A few weeks ago at around 11pm Lenny Bruce texted me. To be honest, I was quite offended by his insult yet I decided to not let my ego control me and in the coming weeks I was texting regularly with Andy Kaufman, Adolf Hitler, Mr. Rogers, Oprah Winfrey, Pete Seeger and others. I found it necessary to document the conversations in order to bring world peace. You can read many of them in Outcast Coupon Magazine and more are coming.
Last year the Center for Supportive Bureaucracy invited recipients of services to adopt people who live in hostile countries as family members in honor of the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. This year I decided to memorize the tragic event with writing an official letter to the Japanese Prime Minister asking to change the anniversary to the 7th or 5th of August instead of the 6th so my daughter won't share her birthday with the victims, however, I feel that this is a very stupid, mediocre satire so I decided to censor it (however you can still read it here). I suspect I have some grammar mistakes in it in addition to the stupidity.
Coming soon - this mid September I'm going to Taos New Mexico to instruct youth who live in shelter how to issue Joy Permits, Forgiver's Licenses, Refurbished Report Cards and other Playful Paperwork documents. We'll offer ECN Office Hours at the PASEO festival and I hope that these teenagers will learn how to use humor and satire to overcome some difficulties or at least ease some of the pain and injustice they experience. I am so excited for this incredible opportunity and I'd keep you posted about it on social media or in the next book. I'm also going to lead a Silly Teshuva workshops for the Jewish High Holidays in Mishkan Shalom in Philadelphia and in Peekskill NY, give a PeachaKucha about my Facebook comedy act (you can see a draft here lmk what you think).
Writing comedy is especially hard these days. I take the role of the Village Fool very seriously (while trying not to take myself too seriously) and my goal is always to bring more compassion, laughter, and critical thinking. I'm humbled to declare that recently I failed in doing my job. In the recent MAGA Teen - Native Elder incident in Washington DC I tried my best to show different perspectives to think of the event, to subvert the authority of our bi-partisan political culture and to spark some laughter too. I noticed there's significantly less room for laughter, and it led me to higher stress levels that resulted in me doing a poor job making people laugh. Gradually it seems like more people, even the highly educated ones, responded with verbal aggression to humor that challenges their belief system on social media (or maybe that's just my clumsy jokes). This event felt more like a preparation for war than a casual interaction between people who hold different opinions in the country capital after a march. I hope the lack of laughter is just my subjective feeling and not a bad sign, I deeply apologize for not doing my civic duty properly and I hope to tell better jokes in the future. In the meantime, I decided to fulfill my duty to society by registering and trying to run for Mayor as a Republican and reclaiming the GOP as the Party of infinite compassion, love, free hugs (with consent) and vegetarian potlucks. Please join me, it'll only take twenty million of us to nominate Lady Gaga as a Presidential candidate!
After some reflection, I realized what was so upsetting to me about the response I saw to the event in DC
I gather my writing and documentation of threads on social media in printed books, this is the latest collection, My Civil War Coloring Book for Adults which you can read here. This has been the hardest book to edit as I think Facebook conversations become radically more absurd with time.
On a happier note, the Empowering Clerks Network visited Mexico this winter! It was A LOT of fun to issue documents in Spanish and I'm looking forward to doing it again in other countries. If you wish to bring me as a guest artist to your community please contact the CSB.
(please ignore the last sentence) I've been writing, documenting and initiating interactions on social media, mainly on Facebook since 2014. I print books with screenshots of personal and satirical pieces I write on the platform and some of the conversations that follow them, I turned a Rabbi friend's newsletter into a Torah scroll, snail-mailed numerous statuses as postcards and posted a 1,000 comments thread criticizing a local development on the actual construction site that took up a sidewalk on Main St in Beacon, NY. This helped the developer to change his mind and give back the sidewalk he was about to build on.
I want to document and reflect on the spirit of our behavior online and spark needed conversations and critical thinking about it. I live in a small town so often this gets very messy, complicated or ugly, also I don't know many artists who “print the internet” so I don't have many examples to follow since it’s a new art medium. I am fascinated by the dramatic change we experience as our society converts its communication to social media and my art is inspired by and comments on this major historical transition from print to web, from physical to digital.
