Friday, October 30, 2009

Things to Inspire Mischief on Mischief Night

Here's the Mundane Mischief way to make your Mischief Night awesome:

What's Mischief Night anyway, you ask?

So now that you know, maybe you aren't feeling like being arrested for graffiti or the other traditional nonsense.  Instead, try some of these ideas:

Speaking of witches, we hate her when it comes to The Beatles, but nobody helps us turn mundane mischief into a high art form quite like Yoko.  Obey her.

If you feel like cuddling, how about making a dollie... out of your dog's old teeth?

If you're home in the kitchen brewing something up tonight, here's some ingredients for that elixir.

Lastly, I know the holidays make some people feel a little lonely.  If you need a date for the Halloween Ball maybe these gentlemen could help (Coilhouse, Via: iCiNG).

Everyone's saying, "Be safe tonight."  I'll say, "Be a little dangerous."  Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go make my jellyfish costume.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wake Up! Swine Flu Is A Distraction

M called me up and said, “It is so nice out, I feel like doing something mischievous tonight.” Exactly the words I wanted to hear. I didn’t know what we were going to do, but it was the best feeling of potential I’d had in a while. I grabbed some supplies (note the lack of spray paint).

We gallivanted down the street, and found a bus stop.  We chalked.  I felt myself perk up, because I’d thought up a new idea. Politics were buzzing in my head.

We headed to Washington Park’s Soldiers and Sailors Monument. There were some anarchist bike punk types chilling beneath the statue, discussing obscure hardcore bands.  Potential witnesses? Helpers? Assholes?  M was a bit hesitant, a little concerned that I could get in trouble, but actually being in the park at night emboldened me, and I didn’t care. I took off my boots and my skirt (once again I find my outfit of choice for mundane mischief is spandex pants). I slipped the hospital mask (stolen from a trip to the hospital that M had earlier this year) into my bra. It was raining, and very slippery, so I climbed the statue with a little boost from M. M tossed up the duct tape.

It was much higher up there than I expected, but I was there. The punks ignored me the entire time, which made me feel much better. I hooked the mask around the statue’s ears (apparently, these masks are manufactured to accommodate gargantuan craniums!) and taped it, because you can never be too safe! I had planned to chalk the surrounding walls of the monument, but they were covered in relief work, so I slid down and chalked up the base. I didn’t get the spacing quite right, but I was in a hurry. I wasn’t about to get arrested for chalk art. The punks suddenly became curious about what I was doing. Had they not noticed me before?

“Graffin’,eh? What’s that? SWINE FLU IS A… D-I-S—disease?”

“Oh, we’re totally gonna get framed for this!”

I talked with them a little about the anti-vandalism truck (they called it the Defacer Eraser), and political stuff. They were pretty cool; I was worried that they would be cynical towards my sloppy beginner’s efforts—especially in topics they seemed so well-versed in, but I was wrong. I said my goodbyes to the lovely punk gentlemen and M and I dashed away.

Some joggers confronted us. “If you want to deface something, you shouldn’t do it to a soldier’s monument…”

I was too self-righteous to respond sweetly, because I put more thought into it than defacement requires.

“It’s hardly defacement if it washes away in the morning.”

I didn’t feel bad at all. Maybe I did something important, even if it only lasted for a few hours. I thought about what the statue represents, about the lives of soldiers. And I don’t think the public’s conscious is focused on what that statue symbolizes. And I don’t think their conscience is, either. If it was, people wouldn’t be in a berserker state over the swine flu right now. Action would be focused on what’s really happening, and how to stop that.

The next day, the mask remained, and the chalk was gone.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Only A Real Elf

The light of day gives people more security, it makes them more accepting of strange happenings; everything takes on a more sinister meaning when the sun sets. Walking down the street a night, most people become jumpy and hypersensitive to their surroundings-- the shadow in the alleyway might be something dangerous: a person ready to steal your money or an animal ready to attack.

Especially in Albany, the student population is frightened inside or relegated to a few select nightspots. If you are out and about under the stars, you are expected to have some target destination and traveling companions. Albany is not a wanderer’s city, or so we are cautioned.

On the whole, wholesome Albany goes to sleep by dusk.

