All Posts By

olga

boston

How To Help Out In Boston

By | Blog | No Comments
One of my close friends, Becky Hurwitz, is currently living in Boston. She was one of the first numbers I frantically texted when news of the bombing began spreading over Twitter.  She is, thankfully, alright, but she sent me an email this morning about raising funds for one of the victims of the bombing, below.

Maybe you’re unsure how to help from wherever you are in the world. This is one way you can reach out and touch a family who was very seriously affected.

The email:

Hi friends,


Thanks so much for all of the messages on Monday checking in about my safety.  It seems that all of the people I know here are safe and well.  Sadly, one of our grad students, Chris Peterson, lost a family friend, the young boy, Martin, who was killed in the bombing.  Martin was waiting with his mom and sister near the finish line for their dad to finish the race.  His mom and sister are in critical condition still.  This is Chris’s blog note about Martin.


Chris, his brothers, and our lab group put together a way of receiving donations for the family.  Funds will be gifted through WePay and received into a special fund administered by their neighborhood community group.  All of the funds will go directly to the family.


If you are inclined, please consider donating a bit for the family.  They have a long road ahead of them in so many ways.  


Here is the link to the Richard Family Fund: http://richardfamilyfund.org/


My love,

Bex

ps. There are many families affected by Monday, of course, and if you are inclined to donate something, but would rather donate to a more general fund, Boston City Gov set up this fund –OneFund, to receive donations to support recovery.





Feel free to pass this on to whomever is looking for a way to help. 
Love. Love. Love.

rj

Sold My Soul At The Crossroads

By | Blog | No Comments

I used to be a little obsessed with Robert Johnson.


Several years ago, I helped put together an alternate reality game for Amanda Palmer, and Robert Johnson was one of the characters. There was a whole site about it, here

The story goes (which you may have heard on Radiolab, or seen alluded to in Oh Brother Where Art Thou?) that Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads to be able to play blues guitar. It’s a crazy story, filled with murder and sex and voodoo and music– and a lot of contention.

In my mind, the crossroads is desolate and spooky and deeply romantic. Like this:

Ooh, spooky.




In actuality, it’s in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and looks like this:
Devil keychains are 99 cents!

Devil keychains are 99 cents!

My best friend is there right now, on a road trip, and he took a picture for me of the BBQ restaurant now spitting distance from the crossroads.
BBQ for lost souls.

BBQ for lost souls.

If I were writing a story? Tourists would come to the crossroads, shrug at the kitsch, go to the BBQ place and find the devil looking inconspicuous in an apron and tee shirt behind the counter.

“What’s on the menu?”
“Here you go.”
“No, no, the OTHER menu.”
“Ah. Well, Banjo’ll cost you your firstborn, harmonica’s cheaper:  we just take your innocence. But guitar: we’ll have to do a credit check.”



because

…Because I’m A Girl

By | Blog | No Comments
When I was 19, I had the good fortune to work crew on an Ani DiFranco show.

Over the course of my life, Ani was the only person I have ever considered myself to be a true fan of.  I hung out on message boards, I over-analyzed her lyrics. As a girl growing up in the rural South with few to no examples of empowered women, let alone empowered artists, I was enraptured by her. 

So, there I was, working crew for her show. I was the only woman; the other men were hefting amps and lighting rigs around, and I was shuffling my feet looking for something to do. I made a catty remark about how no one would let me lift anything because I was a GIRL.

The head of Ani’s crew sternly looked me up and down in a way that implied he knew my type, and immediately started giving me the heavy lifting.

I was definitely trigger-happy when it came to my sense of lady-power. I felt like the odd girl out, and I was, often: I knew my way around computers at a time when girls weren’t officially aware of the internet, and more than once in a computer lab, a man would ask if I had been HIRED by one of his buddies.

Because I couldn’t be a girl, and know things about tech. 

I’m going somewhere with this. 

I recently came across this Kickstarter where a mom was raising funds to help her 9-year-old daughter make an RPG.

It was framed as: Mean Boys Want To Tell Sister She Can’t Make Games!

The internet rushed in to give support. Because the internet now has the same trigger-happy reflex about girl-power I once did. And though the Kickstarter had only set out to raise eight hundred, it has raised over twenty thousand dollars to date.

Due to some insane internet backlash, the mom running the Kickstarter is now backing off the original ask. She doesn’t want to use the money, it’s too much, she doesn’t know what to do with the excess.

And in my opinion? She should still use it to fund her daughter’s game, as well as the games of other girls.

