Paxus's blog

Today’s flavor of doublethink

Part of Orwell’s genius was identifying especially scary ideas which oppressive states could use to control their populations.  The notion of DoubleThink is perhaps the most compelling and problematic of the notions he identified in his book 1984.  In Erich From’s brilliant afterword for this book we see this disturbing thinking:

Our own society is disturbingly similar to the totalitarian state of Big Brother. Doublethink exists today. It is the power to hold two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously and accept both of them. When a political leader expects or demands what we think to be absurd, we go through doublethink; doing something even if we know it’s wrong. We use doublethink in regard to nuclear weapons. We spend vast sums of money and energy building nuclear weapons, but then avert our eyes to the fact that once released, they will destroy half of our own population along with half of our enemies’ population.(Fromm, p.264)

Obama took us down doublethink lane yesterday, with two speeches.  The first was about the need to reform the US security culture, including the Patriot Act and reigning in the NSA.  The second was about how Obama was cancelling the Russia summit over tensions about the Snowden affair.

someone talked poster

How impractical

Dragon's Gift

Dragon’s Gift

“I don’t want to make art for money any more.” For some years now, I have been hearing talented and wonderous artists arrive at community and say this to me.

Silently, I protest.  How impractical. It takes all kinds of money to run intentional communities. These people have marketable skills, skills they enjoy, skills that make the world a better and more lovely place. They should “employ” these skills in in this environment to help keep the mother ship running, and to stay connected to there crafts.

Today, I received this painting as a gift from Dragon (one of these “unemployable” artists). The above picture is not a good quality representation, it is a more powerful piece than this image portrays. I was taken aback. How strongly I felt touched by the image and how I saw both myself and him in it. Something clicked inside me.

Magic and beauty. Turns out practicality is not what matters most.

Planner Interview Transcript

My planner interview was not well attended.  The two planners came, and Piper, who is one of my bigger fans here on the commune.  It is unclear if my critics skipped the event because it was not especially well promoted (members did not get the famous “duck stamp” printed on their labor sheets, altering them to the community meeting) or because they are uninterested in engaging with me.  It could easily be both.  It was also complete in 50 minutes, which was wonderful.

Most of the questions were general ones, and some custom ones just for me appear at the end.  It was conducted in the Hammocks shop where Adder and i wove, while Sapphyre read the questions and took these very complete notes below (which i have tweaked only slightly).  To make this post more interesting, i have stolen a number of random photos of community life and included them.

[Key CP = Community Planners (or just The Planners), cmty = community, hx = hammocks]

Sky DJs the New Years Eve party

Sky DJs the New Years Eve party

Paxus’s Planner Interview

Posted by for CPs


How to Hitch across an Ocean

This is an article i wrote for the online hitching magazine Random Roads.

In 1989/90 I sailed across the Pacific Ocean from Los Angeles to Sydney. Hitching on sailboats is easier than it sounds. I took 10 different boats, mostly on the west coast of the Americas.

From Random Roads - circa 2008

From Random Roads – circa 2008

Ten different captains and ten slightly different agreements for passage. Mostly, it was berth space, food and passage in exchange for some work around the boat and especially steering and adjusting sales.

In one case a skipper asked me to pay 1/4 of the diesel fuel bill for the passage, so I would sail as much as possible. We sailed a lot, even with very little wind and when we arrived in Panama he declined my offer to pay my agreed share, saying he just wanted to cut fuel expenses which we did.

Most sailboats are owned by persons of affluent background and they want to sail with their friends. Often their friends think it is a good idea and agree to come along and then find out that sailing is not their cup of tea (too dirty, bumpy, boring, cramped – any number of reasons). Thus crews are constantly unexpectedly reforming. This is your opportunity for a ride.

Kill the Porcupine! Should i keep this beard?

paxus beard

My options for birthday presents for GPaul were limited by my poor cash situation, but he wanted nothing you could buy in the store.  What he wanted was for me to grow my beard for a month.  This is about 2 weeks in.  Willow and Hawina hate it.  [Willow says "Kill the Porcupine!"]  Rachael and Breeze find it attractive.  What do you think?

