote the heck out of their own courses with fliers, online listings, emails, facebook pages, anything and everything.

FSSC: Free Skool Santa Cruz distributes calendars around town throughout our three-month quarters. We put them at cafes, natural food stores, community centers, laundromats, libraries and bulletin boards. We also do distro days at the downtown farmer’s market near the start of each quarter. We have an email list for teachers and students where folks can make class announcements that reach a large number of people, and we encourage teachers to get the word out about their classes. They distribute calendars on their own, and create fliers for their classes to post around town, which we will also help distribute. We talk to each other, and check in with teachers in person as well.

SFS: We have a website (www.seattlefreeschool.org) where we list all of our upcoming classes. We also occasionally post things on teachstreet.com.

Slingshot: How do you deal with money or not deal with money?

BFS: We have kept afloat for just over a year, but are always precariously perched on the brink of being absolutely broke. We solicit donations to keep our space open and the lights on. We host a monthly trivia night pub quiz. Our second Free School Dance benefit is on Saturday, November 20th featuring The Bellevederes and DJ Jason Willett at the Whole Gallery in the H&H building, 405 W. Franklin St. Baltimore, MD.

We’re happy to get money from grant making institutions that are aligned with our overall mission of community building. We have received a small grant from a local organization and are pursuing others as we come across them. We think it is necessary to have a stable and centralized physical location for the BFS. Therefore we hustle as much as we need to in order to keep the doors open.

FSSC: All classes that are listed on the Free Skool calendar are free. Teachers can ask for small donations that cover materials or space rentals, but no one is turned away for lack of funds. We are explicitly anti-capitalist and as such don’t list classes that are connected to commercial businesses or public or state institutions. No one who participates in the project, as teacher, organizer or student, makes any money at it. We do occasionally raise funds for printing costs, which are low because we print through a local anarchist print shop, We accept donations online and in person.

SFS: We don’t deal with money…at all. We decided from the beginning that we weren’t interested in getting all tied up in the non-profit industrial complex. Our website is hosted through a supporter of the Free School for free, and the website itself was designed by students in a computer class at a local community college. We host all of our classes at free, open-to-the-public locations like libraries, community centers, and certain restaurants, bookshops, and coffee shops that graciously host us. All facilitators volunteer their time and if supplies are needed, we find a way to get them donated. We’ve never needed money to operate, and we simply refuse donations.

Slingshot: How do you connect with teachers?

BFS: We get all course proposals through our online form on our website. We then follow up through email, phone calls, and in-person meetings if needed. We talk about the project to anyone we come across. Sometimes we bully, er, persuade, our friends who are really knowledgeable and excited about certain topics/skills to offer a course. We need to have some sort of fun gathering to get all the instructors together, a potluck for example.

FSSC: We do outreach to find teachers by distributing calendars and fliers, but in large part students become inspired to be teachers by attending classes. That is part of the beauty of Free Skool! We maintain a teacher email list for announcements, reminders, deadlines and general communication. We have a quarterly Free Skool picnic at the end of each quarter, and a How To Run a Free Skool workshop as well. We maintain a website, do distro days at the Farmer’s Market, and rely on word of mouth. Class submissions can be done electronically through our website or by paper.

SFS: Word of mouth, teachers are often former students. Sometimes we contact people directly if we are looking for a facilitator for a very specific class that people have requested we organize.

Slingshot: Where are classes held?

BFS: In our “campus,” which consists of 2 classrooms in a rented former retail space and has a capacity of maybe 60-75 people total. It’s at a nice little intersection in a pretty accessible mid-town neighborhood, located at 1323 N. Calvert St. Baltimore, MD 21202. We’ve partnered with the collectively-owned Baltimore Bicycle Works shop for bike maintenance classes, the Baltimore Development Cooperative for gardening workshops at their Participation Park, and the Maryland Institute College of Art for electronic music composition classes.

FSSC: Classes are held in social spaces, homes, parks, community centers and cafes. Anywhere a teacher can coordinate. More and more are happening at SubRosa Infoshop nowadays. It’s important to us that Free Skool is decentralized, and that it happens in different environments.

If you are in search of more information, you can check out our website, which is full of fliers, archived calendars, and other information: http://santacruz.Free Skool.org

SFS: Free places! Such as libraries, public beaches, coffee shops, bookstores and community centers. Our automobile maintenance classes are held in parking lots. Seriously!

