Re-entry, reluctantly

firemarshal.jpg

The show was a success, in every way, even though things failed in all the wonderfully unexpected ways that things do. We almost got shut down by the fire department at the last minute — but we didn’t. Many machines died in rapid succession during the show — but they looked great as they expired and came to rest like obstinate housecats laying in the middle of right where you want to walk. After the show we got rowdy and drank beer and had fun with machines — until we were made to stop by fire trucks and a paddy wagon. No one got hurt. Unintentionally funny articles were written about us. Crew members hooked up, (with each other and outsiders, and a few machines even got kissed goodnight by drunken machine operators).

And me? After seven straight days of 10-14 hour work days with heavy machinery and a body now markedly a few sizes smaller covered with bruises, burns, scratches — and even a playful human bite or two — I feel like I’ve been taken apart and put back together again, whole. My feelings about everything couldn’t be clearer.

Final loadout day is documented beginning here; show day starts here; aftermath here. I didn’t take any pictures of the show but ever-sweet Scott Beale (photo via) did here, and the adorable Bre Pettis visited us the day of the show covering it for Make Magazine and documented his experience here. (Many of you will remember I did a walkthrough video tour of the SRL shop with Bre two months ago — watch it here. There will be a big feature on Mark Pauline in the next issue of Make, FYI.) Back to normal sex bloggery tomorrow; new video of the machine I ran for the show here; full writeup of the SRL show and *insanely contemplative* thoughts are after the jump.


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The day of the show I got to the site at 9am — even though Mark called me at 7:45 asking me to come down right away. I was so beat from loading and transporting machines all day (all week) that I felt like I just needed rest before operating the Running Machine in the show that night. (I took a great video of the Running Machine in the SRL compound on thursday here.) But Mark is my combination father figure and best friend, so when he calls I come running. With gum to share (he relies on me for gum), a sense of humor, dedication to work and the understading that comes with it, and affection. That’s how we are.

The day before I’d had a scary moment with the Hovercraft after we’d set it on the flatbed truck and when I was getting the lifting straps off the machine and the forklift; something metal made a connection to batteries and started a battery fire — in my face. It melted metal. I’ve had a couple of intense moments like that on this show, but I’ve also done more dangerous work than usual — I think that’s what happens when you become the person who is really familiar with things in the machine shop. Coupled with that, I’ve had the usual few moments of sexist commentary from non-SRL volunteers. This stuff used to really unsettle me, and now I just laugh. It’s sort of like I know I escaped injury, and even if I didn’t it would make a great story — just like when some dude speaks to me diminutively and I tell him he’s made a big mistake with a smile on my face, I know it’ll be something to laugh about with friends, over beers later. It’s as if now I’m so fully within myself, occupying every sore inch of my skin, that I’m solidly who I am. More than ever before. It’s hard to explain.

Show day was magic — even though it was hot and way too sunny, and some people stressed out about things more than others. While loading over the past week, Dan and I spent hours driving (an hour each way, four times a day) and one of the topics we talked about was the desire to do things like this that are hard because you don’t *just* love them, but because you have to, in a way. The obsession that happens when you find that thing that you love to do, to make, to work on, that coworkers and lovers/girlfriends/boyfriends seldom understand — also like my inexplicable need for writing, and sharing sex culture and information. It doesn’t just have to happen, the need for work and expression and sharing of ideas becomes like breathing. And so is the intensity of working on these SRL shows, but only in the SRL context. (I’ve worked for other robot organizations/artists, and it’s not the same working for others. It’s lesser.) So when people stress about it, it’s really kind of funny, because what will be will be and you learn to let go of stuff you can’t control when you really love what you do. Or rather, it just falls away so you can move forward and do what you feel, unencumbered. I asked Dan about his girlfriend — does she understand? Can he explain it to her? No, he can’t explain it — but she understands, perhaps because she’s a musician. You see, it’s because of all this my theory of love is a really simple one, though easy to have go wrong: I think when you really love someone, you love what they do. And sex is sex, and creative work is work, and love is love. But it’s all connected.

