Raw Data: Conversations on the Quad

Raw Data
Transcripts of Conversations and Description of Events on the Quad
January 3- April 1, 2011

This is a record of what I saw and heard on the University of Washington campus while standing next to signs of my own creation.

Truman Capote claimed to have a 94% retention rate of what he heard people say. My memory is not that good and I take full responsibility for any omissions or distortions in what I have recorded. I find it particularly difficult to remember the exact order in which topics were discussed. In most cases, however, I believe I was able to record the important points people made, provided they were original enough to imprint themselves on my memory.

The style I have used to record conversations makes it difficult at times to pick out who said what. This is because I often couldn't remember exactly who said what in a conversation, even when I said it.

This is a work in progress. It requires further editing, and I will be happy to incorporate corrections sent in by those who recognize themselves here (in some cases I have changed or omitted names) in further revisions of the text. If you would like me to include your photo in the text where you are indicated or would like your name to link to your facebook page or any other page, I will be happy to do so. If you took photos of the signs or people gathered around the tree for conversation, please send them to me so I can add them to the site. My project/experiment was in part designed to be a collective creative work (see: Why I Did It: The Purposes behind Signs on the Quad). My signs and I were the mere catalyst for the discussions generated and I am curious to see how the connections formed between people and ideas/memes expressed and discussed develop, intermingle and transform themselves in the future, to whatever extent it is possible to trace them.

I would like to express special thanks to those who took the time to come up to talk to me on more than one occasion: Aaron, Alyssa, Andrew, Andrew (Asian American), Austin, Boris, Daniel, Darryl, Fred, Garrett, Holly, Jeff, Jeremy, Joe, Keola, Kirk, Luke, Marty, Mike, Nate, Nathan, Nav,  Will and those whose names I never learned. I literally could not have done it without you.

After the transcripts I give information on how much time I spent standing on the Quad, the materials I used to make the signs, and provide a list of the countries where the blog has been read.

January 3, 2011 (Monday)

Time: stood from 9:23am-4:40pm with no breaks

Approximate time spent talking with people: 52 minutes

Other signs on the Quad: none

9:25: a foreign student comes up
— how do i get to Thompson Hall? — here, let me show you [i show him]

3:00-3:30: David, a guy wearing a black leather jacket and dark sunglasses, comes up. He takes off his sunglasses
— are you serious about what you are doing? helping people for free? — yes, i am — most people will think there's a catch — probably; but even if there is no result to what i'm doing, that itself would be a result — that's true, considering how many people pass here and see the sign — i remember my economics professor saying that even if we gave someone a gift, economists did not consider that an altruistic act since one derived pleasure, or utility, from doing so — there are many professors in psychology and philosophy who would say the same thing; i personally believe it is possible, and right, to be altruistic — what do you study? — at first i studied psychology and history, but i'm going to go to graduate school to get an MA and PhD in neuro-therapy[?] [neuro-psychology? neuro-surgery?]; i have many strong emotions; i really want to be a writer because that's the only way i know of helping people, although i don't like writing; i tried to compose music but i was terrible at it; i am probably going to get a contract with McGraw [McGraw-Hill?] for a book — did you have to send them part of the text to get the contract? — i had to send 50 pages of text to them; i'm excited because it's a major publisher; really the only person in my world i can really trust is my sister; she studies film at USC — do you think there are some people who are trying to convince us that it's not possible for someone to be altruistic? — probably there are — is it possible to do something that is truly altruistic only if you do something you don't really want to do, if you're doing it only for other people? — yes — is it not possible to do something you get pleasure from and also be altruistic at the same time? — i believe it is; but the fact that i dislike doing something is a good way of knowing what i'm doing is right; writing is the only way to be of benefit to the world; we would know nothing about the history of the world if no one had written anything down; books inspired me; books by Camus and Richard Bach; i could go on to list many names but i won't; without the famous Greek writers we wouldn't know anything about ancient Greece — what do you think about Socrates' lamentation that the invention of writing would be detrimental? — i think that Socrates knew for sure that his students would write down what he said and that they were already doing so before his death; he must have felt that to be important because it would be the only way to transmit to the future knowledge of his time — but what about the fact that so much written down in Ancient Greece was lost? — Socrates couldn't have known about the downfall of the Greek empire, which had conquered all the known world, not to mention the Roman empire; without Camus' books, Camus couldn't have been of any benefit to us — maybe he could have helped his son or daughter by talking to them, and they then could have helped their children, and so on down to us — maybe we should in fact be grateful to Camus' father for inspiring him to write; it's important to know the truth about historical events and to read accounts of events written by both sides to the event — what if a single party fabricates many different accounts, creating the illusion that we're reading about the event from different, independent points of view? — the truth comes out eventually, even if not in our lifetime; i remember the famous quote: "History is on our side. We will bury you."; i can't remember who said it — do you mean what Khrushchev said at the UN? — yes — actually that was a translation error, one of the most famous ones; what he said would have been properly translated as "We will outlive you", i.e. our system will last longer than yours, and thus we will still be alive when your system is laid to rest — thank you very much for giving me that information — you don't think my standing here is illegal, do you? — no, i don't think so...

3:10-3:14: a guy comes up
— what's the catch? — there is no catch — i saw you this morning; i have some time now before my next class so i decided to come up — what do you study? — i'm a philosophy major — what i'm doing i guess i would call an existential experiment, meaning it's pure [as opposed to applied] science; i don't posit a hypothesis and the absence of a result would also be a result — i understand; so many people walking by and not coming up to you would definitely be a result; i'm on my way to a class on Kierkegaard, so your experiment is fitting; people will think maybe you're like the people handing out fliers on Red Square — i didn't know about them; thanks for telling me about it; i definitely don't want people to think i'm like those people — i'm sure people will definitely come up to ask for help with math since everyone has trouble with it, and probably chemistry; thanks for adding a smile to my day...

3:30-3:34: a girl wearing headphones comes up. She removes one headphone from one ear
— what's the catch? — there is none — so you're looking for free help with homework? — no, I'm giving it; i can't guarantee that I can help, but if i can't you will have lost nothing but your time — it's the first day of classes after the New Year so i don't have any homework i need help with yet, but i'm having problems with chemistry and biology, which is my major; you should sit in the library where it's warmer — i want to get the word out to as many people as possible; would you have seen me if I'd been in the library? — i would have if i'd been studying there...

4:00-4:03: Daniel, an Asian American guy, comes up
— is what you're doing for real? — yes, it is — what did you study at college? — Russian — a friend of mine studies Russian; he came from Russia in 2005 and works as a translator — what do you study? — business and law — i worked for a law firm for awhile — which one? — it's not around anymore... 

January 4, 2011 (Tuesday)

Time: stood from 9:30-4:30 without breaks

Approximate time spent talking with people: 21 minutes

Other signs on the Quad: a table with a tent is set up across from me on Pierce Lane. It calls itself the "Seattle Superstar Search" and hands out fliers and gives away brownies while they last. It promises a chance to win $1000 if your talent is discovered. In the evening I see a sign on a shopping cart on the corner of University Ave and 45th St. which reads: "Does cart advertising work?...It just did."

9:52 a girl in a beautiful navy blue coat comes up
— excuse me, would you like a coffee or tea or something? you look kind of cold — no thank you; i'm fine

10:45-10:46 Doug, a guy, comes up
— could i get your phone number, sir? — sure — i haven't taken calculus in two years and i'm worried about it, especially about differential equations; will you still be here in a couple of weeks? — i should be

11:15 an ROTC girl walks by and laughs derisively, making no attempt to conceal it

11:50-12:05 Boris, a guy, comes up
 — could you help with religious studies? — i think i could; what religions do you study? — i'm interested in Eastern religions like Christianity and how it's a continuation of Judaism and encompassed Islam; i go to The City Church — it's interesting to me that science ridicules religion for its reliance on blind faith while at the same time much of science is based on faith too; for example, the notion that everything came into existence as the result of a series of events that happened purely by chance, an assertion impossible to prove, which must simply be taken on faith — i think science is a good thing because it explains things and helps us to do practical things but it doesn't understand things like miraculous cures — there are scientists who say that once Einstein developed the theory of relativity, scientists should have started studying texts such as the Vedas for ancient wisdom which would give them clues on what lines of research to follow; how does science explain things like miraculous cures? — they look at diseased cells before and after the cures which were brought about through prayer or acquiring faith — what explanation does science give for the cures? — science discovered what happened by looking at the cells before and after the cures — i understand, but how does science explain what was going on? — i don't know what you mean — would you be interested in hearing one explanation of how the cures work? — i guess — the idea is that time is not what we think it is, and there are cases in which changes are effected in the past from the present and so the cures appear to be miraculous... 

12:20-12:24 three people, a man with beard, his girlfriend and friend, come up
— are you offering help with homework or asking for it? — offering — any subject? — yes — what about a language like the class i just came from, Arabic? — if someone asked me to help with Arabic i would have the person describe to me the structure of the language, and i think there are certain techniques i know of that can be used to learn any language — how long are you going to do this? — as long as it feels right — any luck yet? — no one has asked for help yet, but i've had interesting conversations; i think of this as something like the folk story Stone Soup — is the pot of soup for you to eat? — for everyone, hopefully; why do you think I'm doing this? — because you enjoy it...

12:57 my photo is taken

11:00-1:50 a table with a tent is set up across from me on Pierce Lane. It calls itself the "Seattle Superstar Search" and hands out fliers and gives away brownies while they last. It promises a chance to win $1000 if your talent is discovered

1:55 a guy takes my photo

2:11 a dark-skinned East Indian with an Asian friend takes a photo, laughs, and circles back around to take another

2:21 two women are sitting on a bench; one takes a photo

January 5, 2011 (Wednesday)


Time: stood from 9:03-4:33 without breaks
Approximate time spent talking with people: 15 minutes
Other signs on the Quad: none

10:22-10:24 two girls come up
— why would you work for free? — do you think I shouldn't? — are you doing this for a class as a project? — i represent no one but myself — what? — i'm not enrolled anywhere — good luck with what you're doing — thank you

11:51 a heavy-set guy asks me where the undergraduate library Odegarde is. I tell him how to find it.

12:23 a male Asian student walks by carrying a 2x4 as long as he is tall with a sign stuck in one end: "This is a piece of wood"

1:44-1:46 (the meeting with the following guy felt like a déjà vu) a guy comes up
— do you know Japanese kanji? — no, but i would help you to learn Japanese by having you describe the structure of the language to me, and then we would discuss general language-learning techniques — all i really want is to make sure the kanji i plan to have tattooed on my neck means "change" and not "dumb-ass"...

2:31-2:34 a guy comes up 
— can you really help with any subject at all, say, some random language like Russian? — actually i do know Russian — i mean, can you help with any subject? — i know what you mean — i'm interested in your angle because i can't imagine you could have taken all the classes at the university — do you think you have to take the classes to learn the knowledge? — no, i don't think you have to — i  would hope my tutoring would be at least as good as someone studying with a group of fellow students...

4:11-4:18 Kirk, a guy, comes up 
— are you with a Christian group? — i'm not proselytizing — i studied archeology and have gotten all my science courses out of the way; now i want to become a nurse; could you explain something like, say, the orbitals of electrons? — i have studied that; i'd approach teaching that by asking a student what they already knew about the subject and working from there — i'll definitely find you next quarter; why are you doing this? — one reason is to see people's reactions; not too many people have expressed any curiosity so far...

January 6, 2011 (Thursday)


Time: Stood from 9:03am to 4:30pm with a two-hour break drinking coffee at Allegro and eating at China First with Lora

Approximate time spent talking with people: 34 minutes

Other signs on the Quad: none

10:05-10:07 three guys come up
— are you part of a group proselytizing? — no — why are you doing this? — in part to see what people think about it — can you help with any subject? — i'd try — well, we may take you up on it...

1:25-1:54 Jill, a student studying economics and interested in math and statistics, comes up
— i'm interested in micro-financing — do you mean what they do in India? — it's done in other places too — is it done in the US? — yes — in the inner cities? — no, more in rural areas; i lived for two years in Swaziland; i saw you yesterday and wondered why no one comes up to you if they pay money for tutoring and wait a long time to get five minutes of free tutoring; i see very little activism on campus even though that's where'd you would expect to find it; with the internet you would think people would meet more people, but i find that i simply spend more time interacting with a smaller circle of people — i see what you're saying; William Blake talked about the same thing when he said he noticed that people who are bold in what they write were not bold when face to face — do you think it's possible for people to be altruistic? — i met a guy the first day i was out here i talked about this with — i think conscience is something that is learned — do you think consciousness is merely an epiphenomenon of matter? — i don't know what you mean? — do you think matter conglomerates together and consciousness is generated by it? — i don't know; have you seen the film A Beautiful Mind? — yes, i have — i was very interested in Nash's creativity and his ideas about game theory — i see this problem with game theory, though: you can limit your options by defining them too narrowly, as happened during the Cold War when some came to the conclusion that Russia was such a threat we must attack it preemptively — yes, i see that — have you heard that some people criticized the film for being deceptive when it implies Nash became healthy with the aid of drugs? — yes, i heard that; what things are you interested in? — a lot of things, specifically the interaction between the individual and society in which i find the individual usually loses out; i don't mind if someone thinks something different from what i think, but if everyone is thinking exactly the same thing, that worries me, because i don't think that what they think grows out of deep conviction — i think having a deep conviction can prevent one from being open to new ideas; it's better to be moderate — are you able to talk about things like this in class? — if it's a philosophy class, yes — isn't anything you think about in life philosophy? — i guess; i think it's important to get as much out of experience as possible and so we shouldn't reject or ignore the negative; i'm suspicious of people who praise innocence; it's meaningless if you have never had the opportunity to choose the wrong; i think learning on my own instead of at a university would be more effective, but less efficient — yes, i understand what you say and i like the way you explain that idea — my parents were atheists — do you mean that they denied the existence of a god? — no, they were not willing to except it on faith — it seems to me it would be more accurate to call them agnostic; i think such beliefs have the disadvantage that they rule out the inspiration that can come from the irrational, for example ecstatic states or mystical experience — i've gone to church but i never understood, though would like to, how a priest laying hands on someone could cure them — some people believe that hypnosis is actually self-hypnosis; the people hypnotize themselves and simply use the hypnotist as the means to do it; the mind has more power than people think; do you think there are people who don't want us to think? — i think people become complacent by themselves; people are Earth creatures and absolute ideas change so often that there isn't really any absolute — economics and science in general tend to reject anything they can't explain as if it doesn't exist...

[Later Jill comes up again and invites me to a poetry slam to take place that evening at 7 at the cafe Allegro which I attend. The poem she reads is: "Things I Learned from Grandma"] 
2:15-4:05 lunch with Lora
4:05-4:08 Kirk comes up
— i saw three people talking to you — we had interesting conversations but no one asked for help — i'll come up if i see a group of people...

January 18, 2011 (Tuesday)

Message on sign: DON'T THINK
Time: Stood from 9:33 to 3:40 with no breaks
Approximate time spent talking with people: 54 minutes
Other signs on the Quad: a woman in sneakers, a black skirt, and black sweatshirt, hood covering head and head down walks by holding a doll of a small child with red paint on it to look like blood carrying a sign which on the front reads: "[in red ink] NO WAR [in black ink] NOT OUR CHILDREN NOT THEIR CHILDREN". On the reverse the sign reads: "Free Bradley Manning". Here is a photo of her carrying the sign at a protest downtown on March 19, 2011:
9:30 on the way to the Quad I catch the eye of someone who looks familiar, as if I'd known him slightly in 1988-1989. He acknowledges he sees me

9:45 some passersby stare

10:18 a black guy wearing headphones looks at me, nods his head as if in agreement and shrugs his shoulders as he walks by

10:24 a woman in sneakers, a black skirt, and black sweatshirt, hood covering head and head down walks by holding a doll of a small child with red paint on it to look like blood carrying a sign which on the front reads: "[in red ink] NO WAR [in black ink] NOT OUR CHILDREN NOT THEIR CHILDREN". On the reverse the sign reads: "Free Bradley Manning". Over the course of the next hour she passes by 3-4 more times.

10:37 a man with a beard wearing glasses seems to "get" it

10:55 a campus tour passes by

11:14-11:19 a guy comes up
— can i take your photo? — sure — is there any particular reason for your statement? — do you think it's a statement? — what does it mean? — what do you think it means? — maybe that students don't think enough about the impact they have — do you think it could mean something else? — i think it could have a lot of meanings; it's a good topic of discussion for our seminar — what is the seminar? — graduate design; thanks — good luck

11:22 a girl takes my photo

11:24 a guy takes my photo

11:30 a black guy carrying an iphone talks animatedly into it as if recording an improvised rap routine. He comes up to me, turns the phone around to film the sign while saying "I don't think, I don't think so..." and then walks away continuing what I surmise was a video letter he was composing. He passes by several other times later.

11:52 a guy cuts across the lawn near me and says, "Curious sign"

12:24 three guys walk by. The one carrying a saxophone case says to the others, I assume about me, "He's just experimenting to tell what the reactions of people will be."

12:24-12:34 Brad, a guy, comes up
— alright, your sign got my attention; what does it mean? — what do you think it means? — it tells me not to think, but that makes me think even more about it — like a Zen koan? — i'm not familiar with that; i think something means what the artist says it means — can it mean something the artist didn't intend it to mean? — yes — could it have many meanings at the same time? — yes — why do you think the sign has drawn so little attention? — i think because students have become tired of the people carrying signs; the signs are negative; for example a sign carried by the Lyndon Larouche people shows Obama with a Hitler mustache; they justify it by saying that it attracts attention to a problem, but it just creates more negativity; i always go up and talk to the people carrying signs but it's impossible to talk to them; they won't listen to a different opinion — they're just pushing their own agenda — right — did you see the sign today "NO WAR NOT OUR CHILDREN NOT THEIR CHILDREN"? — yes, that too was negative; do you watch horror films? — no, but i've seen them — the sign is like them, it's negative; i think another reason people don't come up to you is that they don't have time — they're always busy, busy, busy — yeah; i deliberately leave time in my schedule so I can go up to people and talk to them — how then would you express the idea that war is wrong? — through something positive; i don't drink alcohol and don't smoke marijuana; i eat a lot of vegetables and go to the gym and take care of my body; i go to parties because i like them but don't drink, and people ask me how i can be in such a good mood all the time; i tell them because i'm Christian and believe in God and know that God has a special plan for me; i don't know what the plan is, but i know it exists — does it make them angry when they hear that? — sometimes — why? — because a long time ago when the Roman Catholic Church was founded the Bible was written only in Hebrew and Greek; only the priests could read it and they told people if they paid them $5 their sins would be absolved; people still remember that today — have the churches changed since then? — not all of them; so many people think that if they go to church, three things will happen: (1) they'll be judged, (2) they'll have to pay money, and (3) they'll be looked down upon; at the church i go to back home there are a lot of old people; they judge me for my beard, but they're able to look past it — is there something wrong with having a beard? — they think so; and i used to have my ears pierced, which they didn't like; i have to go to the gym now; my name is Brad - i'm Kevin — i think it's great that you're doing something that is positive; i hope you have a great rest of the day — thanks; good luck to you

12:35 two guys walk by and one looks at me and says as they pass: "Can't help it. Just happens."

12:54 two seagulls begin calling loudly and walking around the tree. I watch them with interest. A man walks by and asks, "Got the translation?" I say, "I wish I could." I feed them pretzels I have with me in my bag and they hang around until they are deliberately scared away by a female photographer 20 minutes later.

1:07-1:09 Daniel [see January 3 @ 4:00] comes up
— remember me? — Daniel — right; why did you change the sign? — i wanted to change tack — any luck with the tutoring? — no takers yet — well, good luck — thanks...

1:22-1:24 Nada, a student from Saudi Arabia, comes up
— i saw your tutoring sign;  could you help me with my English? — yes, i can... [we exchange phone numbers]

1:25 a guy walking by points at the sign
— can't insult me! — what? [i didn't hear what he'd said] — can't insult me! — do you think I'm trying to? [he quickly walks away without answering]

1:30-1:33 a guy comes up
— what does it mean? — [it means] what people who see it think it means; one guy got offended — why are you standing here? — to learn other people's interpretations; so that people would talk outside of internet chat rooms — yes, people don't talk much because of the internet — but things were that way 20 years ago, before the internet; for many reasons; the alienation stems from fear, and because people don't have free time, and because people don't value conversation and don't believe sincere conversation is possible; they're so busy selling themselves no one believes anyone would do something that didn't make them money — yes, people spend so much time chasing after money they miss out on important things in life; i thought of changing my major to philosophy but didn't know what i'd do with a philosophy degree — i have heard that employers want not only business majors, but people who can write and think, like philosophy and literature majors — yes, they need people who can write; i'm thinking of changing to law because business is too narrow — are you late for class? — that's alright; this conversation is more interesting than psych class — the sign is part of an experiment that has no hypothesis — good luck on your thought experiment; i'm off to psych class

1:48 a guy carrying a skateboard gives me the peace sign while walking by (hereinafter referred to as "peace sign guy"). I smile and almost take my hand out of my pocket to reciprocate but realize I don't know what that sign means exactly nowadays and how he would interpret it

1:50 a guy in a black coat who appears in age and demeanor to be a young professor comes up
— what does your sign mean? — what do you think it means? — it could be referring to meditation; or it could be sarcastic — i think the sign is like a mirror; people see in it what they themselves think; it could mean many things at once; or it could mean nothing at all
[He walks abruptly away, visibly annoyed]

2:30-2:55 a young woman comes up
— what is the meaning of the sign? — what do you think? — maybe that someone is telling us not to think — do you think someone is doing that? — no — really? — well, maybe, indirectly; why else are you doing this? — to gage people's reactions to it — what have they been? — there haven't been many; you are the first woman to come up to me — what were some of the interpretations you got? — one man became offended — why would the sign offend him? — i suppose the mental gymnastics he was doing in his mind would sound something like: "By telling me not to think you're implying I don't think and should start thinking, which is insulting to me." — so is the sign an insult? — that's an interesting question; the sign is like a mirror which reflects the meaning you give it in interpreting its meaning — would you be willing to tell me the secret of why you're doing this? — [i list several of the purposes i describe in my essay] — did you think of a different sign, say, "THINK"? — yes, i did; but i thought that would be implying that the people viewing it are not thinking; also it would have less depth of meaning as it would not be the paradox my sign is — if i were to tell someone about this, what would you want me to say? — i would want you to tell them what you remember i said to you, and to tell them what intuitive feelings you had [about me and the sign]; and to add the caveat that i didn't have time to tell you everything about the experiment and that if they'd like to know more they can always come up to me; are you a journalist? — i write things sometimes about interesting things i come across — i do too; do you keep a blog? — no — i would not be willing to grant an interview to a mainstream publication — what about an international one? — i would be willing to consider it if i could see the publication; where are you from? — from Egypt originally; are you going to make the results of what you're doing public in some way? — i might...

3:28 an Asian American girl walks by with a guy and flashes me the "horns" sign and says, frat-style: "Woo-hoo, yeah, don't think!"

3:34-3:38 two faculty members, one with a graying beard and glasses who I later learn is Darryl Holman, come up. One takes my photo while Darryl engages me in conversation.
— is your sign a protest? — what would i be protesting? i'm doing this entirely on my own initiative; what do you think it means? i'm asking because i'm trying to draw you out — maybe it means to be more mellow with your thinking, like meditation; or maybe it is satirical — what would be the target of the satire? — the university — oh, there are many more layers [of meaning] to it than that — we only have a few seconds before we have to go to different places — if you'd like, you can come back tomorrow to participate in discussions with other people

January 19, 2011 (Wednesday)

Message on sign: DON'T THINK

Time: Stood from 8:38am to 5:00pm with no breaks

Approximate time spent talking with people: 2 hours, 39 minutes
Other signs on the Quad: "Boot Sodexo Out of Husky Stadium; Sodexo stole $20 million from schools and was convicted of price gouging"; "Peace Corps"

9:45-9:47 a woman addresses me while I'm sitting on the nearest bench to the tree
— is that your sign? — yes — what does it mean? — what does it mean to you? — does it mean people shouldn't think about or question things? — would that be a bad thing? — yes, it would — is it possible not to think? — i guess not — Buddhists would say that learning not to think is the way to enlightenment — but i think the average American wouldn't get the reference — but it's not really possible, right? — so your sign is just an experiment — that's one aspect of it — ok...

10:10-10:20 Anatoly, a guy, comes up
— what does your sign mean? — what does it mean to you? — at first i thought it meant "don't think about or question things", but i rejected that idea, so maybe it means "don't think too much" — then why didn't i make the sign read "DON'T THINK TOO MUCH"? — because then it wouldn't be so in your face — is the sign in-your-face? — my girlfriend told me about it yesterday but she doesn't know what it means; what interpretations have you gotten? — one guy got offended — why? — i don't know, he refused to say; one professor said he thought it was a sarcastic reference to the university — what does it mean? — who is the final arbiter of its meaning? — i guess there is none, as with a work of literature or art; do you stand here to see people's reactions? — not just for that reason; i've had interesting discussions with people; even being insulted would be interesting, though i hope no one would come up and punch me in the face, although even that would be interesting after the fact; what is your major? — biochemistry — what particular aspect of biochemistry are you interested in? — i want to get a general overview of the subject before i specialize — some people have said to me they think scientists are too microspecialized, that they study, say, some narrow aspect of chemistry and ignore the connections with biology, physics, etc. — how long are you going to stand out here with this sign? — as long as it feels right — that's a good answer — i'm being sincere; i wasn't being coy — oh, i believe you; i'm Anatoly — i'm Kevin; where are you from? — i was born in Kiev but my family left Ukraine and raised me here — do you speak Russian or Ukrainian? — not very well, but i can understand it — if you went over there for 6 months you'd start speaking well — yes, i think so too...

10:45-10:55 Carl, a thick-necked, vaguely menacing guy who I later see in a navy or marine uniform, comes up. He holds out his hand which I shake
— why are you here? — i'm standing with this sign; it's very pleasant standing under this tree — what does it mean? — what do you think it means? — that you shouldn't just accept what the professors tell you; we talked about higher education in one of our classes and whether we really need one — what conclusion did you come to? — since everyone had already paid their tuition they decided higher education is necessary — did anyone make the point that the best professors put their lectures online so you can watch them for free? — no, no one did — i heard someone say that, that's why I'm asking; who is the final arbiter on the meaning of the sign? — no one; i saw you standing with another sign [FREE HELP WITH HOMEWORK] — that's right; it's still valid; what do you study? — international relations — are you in the Jackson School? — yes; some people might think you're a fool — i understand; i expected people might think that — where did you study? are you from Seattle? — i grew up in Texas — have a good day — thank you

11:46-11:49 a girl comes up to the very edge of the grass but remains with feet firmly planted on the sidewalk. She looks agitated and annoyed, and scared to step over the boundary she has delineated for herself
— what's with the sign? — what do you think it means? — it means: "Come up and talk to me" — [i laugh] that's interesting; no one else has come up with that interpretation; some people have come up to me; what else do you think it might mean? — i don't know — people have come up with about a dozen interpretations; i will tell them to you if you like — do you have a day job? you're always out here — not right now — okay, have fun with your thing

11:52 a delegation of four Japanese men is being given a campus tour by an American man and woman. The guides point out the sequoia to them that I stand under. The Japanese ask the one of them who speaks some English what is written on the sign. They then ask the guides what the sign has to do with the tree. They say it has nothing to do with the tree. The Japanese ask why it's there. The guides say they don't know.

12:00-1:15 a guy with a pony tail and glasses comes up. He visibly shivers and his teeth chatter audibly from the cold during our conversation (it was about 40° F/4° C)
— what does your sign mean? — how do you interpret it? — it consists of three words, or two words, depending on how you count; it can mean "Don't think" in the sense...[much forgotten]... — if i had to guess i would say your philosophy comes from the works of Sartre — actually i haven't read any Sartre; i would like to see the world move away from two-valued logic to four- or more-valued logic — four-valued logic is needed in abstract systems where two-valued logic is not sufficient but i don't see any application for it existentially — i do see an existential application for four-valued logic; i can give you an example: if someone asks me "Do you love your homeland or native country?" i could answer: "yes, because i grew up there and all my pleasant childhood memories are connected with it"; i could also answer: "no, i know my country very well and i see all its imperfections"; i could also answer: "i both love and hate my country at the same time"; or i could answer: "the question is irrelevant as i had no choice where i was born and, whether i love my homeland or not, that changes nothing"; most importantly, all four answers to the question can be valid at the same time and in the same measure; would you be willing to consider it possible that it is impossible to make a mistake? — do you mean in the sense of predestination? — no, i don't exclude the element of free will; i mean that we incarnate here with a certain mission or missions and whatever we do is part of fulfilling that mission — if someone had a heart attack and were lying on the sidewalk i would help — maybe they wouldn't want you to — i would anyway — but that would be right too because it would be fulfilling your personal mission — i'm interested in the question of ends vs. means; let's take for example a hypothetical (i always have to be careful to make clear that the example i give is understood to be hypothetical or else people can be offended) that you have to make the following choice: either you commit genocide and kill all the French people, or the world ends; i feel it would be wrong to choose to kill the French — there is a way around it; if time is different from what we think it is and is, say, not linear, then the destruction of the world in the future has reached back in time, so to speak, to make a certainty the event that we view as a cause actually happens; thus the "effect" can cause the "cause", and thus your choice would indeed be the right one as the event which "follows" your choice has already been predetermined — do you believe in psychic ability? — i think given the enormous sums of money the government has spent researching and developing psychic ability, they at least believe in it...[much discussion of the paranormal forgotten]... — where do your ideas come from? — some come from material i have read by Jane Roberts called the Seth material; the Ra material is also interesting to me — i think i've contemplated enough what ideas you have — [i say as he walks away:] if you believed in the paranormal i would have said something different — oh, i see

12:55 a woman asks if she can photograph the sign for an email to her husband

1:15-1:25 Adam, a guy, comes up
— who are you? — nobody — what is your name? — Kevin — i would like to ask you about your sign; what does it mean? — people have given it different interpretations — how do you interpret it? — if i had one interpretation and you had another, would that make me right and you wrong? — no; what is your purpose is standing here? — i have no specific purpose; i enjoy having the opportunity to talk to people who come up to me — what does your sign mean? — is it possible not to think? — i don't think it is — what about enlightened masters who have acquired the ability not to think? — ridding the mind of thought is only the first step; there are so many other layers to enlightenment — isn't getting rid of thought the first step?...

1:55 an Asian man with dyed yellow hair is taking a photo of me and the sign with a powerful camera when he notices that I notice him doing so. He quickly pretends he isn't

1:58 I am photographed by a man in a group of three students

2:00-2:05 Li, a guy from, I think, China, comes up. He is very curious and confused about why I am standing with the sign
— what is the meaning of your sign? — what does it mean to you? — i don't know; how have other people reacted to it?...

2:30-2:40 Adam comes up again
— i decided to come up again because i didn't say last time exactly what i meant; why did you choose this particular message? if you wanted people to come up to you so that you could converse with them, you could have stood next to a blank sign — that's interesting; i could put up a sign reading: "THIS IS A BLANK SIGN" — no, i mean you could stand without any sign at all — i think people wouldn't come up — if you stood for a long time people would come up and ask what you were doing — maybe; but the message on the sign itself does also have a meaning...

3:03 an Arab man with perfect English says he likes the sign and asks if he can take a picture of it

3:20-3:24 a guy walking across the Quad sees the sign, stops and falls into thought for quite some time. He comes up
— what does it mean? — what do you think? — maybe it means not to think so much that you don't act — what else do you think it could mean? — it could be like the Orwellian "Obey", but i don't think so

4:30-5:00 Kirk [see January 5 @ 4:11] comes up
— i just finished reading the Bible last night; i'm really happy about it and now i'm anxious to start going through it again; i'm going to apply to the UW nursing school; people are surprised that i as a Christian would study something like biology, but studying biology helps to confirm for me the validity of my faith when i see how perfectly constructed the human body is; some of my friends were shocked to see me smoking a cigarette; they think that no Christian would ever do such a thing; but when i think about the way Christians are inaccurately stereotyped i realized that i too judge people unfairly; i have a friend who smokes pot and i sometimes make judgments about him which are untrue because i have a stereotype of what marijuana smokers are like; maybe that's because i have a good friend who started smoking pot and became lazy and unmotivated; i thought about something recently: i could, using the evidence in the Bible, prove that the ascension of Jesus took place in accordance with the standards of evidence used in a court of law — the only problem is that people could argue that the texts in the Bible were fabricated after the fact; i think the better case to prove in this way would be the appearance of the Virgin Mary in Fatima, Portugal since there were many witnesses to the event — do you believe Jesus is the Son of God? — i believe Jesus was more than just a good man, but i wouldn't know how to answer your question; i do have a problem with the concept of hell; if i were a god, for example, and i had created creatures i would love most of all among those i had created the atheists; for two reasons: (1) i would feel an enormous amount of compassion and pity for them because they would have to live a life devoid of knowledge of where they came from and (2) i would respect them because of the boldness of such an assertion; i find it hard to believe in a hell because there have been people in my life who have beaten me, robbed me, and cheated on me, but i have forgiven them and i wouldn't even want them to be punished, let alone sent to suffer eternal damnation; why would a loving God do such a thing? is God really less merciful than i am? — i think God is a loving God but he must also be just; i often think about what that should mean; for example, there are wolves from whom the sheep should be protected, even if that means being unforgiving with wolves; there are some guys at our church who seduce the innocent, naive women and want to continue to be allowed to prey on them by being allowed to attend the church; i think it is right not to permit them to come — what if they have repented for what they have done? — if they repent, then everything is forgiven — i think this concept is interesting: there is something higher than wisdom and something higher than love; it is love plus wisdom; for example, parents who love their children very much and would like to give them whatever they ask for know that they should not do so because that would spoil them; it seems to me the concept of God being just may be related to this idea — i'll have to think about that — has anyone been talking about my sign? — my best friend is from Russia and Ukraine; he called me up last night and said: "Hey, wanna do something brave? Let's go up to that guy on the Quad"...

January 20, 2011 (Thursday)

Message on sign: DON'T THINK
Time: Stood from 9:55-10:45, 12:10-12:40

Approximate time spent talking with people: 38 minutes

Other signs on the Quad: "Boot Sodexo Out of Husky Stadium; Sodexo stole $20 million from schools and was convicted of price gouging"; "Peace Corps"; the woman carrying the "NO WAR" sign [see January 18 @ 10:24] walked across the Quad a few times

10:31 Kirk walks by and waves to me and I wave back

10:50-12:05 I try unsuccessfully to help Doug [see January 4 @ 10:45]  with a differential equations problem at the cafe By George

12:12-12:15 two girls and a guy come up and ask if they can take a photo
[they look at me expectantly] — what does the sign mean to you? — i thought it meant you shouldn't think about something political — why do you think it relates to something political? — because there are always signs here on the Quad pushing a political message — [a girl says:] i disagree; the sign says "don't think" in general — does the fact that you see a lot of political signs here make you assume any sign relates to politics? — yeah; last year there were a lot of signs up with pictures of dead babies related to genocide — which genocide? — Darfur; maybe about other genocides too, i don't remember — i sat behind you for an hour yesterday and didn't even notice the sign — did you notice it when you walked by? — not at first — do you think a lot of people walk by and don't notice it? — probably...

12:25-12:40 Luke, a guy, comes up 
— i'd like to know what your sign means — what do you think it means? — intuitiveness — do you mean to act on intuition, intuitively? — yes — could it mean anything else? — that you shouldn't think; but that doesn't make sense — anything else? — i don't know; i didn't think about it...because it told me not to think — i guess the sign worked, then — i guess; do you like posing question to people? — i like a lot of things, including posing questions to myself and other people; what is your major? — computer engineering — why the interest? — i enjoy constructing things involving both hardware and software because that gives more possibilities than working with only one of them — do you think people are born naturally curious? — yes — do you think going to the university increases people's curiosity about the world? — it depends on what attitude you go to the university with — why did people you know decide to go to the university? — most people went to the university because it was the accepted thing to do — can you learn without a university? — probably, but schooling and university is rigid and gives structure so that you can get used to the structure you will have to adhere to later in working life;  i was home-schooled into high school; i went through curriculum units with my mother and was able to get into material that children at schools wouldn't have been able to since schools are forced to stick to a prescribed curriculum; i think reading is important and i read a lot of encyclopedias and liked looking at visual cross-sections of things — a girl who came up to me said she thought learning without a university would be more effective but less efficient; did you socialize with kids your age? — yes, because i went to karate and other extra-curriculur activities — for me junior high school was a traumatic experience because of the mindless cruelty with which some children treated others — i was aware of the cruel way some children treated others in middle school because i was told about this and was often shocked to hear about what goes on in school; for some children it was traumatic going to public schools, but other liked going to school a lot — [he hears me speak Russian on the phone] — i know many people in the Russian community because my sister's boyfriend is Russian...

12:35 a female police officer rides up on a bicycle to a bench not far from the tree, sits down on the bench and speaks with someone by walkie-talkie while Luke and I are talking. Luke and I speak for a few more minutes and then I decide to leave the Quad with him in order to avoid being questioned by the campus police

January 24, 2011 (Monday)


Time: Stood from 10:06am to 4:36pm with no breaks

Approximate time spent talking with people: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Other signs on the Quad: "Please Give Blood"; "Peace Corps" — someone later came and tied balloons to the Peace Corps signs

10:13 a guy listening to music does a double take and it seems that the sign strikes him as being weird or stupid

10:32 two guys pass by and laugh at me to themselves

11:00 a guy looks at the sign, smiles, and later smiles politely at me

11:10 a girl asks if she can take a photo of the sign. I say yes. She asks if she can take another picture of the sign with me in it. I say yes. She has a high-powered camera

11:13-11:30 I talk on the phone with my dad, a university provost, about campus rules and whether I have the right to be doing what I am doing. He says I do

11:39 a guy in a sweatshirt with the hood over his head pops a Peace Corps balloon while walking by, putting the sharp object he uses back in his pocket after he does so

11:50 a guy with headphones smiles at me. I think we've smiled at each other before

11:58 two girls walking by laugh at the sign. One says to the other, laughing: "It's a sign. It's a literal and symbolic sign."

12:05-12:22 Luke [see January 20 @12:25] comes up
— hello, Luke; i took advantage of your presence last Thursday to avoid being approached by campus police — i didn't see the police — what does today's sign mean to you? — i guess that the media is telling you that you need to be a certain way; i think your sign could have a positive effect, maybe even on a subconscious level; people would walk by and see it and not think about it much at first but then might remember it later — why would the media tell you you need to behave or be a certain way? — so they can make money off of you — is it possible that it is a means of social control? — it's possible; i don't know who would want to do that — do you agree with the idea that it's impossible for a person to make a mistake in their life? — in the sense that whatever you do, it was predestined? — i mean in a slightly different sense: that we are here on a mission to acquire understanding, and whatever we do helps us to get that understanding — that might lead someone to do something illegal or immoral, like rob a bank, which could have a negative effect on other people — yes, but our questioning whether what we do is moral is part of the knowledge we are here to acquire; who am I to judge whether there is something wrong with you? should a judge [in a court of law] be the one? — maybe it shouldn't be just one person; that's why they have juries — but isn't it easy to manipulate juries? — yes, but there's no other choice — some say our adversarial system of jurisprudence is not necessarily the best one; one side does everything possible to prove its case while the other side does the same thing and we hope that from this the truth will emerge; in Native American tribes and, I have heard, China, they understand that a crime committed cannot be undone by punishing the culprit, so if they see that the guilty person has repented sincerely, they let him go — i see; i have to get to class...

12:25-12:30 two girls and one guy come up
— this sign and the "DON'T THINK" sign mean that what you know is already enough and you shouldn't worry so much about the things they make you learn in classes and stress out; be yourself, be less conformist; is the offer to tutor serious? — yes...

12:42-12:47 a Middle-Eastern-looking guy with no accent, Daven, and an Asian American named Will come up
— what does the sign mean to you? — it means maybe people should think about whether there is something wrong with them — but if i were to tell them what's wrong with them there'd be something wrong with me, wouldn't there? — society tries to tell us how we're supposed to be; can you really help tutor in any subject? — to tutor, what i'd do is have you explain to me what you already know about the subject and then we would go from there — how often do you change signs? — how often do you think i should? — maybe once every 2-3 days; people have different schedules so they don't all come by here every day; how many people a day come up to you? — from six to ten people or groups of people...

1:52 a guy takes a photo of me and the sign

1:57 an Asian guy in glasses walking by shows me the power fist sign and smiles and I do the same thing back

2:55-3:55: Nate, a guy, comes up
3:35-4:05: two guys (Greg and Zack) come up to me and Nate while we are talking. It becomes a four-way conversation
— i'm actually perfectly happy; i just came up to find out why you're standing here — many reasons; i like talking with people; what do you study? — i'm an English major but i've recently become interested in the sociology of chemicals; the effect of narcotics and other chemicals on society; i think a lot of the famous works of art you look at came about because of drug use — can you get drugs easily? — you can get any drugs you want on the Ave [Univeristy Avenue] — can i get DMT? — [pause] i can get you DMT; actually, you know in the 60s people would write the formula for LSD different places? — and have it on T-shirts — right; i see the formula for DMT written in random places — you say you're taking a course on drugs and society? — yes — has the professor taken different kinds of drugs? — he's only taken marijuana — isn't that like teaching swimming without ever having swum? — yes — what is DMT like? — the DMT trip is amazing and indescribable in words; it is as if everything in your life is laid bare and presented to you to examine, perhaps like what happens after death; DMT is the substance that trees use to communicate with each other and is released by the pineal [he pronounces it "pine-ee-al"] gland at death; Rick Strassman has written about and made an interesting documentary about DMT — i've heard of him — i was raised in a strict Christian household and was afraid of death and of going to hell until having psychedelic experiences — do you think if people lost their fear of death they might start engaging in extremely risky behavior? — it's possible; i think people who die doing something they love die good deaths; i know a man who loved extreme skiing who told people that if he died on the mountain they should not risk their lives trying to find his body because that's where his body belonged; he probably saw the avalanche (if that's what killed him) coming and accepted the experience of dying from it — is it possible to take DMT too many times? — i had an experience in which everything i usually saw on the drug was turned inside out; i saw the dark side of things; that left me shaken — how many times have you taken it? — about 12 times and that was two times too many — i've heard that everyone on DMT sees the same thing — like machine elves?; i'm not sure about that; but if that's true, that says something very important about human beings; maybe DMT is a connection with a different dimension or world or living entity; i think the world is filled with such entities that we don't see — [i tell him about Jane Roberts and the Seth material] — i wish all conversations could be right away as interesting as ours, but i can have such conversations only with the people i live with and that has been facilitated by the psychedelic drug experiences — maybe it's not a coincidence that you and your housemates met — probably not; there's a girl in our house who paints a new tableau every day; another guy, when tripping on acid, came up with a new kind of website on which people would record their feelings, emotions and experiences when engaging in certain activities or listening to certain pieces of music and people would be brought together based on these criteria; the drug experiences have changed me as a person; they let me see through a telescope into the future and now i try to use language to describe what i see; during one trip i saw myself as three-year-old boy playing next to my mother who was digging in the garden (she likes gardening); i relived the incident both from the point of view of myself as a young boy and from an objective, third-person standpoint; i am convinced it was real, not just memories recreated by my imagination — do you have memories of other incarnations? — yes — i've noticed that people walking by me seem to be in a trance-like state, eyes glazed over, just as i remember 20 years ago — i agree; people on campus are very conservative and conformist; i look people in the eye as i pass them and only two or three a day will return my look; the rest look away or down as if they don't notice or don't care to notice anyone else alive around them; what i understand is that in order for this big machinery called society to work, it is necessary that every cog in the machinery perform its function precisely — would you say that mind-expanding drugs are illegal so that people will not think independently and remain docile? — yes, i would say that's probably true; i would want to live a life that crescendos to a climax at the end; but i wonder whether i will slow down in middle age — most people do, but you don't have to; Seth says that in the future people will see colors they don't see now and be able to see sounds and hear colors — synesthesia; i can see sounds to the extent that sad music gives things for me a bluish tint; i'd like to see parades of color emanating from my speakers, but i haven't seen that — Seth says we see with our skin — i'm the internet generation; i can't learn from a guy standing up at the front of the room with a pen and a board; i need to be able to click a button and have something happen; i need interactivity; but most people spend a lot of time staring at screens but they get no information from them — they just get sucked into virtuality — right; i don't want to calculate precise velocities in physics class; i want to see objects bounced off each other as an illustration; this is what any four-year-old understands — [Greg speaks:] we need to be able to quantify things — do we need a university when we have websites like ted.com? — [Greg speaks:] the ted talks are great — [Nate speaks:] i've been told i'm an old soul, that this is far from my first incarnation here; i accept as natural what we see around us today, but i think i was born in the wrong time; i'd prefer to live 1000 years ago when things were simpler--not necessarily easier, but simpler — someone said: "Wherever you are, you have to be somewhere doing something." and if everything is infinite, we chose to experience what we're experiencing now along with everything else; do you think consciousness is an epiphenomenon of matter? — [Greg speaks:] yes, it is; how would you prove it's not? — if most of matter is empty space, we should remember the observer problem from physics (and the Pauli effect), and the idea that the universe is connected; but if matter and energy cannot travel fast enough to connect all the outlying parts, there must be something (say, consciousness) holding it together and connecting the various regions — [Nate's speaks:] that was a mind fuck — there was a man who appeared on internet forums ten years ago named John Titor who supposedly traveled back in time from the year 2034; he said there is an infinity of world lines and everything that we could do we actually do somewhere in an alternatve, parallel universe — [Nate speaks:] there's the idea that a man finds a tattered book falling apart which disintegrates just as he finishes copying it 20 years later; the book turns out to be instructions on building a time machine that he builds and uses to send the book back to a time 20 years before, thus creating an infinite seemingly closed loop — there is the three-body problem in physics that cannot be solved — perhaps more advanced mathematical methods can be found to do so — i'm interested in how the expansion and collapse of the universe happens — there is the concept of zero entropy...the neutron as the most compact, basic storer of energy...nano technology...transhumanism...Ray Kurzweil...[Greg speaks:] i would like for us to become immortal; i think this will come about by studying cellular breakdown and reversing the process or preventing it from taking place — do you think people will want to die? — not if they know there's nothing after death — [Zack speaks:] i think after a long period of life a whole group of people may nevertheless become tired with living and want to end it — people today commit suicide without being sure there's something after death...