If you would like your Free Skool listed in the Slingshot, please submit your information to slingshot@tao.ca

Abortion: a personal story

The following article is a personal account of pregnancy and abortion. Though the contents herein may lean toward particular experiences and opinions, I would like to acknowledge that everyone’s experience of pregnancy and abortion is unique in its own right. Furthermore I would like to add that I am an advocate of choice and freedom, and thus this article should not serve as a means to dissuade women from getting an abortion. Rather, my intentions are to educate women and men about the potential physical and emotional side-affects of pregnancy and the abortion procedure, so as to encourage people to take safe sex into their own hands.

Unless you have known a woman who has had an abortion, or have undergone one yourself, the chances are you know very little about it. This is an alarming fact considering that by the age of 41, forty percent of woman will have gotten an abortion. Through becoming pregnant and getting an abortion, I have undergone a complete metamorphoses in my knowledge and perspective on abortion. Had I been educated about the vast physical, emotional and psychological intricacies, I would have taken practicing safe sex more seriously. Thankfully, I am now able to share something that I feel is crucial for both women and men to be aware of.

My attitude toward protected sex had always been firstly motivated by a fear of STDs, and secondarily, by pregnancy. Having received insufficient Sexual Education in high school, and not having been raised under any religious paradigm, the concept of abortion was always one which held little significance to me. It was a simple procedure which, if per chance I were to get pregnant, could be easily performed. For a few years my fear of STDs kept me sufficiently protected, though mainly because my love life consisted of one-night encounters and temporal dating endeavors.

Eventually love found its way into my life, completely catalyzing my views on sex. Once a simple game of enjoyment, sex became a sacred dance of art, connection, receptivity and love. It took on the form of meditation, a flight of transcendence and release. It became a means of engaging in raw, instinctual, communication. An intertwining of two forms of life, physically and emotionally.

The undeniable connection my partner and I felt sexually and emotionally made it increasingly unbearable to wear condoms. How could we fully connect, breaking all barriers, if guarded by a synthetic layer of latex? The thought grew increasingly undesirable, and I ached to experience my partner through our rawest means. The closer we got and the more intimately we began to know one another, the less careful we became, until finally we could no longer use a condom. Because I am against taking birth control pills, they were not an option.

One summer month, when desire and love got the best of us, my partner and I began having sex more frequently, particularly around the estimated time of my ovulation. I distinctly remember receiving intuitive messages of fear for pregnancy, for the first time in my life. Not too much to worry about though, worst comes to worst, I could always get an abortion. When the dates of my expected menstruation crept up and quickly passed by, even forgoing the eve of the full moon, I knew it was time to take a pregnancy test. Two tests later and the verdict was in; at 20 years young I was officially pregnant.

My surprise multiplied when I told my partner the news and received his reaction. Much to my surprise, he was ecstatic, professing that it would be a gift to raise a child with me. I was dumbfounded, everything suddenly becoming more complicated. Hadn’t he and I formerly established that we were anti-breeding in this day and age? The world was over-populated, we had agreed, and there were other ways to foster life than giving birth to a child of our own. Yet suddenly I was flirting with the idea of raising a child. My partner and I were deeply in love, and together we had created a form of magic between us; an unborn creature that could potentially go on to become a beautiful, beneficial person to this world.

Though everyone around me was surprisingly supportive of whatever decision I decided to make– save my catholic boss, who attempted to persuade me otherwise–, rationality eventually took its reigns on me and I decided not to go through with the pregnancy. I was too young, still unsure of my own place in this world. I knew it wouldn’t be my truth to give birth to a new life before I could birth my own.

When the romanticism of it slowly wore off, one nightmare after another approached. First, to my extreme surprise, I discovered that abortion procedures cost approximately $750, whether performed in a hospital or via a pill. Because I wasn’t yet a state resident, and never had health insurance, it made getting any type of reduced costs that much less feasible. Moreover, the more I read, the more I realized that neither pregnancy nor abortion procedures are quick, painless or easy. In fact they can be extremely complex and taxing, physically, emotionally and mentally.