How do we laugh on Facebook? After the 2016 elections I tried to capture in a book the fear, loathing and general craziness I witnessed on Facebook that time and the absurd and often dark humor I wrote then, for example, I wondered how would concentration camps handle so many people being gluten-free. I claimed to call the KKK customer service and wrote a Trump tweet-like music critic series in which I stated that the Beatles were a hoax and demanded to regulate saxophones usage in Springsteen songs. I made provocative, subversive humor about race and gender in a way that for many was 'crossing the line' even though I don't use offensive language or attack people personally. I wonder how would people react to the same humor if it appeared in a printed magazine and not in their feeds mixed with news, updates about friend's lives and cats videos and how this technology influences our cultural norms. I want us to ask what is that 'line' and whether a purple crayon is needed for the drawing. Some people really enjoy that humor and others, to put it mildly, are not so impressed and react very strongly.
I've made many mistakes along the way. It's difficult to be both the writer, the documentary artist, the publisher and friend or neighbor of the people who participate in making these themed books I edit with my posts and their comments. One example of something I deeply regret and apologized for - recently I sent postcards about my parody political campaign for Mayor to many government officials, one of them is the boss of the wife of an English professor who called me a troll's asshole who shits his pants in public, with that comment on the postcard/back book cover. I was hurt and threatened by incidents of verbal violence from progressives against me personally and I reacted emotionally, perhaps I fulfilled his prophetic comment by acting like an asshole. Although activists often contact workplaces about employees who write ignorant things online that doesn't justify my behavior and I'm glad that no damage was done. I knew that this representative has a sense of humor because I issued him Playful Paperwork last year, still, I acted irresponsibly and I never intend to hurt anyone's livelihood with this project, just to reflect on our behavior online. I'm the self-elected Village Fool of Beacon and such a thing is a betrayal of my constituents.
I'd like to tell the story of one fb group which I think is very relevant to these topics of humor, privacy and online life in a small town. I consider that group a collaborative social comedy writing project that is in some ways similar to the humor I'm trying to create. Often people see closed groups as private spaces even though such assumption of privacy is far from realistic. The Beacon Trolls Facebook group had about 120 progressive members who mostly shared screenshots from other groups and pages of community members and made fun of them, a mixture of calling out and harsh mocking. They often picked on conservative working-class neighbors who made tone deaf or ignorant comments online but also on local moms and other neighbors whose beliefs, intelligence or lifestyle were considered questionable by the group. In some occasions, the threads were very funny (the admin is a gifted comedy writer) or were a necessary venting place for those who were doing important anti-racism advocacy work in the larger, more public Beacon Facebook groups, but often the threads were just cruel and it felt impossible to come to someone's defense or question the spirit of the group.
I was added to the closed group by another member about two years ago and like many others I stayed in it mainly out of curiosity and also as a safety measure to make sure nobody was picking on me, about twenty people were actually active in it. Reading such posts created uncomfortable situations, for example, I was friendly with some of the people who were picked on and it became very awkward to see them in town, not knowing whether or not they're aware that they were made fun of by their neighbors and whether they knew I was in that group too, obviously others could have easily shared that info with them, or maybe they'd sit in a coffee shop and see the group page on someone's screen, overhear people talking about it, etc. I found this very uncomfortable, yet I stayed in the group without being active on it, partly because I was observing the semi-private vague feeling it had. I saw a performance act by my neighbors, I was a fly on the wall while they were playing their version of Cards Against Humanity, still I do regret that I didn't express my discomfort earlier. A private event of 120 people is not exactly private, especially when participants are highly educated activists, community organizers and business owners. Thousands of teenagers and adults suicide each year after being victims of online bullying.
Two months ago, after some heated and painful threads regarding my satirical political commentary on my page and complaints about my practice of using screenshots from public posts artistically, I passive-aggressively wrote in the group that it'll be interesting if screenshots from the group were posted on a construction site on Main St., as I did on 344 Main St. I stated very clearly that I didn't take any screenshots and had no intention of doing such a thing, nevertheless the admin closed the group right afterward, as the thought of exposing the group scared its members. Many neighbors strongly dislike me now, and I'm still conflicted whether or not that was the right thing to do as they clearly considered it a secretive space that was ruined by me, even though half the town knew about it. Perhaps this situation reflects on the same discomfort many people feel about my documentation/exposure of social media, which many treat as a safe, cozy living room like space and my work question that assumption by printing it. As someone suggested, I'm the Gutenberg of Zuckerberg.
I use Facebook to share my personal and satirical writing and create a space on my page where humor is collaboratively and publicly created in a compassionate, relevant and uplifting way but is also provocative and dark (dark humor can be extremely therapeutic). When used right humor can be a great tool for social change and progress. I think such process can be done in open doors, with humor that aim to reach 'across the aisle' to those who think differently from us and reflect on our shared humanity. Of course I often fail in this humble goal, it's a recipe for self sabotage and artistic failure.