Anyway, on friday I wasn’t stressed, though I was feeling the pressure of a big show and the usual worry about staying safe on the playing field with all those lethal machines out there. Especially with 2500 tickets sold, an article in the San Jose Mercury encouraging people to come even if they didn’t have tickets, and craziness on Craigslist with people offering $150 for tickets. I spent the day mostly doing a bit of work here and there, testing and operating the Running Machine, and spending time observing machine tests with Jonathon and Bre Pettis. (Jonathon is the one — my machine co-operator and spotter — who left after the show at 3am *very* cutely drunk with a soot-covered face after kissing the machines goodnight.) I asked Bre what he thought of SRL and he had the most apt reply I’ve ever heard. He said: “It’s a great combination of ‘let’s do something really cool’ and ‘oh shit — is that broken!?”

It was our apocalypse show — a theme we’d decided before all the apocalypse stuff started hitting media headlines a few weeks back. We’d just been inspired by the old Gustave Dore engravings and their iconic imagery in contrast to the machines and their particualy multifacted symbolism; their anthropomorphic characteristics would play nicely with the insanity of Descent Into Hell and the ease with which binary belief systems can be exploited for fear, punishment and spectacle. Machines and god, two great tastes.

But then there’s machines and sex. Which in my opinion, go way WAY better together. Machines lend themselves to inspire skin-on-skin friction far better than religion, unless you go for the whole denial thing. And like death, weddings, tragedies and funerals, SRL machines can be like strange aphrodisiacs for some of us. Yes, I’m in a mood. Doing that show has made me want to just sexually consume someone, to investigate, penetrate, get inside and destroy everything that was there before me and rebuild with lube and sex toys and orgasms and tears and pain and giggles and sweetness and tenderness and kisses. And in return for me, the same. It makes me want to kiss and fuck like I’ve never kissed or fucked anyone in my whole life. Needless to say, I have a nonfiction sex book deadline in a few months, and the research is going to rock the boy I make my test bunny. I’ve lost too much by being with partners who don’t want to try everything with me. I know now I won’t make that mistake again.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. When the show started I was with my machine, near the Flameblower which scared me with all its fuel, and the Boeing with all its fire. To get to the other end of the safe operator area, I’d have to run hugging the fence in front of the Tesla Coil and in the dark, rely on the operator seeing me and cutting power to the coil while I ran. It took what seemed like forever to get the Running Machine out of its spot stuck between machines — then when I got the machine free I had to get to where I could see it — Mark made me run in front of the Big Walker out into the fray to get around the machines and behind the Flameblower, losing my spotters who were there to keep me safe. I crouched down in front of the Tesla Coil and ran the machine, making it prance for the audience. And then… it got zapped by an accidental contact with another machine being arced by the coil, and that was it. The Running Machine stopped running — or rather, responding. About seven minutes had passed; there was no safe way to go out and power it down, then restart the Running Machine and power up to see if a reset would work. I felt despondent and the show was raging around me, coil buzzing and snapping blue lightning over my head, machines grinding and screaming and firing projectiles near me. Dan found me and yelled, smiling — now we get to just watch the show! So we did. And oddly, several other machines had unexpected failures right after mine, so within ten more minutes I stood with many operators without machines, just watching Nina kick ass operating the flaming V1 rocket engine and all the craziness with the Big Walker falling over while it dripped igniting fuel onto the ground in front of me (I gave the affirmative over my radio headset to extinguish the fire). The Bomb Loader got crunched by the Inchworm — so unusual, as our machines are not ‘robot wars’ and do not attack each other. It’s a common misconception, our machines do not fight each other. And they are made for pure love of the process and fucking with definitions of machine tech and human machine interaction, not for much else. (I hate it when people think we’re robot wars or — koff — burningman.) The Big Arm was taken out by a Pitching Machine round to an air line, as was The Shaker, whose (electronics) board got broken in half by a flying piece of Pitching Machine wood. Big Walker fell over and went up in pretty flames.