When my hormones kicked in, all hell broke loose. Usually when a woman experiences PMS for the first two weeks prior to her period, she may experience a variety of symptoms such as abdominal cramping, water-retention, bloating, swelling and sensitivity of the breasts, food cravings, irritability, anger, depression, difficulty concentrating, decreased energy, headaches; the list goes on. At least, PMS only lasts for two weeks, and all malaise that has accumulated within the body for two weeks, is gloriously released once the menses blood flow begins. Like PMS, pregnancy produces the same symptoms, save for the fact that they can be tenfold in their effect, and don’t cease, until the baby is either born, miscarried or aborted.

Suddenly I found myself blanketed by an unquenchable sleepiness, my brain felt covered by a fog of confusion, my moods were unpredictable and predominantly leaning toward the unpleasant. Bloated, I felt the sensation of being pregnant long before the fetus developed. A simple walk or bike ride, my favorite means of transportation, became arduous tasks that catapulted me into day-time naps. Though always an insomniac, sleeping became an easy undertaking, and I experienced deep sleep for the first time in as long as I could remember.

A male housemate of mine made an ignorant comment at the time stating that he wished he were pregnant, so as to prove to women that it’s not a big deal. I felt alone in my struggles, a woman in a man’s world, where no amount of verbal explanation could illustrate the burdens and responsibilities a woman inherently has to deal with throughout her life. Having to explain to my boss that I needed to take off of work to attend my ultrasound or abortion counseling appointments, and thereafter take work off for a few days for the abortion and recovery, became simple acts that would prove difficult to make a reality.

I began to feel that the only people I could talk to became women who had undergone the experience of pregnancy and/or abortion. Women who could relate, assuring me that the symptoms I was feeling weren’t fabricated out of my imagination. Slowly but surely, women around me began to open up about their own experiences with abortion. Although each story was unique in its own right, the common thread was one of pain and sorrow. Surprisingly the women I spoke to were excited to recount their stories, mainly because they had felt too ashamed or timid to open up in the past.

A woman’s hormones are dominated by estrogen and progesterone, with testosterone playing a smaller role. Throughout every month, estrogen and progesterone flow through several peaks and dips. Though men experience hormonal cycles, they are not as complex, and do not rise and fall as drastically or frequently as the female’s. The physical, mental and emotional states of a woman are intrinsically dependent upon the cycles of her hormones, though this is not to imply that hormones are the be all end all. This is a very real, science and evidence based female process that should not be denied or overlooked. Denying this only makes male/female relationships all that more difficult and distancing.

Eventually I received my first ultrasound, only to find out that I was too early. At four weeks pregnant I had developed the ‘sack’ for the fetus, but the fetus itself was too microscopic to enact a proper abortion procedure. After spending countless hours in the hospital and little at work, the day finally came when I was able to get an abortion. At six weeks and six days– exactly a month before my birthday– I saw our baby on the ultrasound, a little white strip cocooned in a protective sac; mine and my partner’s little seed of love and magic, soon to be suctioned out and terminated.

The days before the procedure I researched abortion procedures and recovery, read countless accounts written by anonymous women, and was left feeling horrified. Not only did I read a deluge of personal accounts illustrating excruciating pain, but I read many horror stories in which procedures went terribly awry. Women spoke of lying in bed for weeks in sheer agony, bleeding heavily, acquiring infections, experiencing intense abdominal swelling to the point where eating was not possible. Abortion information pages advised not to have sex or exercise for 2-4 weeks. Common side effects included cramping for a few days, soreness and swelling, depression, and mild bleeding for a couple of weeks. The more movement you do after the procedure, the more you will cramp and bleed.

There are different methods for aborting a baby. Some are operation based, while others can be done at home. The two most popular at-home abortion methods are performed via pill– which are typically prescribed by Planned Parenthood or a hospital–, and herbal abortives. Although these methods are referred to as more safe, they are generally more painful, with crippling cramping lasting up to a couple of weeks. One should also note that any form of pill strong enough to kill something undesirable (such as an abortive pill, the morning after pill or antibiotics) is also strong enough to purge your body of beneficial bacteria, and lower your immunity. The method I chose to use is called Vacuum or Suction Aspiration, primarily because the procedure itself only lasts a maximum of 15 minutes.