I suggested on Twitter, “…you should use $829 of [the money] to send your daughter to camp, both for HER sense of empowerment, & sticking to what people signed up for. I suggest opening up the funding to [other] girls who want to make RPGs. Each girl gets $829, & each backer gets an additional game made by an awesome gamer girl. At current math, [that will fund] 26 games.”

I won’t get into the drama surrounding the Kickstarter (you can read here, if you care to); but I can’t help thinking about the 9-year-old girl. That the original intent of this small Kickstarter was to give a tiny boost to her self-esteem, and aim her a little closer towards her dreams. 

Because the things that we are passionate about when we are young are insanely formative.

Because the opportunities we are offered in our youth forge our future selves.

And because the memory of a woman from a long time ago intensely shaped my future decisions and desires in ways I would never have guessed.

sxsw

I Am Not At SXSW

By | Blog | No Comments

But.

I had lavish plans to go to Austin this year, with three-foot balloons, and rolled up love letters and a toy piano in tow.

And then my dad got sick, and sicker, and died, and the world turned inside out.

Plans break down, when real life happens.

Nikki Jeske, a lovely woman on Twitter asked, “Are you coming to SXSW?” And I told her no, and why.

She’d read all 101 love letters from act one of LAMP (here), and said delightful things about them.

And then, today, this:



A wall at SXSW



She’d drawn it on a wall in Austin.

It made me cry.

A Field Guide To Lamp & Love Letters

By | Blog | No Comments

MAKING THINGS REALITY

On March 9th, 2009, I sent this photo to a friend with the words “I want to do this one day. Soon.”



Almost FOUR years ago.

Which is crazypants, as I have no memory of making that image.

Fast forward to two weeks ago, where I made the above image into a real, actual thing:



× × ×

WHERE IT STARTED 
My plan was to write 100 love letters, stick them into 100 bottles and tie them to 100 balloons. To create a story, built around the album I’m writing, called LAMP. 
That’s where the idea started. 

× × × 

WHERE IT ENDED UP

It turned into me co-opting the techie skills of my roommate Kasima to help build a love letter mobile app. I would scatter the letters around San Francisco, and anyone who found one could scan a QR code, making the letter appear on a website.

It turned into creating a fictional organization called the Society of Lost Letters, who had discovered love letters were falling out of the sky, and called a CLASS-A LOST LETTER EMERGENCY, asking local San Franciscans to help volunteer in hunting out the fallen letters.

It turned into getting sixty-five businesses in the San Francisco Mission District involved, hiding love letters inside and out of their shops, and making a map of the whole thing.

It turned into making a flip-book that almost meant an ABC camera crew coming to my house*.

It turned into building walls, and creating tree sculptures, and outfitting a gramophone with an arduino to play mp3s and borrowing a suitcase that already had been outfitted with an arduino to play mp3s.

It turned into having a particularly awesome day getting a friend drunk and filming a video, where he played the part of a Society of Lost Letters Letter-Restorationist.

It turned into getting more than twenty volunteers to pitch in, including friends and roommates and strangers who became friends.

It turned into late nights co-planning with an amazing event-wrangler named orange who made all the hard the details somehow… possible.

It turned into long days with my oldest friend, writing scripts, going to the hardware store, and trying to figure out exactly the best way to make a Love Letter Specimen Collection Kit.

It turned into a successful Kickstarter, to jumpstart the costs. It turned into a grant from the Awesome Foundation, to cover last-minute costs.

It turned into a reporter following me around for two days, in a story that ended up in SFGate.

It turned into a six-stop, neighborhood-wide scavenger hunt that several hundred people came to on a Saturday.

It turned into something much, much bigger than I’d ever envisioned.

× × ×

THINGS I HAVE LEARNED 
♦ It’s not the cops you have to worry about, it’s the thieves
♦ If you build something with many moving parts, many of those parts will break 
♦ Surprise! You won’t know which ones 
♦ There is only one of you. There is only one of you. There is only one of you. 
♦ Let people help. Seriously. Do it. 
♦ Your idea will change 
♦ That thing about unknown unknowns? Will become very relevant to you. 
♦ You will fail. When this happens, don’t take it personally. Keep moving. 
♦ You will succeed. When this happens, remember to enjoy it. 


× × × 

UNKNOWN UNKNOWNS

The full quote is “There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” – Donald Rumsfeld

During the course of navigating this beast– which is only, at this point, ACT ONE of a three-act project/album– many unknown unknowns appeared out of thin air.