That extra Burning Man ticket

The Muslims have Mecca, Funologists have Burning Man.  If you are serious about thinking that transformational festivals are important in building a better world, than this event is one of the most important ones to go to at least once in your life.  [Though i would argue that the Rainbow Gathering is actually more important, for reasons i will get into in another post.]

So when Caroline was visiting the communes around her birthday in February, she reminded me that the BM tickets were going on sale and i bought one.  I was already pretty sure i would not be going.  In part because the dates conflict with the Twin Oaks Communities Conference which i am helping to organize.  But more importantly, i knew i was not really ready to go back.  i got burned by BM in 2009, part of it was i was overly ambitious certainly, i wanted something amazing to happen with the Villages in the Sky project and was working it quite the wrong way.  A bigger part of it was the police entrapped some folks at our camp and our chaotically laid plans got trashed.  i am still healing from this burn.

i will perhaps go back one day, with the right clan or camp.  But for now, i am quite happy to do regional burns like Transformus, which are also much less far and expensive.

Lonely in a Crowd

Reblogged from Running in ZK:

I have ridiculously high social needs, although I don't think most people would guess it upon meeting me.  Being surrounded by people 24 hours a day was my primary reason for moving to Twin Oaks.  And while I can honestly say that my social wellbeing has improved by moving here, I've found that it can be a surprisingly isolating place.

Read more… 366 more words

This is Keegan's post about despite there being 100 plus tightly integrated people at Twin Oaks, living, working and socializing together. It is still not enough for him (and perhaps me as well) and he wishes there were more regular social gatherings and points of connection.

the party ain’t over …

Falcon is ecstatic.  He has been at Acorn for less that 72 hours and he is totally in love.  He has just traveled for several days from Minneapolis to help is lover Dragon move to Acorn.   He had figured out that the mainstream was soul sucking, despite working very hard for his corporate bar-tending job, he was in danger of getting fired for not selling enough appetizers.  But the easy part is seeing that the mainstream corporate world sucks. The harder part is believing that this world might work for you.  A world without the security of a pay check, where you are not building your resume.  A place without the tacit approval if family and friends who can not help but be skeptical about commune life.

Dragon and Falcon

Dragon and Falcon

Falcon and i spoke often over the long night of the rave.  He felt fully embraced by his partners new community, in the context of the rave very few people were holding back and it can be overpowering – the affection and attention.  But Falcon, despite knowing almost no one, is flying in it.

i teased him about his life value being measured in appetizer sales.  We talked about writing stories together which somehow captured the magic of this event.  He wants to write, he wants to build community. i warned him not to presume that highly amorous and permissive intimacy of the party was what happened every day and that part of why Acorn can do this is because there is a strong consent culture here and he needs to be part of that.

William Shatner and

i dont talk about it much, but i was in a fraternity in college, Sigma Phi.  It was overall a great experience actually.  It was an eclectic collection of pretty extraordinary individuals.  In my sophomore year i shared a suite with a guy named Jay Walker.

Jay was an consummate wheeler dealer type of character.  It was his junior year when we lived together and he had already published a book called 1000 Ways to Win Monopoly and was in he Guinness World Record Book for most simultaneous games played.

1000 ways to win monopoly

Jay had also founded 80 different clubs at Cornell (having discovered it was free to register and found clubs) which referred to by the university as the “Crazy 80? and included the “Trouble with Tribbles Club” and the most popular “Go Back to Bed Club”.  Many of these clubs never met, but they did briefly pad Jay’s dynamic resume.

Jay always had better things to do than go to class.  During the year we lived together he started the Ithaca Times newspaper an made a fairly serous run at it for a year.  In the same year he ran the Oliphant speakers program, that brought celebrities to campus to speak.  The fraternity had a fancy guest bedroom in it where the speakers stayed while on campus.

Transparency Tools

The Federation for Egalitarian Communities provided a mutual aid grant that funded this incomplete work.  When it is finished it will be announced here.  Thanks to the FEC for their support of improved communication in communities and outside of them.  If you have suggestions for additional transparency tools, please comment on this post.

Draft Fingerbook on Transparency Tools and Transparency Groups

What is a transparency group and should i join one?

A group of people willing to share intimate information about themselves with each other, who are willing to explore their histories and emotions.  While transparency groups are not designed to be healing in nature, it is generally the case that these searches improve the lives of those who try them.