The day of the procedure I woke up at 5 am and dutifully took two sedating pills that had been prescribed to me the day before. At 7 am my appointment began. I was taken into an operation room, hooked up to an IV, and rubbed down with disinfectant. Preparation took about 30 minutes, after which anesthesia was pumped through the IV, and local anesthesia was applied to numb my cervix. A sterile cannula was then inserted into my uterus and attached via tubing to a pump, which suctioned out the contents of my uterus. The doctor scraped my uterus, inserted a non-hormonal copper IUD (formally known as Intrauterine Device, a form of birth control) and checked the contents that had been suctioned out. It should be noted that IUD insertion is not a standard part of the abortion procedure, but is offered as a means for future protection. It is ideal to insert the IUD during the operation, as your uterus is already open and relaxed.

After the procedure I was given antibiotics, so as to prevent infection. Because I had an IUD inserted into my uterus, I was at a higher risk for infection within the first month post-operation, but I was unable to accept the antibiotic because they prescribed me a variety that I had had a near-death allergic reaction to in the past.

Because the anesthesia had catapulted me into a hallucinatory trip wherein my nurse’s eyes started to decay and the floor turned to melting lava, I was too distracted to take notice of the procedure. In fact, I barely felt a thing, and left the hospital feeling relieved and elated after having anticipated the worst.

When I arrived home I immediately fell asleep, only waking for a few hours in the eve before falling back asleep again for the night. It wasn’t until the day after when the aftermath of the procedure hit me. I had thought that once the abortion was performed, the hormone related symptoms of pregnancy would ease up, and life would return back to normal. In reality, your hormones do not instantaneously balance themselves out, taking up to a month to return to their normal cycle. I found myself mysteriously bursting into tears the day after the abortion, unable to decipher why, save for the fact that I felt hypersensitive to everything; lights, people, sound, scents, my experience.

But the harsher realities I had to face were the physical side effects. To help illustrate, I will preface by saying that I have a very high pain tolerance, have gladly endured much tattooing without wincing, and believe that a little pain keeps one mentally healthy. I was not prepared for my stomach to swell up like a balloon, to the point where any substance I consumed created the uncomfortable sensation that my stomach would explode. Moreover, for the next week, I experienced shooting pains in my cervix, and excruciatingly painful cramps in my abdomen that were so extreme I could do nothing but lie in bed and focus on the pain. For the sake of clarity, I should add that a common side effect of the copper IUD insertion is intense cramping. When I called the hospital and inquired as to whether my pains were due to the abortion or the IUD insertion, the doctor responded that the symptoms I was experiencing were typical after affects of both procedures, and that she was unsure which was the main contributor.

It has now been exactly a week since the abortion. My breasts and abdomen are still swollen, I am still bleeding mildly, and experiencing pain at night, though symptoms seem to be subsiding. It seems my moods have evened out and the severe feelings of depression I felt throughout my pregnancy are easing. I look forward to being able to work, bike, dance, have sex, experience my period, mental clarity and energy again; all the simple things we take for granted. My follow-up appointment is a week from now, and I hope to hear that I do not have an infection, that all is okay and life will return to normal. Moreover I eagerly anticipate the arrival of my state ID, so that I may get admitted for Medicare, covering my operation costs.

As unpleasant as the past two months of my life have been, I cannot say that I regret this experience, or apologize for connecting with my partner without a condom. Everything is a learning curve, and I now know to treat birth control with more respect, and to be more aware of my monthly ovulation cycle. Though I felt disempowered throughout my experience, I am thankful to be able to share what I experienced, so as to empower men and woman to approach pregnancy and abortion with caution and respect. I feel proud to be a woman, intimately aware of all the internal battles we must face, the weight we must carry for the world. We are not living in a woman’s world, where men feel incentive to take birth control into their own hands, or where we can explain to our male bosses how cramps can be one of the most crippling pains to endure. Thus many women are forced to be silent, quietly enduring inevitable pain and tribulations. Although pregnancy and abortion will be experienced by most women sometime in their life, most feel too ashamed to talk about it. I hope to abolish these fears and break through the contrived societal walls we have built. But most importantly, I hope to encourage you to practice safe sex.

Policing Festivals – outside “Outside Lands”

At checkpoint one, an orange shirted collection of volunteers and semi-professional security contractors organize bag searches and document inspection. This is the only civilian entrance through the perimeter fence that rings all the way around the interior. Uniformed police on motorcycles and dirt bikes or mounted on horses make paces up and down the fence, scattering away anyone who gathers for too long to peek inside. In some places, a layer of horse shit has been applied to the base of the fence, as if to say, “You want to sneak in? Fine, but you’re going to crawl through shit first.” But this is no militarized zone. This gulag isn’t motivated by a national border dispute or a political cold war. This is the atmosphere of a summer day in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, on the outskirts of the Outside Lands music festival.

