Tuesday, August 13, 2013

When did we stop building things? Here is my Burning Man boombike.

Ed Fletcher boombike adds a car stereo and LED lights to his mountain bike

Here's a closer look at the speakers, deck and battery.

Burning man is for builders

The most many people know about Burning Man is that there’s lots of sex and drugs. While that’s true, it barely scratches the surface on what Burning Man is about.
I used an Altolids box as the control panel
One lesser known gems of Burning Man is that is a collection of doers, dreamers and problem solvers. Given the inhospitable nature of the Black Rock desert where it’s held, concurring your environment is the first obstacle. The second and just as important challenge is to do your part add something to the community artistically or recreationally.

This year, I decided that my bike needed more illumination and a sound system.
Illumination is important because there are no streetlights and hard to keep a crew of bikes together with so many blinky dots in the night.
I saw some people cruising around Sacramento with sound systems and wanted it build my own.
I’d assembled a 12-volt camp sound system before. Mainly by assembling a second-hand car stereo setup, adding extra speakers and hooking it to car battery.
This time around I started more or less from scratch and built my own speaker boxes, wired an on/off switch control panel, and put the setup together.
The pole is made from an LED strip light
wrapped around an inner core plastic pole
within an larger plastic pole. 
From doing the wiring to cutting the speaker boxes, there were many times where I wondered whether I'd bitten off more than I can chew. I took more time to home depot and my local hardware store than it should have, but I kept finding solutions and refining the project. At least once I turned to facebook to crowdsource an answer to a question that troubled me.
But I have to say it was pretty fun. When did we stop building things and just become consumers? Some where along the line someone suggested I just buy a boom box. No where is the fun in that.
I’m pretty proud of it already. On my first test ride I got my first offer to buy it. I think I’ll keep this one.    


Monday, February 18, 2013

Who is ready for the collapse of society?

For a brief period, peaking around Christmas, I was a full-blown "prepper." 

"Prepper" is what people preparing for a collapse civilized society following a massive natural or man-made disaster call themselves. In short, you store food, learn to protect it and learn how to get along without electricity. It was the last part that appeals to the Boy Scout in me. It's scary to think about how much we depend on societal systems, electricity, plumbing, water, WiFi, telephone.

I started by watching episode after episode of Doomsday Preppers on National Geographic Channel. That show taught me several things: everyone should have a "bugout bag," a short-notice survival bag; real preppers have enough money to buy and hide a steel "bugout shelter on their property;" wives placate their crazy husbands; and the television experts never think anyone is prepared enough.

To compliment my television tutorials I started reading Emergency by Neil Strauss. Strauss, a hot shot music writer, describes his growing concern about being ill-equip to deal with what may lay around the corner and his efforts rectify that. It's a digestible view into the preppers, survivalists and perpetual traveler movements.

My increasing awareness led my to a Army Surplus store to do a little Christmas shopping. I was also spending spare brainwaves thinking about: Where I'd go if Folsom Dam collapsed? How long would it take for the cavalry to come? Is my home in the flood area?

Katrina was a real scare for many people. Many within the movement point to it as evidence of the government's inability to tackle disasters and evidence of how quickly the looters will come for your food stockpile.

I since finished the book and eased up my on preps. Not because I'm ready, but in part because I have a little more faith in man than most of those people. Super Storm Sandy showed the depth of American's compassion and empathy. If one area of the country is threatened, there are plenty of people in a position to rush in to help... unless its a total economic collapse, then I'll meet you at Black Rock City.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Going back to Burning Man, unsure about pen

As spring approaches, I know at least one thing I'll be doing this summer. I'm going back to Burning Man. I'm convinced I can get it right.

I bought a ticket and the majority of the people I camped with last year are coming back, so that is all settled. The open question is whether I go as a journalist or just go as a mission in self discovery. (Truth: It's always a little of both).

Last year, I wrote a piece for The Root magazine on diversity at Burning Man. It's a fine piece and I'm happy I did it, but the technical issues that I had to be overcome to file without leaving the desert were pretty significant.

It basically took big chunks of two days to produce: one day interviewing, writing, shooting and editing pictures and one day trying to get a WiFi signal strong enough to send words and pictures out then having to go back to the WiFi to answer editing questions.

For the most part, Burning Man is a low tech environmental. They don't provide WiFi and phone signals are spotty at best. The WiFi that is there is provided by people just like me who do it to do it. Most take advantage of the lack of connectivity. It's one week where you can tell your boss that "no you won't be checking emails" while your away. It's amazing how much freer one's mind is when our real-world work lives, bills and pressures are told to take a vacation. We - myself included - make fun of people who walk around hoping to get one bar of phone signal so they can get a text message.

But the writer in me enjoyed trying to translate experiences into words. Burning Man is filled with so much going on it a writer's dream and nightmare. Part of me wants to explore other mediums. I'd love to get behind the mic at the Burning Man radio station. I started performing one-man improv shows with a megaphone and I've toyed with video.

Of my videos my 2011 is by far the most popular before the word "chick" is in the title.

If you have Burning Man stories ideas, I'd love to have them. Even better would be ideas for outlets that will pay me for those words.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Blog neglected, but progress significant

Dearest blog,
The "Adventure Patrol" brace for a fight in "Dance Step of Death."

I’m sorry I’ve left you alone for so long. I started you in good faith. I started you as a place to share my thoughts and add my tiny mark on the collective conscious as filtered by the interwebs.

But I while neglected checking in, I’ve been working hard. More than anything you urged me to follow my dreams, scratch itches and try to be the badass motherfucker that started a student store in high school and in college moved his student paper to New Orleans to produce a Bayou Classic edition.

I’m happy to report that my short zombie film “Dance Step of Death” has been submitted to five film festivals and will shortly be available on the amazon marketplace for digital download. As you know that was the first film I produced. I also wrote it, not to be vain. We missed Sundance (we didn’t submit), but by any measure we’ve created a piece of art that will live in our collective universe.

Meanwhile, I’ve made some revisions on my script for “Pink.” That’s film I’m writing -- and hopefully producing -- about the 1969 strip club trial. No I’m not working on this to get my rocks off. It’s a really interesting piece of Sacramento history. And if I need to use a little tits and ass to get people into a theater to see a story about First Amendment and Freedom of Expression, I’ll do it. Besides its a nice little story that will actually warm you heart.

Yeah well, the next step is to set up a table read. I’m on it.

I’m also happy to report something I mentioned earlier on this blog, my wine case re-gifting www.liquidgift.com site is under construction. Technically, its live on the Internet, but we’re still testing.  The idea - as you recall - is to launch a bunch of decorative wine cases out into the world, ask the recipients to show the case a good time, blog about it on our site, then pass it on to a new recipient/player.

I know, I have a long way to go, but I think its a great idea. The site looks nice so if I can find the right help, it gets a good launch and we properly harness social media, it could generate some real traffic and media attention.

Mainly I want to see what happens and launch something that will continue to evolve as it facilitates sharing and interconnectedness.

Oh and as you remember, I'll still doing improv. Yes, every Wednesday night at the Sacramento Comedy Spot. I'm getting better and, while not always technically perfect, its funny.

Now blog, my personal life is a mess, but it not that kind of blog.

Ever Forward
Ed Fletcher