Starting up

You will need at least 3 people and it’s best if the group is fewer than a dozen. You should find a group who is willing to meet regularly, weekly is often desirable.  Frequently, the members of these groups share something in common, a hobby, a residence, a team, a job, a community, a political or spiritual group.  And transparency groups are not for everyone and often people who start out in them drop out when they find it is not their cup of tea.

Basic Tools

EdF pulls out of the US nuclear market – The Nuclear Renaissance is in full retreat

I was thrilled to read that the worlds largest nuclear construction firm, Electricite de France SA,  has decided to terminate its operations in the US.  EdF had planned to build 4 new reactors in the US in a joint venture with the US’s largest nuclear utility Exelon from Illinois.   To quote the WSJ: Renissance

Tuesday, EDF’s Chief Financial Officer Thomas Piquemal expressed relief. The deal with Exelon “is the epilogue to the Constellation story,”

The Constellation story was about how EdF had tried with US partners to build a new third reactor at Calvert Cliffs in Maryland and failed.  At first it looked like they might qualify for the Bush/Cheney investment loan guarantees for new reactors in the US.  Then when this deal unraveled, the anti-nuclear group i worked with for years, NIRS fought the construction and operating license.  For the first time ever, the NRC denied a construction and operating license, because EdF is a foreign controlled company.

The anti-nuclear movement combined with cheap shale gas has successfully pushed out of the US, the largest and best funded nuclear player in the world.  Champagne is appropriate (despite the fact that low level nuclear waste is contaminating the Champagne region of France).

Who can come? How communes invite people to parties

We have a bunch of parties.  Many of them small and informal, with basically no outreach or invitation process  so if you dont know folks at the commune, or if you dont happen to be there on the right day you will miss it.  We also have much larger and publicly announced events like New Years, Validation Day and Land Day.  For many of the larger events we post on Facebook, send emails out to ex-member and friends of community and get the word out.  And we often say something like “You need to have a host to come to this party.”

someone with the same spelling contraction problem i often have

someone with the same spelling contraction problem i often have

July is Transformus – Spectators versus Participants

A handful of communards and folks from the Keep went to the mid-Atlantic regional burn, Transformus.  Feonix and i applied for a grant to do a Burning Man style internal Post Office and were accepted.  Maddy did some excellent art work and made the physical office happen.

Transformus X Post office - Mysteria near Asheville NC circa 2013

Transformus X Post office – Mysteria near Asheville NC circa 2013

Lots of people enjoyed carrying mail and receiving mail.  We moved easily 200 letters and packages.  Feonix got the postal carriers these snazzy quasi official looking hats and we were one of the many hits of the event.  We hosted a love letter clinic, told myriad jokes and stories and postal patrons shared with us how the event had changed their lives and helped them become more of who they wanted to be.

The word from India – Wind as cheap as Coal

While far from over, clean energy activists and investors are winning more battles daily in Europe and North America.  New reactor construction has nearly come to a halt, electricity demand appears not just down, but shifted since the recession of 2008.  We are hopefully moving from the endless consumption growth scenario which has characterised the most recent times.   Even with historically low natural gas prices we are seeing more renewables coming on line, especially in Germany.  [With the OECD's International Energy Agency forecasting over 50% of German's electricity to come from real renewables by 2030]

ImageBut the west is not the world.  What energy activist often worry about is the increasing demand for energy in especially Asia. So i was pleased to find this bank report on the cost of new installed wind in India being equal to the cost of coal (with no carbon tax added).

This report indicates that the Indian government has double its planned renewables installed capacity to 30 GW by 2017.  Half of this will be in wind power.  It also forecasts that solar PV will be at price parity with coal by 2016 to 2018.

What keeps us from getting where we want to be is not technology or economics, it is politics.

False dichotomies – Party Bus versus Social Experiment

There is a culture skirmish going on here at Acorn.  My theory is this is  likely in any group of more than a couple dozen people which is not strongly bound by a unifying philosophy (as most spiritual communities have).    The major axis of this division is  the “structure versus flexibility” schism.