The festival sits down on top of the park with all the subtlety of a baby on fire, sprawling across acres of normally free land. On the initial approach, you can’t help but assume that there has to be some way in. Given this much land, this many people over three nights and all these dozens of bands and vendors and flat beds and sound checks, there must be some weak point. Someplace where you can walk in easily and pass undetected among everyone who paid 125 dollars to be here over the weekend (or 75, just for the day).

A lot of people must have assumed this, because they’ve all camped out together beyond the fences. They sit in trees and dance with hula hoops on a hill that overlooks the thousands of people on the inside. Policemen sit on horses between us and the fences. Underneath the trees, groups of street kids lay sprawled on mats of pine needles and old blankets, advertising illegal drugs on hastily scrawled cardboard signs. Improvisational hippie folk bands spring daisy like out of the mulch. It’s the nightmare of every visiting church group embodied in a thinly packed strip of bare mid riffs and contact juggling.

On the other side of the park, a hill overlooks the main stage. The bass is loud and the lyrics indistinct, and through a long grove of trees the crowd is a kind of hive beneath the far off mega monitors. And here people have laid out blankets and tied their dogs and their bikes around trees. There is a resigned contentment, watching from beyond the gates, catching the echoes of performances miles in the distance. Somewhere, Al Green is singing. The beer must taste just as good here, the grass just as green.

But this is only half of the community. The rest prowl the outskirts, memorizing the locations of loose fencing, where it can most easily be pulled up and slid underneath. A man in his middle forties spends hours attempting to organize a critical mass of bodies with which to ram fences. He has already been escorted out by security twice, with no consequence more than a firm warning not to do it again. He compares the whole business to a video game. Twice I join him in a hesitant mob, marching along the fence, trying to gain momentum, only to lose it as people trail off, flake away. He keeps openly wondering where the solidarity is? Wasn’t it just last year that some mythical group of people broke the fence down? So why, he wonders, is it so hard to form a group, at least one group big enough for a cut and run strategy? Just get enough people on the other side of that fence and haul ass in enough directions, and there will be no way the security can catch everyone.

But even on this, little is certain. There are those who insist that the solution isn’t to go with the group, but wait them out. They’re sure that once the security catches the first group and escorts them towards the exit, a hole will be left open with which a few select folks can slip in quietly and stroll their way inside.

The first problem is the wilderness beyond the fence. Out here with everyone on the outside, the security is nice enough to give you vague advice on where the best place to sneak in could be. Out here, a little bit of flirting or kind words can earn you valuable infiltration information or, at the very least, the acknowledgement of shared humanity. But on the inside, they break out the ATVs.

Sit on the hill long enough and the far off rock concert quickly becomes less entertaining than the spectator sport of watching people booking it across the wilderness between the fence and the stages. Groups of half a dozen sneak looks up and down the length of the perimeter, then duck down to raise the fence like the hem of a couch about to have dust swept beneath it. Then underneath this slides a friend who, once on the other side, raises the fence for their companion to follow. And then they bolt across the woods. Boyfriends ditch their girlfriends. Groups of friends try to stick together, only to lose their composure and split up.

In pursuit come the four wheelers, appearing from stands of trees, the Blue shirts in tow. These aren’t the helpful but firm Orange shirted lifeguards of the perimeter. This far in all you get are anxious bull dogs, with linebacker shoulders and bald heads supported by folds of neck fat. They appear from behind bushes, from the crooks in trees, emerging with all the magic of pernicious leprechauns out to defend their gold.

And then beyond what you can see from the hill, everything turns into rumor. Someone mentions horses in the forest. There is a colorful but unlikely story about bee hives situated in the path of potential runners. The unsuccessful mob organizer in the camouflage provides a single stark warning: “If they tell you to stop, keep running. If they say they’re going to get the dogs, stop.” Even if you can get past all of that, the cops, the Orange shirts, the first fence, the quarter mile sprint and the Blue shirts in their land rovers, you still have a second fence to jump, and a second mad dash into the anonymity of the ticket holders.