4:11 three women walk by. One looks at me and says, "There's nothing wrong with me. Thanks [without sarcasm]." Another adds, "That's just what we're talking about."

4:24-4:27 a guy comes up to me. He seems a bit irritated and/or upset
— i have to disagree with the thesis of your sign; i have a cleft palate, i can't talk right and i just told a girl i loved her and she brushed it off flippantly; i'm Jewish and there was the Holocaust; did Hitler not have anything wrong with him? — if you hadn't told me about your palate I wouldn't have noticed — thank you — the message on the sign is not an assertion i feel needs to be proven, but is designed more to generate discussion; i'd like to think there is a space...a philosophical space where everybody is really okay; and anyway, who am I to judge whether there is something wrong with someone? in fact i just realized how ironic it is that in standing next to this sign i'm implying there's nothing wrong with me; but i'm not sure of that or if i'm the one to judge — are you religious? — i'm spiritual; i accept other religions but would not identify myself with any one of them...

[he holds out his hand and I shake it and seems to go away less upset than when he came up]

January 25, 2011 (Tuesday)


Time: Stood from 10:00am to 4:42pm with no breaks
Approximate time spent talking with people: 41 minutes

Other signs on the Quad: "Please Give Blood"

10:23-10:26 a woman named Margueritte comes up and holds out her hand which i shake
— i'm Margueritte — i'm Kevin — why are you standing out here with this sign? — what does the sign mean to you? — it has a personal meaning, connected with what I think about myself; maybe there is something wrong with me, but then again maybe it has a bigger meaning: that there's nothing wrong with anybody; why do you stand outside next to the sign? — there's no one purpose to the sign; should my interpretation of the meaning of the sign be more important than yours? — no; maybe you meant the sign to have many interpretations; who are you? — i'm nobody — everybody is somebody — then I'm somebody too — and your name is? — Kevin — sorry, I forgot I already asked you — that's okay; i often forget people's names; yours is Margueritte? — yes — i often forget people's names, but this time I remembered — are you a student? — no — do you work? — not at the moment

10:54-10:57 Luke, a guy wearing birth-control glasses with thick lenses, comes up
— i remember you had a sign saying you would help people with homework for free — yes, that's still valid — do you know or lot or do you just want to help? — i want to help — are you a student or a professor? — no — you're willing to stand out in the rain and snow? — it doesn't rain on me if I'm standing under this tree... 

11:15 a black guy walking next to a white girl pass by. The guy says: "Thanks. Thank you." and waves at me. I wave back

11:22 a girl takes my photo

11:24 a girl takes my photo

11:37-11:42 two girls carrying cups of coffee and boxes with sealed envelopes for mailing come up
— can we chat with you? — of course — what is the meaning of the sign? — what does it mean to you? — that we're okay — could it mean something else? — maybe that it's okay to be gay — some people have said to me they think the sign is suggesting there's something wrong with people — i didn't pick up on that — do you think the sign could apply to Hitler? — yes, because you can be okay but still do bad things — is there anyone telling us we're bad? — yes, teachers, parents, the media, politicians — some people said the concept of original sin in Christianity is also saying we're inherently bad — that's why Jesus came; because we're all imperfect; you can have nothing wrong with you but still be imperfect...

12:01-12:03 a dog named Merry sniffs around my tree and my bag and sign several times

12:23-12:27 Bo, a guy, comes up
— i see you all the time and didn't want to come by some day to see you gone and never have the chance to ask you: what inspires you to stand out in the cold and rain to talk to people? — many reasons; i would like to be of benefit to people; what is your major? — probably German, but i'm a freshman and don't have to declare my major yet — where did you go to high school? — Shoreline, north of Seattle; i'm looking forward to next year when i can take more classes i like; now i have to take required courses — are any of them interesting? — yes, my course about the universe that told us the Earth was unique in the solar system — how is it unique? — it's hard for me to explain 

1:45-1:55 a guy with a slight lisp comes up
— what do your signs mean? — what do they mean to you? — the "DON'T THINK" sign meant that people shouldn't overthink — what about today's sign, do you agree with it? — yes, but maybe not if someone had mental illness or didn't have a leg or something else wrong with them — would you agree if it were about Hitler? — no — what about dictators today in the Middle East or Africa who kill people? — like the genocide at Darfur? but they didn't kill as many as Hitler — did Hitler alone kill people? — no, but he was the main guy; i have people in my family who have mental illness and they take drugs for it which are not good, but they have to take them — what do you study? — i used to take math and science but quit because i wasn't good at it; my parents weren't happy about that — what do you study now? — drawing — what do you draw? — people i see or people from my mind...

2:15 two guys walk by. One says, "Thank you," and smiles. I smile back

2:26 two guys walk by. One says, "Amen."

2:30-2:37 a girl and two Asian Americans, a guy and a girl, come up
— why are you doing this? — what does the sign mean to you? — everyone's ok; be an individual, be yourself — i see people come up to you sometimes — are the people who come up to you just random people? — do you think they're just random people? — no, i think the people who come up to you are the ones who are more curious and more brave than the average — probably you have interesting discussions — yes, i do — do you believe what the signs say? — i think they can have different interpretations — you have very good handwriting; the signs are very legible — thank you, and i write them in Husky colors — yes, but there's no gold — that's because i wouldn't want anyone to steal the sign and take it to a Husky game...

2:55-3:00 an Asian American guy comes up
— what's with the sign? — do you agree with what it says? — yes; but maybe some people think there's something wrong with them that others don't think about — is there anyone the sign might not apply to? — maybe a mass murderer — what then is the diving line between those it applies to and those it doesn't? — i'd have to decide on a case by case basis; i couldn't generalize; why are you doing this? — i like talking to different people — do you have a purpose? — not having a goal means i can't be disappointed if i don't attain it — i can dig it; i may come up again later...

3:44-3:46 a young woman comes up to me and shakes my hand [I am sitting on the bench and I get up]
— is that your sign? — yes — i wanted to shake your hand; you made my day — why do you think such a sign might be needed? — because too many people see the bad in themselves — why? — maybe that's just human nature; are the signs you have just random signs? — i'd like to do something good with them — great; goodbye; stay warm

3:48 while I am sitting on the bench nearest the tree, my sign blows down without my noticing it and a girl comes up and sets it back up properly. I thank her. She laughs politely and walks quickly off

4:27 a guy walking by gives me the thumbs up and says: "Right on, dude."

4:28 a faculty member with a gray beard and mustache walks by with a woman and says, "Nice sign. Nice sign."

4:36-4:38 an American guy and girl and an Asian American guy talk to me from the sidewalk (Pierce Lane)
— why don't you hang the sign on the tree? — i don't want to damage the tree — so you're standing by the sign guarding it — do you think someone might steal it? — that would be ironic [they laugh]; why do you stand here? — to answer questions — makes sense — nice to meet you, man...

January 26, 2011 (Wednesday)

Time: Stood from 10:09am to 4:30pm with a break

Approximate time spent talking to people: 32 minutes

Other signs on the Quad: "Ban the Bag Showdown High Noon Thursday January 27 Red Square"; "Yoga marathon: Free lessons"

10:22 Alyssa comes up
— what are you doing? — standing next to this sign — is it an experiment? — isn't everything in life an experiment? — okay, have fun

10:33 an Asian guy gives me the thumbs up

11:30-11:34 a girl comes up
— why are you standing here? — do you think the statement on the sign is true? — yes — why? — maybe because you wouldn't let TV film the sign — do you think I would take the sign down if a TV crew showed up so they couldn't film it? — yes — is there any other reason? — because it doesn't make an important enough story to show on TV; why do you stand here with signs? — for many reasons; in part to have interesting conversations with people — what is your profession? — i teach English — where? — in Eastern Europe — what are you doing here? — visiting friends and family; what do you study? — social sciences — good luck to you

12:10-12:12 a guy comes up
— why are you standing here? i saw you with a sign offering free homework — that's right; the offer is still valid; what is the meaning of the sign to you? — maybe it's like the picture of a pipe that says "This is not a pipe"; — why do you think they wouldn't show this sign on TV? — because there are no cameras here — what if there were cameras here and they filmed it by chance, would they show it? — maybe, just because it would be ironic

12:20-1:45 I have lunch with Lora at China First

1:52 a guy takes a picture of only the sign 

2:15 a woman walks by and says aloud (but not to me): "The revolution will not be televised"

2:15-2:44 a guy with a high-powered camera and a tripod photographs the tree--but not me or the sign--from different angles to test something out. He says I'm not in his way

2:35-2:38 two campus police officers--a woman and a black man--come up. Mostly the woman speaks
— what is the meaning of the sign? — what does it mean to you? — no idea; is it for a philosophy class? — no, it's on my own initiative — why are you doing it? — i'm collecting responses — have you gotten many? — some — we were called here because someone was filming on the Quad — is that not allowed? — [seemed annoyed by the question] it's allowed, we're just checking it out — [the man says:] good luck on your...uh...project

3:28-3:34 2 girls come up. One takes a photo of the sign
— i took a photo of your sign "THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU" for my gender studies class; we had to take 7 photos related to gender and comment on them — could we request a sign? — what message would you want on it? — "YOU'RE PERFECT JUST THE WAY YOU ARE" — i think that wouldn't have much impact because it is banal; i've heard such a phrase in songs and other places; what does today's sign mean to you? — maybe it means no one will pay any attention — but you paid attention to it — people will disregard it — most people do — it could be related to gender studies: they only show 2 genders on TV; what does it mean? — if you sleep on it and come back tomorrow, i promise to tell you the meaning i think it could have — why do you do this? — for many reasons, in part to get people together outside of internet chat rooms — we'll come back tomorrow

3:50-4:00 Nate comes up
— i can get you some DMT tonight — how much do i owe you? — we'll worry about that later; i'll probably give it to you for free because it's important; i'll get you two doses in case you blow the first one — how do i smoke it? — usually i put a little marijuana in a glass pipe and the DMT crystals on top — i don't have a pipe; can i smoke it on tin foil? — probably; check the erowid site; do you know it? — yes — the erowid site saved my life once; i had drunk 2 bottles of cough syrup for the dextromethorphan high and was mixing myself a drink when i realized it might be worthwhile checking to see whether alcohol was contraindicated — what is dextromethorphan? — a dissociative; people don't know that they can legally buy it, drink 2 bottles and 30-45 minutes later feel an enormous change in their perception of the world; at some point i realized i had to move away from needing to experience altered states of consciousness all the time — have you tried breathing exercises? — yes — have you achieved the meditative state? — yes, it takes about 90 minutes; i create a room in my mind that i can go into and ruminate — would you describe it this way: you stop latching on to thoughts, which would be clouds floating by, and focus on the silence, the blue sky?; first you hear music in your head and when that disappears you hear random thoughts and snippets of disjointed conversation and finally all your thoughts disappear, but you are still there; you don't feel your body and you heart stops beating — yes, exactly, but i wish i could attain the meditative state more quickly; do you know about binaural music? — i've read Robert Monroe's "The Ultimate Journey" but haven't tried the music; i've heard it works but is not good because the effect is not self-induced — i have to get to my job where i save people's lives — are you a lifeguard? — yes, funny job; a machine could do it better...

4:04-4:06 a guy comes up
— what does the sign mean? — what does it mean to you? — that you don't have the money it takes to get the media interested in what you're doing; or maybe they would show it because it would be ironic; what do you mean by your sign? — if you come back tomorrow i'll tell you — i couldn't see the letters at first because of this branch [wants to break it off] — please don't break it off; i don't want to hurt the tree, and i use that root to prop up the sign...

4:07 a faculty member walks by, looks at me and asks: "How are you?" I reply: "Fine"

4:08-4:12 a faculty member with a beard and glasses comes up
— what is the purpose of your sign? — what does it mean to you? — are you setting up a paradox, like the picture "This is not a pipe"? — what would be the paradox? — you're directing attention to a sign that says it will not get any attention — how then would this sign differ from a sign saying: "THIS SIGN WILL BE IGNORED"? — maybe the media wouldn't pay attention to it because they're interested not in ideas but in crime, wars, etc. — if they did show it on TV, what would viewers think about it? — they would probably stop thinking about it pretty quickly — i see — is your sign a work of art, or of philosophy? — it's many things — what is your purpose? — i have many purposes, and at the same time i have no goal, so whatever happens i can't be disappointed — you're right; i appreciate what you're doing; thank you — good luck to you

January 27, 2011 (Thursday)


Time: Stood from 11:16am to 5:25pm with short breaks

Approximate time spent talking with people: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Other signs on the Quad: "Yoga marathon: Free lessons"; table set up between Quad and Red Square by Socialist Alternative handing out fliers announcing a protest against tuition hikes to take place that day at 3:30 in Denny Hall

11:23 a girl takes a photo

11:38-11:43 bathroom break
11:43-11:45 I stop by at the Socialist Alternative table and ask for a flyer and talk with two guys. They'd liked the sign "THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU". They ask to see today's sign. I show it to them
12:13 a girl who came up to ask about the previous sign smiles at me as she passes

12:29 a guy comes up:
— i'd stop and talk to you but i have class; maybe i'll come up later; are you here only on Thursdays? — no — ok

12:37 a group of about 12-15 school students about 12 years old pass by. They see the sign and one black boy asks: "What does it mean?" A gray-haired woman--their teacher-- says: "It's an experiment. The dumber you ask, the dumber you are. You have to ask questions politely." 

12:44 Kirk walks by with a friend and calls out: "What's up, Kevin? That's a good one today."

1:12-1:14 a guy comes up
— what does it mean? — what does it mean to you? — it doesn't have any personal meaning — do you think what the sign is saying is true? — probably — why? — well, why would they show it? — good answer — they might show it; what is your purpose in standing here? — in part to get people to interact outside of internet chat rooms — people don't have time because they're always busy going to class, speaking of which i'm late for my class

1:26-1:33 the 2 girls from gender study class from yesterday [see January 26 @ 3:28] come up
— we thought about the sign — did you talk about it with anyone else? — no, just with each other — what meaning do you think i have in mind? — no clue — do you think TV in general is bad? — yes — why? — because it's a waste of time; and some of the shows are bad, for example Skins on MTV which is borderline child pornography; that's not the way my life is; my life is boring — so it's unrealistic; is there anything on TV that's realistic? — i don't know; maybe for some people — the whole world thinks people in America live the way they show on TV and in films — maybe TV is bad because people try to be the way TV tells them to be — and TV doesn't give you time to think, because if you stop to think you're missing what comes next; have you ever heard any criticism of TV on TV? — no — have you seen the movie Network? — no — it's about a news anchor who gets depressed and announces on air he's going to commit suicide, after which his ratings jump and he uses his show as a pulpit to tell people that they should turn off the TV because they're dressing, acting and thinking the way the TV tells them to; is there criticism of TV on the internet? — there's probably more criticism there — is there criticism of the internet on the internet? — probably — isn't it ironic that there would be internet sites to help people get over their addiction to the internet? — yes, it is — do you ever hear criticism of the university at the university? — no — i had an English literature professor who asked our class one beautiful spring day why we were sitting in a classroom instead of outside falling in love; that's the closest i've come to hearing criticism of the university at the university; someone told me the lectures on ted.com are more interesting than lectures in class; are the lectures you go to interesting? — some are — can you ask questions during lectures? — some professors don't even look at the students while they're lecturing; i have an archeology professor who encourages students to interrupt him if they have questions — do students ask questions? — some do — what do you study? — my major is anthropology — my major is public health...

1:35 a group of about 30 students age 13-15 walk by. One guy says, "Nice sign."

1:43 a guy takes a photo

3:30-3:36 Kevin, an Asian American with glasses, comes up 
— what does the sign mean? — what do you think it means? — it means you're genuine... [2 guys and a girl come up and interrupt our conversation]

3:32-3:35 2 guys and a girl come up
— what does the sign mean? — what does it mean to you? — that none of your signs will be shown on TV — what else? — people's interpretations can be different; also, maybe it means that the interpretation, or the meaning internalized by the person who sees this sign or any sign, cannot be shown on TV because it can't possibly be shown at all because there are some interpretations that cannot be expressed or shown in any way...

3:35 Kevin again...
— i don't think they would have come up to you if i hadn't been standing here...

3:43-3:48 bathroom break

3:50 Aaron, a guy, comes up and we have a standard discussion of the sign

3:53 Joe, an Asian American, comes up. We engage in a three-way discussion
— i [Aaron] organize interfaith dialogues, for example on the issue of homosexuality — do you have interesting discussions? — yes, but some people get angry at others because they have different ideas — what faiths are represented at the discussions? — Christians, Buddhists, Jews, atheists, and others — has anyone changed their mind after discussions? — i don't know; but i have: i used to be an atheist but now i believe in God, though i don't know how to define exactly what i mean by that — do you think voting is important? — yes, but i only vote on issues i have some understanding of; for example, i've only taken one or two courses on economics so i'm not qualified to make a judgement related to the financial crisis — but think about how few people have taken enough economics courses so that they could make such a judgement — i still don't feel comfortable doing so — i have a friend who's a professor who teaches Russian and objected to the invasion of Iraq but was told he didn't have a right to since he wasn't a professor of political science — people judge me for not voting on some issues, but i still refuse to vote on an issue i don't feel i know enough about

[Aaron leaves]

— do you see those metal things on the ledges? — yes — they're there to keep people from being able to skateboard on them — it seems to me you could still maneuver around them — yes, i can; it's all designed to keep people from being free — i've heard that if you learn to maintain your balance physically you will preserve a good mental balance and be less susceptible to suggestion and manipulation — yes, that's true; balance is important, even in the way you dress — do you mean that metaphorically with respect to Aaron [he had been wearing a sweatshirt but also shorts and flip-flops] — i suppose, but i'm not judging him — you mean more in the Buddhist sense of the middle path — i don't know much about Buddhism, but i suppose the yin-yang thing would apply; when i'm riding my board i see nothing around me; mastering the board helps me to learn how to master anything and helps me with my school work — i see — i want to be a journalist because i want to write about the problems at, for example, this university — i think the New York Times is a propaganda rag and that even articles in the arts section are propaganda; i can take any article and deconstruct it to show you what the propaganda is — i'll bring a New York Times because i'd like to see that — here's an example: there was an article with a title that was something like: "Most identity theft committed by family members" in which the journalist failed to make the point that it is family members who are the most likely identity theft culprits simply because they are the ones in a position to have easy access to the data necessary to commit the theft; but the impression is created that we should mistrust the people closest to us; and i fail to believe the problem is merely one of journalistic incompetence — people don't have enough face-to-face conversations — they get too easily offended at one another — i can only try to be as positive and open to conversation as possible — people don't appreciate the value of talking to others — i get a lot out of conversations — i have learned a lot from this conversation — have you ever tried talking to yourself in a mirror? — no, that would be narcissistic — what about talking to yourself without a mirror? — i would feel strange about doing so; i'll come back tomorrow and bring more people with me...

4:36-4:40 a tall, lanky guy with glasses with a permanent smile and polite/nervous laugh comes up
— why do you stand here? — many reasons — so it's just for fun? — no, the signs have meaning — are you from the sociology department? — no, i'm doing this on my own initiative — so it's not a serious study — no — so it's just for fun — no, it's not just for fun — i have to go...

4:45-4:55 Nathan, a guy from Manchester, England, and Cally, a girl from New York, while approaching ask if I have a lighter
— i think i do [i produce one] — we're friends of Nate's — very nice to meet you; please tell Nate there's a meditation technique i forgot to tell him about the other day — would you like to do a spliff? — is it okay to do it here? — i'm paying $35,000 a year for this; i'll smoke where i like — people are terribly alienated from one another here — they're in a media-induced hypnotic trance — it's the consumer culture — it's more than that: after the war the US brought Nazi scientists over, not only rocket scientists like Werner von Braun but social scientists who taught them various means of mind control and manipulating consciousness — people don't understand the value of drugs; the most interesting conversations i've had--lasting hours--were when i was on acid — there was more freedom in the 60s; i think the powers-that-be got terrified of it and took complete control of the media and used other means such as money, sex and drugs--the bad drugs; where are you from? — Manchester — is your accent really a Manchester one? — it's mixed with the American — how long have you been here? — since 2008 — where are you from? — New York — what do you do? — i live in Harlem and sing the blues — do you play an instrument? no; i have three-quarters of a band together — have you put out an album? no; studio time is expensive — do you put your recordings on the internet? — some — is it so important that they be of studio quality? — i'd record songs at home all the time but i live in an apartment and the neighbors would complain — i forgot that would be a problem — i hope you have more people come up to talk to — thank you...

5:00 imagined (convinced myself) that the hollow sound and feel when I stamp my foot in a certain place near the tree indicates that under the ground in that spot is either buried treasure or a time capsule 

5:10-5:18 Joe comes up again with his skateboard
— i just got kicked off Red Square by the police for skateboarding there — did they give you a ticket? — no, but they wanted to confiscate my skateboard — did you tell them you didn't know you weren't allowed to skateboard there? — yes — did you actually know you weren't allowed? — [hesitantly] yes

January 28, 2011 (Friday)

Time: Stood from 10:36am to 4:42pm without breaks

Approximate time spent talking with people: 47 minutes

Other signs on the Quad: "Yoga marathon: Free lessons"

11:05-11:07 two girls, one black and the other Latino, come up
— are you protesting?— what would I be protesting against? – what is the sign for? – what does it mean to you? – we’re smart, but we don’t understand what it means; are your signs just random signs? – i wouldn’t call them random; they have meaning; do you think the statement on this sign is true? – yeah – why? – because you wouldn’t get any publicity for it because it’s not important – what if there were TV cameras here filming because someone got shot and they filmed the sign accidentally, would they show it? – here’s a question: why would someone be shot on the Quad? – it’s a hypothetical question; ok, say a tree fell and they were here filming it, would they show the sign on TV? – i don’t know; can you tell us? – if you think about it and come back i promise I’ll tell you what other meaning the sign could have – ok, we’re going to lunch but we’ll definitely come back later

11:15 peace sign guy carrying a skateboard flashes the peace sign as he walks by. I smile back

11:31 a guy takes my photo

11:55 a group of about 10 black students walk by. One girl says to her friends: “He’s been under that tree for three hours.”

12:05 the girls who came up at 11:05 pass by without looking

12:35-12:38 two girls come up
— what does the sign me? – what does it mean to you? – that it won’t be shown on TV – why not? – maybe because of privacy issues – what would those issues be? – i’m not sure; maybe because it’s not relative [sic] – because it’s not relevant? i see – are you here to make people ask questions? – for that reason too – i remember your sign about homework…

12:40-12:44 two girls come up
— what does it mean? – what does it mean to you? – i don’t know; why are you standing here? — it's a nice tree to stand under — are you affiliated with the university? — no, i'm doing this on my own initiative — how many hours per week do you stand out here? — 3-4 days a week, 6-7 hours a day — is this a social experiment? — not exactly — what is your purpose? — there are many: to have interesting discussions with people, to encourage people to interact outside of internet chat rooms, and others — will you tell us what you think it means? — if you go away and think about it and come back later, i promise i'll tell you what meaning it has to me — how long should we think: a day, a week? — ten minutes or a week, whatever you want — ok

1:40-2:00 a guy comes up 
— what does your sign mean? — do you think the message on the sign is true? — yes — why? — because TV shows are in the business of making money and to do so they have to improve their ratings by showing something people want to see, and this sign is not something people would want to see — do you study economics? — oh, God no; i study political science, but we have to study things like economics and sociology — do you watch TV? — sometimes — do you think TV is bad in any way? — some things are terrible; i remember that TV was described in the 60s by the FCC chairman as "a vast wasteland"; have you seen the show on MTV called Jersey Shore? — no, but i saw the South Park parody of it — that's all you have to see to understand how terrible it is — do you think the TV execs who put shows like that on the air know they're terrible? — yes, i think they do, but if they're getting 2-3 million viewers from a show, of course they're going to put it on the air — is there anything good on TV? — i like the show Bully Beatdown — what's that about? — [he describes the premise of the show] — is it staged? — no, it's realistic; i do MMA [Mixed Martial Arts] jujutsu, so i know— has the bully ever won? — one time he did — do the bullies ever go to their victims and muscle the $10,000 out of them that they've won after the bullies have lost the fight? — no, usually they show them on TV apologizing — could you with your martial arts skills take any of the bullies? — if they're not a lot bigger than me and if i can get them on the ground i could probably beat them — what about in a back alley fight? — with weapons? — no weapons — one-on-one? — one-on-one — if i could get them to the ground i could use several techniques [he describes various holds and moves, using MMA jargon without taking into consideration that i might not understand it all; i ask for clarifications of several terms he uses] — are there any woman bullies? — there was one — could you take her? — probably; i remember your sign about free homework — yes, many people couldn't believe i would do so for free and others couldn't imagine how i could help with any subject — how could you help with any subject? — i think there are certain techniques i could use, like having someone describe to me everything they already know about a subject — right, if you can explain it to someone else that means you understand it well yourself; but what about this sign? — if you think about it and come back, i promise i'll tell you what i think it could mean — ok, i'll come back on Monday for sure; are you like a wandering philosopher? — i don't know; i wouldn't say that

2:06 an Asian American mother walks by with her daughter who looks to be about 6. The daughter asks, about the sign: "Why, mommy? Why?" I don't hear the mother's answer 

2:23-2:27 an Asian American guy comes up 
— why are you here? — standing next to this sign; does it have meaning to you? — privacy — what do you mean? — something shown on TV is public and the people passing by the sign are private persons — any other possible meaning? — maybe the sign is speaking with authority to those who would try to show it, telling them that they shouldn't — why then does the sign not read "This sign SHOULDN'T be shown on TV"? — then i don't know what it means — if you come back later, i promise to tell you what i think it could mean...

2:31 a girl walks by, looks at me and says: "I don't understand." I shrug my shoulders

2:33-2:35 a guy comes up
— what the hell are you doing? — i'm standing next to this sign — i know that; what does it mean?...i'm not making fun of you — i know; does it mean anything to you? — no — do you ever see any criticism of TV on TV? — yeah, i hear criticism of Fox news by pundits — do you ever hear criticism of TV in general? — no — do you ever hear criticism of TV anywhere? — from my parents — have you ever heard a professor tell you the university is a waste of time? — no — that's a clue to the meaning of the sign — ok [annoyed], you're not telling me; have a nice day

3:26-3:30 a guy comes up
— what's the sign mean? — do you think it's true? — yes — why? — it's not newsworthy; TV only shows sensational and ludicrous things; it must be something you're passionate about if you're willing to stand out here next to the sign for so long — if you think about it and come back, i'll tell you what i think it means — i'll definitely come back Monday...

4:26-4:34 Kevin [see January 27 @ 3:30] comes up
— i thought about it and realized that all your signs are designed to get people to come up and talk — that's true, but that's only a small part of it; i think the messages on the signs have an inherent meaning — maybe the idea is to get people to think — have you seen the movie Network? — no — who have you heard criticize TV? — parents, teachers at school — why do they criticize it? — they say it's not educational — have you ever heard a professor criticize the university? how long do you think a professor without tenure would last if they said to their students they thought the university is a waste of time? — not very long — this is what i'm getting at — ok, my curiosity is satisfied; thank you

January 31, 2011 (Monday)

Time: Stood from 9:51am to 4:33pm with a break

Approximate time spent talking with people: 51 minutes

Other signs on the Quad: none; at 4:35 a guy was writing with chalk on the sidewalk between Red Square and the Quad: "Did you know? The largest book in the world is in Suzzalo library. Become a UW tour guide"

10:14 a guy walking by smirks

10:24-10:26 an Asian American who speaks like an African American comes up to me and fist bumps me [Mike?]
— i appreciate your signs, but why do you stand out here with them? — i want to know what they mean to you — i can't tell you right away; i don't even know what "complicit" means — if someone commits a crime and you help them, you are complicit; it means partly responsible — do you give free tutoring? — yes — i have to get to class but i'll come back later

10:45-10:55 A...[name withheld], a girl of Mexican heritage, comes up
— i have wanted to come up to you for a long time to ask you about your signs but never had any time because i was always rushing off to class — yes, other people have mentioned that they don't have enough time — your sign "THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU" made my day — i'm glad; someone else said the same thing to me — at first i thought you were weird but my father taught me to respect all people before you meet them and, after that, your respect for them then will go up or down; but i talked about you with my friends and they told me not to go up to you because you might hurt me — did they think i was going to punch you in the face right here on the Quad? — i don't know — about the sign, are there people trying to deceive us? — yes — who? — for example religion; i was raised as a Christian and people talked all the time about forgiveness but then they were always judging me — did you tell them you thought that? — no, i just walked away — do priests deliberately lie? — yes — do people know they're lying? — they should know — but is it possible they don't? — probably, since people think differently — are there other forms of deception? — the government, friendship — why would someone pretend friendship? why would you? you don't have to tell me if you don't want to...— i live with a roommate who sometime gets on my nerves, but i'm friends with her because i have to live with her; also i'm friends with people i have to see every day — couldn't you just be polite to them? — no; i'm surprised people here don't have closer families; in Mexico [she pronounces it: "Meh-hee-ko"] people understand that families are everything; i don't understand how people could put their parents in [rest] homes — i think people are easier to manipulate if their families are not close: Hitler tried to break up families and Stalin did too — people get offended so easily, even from constructive criticism — why do you think that's true? — probably out of fear someone might know more about them than they do — but isn't it common knowledge that there are things about ourselves most of us fail to see until they're pointed out to us? — yes, so i don't know — if someone criticizes me, if the criticism is fair and accurate, i should listen to it because and can learn from it; and if the criticism is unfair, getting offended isn't going to help — why do people come up to you in groups instead of alone? — sometimes they are walking with friends or maybe they feel more comfortable in a group; one guy told me his friend called him and said, "Wanna do something brave? Let's go up to that guy on the Quad." — [holds out hand] my name is A... — Kevin...

11:08-11:10 Austin Siedentopf, a guy, comes up
— i remember your sign about TV yesterday — you mean on Friday? — yes — what does today's sign mean to you? — it has meaning to me because i'm a magician; they say "Deception is the first pleasure" — what does that mean? — i haven't thought a lot about it so i'm not sure, but i think Oscar Wilde said it — but what does it mean? — maybe something like: "Ignorance is bliss." — but if you are aware you're are ignorant, how do you feel bliss? — doublethink — doesn't that lead to cognitive dissonance? — it potentially could; why do you stand out here with signs? — for many reasons; one of them is so i can have interesting conversations with people — i bet you've had interesting talks — yes, i have — well, okay, i'll look forward to more interesting signs, sir...

12:03 a female police officer walks by, looks quickly at the sign, and walks away

12:25-12:41 Mikey and Mike, two guys, come up, introduce themselves, and we shake hands
— people are talking about your signs — really? what do the signs mean to you? — the DON'T THINK sign i assume was criticism of the university — some people perceived it that way; for example some professors did and were especially upset when i told them the sign was a mirror in which people see their own interpretations — what were they professors of? — they stormed off angrily too quickly for me to find out — the THIS SIGN WILL NOT BE SHOWN ON TV sign i assume meant you're not trying to get attention, unlike the signs people hold up at sporting events to get on TV — do you ever see criticism of TV in general on TV? — yes, on Nickelodeon one 24-hour period a year they don't broadcast anything, they just show a sign telling you not to watch too much TV; and with the Nintendo Wii game there is a screen that shows the sun and tells you to go outside and play — has a professor at the university ever told you they think the university is a waste of time? — no, but Ted Nugent does — do you agree? — no, you can't really get a job without a college education; college is expensive and i could learn the material on my own, but the computer programs i would write would just be a mass of inefficient code; my dad works at Microsoft and i know the questions they ask and you couldn't pass the interview if you didn't get the knowledge they give you in college — would you prefer just to buy a diploma, say, one that no employer would know wasn't real? — no, i like the college experience: the interaction with others and learning; but it's true you can get a job even with a degree in something like women's studies if you can get through the interview — are the other people who study here also here for the knowledge? — not all of them — what percentage? — i don't know all of them, but i would guess that about 50% are here to learn; the fact that i go to college changes me; if i spent four years working or traveling instead of going to college, i would be a different person — is there anything about college you would like to see different? — i'd like to see people more serious; i'm talking about the people who just come here to drink; drinking a little is okay, but blacking out every night is not; also i don't like some of the BS [Bullshit] courses like introduction to philosophy where no one was required to really learn anything — how did they grade you? — there were four papers and a final exam; for the papers it was enough to cite one work by, say, Plato to get a good grade; we saw the police here last week — yes, they came up to ask me what my sign meant because they had no idea; what does today's sign mean to you? — since you're standing on the Quad, i assume it again refers to the university: "don't be deceived into thinking you're learning something"; but i'm not deceived because i'm really learning and i know that — actually the meaning is broader — you had a sign about free tutoring? — yes; many people couldn't believe i would do it for free and others doubted i could help with any subject — how could you help with any subject? — well, say there was a language i didn't know; i'd have the person describe the structure of the language to me, then i would ask questions that would make them clarify, then we'd talk about memorization techniques and we'd talk about how the study of language should be combined with the study of culture in general and the culture of the country where the language is spoken — what is your purpose in standing out here with signs? — i have many, one of which is the opportunity to talk with people who come up to me; many who come up to me say they don't get as much interesting conversation as they'd like at college — there are many students at this school; at a smaller school people would get to know each other better — yes, but i just met you and already we're having an interesting conversation because i have no time for boring conversation; another reason for the signs is to show people the limits of language when expressing complex ideas — like the word "dog"; when i say it you think of one kind of dog, i think of another; each person thinks of his own — but in my case, in making the signs i was conscious of the inherent ambiguity of any phrase i might put on them — it's meta-knowledge...

12:50-12:56 bathroom break

1:09 a guy walking by looks at me and smiles and laughs silently

2:25-2:33 the Asian American girls from Friday [see January 28 @ 12:40] came back having been unable to figure out what the TV sign meant; they were soon joined by two guys and a girl
— what do you think the sign "THIS SIGN WON'T BE SHOWN ON TV" meant? — maybe it means there are certain things the media won't show — what things won't they show? — i don't know — have you ever heard criticism of the university at the university? — some professors say the university is not right for some people — what about today's sign; does it have meaning to you? — we should be aware there might be someone trying to deceive us — do people allow themselves to be deceived? — yes; that's more comfortable — even in the face of evidence of deception? — people who are lying to themselves cannot be made to see through facts or logic; like if you think you're good at basketball but you lose a game, you blame your loss on poor-fitting shoes — to help people to see their self-deception, could a friend admit to him sincerely that he himself had been lying to himself for a long time before he finally realized he was doing so as a way of hinting that he too could be doing the same? — yes, but it still might not work...

2:48-2:50 a guy with an earring in each ear wearing a bandana over his shaved head comes up
— what is this sign? — does it have meaning to you? — he reads out loud: "The deceived are complacent [sic] in their deception"; it's just a bunch of words; i'd have to think about it for them to make sense; is it philosophy? — as much as anything is philosophy — probably people have different ideas of what it means — that's what i've found...

3:31 a girl carrying a coffee cup comes up
— is this for a course or something? — no — 'cause i see you out here a lot — yes — very nice; have a good one...

3:10-3:13 3 girls and 4 guys come up; one of the girls speaks
— why are you standing here? is it okay if i ask that question? — sure; there are many reasons, one of them is that i'd like to see people interact more outside of internet chat rooms; does the sign mean something to you? — yes, that all people are deceived — do you mean everybody is deceived? — yes because our perception is flawed — is there anything we can do about that? — no because we don't know what's wrong with our perception — so, it's kind of like the unknown unknowns? — yes...

3:44-3:49 an Asian American girl comes up and introduces herself as a reporter
— i'm a reporter for the school newspaper — The Daily? — yes; i've heard about your signs and would like to ask you about them; which signs did you have up? — i'd rather not be interviewed but i will tell you the signs i had up; shall we sit down on the bench? [i write down for her the messages on the signs and what days i stood with each] — are you a student here? — no; i will tell you why i do not want to be interviewed: if you search in The Daily's archives for 1996 you'll find an article about a man The Daily called "Bigfoot" who had stood on Red Square with signs; the tone of the article was one of ridicule and derision and the article quoted students who called the signs "outrageous" and "insulting" but failed to quote a single sign so that readers could have made their own judgment; to The Daily's credit, it published a letter to the editor a week later in which the author said that the man had some very cogent things to say; i know i can't write the article for the paper myself; do you understand why i don't want to be interviewed? i will talk to anyone who comes up to me, though — ok, thank you for your time

3:59-4:01 Ian, a guy, comes up
— what is the sign for? — does it mean something to you? — yeah, i agree with it — who is it who deceives us? — the government, parents, friends, it depends on how you look at it — are we complicit in the deception? — yes — why? — living an illusion makes it easier to get through the day; or maybe people just don't see the deception — then they can't be complicit if they're not conscious of the deception — good point; do you just throw up thoughts here for people to think about? — i can't think of any particular agenda someone could push with signs like these — you must have some agenda — i enjoy talking with people — i see that; that's why i came up to you — do you think the signs have an impact? — this one did on me; it made me think about it; what kind of impact did you want it to have? — none in particular... 

February 1, 2011 (Tuesday)

Message on sign: I AM NOT GAY

Time: Stood from 9:51am to 5:12pm with no breaks

Approximate time spent talking with people: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Other signs on the Quad: none

9:51-9:56 Jason, a graduate student in psychology, comes up as I'm propping the sign up against the tree
— are you the guy with the different signs? — yes — could i ask you your purpose; i hope you don't think i'm being intrusive in asking — no, not at all; i have many purposes, one of which is to have interesting conversations with people who come up to me — i'm a grad student in psychology; your signs are interesting; they present a broad range of ideas; i'm not criticizing what you do; getting out different messages is good; do you examine different interpretations? — yes, i get many different interpretations — what do you do? — i teach English in Eastern Europe — are you here on sabbatical? — no, i'm between jobs — what did you expect the result of your signs to be? — i don't have any expectations — in the sense "less is more"? — not exactly; if i don't have any expectations, whatever happens, i can't be disappointed

10:26 Kirk [see January 5 @ 4:11] rides by on his bike and asks how long I'd be there today and says he'll come back about 3:00

10:33 a guy picks up a piece of trash not far from me and smiles and nods at me

10:34-10:39 two women come up; while we're talking a girl takes a photo of the sign
— why are you standing here with this sign? — i'm interested in what people have to say — is this a study? — i'm not affiliated with any group or organization — why would you say "I am not gay"? why not: "i am not a person of color", or: "i am not a nazi", or: "i am not Jewish" or: "i am not disabled"? — i can only put up one sign at a time — but why this one? — if i said "I AM GAY" no one would be offended — your sign is offensive; it is a political statement in the context of our homophobic society; you're making people feel unsafe and you're playing with their emotions — doesn't the media play with people's emotions all the time? — well, congratulations for adding to that; [one woman to the other:] it's a study 
[they leave, offended, without saying goodbye; i say to their backs as they walk up the stairs into Savery Hall: "Good luck to you"; one of them mutters something i can't hear]

11:19 Brad [see January 18 @ 12:24] is walking with a girl who points out the sign to him. He reads the sign aloud: "'I am not gay.' That's awesome!"

11:30 Aaron [see January 27 @ 3:50] passes by and turns his head around to look at the sign several times while walking away

11:57-12:05 Jeff, a guy, comes up
— what is the question your sign is answering? — there is no question — why are you saying you're not gay? — if i said "I am gay" would that offend anyone? — probably not; you could probably say "i am not heterosexual" or even "i am heterophobic" without getting into trouble here in Seattle — but some were offended by the sign because they assumed an intent on my part to offend them — you can't yell "Fire" in a crowded theater even if you intend it to be a call for peace; there is a context that has to be considered — your point is well taken; do you think my sign could be considered hate speech? — it might be construed that way — well, that's a slippery slope people are traveling down because if something as innocuous as my sign is considered hate speech, imagine what restrictions on freedom of expression we could see after that — yes, i agree — it's okay for gay people to talk about how difficult their lives were before they came out, but i doubt you'd be allowed in the mainstream media to talk about people, who i've read about on the internet, who became gay because they felt pressured into doing so but many years later became heterosexual and regretted the time they spent being gay — probably; people here are more anti-social than other places i've been, for example California; even in a place like Eastern Europe people are not so anti-social — where have you lived in Eastern Europe? — i lived in Moscow and Lithuania for about four years — what did you do there? — i played basketball for the team TsSKA — do you speak Russian? — i spent 30 hours a week at practices and four days a week on the road so i really didn't have time to learn it...

12:12 a girl walks by
— you should find a sunny patch; it's a lot warmer — yeah, but i really like this tree

12:28-12:30 a guy comes up
— why do you stand here with signs? — have you seen the others? — yes, some of them were cool; they made me think; do you want to make people think or are you curious about people's reactions? — both, and more...

12:38 the two women who were offended [see today @ 10:34] pass by without looking at me

12:42-12:45 an Asian American girl who spoke with a slight accent came up with a high-powered camera
— could i take some pictures of the sign? — yes, please [she takes 5-6 photos]; why did you choose this sign? — to see what reactions people might have — is your purpose to see what people think? — yes, that plus the fact that i have no purpose so i can't be disappointed with the result — are you a student? — no — is this a project? — no, i have no affiliation with any organization — how long will you stand here? — until about 4:30 — how often do you change the sign? — 2-3 times a week...

12:50-12:52 Adrian and Adam, two guys, come up  
— i'm curious what you're trying to accomplish with your signs; people are wondering about it — people have come up to me and had different interpretations of the meanings of the messages on the signs — what is your purpose in standing here with them? — i have many purposes and no purpose at the same time; i've had many interesting conversations with people about them — i'll bet you have; you're on facebook, by the way, on my wall — can you tell me how to find the photo? — here, i'll show you one [shows me photo of me with DON'T THINK]...