Autumn’s been peeling away the precious daylight hours, and with it my chance at doing my mundane mischief. My confidence in completing the project diminishes, because the night brings out my own brand of fears. I may have some bold ideas, but I am afraid of frightening people. I am afraid of getting the cops called on me, because I approached a fearful person. Just once in my life, did a stranger threaten to call the police on me. I actually felt the adrenalin surge out into my bloodstream. I wondered if I’d really done anything wrong, but I wasn’t going to stick around and find out. I’ve known too many people who were arrested because the police just found them to be suspicious. They were later released, but I’d still like to avoid that.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Word Spreads, Link Love, And A Little Jealousy

I’ve been telling my friends about this project and I’ve been getting some great feedback.  Apparently, there is something in the air, and the world opening up to many mischief-makers:
Z. sent me this blog post about a Japanese cafĂ© where you get whatever the person before you ordered.  Mystery Google is another great boredom buster for those days when I just can’t get out of my pjs and on to the plane to Tokyo.
M. sent me a clipping from the Albany Times Union about some artsy ladies biking around the capital and distributing free art. 
C. encouraged me to keep it positive (after seeing my slightly grim mission statement) and check out FMyLife’s more positive sister sites: MyLifeIsGood and MyLifeIsAverage.  Some of the posts are seem too good to be true, but who minds a little embellishment?

A housemate started doing what they call “The Original Wall Post”.  They went around campus and stuck clever and inspiring post-it notes up. 
Lastly, I found 1000 Awesome Things and I contemplated the adventures of my past on hot metal slides and splintery monkey bars.
 I am kicking myself a bit, because some of these ideas were very similar to things I wanted to do, and I fear being called a copy cat, but the autumn optimism urges me to smile at the abundance of new surprises Albany residents (Albanians?) might encounter when they walk out their door.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Strangers Holding Hands

Minutes ago, I asked two strangers to hold hands.  I cannot explain to you how that felt for me. 
Yesterday, I exclaimed that I would complete LTLYM assignment # 20 or 30, but I didn’t.  I had forgotten to carry my camera.
This morning, when I was on my way to the train station, I remembered what I had to do.

 I had a half an hour to work within, because my train was actually going to be on time.
So, the minute I stepped into the station I began looking around for people to approach.  There were many students and I was averse to photographing them.  It would be too easy to approach my peers and I didn’t think the task would hold as much significance for them as they belong to the generation of “randomness”.   There weren’t many people there at such an early hour, I began to doubt if I could actually pull this off.  I was about to take some scene pictures in preparation, but I saw a sign bearing that all- too- familiar post- 9/11 slogan: if you see something, say something (this one actually attempted to charm the public with animals).  I knew that walking around photographing a train station was suspicious.  I felt that had I been stopped, I would have been able to explain myself, but I didn’t want to miss my train, nor did I want to get myself into a situation that would frighten me out of approaching people.  
My train was coming in twelve minutes, but I felt strongly that I had to at least attempt the assignment now or I would psych myself out of doing it altogether.  I was already feeling shaky, but the pressure of the train’s arrival pushed me to act.  I approached this woman coming out of the Friar Tuck convenience store.  I was looking for someone whose body language conveyed a relatively good mood and that he or she was not pressed for time.  I said something like, “Excuse me, hi, my name is Dana, I’m a student at --- and I am doing a conceptual art project where my assignment is to photograph two strangers holding hands. I was wondering if you would be interested in participating.”  She grinned and happily agreed and asked how long it would take because her train would be here soon.

I told her mine was coming soon and she brought me over to her friend. My language had been unclear and she’d understood that the two people only had to be strangers to me, but really they also had to be strangers to each other.  I went to find someone else.  I wanted to find a man, because I thought that would enhance the way the task would challenge our social mores, but I knew immediately by the tired, barely tolerant look on his face that he would say no.  In my head I heard him saying scam artist and weirdo, but I had seven minutes to find someone else, and no time to feel bad. 
 I pinpointed a woman whom I’d spotted before.  She appeared to be traveling alone and she looked calm enough.  I approached her. She agreed, asking how long it would take, and I said only as long as it would take to snap a photograph.

We all discovered that we were traveling on the same train.  They continued to talk and somehow it came up that the third woman had traveled to Italy and they began comparing travel tales.  I was asked about how I liked the train and my major, schooling, and interests.  I was told it was a beautiful project.  One of the women said that she’d been a journalist and the best part of the job was getting to meet and interact with unfamiliar people.  I thought about asking them for their first names or initials, but I thought it was better this way. 
In the end, I wish I’d gotten more people to participate, but I was still so amazed at the incredible thing that did happen.  Strangers were experiencing a bigger moment together than they would have otherwise.  And they chose to continue that moment, that conversation, beyond the seconds it took to snap the photos.  I was exhilarated. 

