Exchange entrancing (top photo)
Back in the eighties, my friends and I all thought of ourselves as young social revolutionaries. We could clearly see that militarism, economic predation and the disgusting abuse of the environment were all accelerating, and understood very well that each of these would inevitably lead to an increasing rate and density of both personal tragedy and mass disaster.
Don’t ever let a grey-hair tell you “We couldn’t see it coming” – we’ve all known for sixty years that we were racing toward the precipice – and anyone who hasn’t yet noticed that, has been working very very hard, to stay oblivious and irresponsible. We can safely take their own word about their character and helpfulness.
But just because we idealistic kids were quite right about the gathering storm, and it’s incredibly damaging long-term effects on human beings, civilization and the planet itself – that doesn’t mean we had any idea what to do about it.
The very first mistake we made was a sweet and understandable one, that I still see made quite often today. We were all sure that everyone else would care just as much as we did, and even begin to change – if only they knew the horrible truth of the situation! Saw clearly, the human tragedy behind the curtain of consumerism.
“Educate the general public” remains a passionate cry for many social change agents to this day, and the passion is well meant, even though the idea is a false one. The simple fact is that if education was the only thing required, then everyone who understood the acute peril of the environment, would have stopped driving by now – and even my chums who used to “Educate” others about the urgent threat of big oil, very largely remain slavish junkies to it, decades later.
The golden door past plywood framing
But that’s strictly a long-view insight – back then, we figured that the exciting rise of the indie comic book market was a perfect opportunity for us to reach the general public, with a complex and informative political message, in the form of a ripping yarn!
A funny group of streetwise teens, sick of being pushed around, ignored and patronized, concoct a plan to fry the stock market computer! Screw the rich! Large scale revealing and unpredictable madness, follows.
The early stage excitement was huge – we learned many things about creative project planning, which remain useful to this day. Catherine and I had enormous fun inventing and amalgamating characters from every strata of society, so we could paint a nuanced picture, from many distinct viewpoints.
Not just the determined young idealists versus the evil corporation (which remains a popular and fertile trope for comics and video-games), but also the surprisingly sympathetic guy within the evil corporate board, and his favourite dominatrix (working on her PHD), and her favourite cabbie, and his favourite greasy spoon waitress, and her teenage son and his trouble-making friend, and his night-cleaner mom.
An old hippie couple, a television producer, a crazy jazz man, a jewelry maker, a bike courier and a very weird little girl made up the balance of the cast. Modern comic opera.
Now – let me pass-on a few things that we got right, before I note some of the educational excruciations.
Every time we had a meeting, we all chipped-in five (more) bucks – so whenever we needed something else to advance the project, which we could all share, we had ready cash on hand to spend – it only needed a vote.
It’s really tough for people who are broke to sustain momentum sometimes – when a project calls for a tool, or a rare and expensive reference (far more common, pre-internet – though still more common than often thought). Doing it steadily and gradually – and sharing the load with the whole team, worked.
The idea of division of labour was also sensible – but we got into some trouble right away, by nominating our most political member leader, rather than the ones with the best insight into the creation of art or writing.
Worse still – being terribly political in all the worst, as well as best ways – we literally spent weeks arguing at our meetings about whether or not using the word “Faction” as part of our title, would be a counterrevolutionary betrayal, and dilute its precious ‘zest’ (or whatever magical property it was, that was being ascribed) at a time when it was very badly needed by the poor downtrodden proletariat. Sigh.
No carpeting or mirrors for the menials
Now – this is a me-story, so you know I can’t just leave it at the pratfall and the anecdote, when there are still unanswered questions of work and science!
The work idea is this – even though my friends and I were naive and deluded at the time, pompous, self-important and argumentative in a way quite absurd, to any rational observer – this shared project and momentum gave every one of us a ton of energy to do work and grow our creative skills.
My friend Brian was much stronger on figures, and I was nuts for cityscapes at the time anyhow, so I was made “Background guy” – and since we intended to set our caper (and the martial law overreaction to follow) in Toronto, I bought my first serious camera, and really got into photography – simply to make my own reference photos for the thousands of illustrations required.
Our project never happened, our aim was never going to be effective anyhow – but while we were all invested in it, it was what I like to call a “Load-bearing idea” – we could stand on it, and brace against it to exert force elsewhere. Our shared illusions were empowering, in a way the arbitrary never are.
Now for the science(y) bit –
I worked as a technician for many years – and technicians do not like untested theories – especially not when they have a lab full of scrap items to use for a series of (hopefully) destructive tests! One slow day, my colleagues and I got into a discussion about the classic science fiction plot-point of using external magnetism or shock to scramble a computer hard-drive, and render the information on it irretrievable.
Having a box of dodgy drives and an open chassis test computer with which to check our results, we set to work in a way very much like the silliest course I was ever paid by the Toronto board of education to teach – called “Mad techno-smash” – where I brought in defective gear from my service bench, for the junior high students to destroy – but they had to be able to name every component and describe it’s function, before they gleefully mangled it! (yes of course with gloves and safety glasses – and mallets, too!) ;o)
We tried super-massive speaker-magnets moving at high speed (induced magnetism being proportional to rate of change of magnetic flux, far more than it’s static intensity). We tried attaching them to rubber mallets, for ultra-fast deceleration and shock – we tried suddenly collapsing the fields from tape head demagnetizers, then bulk tape erasers (a field strong enough to make your fillings taste like tinfoil).
You know what? – Bang sizzle and zap as we might – those stupid drives just kept working anyhow, no matter what – and that was working right against the drive housing itself – and of course – even with a much more powerful field, you have inverse-squared losses to consider (because a radiating field expands as a sphere – and thus dissipates incredibly rapidly over distance) – not to mention high permeability ferric superstructures, everywhere – eagerly sucking up the flux!
Nope – sorry my friends – magnetism just isn’t going to be how the markets, and all of the planet damaging illusions they sustain, finally come down.
Maybe it’s more like driving – we’d have to not only know, but choose it.