Even this far in there’s no guarantee. There are rumors of random spot checks and paper searches. A man with a leashed dog and a vaguely western European accent tells of his son’s failure. Not at the hands of the security, he got through them. No, the man says, his son was turned in by one of the spectators, who caught him and pointed him out to security. “Fucker,” the man says. “He had rock and roll in his head, and Hitler shit in his heart.”

A bearded boy with a mandolin in his backpack tells of being roughed up and threatened by the Blue shirts on the inside, and the experience has drained him. Now he sits with the old men and the dog owners, content on the hill. He says that yesterday he spotted Alex Ebert, of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, making his way past the fence. He yelled his name, and the man sat beside him and they shared break-in strategy together. With this he has found his experience. With that mandolin in his backpack, he never would have been let in anyway. Here at the Outside Lands Music Festival, as detailed in the “What not to bring” section of their web site, musical instruments are strictly prohibited.

My own attempt failed along with most of the others. I joined up with a pair of girls from out of town, who stuck with me past the first fence and all the way to the back end of a police station. And while the police escorted us out, the security guards laughed the whole way out. The girls vanished as they joined up with another group, headed down the fence, looking for that magic spot.

The show soon takes on a sense of self-parody, a border town masquerading as a rock concert. All day people compare the breaking in to video games or heist movies or a complicated form of tag. You can’t help but compare the whole thing to its “real life” counterparts. We would likely seem even more silly, in our world without consequences, to anyone who has ever had to sleep out for a night in a rat infested drain pipe or trust their fortune to nameless men in clapboard border towns. This fence may be high, but we still have a guarantee that eludes millions of people eyeing life across artificial boundary lines. Because tomorrow, our fence will come down, while theirs remains. And here we are, playing the Immigration Simulator, the Disney version of the Arizona profiling law.

As the day ends, I walk back to my bike along the outside of the fence, finally done with this whole business of being in the right place at the right time. Everywhere you look there are people pulling up the fences, darting across that old familiar no man’s land. People creep through the woods not ten yards from the fence, headed towards what any experienced jumper would know is just another waiting security guard. Do they know about the second fence? Do they know about the second security force hiding in the bushes? Everyone is so conspicuous it becomes impossible to believe that the security is doing anything but laughing at us.

So would it have been easier to sit and enjoy the show from outside, then? I did spend a good ten minutes in a tree, watching Edward Sharpe from above the heads of horses and the spikes of fences, before security kicked me out. Isn’t there something to dancing with the mid riffed girls and sharing warm beer with new friends. Doesn’t the beer taste the same, regardless of what side of the fence you’re on? I can’t help but feel a sense of frustration at the sight of all those thousands of honest ticket payers, tucked away safely on the inside. Why do they outnumber the infiltrators? But then again, this is the way of things, isn’t it? Everyone being polite while a few people sit on a hill and gleefully misbehave.

And yet if I’d stayed in that crowd, maybe I would have been there for what happened during Chromeo’s set; for that moment when a group of kids rose up out of nowhere and rushed the fence. And, to cheers from the crowd within, they knocked the whole thing right over and rushed inside and blended in, disappearing into the crowd. I was just in the right place at the wrong time. I must have missed it by that much. If only that bunch of kids had dodged instead of weaved, if only they’d hopped instead of dug, they’d be on the inside right now. And with that kind of thought in the back of your head, how can you possibly just sit in your tree?

But then I try to remember why I came here in the first place. It wasn’t for some spectacular musical line up. It wasn’t for any kind of atmosphere. The fences, the guards, they’re a challenge. An opportunity to say that no matter what is built, myself or someone else will find a way to smash it down. Though we may not have as much at stake as a people faced with true and permanent borders, this is more than some dumb game. It’s one hand fighting the other hand, human ingenuity and creativity up against walkie talkies, metal detectors, horse shit, night sticks, dogs, bees and machismo. With the whole masses of private security organized against you, how can you not be tempted to give the whole operation the finger, shouting “I’m smarter than your machines, I’m faster than your dogs, I break down fences and damn, I look sexy doing it.”

Crappers not consumerism!

Okay, it’s a minor problem, but someone has to tackle it. You’re walking in a major urban area and you’re looking for a bathroom, but you can’t find one. Every business has a sign in the window saying something like “restroom is for customers only.” Never mind the complete lack of legal late-night deposit possibilities.