1:05-1:19 Alyssa [see January 26 @ 10:22] comes up
— what does your sign mean? — what do you think it means? — that you're being defensive — in what way? — like someone accused you of being gay and you're saying you're not — i didn't think of that interpretation — i like your experiment; i'd like to do an experiment too — what experiment would you like to do? — i don't know; i'd have to think about it; what about a sign with: "YOU ARE A POKEMON MASTER"? — i didn't grow up with pokemon so i can't identify with that — but other people would understand — but i don't know exactly what it means so i wouldn't be able to talk to anybody about it — how about: "YOU ARE A JEDI" — i understand that and it would be positive, but i don't think it would generate interesting discussions — people would come up and talk about Star Wars with you — yes, but that would not be interesting to me; what do you study? — i'm pre-engineering but i don't like it because it doesn't give me enough freedom to think outside of the box, though i guess mathematics lets you do that — is there another subject you could study where you could think more freely? — i don't know — do you think you need a university to learn? — you mean like the phrase: "Education is what you learn outside of school"? — yes; the idea that the university teaches you not HOW to think but WHAT to think — do you think people should have their own thoughts? — i think they would be happier if they had more knowledge of self — could that make them unhappy? — more knowledge of self has made me happier; i suppose i can't know what it would do for other people — could it make them more lonely? — yes, it could, but i would rather be lonely than deluded — that's why i read books — why exactly? — to see that there are others who think like i do — that's why i read them too; when i see others think like me i feel less lonely — have you read Dostoevsky? — yes, i've read everything he wrote — i like him; i read Crime and Punishment at a time when i was going through changes in my life so maybe that's why the book had such an impact; i started The Brothers Karamazov but didn't get through it — i recommend it — do you go to lunch? — sometimes, but usually i have food in my bag — you should go to lunch; you should use a rock to hold the sign in place so it doesn't blow down — good idea; if you have a good idea for something you could do, please come up and talk to me about it; i'd be happy to let you use my tree...

1:30-1:37 two girls and a guy come up
— why did you choose this sign? — i could say "I am gay" without controversy, couldn't i? — yes — someone got offended by this sign, saying society is homophobic, but i find this society to be very permissive of gays — Seattle is; but many children commit suicide because they're gay and can't come out — i'm sure that happens, but the opposite also happens: i read an account on the internet of a guy who became gay because he felt pressured into doing so for whatever reason, who then became straight and regretted terribly his years of homosexuality — someone offended Oprah by saying to her they don't even see the color of her skin; that is, they mentioned that whereas if it were really true they wouldn't have bothered to say that — i wouldn't be offended if a black person called me "cracker"; and i do see skin color and i in fact see that black people have a different culture, one which has advantages over white culture: the emotions are not phony, they have real friendships; if we have really overcome our prejudice against people of other races and sexual preferences, we should stop talking about these issues — i agree — the women who were offended by my sign told me i was playing with people's emotions; i said the media plays with people's emotions all the time; they said: "congratulations for adding to that"; but the difference between me and the media is that people can come up and talk to me and express their own ideas and i will listen to what they have to say and think about it — but aren't your signs a medium too? — yes, that's true; but there is no way for me to express anything without some medium; even language itself is a medium...

1:45-2:15 F...[name withheld], a Saudi Arabian man, comes up
— i saw your sign and wanted to know what it means — what do you think it means? — i thought it meant you were looking for a job; or maybe that you're looking for a girlfriend; in Saudi Arabia people put up signs like "House for rent" with their phone numbers which means they're looking for a girlfriend and women put ads in the newspaper saying "Jewelry" which means they're looking for boyfriends; people cannot have girlfriends so they marry early; i have friends who are 22 and 19 who have children; in Saudi Arabia you could never stand with a sign like this; people can be killed for being gay; the judge tries to find a way to get people off, but if you have gay relations in public, you can be killed — is the internet censored? — yes, about 70% of it is — if you look at pornography can they catch you? — yes, if they do you will have to sign a paper promising never to look at it again and if they catch you again you will be publicly flogged in accordance with Islamic law (sharia) — what do people think about people who have been flogged? — they think they're bad people and no one wants anything to do with them; many move to another city; in different cities there are different rules regarding how much of a woman's body may be shown in public; in some places, for example in Jedda where there is more contact with foreigners, the hands and face may be shown; in other places not even the eyes may be seen — what about men? — usually they must be covered from the knees to the belly button; in Saudi Arabia the American embassy is very protective of Americans and so people are nervous about interacting with Americans; i'm on a study program here financed by the government so that i and about 40,000 others sent each year like me can learn more about America — do some people who come here stay in America? — no, you sign a paper promising you will go back, and for every year i spend here i will have to spend a year working for the government when i go back; i will probably stay here 5-6 years studying; but the government pays for my education and pays me $1850 a month; it used to be only $1500 which is not enough; they calculate it based on prices in Saudi Arabia but things are very expensive here, especially gasoline; we are petitioning the government to raise the amount; the UAE government pays its citizens who come here $2250 a month; what is the average salary of a teacher here? — i'm not sure; maybe about $3000 a month — that would be a good amount — but the people who make that much don't think it's a lot — really? — even millionaires don't think they make enough — i didn't understand your sign about TV — the idea is that you won't see criticism of the media in the media, just like you won't hear criticism of the university at the university; i met a woman from Saudi Arabia named Nada; she said she had trouble making friends here — yes, i have too; it's because i don't speak English well that they don't want to be friends with me — no, it's because most people don't have real friends — i have noticed that people here behave in strange ways; when i walk past people they don't look me in the eye and look away if i look them in the eye; they are like machines [robots]; in Saudi Arabia it is okay to look someone in the eye; but i feel comfortable here because people always say "thank you" and "please" and "excuse me" — yes, but it is not real; many of them are not happy; in school children are forced to smile all the time; an American sitting completely alone in a room will have a smile on their face — is what you're doing an experiment? — yes — do you record what you talk about? — yes — are you going to write a book? — i am planning to put the material on the internet; on the last day i will let people know what the address is — ok, i will see it because i come here every day; i think some people would think you are crazy — some people do; one guy said someone might call me a fool — did he actually say that to you? — yes...

2:25-2:30 Zosha, a girl, comes up to me and offers me her hand, which I shake
— i see your signs when i'm going to philosophy class and it gets me in the right train of thought — are you a philosophy major? — no, i'm a freshman...[we talk about the signs]

2:30 a male police officer walks by and looks briefly at the sign

2:30-2:35 two girls, one a psychology major, and a guy come up
— i like your glasses — really, i'll sell them to you — no thanks, i have two pairs of my own — i was kidding; they'd be too strong for you — did you offer to help with homework? — yes — do you just know a lot of stuff? — i think there are some standard approaches to learning...[we talk about the signs]

2:50 a guy comes up
— are you standing under this tree just to start up conversations with people? — i have had some very interesting conversations — is that your purpose? — it's one of many — ok, cool...

2:52 Daven [see January 24 @ 12:42] comes up
— how long are you going to be here? — until about 4:30 — never mind, i'll talk to you tomorrow

2:55-3:10 there is a sports caster and a cameraman on the Quad filming a segment for the news. I get the sign 'THIS SIGN WON'T BE SHOWN ON TV" ready in case they film me. They don't

3:24-3:39 Grayson, Carly and Melissa come up
— why this sign? — i think a sign "I am gay" would not be controversial; this sign offended some people and i'd like to know what you think would not be permitted on a sign — a personal attack, or a call to commit violence, or something like: "UW sucks" — why would that not be allowed? would you take offense to a sign like that? — yes, because i already paid my tuition — but what if i could convince you UW was a bad school? — is that your job? — no, but wouldn't i be saving you money if i convinced you that was true? — if you could convince me — if i'm American does that mean i can't criticize America? didn't Thomas Jefferson say something like: "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism" because that way you can make your country better? — yes, i would agree that nowadays saying you're not gay is more controversial than saying you are gay — whereas 30 years ago it was the opposite; i would like it to be permissible to say both things because if something as innocuous as my sign is forbidden, imagine what else they might forbid...[we have a discussion about the intent of the creator of a message and its subjective perception by others]

3:27-3:30 two guys come up and I briefly talk to them while Grayson is trying to remember what he wanted to say

4:17-4:22 Zack, a guy, comes up
— i like your signs; they're funny; i'm not making fun of you — i know — and they make me think; i've talked about your signs with a lot of people and we talk about coming up to you and i've wanted to come up to you for a long time but i've never had time — other people have told me they're so busy rushing to class they don't have time either — yes, when i'm on campus i have just ten minutes between classes and then i have to rush off to work — and that is for most people the way the spend their whole lives — yes, i often think about the the fact that people put off slowing down and doing what they want until they're retired, but i think people should do those things now while they're young — i agree; i think society ought to allow young people to be free; people can start reading a lot of books when they're 30; and people spend a lot of time on the internet — yes, and even i walk around with my headphones on all the time — so, what do people say about the signs? — when you had the sign about free help with homework some people said you were goofy or that the sign was a joke — i'd like to see other people emboldened to do similar things that are not ordinary, not because ordinary things are bad — right — but just to mix things up; i also want to show that language cannot convey the totality of what you are trying to say — especially on a small sign...

4:25 a Muslim woman walks by, only her eyes not covered. She looks back at me and the sign several times

4:26-4:30 two women, almost certainly lesbians, come up. They are visibly disturbed by the sign, but not yet angry because they seem to have allowed themselves to suspend judgement in favor of first questioning me as to my intentions and the meaning of the sign. One speaks with me and at times seems visibly to be shaking because she is upset, while the butch one stands at a distance, silent
— i wanted to know why you chose this sign — what does it mean to you? — well, there is the semantic meaning of the word "gay"; historically it can mean happy — i was referring to homosexuality — why would you feel it necessary to say something like this? — some people have been offended; i think a sign that said "I am gay" would not generate any controversy; the message of homosexuality is not the primary one; i want to test the limits of discourse; have you seen my other signs? — no — oh, i see; in the context of my other sign: "THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU", if people assume that that sign expressed my honest feelings, they will know i am not opposed to homosexuality; i asked someone what signs would be unacceptable and they said personal attacks or calls to commit violence would be, which i would never put on a sign — i think some people would think you're responding to an accusation that you're gay — that's interesting because that's an interpretation i failed to anticipate — that's understandable — yes, but if i had thought more about it i might have predicted that...

4:25-5:15 Evan, a gay guy, comes up
— i was curious about your signs; i remember the sign about free homework help; can you really help with any subject? — people asked me that; if it were a subject i hadn't studied formally i'd ask the person to describe as much as they know about it to me and then i would study it together with that person — what i'm studying, though, is extremely specific — what is it? — i'm writing about post-political co-optation of gay culture; for example hipsters have bandanas sticking out of their back pockets, which in the gay culture of San Francisco would mean [they're into] fisting — so you would study things like "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and metrosexuals? — yes — i listened to Trey Parker's and Matt Stone's commentary to their South Park episode about metrosexuals and they said a gay friend told them he was unhappy about shows like "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" because it was a stereotyped portrayal of gays they'd worked hard to get away from — i'm interested in general in post-political movements like post-feminism — what is that? — my sister, for example; she is the most cartoonish example of this: she's 28, has a boob job, a rich husband and is racist and sexist; if she didn't have me for a brother she'd be homophobic; too many women think they can become empowered by pleasing men by stripping for them, and that's wrong — but aren't men too given messages about their sexuality that force them to behave in ways that might not be natural for them? for example, men are told it is essential that they have many sexual partners; i think any social construct is something artificial that affects behavior in an unnatural way and kills spontaneity and, ultimately, love — but social constructs are still very real; people get killed because of them — but i think the solution is not to create more social constructs but to ignore them; an example i would give is the idea of tolerance as understood here and in Russia, where i have lived; here people go on and on about how tolerant they are; by comparison, the average Russian might say things that would sound very racist and sexist and homophobic to the American politically-correct ear; but if a Russian met a black person or a gay person, they would interact with that person on a personal level and, if they got along, would accept him so completely on a personal level that that person's race or sexual orientation would not be an issue to them; it is true that, in the case of someone who is gay, some of them might lie to themselves and pretend that they don't know that person is gay — i have a gay friend who lives with a partner, and when his parents come to visit they have to pretend like they're not living together, that it's just his friend who came over to visit for a while; they have to do all of that so that his parents can remain in their denial; i read that recently a gay activist was deported from Russia — i haven't heard about that; i should say about gay activism in Russia that the society is different there; since the breakup of the Soviet Union 20 years ago things have changed and there are many gay celebrities and everyone knows they're gay; but a gay pride parade would not sit well with Russians; i don't walk down the street carrying a sign that says "I fuck women" because that would be indiscreet; Russians respect discretion; what someone does in their sexual life is their own business and should be kept to themselves — what responses have you gotten to the sign?— some women this morning were offended by the sign; they said, "Why not put up a sign saying 'I am not a person of color'?"; would you have come up if i had that sign? — i would have but for a different reason — my point is not sexuality; there are men i have loved in my life as deeply as any woman; i simply don't need there to be a physical aspect to it; what's more important about this sign is exploring the limits of discourse; i made the point that a sign that said "I am gay" would not generate any controversy; in fact, one guy said i could probably stand here with a sign that said "I am heterophobic" and even that would not generate controversy — personally i'm not offended by the sign at all, but i'm surprised you haven't gotten into shouting matches like the people on Red Square — what are the sign-holders on Red Square calling for? — last year an anti-abortion group put up four walls with pictures of dead, bloody fetuses; it was terrible; i am against using images of violence in that way — so the anti-abortion installation was an abortion? — [he laughs] yes; people say they believe stereotypes because they're true, but i think they believe stereotypes because they're easy — by the same token, i try to explain to Russians what things people are not allowed to say in our society and i find myself unable to explain some things to them; for example, when i tell them they would not be allowed to express the opinion that black people are generally good at sports they ask me, "Why? Isn't that a positive thing?"; when i tell them even something positive is not allowed because it's a stereotype they become confused — people say they believe stereotypes because they're true; i think people believe them because they're easy...

February 2, 2011 (Wednesday)

Time: Stood from 9:53am to 4:45pm with no breaks
Approximate time spent talking with people: 3 hours, 18 minutes
Other signs on the Quad: none

10:15 two girls and a guy come up
— what does the sign mean? — do you think it's true? — sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't...

10:26 Bill, a guy, comes up and we talk about the sign

10:30-11:30 Bradley, a friend of Bill's, comes up
— i don't think i like your sign — why is that? — because it's pessimistic; it's saying that nothing in life is how i want it to be — are there really aspects of your life that you could not imagine improving in any way? — yes — by the way i'm not trying to argue with you or contradict you — oh, i know; we're just having a perfectly pleasant conversation; i remember your sign "DON'T THINK" and i almost came up to you as i found the sign annoying — why? — because i consider thinking perhaps the most important activity a person can engage in; it's what distinguishes us from animals — do you think learning not to think could be of use, say, when attempting to achieve enlightenment in the Buddhist sense that they say comes only when one is able to rid oneself of the chatter that goes on inside the mind? — no — what about the idea that the most brilliant ideas come to scientists not after hours of serious contemplation but in sudden flashes of insight during moments of creative play? — i think that nevertheless inspiration comes after much thought, a lot of which happens at the subconscious level; for example, if i'm trying to solve an engineering problem, the solution comes after a great deal of mental effort — but in such a case you're applying an existing technique to solving a problem; what if we're talking about a paradigm shift, a completely new way of thinking about things? for example, Einstein and his theory of relativity — Einstein developed his theory after trying and rejecting many other theories and formulas, and then he spent enormous amounts of time figuring out how to explain it to other people — do you believe that there is such thing as a vacuum, that is space that is truly completely empty? — yes — how then would you explain, in the absence of superluminal travel by matter or energy, how there could be instantaneous communication between very distant portions of the universe? is this not evidence for the existence of something more basic and fundamental, say, consciousness? — no, i don't think superluminal communication is possible — what about the idea of action at a distance; i mean the experiment they conducted where they took two electrons and manipulation of one caused an instantaneous change in the second, regardless of the distance between them — i've heard about that and i'd have to learn much more about it before i changed my thinking about things; by the way, when my brother and i were younger we used to think about ways to get around the limitations of the speed of light; we had the idea of making a rod that could be stretched from here to another planet which would allow one person pushing on one end to be perceived by the person standing at the other end on the other planet, and thus we'd have faster-than-light transmission of information — would that really work? — no, actually, because there is the concept of the compression of molecules--you would observe a sort of springy action, like a slinky, which would result in the transmission of the motion at one end that would not and could not result in superluminal transmission of the signal; one thing i definitely think is that being modest is not a good thing; there's nothing wrong with self-esteem; i always remember the Sherlock Holmes quote "I cannot agree with those who rank modesty among the virtues" — do you see a difference between humility and modesty? — no, i would say they are synonymous — what about the idea that to be modest means to ignore or deny one's good qualities to the detriment of the self, while humility could mean that you are aware of your good qualities but that does not delude you into thinking you are better than other people or than God — full disclosure: i'm an atheist — ok — i can see there could be a difference between the two [modesty and humility]; but still, i believe that there should be some people who are considered good and some people who are considered bad; i don't think the criteria used to judge people should be race or ethnicity, but for example people who steal are worse than people who don't — what about a situation in which a bank is robbed and people lose their money, but the effect on each of those who loses their money turns out to be positive? say, some people change careers because of it and find happiness and other people come to understand the value of things in life other than money that they didn't appreciate before; i personally have been mugged several times... — you should maybe walk in different places.. — i guess, and although i lost some money, the experience was interesting for me and therefore i do not regret that it happened — yes, i can see that, but that does not excuse the act of the people who steal since there was not consent on the part of the robbed for the theft — what if we were dealing with telepathy and they knew the theft would be beneficial for me? — i would still consider it to be wrong because they did not gain your consent; i remember this one probability problem involving three doors, a car, and two goats — you mean the Let's Make a Deal problem? — right; it took me a long time and a great deal of mental effort to get my mind around it and accept the solution — for me too; the way of thinking of it that helped me to understand it was the idea that you want to pick a goat the first time — right — what's most interesting to me about the problem is that that type of thinking would be biologically counterintuitive to human beings; i think this is because in real life probability theory is a mere abstraction and is, for all practical purposes, meaningless; i really like the joke about the two scientists and the blonde; they are placed in separate rooms and asked to calculate the odds of seeing a dinosaur when they walk out the door; after several hours of deep thought one scientist gives the probability 1 in a million, the other scientist gives the probability 1 in a billion, and the blonde says 50:50; they ask her "How can it be 50:50?"; she says, "Either you see a dinosaur or you don't"; i think that is closer to reality than what the scientists said — do you know what department is in the building you are standing in front of? — no — the philosophy department — oh

11:29 two girls pass by (I had seen them before but am not sure if I talked to them) and one comes up and hands me a piece of paper with the following text written in light-blue marker:
"If you are wishing for something, therefore it is not the case; therefore 'everything is exactly the way you wish they [sic] weren't' is not logical"

An Asian American who is talking with me and Bradley takes a photo of the piece of paper
— so now you can just google it to find out what it means — that's not interesting; i'd rather think about it myself...

12:07 the black girl and her friend who came by to ask about "THIS SIGN WILL NOT BE SHOWN ON TV" [see January 28 @ 11:05] pass by. I hear some of what the black girl is telling a guy they're walking with:
— "And he said: 'What if someone got shot on the Quad?', and I said: 'Why would someone get shot on the Quad?'."

12:30-12:37 an elderly man comes up
— i come here on Mondays and Wednesdays and have seen your signs and have finally decided to come up to talk to you — what do you teach? — i'm auditing courses; if you're over 55 you can audit courses here very cheaply — what meaning have the signs had to you? — well, i wondered about your sign "FREE HELP WITH HOMEWORK ANY SUBJECT" and wondered how you could possibly help with any subject — what subject do you think i wouldn't be able to help with? — well, it depends on what you're proficient at — i know, but assuming i'm not trained in any particular area — i suppose i'd use the example of what i studied, math — what i would do with someone who had difficulty with math is i would ask them to explain to me what they already know about the subject; i think if you're able to explain something you have studied to someone who hasn't studied it in a way that they can understand, that means you know the subject well; i would then ask clarifying questions and sit down with them and study the subject further together with them in accordance with the principle "Two heads are better than one" — i see — what classes are you auditing? — classes about religion at the Jackson School of International Affairs, which is maybe a bit strange since i'm not a particular fan of religion — do you think overcoming the fear of death could be a positive thing? — i suppose it could be positive, or it could be negative because it would mean people wouldn't avoid death; although we all of course die eventually — do you think if someone weren't afraid of death they might do things abnormally risky? — they might; i'm a mountain climber and so i have known people who have died while mountain climbing — have the ones who have died been religious? — i don't think there was necessarily a correlation between who believed what and who died; i think not fearing death means you can have Muslim suicide bombers who think that if they kill themselves and others they'll go to heaven and be surrounded by 71 virgins, or whatever the number of virgins it is — i remember Bush called suicide bombers cowards; do you think they are? — i don't know if they're cowards, but i do think they're deluded — do you think there's a big difference between a suicide bomber who wants to go to heaven to be with virgins and a man in any army who sacrifices his own life for the sake of winning the medal of honor posthumously? — you make some interesting points...

12:45-1:20 Andrew, a guy, comes up. We talk about today's sign and then about other things
— i think capitalism is good, because competition makes things work better — i don't like competition — but i think people band together to form societies and to give up some freedom for the sake of security, as people like Locke and Hobbes wrote about — if we were living in pre-civilization times and we saw a tribe over there, would you go up to them and cooperate so you could share the resources they had, or would you go up and steal from them? — i would cooperate, of course; but we live in a world where we need protection from danger; Darwin showed us we live in a world of competition; wolves in a wolf pack cooperate, but animal species and different kinds of plants compete for space and resources; there are 3,000,000 spermatozoa in one ejaculate and only one of them goes on to fertilize the egg; the rest are just waste — i'm not competing with anybody; i don't even have five minutes to spend trying to prove i'm better than someone else; if i can do something someone else can't i'm happy to help them to do it if i have the time and opportunity; but with this competition mentality, we're taught that people are naturally greedy; but i have never seen a newborn baby who wasn't basically good, naturally curious and a genius; what happens to them when they grow up to transform them into something else? — actually at heart i'm a communist and an idealist; but i thought seriously about joining the army because i needed the discipline; i have trouble focusing — it seems to me people have difficulty focusing because they're being asked to do something that don't want to do; if someone is doing something they like, they won't have trouble staying focused; it seems to me people join the military for the discipline but also because they don't want to take responsibility for their own actions — but the commander of a regiment is responsible for the actions of all the men in his unit — but he's not the one making the decisions on what they should do — but if his commander tells him he should protect his unit he has to decide who is going to dig what trench where — but still there is always someone above you telling you what to do; you never have the opportunity to determine for yourself what you should do, not just how you should do it — last year for me and my friends was the "year of the spirit"; we tried to bring people together; we got about 30 people from 3 different cliques together in Gas Works Park to take acid — did you actually give them LSD without their knowing? — no, everybody knew what they were doing; i was thinking last year of putting up a sign of my own that would say: "DROP ACID NOT BOMBS"...

12:45-12:55 two girls come up just after Andrew mentions his idea for a sign reading: ""DROP ACID NOT BOMBS". One of the girls is wearing a T-shirt with the words: "DROP LOVE NOT BOMBS", with the "E" in "LOVE" in the shape of a peace sign. We have a four-way conversation:
— what a coincidence! — what synchronicity! — we were just talking about what your shirt says — what does your shirt mean? — is it positive? — it could mean "drop" love, meaning you should abandon it — no, i don't think it means that — it means spread love — or could it mean drop love the way you drop acid, that is "get high on love" — but i think love shouldn't be something you get high on; then people would fall in love just to feel the high from it — but love does give you a great feeling like when you're high — yeah, but that shouldn't be the motivation for falling in love...

2:40-3:00 Jon Mahaffie, a guy, comes up. After discussing the sign we talk about other things
— i suppose it's the age of people here and the place they're in, but i find students to be terribly opinionated — someone else who came up to me said he doesn't even bother to try to talk to people holding signs anymore because they don't listen to anything anyone has to say — yes, people engage in activism that's not really going to change anything, like online petitions; not a single one has had or could have any effect on anything; i think people hide from their own ignorance or even their own thoughts because it makes them more comfortable right now — but what about later? — later it will be even more painful for them when they are forced to admit what thoughts they have; where do you work? — i teach English in Russia and Ukraine — i thought maybe you'd spent time in Russia; i was in Moldova a while ago and found it very interesting; i wrote poems about it — can i read them somewhere online? — yes, you can read them here: http://www.writerscafe.org/writing/stressgrenade/40843/

3:14 a girl comes up
— why is your sign so depressing?

4:05 Julian, a guy, comes up
— i'm interested in your signs — what would be something so offensive you couldn't show it? — i'm Jewish, so i suppose what would be very offensive to me would be "JEWS BURN IN OVENS" — what would you do if you saw me standing here with that sign? — i wouldn't come up to you and i wouldn't report you and i wouldn't think you should be arrested, but i think if they escorted you off campus that would be the right thing to do; i go to Bumpershoot and other events like that and see signs saying: "JEWS WILL BURN IN HELL" — do they really say that specifically Jews will go to hell? — i think so; i don't remember exactly, but that's the idea; that doesn't offend me, it just makes me laugh because it's so foolish; that sign is simply the reflection of a religious belief, so that's okay; but a sign about Jews burning in ovens is talking about this life here on Earth and is a call to hurt someone and so that would offend me; there are some really pushy people on Red Square who will move from side to side as you try to pass so that they can catch you and give you their message...

4:20 Nate comes up and joins us in conversation
— [Julian continues:] my roommates saw some change on the floor and they asked if it was mine? — why was that offensive? — because they then made the standard joke about Jews being greedy and always thinking about money; it's a stereotype that originated in the past: historically lending money was the only thing Jews could legally do — [Nate speaks:] what would be something you could put on a sign that would be insulting to whites? — i don't know; "cracker" and "honky" don't offend me in the slightest — maybe something about white guilt

4:40 the guy who took a photo of the note handed to me [see today @11:20] comes up again
— i have analyzed the logic; it makes logical sense, but only if you accept the premise and conclusion of the first statement, namely "If you are wishing for something, therefore it is not the case"; however, because that statement is not necessarily true, the note is actually logically fallacious — yes, because it asserts that A and not A are true at the same time — if you start with a fallacious premise you can use it to prove anything you want — but i want to get at the logic--even if it's illogical--behind what the girl who gave it to me meant; i want to see if i can figure out how she arrived at it...
[the guy who analyzed the note leaves; Julian leaves]
— so a girl came up to me the other day and told me her friends advised her not to come up to talk to me because i might hurt her — really? — yeah; what do they think i'm going to do to her? rape her right here on the Quad? no, not just rape her; i'll flip her over and anal rape her...— [he laughs] — ...while a dozen frat guys stand around in a circle and cheer me on; what is wrong with people? — i don't know — have you read Hunter S. Thompson? — yeah, "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" was great — have you read "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72"? — yeah — talking with Nixon and standing on the tarmac next to Air Force One lighting a cigarette, flying on the Zoo plane [with the other reporters covering the McGovern campaign, smoking pot with the pilots in the cockpit]; where did all that freedom go? — i don't know — i remember in 1991 i was at the airport to fly to Russia and was still drunk from the night before; i didn't want to carry my bags so i commandeered one of the nice luggage carts the porters use and wheeled it through the airport saying to people: "Airport security, coming through"; i'd get arrested for terrorism for doing that nowadays — yeah, you would — have you read the biography of Hunter Thompson? — no — it's a compilation of interviews with people who knew him well; what they said about him was that he would have long discussions of various issues with people and if someone convinced him they were right, he would change his mind; have you read Guy Debord's "Society of the Spectacle"? — no — it's really good; but it's hard to understand if you can't read it in the original French — i know French — great; you only need to read the first few pages to see what he was getting at; he understood things no one else did at the time except for Jim Morrison; have you read Bill Burroughs "Naked Lunch"? — no — he spent a whole year in Algeria during which he did not wash or change his clothes once; he just shot up heroin; "Naked Lunch" he wrote on heroin or coming off it and he had no memory of writing any of it; it's very difficult to understand; not like "Finnegans Wake", but still very difficult — my two brothers both got addicted to heroin; one's been off it for a month, the other for a year; it was difficult for me to come into the room where my two older brothers were, who were good students and who i looked up to, and see them with sallow faces and sunken eyes offering me to smoke it with them — how did they avoid ever shooting up? — they realized how bad that was; i went with them to buy heroin once; we came to a big house and i came in the room and there were three people there who looked more dead than alive, one of them with the needle still sticking out of his arm; that gave me a very bad physical feeling and i got out of there as quick as i could; i asked my brothers how they could stand to see that and they said they just got in and got their bag and got out without thinking about what they saw — did you ever do it? — i tried it twice, but after the second time i got really scared and i decided never to do it again; it's like completely turning down the volume of the world around you; you don't hear anything or see anything; everything for you is completely perfect — a friend of mine advised me never to try heroin because he said "it's everything"...

February 3, 2011 (Thursday)


Time: Stood from 9:53am to 4:38pm with a break

Approximate time spent talking with people: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Other signs on the Quad: written in chalk on sidewalk between Red Square and the Quad: "RALLY TO RESTORE FUNDING 2/7 RED SQUARE 12:20" (a planned protest against tuition hikes)

10:05-10:06 a girl from a distance addresses me
— can i take your picture — yes — thank you

10:08 Joe goes by and waves and smiles at me

10:30-10:45 Dominick, a guy, comes up
— my friend told me to come up and talk to; he said you're really smart — what's his name? — Greg — the guy who studies nano-technology or bio-chemistry? — bioengineering — right — i think it's cool what you're doing; i'd like to do something like what you do — one reason i'm here is to embolden people to do similar things; people are afraid they'll be ridiculed, and i'm sure some people laugh at me, but i don't care — yes, it's not important — what do you study? — environmental engineering — what specific aspect of it are you interested in? — hydrology — what is that exactly? — [he explains] ...most of our water comes from snow, not spring [underground] water, and with global warming the snows are melting — is there any way of collecting rainwater? — the usual way of doing so is to dig trenches and collect the water, but then it becomes contaminated by toxins in the soil — could you collect the rainwater directly, maybe rope a cloud, so to speak — that's what people are thinking of how to do; a friend of mine dropped out of high school and went to work as a nanny in Spain for only room and board; i've done some hiking and camping, but nothing like that; i'd like to maybe go to South America, since I know Spanish, and work for Engineers Without Borders; my dad is a typical type-A person; my mom doesn't work; when she had my older sister she began staying at home; now she's gone back to school to qualify as a nurse, so my dad is the primary breadwinner and has to work very hard to provide us with what he thinks we need; he gets very stressed and is not happy; he'd be very disappointed if i didn't pursue something that led to making money, but i don't need to have all the things money buys — i think my father probably wanted me to go into academia and was disappointed that i didn't, but i think he's come to accept me and what i do now; do Engineers Without Borders show people in the Third World how to dig wells so they can fend for themselves after the engineers leave? — yes; modern religions like Christianity and Islam say that man has been given dominance over nature to do what he likes with it; but before these religions people knew they were just another part of nature; it's okay for us to compete like animals but we shouldn't wage war; lions would never kill all the antelope in the place where they live, but that's exactly the kind of thing we do — if there were a critical mass of people who understood that, say, 20%, do you think that would be enough to change things? — yes, i do — do you believe in the idea of Gaia, that the Earth has a consciousness and may be punishing us for what we're doing to the Earth? — i believe in that in a certain sense, but i think there's a scientific explanation for what happens when we don't treat the Earth properly; have you seen that stupid movie "The Day the Earth Stood Still"? — yes — i liked the message in the film — why didn't you like the film itself? — i didn't like the casting and acting — have you heard of Monsanto and genetically modified seeds? — no — they sell genetically modified seeds to third world countries that produce a higher crop yield, but are not self-sustaining; if the supply of seeds is cut off, everyone dies of famine — my dad travels to northern Europe often and he says they're creating in caves there seed banks — in Norway? —right, so that if something goes wrong with the genetically modified seeds we can go back to square one — i've heard they're also doing it because some people are predicting a catastrophe in 2012 like in the movie "2012", probably brought about by a massive coronal ejection; one Norwegian politician has said an enormous series of underground tunnels and cities has been built in Norway to save a select portion of the population — i have to go do chemistry homework; i'll come back...

11:01-11:02 a guy comes up
— do you have memories of other lives? — no — do you want to meet someone who has memories of you in another life? — yes — how could they prove it? — i suppose they couldn't; but i know of a girl in India who had vivid memories of a house she said she lived in in a previous life; she was able to describe in detail the layout of the rooms and what was in them and she knew the nicknames of members of the household that no one had used for many years; she could only have known all that, barring telepathy or a direct connection to information in the noosphere, if she had lived there in a previous life; and her case is not the only one like that...

11:05-11:09 Austin Siedentopf, the guy interested in magic who came up to talk last week [see January 31, 2011 @ 11:08], comes up
— i am from the UW Daily video and would like to interview you because people are interested in what you're doing; i came up to you before when you were standing with the sign about deception, but you may not remember because i was wearing a hood and glasses — i do remember; you're the magician; i tried to find the quote about deception you told me but couldn't find it — i think it's Oscar Wilde but i'm not sure — i was asked for an interview by a reporter for The Daily but i refused; did you talk with her? — no, i'm actually from a different brach of The Daily — [i give my reasons for refusing the first interview request] — i wouldn't try to ridicule you — i know, but you have an editor who will cut it and decide what to show, don't you? — what we could do is i could do the interview and show it to you and you could decide whether you want it to air — you would agree not to air it if i didn't like it? — in fact it would be illegal for me to do so — okay, i see that you are sincere — thank you [i look him in the eye for several seconds and notice the asymmetry of his face is quite pronounced, his right eye dominant] — i'll come back at about 2:20 to do the interview...

11:20-11:25 Bill [see February 2 @ 10:20] and his friend Fred come up
— do you have memories of other lives? — no — how would you prove it if you did? — i read about a girl in India who had vivid memories of a house she said she lived in in a previous life; she was able to describe in detail the layout of the rooms and what was in them and she knew the nicknames of members of the household that no one had used for many years — but memories such as those could also be planted by aliens; i wonder if you could have a lucid dream and talk in the dream to the same entity many times; could that entity plant memories? — like in the movie Inception — how about erasing memories? — they say it is possible by erasing the initial thought from which all memories follow; there was an article in the New York Times a year or two ago about a new drug they were developing that would allow people to erase traumatic memories — like the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind — how would an entity you talk to in a dream be different from channeled material? — what material do you know? — i'm familiar with different material, but the most interesting was the Seth material channeled by Jane Roberts; it gave information 50 years ago that science only proved much later — what kind of information? — Seth says we create everything that we see and that you and i create two different trees and that in the future scientists will be able to measure the distance between the tree you create and the one i create...

11:27 Alyssa walks by and smiles at me

11:36 a fly crawls up the sign. Did we know each other in a previous life? Was I the fly and he the guy with the signs?

12:01 three black girls come up
— what's the sign mean? — do you have memory of other lives? — no — i thought someone might have memories of me in another life — are you from the UW? — no, i'm not a student or professor — okay [they walk away abruptly and quickly]

12:27 two girls come up. One hangs back, the other comes closer to speak
— why do you put up your signs? — i have no specific goal; but i've had very interesting conversations — ok, i just wanted to know

1:19 a guy comes up
— what's with the signs? — i stand here and have conversations with people who come up — ok, i just wanted to know

1:22 three guys come up
— we wanted to ask about your signs — do they have meaning to you? — no; what's your purpose? — i don't really have one — ok

1:36-1:42 bathroom break

2:20 a guy takes a photo of the sign

2:22 a guy I talked with last week [see January 27 @ 4:36] passes by
— i see you're still having fun — yes

2:20-3:00 Austin Siedentopf comes back and we do the interview. He asks me what sign I'd like in the background. I get out the sign: THIS SIGN WILL NOT BE SHOWN ON TV which I'd brought with me just in case someone showed up to film my signs. He laughs. We speak more after the interview
— i looked on the internet and found the quote; it's actually "Illusion is the first pleasure", "L'illusion est le premier plaisir"; i think it's from Voltaire; i want to show you a card trick — now, are these cards marked? — no, the point is that i can walk up to anyone playing poker and show them a trick with their cards [Austin shows and explains to me how he does two tricks] — can you cheat at poker? — i've tried cheating while playing with friends and sometimes i succeed, but usually i fail; poker is different because people are staring at your cards all the time; you have to be extremely good to cheat — when you see a magician performing, do you know how they do their tricks? — i watched a magician on a cruise with my high school class once and was happy to say i could see most of the sleights of hand he was using — what about sawing a woman in half — i'm angry at my girlfriend because she was the girl who got sawn in half but refuses to tell me how it's done — doesn't someone else just curl up tightly in one half of the box? — i think that's how they do it, but i saw a guy who sawed himself in half, and the top half of his body walked away and spoke while the bottom half walked away; i have no idea how he did that — have you seen the guys on youtube who explain how David Copperfield does his tricks? — i have — do you think their explanation of how he made the Statue of Liberty disappear was accurate? — probably, but i don't know how he did it so that the people in the room didn't feel the floor turning and how he was able to mask the sound — maybe the sound was masked by the music — yes, probably — what i understood was that you don't have to turn the room much since the window looking out on the statue was narrow and a lot of time passes so he could turn the room slowly — maybe; i like what Penn and Teller do; there are, by the way, magicians who perform tricks for other magicians; the oldest trick is the three cups and three balls; the way it works is that when you lift the cup to show the ball under it to the audience, when you cover it up again you actually scoop the ball into your hand with your pinky and all three balls end up under the cup in the middle; one magician showed the trick to Teller and pretended to take the ball into his hand with his pinky; and at the end of the trick he asked Teller where the balls were and Teller said they were under the middle cup; the magician then lifted up all the cups and there was one ball under each of them — i see — do you like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart? — no, i hate it — why? — i think that if you show someone picking their nose you can make anyone look stupid; i think if you show legitimate criticism of the government and then show something infantile in the next segment, that discredits anything positive you had to say; i think if you talk to someone at a fifth-grade level they will respond to you at a fifth-grade level — i like the show very much — why? — because i think in addition to the valid criticism it gives, the fact that they make light of things is a good parody of the nightly news; also, when i see the news presented in the way Jon Stewart does, it takes a weight off my chest with respect to the things going on in the world; and by putting in humorous elements they can appeal to a wider audience — i understand, but i still don't like the infantile aspects; i think that's the point South Park makes with, say, the Terrence and Philip show with all the farting, that you have children obsessed with unfunny fart jokes because that's what they're seeing in the media all the time — what is the difference between what Parker and Stone do on South Park and The Daily Show? — i think South Park takes everything to absurd extremes, first, to show people how absurd such things are and, second, so that once people have seen such extremes, it would be possible for someone to make a show that doesn't have such things and it could still attract an audience; i have lived in other societies where people are not so infantile and have longer attention spans because the media there is different; people there can be interested by documentaries and more intellectual fare; i saw a segment on the Stephen Colbert show that trivializes torture; i've been here for a whole month and i have not heard a single conversation about the fact that the government tortures people; when i was growing up, we considered ourselves better than the Soviet Union because they tortured people and we didn't — about 6 months or more ago there was a lot of discussion about waterboarding — yes, but i think things get discussed and people rest easy because they think it's being taken care of when it's not; what upsets me much more than the torture itself--i mean, all governments use torture--is the apathy of people; this kind of thing has been going on for at least 50 years; i'm thinking back to the MKultra mind control experiments that information came out about in the 70s with the Church Commission; are mind control experiments much different from torture? — do you think they're still going on? — i can't prove it, but there are people on the internet talking about experiments still being conducted; and it's not like the information isn't available; the internet costs $10-20 a month and is free for students, but they still don't know about what's going on; i'm going to have a new sign on Monday — are your signs going to get more edgy? — yeah, i suspect Monday's sign will be controversial; it will be: "IN HITLER'S GERMANY UNIVERSITIES WERE SILENT"...

3:00-3:15 Marty, a guy, comes up; Austin films part of our conversation and then interviews Marty separately
— do you believe in reincarnation? — i don't have any direct memories, but i think there is some evidence that it is a reality; do you believe? — probably, but i don't think it's the same spirit reincarnating in many different bodies, like the Buddhists teach us — by spirit do you mean soul? — yes, i guess; i don't think it's the same soul; i think different souls combine together — is that your own idea? — i don't really know if it's my own since i've read so much — what esoteric literature have you read? — what has impressed me the most is Philip K. Dick — what work in particular? — maybe it was just because i read it at the right time in my life, but i really appreciated his book VALIS -- Vast Active Living Intelligence System — what's the idea of it? — the idea is that there's a computer system that gains power over everyone and there are people who fight it using wisdom; i like the idea that power needs to be opposed by wisdom, although i don't completely understand what exactly is meant by the word wisdom — i'll definitely check it out — i looked for it at used book stores but i couldn't find it because it's so popular; i am opposed to all organizations; you can kill any good idea by forming an organization around it — if anyone made what i do into a club i would instantly quit — i myself thought about coming out here with a sign to try to wake people up, not necessarily politically but in general — other people have told me they wanted to do the same thing; one guy said he'd thought of putting up a sign reading: "DROP ACID NOT BOMBS" — yes, i saw that sign last year; but it was combined with an ad for the musical "Hair" which was nothing like the musical and film of the 60s: it was just for entertainment; maybe i'll come back out again with my guitar; i strum a bit of guitar — that would be great; there's a guy who sits on the bench and plays the ukulele and another guy who sits in that tree and plays the harmonica; i play a little guitar too, so we can jam — [Austin asks Marty:] what kind of music do you like — i like old rock music — like what?— i suppose it's a banal answer, but i like the Beatles — what about the Doors? — yes, i really like them...

4:10 Austin comes up
— i'm really embarrassed about this; we had some technical issues; the tape was old and the first part of the interview needs to be reshot; could we do it again on Monday? — sure; to be honest i'm not happy with the way i answered your questions — maybe it's my fault; i didn't do a good job asking questions — no, it's my fault; i think you did fine...

4:15-4:30 Nathan and Hans come up; we talk about many things, among them:
— last year The Daily devoted a lot of articles to the story of a sorority girl who had supposedly committed suicide by throwing herself down a flight of stairs; they sent emails to every student telling them about a memorial service for her and asked them to bring candles — did anyone actually go to it? — yes, hundreds of people went to the service; and then there was some girl who had known her only very slightly who wrote a poem and read it at a poetry slam about what a tragedy it was and how she had tried to help her; but it was completely self-serving — yes, most of the people at the poetry slam are completely self-absorbed, sometimes not even with excessive love of self but self-hate; did anyone make the point that suicide is a free-will choice? — yes, but that makes people angry; they say it's irresponsible because it makes people upset who may have been trying to help you — but in a culture like Japan i understand that suicide is an acceptable way to die; is that really a good way to commit suicide? by throwing yourself down a flight of stairs? — i don't know, it seems stupid to me; how would you commit suicide? — i'd probably give myself a massive injection of heroin so there would be no pain — i'd probably shoot myself because otherwise i'd be found having taken an overdose of illegal drugs and that would be embarrassing for my parents; or, if i knew i was going to kill myself, i'd get as much money together as i could and buy a lot of drugs so i could good out in a romantic way — having grown up with massive amounts of Christian guilt i would probably tie a millstone around my neck (i was always told that if you lead someone astray you should have a millstone tied around your neck) and fling myself over a precipice into the ocean; that way i'd have the 30 seconds of orgasmic-like bliss before my body secreted a lot of DMT and i passed on — i've been out of the country for a while and want to know what you think about this: i read an article that said that because there's so much pornography online nowadays, guys at college aren't interested in girls anymore and girls have to go out of their way to entice men; is that true? — i wish they would try to entice me; it is true that since there's pornography people don't actually have to be with someone to try out certain sexual practices; i will speak with women if i'm interested in romance, but not if i just want to get laid; if i can't have an interesting conversation with a girl, i'm not interested in her; i can go to Greek row and see the girls at the sororities wanting to be picked up and taken home so that they can get at least a little attention, but that's all really sad — i've heard women are different in Europe — they are — have you seen this show on TV called "Weeds"? — no — it's about a woman who sells drugs who is really cool and who teases men; she'll lead them on up to the point where they're about to be together and then she dumps them; but it's presented in such a way that the guy feels privileged to have had the opportunity to learn from this woman who feels she has the right to engage in any sort of behavior that pleases her with no consequences, no matter how irresponsible; i think women who see the show imitate that kind of behavior — women seem to be interested only in how they look; they put on a lot of makeup and think it's really important but it's not; i like women with dark eyes and red lips, but if they don't have that it's not important — i have actually asked women why they wear makeup and told them men don't even notice; they respond that men only think they don't notice — i only notice if they put on too much — well, that would be their point: that you notice it subconsciously and it has an effect, just like the commercials that people say don't affect their decisions of what to buy but subconsciously do affect those decisions — what do you study? — i don't; i work at Nordstroms selling shoes to rich women — are you a leg man? — i do actually like legs, but you don't put the shoes on the women anymore, they do it themselves; basically what i do is--and i don't know how ethical this is--but rich women come in with their credit cards and say they need shoes; my task is to make sure they walk out of there with two pairs of shoes — do you get a commission? — yes, 10%; so they walk in and say they need a pair of shoes; i go in back and choose among huge quantities of shoes several pairs, and even if their husbands have told them they can only spend a certain amount of money, i can always get them to use their credit cards to buy more than one pair; have you heard of Ted Kaczinski? — the Unabomber? — yes — i think that whole episode was very suspicious; it is very strange the New York Times (or was it the Washington Post?) would agree to print his manifesto; the manifesto itself was not written in brilliant English, but it was very interesting — i agree — and i read his manifesto carefully and in only one place does he say people need to be killed, and in that place the style of the sentence calling for killing does not jive with the style of the rest of his manifesto; if you want people to kill others, you usually repeat the call to do so many times throughout a tract; and then there were suspicious ways the FBI conducted its investigation of him, carting out more evidence from his cabin than could possibly have fit in it, etc. — when i was in England i thought it would be great to come study in America because people here were politically active; but when i got here i found that, although people are open to meeting new people, they are completely polarized and divided into various camps, unwilling to talk with anyone who falls outside their camp; people in England are not so open to meeting you, but they will get to know you as a person regardless of your political beliefs and, once they do so, they will open up to you, while here you can't be friends with anyone unless you agree with their political position — yes, if you express an idea that contradicts someone else's idea, instead of simply offering a counterargument, they hate you — i like working for Apple — what is your job with them? — i promote their products on campus; they give you the freedom to do your job the way you think it should be done; at Google they let employees spend 20% of their time at work working on whatever they want to work on...