I believe we must expand the diversity of voices we have on social media and be careful not to use it to assist conformism or mob mentality. I think echo chambers and internal censorship where so many people refrain from sharing their opinions in fear of the responses are a serious threat to society's well being and to democracy. I want to listen to dozens of opinions about any political issue, but usually I only see two diluted pro and anti ones. With hope to challenge it I write absurd humor, make provocative art like the White Men Registry or Hidden Fortune Wheel and use a devil's advocate humorist voice with the intention of starting conversations and laugh together, especially when it's uncomfortable to do so. I'm paying a significant social price for doing it and I'm documenting the often painful interactions that cause me to lose relationships. It's not the healthiest art practice to do a Bruce/Kaufman inspired comedy act on Facebook in a small town. Nobody knows how the internet or the world would look like in ten years. Maybe in the future people would be interested to know how we talked to one another on Facebook back in 2019 and my books may be of use for them. I hope my intentions in this project are clear even when we passionately disagree politically or artistically.
There's a new trolls group now, without me obviously, why add such a professional party pooper in such a club. They probably pick on me, and whatever I do online is now looked at and shared at the new group in order for neighbors to make fun of me 'behind' my back. I gave an interview for InfoWars and appeared in other not so supportive outlets and I read the comments there so I'm up for the challenge, mostly I don't get this secrecy mentality of spaces that are semi public like this group. Facebook is a stage, and we're all actors. It's all public, an ongoing live performance with audience yet it gives the illusion of a bulletin board privacy. I hope to write really stupid, useless, bad and even boring art in the next few months in order to provide the new No-Ori Trolls Group group with enough material to work with.
To conclude, perhaps this is more about human nature than about specific individuals, but damn did I succeed with that 'don't read the last sentence' trick huh?
Ori Alon is the Director of the Center for Supportive Bureaucracy (Empowering Clerks Network, ECN), cartoonist and a writer. See more of his work at www.joypermit.org
My fellow Americans, Asians, Africans, Europeans & Australians,
August 6th is the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, one of the cruelest war crimes in human history. The United States of America not only bombed innocent civilians of a foreign country but also destroyed the dignity and lives of their communities for generations to come. For years the Empowering Clerks Network has been contemplating on what is the proper bureaucratic response that will make it harder for countries and terrorist organizations to bomb one another. Patch Adams, MD says that he has seven billion friends. What if we upgrade his statement and each one of us will have seven billion aunts, nephews and cousins? Research clearly shows that claiming humanity as one big family has 17.4% chances of stopping acts of violence and 521 Compassion Efficiency Points according to the AGLDRU (see resource below). Please used the attached Chosen Family Affidavit and use it to adopt a new family member.
We encourage you to think or look for a new family member who might live in a country that is hostile to your country, or someone who thinks differently than you but that you respect nevertheless. Look for someone you know for years or maybe surprise yourself and extend your family with a stranger. Maybe find someone you're in conflict with but you are willing to take the step in making a commitment towards them due to the shared humanity and responsibility you both have to the future of humanity. Please make sure you add your initials to the statement and that you make clear that the Adoption document does not necessarily imply any financial obligations between you and your new family. If you wish to share about your extended family kindly reply to this email, use eye contact or social media #ECNChosenFamily.
Simply download this image here or as PDF at www.bit.ly/ECNhorizontal (page 16), add your information using any photo editor program and officially add a new family member to your life! For improved efficiency it's recommended to print and mail this document but please note that a document that is signed and delivered electronically is also valid according to ECN Regulations, you can also just forward them this email with a kind note.
We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.
— Fred Rogers
Next Sunday I'll be joining the Grannies Respond Team week long caravan to the southern border in McAllen Texas on Aug. 6th, with stops and rallies along the way in NYC, Reading PA, Pittsburgh PA, Louiseville KY, Montgomery AL, New Orleans LA and Huston TX (see website for details). It was an idea of my friend and adopted cousin Dan Aymar-Blair (Founder of Article 20 Network human rights organization for freedom of assembly and recipient of the Beacon Peace Award) and very quickly it became a national movement which I think taps into the collective memory of the Freedom Riders and more recently the protest at Standing Rock. We expect thousands of elderly people, veterans and other protesters to gather at the border and demand an end to family separation.
In case of an ICE officer or an undocumented immigrant may need it I'll offer some Joy Permits, Forgiver's License, Racism Release Forms and ECN traveling documents such as Clown Visa and Compassion Card and I'll install some Alternative Street Signs and Hidden Fortune Wheels too. Please follow our journey!! (FB, Instagram, Twitter, Yes Magazine, AJ+, NPR and many other networks are covering it) share, join a local rally and support this important cause!