Berkeley’s brand new Liberate the Lavatory collective (LLC) was organized to confront this problem with direct action. They have designed and are constructing a bike-based mobile composting outhouse (“Out-and-About House” for short, see figure 1) which they propose to use in a campaign to get Berkeley’s merchants to liberate their lavatories. Once the Out-and-About House is finished, LLC will go door-to-door to businesses with customer-only bathrooms and ask them to open it up. LLC will park in front of businesses that refuse until they relent, providing a free and fragrant alternative.

This could be the next Food Not Bombs — every town with its own bike powered potty collective — and in fact, if you already have a FNB, what are you doing to take care of the, er, by-products of your meals?

Facing Governemnt Repression with Dignity

Ending his struggle against a police witch-hunt under the notorious Animal Enterprise Protection Act (AEPA), activist Scott DeMuth took a plea bargain deal September 13. The plea avoided a trial for which he could have faced three years in prison. Scott pled guilty to one misdemeanor conspiracy to commit animal enterprise terrorism for his role in the April 29, 2006 Animal Liberation Front (ALF) raid on Lakeside Ferrets, Inc., in Howard Lake, Minnesota. The plea was to a lesser-included charge of his felony indictment and carries a maximum of six months in prison and a period of supervised release. The government has agreed to ask for a sentence of the full six months in prison, but not to ask for the imposition of any fine. However, this is NOT a cooperating plea agreement; Scott has not been asked to testify against anyone else, nor would he do so. Scott’s sentencing has been scheduled for December 15, 2010, with a surrender date likely to be set for early 2011. In the meantime, the government raised no objection to his continued release and agreed to the removal of his electronic monitoring.

Though Scott has accepted responsibility for the Lakeside Ferrets raid, we fundamentally disagree with the government’s position that such acts of liberation warrant punishment, and we do not believe that the resolution of this case is a simple matter of guilt versus innocence. As happened with Scott, people are routinely threatened with overblown charges, disproportionate sentencing, and threats to their friends should they exercise their right to a trial, in order to coerce guilty pleas. In this case, Assistant US Attorney Cliff Cronk subpoenaed Carrie Feldman and Sonja Silvernail to testify at Scott’s trial. Both Carrie and Sonja decided that they would refuse to testify, meaning that they would almost certainly have been held in contempt of court and could have been incarcerated for months or even years (there is no maximum sentence for criminal contempt). Thus, the risks associated with Scott going to trial included not only his own possible conviction and imprisonment, but also that of two friends and comrades.

We also think it is important to remind everyone of the way this case began, as it reveals much more about the system than does the resolution. In August of 2008, a multi-agency investigation into anti-RNC protest activity in the Twin Cities culminated in raids, arrests and conspiracy charges against eight anarchist organizers. As Special Agent Maureen Mazzola testified to on the stand in Scott’s pre-trial hearing, the FBI used the pretext of this raid as a fishing expedition, searching Scott’s room for anything linking him to “criminal activities” that fell well outside of the scope of the search warrant being executed. In this process, Mazzola came across a journal that she mistakenly believed linked him to the 2004 ALF raid at the University of Iowa (UI). FBI agents later reviewed this and other seized materials, including his computer, and we believe that at some point in the year after the RNC, they began communicating with US Attorneys’ offices throughout the Midwest in hopes that the items taken would lead to some sort of prosecution.

Apparently, the only office that bit was Cronk’s, and he began a zealous effort to inject new life into the case around the 2004 UI raid. In the fall of 2009, he subpoenaed Carrie and Scott to a federal grand jury, offering them immunity in exchange for their testimony. They refused to cooperate and were jailed in Iowa on civil contempt, where Carrie stayed for four months before being released with no real explanation. After only a few days in jail, Scott was indicted for conspiracy to commit “animal enterprise terrorism” and accused of having some involvement in the 2004 UI raid. Likely due to the fact that Scott was not guilty of this, the original indictment (and, later, the first superseding indictment) failed to establish what Scott was actually alleged to have done to conspire. Cronk deftly avoided dealing with the problem by issuing superseding indictments each time Scott’s attorneys filed motions to dismiss, rendering the arguments moot. But at some point in all of this, Cronk became aware of evidence linking Scott to the 2006 Lakeside Ferrets raid, and in the second superseding indictment, he tacked this action on to the alleged conspiracy, hoping that Scott’s involvement in it could be used to finally convict someone for the UI raid. In the end, Cronk has had to settle for a guilty plea to a lesser offense, one that occurred outside of his district and which had no connection to the case he wanted to build. The raid on the University of Iowa remains unsolved, and it is clearer than ever that the case Cronk originally brought against Scott was abusive, vindictive and lacking in any factual basis.