The kind of things you don’t know you don’t know to which the only appropriate response is knee-jerk laughter.

For example: the WORLDWIDE HELIUM SHORTAGE.

When I started this project, I always envisioned, in some form, floating balloons with bottles tied to them. It was more than halfway through planning that I became suddenly aware of the worldwide helium shortage, and my event-planner-in-arms was convinced for a while that the only people who had helium were those with mob connections. NO ONE in San Francisco carried helium; they laughed when you asked. The ones that did, weren’t selling. It took calling everyone and their mom to procure a single tank of helium– which is larger than you think. It took four people to move, and a dolly. It was a miracle that it appeared at all, and we came up with all sorts of contingency plans<> to sidestep what was an unexpected international helium crisis.

Another example: I originally wanted to create these letters in a balloon release. Shortly after the successful funding of my Kickstarter, a game company released balloons over San Francisco which immediately went into the Bay, to the outrage of the entire city.

…I changed the game plan.

Last example: you can’t plan for everything.

The day of, people stole balloons, they stole love letters, they stole just the skeleton keys off the balloons, or they stole the whole shebang. I got very nice Facebook messages saying “hey, I didn’t know what this was, so I took it home with me.”

To be clear: the balloons were ZIP-TIED DOWN. You’d have to be pretty determined to set them free into your hot little hands.

Prior to figuring out how we were going to scatter the balloons, I consulted my roommate and his girlfriend, both of which are lawyers who do work for Apple. We came up with plans to get around getting stopped by police. We bought neon orange construction vests<>, to look important.

And in the end, it wasn’t the cops we had to worry about. It was thieves. They may even have been well-intentioned thieves, they may have just really needed a love letter that day– but it goes to show, that you can’t plan for everything.

And that has to be okay.

Volunteers appeared with a second-round of inflated balloons to replace the stolen ones, and I ran around re-printing out love letters, and in the end it was beautiful chaos. It somehow worked.

Never the way we think.

Never the perfect plan that we’d hoped.

But it always, somehow, works.



× × × 

SEE ALL THE THINGS

You can read all the love letters, here. Love letters that have excerpts of actual love letters from Kickstarter backers, and some of you amazing humans reading this.

You can see how the whole Love Letter Scavenger Hunt fit together, here.

And if you want a hint as to where this is all going… I recommend checking out This Is A Memory Of. Especially the first entry. 

× × × 


WHAT NOW?

Now. I finish an album.

This whole thing has been amazing, but it’s also taken time away from writing songs, and recording, and finishing music.

So now I go head-down. If you want to see how it’s going, Twitter is probably the best place, followed by the mailing list.

In the meantime, thank you for being awesome, thank for playing with me, and thank you for being willing to follow this weird careening adventure that I’ve created. 






× × × 


* ABC called, scheduled, called, rescheduled, called and ran out of time. They were super nice about it though, as were the amazing, amazing people at Flipbookit.

Love Letters Are Falling Out Of The Sky

By | Blog | No Comments

More than a year ago, I put out a call for strangers to send me their love letters.

They began arriving almost immediately. Heart-breaking attachments in my email, permanently creased folded notes in the mail. Some were letters people had been carrying since childhood. Secrets. Fragments of beautiful things that couldn’t be forgotten.

× × ×

My plan was to create a story out of them.

A story of letters, and memories, and love.

I would take the love letters that had been sent to me, and write a story of love letters around them.

× × ×

This is a picture of a sailboat named Aphrodite. I stayed here and covered every available surface in love letters, writing away. 


aphrodite01.jpg

aphrodite02.jpg
   
× × ×

I wrote one hundred of them.

× × ×

The story would begin with a girl putting letters in bottles, tying them to balloons, and sending them into the sky.


I would write songs around them, a soundtrack for lost letters, called LAMP.

× × ×

And last of all, I wanted it to be a story that people could be part of.

× × ×

The Saturday before Valentine’s Day, I am taking a small army of people, and hiding one hundred love letters all over San Francisco.

The letters made up of pieces of strangers and bits of fiction and things in-between will be strewn about the streets, waiting for people to find them.

Waiting for people to help unravel a mystery.

× × ×

Should you be interested in appearing in person, a secret organization called the Society of Lost Letters has been tracking the possible locations of these love letters.

This may be a good place to start.


For those not stationed near San Francisco, the letters that are discovered on Saturday will appear as they are found at The Society of Lost Letters’ website.

× × ×


There’s not much more to say, not yet. But suffice it to say, this has been extraordinarily fun, and there’s more untold things to come. 