4:22 a girl from Pierce Lane sees me talking with Hans and Nathan
— who? you? — it's my sign — yes, i knew you [in another life] — really, will you tell me? — i have to go now — i'll be here on Monday; will you please come by — okay — thank you...

February 7, 2011 (Monday)

Time: Stood from 9:27am to 4:36pm with a break

Approximate time spent talking with people:  2 hours, 25 minutes
Other signs on the Quad: written in chalk on the sidewalk between Red Square and the Quad: "RALLY TO RESTORE FUNDING TODAY RED SQUARE 12:20"; when I got to the Quad the woman with the following sign spent 5 more minutes walking across the Quad "[in red ink] NO WAR [in black ink] NOT OUR CHILDREN NOT THEIR CHILDREN". On the reverse I believe the sign read: "1,000,000 dead are [sic] wrong". 

Credits: Thanks for inspiration to Ran Prieur who suggested the sign: "WHAT DOES 'DESERVE' MEAN?"

9:45 a girl takes a photo of the sign

10:10 Alyssa [see January 26 @ 10:22] walks by and smiles and waves; I smile and wave back

10:21 a girl walking by calls out to her girlfriend walking in another direction: "Hey, Anna"; "What?"; "You deserve and education"; "Thank you."
10:27 Joe [see January 27 @ 3:53] walks by and smiles

10:45 a middle-aged man with a graying beard walks by, smiling and laughing slightly

10:50-11:07 Jeff [see February 1 @ 11:57] comes up
— i'm interested in reactions to your sign — no one has come up yet; i think maybe people think i'm suggesting they don't deserve an education and take offense; do you think they do? — i can't get inside people's heads — does the sign offend you? — not at all — how would you answer the question? — i think i deserve an education to the extent that i pursue it — so you're saying there's an element of personal responsibility — yes, but i think everyone should have the opportunity to get an education — if everyone deserves an education why should people have to pay for it? — yeah, people don't want their tuition fees raised but they vote down tax hikes — should students call for being given $1 million a year for their education? — no, but it's difficult to determine how big a cut is too big — it seems almost greedy; have the students sat down and calculated budget shortfalls and have they compared the necessity for funding education with needed expenditures on things like the environment? — no, if it's a rally, that means the argument has already been decided; you can't really have a discussion with 10,000 or even 1000 people at the same time — what if people at a large discussion were all given computers and told to type up their opinions; then they could send them to a central computer which would classify them according to the positions taken and select the best written or most original opinion and grant a few minutes of time to the person who wrote the opinion so they could share it with the crowd?; of course you would need sophisticated AI to cull through all the opinions you'd receive in real time; are you going to the Rally to Restore Funding? — no, i have class; this is the only free time i have when i'm on campus; i think professors don't really understand that group projects don't really work because it's hard to get all the students in a group together to work on a project — could you keep in touch by internet? — yes, but that's not so good because you send the group a text message they don't read until six hours later — what about meeting in real time via Skype? — that would be good, but nothing beats face to face interaction; there is dissolution of majors going on — what's that mean? — it means you can't major in some subjects anymore; for example at many universities classics has been cut even though before 1990 at many universities courses in the classics were required courses; also linguistics departments are being cut; so people can still read the classics but they'll have to do so outside of class, which i think they should; reading is important — my sign is referring not only to a university education — yes, but when you stand on campus that's what people think of, especially since you wrote the sign in purple ink, Husky colors — i used that color for another reason — yes, but if you stood out in front of a pre-school, that would have been a different context — i probably would have had students finger painting on me — probably — and what does the word "deserve" mean anyway? — are your signs deliberately ambiguous? — i don't want people to think i'm pushing a particular agenda — do you think about every word or the phrase as a whole? — both, i guess...

11:10-11:18 Arthur, Sabra, and Drew come up. A few minutes later an Asian American named Peter joins them. Peter and Drew listen silently
— i'm curious about the sign — do you think you deserve an education? — yes — is there someone who doesn't deserve one? — i think everyone should at least have the opportunity to get an education — what does the word education mean to you? — a university education — can you get an education using the internet? — yes, but it's not reliable — some students have told me they find the lectures on ted.com much more interesting than class lectures — that's true — so why would people not rather get an education for free? — someone has to pay for education in our country; in other countries the state pays, but here we have lower taxes — do you need a university diploma to get a job? — no, you can get a good job without one; maybe not a job as a doctor, but even then i think it would be possible; but going to college and getting a diploma is the easy route to getting a good job — i liked your sign "EVERYTHING'S EXACTLY THE WAY YOU WISH IT WEREN'T" — do you think it's true? — i don't know; when you predict the future you don't always get everything right; and then there's the problem of perception, that is whether you see things the way they really are; i hope that at least some things we perceive are reality; if not, i don't know why we're here — do you work? — i'm between jobs — it must be interesting to stand here with signs — it is; some people have told me they also wanted to do something similar but didn't because they were afraid of looking foolish or being ridiculed — yes, but if you want to see change in the world you have to do something yourself to bring it about; i should probably get to class — is there a penalty for being late to class? — in language classes there is, but in this one class my professor chewed me out today; she said at the beginning of the quarter there would be no penalty for coming late but i always come late to that class because i can't get up in time; i guess it's an issue of respect and the fact that coming late disrupts class; i hope you keep doing this...

12:21-12:26 a girl comes up
— i'm interested in your sign — how would you answer the question? — yes, i deserve one — do other people deserve one too? — yes — are there people who deserve an education who don't get it? — just because something's right doesn't mean it happens — if you deserve en education, why do you have to pay for it — [pause; she thinks] that's a good question — what is an education? do you have to get necessarily a university education? — no, but a diploma is proof that you have knowledge — are there lectures on the internet as good as those at the university? — yes, but still there's no proof you've acquired the knowledge — is it possible to get a diploma without acquiring knowledge? — yes; do you have an education? — i have a diploma — in what field? — in Russian; but i am not a native speaker and there are words in Russian i don't know; if someone has a diploma in English does that mean they know all the words? — no, but they know more than the average person — is it possible not to have a diploma in English but know more words than the average person? — yes; do you learn more doing this [standing with signs] — yes, i learn more doing things like this than in classes, but i wouldn't insist that that should be true for everyone — some students just take boring classes — why? — because their parents make them take certain subjects or they're just taking certain classes for practical reasons — i see — thanks for being here...

12:30-12:36 bathroom break

12:36-12:41 I stand in front of Kane Hall about 20 meters from the speakers at the "Rally to Restore Funding" [protesting budget cuts for education] holding my sign. Several people speak. They talk about how important education is in order to keep America in general, and Washington state in particular, in first place in international economic competition. One speaker invokes the memory of Martin Luther King and quotes something King said about conscience, asserting that funding education is a matter of conscience. Later a woman ends her speech by pointing the microphone towards the crowd of about 120 people and has them chant in unison "Go...Huskies!"

Other signs displayed include: "WHAT'S A DAWG PACK WITHOUT ITS DAWGZ?" and the particularly cleverly-worded: "BARK"

Here is a write-up of the rally in the local paper.  
Here is the write-up in the university paper.

12:52 three guys pass by carrying a chalkboard on which they've written: "down with budget cuts. up with education". One of them looks at my sign and says aloud: "That's good. That's good." Five minutes later they pass by again with a new message written on the chalkboard: "We deserve an education."

1:05-1:12 Lu, an Asian girl with almost perfect English, comes up
— i'm interested in your sign — do you think you deserve an education? — yes — is the university the only place to get an education? — no, you can get one on your own, but a university is better — aren't there lectures on the internet as good as those at a university? — yes; and if you have a textbook written by the professor who just goes over the textbook with you, that's not really doing much for you — then why would you pay money to learn something you could learn for free? — because at a university you get discipline — so you're paying someone so that they force you to learn — yes — do you think people are naturally curious? — yes, but maybe only curious in the sense that they want to travel, but not in the sense of learning; i'm taking a class about the history of ideas called "I and Mind"; we talk about ancient philosophers and their ideas about the potential in things; the potential in people and in this tree; it makes me think about things in a different way and when i walked past your sign i began thinking about the potential in it and i came back to talk to you...

1:15-1:22 a white girl and a black girl come up; a minute later two guys join them
— we want to know about your signs — about all of them or this one in particular? — both; what is the system of ideas you get your ideas from? — i wouldn't say i had a specific system — what do you do with the things people say to you? — i share them with other people — can you do tutoring? — yes — we have a friend who would like some — in what subject? — i'm not sure; maybe logic...

1:24-1:34 two Asian american girls come up, one of them named Janice. We have a standard discussion of the sign

1:40-2:20 Austin Siedentopf interviews me again and films my other signs and the reactions of passersby to the sign "I AM NOT GAY"
— did you film the Rally to Restore Funding? — yes; i was talking with the socialists on Red Square and they refused to attend the rally saying that engaging in lobbying is supporting a system that they say shouldn't exist — do the students really know enough about the budget and what should be funded to be able to make a decision about it? — i think they're basing their argument on the statistic that says that every $1 invested in education brings $20 to the budget; but that again is just a financial argument that does not say anything about the non-financial benefits of an education — but have they thought about the idea that maybe something else like energy or the environment might be an even better investment? — i don't know; have you seen the documentary "Waiting for Superman"? — no, what's it about? — i haven't seen it but i've heard it's interesting; it's a documentary about education; the idea is that everybody seems to be waiting for some super man to come and give them whatever it is they need instead of them getting it on their own — i'll try to watch it...

2:20-2:30 Joe [see January 27 @ 3:53] comes up carrying his skateboard
— so you're a colleague of Austin's? what do you do? — i'm a video journalist too; it was too nice a day for me to pass up the opportunity to go skateboarding — could you jump the steps to Smith Hall? — i can jump the steps in front of Kane Hall down onto Red Square; it took me three times but when i finally did it it felt fantastic; skateboarding helps my memory; i have all these cuts and injuries; i don't usually remember what happened on a certain day or week, but i do remember what happened between one injury and another; don't you get tired standing all the time? — i did at first, but i've gotten new muscles so i don't get so tired anymore; i usually sit for about five minutes every hour...

3:15-3:40 Andrew [see February 2 @12:35] comes up 
— i have a question: can i educate you? — i think i there's something i can learn from everyone — am i mandated to educate you? — do you mean are you obligated to do so? — yes — i don't think anyone has any obligation to do anything — yes, and that's what i think about education; the word "deserve" implies that there's someone obligated to educate you, but i believe that in our country, where we believe in self-reliance, that's not right; do you know Rand Paul? — yes — he just got elected senator for Massachusetts; he's a libertarian who wants to reduce the federal budget and make massive budget cuts; one thing he wants to do is get rid of the Department of Education and give the states and local bodies the responsibility for educating the people; he says it's unconstitutional for the federal government to be responsible for education; i wanted to ask you: what did you mean the other day when you said something about being a practicing idealist? — i meant that people ridicule idealists for failing to deal with practical reality, even if they themselves hold the same ideals; my idea is that i will act myself to achieve the ideal even if it seems highly improbable i can bring it about; but by so doing i would like to think i'm helping, and i suspect i'm probably not hurting anything; at worst, it will turn out what i'm doing is a mistake and people will learn from what i've failed at about what doesn't work — i think a big problem is the separation of people; all interaction is asymptotic: you can get really close to someone but you can never fully understand where they're coming from — i agree, but i think that's okay; there are certain versions of the creation of the world that say that everything existed in potential form in the mind of God, or within All That Is, or whatever you want to call it; and then God out of the deepest compassion allowed everything to be created and, wanting to know Himself, divided everything up into small entities to which he gave free will because the most efficient way for Him to know Himself was to allow everything to explore all possibilities on its own; so we can't possibly know each other completely while alive because that's another way of exploring existence; but after death we will come together and know everything — i remember when i was in high school and i read Kerouac's "On the Road"; i wanted to drop out and start traveling across the country; people idealized Neal Cassady; i know he did speed, but... — i think it was his ideas that were important; i think the 1960s were a dress rehearsal for what's going on now; in actuality, very few people participated in what came to be known as the hippy movement; Chomsky says mass protests against the war didn't really get going until the war was virtually over; i think people focus a lot on the unusual things that went on and so they take on a significance disproportionate to the number of people who were involved — some people were talking about you and saying it was cool to stand here with a sign but it must be boring compared to going to parties; i told them you were a cool guy and that you got pleasure out of what you were doing and that they should go up and talk to you, but they didn't — i see — so many people are in an internet trance; i go to people's dorm rooms and there will be eight guys gathered around and one will show a cool youtube video, then another, and in the end we just sat there together staring at the screen for two hours; i'm happy to see how the internet is changing things for the better, though; look at what Twitter has allowed people to bring about in Egypt — yes, there are people who want to control the internet, but it didn't work in Egypt; i read that people there are really happy they didn't throw away their dialup modems since that was the only way they could access the internet; if for some reason i was asked to leave campus, i could have someone stand here with an iphone and i could continue to have conversations with people via Skype without my physical presence being necessary; have you heard about these people who have been making flash drive dead drops? — no — the idea is people take flash drives and stick them in random walls in different places so that anyone who wants to can bring a laptop, connect it, and upload or download any information they want; the idea is to preserve and exchange information outside the internet...

3:50-4:00 Nate comes up
— to answer the question on your sign, i think i deserve a better education — yeah, well, who are you going to complain to? — i can petition someone — or lobby — or go to rallies; well, i have to go lifeguard and save people's lives — only save interesting people's lives, though — yeah, i'll let the dumb people drown...

4:22-4:28 Fred [see February 3 @ 11:20] comes up
— do you need to go to a university to get an education? — no, but a university disciplines you; also my food and housing are paid for and i have time to study which i wouldn't have if i had to work — but some people have to work while they're going to college — i know; i feel sorry for them...

February 8, 2011 (Tuesday)

Time: Stood from 9:58am to 4:40pm with a break

Approximate time spent talking to people: 1 hour, 32 minutes

Other signs on the Quad: none

10:05 a guy walks by and looks back several times at the sign

10:22 a guy walks by laughing silently

11:05 a group of eight black girls walk by and one says to me: "Yes, we all deserve one." Exactly one hour later they pass by and one of them waves and smiles

11:20 the bearded professor who came up two weeks ago [see January 26 @ 4:08] passes by and says: "How're you doing?" I say: "Hi."

11:42 a man who has a red beard and baseball cap walks by and says without smiling: "Yes." He seems offended

1:00-1:20 Nathan comes up
— i took LSD last night and i'm still feeling the effects; last summer when i took it i used to have long existential discussions with housemates on the porch, but now i've internalized all that and i just feel my body go through strange changes and see the carpet patterns change; LSD has changed me and now i can be depressed for a week — have you taken ecstasy? — yes, MDMA; that's different; with MDMA i know the high will last 4 hours and then it's over, but with LSD i can feel the aftereffects for a week or a month; i'm tired of learning in class about what happened so long ago; students ought to be able to come to class and talk about what's going on in their lives now — that's what i'm able to do in my classes in Russia because i don't have to answer to anybody telling me what to do; but how would you do that if you had a class with very different kinds of people in it? — you'd try to find some common ground; it might take three or four weeks but in the end would pay off; instead in class we talk about what happened years ago or what someone says is going to happen or plans to happen in the future — yes, all professors are busy with the past, thinking and talking about their credentials, or about the future, worrying about what student evaluations will be like or getting something ready for publication; but you can't really blame them because they couldn't ever do what they want to in class because they have to answer to the administration and worry about teacher evaluations — i feel like life has become stale; did you ever feel that? — i got out of high school and into college as fast as i could, and then from a mediocre college to this one so that i could be around other people as passionate about learning as i was; but when i couldn't find anyone, i found myself asking the question: "when does life begin?"; and i don't remember a single professor--this was before i'd heard the term "political correctness" so i didn't know what to call what was really disturbing to me: the forbidding of topics of conversation--not a single professor complained or spoke out because they would get into trouble if they did; they can't say what they think until they have tenure and no one gets that before they're thirty, by which time they've completely sold out to the system; college was so boring we used to think of things to do to break up the monotony; i had a dormmate who had a friend who was very boring and who used to invite himself to come and stay with her; she wrote stories and was working on a novel and he would always read whatever she had written he could find in her room; what we did one time was my friend wrote some really bizarre prose and left it in the typewriter for him to find; then we strew some porn magazines on the floor to add to the sense of something being not right; then we went out with my friend and her friend to a bar, and at some point my friend just left and we started wondering where she'd gone; we went back to the dorm and i found a note she'd left me telling me she'd gotten into some trouble and asking me to meet her at Red Square at midnight; so at midnight we went to Red Square and saw a strange guy with a bottle in a brown paper bag walking alone in the middle of Red Square muttering to himself; actually it was our friend Charlie Mills who we'd asked to play a role in the prank we'd set up; Charlie comes up to us and says; "Is any of you guys Cary Lee [my friend's name]?"; we said no and he said "Well, tell her the Buffalo sent me; we want our stuff"; i could hardly keep from laughing; but the guy we were playing the prank on was so dense he didn't understand what we'd done even after we told him it had all been staged — yes, such social experiments can be very interesting; we were at Memos, the Mexican restaurant, recently and we moved around furniture and struck silly poses but were surprised to find nobody noticed because they were so engrossed in what they were doing — like in a trance — Nate and i were talking last night about utopia; it would be best to take all the people away for a month, level the landscape and start over; but that would be impractical, so what we thought we could do is to start fixing things ourselves; say there's a crack in the sidewalk, instead of waiting for someone to fix it, we could do it ourselves and save three or four people from having to trip over it — but maybe they will miss out on the benefits of tripping over it; i remember getting drunk and passing out while climbing a hill and hitting my forehead smack on the sidewalk and it being a very interesting experience; the other problem would be that people who found out about what you did would spend a lot of time talking about the minor improvements and how kind you were to do them, which would distract them from more constructive pursuits — we realized that people buy power tools like drills and use them once a year to put a picture up; what if we used our drill to fix fences? — yes, people talk about the idea that each person has their own lawnmower when it would make much more sense for there to be one for each ten houses in a neighborhood — i think we're moving towards that; i like the idea of sharing; i have my cell phone and my wallet which i need to be mine all the time, but other things i'm happy to share, like my kitchen, which i actually do share with my housemates — sharing is not so easy here because we're brought up being told that we should never touch anything that belongs to someone else... 

1:25-1:51 Cameron, a guy who studies music (he plays the bassoon and composes music for solo instruments and orchestra), comes up
— i've been noticing your signs — what do you think about this one? — i think everyone deserves an education — why do you have to pay? — i think it should be free but in our society we have to pay for it — is there someone who doesn't deserve an education? — everyone does; our society is not perfect yet; i remember your sign "THE DECEIVED ARE COMPLACENT IN THEIR ILLUSION" — it was actually "THE DECEIVED ARE COMPLICIT IN THEIR DECEPTION" — yes, i agree with that; most people don't notice what's going on in the world around them — so are they complicit in it? — if they are happy then they are complacent [sic]; it's only when they're not happy they start to think about changing things — what if i'm happy with my life but see that others around me are not happy, would i want to change things? — yes, that could happen; i'm one of those people who believes in conspiracy theories, for example those about the New World Order — do you meet people in daily life who share your views? — some, at work; but what can we do about things? — what is the proportion of people who see the things that are going on? 5%?, 10%?, 20%? — i don't know — do you think if there were a critical mass of people who were aware of what's going on, things would change? like they said in the 60s, it's enough just to be aware — i agree; but in the 60s they were lucky that they didn't have the tube [TV]; i don't watch it, or if i do, i watch Discovery or the History Channel; i have younger siblings who watch TV and i watch what they do sometimes and am appalled at the values in the shows; it's garbage — do you tell your parents what you think? — yes, but they like the TV because it lets them turn off their kids and occupy them with something so they don't have to; you'd think people wouldn't have kids if what they would do after having them was to try to avoid having to spend time with them...

1:57 peace sign guy carrying a skateboard gives me the peace sign while walking by. I flash the sign back

2:36-2:37 Justin, a guy, comes up 

2:38-2:45 bathroom break

3:55-4:40 a girl comes up. We ask each other many questions. She gives her answers without hesitating and without extended pauses for thinking, i.e. the answers seem to be at her fingertips
— i've seen your signs — do they have any meaning to you? — which ones? — all of them, or this one in particular — no, they don't — well, how would you answer the question, "Do you deserve an education?" — i think yes, i deserve it — if you deserve it, why should you pay for it? — because you need teachers to be taught and it takes a long time for them to learn so they can teach, and you have to pay them — what is meant by the word "education"? — it's obvious you mean a university education because you're standing here — what other kinds of education are there? — there's learning from life, and from people and on your own — some people have said the lectures on the internet are as good if not better than those at the university — but at a university you get a diploma — but is that important if you have the necessary skills and knowledge? — it's important to your employer — managers say they want someone who can think, regardless of where they got their education — but if you look statistics, the average graduate of, say, the University of Alabama with an MBA makes $80,000 a year after graduation while the Harvard MBA grad gets $180,000 a year after graduation; so clearly for employers there is a difference — can i ask what you study? — i study international relations, Arabic and Chinese — do you study in the Jackson School? — yes; what did you study? — i studied Russian — can you speak it? — yes — how old are you? if i may ask that question — i'm 42 — what did you do with your degree when you graduated? — i went to Russia — so that would have been in the 1970s? — no, later — of course; why did you go there? — it was very interesting there — because the Soviet Union was breaking up? — not just for that reason — what did you do there? — i taught English — how did you teach it? what homework did you make your students do? — i usually had students talk about themselves or write something; or we discussed a film they'd seen — where did you teach? in international schools? — in many different schools, including the Anglo-American School — my father was the head of many different international schools; i grew up in many different countries — where? — India, Egypt, Japan, Mongolia — do you speak Arabic and Chinese? — i speak Arabic and Mongolian — what kind of Arabic? — Egyptian Arabic; when you teach are you as soft-spoken as now? — i guess so — you give only one-word answers; are you trying to be mysterious or are you just reserved?...

[we're interrupted from about 4:10-4:13 when two guys come up and say they like the signs because they make them think and we talk a little about today's sign]

— how long do you talk with people who come up? — with some people i talk for more than an hour, with others less than a minute; you asked about my being reserved; i try never to lie so sometimes, if it is difficult to give a complete answer because, say, it would take too much time, i'd rather withhold information than lie or mislead by giving only a partial answer; there's something else: it is your manner; it does not coincide with the life experience you must have had living in many different countries and speaking two exotic languages — my manner is like that of a sorority girl — yes — when i'm in a culture i adopt the mask of a person in that culture — i used to do the same thing in Russia, and could even pass for Russian, but at some point i stopped doing that; i think there are certain universal values a person can behave in accordance with; you simply need to be reserved at first and observe others to know how your actions will be interpreted — what are your goals in standing here with these signs? — i have no overriding goal — everyone has goals, hopes, dreams, expectations... — i don't — are you planning to go back to Eastern Europe? — yes — when? — in about three or four weeks — see, you do have goals — i have plans; how would you define intuition? — it is when you notice small facial movements that let you know what people are feeling — have you studied NLP? — what's that? — neuro-linguistic programming — no, have you studied it? — no, but i'm aware of it; would you want to have children? — no; there are many things i want to accomplish in my life but having children is not one of them — are there people here [in this city] you find it interesting to talk to? — i think everyone is interesting if you go deep enough; if we knew everything about people we would be shocked by what we knew — how deep do you go in learning about people? — it depends — does it depend on you or the person you're with? — there's always a give and take; there has to be if you want to go deeper — why did you come up to me now? — i wanted to come up to you last week but you were talking to somebody — why did you decide to come up to me? — because of your persistence — what did you think my purpose was in standing with the signs before you talked to me? — my idea of why you do this changed from day to day; when you had the sign about free help with homework i thought you were crazy — what did you think about the messages on the signs? — i remember the one about TV; i didn't understand it — why would they not show the sign on TV? — because it isn't important enough for them to film it — if they filmed it by chance, why would an editor decide not to show it? — because it wouldn't be interesting for people — is there any other reason they wouldn't show it? — they might show it just to prove you wrong; or they might not show it to prove the sign right; no, wait... — have you seen the film Network? — no — have you seen criticism of television on TV? — yes — what form does the criticism take? — they say that watching TV too much takes away time families can spend together — have you ever seen anyone on TV tell you to turn off your TV? — no — have you ever heard a professor say the university is a waste of time? — no — that is a clue to the meaning of the sign — so you're saying they wouldn't show it because it would say that there are some things they wouldn't show? — yes; do you think there is anything they could do to discredit the sign? — yes, they could attack you — but if they hurt me, wouldn't that make the message of the sign more powerful? — it would if they made a martyr out of you, but i meant they could attack you by saying bad things about you — ad hominem attacks? — yes — would the words on the sign have less significance to you if their creator were discredited in your eyes? — yes — why? — just like if a scientist says the world will end in 2012 i'd take his words more seriously than a homeless man telling me the same thing; it's important how close you are to the sign — i'm about one and a half meters from it — then i associate it with you; if the sign were hanging on the tree and you weren't here, it would be impossible to discredit it by discrediting you — i intended the sign to have consciousness of self; that is, i wrote it in such a way that it is independent of its creator; what books do you like? — i like Jane Austen, Michael Crichton, J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkein — have you read any William Blake? — no, what did he write that you like? — i like his Marriage of Heaven and Hell; he claimed to have had conversations with the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel; if his works had been made a fifth gospel of the New Testament, the history of the Western world would be completely different; he wrote a Bible of Hell and Proverbs of Hell which combine what we think of as good and evil; for example: "Whatever is possible to be believed is an image of truth" and "The voice of honest indignation is the voice of God."; what does "honest indignation" mean to you? — it means someone's anger is sincere — what films or directors do you like? — i like all genres of film, except horror films; what films do you like? — i like very much realism in films; what do you think i mean by that? — i would guess that you would prefer a film about Anne Frank to, say, "300"; or maybe not; it means you like factual films — i think there's an important difference between the factual and realism — is there some sort of rules? — have you seen films by Stanley Kubrick? — no, what films did he make? — Dr. Strangelove, Eyes Wide Shut, Full Metal Jacket, 2001 — no, but i'll watch them; i have Netflicks; do you know what that is? — yes; but most people have to see his films more than once to appreciate them — do you mean see more than one of them or the same one several times? — usually i at least have to watch a single film several times to understand it — ok, then i'll watch Full Metal Jacket several times; can i watch it several times the same day or should there be some time between watching it? — i don't know; are you spiritual? — my father is Catholic and my mother is protestant and i am familiar with shamanism, Tibetan Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism — is there anything about Christianity you find disconcerting? — i find it disconcerning [sic] that in the Old Testament God is loving but He smites His enemies; and why should we love and fear God at the same time? why is there so much said in the New Testament about hell? why would a loving God send someone to hell? — what does the phrase: "Judge not and thou shalt not be judged mean to you?" — it means we shouldn't judge — but how does it work? — because if you don't judge, after death you won't be judged — can it work in life? — i guess if you don't judge others they wouldn't have a reason to judge you — have you ever wondered about why Christ on the cross said "My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" — yes, i've thought about that; i think it's because he was a man in addition to being the Son of God and because he suffered so much — if i told you there were some who say that phrase was added to the Bible to discredit Christianity, would you be willing to consider the possibility that might be true? — i don't think they need to try to discredit the Bible since there are parts that would already discredit it; if it were a work of fiction, no one would read it because it would not be believed; for example, the part that says that Christ was taken from the cross and placed in a cave and a large stone rolled in front of the mouth of the cave and then three days later the cave is discovered by Mary Magdalene, a prostitute, the lowest of the low of people in society — don't you think that if Christ allowed her to wash his feet that she was forgiven? — yes, i think she was; but people who were trying to deceive people would never have put that in, thus this shows the Bible is true — do you think a prostitute is a fallen woman, a fallen person? — i understand why a woman would become a prostitute if she doesn't have money for food or if she has no other way to go to the university — do you think some prostitutes like their jobs? — yes, i think there are some who like sex and money; i think another thing that would discredit the Bible for some would be the conflicting accounts, for example in John it says Christ healed one blind man and in Mark it says he healed two, or vice versa; i think this can be explained by saying that they saw different things; it's like witnesses to a bank robbery; if they're in different regions of the bank they'll see different numbers of bank robbers; if they see the same thing that means collusion — is it not possible for them to see the same thing? — it's possible, but not likely; that usually means witness tampering — what does enlightenment mean to you? — it means when you realize that everything is one: all people, the grass, the trees, grasshoppers, all that is one — what is nirvana? — that's what you attain after death — is it possible to attain nirvana before death? — only for the Dalai Lama — do you believe consciousness is an epiphenomenon of matter? — no, i don't think something that is not living could produce consciousness — do you think this tree has consciousness of self? — i don't know ; i probably should go; it's cold; maybe i'll see you around — good luck to you...

[As soon as she turns her head to walk away the smile leaves her face. Is that true for all people? For me?]

February 9, 2011 (Wednesday)

Time: Stood from 10:14am to 4:53pm with a short break

Approximate time spent talking with people: 3 hours, 56 minutes
Other signs on the Quad: none

10:15-11:35 a guy standing about 25 meters from me twirls two things that look like long tube socks, each weighted at one end
10:26 Bradley [see FEBRUARY 2 @10:30] walks by and gives me a two-finger salute

10:30-10:52 Boris [see January 4 @ 11:50] comes up
— i came up once before to talk to you but you probably don't remember — i do remember you but don't remember your name — i'm Boris — i'm Kevin; what do you study? — i'm doing LSJ, Law Society and Justice — are you pre-law? — yes — what law school do you want to go to? — i applied to UW but my LSAT scores are too low so i have to retake the exam — where are you from? — i moved here in 1997 from Siberia — from what city? — Nizhnevartovsk — i lived in Moscow — do you speak Russian — yes...[we switch into Russian]...if you were in Russia or other countries you wouldn't even be able to stand out here with a sign like this — yes, but in addition to the right to freedom of speech there is the right to be heard; in the Soviet Union people couldn't protest in public, but in their kitchens drinking tea with friends they could say whatever they wanted and they would be heard — but you can't force people to listen to what you have to say — i agree, i'm just talking about the way things are; people will agree that the billions spent every year on advertising and commercials convince people to buy things they wouldn't otherwise buy; why don't people realize that they're also being sold ideas and policies in the same way? — do you go to church? — no — i was brought up by parents who are atheists and i didn't believe; but then i got heavily into drugs, but after i joined the church my life changed completely; the difference is like black and white; what helped me was a sermon about how Jesus spoke with his disciples and then told them that they should not fall asleep to avoid suffering — i see people here who are closing their eyes to problems; people who say things like "I don't want to go there" when you bring up a topic that makes them feel uncomfortable; but they don't understand that they will have to go "there" sooner or later; people in Russia know that there's no difference between political candidates; i see that here many people still believe there's a difference between democrats and republicans — people understand there's little difference in what the overall policy will be, but i believe that through the court systems real changes can be brought about; they might take 10 years, but that change can happen — i think when change begins to happen we need to have people everywhere--among criminals, in the CIA and KGB and everywhere; i believe there are many more good people than bad people in the world — yes...

10:52 two black girls come up to a place about ten feet away and say, "Hello." I reply, "Hello." The look at me silently for about 15 seconds and then turn and walk away

11:22 Kirk [see January 5 @ 4:11] passes by with his bike and calls out: "Hey, Kevin." I answer, "Hey, Kirk."

11:43-11:51 bathroom break

12:10 the black girl who asked me, "Why would someone be shot on the Quad?" [see January 28 @ 11:05 and February 2 @ 12:07] walks by with four friends and says to them: "I remember this Russian girl in fourth grade and she said, 'Oh, my God, you're the only black person in the whole world I don't hate.'."

1:25-2:10 Austin Siedentopf and I go to the Communications building to watch the segment on me and my signs which is to air next Friday. He records me saying I give him permission to use the version he's edited. He lets me watch the outtakes from the interviews he did with passersby. One girl in the interview asked him if I was homeless
— it's a nice day — in the spring are there people sitting all over the Quad? — i don't know, i haven't been here yet to see that; some fraternities like to come here at night to play capture the flag — is the Quad lit? — no, so they're groping in almost complete darkness; but the flag is a fluorescent tube that glows brightly, so when someone captures it everyone knows who to go for — i know some people who dropped acid last summer and used to come here at night where they were tripping in that tree over there...[we view the edited segment for next Friday's show] — what would you like to do after this? — well, i thought about maybe putting a booth up on the Quad and doing magic tricks — no, i mean after you graduate, as a career; do you want to do video journalism? — i'd like to direct movies; doing this is training to get me to think about how to use film to tell a story — what directors do you like? — the Cohen brothers and also the director of There Will Be Blood — Paul Thomas Anderson? he directed Magnolia, Boogie Nights... — right, Magnolia was really good too; and Kubrick; and i like James Cameron too; i think he really knows how to tell a story, like George Lucas with the first Indiana Jones movie and the first Star Wars; those are the kinds of movies i'd like to make; i like movies where the setting becomes a character: Fargo in "Fargo", LA in "The Big Lebowski", Texas in "There Will Be Blood"; what is your favorite film? — "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" — that's my mom's favorite; Nicholson was amazing in that film; but he's an asshole; he tried to sleep with one of my mom's friends — i read that he was very promiscuous; Hunter Thompson said Jack Nicholson could think faster than anyone else he knew — probably; i think Robin Williams has to be able to think really fast too; they say Dana Carvey is also really sharp; i have also worked as an actor and know that people who can come up with improvisation like they do have to be able, at some intuitive level, to do things that fit the situation and the role and that will play well to audiences while taking into consideration what came before, the lighting, where the cameras are and everything else, all at the same time — what's that written on the wall mean [on the wall is written: "Humphrey Bogart is my boggart."] — it's from Harry Potter; have you read it? — no — [he explains what a boggart is] a girl wrote that who finds Bogart a little creepy; so can i film you saying you approve of the video — okay; are you filming? — yes — okay, "i think you did a good job Austin; i give you my permission to use the interview"; is that okay? — fine — now you can go back and edit in all sorts of things that will make me look ridiculous — the most i could do would be to edit it so that you're saying: "I hate gays" but it would sound like: "i. hate. gays." — like Chef in the South Park episode after he comes back as a child molester — right; [he sings the song from the episode:] "i'm gonna make love to the. children"

12:38-1:05 Thayer, a guy, comes up
— i'd like to know more about your signs and why you do this — how would you interpret this sign? — i think it's an advertisement — what is it advertising? — itself; you want people to pay attention to it; also it is a challenge — how is it a challenge? — it's challenging people to think about it and about things in general; i remember your "FREE HELP WITH HOMEWORK" sign and tried for a long time to think of a question to come up to ask you to help with; i finally thought of one: for a class project in the Jackson School of International Studies we have to come up with a budget for a theoretical project--it won't ever be implemented--to help third world countries to improve their development of human rights in accordance with UN standards; the problem is to develop accountability and how to measure the effectiveness of the use of funds allocated to each program — would you be allowed to bring up issues like those Joseph Stiglitz talks about? — what do you mean? — i mean, for example, Greg Palast's 2001 interview with him called "The Globalist Who Came in From the Cold" in which he says the World Bank deliberately promotes programs in third world countries that they know will lead to social unrest in order to be able to go in and buy up industries and utilities and then claim the free market is helping the economy to grow; the dishonesty involved is that because water was always free but now private companies charge for it, that price paid shows up in economic indicators and the illusion is created that the economy is growing — i know of Stiglitz; do you remember the names of the books he's written? — no, i don't; what about the issue of genetically modified seeds and companies like Monsanto that sell seeds that produce a higher crop yield but don't result in sustainability since new seeds have to be bought every year? — the project i'm working on is more narrowly focused on achieving a specific goal, so i wouldn't be able to speak about issues like that — i see; can i ask where you're from? you have a very slight accent — i grew up in Palestine and was educated in international schools so my accent would come from associating with people speaking different kinds of English — what do you think about what's going on in Egypt? do you think it's orchestrated or spontaneous? — probably part of both — who might be orchestrating it? — i read that the Muslim Brotherhood was actually behind it but that they did not come out in formal support of what was happening from the very beginning as they would be seen as a negative, radical, fundamentalist organization; on the other hand, that might be completely untrue and a rumor designed to discredit what is happening — it is impossible in this country to criticize Israel because of the Holocaust; they never talk about Israel's having nuclear weapons even though everyone who looks into it knows it's true— i'm not sure how deep that connection goes; people are at some level very defensive and protective of Israel; i have spoken with some Israelis, even very liberal ones, and there are some places they won't go — i know Americans who are not Jewish who are brought to tears when watching movies about the Holocaust; i think this is an emotional response conditioned by what they see in the media; are you familiar with the writings of Uri Avnery or Israel Shamir? — no — Israel Shamir was a Jew who grew up in the Soviet Union, emigrated to Israel and became disenchanted with the society there and converted to Christianity and befriended many Arabs; he says the one-state solution, in which each resident in Israel has an equal vote, is preferable to the two-state solution called for in the Oslo accords — a one-state solution is the only one that makes sense for many reasons: the settlements are mixed and cannot really be separated [he gives other reasons i don't recall]...

1:05-1:15 Garrett
— is standing with this sign a radical act? — no, in our free society where we have freedom of expression such an act is not; your signs are political — do you think they are? — yes, this sign is and the sign "DO YOU DESERVE AN EDUCATION?" is talking about social and economic issues...

1:20-1:35 a guy comes up
— do you think it's bad if a guy wants to sleep with a woman? — i think if it's a one-night stand, yeah — what if it's the woman who wants a one-night stand? — i would not want women to do that either — do you think a one-night stand cannot be a meaningful experience? — no; i had one experience; i slept with a girl who later became my roommate's girlfriend, so it's embarrassing now because i see her all the time — i think in other societies it would not be embarrassing for anyone; i think this society is obsessed with sex; you have half the people who consider any sex at all to be sinful and the other half who think about nothing but sex; i don't want to live in a society in which anything is an obsession — i have a friend whose heritage is German and he spent some time in Germany; he never talks about sex, but once he and i did have a conversation about it and it seemed to me he was adopting a European attitude towards it; it was like, sex is not a big deal — in Russia people understand that most married people will at some point cheat on their spouse; men will sleep with a mistress and say afterwards they became confirmed that they love their wives; and people don't inform on each other; a friend of mine had a close girlfriend who tried to tell her that her husband was cheating on her; my friend told her friend to leave and never come back; there's a sense of discretion — is it like this in Russia or all of Europe? — in all of Europe, i think; think about the GIs who came back after World War One and World War Two and what different attitudes they came back with...

2:30-2:32 Ben, a guy, comes up
— in what sense are you using the word "radical"? — what do you mean? — we talked about the word in class today and it can mean "extremist", as in the political sense, but it can also mean "fundamental"; there's even a website called The Radical Academy  — and like in mathematics — exactly; have to go; i'm sure i'll see you around...

2:50-3:10 Sy, a guy, comes up
— i came up to you once before — i remember you; you were going to a philosophy class on Kierkegaard — no, that wasn't me — i'm sorry — it's okay...

3:40- 4:00 two girls, Marine (Marina?) and Kelly (or Kerry?), come up
— we're interested in your sign — a lot of people walking by today have smiled and suppressed laughter when they saw the sign — i think probably many of them think it's part of an internet joke — what do you mean? — they probably think that when they come up someone will jump out from behind the bushes and laugh at them — you mean like Candid Camera? — yeah; we saw your sign "THIS SIGN WILL NOT BE SHOWN ON TV" but didn't know exactly what you meant — why do you think they wouldn't show it? — i don't know — have you seen the movie Network from 1976? — no — have you ever seen criticism of television on television? — yes, shows like Jersey Shore are criticized — have you ever seen anyone on TV tell you to turn off the TV? — no — have you ever heard a professor say the university was a waste of time? — yes — really? what did they say? — i had an English literature TA say that if you don't use the knowledge you're getting in the right way, you have no business studying at a university — i guess the sign could be said to suggest that there are things you should be shown on TV that you're not shown — yes, and there are things we aren't shown on the internet either — do you think Marshall McLuhan was right when he said "The medium is the message"? — i think every medium tries to break free of its limitations but all mediums affect the message they convey — i thought of making a sign saying: "THE MESSAGE IS THE MESSAGE"; do you think it would make sense to people who didn't get the reference to McLuhan? — i think it would because it has an inherent meaning; do you know anything about CHID? — no, what's that? — it's the Comparative History of Ideas Department; students in the department can design their own study program — could a student make their senior thesis criticism of the department itself? — yes, they could; it's a small department and is flexible...

3:55-4:45 two Asian American guys, Will and David, come up
 — why are you standing here with these signs? — for many reasons; at the same time i have no goal — do you want to help other people? — i would be happy if that were one of the side effects of what i'm doing — there are many people who have no food or no shelter who you could also help — i know, but i would rather do this than be part of an organization — but how can you know you're actually helping someone? — well, that's difficult to do if you're doing something that's never been done before — how do you know no one has ever done this before? — i don't know that for sure, but i haven't heard of this being done before; if you hear of something like this, please tell me so i can read about it — have you ever thought that maybe what you're doing will have no effect whatsoever? — i'm willing to take that risk; at the very least, if doing this produced no results whatsoever, at least it would serve as an example to people of what they shouldn't do; another thing is that what i'm doing is connected with spreading a new idea; there aren't people interested in the spread of ideas... — sure there are — yes, you're right, but what i meant is that it's very difficult to trace the movement of an idea, i.e. how an idea or meme is first expressed and how it is transmitted to others and how it becomes distorted along its path; it's very difficult to trace the effects of an idea back to its original source — what did you feel when you graduated? were you happy? what did you think about? — i suppose i was sad to see people alienated from each other more than i thought they had to be; i remember observing people who were boyfriend and girlfriend and seeing that they didn't really love each other; that was very upsetting to me — so you're here just to talk to people? — not just for that, but i have had many interesting conversations — but you don't want to talk about why you're doing this — it's not that i don't want to; if i were to give you a five-word answer that would be a lie; it would take too long to explain every one of my motivations — so you're willing to talk about anything? — yes — would you talk about your favorite sexual position? — sure — what is it? — do you mean if i have sex with one person? — yes — well, it would depend on the person — i mean with a woman — i understand, but it would still depend on the woman, how tall she was and what our relationship was like, and many other things, so i can't really answer the question; i suppose i like the missionary position because i can kiss at the same time...