In an era where “fighting terrorism” is the justification of choice for all manner of racist, xenophobic and COINTELPRO-type assaults on marginalized communities, the reality we face as radicals is that we are all terrorists in the eyes of the state. Evidence linking Scott to the Lakeside Ferrets raid had apparently existed for several years, but the fact that this wasn’t important enough for the government to pursue until four years later demonstrates how little his misdemeanor activity in and of itself really mattered at all. The more significant truth in this case is that the state criminalizes political dissent and targets individuals and communities because of their political beliefs and associations, with a single-minded dedication to locking people up and little concern for the truth. And in their dedication to destroying any movement that threatens their hegemony, law enforcement and prosecutors collaborate in throwing mountains of shit at the wall just to see what sticks. The mere fact of Scott’s vocal support for radical actions and ideas made him a target of the FBI several years ago, and he was swept up in a case that he had nothing to do with simply because he lived in a house with other anarchists, who themselves have been singled out by the state for their politics.

While we’re of course glad that Scott is no longer facing the possibility of three years in prison, those of us who have supported him throughout this process find little cause for celebration at this moment. Nonetheless, we support Scott in his decision, we urge others to do the same, and we are proud to stand in solidarity with him and all those who take radical action in defense of animals and against systems of exploitation.

However, Scott still faces large legal expenses. We ask all (who are able) to help us meet this need. Donations can be made through our support website or checks or money orders can be made out to Coldsnap Legal Collective with “EWOK!” in the memo line and sent to EWOK! c/o Coldsnap, P.O. Box 50514, Minneapolis, MN 55405. Lastly, we would like to say thank you to everyone who has shown support for Scott, Carrie, and Sonja over the months since the initial subpoenas.

For more info on Scott’s and Carrie’s situations, including court docs such as Scott’s plea, and to donate to Scott’s legal defense fund, visit davenportgrandjury.wordpress.com.

The Fug’n Calendar

October

October 23 • noon

Justice for Oscar Grant rally – 14th & Broadway, Oakland

October 23

Anarchist Bookfair London, Ontario londonanarchist@gmail.com

October 29 • 6 pm

San Francisco Critical Mass Halloween bike ride – dress up / gather at Justin Herman Plaza

October 30 • 4:20 pm

Oakland Smoke-out – 14th & Broadway

November

November 1-3

Global Domestic Violence Conference Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia http://domesticviolenceconference.net

November 5

Mass Action on sentencing date of cop who killed Oscar Grant — no justice, no work, no peace

November 7 • 12-4

East Bay Hella Free Day: 1st Sunday of every month. Lake Merritt Amphitheater, Oakland

November 11-12

Protest the G20 Summit, Seoul, South Korea

November 13 • 1-7 pm

Carrboro Anarchist Bookfair – Chapel

Hill/Carrboro at 405 1/2 W. Rosemary

St. carrboroanarchistbookfair.wordpress.com

November 13 • Noon

10 years of Indybay – Conference / party – 1658 12th Street, Oakland, CA

November 19-21

Mass action to shut down the School of the Americas, Ft. Benning, GA soaw.org

November 20

Baltimore Free School’s second annual Free School Dance benefit 1323 N. Calvert St Baltimore, MD http://freeschool.redemmas.org/

freeschool@redemmas.org

November 20 – 27

Caravan to support indigenous communities resisting coal mining at Black Mesa, AZ. www.blackmesais.org

November 26

Buy Nothing Day – ignore consumerism

November 28 • 4 pm

Slingshot new volunteer meeting location TBD

December

December 11 • 10-7 pm

Humboldt Anarchist Bookfair Manila Community Center 1611 Penisula Dr– Arcata, CA

December 15

Skillshare & Dance party for East Bay Free Skool and Food Not @ Ashkenaz, 1317 San Pablo Ave. Berkeley

January

January 15 • 4 pm

Slingshot article deadline for issue #105