Until next time. 

May 2013 Be A Delight

By | Blog | No Comments
May your upcoming year be filled with the good kind of mystery, delicious secrets that unfold before you like flowers, and surprises that will leave you grinning from ear to ear.

I spent the days leading up to Christmas– and Christmas day itself!– plinking away on toy pianos for long-ago Kickstarter rewards. Contenders for top favorite plinky-plinky songs are below, for you to enjoy as you get dazzled up for evening festivities, or to take in as you find yourself recovering from the night before. 


OCTOPODS







TOAST AND PIE






THE PARADE SONG





Twinkly champagne-fizzy hugs to all of you out there. 


 

This Is A Memory Of…

By | Blog | No Comments
I got chosen on Thanksgiving Day to send an email to the Listserve

The Listserve is an email lottery– the only rule is, every day, someone from the list is chosen to send an email to everyone else on the list. It’s usually an interesting slice of someone’s life from somewhere in the world, and at present, there are 21,632 people on the list.  

I decided to use it to make art. 

With several days suddenly free and everyone huddled indoors to make turkey and mashed potatoes, I started brainstorming with friends over how to convince twenty-one thousand people to make art with me.

There are a few rules to the Listserve. The main one being you can’t include links of any kind.  

I decided two things:

1. I wanted people to tell me stories.
2. I would set up a phone number where they could call me, and tell me those stories.


I wrote an email with a love letter nested inside of it, and an invitation to play a game with me. I wrote: here is a phone number. When you call it you will be asked a question. Answer it.

The letter is below:

The letter I sent to 21,632 people.


On November 30th, it got sent, and within minutes I was racking up Google Voicemail messages. 

They were heart-breaking. And beautiful. And all sorts of things, but ultimately, each was a tiny short story and a window into someone’s secret closet. 


There’s a quote by a woman named Susan Gregg, that goes, “Life is and then we tell ourselves a story.”

I love this idea.  A thing happens, and you record your own personal internal memoir of events, you TELL your life back to yourself, and this is what you remember.

Secretly, LAMP is about this. I even made stickers that say “We’re All Stories.” The idea that you are walking around with a personal history inside of you, edited and framed by however you decided to render events, is kind of magical.

It means you can write your life however you see fit.

Listening to these memories is like wading through people’s dreams. Full of the things they sometimes can’t admit to themselves. 

I spent the weekend collecting them.  My friend Kat Howard said today on Twitter, ” I think the thing I love most is that I truly believe we are all made of stories. What you’re doing makes that so clear.”

You can listen to them here:

This Is A Memory Of

Coming Out Of Hiding

By | Blog | No Comments

On Thanksgiving, I spent the day drawing messages on bits of paper. I saw a quote David Mack shared on Twitter. He was paraphrasing Die Antwoord, something that Yo-Landi said to Ninja:

“Imagine your most awesome future version of yourself. Now be that person.”

The image stuck with me. I grabbed a sharpie and drew the message over and over, sitting on my floor.



I made 20? 30? Of them?



And I decided I was going to fold them into paper airplanes, go to the movies, and throw them at people.



My best friend and I went off to the theater, and it was desolate. The trick then, was to throw the paper airplanes places people would find them. We hit elevator buttons and tossed the paper airplanes into empty elevators, as the doors closed. We sailed them down hallways.

We stalked the places we left them, and saw how people subconsciously stepped over them on the floor, never looking down. Knowing enough something was on the ground, enough to avoid it, but not interested in whatever it was.

The first person I saw pick one up was a small girl, maybe seven years old.

We said after, that this was probably the best possible person to get lost in imagining their best future self.

The next morning, we went to eat, and I had an airplane on the table next to me. I accidentally nudged it, and both myself and the waitress looked down just as it landed on the floor between us.

“Where did THAT come from?” She asked, delighted.

I shrugged, “I have no idea,” smiling. The waitress picked it up, laughing, and asked the wait staff if they’d been throwing paper airplanes. She drew her hand back in the air and let it sail into the air above us, into the kitchen.

Hospice, and My Father.

By | Blog | No Comments

My father passed away one week ago today, from late-stage gastrointestinal cancer. Below is a Storify I put together, assembling the things I documented on Twitter as I slept in Hospice for the last week of his life.

I’m putting it here if you find it useful, if you find it helpful, and to remember.

I’m keeping a running log of tweets while staying at a Hospice center with a family member. There is so much here that doesn’t make it to the world outside of the ill, dying. So much of the things that happen here loom larger than everything else.