3:55-4:20 Marty [see February 3 @ 3:00] comes up
...people ought to do things that make them happy because we don't have that much time before we die — do you think that would make a good sign: "YOU ARE GOING TO DIE"? — [he laughs] yes it would — do you think it would piss people off? — yes, it would — they couldn't really argue with it, though; except perhaps for the transhumanist people — who are they? — the people who believe that technology will soon reach a level at which we can prolong life forever by taking a person's consciousness and downloading it into a body that doesn't die — would the decision to do so be made by the person with the consciousness or by the machine accepting it? — i would think it would be the person; would a machine be capable of making such a decision? — maybe...

4:15-4:53 Fred [see February 3 @ 11:20] comes up. He and Will engage in conversation
...[Fred speaks:] i see problems in society and i want to change society because it's not letting people be happy — but who are you to try to force people to act in a certain way? maybe they find comfort in Jesus and you could ruin their life by trying to change that for them; for me, my family is the most important thing; i would do anything for them, even sacrifice my life; that makes me happy; i have a dog and it makes me really happy; do you eat meat? — no, i'm a vegetarian — do you eat vegetables? — yes — don't you think you're hurting the plants? why do they have to die just so that you can eat?...[Bill leaves]

— what did you think about our conversation? — sometimes i think you responded to something simply because of the argumentative tone with which it was said — yes, i see that — and it seemed to me that when Will said it was wrong for you to try to help people because you should just do what makes you happy, you could have said that helping people makes you happy and thus that's exactly what you should be doing — but he was saying i don't have any right to impose my idea of happiness on someone — but i don't think you're making someone unhappy simply by broadening their perspective; when Will was telling you it would be wrong for you to try to change the way a person thinks who is happy in their devotion to Jesus, you could have made the point that if you give people a broader perspective and show them there are other things they could do, when they refuse to do these other things in favor of doing what has made them happy before, you're helping them to be more sure that what they're doing is right; otherwise you could make the argument that it's better to play some computer game from age 12 to age 50 because it at least satisfies you because you don't know anything else — exactly; i have spent a lot of time playing Minesweeper — what's your high score on the hardest level? — 89; 99 bombs in 89 seconds, but i want to get a better score — what's your record for the easiest level? — 5 seconds — i've seen better — the world's record is 1 second — but that's just lucky guessing, right? — of course — what's the world's record on the hardest level? — 27 seconds — how is that possible? — the people who are good at these games, like Starcraft, are not actually thinking; they're performing actions instinctively, doing things before they can possibly have a chance to think...

February 14, 2011 (Monday)


Time: Stood from 11:04am to 4:47pm with no breaks

Approximate time spent talking to people: 1 hour, 1 minute

Other signs on the Quad: a tent was put up around 12:15 and taken down around 3:00 advertising: "Wheels when you want them. zipcar.com"

10:45 while walking to campus I saw a dime on the ground. It was real enough for me to pick up and pocket it
10:59-11:01 I had just finished making the sign in the cafe By George when Jeff comes up
— you should add here: "especially since we went off the gold standard" — but that would make the meaning too narrow; is gold real? — it's rare — what if they found out tomorrow it was radioactive? — it would lose value — they say mainstream science is not telling us what qualities gold has which would give it real value

11:23 Alyssa waves to me walking by

11:32 two guys walk by, look at the sign and smile and laugh

12:00 a pleasant man with a red beard waves at me

12:33 a man comes up and asks me where Mackenzie Hall, the business building, is. I get out my campus map and show him

1:28 a guy looks at the sign while walking by, turns his head forward and nods twice, apparently in agreement

2:20-2:21 the professor who came up to me when I had the TV sign [see January 26 @ 4:08] walks by and says: "I like the sign". I say: "Thank you". He comes up
— i'm having my students read "The Mystery of Capital"; it talks about how capital is composed of a lot of what is not real — who is it by? — Hernando De Soto, like the conquistador — thank you

2:40-3:15 Andrew comes up
— my girlfriend and i asked what the point of life is; i said it was for making connections with people; she said it was for attaining truth; i said making connections was a form of truth; i think the profit motive is a good thing, otherwise people would take the easy way out — are people who climb Mount Everest taking the easy way out? — no, but without money we would have only barter and i don't think that would work; i know about this Rainbow festival the hippies have in a national park each year; there are 10-20,000 of them and they live without money; there's a central place where people can come and trade what they have for what someone else has that they need; there's a lot of nudity and drugs there; i met a girl on the bus who told me about it; she was very weird with henna on her hands; have you read Ayn Rand — no, but i know of her — i'm reading Atlas Shrugged right now; it's about people who are brilliant who want to create the best possible railroad but are stopped by the government from being able to do so; if there were no profit people wouldn't work; i know a guy who's an accountant and loves his work; to me it would be very boring; but he does it because he gets paid to do it — do you think that he deserves the money that he gets? — yes — do you think he's contributing more to society than the mother who, without pay, raises her children, or than the woman who works with children in the community and helps them to grow up good people? — no — i would like to live in a society where people would work because they wanted to — well, we've tried that and it's called welfare and that doesn't work because people become lazy — but i think that's a bad example because the institution of welfare exists within our existing society which is inherently flawed, in part because people are constantly being told that they're basically bad and born greedy; we could easily feed and provide shelter to everyone in the world simply by not spending money on weapons — well then the Chinese would take advantage of the situation — obviously all countries would have to stop making weapons; do you think every Chinese person wants to kill Americans? — i think the government does; i think we will see a holocaust, i mean, an armageddon in our lifetime — that's what people thought during the Cold War but we got through that — but during war all debts are cancelled so i think there are governments in favor of war; i think the basic instinct people have is for their own survival — how then do you explain the things done by firefighters, policemen, soldiers and suicide bombers? — they want virgins in heaven; i'd like to make enough money so i can spend the years when i'm 25-30 traveling around the world on a yacht

3:20-3:26 Marty comes up
— i wanted to come up to see what sign you had today; you're a real trooper to be out in the cold and rain — if i'd known the weather would be like this i wouldn't have come out; not because i'm not willing to spend the time, but because there are fewer people passing by and no one wants to come up on a day like today — did i miss a sign between this one and "IS STANDING HERE WITH THIS SIGN A RADICAL ACT?" — no — i know everyone probably tells you this [about themselves], but i have my [own] sign made and i'm ready to stand out with it — what does your sign say, if it's not a secret? — it says: "TELL ME SOMETHING WEIRD" — that's a great sign; you can stand by my tree if you want — no, i don't want to step on your toes; there are other trees over there that are good — no, you could stand right behind me with a sign with an arrow pointing towards me that says: "THIS MAN IS A FOOL" if you want — no, that's okay — your sign reminds me of that site postsecret.com — yes, i know that site — your sign is good because you'll hear interesting things and it doesn't even matter if people lie — that's right; if they want to lie that's okay; it'd be a good exercise for their imagination — well, i'll have to be ready for you by getting a sign ready that says: "MONKEY SEE MONKEY DO" — "monkey see, monkey do" — a friend of mine had the idea that when i had the sign "DON'T THINK" he should have come out onto the Quad and stood across from me with a sign that said: "THINK" — i thought i'd try standing with my sign on Friday — Friday's not a good day because people take off early; there's almost no one on campus after 2 — what's a good time? — i think the best time would be 2:15-4:30, when people have gotten out of class and don't feel like hurrying to the dorm to do their homework — that makes sense; that's the time i came up to you...

3:48 a guy walking by looks at the sign, stops, turns around to face the other way for 15-30 seconds, turns to me and says: "You're right."

4:25-4:45 Fred comes up
— i like the sign — do you think it's true? — i think money is real; it's stable, unlike barter — why is barter not stable? — well, when there wasn't any money, people could only barter and that wasn't good because if one person was a better negotiator it was unfair because they could get a better deal — but if people had only one source of what they were bartering for, how could negotiating skills affect the deal they got? people knew the product they were trading for, unless it was something they'd never seen before, like glass beads; but even the beads would have been a good deal if they had value for the people — i guess — what, for example, would happen to the value of diamonds if scientists declared tomorrow that they caused cancer? — they would have no value — does money have a stable value? — well, prices can go up — why does that happen? — if demand goes up; i took Econ 200, so i know these things — could there be another reason? — if the supply goes down — what if someone gives everyone $1000? — then the prices go up by about $1000 or some amount; the reason i came up is i wanted to ask you what you thought about this: do i have the right to try to change someone's belief; no, i mean more like: do you think there are some beliefs that are intrinsically true? — what do you mean by that? — i mean, are some beliefs inherently more right than others? — you're thinking back to the discussion with Will last Wednesday — right; for example, some people think it's okay to kill someone, whereas i believe it's not right to do so — would you be interested in hearing a justification for killing? — yes, what would that be? — if someone told you science had determined that the universe is 10 times bigger than they thought it was, would you believe that? — yes, they recently determined it's 26 times bigger than they thought, by the way — if they said it was 260 times bigger, would you believe it? — yes — imagine that it is infinite, as Einstein said; in that case there would be infinite energy and the consciousness that is you, part of which incarnates in your body, the consciousness that never dies, would have infinite possibilities of experiencing life; it would probably want to be a dog and a tree, for example; and it would probably want to experience death in different ways, including being killed; you could commit suicide, but if you wanted to experience being murdered you would have to have someone murder you; thus killing would be something that would be justified — do you believe that is true? sorry, again a question about belief; do you believe in God? that's probably not a good question; are you religious? — it depends on what you mean by religion — i suppose i mean: do you identify yourself with any of the modern religions? — i wouldn't do so because, though i'm not a Christian i'm not NOT a Christian, or to put it another way i'm not ONLY a Christian because i don't reject other beliefs — what do you think about science? — i respect science and am interested in it; i think in the future the silly conflict between science and religion will cease and they will begin learning from each other which will be of benefit to both of them — how will that happen? — people have said that after Einstein came up with relativity science should have begun studying things like the ancient Hindu Vedas to find hints of what areas it should be exploring — what? for example; i don't know anything about the Vedas — there is a great deal in esoteric and religious writings that, if examined metaphorically, can help science know what it should be looking at; science ridicules Christianity for its blind-faith belief in God which cannot be proven in the scientific sense, but at the same time science too has its own blind faith; for example, the belief that everything came about by pure chance — i believe that everything did come about by pure chance; i made the decision to become an atheist; it's strange; i say i'm an atheist and reject the blind faith of religions and yet i believe in aliens and that we came to be by chance — why do you think there's been no contact with aliens? — maybe because of different physical laws where they are — is it possible they don't want to interact with us? — maybe; you never answered my question whether you think there are beliefs that are basically right or wrong — i don't think i could ever answer any question where the only answers i was allowed to give were "yes" and "no", like on those psychological tests; because i want to move from a system of two-valued logic to a system of four- or five-, or more, valued logic...

February 22, 2011 (Tuesday)


Time: Stood from 11:06am to 4:35pm with no breaks

Approximate time spent talking to people: 2 hours, 13 minutes
Other signs on the Quad: none; between Red Square and the Quad they were handing out free passes for the films "The Lincoln Lawyer" and "I Am"; in front of the University Book Store the Larouche people had set up a table with a poster of Obama with a Hitler mustache 

11:22-11:40 Alyssa comes up
— what does your sign mean — [i explain the historical reference] — here are some sign ideas i had [she hands me a small post-it note]: "You are good enough", "We all have secrets" — i like them; the second reminds me of the postsecret website — i don't know it — [i tell her about it] — it reminds me of the video "My Little Secret"— i don't know it — it's so beautiful on the Quad; every day i come i renotice all the beautiful buildings — you're a lucky person; i don't notice them again every day — do you think there are things worth protesting? — yes — do you think protests have an effect? — i don't know; i have read that in about 1972 Nixon considered using nuclear weapons in Vietnam, but when he saw hundreds of thousands of protesters outside the White House he decided he couldn't do it

11:25-11:30 a woman comes up after taking my photo
— hi, are you in cahoots with the other guy who stands here? — that's me too — i've taken pictures of all your signs; i study communications so they're interesting to me; i've been following you since your sign: "FREE HELP WITH HOMEWORK ANY SUBJECT" because i was worried you might be here to take advantage of some of the women from other countries who might be too trusting — i think people in other countries know they can rely on their intuition and tell whether a person is good or bad by their facial expressions and the way they speak — that doesn't always work — look, i realize there are some sociopaths who are able to lie convincingly...— like Ted Bundy; no one ever suspected him and look what he did; i know about it because i'm taking a class on murderers in that building over there — but aren't people like that one in hundreds of millions? — i don't know — do you think i'm psychotic? — i don't know — how do i prove i'm not psychotic? — i don't know — people in other societies trust and consider a person good until he's done something bad — our society is different — do you think people are basically bad? — i...[she goes to leave] i have photos of your signs posted on facebook — ok

11:38-12:25 Aaron comes up
— hello, Aaron — you remember my name? — of course; i remember our conversation too...

12:15-12:40 Derek, Aaron's friend from California, comes up. After Aaron leaves the two of us talk
— i was curious about what you were trying to say with your sign "I AM NOT GAY"; all your signs before that had been intellectual and that one was really a shock — [i tell him the idea] — is there an overarching theme to your signs? — i don't know; what would it be? — i don't know — i wanted to ask you something; i want to know what you think about my situation; i don't like what i'm majoring in but my father doesn't think i should change — what is your major — computer science; it's a really hard school to get into, and now that i've gotten into it he says i shouldn't leave — what do you want to change your major to? — to informatics — is there such a big difference between the two? — not really — what about a double major? — the thing is i don't like computer science — i see; what does your father do? — he own an auto supply [or repair?] shop; my parents came here from Taiwan and worked really hard, and i understand that and appreciate that, but i just don't like computer science — have you tried explaining to your father there's no real difference between the two majors? — yes, but he's worried about my financial stability and security — have you tried getting a summer job so he could see that you're capable of finding work? — i'm working on doing that — could you enter one of the numerous programming contests they hold frequently to prove you're good at what you do? — i haven't thought of that but i'll think about it — what about the idea that computer science majors studied, say, Pascal 20 years ago which nobody uses anymore, so was their degree really all that important? or have you looked at what the average starting salary is for a graduate with a degree in informatics as opposed to one with a degree in computer science? — no, i haven't done that — have you tried telling your father you are willing to, and in fact would prefer, living more modestly?; you don't need to be really rich, do you? — no; but he's concerned with stability — could you try telling him that the average American changes jobs every 3 years and professions every 5 (if those figures are correct)? — no, i didn't know about that — in Asian culture what parents say is very important, isn't it? — yes — i knew a Korean guy in Russia who fell deeply in love with a Russian woman and wanted to marry her but couldn't because his parents said if he did they would disown him — that's sad — could you talk to your dad about the inherent unpredictability of life? maybe in a changing world the most important thing is to be adaptable and capable of learning something new quickly; or maybe you could ask why your parents made the sacrifice necessary to come here and work hard for their children, if their children just have to work hard; for what?

1:00-1:05 I fed pretzels to some seagulls

1:13 Sean, a guy, comes up and takes a photo
— i like your signs — thanks; if you want you can look at my blog — i will

2:40 a young woman walking by claps four times and smiles at me; i smile back

2:50 a guy passing by reads the sign aloud mockingly in a faux grave tone of voice

2:55-2:57 Kyle, a guy, comes up
— what does your sign mean? — [i talk about the historical background] [i tell him about my blog]

3:02 a black guy with his face almost completely covered with a winter mask comes up and says while walking away
— hey, man — hello — i'm not quite sure what you're doing, bro; but keep doing it — thanks, i will

3:03 the professor I've spoken with before [see January 26 @ 4:08] nods in greeting while passing by

3:25 I overhear one guy passing by say to the group of guys he's with: "Wait, this guy's the most silent..."

3:55-4:30 Aaron comes up again. Some of the ideas he expressed today:
— about your sign and the connection between Hitler's Germany and the contemporary US, Hitler carried out a holocaust against the Jews, but the US doesn't — i hope that's true, but keep in mind that no one knew about the holocaust until the end of the war — any fascists in the US are fringe groups with almost no support — Hitler's Nazi party was also a fringe group; it never won a majority in a popular election — we in the US have rights Germans under Hitler did not have — universities in Germany were silent even at the time when they could not be arrested for speaking out; in the US, we have the right to be secure in our persons and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures; that constitutional right has been abrogated under the Patriot Act — my mother grew up in Berkeley and she and her brother were involved in activist stuff; they were hippies but they're mellow now, i suppose like all hippies; i'm a firm believer in gay rights, but i work with the Interfaith Commission and so i need to create an environment where people of more conservative faiths can feel safe; i basically try to enforce tolerance, which sounds silly, but...so i can accept people's objections to gay marriage and i understand why a Catholic could be against homosexuality if they are against sex before marriage, but i firmly support gay rights; i don't know if i should say this to you, but i've looked at the budget figures for Washington state, and if i were making the decisions, i would cut funding for higher education and raise taxes, because i think public school education should not be cut and medical care should be fully funded; i'm a little embarrassed to say that because i come from a family of means; the Rally to Restore Funding on Red Square on February 7 was pathetic--only about 120 people turned out; if i were in the state legislature and had been watching i could not have taken seriously a protest of only 100+ people out of 30,000 students; and half of those at the rally were student government members; i would love to see groups of 2000-3000 students take positions for and other groups take positions against funding cuts and see an open debate; i think about the lack of activism on campus and think that maybe it's okay that there is none; maybe people are happy with the way things are and there isn't any need for it; i make friends easily but i can see how many people live in their own, isolated worlds; at the same time people who have 120+ acquaintances on facebook can't really have meaningful interaction with all of them; it would be interesting to see a dozen signs put up all over the Quad — but if there were a lot of them the idea would become banal, and some of the signs would be no more than satires of others; i talked with someone from Palestine the other day — what's his name? i probably know him — i don't remember; he expressed the idea that the only practical solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the one-state solution — i can't come to a decision on whether the two-state or one-state solution to the Palestinian issue is the correct one; i've heard arguments made by both sides but don't feel i know enough to come to a firm conclusion on the issue...

Other topics we discuss include: Alan Dershowitz and torture, 911 truth, Zeitgeist: The Movie, the theosophic society. I told him not to take my word for anything I talked about but to look it up himself. He said he would and then come back up to talk to me about it.

February 23, 2011 (Wednesday)


Time: Stood from 11:00am to 5:30pm with no breaks

Approximate time talking with people: 2 hours, 34 minutes

Other signs on the Quad: a tent was set up in the middle of the Quad when I arrived where passersby were asked to place small red circle stickers on photos of things they consider "evil": murder, poverty, rape, overeating and others. It was sponsored by a Christian group.

11:16-11:17 Austin Siedentopf comes up

— how are you? — fine, how are you? — i'm good; i just turned in an essay [or research paper?] — on what? — it was for a class on the politics and economics of religion — what kind of class is that? — it looks at religion as something that sells salvation or whatever else it promises for a price, which can be observance of rituals or changing of life style — but it's looking not at the religion but the institution of religion — right, at the churches — it sounds like an interesting class — i'll show you the notes from the class if you like, but i have to go now — ok

11:23 Alyssa walks by and smiles at me

11:35-12:30 I go up to the tent set up in the middle of the Quad to find out what it was. I am met there by Alexander, a freshman.
— can i ask you what you're doing? — we're asking people to take these red stickers and stick them on the photograph that corresponds to what they consider evil — "overeating" is something people would consider evil? — yes — but isn't a matter of choice? — still people think of it as an evil — can i ask what organization you're representing? — we're with the [name i've forgotten of Christian organization] — do you make a list of the things people consider evil and then post the somewhere? — no, people just stick stickers on the pictures of things they consider evil — are there people who don't stick them on any of the pictures? — yes; so what photos would you place stickers on? — actually, i don't think evil exists... 

[we had a long discussion of evil, theology, semantics, hell; here are some excerpts from our theological discussion: do you believe that if a camel herder in outer Mongolia never hears about Christ in his lifetime he's going to burn in hell for an eternity? — yes, because Jesus makes His presence known to all people; i was reading a book about missionaries in Rumania who said when they brought the word of God to them and were telling them about angels they understood right away because they had a similar tradition]

[here are some excerpts from our discussion of semantics and discourse: — what does your sign mean? — people have had different interpretations of the meaning of the sign — but what do you intend it to mean? — if i have one interpretation and someone has another, does that make my interpretation right and someone else's wrong? [in all cases he considered the creator's interpretation the right one]

12:02-12:03 two police on bicycle come up to the tent. The woman addresses the small crowd gathered:
— does anyone know whose bag it is by that tree? — it's mine — you shouldn't leave it unattended — i've been looking back at it from time to time — but it's pretty far away — i think people are basically good — i think they're basically good, too, but someone could still come up and quickly snatch it and run away — okay, i'll go up to it

I had seen the police go up to the tree while I was talking to Alexander but decided not to approach them as I thought they might have had an objection to the message on the sign.

1:10-1:14 a girl comes up
— is your sign referring to the Holocaust? — no; keep in mind no one knew the Holocaust had taken place until after the war was over — how would our society be like Hitler's Germany? — some have said that under the Patriot Act our right to be secure in our person and papers against unreasonable searches and seizures has been abrogated; others said that any fascist groups here are only fringe group, but the Nazi party never won a majority of the vote; it was a fringe group up until the time Hitler was installed as chancellor — there isn't much activism on this campus — why do you think that is? — i don't know; the most activism i've seen is people standing around with signs advertising the Vagina Monologues while visiting school children have to stand around and see that; i like what you're doing, i think it's important — thank you

1:18-1:22 Garrett comes up
— do you know about that law of the internet that whenever Hitler or the Nazis are brought up that's the end of any rational conversation? — yes, i know the law — and you're starting your discussion with a reference to Hitler — i've had a lot of interesting rational conversations, though — about your sign, i think anyone who wants to take over a country knows you have to control students first; the media tells us we're all unique snowflakes and if we just work hard we'll all become millionaires, but the statistics show that's not true — someone said there isn't much activism on campus — in Europe--in France and England--if there's a tuition hike of less than here they come out in the thousands to protest; here you get a measly 200 going to Olympia to protest; if i was in the government and saw that i would laugh — someone said the turnout on Red Square was a pathetic 100-120 students, half of them student government members — maybe they can't come together because of the diversity — ethnic and religious? — yes, but then again students in Europe come from very different backgrounds...

2:45-3:05 Austin Siedentopf comes up
— i wanted to show you a card trick — [he shows me a trick with three cards and how he does it] — how long did it take you to learn that trick? — altogether i probably spent seven hours getting it down; i already knew a lot of the sleights; the one i had to get down was the one where i do this [he shows me] — can you work on a trick like that in your mind, without having the physical cards to work with? — when i'm first working on a trick, no; but once i've learned it i can practice doing it in my mind — can you spring cards through the air? — yes [shows me] but there are some people who can do it over their heads — are there magicians who don't let on at first that they're magicians? — there are two schools of thought on magic; one group of magicians will do fancy moves with cards called flourishes; and in fact some people learn the flourishes without learning to do tricks; the other school of thought says to keep the movements simple so that the viewer has the impression that it's magic taking place, not just fancy handwork — are there magicians who hide that they're about to do magic? — yes, for example they'll take a deck of cards and complain that the top card they take is always the same card; or they might say they have a cough and then have a bunch of cards fly out their mouth like this [shows me]; i saw a guy show one thing he does; he goes into a diamond shop with white pieces of paper the same size as dollar bills; he picks out a diamond ring, talks with the shopkeeper and at some point in the conversation he says: "And I tell my friend I don't have a car and ask if I should take the subway, and my friend says "Take it, take it.'.", and as he's saying "take it" he hands the pieces of paper to the shopkeeper who puts them in the cash register and then he walks off with the ring; sometimes he'll wait down the street to watch the shopkeeper come out and he'll wave to him; later he of course goes back and gives back the ring; it's like hypnosis; he'll stand in the same pose as the person he's talking to and maybe touch his shoulder to establish a connection — i have heard, but haven't tried this myself, that if you follow someone as they're walking down the street and follow their movements precisely, that if after awhile you stop, they will stop too — really? — i worked with a psychologist who'd studied hypnosis; he once made a man go into a trance by taking a bite out of the glass he was drinking from and chewing on and swallowing the glass; that sent the guy into a hypnotic trance — is it possible to eat glass? — yes, my friend figured out how to do it; you have to chew the glass up only between your back teeth where there are no nerve endings; if you chew it up into fine enough pieces you can swallow it safely; he also figured out how to walk on a broken pile of glass; the trick is not to walk near the edges; when there's a pile of glass the glass will be compressed and will not cut you; another thing he and i used to do is this trick; you take a knife and drop it from a certain height so it sticks in a wood floor; then you lie down in the same spot, bare your stomach and have him drop the knife from the same height on your stomach — can you really do that? — yes, because the floor is hard, but if you relax your stomach muscles the knife bounces off, but most people don't know physics well enough and they're shocked anyone would agree to do it; another thing my friend used to do is to go around to the places where people charged money to teach people supernatural abilities and reveal that it was a scam; he went to a group of people who were teaching children how to read through a blindfold; what my friend discovered is that, even though you're blindfolded and it looks like you can't see, there is a narrow crack under your eyes you can peek through and read without difficulty; i can tell you about another scam that people tried to play on me and on two of my friends several times in Moscow in the 90s in broad daylight; when you're walking down the street, somebody jogs by and you see his wallet fall out of his pocket onto the sidewalk; then someone comes up quickly from behind and either opens up the wallet, showing a thick wad of money and offers to split it with you, or he picks it up and asks you if it's yours; either way, if you agree to split the money or claim the wallet is yours, the original owner of the wallet comes up with some other big guys, demands his money back, and takes your money too, since you can't prove what money is yours and what is not — they get you when you commit that first lie — yes, once you claim something else as yours, you're morally complicit; one other scam they tried to pull on me once was when i wanted to change money at a department store but the place was closed; a guy standing there from the Caucasus, probably Chechen, but i wasn't sure, offered to change $100 for me, which was a lot of money at the time; i gave him a $100 bill and he began performing strange manipulations with it, folding it different ways, and i knew i should be suspicious but i became entranced by what he was doing and wondering what he could discover about the bill by folding it in that way; he goes to give me the rubles, searching in his pocket but not finding any money; he tells me he's going to get money from his friends and i ask for him to give me the bill back; he does, but when i open it up i notice it's a $1 bill; i chase after him and jump on him; i clench my fist, but my first thought is: "what right do i have to hit this guy?; my second thought was: "there could be several other big guys who're going to come up and hit me"; he gave me back my money and i was going to cuss him out, but after i got the money back, all the anger left me; i understood that that was how he made a living; and i got to keep his $1 bill, which turned out to be counterfeit...

3:43-3:45 Dusty, a guy
— the sign means we are silent, or it means we have the freedom to speak and should appreciate it — why do you think people at German universities didn't speak out? — i think in Germany the universities were silent because they didn't have the freedom we did, just like universities were silent under Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung

4:15-4:35 a girl from Egypt comes up
— i wanted to ask about your sign — [we talk about my signs] — in spite of the fact that the United States is a young country in terms of the number of years it has been around, at the same time it is very conservative in part because it has the oldest form of government that had never been changed — i see that Americans have so much freedom that we don't have — yes, but paradoxically they are the least free because they are unaware they are unfree; because if you know you are unfree, you are already free — i have noticed that some people, like my roommates, all tend to think exactly the same thing; they're all watching Glee on TV; it's interesting to me to watch American TV and see all the commercials for creams for your face that will make you beautiful in 2 days and toothpastes to whiten your teeth; but they also seem to be scared of things; they tell me i should never go out alone on campus at 9pm and that the Ave is the most dangerous street in Seattle — yes, people are kept in fear and ignorant — yes, i know many people who couldn't find Texas on a map, but i know many people, especially those who've participated in AFS [American Field Service] programs who are reaching out with curiosity to learn about the world — yes, but there are still certain topics that would be off limits in discussions even with those people; can i ask you about what's happening in Egypt? i'm especially interested to know whether you think what's happening is spontaneous or is being orchestrated by some group and, if so, by whom — i think it is spontaneous; there were protests in 2006 when some people [can't remember name of group] wore tape over their mouths to symbolize being censored; they were punished and put in prison, so students and others have been upset about the government for a long time; but what i've noticed is that the media exaggerates everything, talking about people being shot and violence; for almost a week internet service and phone lines were cut off and i was here and couldn't get in contact with my family — were you worried? — yes, i was very worried; when i finally was able to call them in Cairo they said they were having fun; they weren't worried, there weren't shootings and there were people protecting them against looters — what has impressed and surprised me is that people have spoken out against Mubarak but not against the US which supported his regime for so many years — well, everyone knows how important the alliance is for the region and for the US, Egypt and Israel to have good relations; and people in Egypt believe in the person, and they see the leader of a country, say, a president for standing for that country — like people anywhere — right; so when Bush was president people boycotted American products like McDonald's and didn't buy Coca Cola, as if that's going to make any difference; but people really like Obama; when he came to Egypt he started his speech by speaking in Arabic and he said very positive words about Egypt, so they all like him — do you think what he said had substance to it or was it just rhetoric? — [hesitation] rhetoric, but he's a very good speaker — i agree, and genuinely intelligent — yes

4:45-5:28 a man age 60 comes up
— yes, i spoke with a guy today about evil [i tell him about my discussion with Alexander by the tent] — i told him i thought there was no such thing as evil — i can guess what you meant — what do you think i meant? — the older i get the less free will i think people have; i think they are products of their circumstances and surroundings — i said something a little different — i look at students today and worry about the electronic devices shortening their attention spans even more than before and sending them into an even deeper trance state than the television — actually the internet broadened my horizons enormously and made me even more questioning — oh, really? i wasn't an activist when i was at college, but i never objected to activists; i regret it now — what advice would you give to someone college age today with regard to activism — [he seemed to take this to mean what advice he would give his college-age children] — in order to answer that question i would have to talk about my situation growing up; i don't have children but if i did i suppose what i would say to them would depend on how i was raised; i was the youngest of four brothers; my father was raised in a strict sense, in a school where there was a lot of rote memorization; he had a great memory and was successful financially in life, but in a rare moment he would confide in me that he never had a single original thought in his whole life; because of that, he gave us less structure than it perhaps would have been good to give us; my mother saw this with respect to the first brother and so with my second brother she took charge and gave him a lot of structure; and of all of us, he's the one who turned out to have the fewest difficulties in life and is the most grounded; my father was providing us with the freedom he never had; so if you look at both ends of the spectrum: the Chinese mother who pushes her children from a young age to work hard, not to be politically incorrect by saying Chinese...— no, i agree that Asians work very hard — and the liberal mothers who just want to let their children be free spirits, which attitude i think comes from laziness, i think children need both; it was only after the age of forty that i began to see the value of a more monastic way of life, meaning there's great value in sitting alone with books and engaging in intellectual pursuits; so i guess probably because i was raised in more the sense of letting children be a free spirit and didn't see the value of intellectual pursuits until much later, i would try to give my children structure and help them to be focused so i don't think i would encourage them to be activists because i wouldn't want them to get distracted from their focus

4:50-4:55 three girls and a guy come up. One girl does almost all the talking for the group.
— we don't want to interrupt — no, it's okay [the man and I had been talking about students' attitudes, life styles, attention spans, etc. so we agreed that students coming up would give us a chance to observe and learn more about this] — what does the sign mean? — what does it mean to you? — that we are more lucky than they were in Germany because we can speak out about what we believe — why do you think people at universities in Hitler's Germany didn't speak out? — i don't know, i'm not an expert — i'm not either, but i think we can imagine why; i think imagination is a very important tool that people can use when looking at history; why were professors, who should have known better, silent? — maybe they were afraid to speak out — but keep in mind that there was a time before and right after Hitler came to power when it was not illegal to speak out; if university professors consider universities to be bastions of independent thought, why did they remain silent? — [the 60-year-old man says: — probably they liked the status quo too much] — or maybe they were silent because they didn't want to impose their opinions on students; they wanted students to think for themselves and form their own opinions...

February 24, 2011 (Thursday)


Time: Stood from 12:13am to 5:36pm with no breaks

Approximate time spent talking with people: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Other signs on the Quad: none

12:27 peace signs guy flashes me the peace sign

12:28-12:37 Jeremy, a guy with long hair and glasses, comes up

— i'm curious about your sign — how would you answer the question on it? — i would say no, it's not anti-semitic — can you think of a reason someone might find it to be anti-semitic? — i think anyone who would consider it anti-semitic would be someone who was thinking too much about...for whom the self was...someone who put too much...weight on the self — i see — why do you stand out here with these signs? i've seen them and have been meaning to come up to talk to you but have never had the time — many people have said that they don't have time either — so what is your purpose? — well, i don't really have any overriding purpose, which means no matter what happens i can't be disappointed — but it's impossible to do something without any goal or expectation at all — what about the Buddhist who just throws himself into the river and lets come what may and finds himself so many months down the road the place he needed to be but didn't know how to get to? that may not have actually happened, but it's a beautiful parable — but even he has an ultimate goal, that of enlightenment; it's impossible to do literally nothing — if you look at it from that point of view, you're right; i cannot literally do nothing because i can't stop my heart from beating; i can, however, turn off everything that depends on me, namely my will and then just let happen what happens — it seems to me that you're standing here is like a Buddhist practice; you stand silently waiting for someone to come up; you do not push anything on anyone in the spirit of Buddhism — except for those Buddhists who proselytize — yes, i don't mean organized religion; i have a problem with that; i don't consider myself a Buddhist and i can't say i really understand Buddhism, but i meditate and i'm interested in yoga — what authors have you read? — there's a book that lists a lot of yoga sutras with short answers but mainly questions...[while he tries to remember the name of the author his phone rings] — i have a previous engagement, but i'll come back

12:35-1:35 a girl comes up who looks Japanese and is carrying a bag with Japanese characters on it
— what does your sign mean? — do you understand the historical reference? — no — [i explain it]; are you Japanese? — [she seems offended by the question] i grew up here — i see

12:42-12:47 a guy in glasses comes up (i think Jewish)
— is your sign a statement? — no, it's a question — is there another sign hidden up the tree [he glances up the tree] — no, this is the only one — what about that sign? [he means the rolled up sign from yesterday] — that sign is from yesterday and it says: "IN HITLER'S GERMANY UNIVERSITIES WERE SILENT"; but today's sign is the only one up — i guess i would say no, the sign is not anti-semitic — ok

12:45-1:35 Andrew (Asian American) comes up
— why do people lose their sense of wonder when they grow up? — yes, why do you think that is? — i don't know; but some people try to remind us we've forgotten, like Socrates, Plato, Plotinus — and Jesus — right; but they usually kill them, except for Plato — can we be sure they didn't kill him? — i guess they closed his academy — that's the same thing i guess — in Hitler's Germany there was total surveillance — there is in London now, too; there's no place you can go without being seen and heard; they have the technology which allows them to listen in on any conversation if they want to — would they want to? — people in power tend to be paranoid; but i have friends who know all their emails are read but they don't care; because you can't kill 100 million people — well, you can — i suppose you could; they asked David Ray Griffin who wrote a controversial book about 9/11 whether he was not worried they might kill him; he said the situation for him is win-win: if they don't kill him, he gets to live longer and write more books; if they do kill him, his book goes instantly to the top of the New York Times bestseller list — if they kill you i'll take your sign and sell it on ebay — if people didn't fear death there would be no way to control them; the Romans sent the Christians into the coliseum to do battle with lions to set an example for Roman citizens so that they wouldn't become Christians; but that had the opposite effect when they saw Christians--unafraid of death--lie down and let themselves be eaten — but instead of killing you they can discredit you — yes, that's more effective, isn't it? that way you don't become a martyr and no one follows you — you just ridicule someone during their lifetime — in the 50s and 60s you could travel all across the country by hitchhiking, go to a city you'd never been before and hook up with someone in a cafe and crash at their place for days — could you really do that? — yes...

1:53 two guys, one with a limp, are walking by. They see the sign, stop, confer and then one takes out a camera. He pretends to be photographing various things on the Quad. I look away so he doesn't know I know what he's doing

2:17 a guy comes up
— thanks for your signs; they make me think

2:21 a girl takes a photo

2:30-2:34 a Jewish guy comes up who seems to be very high on some drug
— i think it could be considered anti-semitic — why? — because of the background of the sign; the paper is not ethnic-colored; the white of the paper is darker than the complextion of semites

2:32 a group of four or five guys walk by. One of them is told to look at the sign. He does so and instantly bursts out laughing

2:56 a guy takes a photo

3:08 a guy comes up
— i wanted to thank you for your signs; they're though-provoking — thank you — i look forward to the next one

3:25-3:28 Darryl Holman comes up
— i'm from horse's ass — [i look at him quizzically] — the blog you posted on — right — i wanted to take a picture of your sign; our head blogger David Goldstein is Jewish so i think it will generate some interesting discussion; i won't post for a little while though — i downloaded the photo from your site and used it on mine; i hope that's okay — i don't usually mind; if i did i would have made a comment on your page about it — but is it legal to do so? — i don't really know — i guess if i made $1 million someone might complain — probably — what do you do? — i'm going right now to teach a statistics class — can you tell me about your site; i didn't have time to look through it carefully — it's a left-wing political blog; it's a cesspool though, as you've probably already noticed from reading the comments; i'll link to your blog — ok

3:30-3:34 a Jewish guy and Ashley, a girl, come up
— i've wanted to come up to talk to you for a long time; i'm Jewish and i think the sign is not anti-semitic; what is the purpose behind your sign? — i suppose part of the idea would be: Jews are accused of being paranoid about anti-semitic attacks — [he looks taken aback] — at least that's what i've read; this gives them an opportunity to prove they are not by ignoring the sign; the fact that you came up does not mean that you are paranoid because you are simply responding to a direct question; and even if you came up and starting hitting me, i would still first ask why you're were doing so before passing judgment; maybe someone told you i was a neo-Nazi and you mistakenly believed that was true — how did you decide to do this? — i had the idea after 9/11; i realized then that it was time to start helping to break the media-induced hypnotic trance people were in; that is something that is very difficult to do because you can't tell a sleeping person they're asleep or a tell a person in a trance directly that they're in a trance; i had to think of a way to break the trance that would not be violent or negative — i thought college would be different; i thought there would be opportunities to think outside the box and about life, not just academics — i too thought that and was disappointed how boring college turned out to be; the conversations in class were insipid and the conversations outside of class were insipid; i didn't really start studying until i left college — i have three months left and i'm counting down the days...

3:35-3:55 three guys on BMX bikes ride up and ask me to move my sign and bag. They spend the next 20 minutes filming one of them ride up the tree on his bike for a commercial (I think) while I warm up in Savery Hall
— do they mind if you do this? — they mind, but we do it anyway

3:58-4:02 a bisexual Jewish woman comes up
— i don't think your sign is anti-semitic but i want to ask you why you made it; are you Jewish? — no — it's a bit strange in a way i don't know how to explain that you would have made such a sign — some people were offended by my sign "I AM NOT GAY"; they called it homophobic and offensive; do you think it was? — no; i'm bi; but if you, not being gay, made a sign that said "I AM GAY", that would not be right for the same reason that it doesn't feel right for you to make this sign — but what the sign is talking about is not you or me or sexuality or race; i am not Jewish but the issue concerns me; it's about the issue itself, about discourse — but people should only speak about themselves — but what about all the busybodies who speak out against the Rwandan genocide? — the Rwandan people themselves should be given a chance to have a voice...[her phone rings]...i'm sorry, i have to take this; it's my mother

4:17-4:18 a guy with red hair comes up and asks
— is it anti-semitic? — what do you think? — i think it isn't — ok

4:55-5:10 Joe comes up
— i stumbled across your blog on the net — yeah, Austin made reference to it at the end of his interview with me — no, i found you before that; i did a google search and found you; what was yesterday's sign? — "IN HITLER'S GERMANY UNIVERSITIES WERE SILENT" [i explain the historical reference] — how would it relate to today? — [i talk about erosion of civil rights, wars, surveillance] — what about today's sign? — do you think it's anti-semitic? — no, but i think the use of the term "anti-semitic" is kind of like using the n-word; you shouldn't use it — what if somebody paints a swastika on that building over there; am i not allowed to say that's anti-semitism? — no, that's okay; people are talking about what you're doing and wanting to do something like it themselves; would you object to someone else being out with you? — of course not; i'd let them have my tree; i mean, it's not mine; a couple of people have told me that they were thinking of making signs; one guy thought of a great sign: "TELL ME SOMETHING WEIRD"; i joked that if he stood out with such a sign i'd make one that says: "MONKEY SEE MONKEY DO" — i'd make some signs too but i wouldn't know how to come up with ideas for them — well, since you're a photo journalist you could do something like put a huge screen on top of Smith Hall and photograph things on the Quad and have the photos appear in real-time on the screen — you know, they do something like that in Vancouver; there's a place downtown with a camera and a microphone where anybody can come and record a message lasting 5 seconds or 5 minutes; for example, one guy did it because he had time to kill because he was waiting for his friends and they were late so his message was: "i'm here waiting and you're late; i hate you" — is it shown live on a screen? — no, they collect the recorded messages and make a compilation of the best ones collected over the day and show that — i guess they couldn't do it live otherwise people would say "fuck" and things like that — yeah, there are always people who would try to ruin something like that; you know, i consider myself somewhat of a street artist; tagging — have you done graffiti? — yeah, i have; but the idea i had was, let's say i saw two people sitting on that bench over there doing something interesting and out of the ordinary; i would then photograph them, print out the photo and tape it to the bench so there would be a record of that having happened there — would you make the photos life size? — that would be really expensive — and you could have photos of many different people sitting there; it would be like a record of that bench; and no one would get angry with you — yeah, because it's not vandalism; people could take the photos or leave them or whatever — that's a great idea; screw the signs — [he laughs] — do that — i can take a picture of you and put it on this tree so people remember you when you're gone — and then someone else can do something under the photo and you can take a photo of that — yeah; hey, thanks for the idea — what do you mean? it was your idea — yes, but i wouldn't have had it if i hadn't come up and talked to you — then we can both be grateful you did...

5:14-5:15 Aaron comes up
— i've thought about it and decided, no, the sign is not anti-semitic — do you think someone could think it is? — i don't know — one guy said he found it anti-semitic because the color of the background was not ethnically right: it should have been darker like the complexion of semites — what about a sign saying: "IS THIS SIGN RACIST?" or "IS THIS SIGN ANTI-BLACK?" — maybe with white letters on a black background...

5:26 a girl walking by looks at me and says: "I don't think so"; i shrugged my shoulders "ok" in response

February 28, 2011 (Monday)


Time: Stood from 11:07am to 5:40pm with a break

Approximate time spent talking with people: 2 hours, 26 minutes
Other signs on the Quad: "Please Give Blood"; a man handed out flyers: "Judgment Day! May 21, 2011/The End of the World October 21, 2011/Does GOD Love You?"

11:12-11:17 Seth, a guy with a beard and mustache, comes up
— that's an interesting question; no, i don't think it knows more because it's not alive; it's a repository of data and meta-data, but the knowledge it stores doesn't have any context — how do you think someone would argue the opposite position? — they might try to say that the knowledge it stores contains more facts than i know, but knowledge plus experience equals wisdom, which is something a computer cannot have, so i guess i'm negating the position i was supposed to be taking — that's okay — but computers are good for spotting patterns we can't see; they had a computer look at processes on the molecular level and it observed ATP activity and came up with a picture of patterns that human beings were unable to identify; but even after the computer showed the patterns to human beings, we still couldn't figure out what the pattern was because it was too complex for us — what about these ideas of transhumanism? — you mean the singularity? — yes — well, a lot of billionaires and trillionaires are interested in having a data dump of their experience so they can live forever, and every several years someone announces we're close to making such a thing possible, but then an article appears in Wired magazine or somewhere that shows that it's not really possible; take psychology 101 and it will talk about how important tactile sensations are to a human being; they talk about a girl who spent the first seven years of her life locks in a closet with no physical contact and that still affects her as a adult... 