A great show, with a great party after that almost got us in a lot of trouble. Now I’m back to unpack machines, tinker with the Running Machine tomorrow, close up an erotic fiction anthology deadline, make that huge mainstream media deal final, and agree to (or turn down some of) the interviews about my porn book that keep coming in but I’ve been ignoring so I could surrender myself to machine grease and contemplation.

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Day of the Inchworm

A few great photos from today (and more story) here. Also an enjoyable, short video of the Inchworm inching around SRL here.

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Updates coming

Sunday night Minx surprised me with a suite in an expensive downtown hotel after I’d worked 14 hours straight loading machines — I took the above pic at dawn this morning before heading to SRL for more machines. She was only in town for one night on business, and I was so beat I could hardly form sentences… but she didn’t seem to mind. She examined my bruises and burns, made me a bath, and told me I tasted like sugar and salt. Then, I slept about three hours before rushing to SRL to work for another 12 hours today (exactly) loading machines. A few images from my past two days are after the jump, and I’ll upload more pics and video in the morning…

Update: My story continues here. This morning I slept in (yay rest), and woke today to a delivery of 2 dozen long-stemmed roses from Minx, wishing me luck on the show. Wow. No one’s ever done something like that for me.

Also: I wanted to mention here that SRL is doing this show as the highlight end event for Zero One/ISEA — and *no SRL crew are allowed in any parts of the festival* outside of our area in the parking lot. Nice, eh? It’s too bad, as I have friends with exhibits/talks in the festival, but it’s like “my kind” isn’t allowed in the nice big tents… Hope my friends come to visit me.


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Last night, so tired: lovely Nina, sweet Jonathon, and me. Photo by Mark Pauline.

Mike plasma cuts holes in the new skirt area for the Hovercraft while Mark watches and contemplates.

The human figure on the front of the Screw Machine:

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I’m driving the forklift on the right

I participated in some incredible, seriously non-OSHA approved forklift ballet today. In the image above, Johnny and I are running forklifts in synch to lift the Big Arm up off the flatbed, then Dan drove the flatbed out from under the machine, and we set it down simultaneously. We did this several times today with a couple of machines — in one instance with the Pitching Machine in the dark at ten tonight; it was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. Album begins here; two new videos here, more after the jump.


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It was one of those amazing zenlike days of working with people I’ve done this with for ten years — unspoken communication, lots of family-like affection; doing dangerous things with a very small crew. It was also one of those days that made me think about life, but working at SRL does that to me. At one point I was almost seriously injured, but saved by being inside the forklift. I walked over to the forklift to contemplate the next move, then got in to contemplate more. A gust of wind caught six 12 x 10 pieces of aluminum bolted to steel frames and rained them down on the forklift. From my perspective, I simply heard a loud noise and was suddenly surrounded by silver. The guys just looked over in shock for a minute, then came over to get the metal off; I couldn’t move until it was off the top of the forklift.

When we got the machines to the site, I had one of those fucked up male-female minutes, as always happens to me when I do on-site SRL stuff with guys unfamiliar with the gender neutrality we pride ourselves on at SRL. Dan told me to go get the second forklift so I went over with the keys; I had a moment of confusion with its tricky ignition and right then, this newish kinda hippie guy helping out on the show said (all nice and sweet like I was fragile) “Hey, I’ll deal with all this forklift stuff if you want to go back and help the guys.” I just looked at him and said, no, I’m driving the forklift. And I did — and I executed the amazing simultaneous ballet lift in the picture at the start of this post, among other sweet forklift-fu moves. Johnny and I hardly spoke when we did it, just watched each other. Then we (the loading crew of five: Dan, Johnny, Courtney, Jonathan and me), quietly left the site and went back to SRL and to work loading more machines. When we pulled in I told Bob what that guy said to me and how he said it, and Bob just replied “Fucking Burningman!” I cracked up laughing.

I picked up Jonathan at 8am this morning and left the shop a little after 10pm tonight, a very long day indeed. The five of us hardly ate all day. At one point around 8pm after getting the Shockwave Cannon on the flatbed, I had to lie down on the flatbed itself. I took this pic of what I saw; the sky at dusk. I reminded me of the last time I was on my back looking up at the sky — I was held aloft in a warm lake on a hot summer day a little over a week ago, hundreds of miles from home, on my back, with my lover’s arms holding me up. It was perfect; it was where I wanted to die, in a strange way — not to be too melodramatic, but I felt like nothing could go wrong in that place, in the water, in that moment. I felt okay.