More coming events -
I'm honored, excited and humbled to present my work at the coming Anne Frank Project Social Justice Festival in Buffalo NY, Oct. 2nd & 3rd
On Oct 6th I'll participate in a panel discussion at the LGBT Center of Kingston, NY on Oct. 6th about Art as social activism & community building.
On September 16th I'll participate in a panel discussion about voting rights & civic duty with Peekskill NY Mayor Andre Rainey, NYAACP representative, artist Carla Rae Johnson and others.
On Sept. 15th - October 15th I'll be part of a High Contrast: Culture Meets Chaos group show in Westchester Gallery in Peekskill NY
On Sept. 15th I'll present at the The Fourth International Teaching Artist Conference (ITAC4) in NYC
If you're interested in having me as a guest artist in your community event please LMK! Yes, CSB accept ECN Compassion Cards.
My new book Brave New World, a Manifesto is coming up soon! LMK if you want a copy.
Click to read ebooks:
TO UNSUBSCRIBE KINDLY REPLY "F&*K YOU ORI I'M TIRED OF YOUR B#&(#&$T THE WORLD HAS ENOUGH BAD ART AS IS"
With unconditional love
Director, Center for Supportive Bureaucracy
I'd like to address the various rumors regarding me running for Mayor of Beacon. My initial response when a friend made this offer to me was anxiety and high stress related to the existential questions that inevitably accompany such decision. But just the possibility of me entering politics already helped so many people to laugh out loud, healthy laughs that according to research might be beneficial for their blood pressure and kidney function. How can a devoted blood donor like myself refuse the opportunity of helping people with their blood pressure? I hate bringing religion to politics but since our country is so tolerant for such activity I must - according to Orthodox Clowning, which I converted to back in 2016 it is considered blasphemy not to tell a joke that works. Therefore I am religiously obligated to enter the local mayoral race, and of course I vow to only say positive things about my opponents. In fact I think current Mayor Randy Casale is competent, compassionate and awesome, and I'm convinced that he'd do a great job in another term, better than what I would do for sure (I'd probably vote for him).
My main campaign promises include free ice cream for elders on Mondays, 17% tax exempt for men who express vulnerability, full merge of the Empowering Clerks Network and City Clerk office, forming an official city children's council and lowering the voting age to six as kids are more rational and compassionate than most adults. These ideas are ridiculous and silly. I made a career making satire of the government, and it'll be dangerous to let me run it.
There are some great examples of comedians who served as Mayors: Bogota's Trickster in Chief Antanas Mockus appeared regularly as Superhero Civic, replaced the traffic police with hundreds of mime artists, initiated the transformative and powerful Vaccine Against Violence participatory performance with 45,000 residents, distributed 1.5 million physical 'thumb up' and 'thumb down' signs for residents to show their feelings about their fellow citizens' actions (7 years before Facebook was a thing), among other creative programs in his two terms as Mayor which cut homicides, crime rates and traffic fatalities by half (!!!). Successful Icelandic comedian Jón Gnarr didn't expect his Best Party to be taken seriously with campaign promises that included having fun, free towels in public pools, making the parliament a drug free zone and making all five seasons of 'The Wire' required watch for government officials. He did surprised everyone and won. Gnarr was actually a good mayor of Reykjavík and managed to efficiently run the city during a harsh financial crisis while publicly and courageously making fun of NATO and the way Icelandic politicians fawn over them. Gnarr chose to go back to comedy after one term as Mayor.
After much thought, I decided that I'm willing to consider getting an endorsement from the local Beacon Democrats if they officially condemn Obama's drone warfare program and the bombing of the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan. In case they won't issue a certified apology about these injustices (and Lyndon B. Johnson terrorist attacks in Vietnam) I'd run on the Immigrant Vegetarian ticket with the Pan-American Pacifist Party, assuming I'd win the primaries. My campaign will be an example of what separating money from politics may look like - it will cost $0 (zero dollars) as I will only use only free online services and face to face conversations. No wasteful lawn signs, no expansive flyers and social media promotions and no money will be accepted from anyone. Wish me luck (or not!) and share this post if you want to help! #resist
May 18th, 2018
|Letter to Lawyer Aaron Schlossberg_from_the Empowering Clerks Nework|
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Last year I came back home after a long weekend to find an envelope from a NC Correctional Institution in my mailbox. It was from Mr Marcus D. Hunter, a life without parole inmate who murdered taxi driver Abdoelhafiz Hassan Hamed Dowlieb in 2004. Marcus, who had an extremely hard life attached his application for ECN Forgiver's License (pg 14) and asked to become an Empowering Clerk and issue Playful Paperwork documents to his friends. We became pen pals and I helped Mr Hunter develop and have a small income from his portrait drawing (you can send him your photos and he'll mail you back a portrait for a donation). Marcus have shared with me his traumatic life story, the abusive conditions in which he and millions of others are kept behind bars and I have shared with him about my life. I find Marcus to be a sharp, talented and self aware writer and I hope he'll reach many readers in the future. I've sent him a lot of paperwork which he's been issuing to his fellow inmates with great efficiency. Considering my own family story, this new friendship is extremely bizarre, and I'm excited to see where it'll lead.