11:25 Alyssa walks by and smiles

11:35-11:45 Daniel, a guy, comes up
— no, the internet doesn't know more than me; it's just a library that stores information; it's more convenient in that it finds the books for me, but it can't know more than a human being — what about the computer Watson that beat other human beings not long ago on Jeopardy? — that's a good counterfactual; Watson has knowledge, more knowledge than i do, but what can it do with that knowledge? — they're talking about having it help lawyers and doctors with diagnoses — i wouldn't trust my medical diagnosis to a computer — the idea is it would provide the doctor with a list of possible diagnoses with the relative probabilities indicated, but the doctor would make the final decision — that reminds me of mechanics; old-school mechanics ("gear-heads") take a stethoscope, press it against an engine, listen and know what's wrong with the car; the younger mechanics just hook up a computer and diagnose problems that way; i even know a guy from Armenia, where they don't really have technology, who makes his own parts on a lathe if he can't buy them; but then again, i learned how to work on cars with the internet; whenever i needed to know what the wiring was like on my '62 Mercury i could look it up and find out — is there anything you couldn't find on the internet? — people, human contact... — no, i mean related to cars — well, i guess what i couldn't find would be what the Armenian guy knows; it's like agriculture; with all our academics and technological sophistication, there are things about growing things we know less about than people in the Third World who have thousands of years of tradition; but then again people do blog things like that; scary...scarily...frighteningly, more and more information makes it to the internet every day, so now it's easy and maybe too easy to learn

11:50-11:55 a man hands out flyers: "Judgment [sic] Day! May 21, 2011/The End of the World October 21, 2011/Does GOD Love You?"

12:03 the black girl who tells people about my saying "What if someone got shot on the Quad..." read my sign out loud while walking by

12:09-12:12 two guys come up
— no, the internet doesn't know more because it can't learn; people program it, so it knows what those people programmed it to know — could a computer program a computer that would be better than it is? — no, it couldn't — what about Watson? the people who designed him said that he was able to learn from his mistakes — we need to define our terms; what is meant by "learn" — yes, i understand — i mean, Google can learn in that sense, too; if a lot of people search for plates and other people search for furniture and end up on the same site, eventually Google learns to direct all such searches to that site; i learned that in the Seattle Times...

12:30-1:20 Jeremy comes up
— i think that sometimes i become aware of information existing; it is enough that i have awareness that it exists without having to learn it — like in the past it seemed important to memorize the names of the capitals of all the countries when actually that's just a waste of time — yes; you said you spent some time abroad — i lived in Moscow, Russia for 20 years — i haven't spent as much time abroad but i have spent some time in South America — i have often thought of going there; what is it like? — it's very different; i have read the accounts of the Spaniards who came there and they all write about how amazingly big everything was; the Andes were this enormous chains of mountains that dwarfed what was in Spain and then there were the jungles with enormous trees...[Patrick comes up] — i will read 10 different descriptions of something, but having knowledge, even different kinds of knowledge about something, doesn't mean i know or understand it; i can be shown 10 different ways of solving an equation and i can even solve it, but that does not mean i really understand what i am doing? but then when i behave a certain way with a girl which you're told will have a certain effect, but when you see the effect it's had you finally see what works and why it works; you should try to find something on the internet; it's not easy to find; it's called "DMT: The Spirit Molecule"; it's about DMT, a substance that is released when we are born and when we die; the experience i had when i took the drug would be impossible for me to describe and so i do not know how such knowledge could possibly be translated into a form a computer could understand; i really recommend meditating; there must be something right in Buddhism if it has existed for 2500 years and each generation has found something valuable in it...

12:40-1:35 Patrick, a guy, comes up
— i think if it were possible to duplicate with silicon the neurons in the human brain, it would be possible for a computer to have the abilities and knowledge we have — do you believe consciousness is an epiphenomenon of matter? that matter conglomerates together and generates consciousness? — yes, i do; i cannot conceive of consciousness without matter — could there be a system of pure energy where that energy is conscious of itself? — but still there is a relationship between matter and energy — what about dreams? — that's interesting; i see a stick in my dream but it is not composed of matter; but i could not conceive of the stick if i had not seen something material like it in the world; i would submit that we cannot conceive of anything if we have not seen something like it in the material world — what about out-of-body travel; what would be the equivalent of that in computer terms? — or nirvana — what is nirvana? — it is when your heart almost stops beating and you don't feel your body; it is when everything that we usually think comprises life disappears, but we still exist — i think nirvana could be modeled mathematically; i would call nirvana the state a computer is in when it isn't doing anything; it is simply pinged so it knows it is on

12:55-1:15 Alyssa comes up and sits down near the tree to listen to us talk. When left alone we talk
— your conversation was interesting; i don't really understand what consciousness is and wouldn't know where to begin; i remember how strange it was in sixth grade when i learned what self-consciousness or awareness of self was; and then in seventh grade i lost my naivete; in tenth grade i became very cynical; eleventh and twelfth grades i spent getting rid of the cynicism; and now i'm here — was acquiring self-awareness like suddenly understanding that you were separate from the world? — no, i knew the world existed; it's hard to explain; my vocabulary isn't good enough; are you religious? is it okay to ask that question? — yes; do you mean organized religion? — or do you like science more? — i think one day religion and science will come together — what do you mean? — each will realize the other has valuable things to offer and they will learn from each other and progress together in their understanding of reality; the pointless conflict between the two will cease — what conclusion did you [in your discussion with Jeremy and Patrick] come to about the internet? — we decided it couldn't feel things like love — what is love? it's just an idea — we thought about a society in which a person grew up and never saw anyone in love and love was never talked about; then we imagined someone fell in love and how they would go about trying to describe what it was — maybe they would describe it as instinct or lust...

12:58 a girl asks us to move so that she can take a photo of the sign

1:00-1:10 a guy comes up
— i don't believe that we are a direct continuation from monkeys; i believe we were put here, that someone manipulated our DNA and created us

1:17 a guy walking by shakes his head "No" to himself in response to the sign

2:10-2:20 a guy in a suit comes up
— yes, the internet knows more than me; i use wikipedia to find information to write papers for class — is there something you can know that a computer can't know? — it can't have feelings, but it knows more facts than i do — does the internet know what your favorite shirt was when you were 10? — no; actually i didn't have a favorite shirt then, but i know what you mean — can it know who you find attractive of those passing by us right now? — no, but some people blog about that — but could i really put all my knowledge on a blog? could i really record all my thoughts in real time on a blog? — some people talk about a lot of things [on their blogs] — but how could i have time to record one thought, then my thought about that thought, etc.? — no — it's too bad you can't hook someone up to a computer to record all that — nowadays, you can; even 15 years ago it was possible to have someone move the paddle on Pong using their mind; now they can do even more amazing things; they can measure brain waves and record thoughts — i see; does that worry you? — do you mean does it concern me or does it make me worry? — does it make you worry? — i would be worried that we could be convinced that something like that works when actually it wouldn't, but we wouldn't know that; for example, we might read the brain waves of someone related to a crime being committed and think that person had committed a crime, when actually they might simply have a very active imagination like a writer of detective novels — like in that movie Minority Report — yes — it bothers me that people are arrested for thinking about committing a terrorist crime — conspiracy to commit terrorism? — yes; i know they can't arrest someone for conspiracy to commit murder because no one has done anything wrong yet; they take these people from Afghanistan, Iraq and send them to Egypt and places on just a suspicion; in general i don't understand why terrorists blow up buildings and try to hijack planes; all they have to do is sit near the end of a runway with a missile that's easy to make and shoot the plane down as it's landing — is the missile really easy to make? — it's not very hard; i study material sciences so i know; instead we have all these TSA people employed to do what they do; i think it's just to create employment; they can't fire 50,000 TSA employees; where would they work? — couldn't they find them other jobs? do you think maybe the point would be to keep people in fear? — i think when Cheney was vice-president that might have been the idea, especially before the invasion of Iraq, which was in my view an unnecessary war, to get people to agree to the war — have things changed since then? — i think so; we don't see any more "orange-level terrorist threat" announcements on TV — what does someone do with a degree in materials science? — it's what used to be called metallurgy; i'd like to work on missiles; not necessarily for the military but maybe for the space program; i can also do things like make steel, which is something we need, or extract copper; they offered me a job at a copper mine in Utah which sounded interesting, but the thought of living in a small rural town in Utah didn't appeal to me...

2:24 the professor who mentioned Magritte with respect to my TV sign looks at me walking by and says: "Just wanted to see the message. I'll have to think about it."

2:36-2:51 bathroom break

3:04 a man smiles while walking by

4:15 a guy comes up
— yes, the internet knows more than me; does it get cold for you standing here? — yes, it does — how often do you change signs? — i keep a sign up for one or two days usually — well, stay warm — i'll try

4:25-4:46 Eleanor, a girl, comes up. She seems genuinely curious and asks a lot of questions 
— what do you think about your sign? how would you answer the question? — i don't know; i do think it's an important issue; i think education tends to crush creativity and imagination and does not help to develop intuition; it's making robots out of people when we don't need that; we already have computers, we don't need people to be computers too — why do you stand on a college campus? — ostensibly people come to a university to think and learn; also you will be the people who will make a lot of important decisions in the near future — do you think that thinking about things of not an immediate nature is important? — thinking about things deeply has made me a better person; if someone doesn't think about anything deeply but instead spends all day watching television, there is nothing i can do for them; i can buy them a new television, but anybody can do that for them; i can't be kind to them if they do not have enough knowledge of self to meet me half-way and request something from me that i can give to them — what about people who have brain damage? — do you mean congenital brain damage or damage caused by an accident? — that's interesting...say, after an accident — i know there are cases when the accident has been beneficial; some people were leading lives in which they were doing things that were not bringing them any benefit because they were doing what was expected of them by their parents or their wife or husband, or they were chasing after money; when they got into an accident they were forced to focus on other things and they were able to develop talents they would not have otherwise — what do you think about the cancellation of the space program? — i think 99% of what is in the mainstream media is a lie; i don't think the program has been cancelled — what do you mean? — i think that what's really going on is the stuff of science fiction — do you mean space travel or contact with aliens? — both; they say that of the people who know about alien contact, half of them think the public should be told; and in fact they say disclosure is already happening in the form of science fiction films; many of them are science fact and they are being used to prepare people for full disclosure — there is a formula for calculating the probability of contact with aliens and it shows that the probability is one million or billion to one; that is infinitesimal — like what Carl Sagan talked about; i don't know the formula; i would have to look at the underlying assumptions used in the calculation because i would probably disagree with them — i wanted to object but don't have a good argument and i think it is not good to object unless you have something to say; but i don't believe in the existence of aliens — ok, i can't prove it —do you think it is better to be happy but base than to sacrifice one's own happiness for the sake of others? — when you say base do you mean immoral? — yes — there exists this idea: the portion of the soul that incarnates needs to learn both to love itself and to love others; if a soul incarnates in order to derive pleasure from having power over others, it incarnates together with other souls who wish to experience being part of a hierarchy; it does not matter in what order the soul does so because the portion that loves itself at the expense of others and the portion that loves others at the expense of itself will both eventually come together; so it could do both, either sequentially or at the same time — i guess it would be possible to derive pleasure from doing things for others — i think that's possible; or, for example, a mother could sacrifice going to the park in order to stay home and change diapers in exchange for acquiring the love of her child for her in later years; what do you think about the idea that it's impossible to make a mistake — i would agree, unless you don't learn from your mistakes; or it would be subjective: for one person pregnancy is a mistake while for another it is not — i mean that you incarnate with a mission to learn something and anything you do is in pursuit of that end whether you know that "consciously" or not; what do you study? — i'm a freshman so i don't know yet; i wanted to study art and neuroscience [or neurobiology] but i think i'm going to do only science; what was your name? — Kevin — i'm Eleanor; goobye — good luck to you

5:22 a girl comes up and offers to buy me coffee. I accept

5:32 the girl comes back with the coffee
— thank you for being here; it means a lot — thank you — have a nice day [She walks quickly off (she didn't want to talk)]

March 1, 2011 (Tuesday)


Time: Stood from 11:02am to 4:35pm with a break

Approximate time spent talking to people: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Other signs on the Quad: "Please Give Blood"; a woman spent about half an hour two separate times collecting signatures related to the cause of expanding Mt. Raineer National Park (11:00-11:30, 12:00-12:30)

11:20 the woman who said she had been following me and my signs to make sure I didn't tempt overly trusting foreign women [see February 22 @ 11:25] passes by without looking

11:25 Alyssa walks by, smiles and gives me the peace sign

11:46 Daniel [see February 28 @ 11:35] holds up two fingers as he passes by

12:27-12:28 a heavy-set guy from an Arab country or perhaps Pakistan comes up
— why do you show signs? — do they have meaning to you? — yes, they're true; but why do you show them? — i don't have any overriding reason; i have interesting conversations with people who come up and i like to see people having interesting conversations with each other outside of class; people have said they appreciate them and that they make them think — yes, they do; please keep doing it, sir — thank you

12:28 Patrick [see February 28 @ 12:40] waves as he passes by

12:43-12:46 a guy comes up
— yes, the internet knows more than i do — does it know what you had for breakfast? — no, it doesn't know that kind of information, but there are so many videos on the internet that it could extract information from that it still knows more — does it know more than the sum total of all the information of all the people about what they had for breakfast, etc.? — probably not — can a computer know what it means to be in love? — no, but maybe someone could describe it to a computer — is it possible to describe in words what it means to be in love? — probably not, but if a computer had sentience, which it doesn't, but if it did and fell in love, it too probably wouldn't be able to describe the feeling — they're talking about computers like Watson doing things like handling legal cases and performing medical diagnoses — but Watson was only able to answer short sentences; making a decision in a legal case would involve going through a lot of information and testimony of people saying "er" and "uh" — but i think that that would be easier for Watson to understand than short puns or sarcasm of the kind he encountered on Jeopardy...

12:52-1:21 Andrew (Asian American) [see February 24 @12:45] comes up 
— maybe a computer could know things — could a computer have a will? — what is that? — desire and intention — i don't know — and would we want it to have a will? — do we want other people to have a will? — what do you mean? — people are competing — i'm not competing with anyone — but even if you don't think you are, you're competing for resources and money and status — i think the idea of competition is merely something to divide people against each other so they're easier to control — actually, the division into races is arbitrary and is wrong; there is more differentiation among African people than between blacks and whites; and people in India are classified as Caucasians, like white people in America — but isn't there a difference in the DNA of people of different races? — no, just knowing someone's genetic code is not enough to know what race they are — what about the fact that the Apartheid regime in South Africa worked on biological warfare weapons that would target only black people; would that not have worked? — no, it wouldn't have worked; i guess i'm just rambling — that's okay; what you have to say is interesting to me

1:32-1:55 Aaron, hair wet, flip-flops on his feet (as usual), comes up
— do you want to borrow my umbrella? — no, that's ok; have you talked to a lot of people about the issue of people being shallow and empty, like we talked about? — one guy said people here are anti-social compared to people in California; several have said they have difficulty meeting people; many have said they find people polarized and unable to make friends not because of a personal incompatibility, but because they can't get beyond their difference of positions on various "issues" — i don't have problems with people who have different positions on issues — that's because you are active on the Interfaith Committee — but before that i didn't have difficulty making friends; i think it's difficult for transfer students who come here their junior of senior year to meet people; i do know people who've left Seattle because they have difficulty meeting people because everyone is so busy and tends to hang out with people within their own narrow circle of friends; i'm thinking maybe i'm spending too much time on facebook and i'm thinking of deleting my account; it's very convenient for organizing events, but i have 1200 friends there and it takes up a lot of time — i read an article by a person who talked about that problem and recommended that people go cold turkey for a month; you don't even have to delete your account permanently; he explains how to do it — that sounds interesting — i'll bring you the link tomorrow — so you talk about all kinds of things with people, don't you? — yes, sometimes they even come up and ask for personal advice; one guy whose parents are from Taiwan wanted to change his major but his father didn't want him to and he wanted to know if i thought it was okay for him to do so; we talked about it, but it wasn't my place to tell him what to do; for Asians the opinions of their parents is very important — i know — i guess people are willing to tell me things because i'm not giving a grade, i'm not going to tell their parents or friends what they say, they see i'm genuinely interested in what they have to say, and they can see there's no money for them to get out of me, so i can't see why any of them would lie to me — so what is the one frustration common to people? — well, obviously i only talk to people who come up to me; i'm not sure; i haven't thought about that; i'd have to think about it; maybe that they don't have enough time — but i think students have lots of free time — yes, but if they have five minutes between classes they physically at that moment don't have the time — if students think they don't have enough free time they ought to try working a 40- or 50-hour-a-week job; some of the science or engineering students don't have a lot of time, but the others just don't make the time; do you consider yourself an anarchist? — i don't know because i don't know what that word means — it means someone who thinks no government is necessary, that we resolve all issues through direct democracy — theoretically i think that's a good idea, but then again i wouldn't want to have to spend the time necessary to learn about and make decisions on literally every issue — that's why we elect politicians to represent us — but that doesn't work either — for the Muslims Christ is also a prophet and there is a Sufi story about Christ walking through a garden and being spat on by people and Christ blessing the people who spat on him — i think that's what you would have to do [meaning Christ did the right thing] — He could simply have turned the other cheek — but that would have made Him look like He considered Himself better than others and arrogant; but by blessing them he would make them think about the morality of what they had done — Jesus was a great man and said some very important things; i like what Ghandi said: "I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians" — yes, i appreciate that quote too; too many Christians completely discredit the Bible through their actions — it doesn't help that Christians have this notion that people are born sinful — yes, the idea of original sin is an odious and debilitating one; by the way, it doesn't exist in Russian orthodoxy; in orthodoxy baptism absolves one of original sin — really? — yes; and then there's the idea of "Judge not"; if people actually followed that precept that would solve most of the problems in the world; are there exchanges between the different faiths? — yes, there are programs where a Christian will spend time attending services of the Muslim faith and vice versa; they're hard to bring about because people don't have enough time...

2:00-2:25 Nathan comes up
— hello, Kevin — Nathan, you're back — yes; i stayed with Cally at her place in Harlem; it was my fifth time in New York so i didn't feel the need to do any of the touristy things; i just went around and saw the city; i used to want to move there after i graduated but now i'm not so sure; unless you're living in the East Village, which is extremely expensive, people there are aggressive and rushing around all the time and everyone's trying to prove something to everyone else — i remember liking Brooklyn because i could go into a pizzeria and strike up a conversation with someone about something meaningful — i didn't spend much time there this time, but Brooklyn has a small feel to it even though it's a big borough; it's kind of a relief to be back in Seattle where i can cross the city in ten minutes instead of an hour and a half on the subway; so this is your new sign — yes, how would you answer the question? — it depends on whether by internet you mean the physical devices that establish the connections or the people contributing to it — no one has made that distinction yet — i think wikipedia is great; i mean, professors tell you you shouldn't use it for a paper — do they all say that? — some; but it's normally where i start — is there anything you don't like about it? — i think sometimes it's too complicated; even the introductory paragraph is sometimes too detailed; if i want to learn about, say, World War Two, i want five main points and the ability to click on "Allies" for more information and then on "France" if i'm interested in that, but it's not designed that way yet — i think a good idea would be to include in the Kindle, or whatever the ebook thing is called, a function that would allow people to make notes in the margins; then all people's notes could be collated and anyone reading could learn what other people had to say about that particular passage — yes, you would have a certain core text that remained unchanged, but you could add on and see how others have added on; i'm thinking about facebook and how much time i spend on it; i had 750 friends which i've gotten down now to 350; i'd like to reduce it to about 50; in general, i want to make my work on the internet more efficient; with facebook i perform a lot of actions that are not doing anything for me...

2:24-2:40 Garrett [see February 23 @ 1:18] comes up
— it's good it doesn't know more than we do; otherwise we'd rely on it too much; nowadays no one can do things people used to be able to do; i went to an auto mechanics class once and an old guy came and in a few hours completely took apart a transmission and put it back together; today no one does that; you just buy a new transmission — is there anything you should be able to find on the internet that you can't? — some information about the parts of my car — do you have a rare kind of car? — no, a GrandAm — but could you theoretically find the email of someone who would know how to fix your car? — yes, theoretically, but sometimes it costs too much upfront to find; for example, you'd have to sign up to use a forum to connect with that person, and that means you have to give a lot of personal information i don't like giving out — can't you just lie? — you can, but that means you have to remember later what email address you used, what password, otherwise you can't log on to see the reply to your question and you can't receive notices in your real email that the answer is available; i recently installed Windows 7; it seems to work really well, has a good user interface and i haven't gotten any viruses yet, but even on the lowest setting the volume is too high; i tried using their customer service support center but that didn't get me the answer; i tried contacting them, but after hours of wasted time i still haven't solved that problem; i'm trying now to use Ubuntu, a type of Lunx operating system, and there is voluminous information available related to it, but i just want to know how to find my home folder and can't find that simple piece of information; most people using it ask questions on forums about very advanced things; i also had a problem with my Nokia [he pronounces it "no-KEE-a"] phone; if i plug it in to recharge it overnight, the alarm won't go off; i called ATT whose software is used on the phone and they said they couldn't help me; then i called someone in Sweden and some guy named Sven picked up the phone and said [with Swedish accent]: "Hello, this is Sven. How may I help you? What accessories would you like to purchase today?" so i couldn't solve that problem either...

3:30-3:36 a guy comes up
— i just spent the past hour and a half thinking about the question during class; i think the internet does know more than me, but the individual person who answers my question on Yahoo answers maybe knows less

2:43-3:03 bathroom break

3:38 a guy comes up to examine my tree. If I were to cast an actor to play him in a film the obvious choice would be Philips Seymour Hoffman
— this is a redwood sequoia; in the wild they can grow to be 30 feet across; there is nothing, except some kinds of ferns, that can grow under this kind of tree because it needs 500 gallons of water a day; this whole area 200 years ago before logging was nothing but giant tree after tree — i like the seagulls; i feed them — that's not good — why? — then they gather all the time in that one spot and spoil it — i only feed one or two at a time; i feed them pretzels, is that ok? — i don't know, maybe that's too much salt — but i crush them up so a lot of the salt falls off — i thought about studying horticulture here — these black birds you call crows; i thought they were ravens — no, they're smaller; i call them smart and evil — why? — they wake me up at five in the morning; do you know a place around here where i can get a good hamburger? — sorry, i don't...

3:43-3:56 i took the guy to see the big sequoia down the trail from Drumheller Fountain. He found the even bigger sequoia there to be magnificent

March 2, 2011 (Wednesday)


Time: Stood from 11:10am to 4:48pm with breaks

Approximate time spent talking with people: 50 minutes
Other signs on the Quad: there was a rally near the statue of George Washington when I arrived. People held up signs: "UW to UW Wisconsin Solidarity", "Freedom of Assembly"; there was a giant inflatable "fat cat" with a diamond ring on its pinky choking a construction worker:

11:17-11:23 a girl comes up
— is this a rhetorical question? — it's a real question — but is it rhetorical? it doesn't say "IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU AND ME?" — i guess it's a sign so there is no intonation to judge; what does the question mean to you? — i'm asking you — well, i think it could have different interpretations; if i have one interpretation and you have another, does that make me right and you wrong, or vice versa? — nobody's wrong; when i first saw the sign my impulse was to come up and do this [she comes up to me and compares her height with mine with her hand] — we're different in height; how else am i different from you? — demeanor, bearing, age; our culture are different...our culture is different — [the sign blows down several times] — you should put it on the lee side of the tree — i want people to be able to see it — how long have you been doing this? — since the beginning of the quarter — from your tone of voice i thought you were going to say, "since the beginning of time"; are you a student? — no — a teacher? — no — are you from Seattle? — i graduated from this university — where did you grow up? — in Austin, Texas, i guess — i thought you weren't from here; people in Seattle aren't interested in the people around them — where are you from? — New York — the city? — about an hour outside; how long will you be here? — until about 4:30 or 5:30 — i'll be back

11:25-11:30 Fred comes up
— how are you different than me? age, experience — is there any way we're similar or the same? — yes, but people my age are probably more similar to me; we probably think more alike; i had a question for you; we're studying the universe in my astronomy class and they told us that the universe is flat; do you think it is? — since there are dimensions we cannot observe it might not be flat in a way we can't know — right — and they say that if it is folded but the light travels along the folds in such a way that we still think it's flat, that could explain it — they talk about dark matter — that gives mass to the universe that we can't measure as matter? — right, do you know a lot about the universe? — is there anyone who could call themselves an expert? — good point; i have to go do homework

12:20-12:27 an Asian American girl comes up
— a friend of mine talked to you; i wanted to know about your signs — did they have meaning to you? — i remember one about TV and one made me feel good one day i saw it: nothing wrong with you — "THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU" — that's it; why do you do this? — there's no overriding reason, but i like to hear what people have to say about things, and peoople have told me they don't get enough face-to-face interaction — yes, that's because of computers and texting — but there wasn't enough human interaction 20 years ago, before the internet — really? [the girl from New York talks to her:] — do you do the passive aggressive thing? — i try not to; even with people i don't like i try not to be overly polite — where did you grow up? — in the Mid-West; it is different here; people are more open to diversity; i grew up in Indiana in a college town with a lot of liberal people but surrounded by conservative, narrow-minded people...

12:25-12:40 the girl from New York comes back up with her friend Cricket, who has a dog collar on with what looks like a green Iron Cross hanging from it
— i heard you were against gay marriage — i never spoke to anyone about gay marriage — you have to understand that in this environment when that issue is discussed, when you stand with a sign saying "I AM NOT GAY", people assume that you are against gay marriage — but i'm standing right here; anyone who wants to can come up and ask me what i mean — i saw you many times while passing on the Quad but i didn't think that i could go up and ask you something or talk about the signs with you; i'm very competitive — you are? — well, i used to be — what do you mean by that? — i mean that i tried always to show that i too was worthy of attention — [Cricket speaks:] to do the "like me" dance — what is that? conformity? trying to be like others? — no, it means doing everything possible to be liked — a big part of high school life — the only part of high school life; then there were the people who didn't care what other people thought of them, but it seemed like they were inconsiderate and didn't feel compassion towards others; and in not caring they wanted other people to notice them for being that way — was anyone able to find the middle ground? — i think by senior year everybody had gotten tired of being that way and they started to be themselves; well, now that i know you're open for business [i.e. will answer questions about signs] i'll come up again — ok

12:54-3:09 I have lunch with Sheila at China First

3:23-3:25 a guy who i've talked with before comes up
— i've got some brain food for you: a friend of mine who built compost toilets in Sierra Leone, who i haven't seen for a long time; i emailed him last night; it tuns out he's in Tripoli and is trying to get out; i have been calling the UN and other places to try to help him — he shouldn't have to worry now that there is a US aircraft carrier just off the coast — and marine ships on the way
[Sheila had been standing with me and noticed he touched me and wondered whether it was because she was there; she also noticed two heavy-set women walk by and one of them smirk at her; she thought it might mean they think me to be a nut case and Sheila someone i'm recruiting for the nutcase corps]

4:01-4:06 bathroom break

4:23-4:38 Mike, a guy carrying a blanket with a diamond earring in each ear, comes up
— in some ways you and i are the same; you are a human being and i am; we are both men; but in some way we are different; i will answer your question by telling you how i am different now from what i was like before; i used to be angry, depressed and suicidal; i didn't find happiness in my family, in my studies or in relationships; i didn't use drugs, but i drank some, but when i would get up the next morning i would be unhappy again; but a year ago i found a personal relationship with God and Jesus Christ and He guides me and makes everything work the way it's supposed to; it's hardships that bring people to Jesus; people who have money think their money can buy them what they need and buy them pleasures, but no matter how much pleasure they buy it's not the pleasure that a relationship with Jesus brings — is it possible for Buddhists or Muslims to find the happiness you talk about? — for people like Muslims it is different because theirs is a religion, while what Christians have is faith; a Muslim has to pray five times a day and it doesn't brings him happiness and if he misses a prayer even once he will go to hell; have you found a relationship with Jesus? — i am familiar with the Bible; but i have a problem with the idea of hell; does hell exist? — oh, yes, it exists; there have been people who've died and come back to tell about it; this was the mission God gave them was to come back and tell about what hell is like; "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life." — ok, but there have been people in my life who have beaten me, robbed me, cheated me and cheated on me, but i don't want these people to be arrested or punished; i have forgiven them; am i really more merciful than God? — if you commit a sin you can repent and God will let you into heaven, but if you refuse to accept Him He will punish you by sending you to hell — what about someone who grows up in the desert and has never heard about Christianity or the Bible; does that person go to hell? — God makes it possible for everyone to hear the gospel — so a refusal to accept God means suffering in hell for an eternity? — yes — it seems to me that in this world it is very hard for someone to find God; let me put it this way; if i created little creatures, i would love them and if they cursed me i would not feel the need to punish them for an eternity; it says in the Old Testament God is a jealous God; but if some of the creatures loved each other more than me, their creator, i wouldn't be jealous; that would make me happy — i don't know how to answer your question; i found Jesus only a year ago; i still need to study the Bible — if you meet someone who knows about scripture and theology, please ask them that question — i will do that and i will come back; you have a good spirit; are you hungry? i have an orange i can give you — no, thank you; i ate lunch and i have pretzels in my bag — have a great day — good luck to you

March 3, 2011 (Thursday)


Time: Stood from 11:53am to 4:38pm with a break

Approximate time spent talking with people: 2 hours, 3 minutes

Other signs on the Quad: none

12:58-1:21 the Asian American guy comes up
— any takers today? oh, you have a new sign? — yes — but how do i know you really exist and are not being dreamed by me? and how do i know i really exist and am not being dreamed by you? — i guess we can't prove it — how do i know i'm not the result of someone's thought? — would that make life any less valuable? — what do you mean by "valuable"? — i mean, would life be less worth living? — it reminds me of the traitor in The Matrix who said even though he knew it wasn't real, he could still taste the steak and enjoy it — but isn't that situation different from the one in which i'm created in the mind of God? — how? — the difference would be in the intent of the creator; in the case of The Matrix, we would be created and placed into a world with as many problems as possible so that we would generate a lot of energy for those imprisoning us, whereas God would create us in order to give us the chance to experience life — but do we have free will? maybe i'm doing what i do because someone is writing down what i'm doing — there's a book about that [Viktor Pelevin "T"] — really? — yes, it's about an author who enters into a dialogue with one of the characters in the book he's writing — but how does he know what he's doing is not being written by someone else? — he doesn't; in the book the character figures out how to exit the narrative and visit the author in his world — interesting — would you agree to the choice the traitor made in Matrix? — maybe — would you want to have memory of the "real" life? — yes, i think i would — but then you'd suffer from pangs of consciousness for having betrayed people — what is conscience? i don't understand; is it fear of being punished the way they say there is no such thing as altruism, which is really just the desire to get some benefit? — i believe our society is cynical in that way; in other societies people praise altruistic acts without wondering whether the act was actually selfish — but how can you know? if someone jumps in the river to save a pie-maker from drowning, maybe he's doing so just to get some pies — yes, but even if that were true and i knew his motivation for saving the man was selfish, i would still praise him; the reason would be that if many people praise him and he knows his motivation was not a noble one, he will begin to feel pangs of conscience — kind of like reverse psychology — and doing so works either way because if his motivation was genuine, the praise is deserved; then again you have situations where people are praised excessively; there was the incident a year or so ago when the airplane had a problem and the pilot landed it in the Potomac river, saving all the passengers; they made him out to be a hero; i'm happy he managed to save the people, but how is he a hero? he behaved in exactly the way anyone would have in that situation; and at the same time he was saving the passengers, he was also saving himself; i still believe there is such a thing as a conscience and that it is not just fear of being caught; i stole one penny from a friend when i was 8 and there is no chance i will get caught; but what do i call the feeling i have that what i did was wrong? — i still think there could be subconscious fear of being punished — what languages have you studied? — German and Finnish; i'm thinking of studying Icelandic; but what can i do with that except go to Iceland?; do you have people come up to you numerous times? — yes, i do; they have interesting things to say; i'd like to introduce you to them — they're interesting? maybe that means i'm interesting too — yes, what you have to say is interesting to me

1:00 a guy takes photos of me

1:48 three guys walk by, two of them carrying musical instruments (a guitar and maybe a saxophone). One reads the sign aloud and they all laugh apparently in ridicule of the sign and/or me

2:10-3:50 Garrett comes up
— i have a good answer for you: all of reality; the difference between you and me is all of reality — i don't understand — the eye perceives things as they are, but the image we receive through the eye in the brain is colored by all sorts of factors, as is any other stimuli we get; so each of us is absolutely unique and completely different; now, if you asked the opposite question... — how are we alike or similar? — yes; i would answer: "much more than we usually think"; i think if you talk to people in different cultures about the things they think and what they want out of life, people want basically the same kinds of things — and yet people go to war — they did a study of all the wars and countries involved in them and tried to determine what the common reason for wars was, and after they analyzed all the various contributing factors they could find only one common trait of the countries that fought wars: they shared borders with each other; they go to war because the people in power create pretexts for wars — i've always wanted to discuss the motivations for going to war at the level not of the society and the generals but at the level of why the individual soldier makes the decision to go to war; maybe because they like their patriotic songs more than those of the enemy — because old guys want to send them somewhere so they can get money and power — or they want to send the young guys away so there are more young girls for them — maybe; it was the first year of World War One or maybe the second year, at Christmas time... — you mean the Christmas Truce — yes, when the soldiers on both sides came out of the trenches and drank and sang songs with each other — i'll bet it terrified the higher-ups — of course, because when they remembered that they had drunk with each other they started thinking; "Why am I supposed to kill this person?"; i'm the thinking type so before i joined the military i knew there was a chance i'd be sent off somewhere to take part in some war; but one of the most depressing sights to see is the recruits on the day of their graduation from basic training; they're just children; they're 18-year-old children; but in Iraq i asked myself what we were doing there — would you be able to talk about something like that with guys over there? — all of the guys who serve in the military without exception are patriots; they love their country; i would have to be careful what i said — is there resentment on the part of some of the soldiers at the fact that they're doing the same work the security company people get five times the salary for doing? — most guys are thinking they want to get out so they can join up with the mercenaries and get the higher pay — i assume a lot of the mercenaries get off on the killing; they're not just in it for the money — actually, i think the money is what's important; i would say that there is in the military and security companies like Blackwater about the same proportion of sadists as in the general public; the one man i despised from a moral point of view was a guy named Joe from Southern California who used to boast he and his friends got off on beating up bums and stuffing them in porto-potties and tipping them over on their sides; he said once: "Hey, we could kill one of the bums and we could get away with it!"; he'd come over to Iraq to kill; but most of the guys, if you can get them to talk about their experiences (they usually don't like to), will tell you the minute you end someone's life, your life is changed; they will say they were doing their job, what they were there to do, but they do not like the fact that they had to do it; another thing that is disturbing is the different rules for the soldiers and the mercenaries; there is a strict international code of conduct as to what you can do during wartime; if you as a soldier go and shoot up a room full of civilians, there are consequences for an act like that; if you do it because an officer ordered you to do so, then it might be a little bit easier to get out of being punished; but these mercenary guys answer only to the president of the United States for what they do — were you in the Green Zone? — yes, Camp Victory; i didn't see action; it was in fact unbelievably boring; i study political science and i think, what is this subject for? nobody ever makes policy decisions based on the research people in political science do — don't policy makers read Foreign Affairs and journals like that? — yes, but they use the research to justify decisions they have already made — i suppose there is some value, though, at least in the analysis of politics, at least from the point of view of a historian — i guess — i'm just thinking that the president is too busy to make the decisions on anything — Kennedy didn't become a good president until he stopped listening to his advisors and started doing what he thought was right; it was advisors that got him into the Bay of Pigs disaster; it wasn't until the Cuban Missile Crisis that he started making his own decisions — i think Kennedy tried to perform the function we assume the president himself performs, and that's why they killed him — i'm not sure i believe those conspiracy theories; maybe Lee Harvey Oswald... — they certainly had the motivation to get rid of him; Kennedy wanted to nationalize the Federal Reserve Board, which hasn't even been audited since it was founded in 1913; he didn't like CIA black ops and wanted to put a stop to a lot of that; he wanted to pull advisors out of Vietnam; and he insisted on being told everything about the history of our contact with alien civilizations and intended to tell the American people; isn't it curious that the first act of Johnson upon being sworn in as president was to rescind the presidential order nationalizing the Fed? — i think that could have been simply because he didn't like Kennedy; i think Kennedy made a mistake in making an enemy out of his vice-president and not giving him any real responsibilities — it did serve to get him out of the senate where he could have blocked Kennedy's initiatives; Bush was simply too stupid to have made any decisions on his own — if there's one man who was evil it was Cheney; when he became vice-president he would go into the Pentagon and try to tell the generals what to do and they told him to get out and leave them to do the business they knew how to do; but once the wars started Cheney came in and got rid of 200 officers who were "retired" or fired outright — kind of like the Soviet purge — not quite that bad, but the only ones left were those who would do anything Cheney asked them to do — so given how busy the job is, doesn't the president have to rely on advisors? — yes, but ideally you want someone who is good at selecting people who will give him good advice; Obama is good at that, though he's had some terrible advisors — i suppose sometimes he's forced to choose advisors based on the wrong criteria — yes; i know he's an intelligent man, though; my girlfriend has a friend who is a kindergarten teacher who was invited to meet with Obama during the election campaign when he came to Washington state and she invited my girlfriend because she was allowed to bring someone with her; my wife is a psychologist and helped to rephrase her question which she then asked Obama; so that was a real, non-scripted question that he was able to answer intelligently and in detail; in fact in his answer he went into too much detail so that the average voter would never have been able to understand; i'm really worried about things going on in the world; i mean, i know that every generation goes through this, but there are a lot of things going on; global warming is one thing — i'm a little suspicious of that because it's a very convenient type of issue in that it's something nobody can really understand; i also know that the other planets are experiencing global warming as well, so the amount of global warming due to human activity may be as little as 2% — yes, but if we can eliminate even that 2% it is worth it because all of the other environmental disasters awaiting us will also be prevented by doing so; for example, there was a mini-ice age that was prevented 500 or 1500 years ago when the Chinese began cultivating rice; and then there's the garbage below the surface of the ocean that covers an area twice the size of Texas; and Texas is 250,000 square miles large; and we can't do anything about it — could we detonate a hydrogen bomb? — it wouldn't work; it's under water and it's too big: twice the size of Texas — could we create some bacteria to consume it? — but then you'd have the problem of the bacteria being there; awhile back someone had the idea of putting copper filings in the ocean for phitoplankton to feed on and soak up more carbon dioxide; unfortunately, they generated the wrong kind of plankton and it released even more methane into the atmosphere than there was before — why were they not able to foresee something like that? — they just didn't; and then there's the problem with the seeds; you can grow wheat and it will be a large yield, but the seeds you don't use will self-destruct — so you have to buy them again from people like Monsanto — right — one thing that would help would be to install solar panels on people's houses so they could generate 80% of the electricity they use — computers don't take that much energy — actually they do — more than space heaters and air conditioners? — no, of course — more than TVs? — yes, because people generally leave computers on all the time and they have fans which use a lot of electricity — you could just hire a lot of Mexicans to fan them with hand-held fans — [he laughs] yes, i guess you could — you and i think about these things, but do other people? — they spend all their time watching TV — did you see the footage of the protests in Wisconsin on Fox news where they showed protesters pushing each other and palm trees in the background? — yes, i saw that; complete lies — and did you hear about the prank phone call from David Koch to governor Walker? — that was awesome; [raises voice to a yell and sits down on his haunches] the biggest labor protests in history; absolutely the biggest in history, and they get no coverage; i don't know what to do about it — i think the people at the top, when they make the decision of whether to involve the people in the democratic process, have little respect for them because they spend so much time watching TV — what is the solution? — i don't know; but i don't think getting angry with people and yelling at them like on the McLaughlin Group is going to help — i agree — i would like to see a spiritual transformation, not necessarily involving the world's religions; it would help if there were no TV; i honestly don't understand why people would watch TV; it's just so boring — they go to church on Sundays and are told God loves them and then they go home and turn on the TV and create for themselves an illusion; most people consider it their patriotic duty to buy things — i remember in half of Moscow a few years ago the power went out for about 10 hours and, surprise surprise, you had neighbors sitting outside talking to each other — i do appreciate technology, though; i would be willing to suck a lot of dick for electric light bulbs and refrigerators; one hundred years ago when electric lamps appeared, people were able to study at night; it completely transformed society; and now we walk women home at night out of courtesy, but before streetlights you had to do so to keep them from getting raped and killed — i have lived places where it is dark at night, and that is acceptable to me; and if you live in a cold climate you don't need refrigerators; what i definitely appreciate is the internet — but the internet is bad too; all the people spending hours on facebook thinking that someone poked them yesterday means they have made personal contact with someone; i have ADD; when i started taking Ritalin i went from a straight-F to a straight-A student; i'm not stupid, but if i sit down to write a paper i get distracted; ADD people are very good at procrastinating; i can sit down and watch TV for eight hours straight, even though i know it's stupid, and at the end of those eight hours i've gotten nothing out of it and i'm amazed i just wasted so much time; but the drug is expensive; a course of Ritalin costs $50-60 a month, while Adderall can cost $250 a month; and the incidence of ADD has gone up; maybe it's because we're identifying it more, or society is changing and therefore it's becoming more prevalent — is it perhaps that they're prescribing it more to make money? — maybe, i don't know; but it's just like giving methamphetamine to kids — is it exactly the same thing as the meth you get on the street? — no; you can smoke crystal meth and be high for three days; so meth does nothing for me; i don't want it — they let you in the military having ADD? — i hid it; at first they gave me hands-on type of work; i would work with my hands and did various different kinds of things; then they gave me a desk job and it became a problem; if i hadn't left the service i probably would have had problems — don't they give methamphetamines to the pilots? — they used to; yeah, it was developed by the Nazis; nowadays they make sure they get enough sleep — are there ways of treating ADD without drugs? — yes; physical exercise can help; also they have hooked kids up to a brain scan and you can see before and after taking the drug how different areas of the brain responsible for different type of cognition are firing; there is a biofeedback machine you can hook a child up to and they can train themselves to concentrate by making a lamp light up; but it's not like that's something available at your corner drug store; this is something not available to most people — do you think part of the problem is exposing young children to television and media? — yes, that's a big problem; another thing with me is that i didn't have the desire to thrive; i was rejected by my mother when i was a baby (there were a lot of things going on in my family at the time); children need to be touched; i think if they're not, that has an effect; i think your asking questions [with your signs] is a good thing — thanks

2:30-2:33 Austin Siedentopf and Ariel, an Asian American girl, come up. Ariel talks
— i've seen your signs and wanted to come up; i remember your sign: "COME UP IF YOU KNEW ME IN ANOTHER LIFE"; i thought that was interesting; i don't believe in reincarnation; do you? — i don't have any direct memories of previous lives; one girl did come up and say she knew me and promised to come back but never did — [Austin asks:] did she look Buddhist? — i couldn't tell; she looked independent-minded; she didn't look fundamentalist Christian, but i didn't see anything on her that would indicate she was Buddhist — [Austin tells Ariel he interviewed me on TV] — oh, i didn't see it — i don't know why not; it was on prime time [Austin laughs] — i'll come up again; sorry to interrupt you — it's ok; please do

3:51-4:05 I sit in Savery Hall to warm up

4:23 a man takes my photo from across the Quad with a high-powered lens

March 14, 2011 (Monday)


Time: Stood from 11:05am to 4:56pm with a break

Approximate time spent talking with people: 2 hours, 45 minutes

Other signs on the Quad: from 4:18-4:25 a single-engined plane flew above the campus trailing a banner that read: "SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC"