Thursday, October 15, 2009

On Being A Psycho Who Does Psycho Things (Why I Want To Ask Strangers To Hold Hands)

I've got to get on top of my life.  I need to get on this blog, for my grade's sake.  And maybe, actually starting to do some more tasks will help me to feel a little less overwhelmed by everything else.

So, I just decided that tomorrow today I will do Assignment 20 or Assignment 30 from the website/ conceptual art project, Learning To Love You More.  Tomorrow is my heavy class/ work day, but in my 3(!) free hours, I think I can manage to head off of campus and take some pictures.

When I first began looking at Learning To Love You More, and seeing the completed assignments, I marveled at how many people actually participated. The idea of asking strangers to hold hands seemed invasive, but when I really sat down to consider it, perhaps that reaction less about my gut feelings and more about my internalized social mores.  Which is exactly what I am supposed to break here, so I've got to do this.

Still, I am worried.  I don't think anyone will punch me, or even call the cops.  I just don't want people to hurry away as if I am a psycho.  You'd think that someone as eccentric as myself would be comfortable with that.  Someone who wears blue wigs and 5-inch white platform boots out in public.  Someone who dances to the music in the supermarket.  Someone who started a blog like this.  But there's still a part of me that hurts a little when someone looks at me with that mix of scorn and fear.  And perhaps part of the reason I created this blog is because it can explain and justify to others the strange things I already do.

Enough analysis though.  In a few hours, I will post up some pictures of strangers holding other stranger's hands and of two unfamiliar families.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Describe This In Ten Words Or Less

I have been realizing that although I have a few ideas of my own (see picture), it would be extremely helpful to have more tasks available to choose from in the day. If you can read my frenzied handwriting, you’ll see that most of the ideas listed take place outside. This is a problem because I can feel the Albany winter fast approaching, and even if I do brave the elements, the other people who bundle up too may not be as interested in stopping to participate or observe.
I’ve been thinking of designing a business card—similar to the types that The Rent Project uses. They would explain my mission briefly and ask for ideas. The problem is that The Rent Project offered people payback—their 20 minutes of labor (help us to help you), whereas my project would only bring one the satisfaction of having participated…. I’m so pessimistic, but…
Anyway, even if I did make such cards up, what the heck would they say? I certainly can’t print up my entire mission statement—that’s a lot of ink. “Help me come up with small good deeds and random acts to liven up the neighborhood…” Hmm, maybe. “See for more details.” I would have to make the language more colorful, to get people interested enough to even turn on the computer. How do I describe in on a business card, something that's taking me an entire blog to understand?

UPDATE: I've been thinking about this business card idea some more, and I definitely want to do it.  It would be great to hand them out to people who witness the tasks as an explanation and an opportunity for them to further their involvement.

Backlogged Blog

Instead of doing my homework, I went sky- diving and I dyed my hair pink. I have been trying to think of some ways that these actions could enhance the work I am now extremely behind on, but they don’t. They were so rewarding that my procrastination problems have increased.

The Hooligan Behind The Blog

Who am I?

I’ll tell you that I hate answering this question, because at times I feel like a bundle of contradictions, and trying to navigate that makes me nervous. 

I think the most important thing to know about me is my motivations. I do this blog because there is an imbalance of weirdness. I feel the need to distribute some of the fun I have experiencing the silliness and beauty of everyday life. And I feel the need to experience more myself, so that I can get through the day happy. 

If you are still curious, here are some Dana factoids:

  • I dislike summarizing: books, movies, what someone said, what happened—I am much too impatient of a person. 
  • My dorm room walls are reminiscent of the way crazy movie characters decorate their walls.
  • I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. As a result, I am extremely detail- oriented, to the point of distraction, and I am disorganized in all important matters.
  • I dress strangely. I wear wigs, extreme shoes, and tacky vintage finds, but I also wear jeans and t-shirts.
  • I pretend I am the host of a vegan cooking show.
  • I think skeletons are astonishing.
  • I get excited over tiny details that many people ignore; I am the weirdo that stops dead in her tracks to make eye contact with the squirrel eating old pizza. 
  • I can fall asleep almost instantly.