A few weeks ago I got another letter from another inmate in the same prison who requested to learn more about the Empowering Clerks Network (ECN). When I looked his information up I found that he is serving a 206 years sentence for 'crimes against nature' which included raping a 13 year old. It seems like it was a lot of effort for him to write the few sentences in his letter. I feel a disgust thinking about it and I didn't want to take a photo of it and share it online, as if his actions or the unmet needs behind them don't deserve the light of day. In contrast, when I first found an original Hitler stamp I was somewhat excited to lick it in order to create various comics with him and Stalin - it's much easier for me to find compassion in my heart towards a murderer or even a mass murderer than towards a pedophile sex offender. Placing Hitler on Freud's couch was somewhat natural and easy for me to do, but thinking about helping Joseph deal with his childhood and the feelings he must have seems unreasonable and maybe even impossible. Joseph didn't ask for any specific document yet but just wanted a general information about the ECN. I've sent him a copy of Regulations are Flexible, but what should I do if he decides to apply for a Forgiver's License, Compassion Card, Apology Declaration or other documents? Shall the ECN deny services from sex offenders, or revoke documents of recipients who were found guilty of such crimes? What do you think? Please share your thoughts and I will keep you updated about this bureaucratic process!
The #lorax #book posted on a construction site for a new #development in #beaconny that cut down many #trees this past week. #streetart #streetartNY #streetartNYC #hudsonvalleyart #green #greed #sustainable #hudsonriver #drseuss #thelorax #bookart #graffiti #guerillaart #alternativeart #AlternativeFacts #alternativestreetsigns
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I asked @publicinvestigator to take the #CompassionMAGA challenge, wear the hat for a few moments and #share how it feels. Chloe refused to touch it but seemed interested by the idea of reclaiming its message to #MakeAmericaGreatAgain back to #Obama days (or perhaps back to #1491?) #yesterday I presented my #work to the #peekskill #art #community and many #liberal #activist artists were surprised, shocked and grossed out by the #opportunity to try the hat. Why? We often explain #minorities actions and conditions in context of the injustices their ancestors and them were victims of, but aren't poor white voters victims of the (de)education system, #media and unhealthcare system in a similar way that African Americans are victims of the War on Drugs? Why don't they deserve compassion for the systematic injustices they have experienced in life such as education system that don't teach #criticalthinking, media that feeds them empty calories and a militant society that runs on fear? What do you think? . . . . . . . . #socialpractice #participatoryart #diversity #politics #politicalart #HASHTAGSARESILLY
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#CompassionMAGA #compassion #MAGA #makeamericagreatagain #liberal #otherside #someoneelsesshoesinterview #HiddenFortuneWheel #politics #politicalart #l #openengagement @openengagement #oe2018 #centerforsupportivebureaucracy interview with @deanzajen
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“Ori was an excellent guest speaker in the Art and Social Practice Program at Portland State University. He helped us re-evaluate our notions of compassion and gave us new tools to interact with communities that have different values then us”
Adam Carlin, Director, Greensboro Project Space
See my artist talk and gallery tour from my recent show, the White Men Registry at the Matteawan Gallery at the home page.
"Alon's White Men Registry helped me to develop more compassion and empathy towards white men, which doesn't come naturally to me"
52 years old Latino male, NY
"Yes, we need the White Men Registry because if I'm not going to laugh at sh*t like that I'm going to die"
Voter, White Men Registry referendum
Contact to have a Playful Paperwork / Hidden Fortune Wheel / College Rejection Letter Writing event for high school seniors at your community.
Coming soon! A letter to Trader Joe's requesting them to increase their prices in order to help me with my complicated relationship with money.
Snail Mail Comics
Ori Alon's blog
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