11:20-12:05 Ian and Sam, here with about 60 other Navigators to spread Christian gospel and do good works while on spring break from the University of Wyoming and Colorado State University respectively, come up; Ian does almost all of the talking
— hey there — hello — i'm interested in your sign — what does it mean to you? — maybe it means that there isn't much time left because finals are here or maybe it's something spiritual — one idea is that the perception of time is a subjective one; if you're waiting for your girlfriend, time passes very slowly, right? — right — but when you're with her it passes very quickly? — oh, yes — so i think maybe time is not an objective outside force; have you ever not wanted time to pass? — yes; probably people on death row know what that means, or people who are terminally ill — yes, i wonder what it must be like for people on death row; maybe they want the opposite: for time to pass more quickly to get it over with — maybe; we probably can't know — so people studying for finals know what it's like to be desperate for time not to pass — well not to the same degree — i agree; so what do you do to use your time efficiently when studying for finals? — i try to focus and not get distracted by other things, so i force myself not to look at the clock — does that give you more time? — yes — [Sam speaks:] sometimes it can have the opposite effect — how? — i guess because you see there's still time left — [Ian again:] — we're here on spring break; i go to the other UW, University of Wyoming in Laramy and Sam goes to Colorado State University in Fort Collins — what are you doing here? — well, today we're on campus sightseeing and spreading the gospel to students; there are about 60 of us; for the rest of the week we'll be doing various good works — [Sam speaks:] i will be working for a program to help build homes for those who can't afford them — will you actually be hammering and helping to construct them? — yes — do you have construction experience? — yes, some — how does the program work? — they find people who will commit to help with the construction — they themselves help build it? — yes; they have to show they don't have the means to buy a house themselves; if they have a history of addiction or alcoholism they have to go into a special program for that; and if they show they can make the mortgage payments they're sold a house at cost — is that a lot cheaper? — yes, at cost can be ten times cheaper — are there some people who qualify for the program but are rejected simply because the program doesn't have the resources to provide for all of them? — i'm not sure, but probably — [Ian speaks:] are you spiritual? do you believe in God? — that would be difficult for me to answer; it depends on what you mean by "God" — that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and everyone who accepts Him will have eternal life — i do not believe that everything that exists here is a matter of mere happenstance; i think that is just as much a matter of blind faith as on the part of the theists that the atheists ridicule — right — but i don't believe that God is something outside of us — you believe that God is everywhere? — yes; God created everything, right? — He didn't create sin; Romans 6:23 says: "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord" — how is it God did not create sin if it exists? — because God cannot be with sin; if there is sin present God cannot be there — who created sin? — Satan, who as the angel Lucifer went against God and fell — but we have free will? — yes — and in order for us to have free will, we must have the choice to do bad — yes — then is not sin created by God as the mechanism by which we can exercise free will? — but God gives us a choice — but angels don't have free will? that's one thing they envy us for having — right — and God created Lucifer, did He not? — yes — then is not God partially responsible for the existence of sin? — He doesn't create the sin; He created Adam and Eve and told them not to eat of the tree of knowledge good and evil; they made the choice to be tempted by the serpent — but in order for us to be with God we must choose the good; and in order for us to be able to do that, there must be a choice; if Lucifer or Satan is making that choice possible, should we not be grateful to Lucifer for what he does?; God is perfect, is that right? — yes — and God created Adam in His own image — yes — but Adam chose sin; does this not mean that Adam was imperfect? — but God gave him that choice — but isn't God, by making that choice possible, partially responsible for it? if i dig a hole and you fall into it, you could have avoided it, but if i dug it, aren't i partially responsible for you falling in? — we are all sinful; in this world it is impossible not to be, but we can choose not to sin; i know i have committed sin; i do so every day; i look at a woman and desire her in my heart — i do too but i am not ashamed for doing so; God tells us to be fruitful and multiply, right? — right — in order to do so, men and women must come together and reproduce — yes, but that must be within the sanctified institution of marriage — okay, but in order for me to find a woman to marry, i should be attracted to her; and in addition to being spiritually, emotionally, and intellectual compatible, is it not also okay to be physically attracted to her? so if i see a woman who walks by, is it okay for me to be attracted to her? — yes, but if i have lain with a woman and then i marry another, i cannot give all of my heart and all of myself to her because i have given it to another — is it possible to love both your wife and your children? — yes — then why cannot i not love one woman and then later another? — because if i am with one woman and then marry another and i am with her, there will be moments when i will remember the other, and then i cannot give all of my heart and self to her — why not? it seems to me love is not a usual resource in that giving it to one person does not diminish it; and i would not want a woman to give all of herself to me; i would want her to save some of herself for herself and for God — i would too, but i would want to be able to give all of myself to her — i personally have had the proverbial one-night stands which have started out as lustful feelings on my part but ended up being extremely meaningful experiences; what, for example would happen if i fell deeply in love and slept with someone i wanted to spend the rest of my life with but who i never saw again because they moved away or died or something? would that mean i could never really love anyone else the way i should? — [silence] — can i ask you how you go about spreading the gospel? — we talk to people; we tell them that Jesus suffered the worst possible death so that we would be absolved of our sins, but only if we accept Him as our savior — but what about people in outer Mongolia who have never heard of Christianity? do they go to hell? or a newborn baby who dies: does that baby go to hell? i've never seen a newborn baby that wasn't good and beautiful and curious and a genius — i've often thought about that; that has bothered me — in the Eastern Orthodox Church people are absolved of original sin when they are baptized — really? — i think the concept of original sin is something that turns a lot of people off to Christianity; another is all the different Christian sects — sects? — i mean denominations; people ask: which one of them is right? — we try to go back to the original word of God, the Bible; the only thing that you need for salvation is to accept the fact that Jesus came to save us and through Him we can be with God after death — what denomination are you? do you go to church? — i attend a baptist church, was brought up an episcopalian and have experience working with two other denominations, so that is not important to me — could you accept the Catholic church? — i have gone to Catholic services; the practices they have are unusual for me because i didn't grow up with them; and i have a problem with the deification of Mary; i mean i know that she was a very good person, but one of the Ten Commandments speaks against deifying people — "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me" — right — i think you have your work cut out for you in talking about Christianity because so many churches completely discredit the Bible by their actions; in Western Europe especially you have enormous numbers of people who have never read the Bible and don't own one because they consider it just mythology and not worthy of being read; and it doesn't help that you have these ridiculous televangelists who get caught with prostitutes in brothels — the fire and brimstone types; they're terrible — another thing that puts off people and which is disturbing to me is the concept of hell; does hell exist? — yes, it does — who goes there? — we are all in a hell right now because no one is free from sin; but God gave us a chance to be with Him by sending His only Son to die the most horrible death possible to save us; and even if you cannot rid yourself of sin, if you commit it, if you have the sincere desire and intention and make efforts to rid yourself of sin, you will go to heaven; even the worst criminal in history, who didn't formally atone for his sins, who was on the cross next to Jesus, Jesus said to him it was enough for him to remember Jesus, and Jesus said: "Today you will be with me in paradise" — but what about the people who die without having atoned for their sins and go to hell; will be they suffer in hell for all eternity? — yes — i don't understand that — because they were granted the opportunity during life to accept Jesus and they have only one life to do so — in my life there have been people who have robbed me, beaten me, cheated me and cheated on me, but i don't want these people punished; i have forgiven them; in fact, i don't even regret being beaten because it was an interesting experience; i suppose i would regret it if i now walked with a limp because of it; but what i'm saying is: does my forgiving of these people mean i am more merciful than God? can that really be true? — God is a loving God but he is also just — how is that just? let's say i created some tiny creatures here [i point to the ground near the base of the tree]; i would love them unconditionally; in fact i would love the atheists among them most of all, for two reasons: first, i would respect them for making such a bold statement; second, i would feel endless compassion for them because they would feel terribly lonely and unworthy if they did not have knowledge that there was a creator who loved them; but no matter what they did, even if they cursed me with all their might, i would still love them unconditionally; i would understand how difficult it would be for them to imagine they had been created; and i as the creator would have no need for someone to worship me; that does nothing for me — but if we do not accept Jesus into our lives we cannot attain immortality; if those creatures [points to same place on the ground under the tree] don't come to know of you, how can they continue life when that portion of the ground deteriorates and they can't live there any more? — i can just pick them up and move them to another place — but God doesn't do that — why not? is it not in His power to come down and rescue us? — but we have to rescue ourselves — but if i was created by God imperfect and fail in my lifetime to come to believe in Him, is He not partially responsible for creating me imperfect? — He gave us a choice so that we would have free will because without free will there cannot be love — why not? can you not conceive of a society where there is no free will but people still love? — but they can't know what love is if they do not know the absence of love — i don't understand why that has to be true; it seems to me there could be a world where there is only love and people appreciate that; like the angels; they have no free will but they live only in love — there are a lot of attacks on Christianity nowadays and it is hard to do what we do, but if i believe in something it is my Christian duty to talk to people — if you are a lamp emitting light, you should not be covered; is that the expression? — you mean "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden." [Matthew 5:14] — right; i could never put the word "God" on a sign because people would instantly associate that with Christianity — i think that Jesus is the most hated figure in history — what do you mean? — i mean that He has been attacked by Muslims and Jews and atheists and many other people — i would go further and say that if you loved everyone, everyone would hate you — i don't think that's true — think about it; if you're Protestant, you're supposed to hate Catholics, if your Muslim you're supposed to hate Christians, if you're American, you're supposed to hate Muslims... — i think the US is fighting against terrorists and the terrorists are bad because they kill innocent people, so stopping that is a good thing — do you think the US government doesn't kill innocent people? — [silence] — come on; doesn't the church in every country during every war declare that God is on its side in the war? — [silence] — another thing that turns people off to Christianity is the idea that Buddhists and all these people who are not Christians, who are the majority in the world, are going to go to hell — i don't think Buddhists are going to hell — by the way, i think that there can be a way of atoning for sin without having to suffer eternal torment in hell; if reincarnation exists then whatever bad deed we commit with respect to someone else someone will commit with respect to us in another life; if what is important is for us to understand that some actions are wrong, it seems to me this is a good way to do that — it was very interesting for us to talk with you — thank you; for me too — we will pray for you...[thinking i may have been offended] please don't think that we mean... — i don't; thank you — is there anything you'd like us to pray for? — let me think...no, that should be my responsibility

12:50-1:49 Crockett and Ashley, students from Colorado State University of mechanical engineering and graphic design respectively, here with about 60 other Navigators to spread Christian gospel and do good works while on spring break, come up
— i'm interested in your sign — what does it mean to you? — that the apocalypse is coming — some people say time is subjective; depending on whether we are bored or not, time seems to pass at different rates — but we have clocks to tell us exactly how much time has passed — some people would say different amounts of time pass for different people, that there is no absolute, objective external reality — i believe something is either true or it isn't — i do not like the idea that God is a jealous God — that was a difficult concept for me too to accept; i mean the passage from Deuteronomy [6:15] "The Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God"; but then i thought about it in light of my relationship with my girlfriend; she went to Alaska and was working with a Christian group there; i called her up and asked her how she was doing; she said she was having a great time; i got jealous; how could she be having a great time without me, without even missing me?; then i realized my jealousy was wrong; why should i not want her to be happy whether we are together or apart?; but God's love is different; God wants everyone to love Him and love for God is all; it is everything; without love for God you have nothing, so He is right to command people to love Him — the idea of hell is off-putting to people; i have a friend who was raised as a Christian, and even though now he's an atheist, he still has fears of going to hell; and many of the preachers harp so much on the hell aspect of Christianity — i too don't like the fire and brimstone style preachers who try to scare the hell out of you — literally — yes, they trying literally to scare the hell out of you... [hereafter we discus many of the issues i discussed with Ian and Sam] 

2:00-2:12 a girl and a guy here with about 60 other Navigators to spread Christian gospel and do good works while on spring break come up; the guy mostly remains silent
— we're curious about your signs — are you with the Christian groups? — yes, we're from CSU — i spoke today with Crockett, Ashley and Sam — yeah, we know them well — what does the sign mean to you? — well, maybe it's true because i have memory of what happened yesterday, so that it's still with me — but what then about the part about tomorrow already being here? — i don't know; i do believe that God has a plan for me; i don't know what that plan is but i know it exists and God will bring me to the place i need to be — can you do something contrary to the plan? — yes — [the guy speaks:] you can do anything you want — can you fly? — anything that's physically possible — i talked about this with the other people from your group and they said God was an extra-temporal entity; in Revelation it says "I am the Alpha and Omega, the end and the beginning", that would mean that God, from the point of view of seeing all of time at the same time since He is omniscient, knows what will happen and thus tomorrow has already happened [the girl speaks:] — yes i would agree with that; but then what about free will? — so there is this paradox; if everything is predetermined, can there be free will? i think there is one solution that many physicists would agree with; the idea is that whenever you decide between two or more alternatives, a portion of you chooses the one you don't, and that decision is valid in the parallel reality that portion of you inhabits; therefore everything that you could do has already happened and you simply choose that version of events you desire — i see; that's interesting — i think in the future science and religion will come together; they will stop trying to prove the other is wrong and the reasonable people on both sides of the aisle will realize that they can learn from each other...

2:30-2:53 I take a bathroom break. I record the graffiti written on the non-wheelchair-equipped stall in the men's restroom on the second floor of Kane Hall and add my own message to it: "Attention graffittists! You are quoted here: signsonthequad.blogspot.com"

2:57-3:10 a guy who is a German major who speaks slowly and deliberately comes up
3:05-3:36 a guy with glasses who studies sociology comes up
— i'm curious about your signs; why do you have them? — do any of them have any meaning to you? — i remember the one "DO YOU DESERVE YOUR EDUCATION?" — "DO YOU DESERVE AN EDUCATION?" — right — what did you think about that one? — i thought about it; i came to the conclusion that i do deserve an education because i have the opportunity to get one; but then i thought about other people who don't have as many opportunities and that there were some who couldn't get an education who deserved one more than i did — did you wonder why, if you deserve an education, you have to pay for it? — i think the people who do the educating deserve to be paid; ..[another guy comes up]...there are the Ivy League schools: Harvard, Stanford, MIT, and they're the top level and then there are the very good universities like the University of Washington; and the quality of the education at those schools may not actually be better, but going there is a ticket to government or the corporate power structure; it's like an aristocracy where there shouldn't be one...[the other guy begins to speak and they have a conversation:] — weighing in on what you're saying, i'd say what we're talking about is a meritocracy, that some have the opportunity to attend those schools, maybe because their parents put them in fancy prep schools, they have tutors to prepare them for the SAT--or the GRE if they're graduate students; and then there are the white middle-class children who will get the better grades simply because they are in suburbs where the schools will give them higher GPAs; and i'm a sociologist, so i study things like what goes on in schools; nowadays it is also common for students to threaten their teachers into giving them better grades because teachers are afraid of losing their jobs — i don't think grades are the most important thing for determining who gets into the best schools; and i don't know of any specific cases of students threatening teachers — the average male teacher is accused of sexual harassment six times a year — in school or at universities? — in schools — what grades? — from elementary school all the way through high school — i think the people who get into Ivy League schools know how to work the system; i don't pay for my education and there are some who do pay who intellectually are more sophisticated than i am; i don't pay simply because i know how the system works; i know how to apply for the right grants and how to ask the professors for assistance; i guess i have to go [the German major leaves] — on average six times a year teachers are accused of sexual harassment? — that's right; part of the problem is the children and the way they were brought up to perceive things in more of a sexual way because our society is so permissive — i don't think our society is permissive; i think it is the opposite: it is repressive; i think what happens today is the same thing that went on with the Puritans 400 years ago; nothing in essence has changed, it has simply taken a different form — i know cases of fathers being arrested for taking their children to the playground, a boy arrested for making his fingers into the shape of a gun in school, even a case of a boy who got expelled for opening the door for someone — i heard about that incident — of course there were mitigating circumstances there; the door was not supposed to be opened; what we have is the problem of presumption of guilt — what is wrong with our society? why is it completely bogged down in rules, people filled with fear? i compare this society with others and it's completely different; men cannot even smile at women here; if you do you get back a dirty look and that phony smile they do; i've spent a lot of time in Eastern Europe and it's not like that there — they deal with such things in a different way socio-culturally; in the US and in Western Europe these problems exist; in Sweden they have the problem of false rape claims; studies show that anywhere from 6% to 60% of rape claims are false; but the studies showing the higher figure are discredited because they don't want women to be afraid to report rapes; there are some famous cases, for example the one involving Assange — yes, i read about that last night; take a look at Israel Shamir's website; he tells all about it; the documents from the police reports have been leaked and it turns out the whole case was fabricated for political reasons; so what can people do? — they have to think critically and see the stereotypes which are schemas that are pyramidal and hierarchical in structure — the problem is people don't think in real time — it's very hard to; look at those people [at the other end of the Quad]; in less than a second you have made a mental judgement, without even your knowing it, of sex, race and whether those people are a threat to you; if you didn't do so, you could have someone come up to you to start a conversation that you wouldn't be ready for because you'd be processing what you were seeing: "blue shirt, man" etc.; do you think it would be possible to describe everything happening right now on the Quad? — it would be impossible; it would take more than a lifetime and there is much that is happening that we're not even capable of measuring — and the inner world of each person is so rich and so full of reactions and thoughts, it would be impossible to record all of what only a single person perceived — it seems to me that subconsciously we record everything — everything that is salient; there are filters and we select to record that which we consider we need — i'm talking about information that can be extracted under deep hypnosis — the subconscious does record a lot of information in our short-term memory, but it then disappears — i have heard of cases where many years after an event, under deep hypnosis it has been possible to extract very detailed information — it is also possible to plant memories — yes, and erase them — an example of planting memories would be if i tell you that a black man just walked by over there and talk about him and describe him and make numerous references to him; actually there was no black man, but you will have "memories" later of having seen him; another example is the pink elephant — pink elephant? — if i tell you there's a pink elephant approaching you from behind, describe the elephant, talk about it... — [i turn and look behind me] that's what you wanted me to do, right? — no; i then tell you that the elephant is now making sounds, that you hear its feet stomping on the ground; what you are focusing on while i am talking about all of this is that there is no elephant, there can't be one; but later, if someone asks you if you heard footsteps of an elephant on the Quad today, you will hesitate before giving your answer; because you were so focused, while i was talking about the elephant, on denying to yourself its existence, the other information got past your filters and later if you try to recall what really happened there is an element of doubt in your mind — is it not possible to bring these things into our conscious awareness? — yes it is; what we need to do is to be aware that when we see and make a judgment about something, that judgment is based on a stereotype; if we are aware of this we can avoid falling into the trap of someone imposing a certain view on us subliminally — do subliminal messages work? — yes; do you know what the prisoner's dilemma is? — yes — they used something called priming to get one member to make a choice contrary to his own interests the very first time he made a choice — did they have people watch scenes of violence — no, just nature scenes, but with subliminals; they showed them words like "hate", and "anger" and by the time they went in to play the prisoner's dilemma game... — they were infuriated — no, they weren't angry; but they made the choice that was not in their best interest because they had been "primed" to do so; these are the things the news media does, especially FOX — are you referring to the shots of protesters pushing each other supposedly in Wisconsin with palm trees in the background? — no, i know about that; i'm talking about the case where the candidate who got the most votes at the Republican National Convention was booed — you mean Ron Paul — right; actually there was no booing; they simply mismatched the sound and video — i read about that — another example happened during hurricane Katrina; there were two different reports of looting; in one report, they showed a black man carrying a TV out of a store and the caption read "Looting becoming rampant"; in another they showed a white couple taking items out of a store and the caption was; "People taking extraordinary measures to survive" — i personally think most people today are sophisticated enough to see through such things; in fact i think such tricks are deliberately done repeatedly and then deliberately exposed, and media watchdog committees formed, in order to create the impression that the problem is being taken care of and to distract people's attention from the deeper deception going on; everybody complains about FOX news, but NPR and PBS are just as bad; they're financed by the Rockefeller foundation, which is the same people; as an example there was a few weeks ago a news special on PBS called "Surveillance: Are We Safer?"; by framing the question in this way, they've already achieved the propaganda goal they set out to achieve; in this case, if we're safer, the surveillance worked and it's a good thing, but if we're not safer, that means we need more surveillance; if you have an oligopoly of five big media conglomerates, one of which is owned by GE, controlling 95% of what people see and read, do you really think there's no collusion going on among them? in general, who do you think makes the decisions in a country? — the president — who selects the president? — the people — but who selects the candidates? not the people; isn't it the media who selects them? and who controls the media? anyone who has the money to buy it; if you have enough money can't you install any dictator you want in any third world country you want? — yes — and if you have enough money, can't you determine who comes to power anywhere? so who has all the money? — the government — do you mean the national bank, the Federal Reserve? — yes — but the Federal Reserve is owned by private bankers — but the president appoints the head of the Federal Reserve; but then again, it's cyclical — what do you mean? — if the people with the money choose the president and he appoints the Fed head... — right, but also the Federal Reserve is not accountable to anybody; its accounts have not been audited since its creation in 1913; Ron Paul has been talking about that for years; and the policies of the Federal Reserve are dictated to it by the Bank of International settlements in Basel, which has quasi-diplomatic immunity; no Swiss police are allowed enter its territory; if you create the money, you control everything— so when i read the media i take everything with a very large grain of salt — what about the classes you take at the university? — i take what professors say also with a large grain of salt because i know they can't criticize the university; well, it's my shift now; it's been fun — good luck to you

3:38-3:48 Austin Siedentopf comes up
— did you know that the video with you is the most watched at The Daily? — the whole show or the segment with me? — the one with you; it's gotten 1300 hits — is that a lot? — usually they get 20 — oh; is it finals week? — yes; you probably won't get anyone coming up to you; there isn't much traffic — there has been much less traffic but i thought i still might get some people coming up to me, say, the ones who have just finished taking a final are aren't too anxious to get back to their dorm rooms to start studying for the next one — the ones who breathe a sigh of relief and are in the mood to do something else — right; how have finals been for you? — i haven't had any yet; it's nice to see the cherry trees blooming [the two at the end of the Quad close to Red Square have done so] — yes, i guess it's how they show support for Japan; they're from Japan, right? — yes; i wanted to ask you; what do you think about people showing their support for Japan on facebook? what i mean is they create a support group and ask people to express their support — you mean just give it the thumbs up and nothing else? — yes; it makes them feel like they've given their support and then they take no other responsibility to help — i can see how that could happen; there could perhaps be a positive effect, though; there are some who believe that if you can channel the collective consciousnesses of a lot of people and focus them on a single purpose, it is possible to achieve results; an example would be the time when a lot of people gathered and meditated together near the Pentagon for peace and that summer crime fell dramatically in spite of the fact that nothing else measurable changed; they say people's emotions can even effect the weather, that they have an electro-magnetic effect — like the kamikaze divine wind, the storm that twice repelled Mongolian invasion of Japan by destroying their fleet — yes, maybe the collective emotions of the Japanese people created the storms — or the "Protestant Wind" — what's that? — the storm that destroyed the Spanish Armada — in 1588; maybe subconsciously they created the storm, or did the protestants know the armada was coming? — yes, they knew it was coming; there hadn't been an invasion attempt since William the Conqueror — so maybe Indian rain dances really worked — it's like the fruit that rots faster when you yell at it but slower when you say nice things to it — yeah, i've heard of that; actually when i was in high school, before i'd heard of anything like that, i did an experiment for science class where i took plants and talked to some of them in a nice voice, some in an angry voice, and to some not at all and then measured the difference in growth — there is theory that would explain that; if you don't like something, like a plant, then you won't water it enough — no, i tried hard to factor that out; i watered them equally, i made sure they got an equal amount of sunlight, etc. — interesting experiment — yeah, but i felt like a complete fool doing it; i mean, yelling at plants...; have people been talking about the the radiation cloud headed this way? i'm interested in seeing how fast word gets out — no, i've haven't heard anything about that — that's strange; i remember in 1986 after Chernobyl what they talked about most of all on the news was the cloud traveling across the world and the possible harm to the US; it made us sound very selfish; they say the cloud from the Japanese plant will reach us in about nine days; it turns out to be good for Japan, though, because the cloud will dump the radiation over the ocean so it won't kill; i know it will kill plankton... — actually, plankton is very important in the world — i know, but i don't have any personal friends who are plankton — [he laughs] — i do have a friend in Tokyo — is he okay? — yes, but it took him five hours to get home the day of the earthquake — that doesn't seem so much — maybe; i don't know how far he lives from work; they are saying now things could be really bad for Japan because they're saying that there could be an even more dangerous earthquake near a point where several fault lines intersect which would be a disaster for Japan — i have to go study— good luck on your finals — thanks

4:18-4:25 a single-engined prop plane flies above the campus trailing a banner that reads: "SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC"

4:31 two guys walking by give me the thumbs up

March 17, 2011 (Thursday)


Time: Stood from 10:55am to 4:43pm with no breaks

Approximate time spent talking with people: 3 hours, 14 minutes

Other signs on the Quad: none

11:30-12:02 Sara, Chauncey and Landon, members of the group Navigators from Colorado State University and the University of Wyoming come up. Mostly the girls speak
— hello — hello — are you with the Christian group? — yes — from CSU? — yes — i talked with Crockett and Sam — we know them; we would like to know your spiritual views — it would take me a long time to explain what i believe; i spoke with the others about this; i'll tell you a secret; i transcribe conversations with people so you'll be able to read what we talked about; but please don't anybody because i don't want people to feel inhibited about speaking with me — ok, your secret is safe with us — what does the sign mean to you? — i think it means "seize the day"; tomorrow may never come; i could die tomorrow — what then does the portion "yesterday is still here" mean to you? — i'm not sure — one thing i talked about with the others in your group was angels; do they have free will? — i'm not sure — no, i think they do — if Lucifer was able to rebel and fall through choice, why couldn't another angel do so? — the reason i'm asking is because i've read that angels envy us because we have free will — it does say in the scripture something like "angles long to look on humans" [1 Peter 1:12 "Even angels long to look into these things"] — have you seen the film "Wings of Desire" by Wim Wenders? — no — it's about angels who observe us and can read our thoughts but are not seen; one of them decides to incarnate as one of us, which he does not by sinning but simply by becoming one of us; it's a great film — [Landon writes down the name of the film] — i still think angels do have free will — ok, another way it is said angels are different from us is that they cannot know what it means to have faith; they don't need faith because that know that God exists — that's right; i think probably they can't know God's love the way we do — you think they don't feel God's love?" — i think they can't have the kind of relationship with God that we do; do you believe in God? — it depends on what you mean by "God"; do you believe that God is separate from us? is not everything part of God if He created it? — no, not everything — what then is not part of God? what about this tree? — it has God's fingerprint on it, but it's not God because it's not perfect — how is it not perfect? — see, it's missing a branch there — but what if the branch is not there for the purpose of letting water fall through that spot?; would not the blueprint of this tree as a perfect idea exist in heaven? — yes, it probably would — you say that bench is not God because it's not perfect, but it would have God's fingerprints on it — right — but if God is an extra-temporal entity--the idea of "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end"--then if God touches something in our universe only once, that's the same thing as touching it forever, isn't it? — i guess — if all moments are happening at the same time, then if i touch something once, i touch it forever; another big problem people have with Christianity is the concept of hell; Jesus said "Judge not", and yet if a priest tells someone he will go to hell if he does a certain thing, is that priest not implicitly judging that person? — yes, he is...

12:15-12:29 a guy who is a bio-chemistry major who lives in eastern Oregon comes up
— i've walked by many times before but never had time to come up; i wanted to know your purpose in doing this — i don't have any overriding purpose; have the signs had any meaning to you? — i haven't been close enough to read the signs — if you're interested... — not interested, curious — you can read about them on my blog; just google "signsonthequad" — i don't see how you could do something without having a purpose? — i'm not being evasive; i want to tell you the truth but it would take a very long time to give you all the reasons i stand out here; i have interesting conversations with people — so your idea is to get people thinking and talking about things — again, there's more to it than that; it's interesting for me to learn what people think about things and people have told me they don't get enough interesting conversation; ostensibly this is a university where people are supposed to be interested in thinking and learning — but it seems to me when people do things they have a purpose — Buddhists do things without a purpose specifically for the "purpose" of not having a purpose; the Zen idea of freeing oneself of all desires and goals — are your signs connected? — that's a good question; people have asked me that; i haven't sat down an analyzed it to see whether there is some connection; i came up with some ideas before i started standing out here but many i've come up with over the course of my project, so i can't say — are you going to stand out next week? — during spring break? — yes — no; no one would see the sign; i guess i could stand out with a blank sign — well, i have to go; i don't want to miss my flight home — where do you live? — in eastern Oregon — goodbye

12:30-12:41 Daniel [see February 28 @ 11:35] comes up
— this sign is a bit much for my brain right now — how have your finals been going? — ok; your sign reminds of that quote: "There is no present. Only the immediate past and the immediate future" [actually the quote is: "There's no present. There's only the immediate future and the recent past."] — who said that? — George Carlin — i like George Carlin; do you know Bill Hicks? — no — he was kind of like Carlin; humor and social commentary — [he writes down "Bill Hicks"] i used to like George Carlin more, like in the 70s; he starting doing only social commentary; all of the toilet humor went right out the window — Bill Hicks has a lot of social commentary too, but not just; so what does your sign mean? — some Christian people have said it seems spiritual to them — of course spiritual people will find something spiritual in anything; that sounds like something Carlin would say — well, isn't anything anyone says actually philosophy? — i guess; i suppose your sign is talking about how difficult it is to be in the moment; we're always distracted with memories of the past or plans for the future; especially today with all the ipods and ipads — but 20 years ago before all that people were distracted too; i remember what it was like — i guess even 100 years ago people were distracted by cars and puzzles — it's always something — so it's impossible to live in the moment because you're either thinking about the immediate past or the immediate future — i heard that scientists have identified the smallest indivisible unit of time — what would that mean? — i guess it would be the minimum amount of time necessary for some statistically significant even to take place — but it would be impossible to experience; you could describe it mathematically, but you could never have direct experience of it — i guess you're right...

12:47 a group of five 10-11-year-old girls and two boys pass by; one of the girls reads my sign aloud and says: "What?"

12:51 a guy waves to me while walking by

1:10-1:12 about 25 10-11-year-old children walk by chanting in unison:
"Other colleges...boo-boo-boo!
UW Huskies...woo-woo-woo"

1:26 two girls take photos of each other on the Quad; one stops and takes a photo of the sign

1:28-2:58 Mike (the Christian with the two diamond earrings), wearing a sweatshirt with the words: "GOD CAN" [see March 2 @ 4:23], comes up
2:45-2:55 Oleg, a very intense guy with a BS in economics and BA in political science now studying political economy, and two friends who don't speak, come up; all three are on bikes
2:50-3:15 Will, a guy who doesn't study at the university, comes up
— this is what your sign makes me think of: the seeds of tomorrow are being sown right now — what about the part about yesterday? — there is still unfinished business from the past; like when your laundry is unwashed — i see — time is interesting; people say it heals wounds, but just because time passes doesn't mean that relationships or [something like the problem of] poverty is corrected; there has to be a contribution — you mean it's not enough simply for time to pass; you have to make something of that time? — yes; i think when they talk about saints, they talk about holy men; a holy man is a man who is whole; there is integrity; he is complete; the truth applies in many different contexts; i remember our discussion last time i talked to you about hell — i remember — i said i would research more about that; i talked to a guy and found some passages in the Bible [hands me his Bible to have me look up and read passages aloud]; do you know the Bible? — yes — here's the first passage: 1 Timothy 2: 3-4 - [i read:] "This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth"; let me write this down [i write down chapter and verse] — now 2 Peter 3: 9 — [i read:] "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." — and John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." — yes, i know that passage — there's a site you can go to if you want to learn more about these things; it's everystudent.com — ok [i write it down] — the next passage is Romans 13: 7 — [i read:] "Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "you shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not covet," and whatever other commands there may be, are summed up in this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself.""; have you seen the Christian groups on campus this week? — you mean the Navigators? — is that what they're called? — right, Navigators; yes, i've met them — i spoke with about a dozen of them; what i tried to tell them was what aspects of Christianity turn people off and make it difficult to spread the gospel — what are they? — roughly i would list these [he writes them down]: — the passage in Matthew (5:29): "If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell"; if the naked bodies of human beings were created by God, why would admiring God's work mean one will suffer in hell for all eternity? — i would say that that quote cannot be taken out of context; what the Bible means is not that it is better to cut off your arm, but that it is better to go to heaven without an arm than to go to hell — i see; here are the other aspects of Christianity that turn people off to it:
- the concept of hell; what loving God would condemn creatures he had created to an eternity of damnation with no chance for redemption if He Himself created them imperfect and if He knows how difficult it is for human beings to have direct knowledge of the deity?; why should a pious, humble, good camel herder in outer Mongolia who's never heard of Christianity have to suffer in hell for all eternity for not finding Jesus Christ?
- the concept of original sin; people look at newborn babies and do not understand how they could already be sinful
- the multitude of Christian denominations; which one is "right"? in Russian Orthodoxy original sin is absolved by baptism--a significant difference from Protestant churches; in Catholicism the Virgin Mary is venerated as a deity, which contradicts the spirit and the letter of the teachings of the Protestant churches; 
- the hypocrisy of televangelists and fundamentalist priests and ministers who rail against sin and then are caught with prostitutes in brothels or stealing money from parishioners;
- Christ said "Judge not", but when Christians tell people they are going to hell for committing sins, are they not implicitly judging them? is declaring that someone is going to hell not a sin one should go to hell for?
- the fact that the Old and New Testaments are coupled together in a single book; Christ came with a new message, a new testament; the decision to canonize them together as one was taken later and was political in nature;
- many passages in the Bible seem to contradict one another, especially portions of the Old Testament;
- it is disturbing to people to read in the Old Testament about Yahweh as a jealous god smiting his enemies;
- in the Bible it says that, on the cross, Jesus called out to heaven: "My God, why hast thou forsaken me" (in some esoteric literature it has been suggested that this passage was added later by those who wanted to sow the seeds of doubt); many atheists and agnostics have interpreted the passage to mean that, because His life was not spared, Jesus at the very end stopped believing in God;
- some portions of the Bible are sexual--almost pornographic--in nature; if these passages were not found in the Bible, children would not be permitted to read them;
- different translations of the Bible lead people to different interpretations of scripture; which of them is correct?
- to many it seems that Christians who proselytize are merely checking off names on a list because they want an award for "converting" a lot of people in the form of praise, or a gold star by their name or whatever;
- many people have qualms with the nature of salvation; Jewish people especially would say that Hitler could have exterminated every Jewish person on the planet and then, on his deathbed, repented five minutes before dying and then gone to heaven in spite of his terrible crimes;
- the rejection by some Christians of the value of scientific investigation; especially the insistence of some fundamentalist Christians that the world was created 6247 years ago on a Tuesday at 6:45 pm;
— may i pray for you? — yes, thank you — [Mike prays to 'Father God" for me, the tree i stand under, my health and other things while Oleg and his friends, and then Will, come up]

— [to Mike] hello, i'm Oleg — [i say with a Russian accent:] Oleg — privet — zdravstvuite [then we switch into English] — i want to know about your signs — what does this one mean to you? — it makes me think that recently we have seen many instances of birds falling from the skies dead, earthquakes, revolutions in the Middle East, financial crises, and so on, that maybe our world is approaching a crisis point — someone else pointed out the sign make them thing of the Apocalypse — but then again there is the timeless aspect of the message; that there might really not be any such thing as time — where are you from? — i was born in Kursk [Russia] — when did you come to the US? — in 1993 — have you been back since you left? — yes, once; i thought you might have some words of wisdom — i don't know what to say; i would answer any questions you might have — i don't have any questions; i'm interested in what words of wisdom you have — i don't think there's anything i could say that hasn't been said before; as they say, there's nothing new under the sun — but people forget — i agree; that's why you have to repeat everything again every generation in a different form; what do you study? — i have a BS in economics and BA in political science and am now studying political economy — are there any fundamental principles of economics you would disagree with? — yes — good, what are they? — i disagree with the theory of rational choice, that all people always make rational decisions, and that leads to their being forced to demand things they do not really need — so would you agree that demand can be created? — yes, demand can be manufactured — do you agree that resources are limited and wants are unlimited? — i think some kinds of resources are limited, but others are not; as for people's wants, i believe people want things they don't really need; i think people are born with a basic curiosity, and if they act on and pursue their curiosity to try to learn more about things, they are able to approach the truth; what words of wisdom do you have? — i would love to have people not watch TV; i remember in Moscow about five years ago the power went out in half the city for about ten hours and neighbors were outside talking to each other; i lived in Moscow for 20 years — that must have been quite an experience — it was very interesting; it has changed now; much of what was good went away because of the media and money — you're talking about what you consider good — yes, it is my notion of what is good that i'm talking about; but many people would agree with me — but that doesn't necessarily make it right — i agree; still, i think if people turn off the TV...i'd love to walk around with one of those universal remote controls — [Will speaks:] i have one — do they work? — yes; they're especially fun to use on Superbowl Sunday; you go into bars and places and turn them off — do people get angry? — yeah, if they catch you — is it possible to do it without getting caught? — yes — do they cost about $30? — you can get one for $25; the one i have cost $50 because it works over a longer range — is it illegal? — no, i don't think so — it seems to me, though, that in a bar it could be argued that you're reducing the value of the good the customers are paying for by restricting their access to TV... — [Oleg speaks:] i think you need to give people a positive example of what they could do instead of watching TV; i think we need to set examples for them in how to govern ourselves, how to run an autonomous economy; goodbye — goodbye

— [Will says about Oleg:] he was really intense — yes; he was interesting — i read about you on the Seattle reddit.com site [see here] and decided i'd come up to talk to you — what do you study? — i'm not a student; i was walking by on my way home; i live near the U Village; i thought of an idea for a sign: "Do you have ideas or do ideas have you?" — that's interesting; but it's not quite the style i would use because it admits of only two interpretations: answering yes or no to the question; if i made a sign i would phrase it like this; "Are you your ideas?" or "Are you your thoughts?" — there you go — that's a good idea; i may use it — have you thought about standing anywhere else? it seems to me students are too busy to come up to you — some people have asked me about that; what do you think would be a good place for me to stand? on Pioneer Square? — maybe — but would anyone there come up to me? — probably not; they're too busy too — where are people not busy? — maybe on Capital Hill; where all the starving artists live — is there a good place to stand there? a place like a town square or something like that? — i don't know about a place; somewhere on Broadway i guess; i've noticed that when there are pauses in a conversation people will take out their cell phones and start texting; i got rid of my cell phone; i noticed that whenever i called someone they rejected the call; i've noticed people tend to say "no" if they have that option; marketing always uses the technique of asking a question anyone would say yes to, like: "Do you like saving money?"; but with cell phones people can refuse to accept a call, so they do; but text messages they respond to; now i just use email and it's no different from texting — it seems to me there should be some sort of system when you call someone where you can indicate the level of importance of the call; if you have to reach someone right away you could mark the call as urgent and maybe the ring would be different — people can't stand allowing there to be silence — do you think it's because they always feel they have to sell themselves? everyone you meet is a potential employer or business partner... — people do spend a lot of time trying to qualify to others — by "qualify to" you mean make themselves look good? — yes; and people try to find people with a higher social status to qualify to — because it helps them raise their own status — right; and people want to be like celebrities because then they don't have to do that because it seems to them that celebrities have already made it to the top and never have to qualify to anyone; they're celebrities already — do you find it possible simply to be yourself?; when you are honest and sincere, do people recognize and appreciate that? — some do — i don't see why people can't just be themselves instead of creating an image in order to impress people; what is the point of somebody liking me if they like not me, but the image i've created? — i think people want acceptance, but they want to feel they've earned that acceptance — but what if you could explain to people that each person has a unique talent that no one else has and that they are worthy of acceptance simply by virtue of having that unique talent?; couldn't that work? — i guess it should; i lived in Berkeley and there you can walk down the street and make a friend; here it's not like that; people here are nice and polite... — hyperpolite — ...but it's hard to make friends; i heard someone say it's because of all the Scandinavians and Asians who've always lived here — maybe; Scandinavians can be cold and Asians are reserved; there are certainly more Asians now than 20 years ago — my girlfriend studies Japanese and she brought me with her to an open discussion they have every Wednesday night; i thought i wouldn't be welcomed since i don't speak Japanese, but there were people there happy to practice their English with me; it was really interesting — where will the next one be? — it changes each week, so i don't know — what time? — Wednesdays 5-7 — the first week of the quarter i'll be here, so if you go please wave to me so i could see what it's like; have you heard of the site improveverywhere.com? — sure, i know about it — i especially like what they did when they went to Grand Central Station in New York and all froze in place for 15 minutes — there's a Seattle chapter that did they same thing — really? — yeah, at Westlake; i don't think they're around anymore, though; the last thing they did was an advertising stunt for Adidas — if they do that kind of thing for money, that ruins it — i used to do things like that; i mean, try to break people's trance — what kinds of things did you do? — for example i would get together with a friend and he would stand on Red Square and I would stand nearby and pretend not to know him; then he would go up to someone and ask them where the library is and the person would tell him; and then i would come up and say to him: "No, the library's not there. He's lying to you."; and we would get in an argument and we liked to try to see how long we could keep it going — that's great; what other kinds of things did you do? — i used to ride the bus and i'd pick a random spot on the ceiling and point to it to see how many people i could get to look up at it; i can't remember the other things i used to try to do — what is that? [i point to the photograph he's holding] — this is a photograph of the tunnel right under this tree; well, under the Quad anyway over there [points to a spot in the middle of the Quad] — why does it not look like a photograph to me? — because it's an HDR photo — High Definition something? — no, High Dynamic Range; it's a composite of many photos taken at different exposures so everything is very clear; you know, if you take a picture of your living room on a sunny day, at one exposure you can see the things in the room but the window looks completely white — right — well, i would then take a photo of the window with the proper exposure to make it clear and then i put all the pictures together to make a single photo — can i ask you a question about Blu-Ray films? — ok — i watched the Godfather not long ago on high definition television and it was very disturbing to me what it looked like; the high definition made the film look like a made-for-TV film; things were too clear — i think what's important is not whether it's on Blu-Ray but how the movie was originally filmed; what happens is when you look at something, what you're focused on is very clear, but what's in the background is very fuzzy; but with these films everything is clear — but it looked very unnatural to me; that's not the way the world looks when i look at it — but you could focus on any individual object and make it clear if you wanted — i guess; do you go in the tunnel system under the university a lot? — yes; i'm not supposed to, but i do; you'd be surprised how much access you have — you mean you could blow up any of the buildings if you wanted to? — not that; i mean you can get in any of the buildings if you know the trick — so you could steal, say, all the computers from one of the buildings — you could; i don't do that and wouldn't tell anybody how to do that because if it happened then i wouldn't be able to go in the tunnels anymore — i know in Moscow, Russia there's a group of people who call themselves diggers who explore the spaces underneath the city; they say they know more about it than the municipal government; is it possible you know more than the university authorities? — no, the maintenance guys who work under there know the tunnels pretty well — i've heard that in Paris it's fashionable to go under the city and that they've made a movie theater under there — in New York there are people living in some of the closed subway stations; i think there are something like seven layers of underground tunnels and even caves in New York — so is it homeless people living there? — mainly it's people on drugs; there was a book written about the people who live there called "The Mole People" and they made a documentary about them called "Dark Days"; and the film about how they made the documentary is actually more interesting than the documentary — [long silence] — [he says:] you looked like you were thinking about something deeply — the place where you're standing; someone came up to me and smoked me up right here on the Quad — really? — it was cool; anyway, after that i convinced myself that i was standing on buried treasure or a time capsule; stomp on the ground there — [he does] — do you hear that noise? — yes, but it would be the same anywhere — try over here — you're right; the sound is different — i don't know when i could dig up the spot, though — you'd have to come on campus on a Sunday and wear the clothes the maintenance workers wear — i guess i would...