I feel okay at SRL, too — it’s the familiarity with the machines, and tools and very much the people too (even when they suck, or the tools break, or the machines almost kill me). I don’t know what makes us all do it, though I think about that question a lot. We all come from so many places to work really hard and get hurt and do it all for nothing except that we love it, we seem to need it. SRL members have day jobs working on particle accelerators, in Hollywood, are hackers, are blacksmiths, are teachers, work for corporations like Yahoo, in the medical tooling industry, work with cadaveric research, and some are even sex writers (!). We come from so many places but all meet in one center.

Something about this work makes me feel like I’m home. But it also reduces me to my most vulnerable essence, even though I’m being all tough and fearless. It’s the paradox of all things worth having, I guess.

Tomorrow I’m not working through the night because my femme lover is in town for a minute; this is rare because we never see each other. I doubt we’ll have time to do more than kiss. I’m afraid to take my clothes off for her right now anyway. I’m bruised in amazing ways from today; I just took a hot shower and scrubbed the grease off and marveled at the bruises, their placement and sizes, and that I didn’t even notice them happening. I’m bug bitten to hell and back. And my sunburns are epic; let’s just say it’ll be a while until I take off my top for a photo session. I have no fucking idea who in their right mind would find me sexy right now. I don’t feel it; I just feel like the tiniest bit of me is writ big across the whole outside of me; damaged, moving ever forward, flawed and strangely happy. My topography is new and unkown to even me, and it’s not pretty, nor is it a pastiche of some image you see here. To traverse this is to be understood.

I mean — while pummeling myself with the work and dedication a day like today took, I lost so much sense of ego that not only did I bang myself up in unattractive ways, all dorkiness was revealed (as happened with others) and I had no fear of busting out a little dance for silly songs like “I like big bolts and I cannot lie!” Anyway, I’m home alone with a beer and too much energy after today. Thanks to all who have sent me emails saying you enjoy the SRL posts; I always wonder about keeping a balance between machines and sex here. Personally, I need both. And sometimes, a little more.

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Long day

Tired, all day at SRL. Photos + narrative begin here; a few really dumb (but fun) new movies here. Not terribly exciting, but if you’re following along at home… Now, off to bed with an early loading call tomorrow. Image: out forklift rental, which really *sucks* because it slips its gears and I hate driving it! Bleh.

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New photo album

Since I seem to like taking self-portraits before going out, I went ahead and made an album here. I’m taking a great beating in this post; I organized trucks, forklift deliveries, assessed all the SRL machines, made a machine load list, a machine completion/work list, organized dozens of volunteers in shifts for loading over the next 2 days, and worked on machines in the extra minutes for the past few days — and the real work begins tomorrow, so I don’t even have time to respond to the slugfest at Metblogs.

Tonight I’ll pretend I don’t exist. I close my eyes and wish.

I’m going out with the Marching Band tonight.


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[Video] Vintage striptease videos

I’m at home today working on Fleshbot Video Playpen posts, and just hit a mainline of really hot vintage burlesque and stripping videos on douchetube. Embed is after the jump; meanwhile, SRL show tickets are now sold out.

Update: one person emails to tell me he got tix through ticketmaster an hour ago (no, the irony is *not* lost on us anti-corporate SRL types). Official word is still that we’re sold out, so give it a try if you still need a ticket. Also, about the show — if you’re coming I recommend a disposable dust mask, glasses and hearing protection. It will be loud and the Hovercraft kicks up plumes of dust and dirt…


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Betty Rowland peels down to virtually nothing:

This is really cute and sexy:

The quite topheavy Cherry Knight (it’s so nice to see a big-boobed girl with a normal body, not like today’s yawnworthy Pam Andersons and Jenna Jamesons — her natural body somehow makes it more shocking and erotic):

Legendary Dixie Evans, very hot final segment:

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