Postless Blogs And The Jargon Of Political Avoidance

I've been wondering how much of myself I must reveal in order for this blog project to work out.  I've worried so much about it that I haven't blogged, much to the chagrin of my professor. Even with my "What Is Mundane Mischief?" entry, he told me to speak at least a little about the person I am. I thought making the blog said enough about the type of person I am, so avoided changing it.  Then I started reading Heather and Brenda's blogs; they are so intensely open it put me in awe of their bravery and made me a little ashamed.  Heck, even Frank the can man has an introspective post.  So far, I have been trying to avoid being so open, but now I feel that that goes against the meaning of the whole blog, and that it falls short of the standards my peers have met.
Why am I hiding?  I guess that I am intimidated.  I fear that not only will the project be a complete flop, but that everyone in my class will know all about me and the reasons why I failed.  I have to get over it though-- my grade depends on it.
Further, considering how much of myself to reveal goes beyond simply identifying myself or making incriminating remarks, and into the very nature of the tasks I choose to do. I have been trying to get some ideas together to kick-start the blog action, so I met with a close friend and brainstormed some potential ideas, many of which have a political bent. I consider myself an activist on many fronts and I try to stay informed on current issues. Like anyone, my politics are part of what make me unique; still, that may be the very reason I must avoid politicizing this work. If I perform too many tasks that emphasize one political viewpoint, I risk alienating people with differing opinions. It just seems too easy to push people away in the name of taking a stand. After all, aren’t I supposed to be reaching out to unexpected people?
The other side of my brain is saying that every act is political. Even something as simple as picking up a piece of trash, while it may not blurt out who I voted for, is certainly a blatant political action. It doesn’t seem genuine to stick only to tasks which can be generally accepted. After all, aren’t I supposed to be shaking things up?
Really, I am having two content debates: how much of me should go into these acts and these blog entries, and how should politics (my own or otherwise) factor in.
So, here’s my decision. As a part of this blog’s journey, I must to reveal a bit more of myself in both my tasks and my reporting of them, and I have to pick a mix of tasks (some more political than others), keeping in mind my goal of disturbing the hustle- bustle and bringing strangers together.
Well, I guess the first step is to write a real About Me page.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Graffitizing The Mundane

At this point, I have realized that this project will be fluid and I will constantly be redefining it. The other day I decided to make some public art as another way of reaching out. When I was five I was a very well-behaved child. One day though, I had this brand new, 24 color box of Mickey Mouse crayons. I took them outside with me and I made a colorful mural on the patio slates. I was really excited because the colors looked so rich on the blue- gray slate. I don’t remember exactly what I drew, but I remember being extremely proud of it. By the time my mom found my artwork, the wax was melting and swirling together from the summer heat. She was shouting the word “graffiti”.

I scrubbed the wax off, but the punishment didn’t work, and from then on I was fascinated by graffiti. I paid special attention when my family drove through NYC, careful to notice any tag or mural, it was like a game. I did some of my own too, and I was smart about it. At first it was modest and I did it small enough to stay hidden to the casual observer. I would color a few tiles on the kindergarten doll house or I would write a beautiful word in the corner of a room. It was never pointless or spiteful. They were happy images— I wanted to make treasures like the ones I saw sprayed on buildings in the city. When I see beautiful graffiti I think about its meaning before I think about it as vandalism— my goal was only to impart the same feeling. So I marked the floors and walls of places where I had bad experiences so they could become better, but I also marked places of positivity, so I could share it with others.

As a teen, I was excited by the political graffiti I saw around me and I wanted to be a part of that too. It was art that was alive, art that interacted with its environment; one person draws one thing and another draws over it or responds to the message. Graffiti is the collective unconscious. It announces where to get a good blow job; it lets a dishonest cardboard politician speak the truth. It vivifies ugly, generic public places. The ironic thing is that people call it vandalism when it defaces something, but what of it when it enhances beauty or it wakes observers to the truth?

So the graffiti bug never left me. I went to college, I got bolder, and it got worse. I decided I would do some work grander than anything I’d ever done. I bought spray paint. I went out at night, dressed extravagantly, to the worst parts of Albany and painted the town. I had uplifting, thought- provoking messages and images in mind, and I sprayed them.

And I felt bad. I was sloppy because I had never used spray paint before, and because I was scared. The words dripped together. I couldn’t undo it either. I’d created an eyesore instead of a point of interest. Mundane mischief became criminal mischief.

I’m not saying I’ve left my sharpies, stickers, or paint out to dry just yet. I will however think more carefully about planning my designs, because in the few hours before the anti-vandalism truck Defacer- Eraser (Albany's official Anti- vandalism site) comes to clean, I’d want people to think differently about the day because of what they saw.