Acorn identifies as an anarchist community.  But if you think this means chaos rules, you have been reading the New York Times too much.  There are as many flavors of anarchism as there are of Christianity, and equally diverse forms.

more complex than chaos and bomb throwing

more complex than chaos and bomb throwing

But i dont want to talk about the major division in this post, because i have not formulated my thoughts well enough to decide if i agree with the radical “wave/particle paradox” interpretation which has been proposed.  Instead i want to review another axis of ideology which was recently proposed.  The Party Bus versus Social Experiment spectrum.

Acorn Land Day Pictures

Sumo Wrestling was part of the affair

Sumo Wrestling was part of the affair

These are some much delayed, but still charming pictures from Acorns 20th Anniversary, which were taken April 6, 2013

The stage constructed in just two days

The stage constructed in just two days

There is some especially clever spelling in this banner.

Some Acorn FOunders including Deborah, Eve, Ira and Flame (?) at 20th Land Day

Some Acorn Founders including Deborah, Eve, and Ira plus past member Flame at 20th Land Day

Digital Dating

i am part of a secret Facebook polyamory group.  Some of the people for lots of different legitimate, tho often sad, reasons can not be public with their sexual identity.  The other day a new person was added to the group and the way they were introduced is with a link to their OKCupid profile.  i clicked thru to look at profile and was told that i could not see it, because i did not have a profile on OKCupid myself.  i had been thinking about making a profile for a while, not because i need more romantic relationships, but because i believe the platform is extremely powerful and i wanted to understand it better.  So this restriction set me to crafting one for myself.

okcupid logo.pgn

i have lots of profiles.  i have a Facebook one, a LinkedIn one, i have both the official one on wikipedia and the banned one (which is much better).  So i did not think it would be a big deal to craft one for OKC (as it is often abbreviated).  i was, once again, completely wrong.

The first thing that happened was OKC matched me up with a gal from Twin Oaks, who while i quite like her, we would be terrible romantic partners and both of us knew this instantly.   And she is not polyamorous.

Richmond Magazine names Twin Oaks a “Great Place to Live”

“Why do you use words like ‘propaganda’?” The reporter asked earnestly?  With some regularity i refer to myself as the self appointed Minster of Propaganda.

“Because i want your best thinking and your best questions.” i reply equally earnestly.  

Propagandists are people who are trying to get you to change your mind, but unlike a religious ministers or proper ideologues, i dont pretend i have any monopoly on the truth.   If someone is on their guard that you are trying to convince them of something, they work doubly hard to find the weakness in your presentation and arguments.  i find this improves my case.


Richmond Magazine came out a few months ago and wrote a lovely puff piece about Twin Oaks (with brief mentions of Acorn and LEF).  Here is the link.  I was especially pleased when i discovered we were part of their cover story featuring great places to live in the Richmond area.

i spoke to the pleasant reporter for over an hour and i am always curious what pieces of what i say they find interesting.  THis time (perhaps because of the theme of great places) it was about the commune largely being recession proof.

As a commune, Twin Oaks operates on vastly different economic principles than the country as a whole. Perhaps at no time was that more evident than during the economic meltdown of a few years ago. For Twin Oaks residents, the recession went virtually unnoticed.

Cheesecake Feedback

Reblogged from Running in ZK:

Click to visit the original post

At Twin Oaks there are a number of formalized processes for confronting issues that come up regarding specific members. One of these is a 'community feedback,' in which a meeting is open to all members of the community to share concerns about a specific member. While they can be brought forth by any member concerned about another's behavior, feedbacks are often called automatically by policy in certain situations, such as having a negative labor balance for too long or not adhering to provisions of a personal behavior contract.

Read more… 548 more words

My co-dad gets a bit of old fashioned community process. With a new twist.

We (a collection

We (a collection of scruffy Oakers and Acorners) are off to Transformus!  This means there will not be any blog posts for several days.  You will survive, i am confident.  We are running the Burning Man style post office at  Tranformus, which has been a dream of mine for some years.

The post office sparks bizarre combination of theater, comedy, horse trading.  Clients wishing to mail letters or postcards need to negotiation with the postal worker, who i can tell you from experience are often not making it easy.

While we are of building this demonstration comic quasi-utopia, here are some old posts on Funology which might be engaging.

Enjoy your break

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