3:50-4:43 a girl sits on the Quad and strokes her pet rabbit

4:13-4:43 Fred comes up
— i just got out of a final for computer science — how was it? — really easy; there was just one question that was new and it was easy too; where were you last week?; i looked for you — the weather was so bad i decided to stay home; half as many people walk by when it rains; do you think people cut class when it rains? — i try not to; maybe some people do; it's also possible people walk through buildings — is that possible? — yes; i know because i play humans versus zombies — you mean with the dart guns? — right — there was controversy over that, wasn't there? — yes, there was; like after you play the game you inevitably become a serial killer — what do you think about today's sign? — a friend of mine says there is no such thing as time — i know people who think that too; that time is not what we think it is; maybe all moments of time are happening at the same time — i looked at your blog finally; you say on there somewhere you predicted the future? — no, on the day i stood with the sign "COME UP IF YOU KNEW ME IN ANOTHER LIFE" i had memory of having dreamt previously about several things that happened on that day; the closest i've come to predicting the future is when i was about to get on the subway in Moscow, Russia; i had a feeling i was going to run into this woman i hadn't seen or thought about much for two or three years and after i got on and the train and went a stop i saw her — wow; are there people who can see into the future? — there are people who say they can; people like remote viewers — who are they? — people the government uses to see things at a distance; they can also see through time; in fact, when they see things at a distance they often get it wrong because they see what used to be there or what is going to be there instead of what's there at the moment; the movie "Men Who Stare At Goats" with George Clooney is about those guys — let me text my friend and ask him if he's seen the movie [texts title of film] — it's a stupid movie; the US says they discontinued the program, though i bet they still do research; they use people like that In China, Russia and Hungary too — is it possible to learn how to do remote viewing? — yes, you can improve natural ability; i don't know the specific techniques, but i know they involve quieting the mind and freeing it from the normal, everyday chatter — quieting the mind; is maybe the fact that there is no time why it's possible for people to see into the future? — i think you're right — sometimes things will happen and i'll say "hey, i knew that was going to happen" but my friends don't believe me — even if you wrote it down beforehand they probably still wouldn't believe you — probably — they'd say it was just a coincidence — probably — i think the reason probably is that when things like that happen when you're a kid people never treat it seriously; they react to it as if it's not real or just ignore it altogether — i think you're right — there are no classes in school on ESP — do you think everybody has the ability to see into the future? — i think probably they do — would that be connected with the nature of time as being moments happening simultaneously? — yes, i think you're right; i read that if they find the Higg's boson at the Hadron collider it will create particles which will travel forward or backward in time so that it will be possible to transmit information into the future — wow; do you believe in 2012? — what do you mean? — i mean the idea that there will be a lot of natural disasters, like the earthquakes and the financial crisis — i think it's possible but not inevitable; i do know that they can cause earthquakes to happen — oh, my god; is that true? — yes; that doesn't mean that they necessarily did that, but they can; just google "HAARP"; they won't tell you about that in class because they professors would lose their jobs — they would — or, if they have tenure, they'd simply be so discredited that no one would sign up for their classes anymore; but i can say it; i believe the financial crisis was orchestrated; the people who control the money control what goes on in the world; but i think the people at the very top are not doing what they do for the money — they've got so much of it already — exactly; i think they see that presidents have two- or three-year time horizons at best and they're thinking 50 and 100 years ahead at the problems that will come up and they've taken it upon themselves to deal with them; but of course no one knows their names; if you want to stay in power you can't let anyone know who you are — how confident are you that this is true? — maybe 80% — i haven't talked to anybody about this yet but i'm thinking maybe i don't need a college degree — how much more time to you have? — i'm a freshman; i may still apply to the computer science program; the thing is i don't really need a lot of money; TV for example would be on the bottom of my list of what i would need; i just need a computer with the internet, a small apartment, food and maybe a new shirt once in awhile; i feel like you and i are often on the same wavelength (i like that expression, "on the same wavelength") about a lot of things, but i'm different than you; when i had the free time i wouldn't spend it on asking about God or reading about philosophy; i'd just want to work at, say, a store or in a stockroom and in my spare time be comfortable — that's kind of how i lived, not worrying so much about money or a career; it works for me; that's also why it's so hard to get a job as a librarian, because everybody wants the job — i figure i could make minimum wage and retire at 60 and just live modestly — i know about one guy who lives in a cave; a couple of years ago he decided he wanted to live completely without money; so if someone gives him money he gives it away; he has a blog he keeps when he goes to the public library; he eats things like roadkill and mushrooms; one thing he did do before he got rid of all his money was he bought a small portable stove or heater — yes, i think we're given hands for us to use to make things like stoves, so i don't think there's anything wrong with taking advantage of that ability to make a stove — i think his point, though, was to see if it could be done and prove it to himself and others; living completely without money; i also heard about a guy in England who was rich but decided to walk to Afghanistan without any money or credit cards to see if he could get enough along the way from people he meets to be able to eat; i read about him a few years ago; i don't know where he is now or if he ever made it to Afghanistan — maybe he's dead somewhere — maybe — so i'm thinking i could work in a stockroom somewhere and learn about things in my own way — some of the most intelligent people i know don't read books at all; you could sweep the floor and try to become one with it; it could be like a Zen practice; like the Buddhists who, before painting a tree, spends 20 years becoming the tree; and then when he finally gets around to painting it it's like a self-portrait — have you heard about the debate about net neutrality? — what about it exactly? — they're trying to close the internet — it doesn't surprise me; they've been trying for ten years...

March 28, 2011 (Monday)


Time: Stood from 11:05am to 6:42pm with no breaks

Approximate time spent talking with people: 3 hours, 22 minutes

Other signs on the Quad: about 20 signs of the American Cancer Society were up with different messages on each side, e.g. "Parents who smoke can be role models by quitting."; near the George Washington statue there were people with signs reading: "STOP CRUELTY TO ANIMALS".

11:09-11:17 Keola, an Asian American of Japanese descent, comes up
— i like your sign — do you think it's true? — definitely; there are all sorts of rules in society that they try to get us to follow all the time; i want to be free to do whatever i want when i want — should there be any limits on freedom? — no, there shouldn't be any limits; standing by this sign talking to people is much more interesting than sitting in a boring class falling asleep; i'm surprised more people don't come up to you — i've only been out here for five minutes — oh; your sign is not really radical, but this is the kind of thing people should be talking about; i mean i see the people walking by with their headphones on rushing to class; i mean it's fun [to wear headphones], but they're not really noticing what's going on around them; they're not really learning — i'd love to see the Quad filled with people learning from each other — i would too — have you seen my other signs? — no, i'm new this quarter — what do you study? — i didn't go to school last quarter so i could start my own business; this quarter i'm only taking art history — what is your business, if i may ask? — of course; i run a movie rental service; i have a film library and i charge anyone who wants to pays me a flat fee of $20 and i go and buy whatever food in the U[niversity] District they want; i know students are basically lazy and they'd rather sit in their dorm rooms — is your business successful? — yes, it is — i'll be leaving soon and i'd like for someone else to do what i've done; it's a rewarding experience, if you have the time — i'll do it...

11:29-11:31 a guy comes up
— what does your sign mean? — do you think it's true or not true? — on the one hand it's true because, although we're freer politically than people in many other countries, maybe we're less free than we used to be; but we have free will

11:35 a guy walking by nods in agreement

11:37-11:56 Perry, a guy, comes up
— i wanted to ask about your signs — what did you think when you saw this one? — i thought, "Great, sign guy is back"; i saw your blog on facebook — do you think the sign is true? — i think [given] the way were are raised, we perceive things in a certain way that it's hard to free ourselves from — is it possible to help people to see the limitations of their perception? — it's hard; for example someone's grandparents can be prejudiced against blacks and they won't listen to another opinion — let's say someone is prejudiced against blacks; how would you go about changing their perception? — if they have a stereotype about blacks as being all poor, i would show them a rich black person — is it possible they might think that that person is just an exception to the rule? — it's possible — how would you prove to them the stereotype is wrong? — i would show them more examples — let me ask you this; if your grandparents all their lives have experienced interaction with people of a certain race and all those people of that race they have met have acted a certain way, is it right to say their stereotype is wrong if it conforms to 100% to their experience? — i understand that; i think you would have to show them that things can change; they would have to have an open mind — are there any limitations on how open-minded one should be? — do you mean if you're too open minded you could go insane? — i didn't think about that — i think some people need there to be something they KNOW is real, like this ground is real — would you be willing to question whether this ground exists at all?; like in the Buddhist sense that everything is an illusion? — yes, i would be willing to question that — what about this example: i have a friend who's white but her husband is black and her children are of mixed race; she wanted to put them in a daycare and she asked the teachers at the daycare if there would be any discrimination against them; the teachers there said they were very tolerant and that they even had girls who liked to do boys things and that they accepted such "transgender" children (these are five- and six-year-old children) and read them books about how it's okay to be transgender; do you think by doing so they were being open-minded? — i think they were being open-minded; a person should be allowed to express their essence the way it is — what if my essence was to be autoerotic; would it be okay for me to masturbate in the classroom? — this is really stretching my mind — do you think there are some values which are universal? — do you mean the debate of nature vs. nurture? — that too — i think you should have the right to express yourself but not if it is unacceptable to other people according to the culture you're in; i think you need to respect people's cultural prefernces; i'm not expressing myself well right now — i can't ever say what i mean exactly either; when i listen to you i'm thinking beyond your words to try to understand the meaning you're trying to convey; what do you think about the practice of female genital mutilation in Africa; do you think that's a cultural tradition that should be tolerated? — this is really stretching my brain; is that something that's really widespread? — i don't know how widespread it is; do you think it's okay for women in Muslim countries to be forced to wear the burqa? — yes, because they like wearing it...

12:20 Oleg [see March 17 @ 2:45] walks by
— Mr. Kevin — hello, Oleg — not yet — meaning?.. [i later understood that he meant we're not yet free]

12:26 an Asian guy takes a photo of the sign

12:35 an elderly man with his wife takes a photo of the sign

12:51 a guy with his fingers in his ears (there was loud equipment trimming branches off a nearby cherry tree) walks by, saying angrily:
— YOU are not free; who are you to tell me i'm not free?; i'm free; i'm free! — [i smile back, sincerely happy he asserts he is free]

1:02 the girl who bought me coffee [see February 28 @ 5:32] waves at me while walking by; her two girlfriends appear to chide her for doing so

1:11 a guy on a bike stops and waits to photograph the sign until he thinks i'm not looking and won't notice

1:17-1:19 Jeremy comes up
— i don't have much time; i wanted to come up to see your sign; it's connected with what i've been reading; it's a book called "What the Buddha Taught"; it says we have no free will because everything is relative; it's all bound by what happened before and what will happen in the future; freedom is defined by its absence; even "will" can't really exist; i'll come up tomorrow — ok

1:25 Keola waves at me while walking by with a friend

1:46 a guy comes up

2:00 an Asian girl films me and the sign briefly with a video camera

2:04-2:05 two black guys come up
— what does your sign mean? — what does it mean to you? — i want to know what you meant by it — i didn't intend it to mean any one thing; different people have had different opinions about what it means; do you think it's true? — i am free because i can go to class or not; but i have to do what my parents want me to do; what did you mean by it? — i would say it is true and not true; i would say that if you know you're not free, then you're already free — alright, yeah...

2:15 a guy who came up before [see March 2 @ 3:23] comes up
— i'm sorry i didn't come back and tell you about my friend — so what happened to him? — i couldn't get a hold of him; i guess he probably got on a bus and rode south through the Sahara; that probably happened because he was near a military base that got bombed to smithereens; if i find out i'll let you know — ok [he touches me on the arm just before walking away]

2:33 a man takes a photo of the sign

2:34 a girl walking by says "Hey"

2:36-2:37 a guy comes up
— do you think the sign is true? — yes; they track us all the time; we have to pay taxes...

2:38-3:21 Will comes up
— hey, Will — hi, Kevin — did you see the anti-smoking sign here [it reads: Parents who smoke can be role models by quitting."]? — if you hadn't mentioned them i never would have noticed them; i simply don't see them — i wouldn't see them either, but it's important for me to note what other signs are displayed in this area; someone told me about my sign "DON'T THINK" that they thought it was making a political statement just because a lot of political signs are displayed here; i've heard that people didn't start dying from lung cancer in large numbers until they were told that smoking causes lung cancer — i believe it — a friend of mine said if he hadn't satrted smoking in college, he wouldn't have made any friends — i can see that; there's a place in that corner [by the newspaper stand] where people who smoke hang out and talk — do you smoke marijuana? — when i was in high school people i know smoked so i tried it once; time just passed slowly without anything special happening — i realize marijuana is not for some people because it just makes them lazy; but other people i think it helps; pot helps me to hear thoughts of mine i wouldn't otherwise hear; and it helped me to become less uptight — i stopped being uptight by using positive thinking and confidence in self; i stopped caring about what people thought of me; before i did that, i was afraid to talk to people and afraid of being called stupid — i don't like the strict anti-smoking laws; they remind me of seat-belt laws — i don't see why i can't take the risk of being killed if it's my choice; after graduation i didn't go to college; the last three years of high school seemed to me just to be a rehash of junior high, so i stopped caring and my grades went down; so i travelled around; i went to Mexico and Nicaragua; things there are very different; the one thing you don't notice about Seattle unless you've been abroad is how quiet it is here; in Central America there is a lot of noise; the airports are very loud, but when you get back to Seattle everything is completely quiet; people in San Francisco are not as polite as people in Seattle, but you can walk down the street and make two friends; i found people to be really different in different places; people in California are different from people in Seattle, and people in Texas are different; there're more slow and down-to-earth — where did you grow up? — in Texas — i did too; i grew up in Austin — i would have given anything to have been able to grow up in Austin; i grew up in Odessa; out in the middle of nowhere; an oil down with nothing but flat prairie as far as the eye can see — how is it that you don't have a Texas accent? — my mom has a really strong accent; when i left i got rid of my accent; why don't you have an accent? — my parents weren't from Texas and i didn't want to acquire one; i used to do something that made people laugh; you take any work of difficult philosophy, say Kant or Hegel, and read it with a Texas accent; it makes anything sound ridiculous — yes; if you have a Texas accent people automatically think you're stupid — i remember some folk wisdom in Texas, but i remember a lot of people celebrating their own ignorance; i wrote about you on my site — i'll have to check it out; i'm going to make copies of this book called "Evasion"; it's written by an interesting guy; it's kind of like Kerouac's "On the Road"; there's a way you can make free copies at the library — i assume some day everything will be free — it should be; i don't believe in intellectual copyright laws; i think it was Picasso who said: "Bad artists imitate; good artists steal." — i think if something were completely original, nobody would understand it — yes — i don't mind people copying what i've written, but i wouldn't want them to change it without my permission — i have a newspaper box i want to put out and leave free copies of "Evasion" in for people to take — have you heard of something called the book exchange? — what's that? — i heard about it in Eastern Europe; maybe they do it in Western Europe too; people who have read a book will leave it somewhere in a public place and maybe write something in it like a message to the next reader — i haven't heard of that, but that's something i do; hey, i have a card here that gets me a free cup of coffee; would you like one? — yes, please [he comes back 10 minutes later] i didn't know if you were allergic to milk or lactose intolerant... — i'm not — ...so i got you coffee with soy milk — thanks a lot — i see a lot of Christians to be like children; they say "if you don't do this you're going to hell..."; but the New Age people are better; they say things like: "This is true, but you don't have to believe it" — some people take things so literally; some people came up to me when i had the "IS THIS SIGN ANTI-SEMITIC?" sign and stood and seriously pondered whether such a sign could be anti-semitic; but often people have opened up to me; i think it's very disarming that they see that i'm genuinely interested in what they have to say...

3:29-4:30 a guy comes up
3:32-4:45 a guy comes up
3:45-5:07 Aaron comes up
— i'm curious about your signs — have you seen my other signs? — yes; i assumed you were a professor conducting an experiment — no, i'm doing this entirely on my own initiative; what do you study? — i study math and linguistics — what about it in particular is of interest to you? — many things; for example, that the language we speak influences how we think — there are words that just don't translate into other languages; in Inuit there is a word that means "to go out of the igloo to see if someone is coming"; but it means much more than that — it's referring to the entire process — right; in Russian there is a word "todska" — "toska"; i speak Russian; that word is very hard to translate — what does it mean? — it can have different meanings; it can refer to boredom in the sense of ennui; it can mean a sense of longing as in longing to return to one's homeland or missing a loved one; it can be both a positive and negative emotion at the same time; they say that when you're sad, the emotion is unpleasant, but it's a deeper emotion that simply being happy, so it is a richer emotion, so it has value; have you heard about the tribe in South America whose language is so different, it doesn't conform to Chomsky's rules of universal grammar? if the people who speak the language don't see something, then for them it doesn't exist — do you mean pirahã? — yes — that's very interesting; i think the only way for someone to learn the language would to be to go there when they're a child and grow up speaking it; but the only problem would be that the child would also know Spanish or English, so would they really know the limitations on thought imposed by speaking only that language? — i don't know; maybe not; i know a guy who was raised in America by parents who'd grown up in Germany; they decided not to speak German with him becuase they didn't want him to grow up thinking in the German way; he regrets it now, since his German is not very good; i had an idea for a new kind of machine translation and wanted to know if you'd heard of any such idea being worked on; what i think it would be good to do would be to create a set of pictograms or ideograms, like hieroglyphs, which would express all the basic concepts we express with language; it would be responsibility of anyone who composes a text in their native language to make sure the machine translation of their text into ideograms is correct; then, if a machine were translating the text into another language, it would have the ideograms to work with to make sure there were no distortions of meaning, along with the original text; perhaps also words or phrases could be marked with tags indicating whether they were sarcastic, ironic, puns, or whatever — it sounds like a good idea; i don't know if it could be implemented— i find very interesting the idea expressed in esoteric literature that language appeared specifically to allow people to talk about their dreams; when awake you can point at things or make gestures, but not to tell about a dream; and if we did not possess telepathy (even though we don't know we do), we wouldn't understand anything anybody said — i believe only the physical is real — what about the idea of action at a distance? when a change in one electron effects another electron at a distance instantaneously? — i think something is happening that we simply can't explain yet — how do you explain the observer problem in science, that when you send electrons through slits, the pattern of light that appears on the wall will be different depending on whether you measure it or not? — when you observe something you're having a physical effect — i see — electro-magnetic waves have a reality, but not abstract ideas like "justice" — there was a postcard on the site postsecret.com that read something like: "People envy me because I can read people's thoughts, but they don't know how terrible is it having that ability" — so do you think people in the future will be telepathic? — yes, i do; and that wouldn't bother me; i don't mind that fact that people have negative thoughts about me; acceptance of that will have to precede the opening up of telepathic abilities — are you part of the Zeitgiest movement? — do you meant what this man Celente came up with? — i don't remember his name; the man who talks about using technology to solve economic problems — i think the future belongs not to technology, but consciousness; that changes will be spiritual, not technological — i didn't get good grades last quarter and that doesn't really bother me, but i know i have to focus because my parents do care; they pay for my education; i don't have to work; if not they won't pay for me to go to study in Turkey next year; do you know something about theosophy? — a little — it's interesting to me because there is no single man who is the head of the church — do you know the story of Krishnamurti? — no — Annie Besant and Leadbeater about 80 years ago came to know of a boy named Jiddhu Krishnamurti in India; they brought him to Oxford and educated him and planned for him to become the new maitreya when he reached the appropriate age; on the day when he was to assume the title, he was presented to his followers and he told them they did not need a guru, they did not need anyone telling them what to believe or how to act; you can imagine the disappointment on the part of those who'd worked so hard preparing him to assume the title; and Krishnamurti spent the rest of his life traveling around the world giving talks to people and answering their questions; transcripts of his lectures are a great pleasure to read, because he is so polite and cultured and respectful, even when responding to questions that are completely stupid — Alice Bailey says the next maitryea will come in 2025 — other sources say the equivalent of the second coming will happen in 2075-80 at the time when science will discover proof of the existence of the soul — do you believe in 2012? — i don't know; i think that it is possible for an alignment of all the planets which coincides with an alignment of the galaxy to have an effect...

5:09 a guy walking by gives me the thumbs up

5:29 a girl takes a photo of the sign

5:30-6:40 Eric comes up, a guy from Utah via Port Orchard, Washington who spoke with a slight accent and made strange mistakes (in the governance of verbs and other minor "mistakes")
— what do you mean by your sign? — do you think it's true? — i think people tend to give up all of their power to the state — they deliberately disempower themselves because they're in a media-induced trance — right; i think you can divide the people who see that into two groups: (1) those who know most people are in a trance but say, "Fuck those idiots who are in a trance; I'll get as much as I can for myself" and (2) those who say, "I'll do whatever I can to help [break the trance]" — what do you study? — Chinese; i've spent time living in China — what was it like? — they have more economic freedom; i'm talking about entrepreneurs; there aren't as many laws limiting what they can do; and they're a little embarrassed about that and consider themselves maybe a little backwards and behind other countries because they don't have a lot of traffic laws we have; but in China there are so many people they can't really dictate all their actions; probably their worse human rights violations are the forced abortions; but even in the cities, the limit of one child per family is difficult to impose; in fact, from what i observed people just ignored laws and the regime altogether until a law finally makes its way down to coming into force seemingly out of nowhere— where did you live in China — in a city in the Szechuan province — i have friends who considered going to China to teach English; do you think it's a good idea? — yes, i do; China is very interesting; especially for foreigners; many rich people want foreign private English tutors and there are companies in China who pay foreigners just to come to the office and walk around in a suit because it brings them a good reputation and prestige — is it possible to live and get around there without knowing Chinese? — it depends on where you are; the closer you are to the coast, the easier it is to get by knowing only English; a good idea for someone wanting to go there would be to first go to Taiwan and spend six months there, where you can get by easily with only English and learn the language; i want to work hard on my Chinese now and go back; i want to improve my knowledge of the partucular Szechuan dialect; people there are very impressed if you know words specific to Szechuan; there is a strange language barrier and people who know some English say things that sound strange — what would be an example? — for example, one time i was lying in my hammock reading a book and a friend said to me, "I really appreciate the way you live your life", which sounded really strange; they have a word they use: "li hai" which is hard to translate; i guess i would say it means "cool"; it's important to be cool; so, for example, something strange for us is that in China a simple item of clothing will either be dirt cheap and of low quality and unfashionable or it will cost $300; there are no clothes like you find in Walmart here because they're all exported here; so Chinese people who come here to study eventually stop worrying so much about the brands of clothes they wear because they get used to our way of doing things — when they go back do they take the habits they picked up here with them? — when they go back they have to return to the old ways at least until they get married — what are relationships between the sexes like? do people have relationships before they marry? — it depends on how far you are from the cities; things in the countryside are more conservative and traditional; in the cities there are a lot of dating clubs, which are funny to go to; you hear Lady Gaga blasting over speakers at full volume and see couples paired up sitting at tables and mostly staring at their cell phones because they're too shy to do anything else; one thing was strange for me: young people whose parents have a lot of money will visit prostitutes three or four times a month; so i will sometimes overhear conversations between a guy and his friends and they compare prostitutes from one city with prostitutes from another and the guy whose mother is the police chief tells his friends they should go to the brothel tonight because he knows there won't be any police raids; but the rich people who are older, who became rich through hard work, are very different; i know multi-millionaires who will eat at cheap, ordinary outdoor cafes with ordinary people; they don't feel the need to flaunt their wealth and family is still what's important to them — is it still true that children must do what their parents tell them to do? — filial piety is very important — do people use drugs? — rich people use cocaine; i remember one time i was out on a date and the girl used a lot of cocaine and was coming on to me and drank too much and was puking; it was almost a case of date rape on her part — do people smoke marijuana? — it grows in many places but i don't know if people smoke it — is it illegal to smoke it? — i don't know; i think the laws on cocaine are very strict; you say you lived in Russia? — yes, i lived in Moscow for 20 years — if you lived there for 20 years it would seem that you'd want to live there since probably most of your friends are there — i plan to go back in a week — i see; what is Russia like? — Russia is between Europe and Asia; mostly Russians try to be Western and are ashamed of their Asian side, but i think it's that that ives them many rich and interesting aspects of their character and culture; they tend to go to extremes: for example, for a certain period of time they will think everything in the West is better and try to become just like the West; then they go 180 degrees in the opposite direction and try to rid themselves of everything Western...

March 29, 2011 (Tuesday)

Message: YOUR THOUGHTS REFLECTED HERE [written in mirror image]

Time: Stood from 11:03 am to 6:22pm with no breaks

Approximate time spent talking with people: 3 hours, 25 minutes

Other signs on the Quad: about 20 signs of the American Cancer Society were up with different messages on each side, e.g. "Parents who smoke can be role models by quitting."; for the first two hours two men handed out flyers and held a sign reading: "Invisible Children Help Silent War Tonight 7:00 Kane 120 TONY” [advertising a film about children abducted in West Africa and forced to fight in wars; the flyer handed out adds: “Join the Invisible Children Chapter of UW and Theta Xi Fraternity for the movie premier of TONY, the story of a young man forced into a world of endless violence and despair as a child soldier. Chance to get a FREE Invisible Children T-shirt, DVD, or Bag!”]; from 1:15-2:00 the Lyndon LaRouche people stood by a table with their literature and signs reading: "END BRITISH OCCUPATION DUMP OBAMA" and "IS CALIFORNIA NEXT? [referring to earthquakes]"

11:32-11:34 Tiffany, an Asian American girl, comes up
— i have to get to class right now but i really wanted to chat about yesterday's and today's signs — i will be here all day — will you be here tomorrow? — yes — i wanted to ask, is there something philosophical behind your signs? — is there anything in the world that there's not something philosophical behind? — i guess not; by any chance have you read Eckhart Tolle? — what did he write? — i don't remember the name of the book; he sat on a bench for a long time and philosophized — i've read some esoteric literature — i'll come up tomorrow — ok

11:39-11:50 Emilio, a guy, comes up
— i'm curious about your signs — have they meant anything to you? — i study political science so some of them attracted my attention, but i didn't really think about their meaning; i don't like to judge things at first glance, which is why i wanted to come up to talk to you; what does your sign mean? — i'd rather have you say what you think first; i don't want to prejudice your judgment — let me take out my earphones — you don't have to — i'm not listening to music, but some people consider it rude if you talk to them with earphones in your ears; your sign might mean people should think about their own thoughts; they should see them here and reflect upon them; it's an introspective and ironic and aesthetic sign; why did you write it with Husky colors? — actually my motivation in using purple was not related to UW colors — i think that when people see the color of the letters, they might think that what they learned is reflected on the sign and they should think about it — i think what is dishonest about the university is that maybe not explicitly but implicitly the university tells students that if they get a degree that's all they need to know; they can stop studying after that — i wouldn't agree that that's said explicitly, but maybe implicitly, at least for the hard sciences; a degree means you are qualified to work in the sciences; i think for people in the social sciences they know they should go on to get a Ph.D. — but i know people with Ph.D.'s who are idiots and people who don't read books at all who are smart — i do too; i'm thinking maybe the fact that the words on your sign are backwards means that everything students have learned at the university they have backwards

12:11-12:12 a stocky Asian American comes up
— i'm curious about your signs — do they have any meaning to you? — not really, i'm just curious why you're here? — i don't really have any overriding goal; i'm interested to hear what people have to say about things — ok, bye

12:30-12:50 Keola comes up
— thanks for “liking” my facebook page — no problem; you do know, though, that the link i put on my page to yours will only work for people who have a facebook account? — yes, i know that; i want to make an independent page; i don’t really like facebook, but it brings me business; your sign is a work of art; i like to do social experiments too; i never carry a backpack when i walk across the campus; everyone who i see here has a backpack or a bag, but i deliberately never have one; another thing i do is walk as slow as i can; sometimes people complain, but i don’t care; another thing i do is give random compliments to girls; i’ll say something like “i like your sweater” or “those shoes look nice”; at first some people got upset; but now, sometimes people like it – people here are very alienated from each other — we have to be patient with people; guys don’t talk to girls out of fear; i think guys and girls can be friends; girls are cool people — people are in a media-induced hypnotic trance; i thought 9/11 would be a wake-up call to people — it wasn’t; i’d like to go to China or Japan — do you speak Japanese? — i learned it at school, but just off and on and i can’t really speak it; i’d like to start an exodus from the US; i think you should put up a sign that says “Free cookies”; that will get people to come up — i don’t want to do anything like that — it’ll work; everyone likes getting something free — in general i don’t like the idea of competition; i’m not trying to be better than anyone else; i’m just trying to be better than i myself was yesterday — i don’t mind competition; i can beat out any competition; i really like being my own boss — are you going to the film “Invisible Children” tonight? — i saw the sign — i don’t see why, instead of complaining about children being forced to fight in wars there can’t be a general movement against war in general; it reminds me of the left-wing rhetoric against the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 when the protesters argued against the “racist” war; every war is racist — at least the fact that it talks about children will mean more people will think about the problem; it’s bad that it’s sponsored by a fraternity which will get money from it; they ought to give the money to the people who really need it
[Keola waves to a girl and gets her attention] — who was that? — i don’t know, but i got her to look — tomorrow’s sign could get me into trouble; they might escort me off campus — what’s the sign going to be? — [I tell him] — great, i’ll come; i want to get kicked off campus; what time will you be here — i get here about 11 — i can’t be here; i have a meeting until 12 — ok, then i’ll wait for you; but i have to put it up no later than 12:15, because that’s the main rush of the day and i want a lot of people to see it — ok, i’ll definitely come — if they do kick us off, the whole world will find out about it; i trace who reads my blog and it’s read by people on every continent except Antarctica...

1:00-1:08 two guys come up; only one speaks
— we're interested in your signs — what does this one mean to you? — it means that i'm supposed to come up and say something to you like "i hate blacks" and you give the opposite — do you hate blacks? — no, i just wanted to say something controversial — is there something you hate or would like to say? — i guess i would say i hate it when people use the word "gay" to mean "stupid" — why? — when i was 15-16 i used to call people "fags" and call things "gay", but when i got to college i realized that was very offensive to some people; i wouldn't want someone to use the phrase "man with black shoes" to mean "stupid" because i wear black shoes; have you had anyone come up to you and say something hateful? — no, it's pleasant for me to say no one has said anything hateful; people have gotten offended at my sign "DON"T THINK", and "I AM NOT GAY" — i know about that — when i had the sign "IS THIS SIGN ANTI-SEMITIC?" one Jewish woman said she found it disturbing in a way she couldn't explain that i as a non-Jew with stand next to such a sign — i can see why someone might think that; what did you mean with today's sign? — i wanted people to think about the idea that because language does not belong to only one person alone, however hard i might try it would be impossible for me to say something that would be completely unambiguous; the meaning any phrase might have is colored by the thoughts of the person reading the phrase — i didn't even think of the fact that the words were a mirror image; i remember when i was young i used to look in the mirror and try to decide which way to part my hair; but when i parted it to the left, other people saw it as being parted to the right — so how did you resolve the issue for yourself? — i started looking at photographs — so how we see ourselves is different from the way other people see us — so your sign to the tree would be the right way — or to someone behind the tree if the sign were transparent...

1:25 a guy takes a photo

1:26 a guy comes up
— i've seen your signs and wanted to come up to you; what did your sign about TV mean? — did you think about it? — yes, i did; but i couldn't figure out what it meant; maybe that because it's here it wouldn't be shown on TV — actually, ironically it was shown on TV; if you google "signs on the quad" you can look at my blog and read about what the sign meant there — thanks

1:38-1:41 I go up to the table and talk with one of the Larouche people
— can i take some of your literature? — yes, here you are [i'm given two sheets of paper with two articles: "Earthquake Threat: Defend California!" and "LaRouche PAC Press Release: Earthquakes, the Sun, and Japan"] — are you sure the earthquakes were natural? — yes — i have read something different... — i know that's wrong — but if i myself have actually read something, how can you know such a text doesn't exist? — it was a magnitude 9.0 earthquake; we don't have nuclear weapons powerful enough to create such an earthquake; if we did we'd have colonies on the moon...— are you sure we don't have colonies on the moon? — listen to me... — why should i listen to you if you don't listen to me? — because i've heard and know all the arguments: FOX, and all those; i know the truth — may i take a photo of your sign? — sure — good luck to you

1:45-1:59 Nav and a friend with high-powered cameras come up
— we've been following your blog; we thought at first your signs were weird but now they've become casual; i liked yesterday's sign — what did it make you think? — i think we are not free in the sense that there are laws and society has rules it makes us follow, but still people are still free to create their own perception and be happy, even in a communist country — what about the idea that people are raised to have a certain perception of things; is it possible to free oneself from that? — i think people are domesticated... — by "domesticated' do you mean "socialized"? — yes, they're raised up [sic] in a certain way, but they can take actions that could enable them to become free of how they were raised up — one man yesterday was offended by the sign "YOU ARE NOT FREE"; he said: "Who are you to say I'm not free? I'm free!" — we watched the interview and remember people were offended by the "I AM NOT GAY" sign; you were just stating a fact with that sign; you could just as easily have made a sign: "I AM A MIDDLE-AGED WHITE MALE" — i actually thought about doing a sign like that — that wouldn't have offended anyone — i think some people, though, might have thought i was a white supremacist — maybe; we actually came up because we wanted your take on a project we're working on; we're asking people how they would complete the phrase: "History is..." — kind of like Henry Ford said: "History is bunk"? — yes; we want to make a film on that topic — i had a sign the other day that said "THERE IS NO TIME: YESTERDAY IS STILL HERE TOMORROW IS ALREADY" — yes, we know about the sign — if i were teaching history the first thing i would ask my students to think about would be what in their world today will be considered significant to historians 10, 20 and 100 years from now; do you remember that project Life magazine or Time did 15 or 20 years ago when they gave ordinary people around the world cameras and had them take pictures on the same day and then compiled them into a record of that day as seen by people around the world? — yes, i vaguely remember that — well, if you're talking about time, maybe you could film a lot of people's recollections of a single event that all experienced in order to compare; but i guess that's been done before; or maybe you could interview people's predictions about what will happen during an event they are all supposed to participate in, and then, after the event, interview each of them about what happened to show how perceptions are different; is your film going to consist of just interviews? — no, we want to add other things; recently we drove around British Columbia and filmed ourselves doing different things — there's a group of students here who have the idea of being completely spontaneous, traveling around doing different things and filming it — that's exactly the idea we have — how would the footage of British Columbia fit in with your idea about history? — we don't know; we have some great footage, though; and there was one time we saw this field and spontaneously just got up and started running through it; it was great — did you film it? — no; we regret now that we didn't — that reminds me of Tom Wolfe; have you read "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test"? — no — it's a work of new journalism: people like Hunter Thompson and Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood"; Tom Wolfe traveled around with Ken Kesey and Neal Cassady (who is named Moriarty in Kerouac's "On the Road") and his “merry band of pranksters” in their bus; (there's even a film they made of the trip, which i haven't seen though) and recorded all the spontaneous things they did; at one point Kesey says to Tom: "Why don't you put down that notebook and just BE in the moment?"; Tom Wolfe put it down for about 8 seconds, and then picked it back up again; but i'm glad he did; otherwise we wouldn't have a record of what they did — yes, i've noticed that with this camera [points to camera around his neck] it's hard both to be in the experience and record it at the same time — wasn’t there a guy who installed a hidden camera in his glasses and went around filming everything he experienced? — yes, there was a guy who installed, like, 10 cameras on different parts of his body and recorded everything with a real-time downlink to the internet — was it interesting to watch? — yes, it was very interesting — have you heard about the way they’ve thought up of making people almost invisible? — no — they put camera on someone and project what is in front of him onto screens built in to the back of his clothes; so he’s not exactly invisible, but kind of like in the movie "Predator"; and then they have clothes which bend light so someone could literally be invisible — they probably haven’t done that yet — well, if they have we wouldn’t know — [they laugh] — do you think people are able to figure out what is written on my sign quickly? a lot of people walk by quickly and i don’t know if they read what’s on it — i read it right away; just for fun i often read things backwards — do you read them in such a way that, if you recorded yourself and played the recording back in reverse it would sound natural? — no, i haven’t — i heard about a guy who’s able to do that — we have to go — ok, good luck with your film — thanks

2:25-2:37 Christa, a girl, comes up
— i find your signs very thoughtful and i wanted to come up to talk to you — what does today's sign mean to you? — i would have to think about what the word "here" means; does it mean the Quad? the university? Seattle? i guess maybe the idea is that, wherever you are, your perception of that place and the experiences you have there will be colored by what your own thoughts are; why do you stand out with signs? do you have a goal? — i don't have any overriding goal — i'd like to do something without doing it for a specific purpose; i study computer science and everything i do has a purpose behind it; i'd like to do something just for myself, something out of the ordinary — i think there are a lot of things you could do on the internet; for example you could make up a rumor and trace how it spreads — that could be destructive — it could be an innocuous rumor, like "they found a green penguin in Antarctica" — i've been curious how things go viral; why do some videos become really popular, like those of an animal doing something funny, and others don't? — do you think maybe they appear at a time when nothing else is going on and so people watch them? — or maybe it's a time when a lot of serious, depressing things are happening and people want a distraction; i think maybe people who make the videos just get lucky and just the right person sees them and sends them to just the right people — do you think maybe someone is manipulating things so that certain videos become popular? — i don't know — why did Rebecca Black's video "Friday" become so popular? — i don't know what that is; in general i don't know a lot of pop culture things — i don't either; i usually find out about them after the fact — i do too — i have a friend who deliberately ignores anything connected with pop culture — i don't do that; i just don't find out about things that are going on; other people read those tech sites where they learn about things; i can't remember the names of the sites... — like boingboing? — i don't know that site — it's pretty interesting; do there now exist people who are considered internet archaeologists? — i don't know — the reason i ask is because i did something 10 years ago that i'm not supposed to talk about and didn't talk about for 6 years — maybe you shouldn't tell me — no, i can because i've already broken the silence about it; i created something i called a virtual entity; it was a text that, after i'd sent it from an internet cafe, i erased all trace of it on my computer; the idea was the text declared itself to be an independent, virtual entity possessing consciousness of self and an independent life by virtue of the fact that it did not have a creator; i tried to find it later but couldn't — did you try searching for it on google? — yes — what words did it have? — "virtual entity", “creator”, “consciousness of self", but i can't find it — where did you send it? — i posted it on the site indymedia.org; do you know that site? — no — it was popular among people who, for example, used it to organize protests in Washington DC on the day the US invaded Iraq; it's the kind of site with a lot of posts that i doubt archives all the old posts — you could try emailing them a request to help you find the text; also i know there are some sites where you can download complete old sites — i know about such sites

2:36-4:20 Fred comes up
— hi, Kevin — hey, Fred; what do you think about today’s sign? — i at first thought maybe it means you know what my thoughts are... — that’s interesting; i didn’t think of that — ...and you can reflect on it — here’s a question most people, even scientists, can’t answer: why is it that in a mirror your right hand becomes your left hand... — how is it that my right hand becomes my left hand? — if you think of your reflection as you, then the hand that the “you” in the mirror moves when you move your right hand is the left hand of the “you” in the mirror — i see; i didn’t think of it that way — i have a girlfriend who also doesn’t think of it that way; and in fact i think both of you are right; but the question, anyway is: if, when you look in a mirror, the right and left halves of your body are reversed, why is the image you see not upside down? — maybe because your brain inverts the image of things that your eye sees — you mean the idea that what you see is inverted and then interpreted by your brain in a way that lets you see the image right side up? — right; but on second thought, that can’t be the reason — it’s because of the way light is reflected; it causes there to be only a vertical axis of symmetry; the light gets reflected directly back to you — i think the reason people can’t answer the question is that they think too much; if they answered without thinking about it, they’d give the right answer — Fred, are you “TheNessman” [on reddit.com]? — yes; my last name is Ness — i read the comments on reddit.com by people about my signs and remembered it was you and i who talked about reddit; i tried to find you on facebook — i don’t really like facebook because of the control systems on it...

2:49 an Asian American girl who was walking by with two guys comes up
— did you know your sign is backwards? — it is? oh, my God — i have to go — thank you for telling me

[Fred speaks again] — that was strange — do you think she really thought i didn’t know the sign was backwards? — maybe she thought the letters bled through from the back — it was fun to say: “Oh my God, i didn’t notice” — i noticed that — do you think she was serious? — i think she probably knew; she was probably put up to it by her friends — she said it with a straight face; did you see her friends? were they laughing? — i didn’t see; i’m thinking about food and the effect it has on people – i think food is a drug — oh, my god; i was thinking the same thing but hadn’t put it into words — doesn’t food effect the way people think and feel? i know that coffee is much more addictive for many people than marijuana — i’m thinking maybe i should drink coffee because some days i have four classes in a row and it’s hard for me to stay awake; and i ate ice cream yesterday and realized how powerful a drug sugar is — you don’t eat sugar? — i haven’t eaten sugar or drunk soda pop or eaten meat for a year; i think in America people are addicted to meat — so what do you eat? — i eat granola for breakfast, for lunch i eat rice and beans and for dinner hummus and crackers; if you look in my fridge you’ll only find tomato soup, milk and yogurt — i have read that diet is another one of the systems used to control; others, in addition to the media, include music and even the sounds we hear — that makes me think of raves; they’re pretty addictive and powerful; but probably a football game has an even more powerful effect on the crowd...

4:41 the girl who bought me coffee [see February 28 @ 5:32] waves as she walks by

5:00-5:04 Michael, an Asian American guy, comes up
— i'm curious about your signs — do they have any meaning to you? — not really, i'm just curious why you're here? — i don't really have any overriding goal — what do you do? — i teach English in Eastern Europe — so you're an English teacher? — yes; if you're interested, i have a blog where i record responses to my signs — ok, thanks; i'll tell my friends...

6:00-6:20 Will and his girlfriend Holly come up
— hi, Will — this is Holly — nice to meet you — nice to meet you

March 30, 2011 (Wednesday)


1) YOUR THOUGHTS REFLECTED HERE [written in mirror image] (I stood with this sign for about an hour)


Time: Stood from 11:21 am to 5:10pm with no breaks

Approximate time spent talking with people: 3 hours, 53 minutes

Other signs on the Quad: about 20 signs of the American Cancer Society were up with different messages on each side, e.g. "Parents who smoke can be role models by quitting."

10:55 on the way to the cafe By George to make the sign I pass Jill [see January 6 @ 1:25]. We recognize and smile at each other

11:17 I get to the Quad but there is a class standing under the tree. They are counting and identifying the trees on the Quad.

11:21 I put out the sign "YOUR THOUGHTS REFLECTED HERE”

11:33 I overhear a conversation about my sign that takes place between two girls walking by:
— it's backwards — i know, i read it

11:35 Tiffany [see March 29 @ 11:32] walks by
— i actually have to run somewhere, but i'll come back — ok — stay warm — i'll try

12:08-12:15 David, the first guy I had a conversation with [see January 3 @ 3:00], stood on the other side of the tree from me smoking

12:13-12:18 Justin, a guy, comes up

12:17 I put up the "BEAT WOMEN..." sign

12:20-1:10 Keola comes up, wearing his backpack on his chest, and stands to the right of the sign while I stand in my usual place, to the left of the sign (from my point of view)
— Keola, you don’t have to stand right by the sign; i’m leaving the country in a few days, but you are taking classes — i don’t care; i want to get kicked off campus; i’m wearing my backpack in front instead of in back; i’m hoping to start a new trend; it gets stares when i wear it like this; it’s much more efficient this way; if i need to get something out of it, it’s easy to do because i don’t have to take it off before taking out what i need — i’ve heard the most efficient way to carry heavy things is by distributing the weight equally between your front and back — maybe i should walk leaning backwards like this [he shows how that would look]; i have a friend going to college in Boise, Idaho who hates studying; i thought i could do write his papers for him so that i’d get an education for free and he doesn’t have to do what he hates — nowadays everything is outsourced, even education; i read an article written by a guy who makes his living writing research papers for people; and now professors have started outsourcing grading papers to people in India; so theoretically, you could end up grading a paper you yourself had written

12:22 the two campus police officers (a woman and a black man) who talked to me before [see January 26 @ 2:35] ride by and appear to read the sign. Had someone notified them?

12:25 James, a guy Keola had an English class with, comes up. They talk
— hey, do you remember me — no, i don’t — you and i had English class together — right; i hated that class — i did too — and the teacher; i should have beaten her

12:27-1:00 Fred comes up

12:30-2:15 Will comes up
— you know, with the four of us standing here, people will think we’re members of the wife beaters’ club — probably — you know, every day i’ve been out here the weather has been terrible; weekends have been nice, but i haven’t had a single day of nice weather when i’ve stood out here — it was really nice during spring break — i actually thought of coming out here and standing next to a blank sign — you should have; the Quad was filled with people relaxing; people would have come up to talk to you

12:40 Holly comes up
— here comes a girl to yell at us — no, it’s Holly — [while Will and Keola agree on when they’ll meet up so that Will can give him a tour of the underground tunnel system on campus, Holly and I talk about veganism] — it’s hard to become vegan right away because if you cut out eating everything vegans don’t eat all at once, you can have a relapse; so i cut out meat first and then gradually became completely vegan — so what do vegans not eat? — they don’t eat anything taken from animals — why don’t they drink milk? if people didn’t milk the cows, what would happen to the milk? — a cow would normally only produce milk to feed its calves; people artificially stimulate the production of milk and keep the cows in terrible, cramped conditions — do you think if cows lived on a farm where they were treated humanely it would be okay to drink milk? — probably — and you don’t eat eggs — right — why not? — if you knew how chickens were treated, you wouldn’t want to eat eggs; they are kept in very small cages stuffed in with lots of other chickens, which makes them aggressive and so their beaks are cut off without anesthesia so that they don’t peck each other to death — what else do vegans not eat? — we don’t eat honey — why not — bees gather pollen and produce honey in the summer and then eat the honey to survive through the winter; if you take their honey then they are forced to live off a substance that is not as good for them — [Keola and Will rejoin our conversation] — have you heard about the book Paperclip [it was actually a project called “One red paperclip”]? — i think so; what’s it about? — it’s about a guy who traded a paper clip for a house — yes, i’ve heard about that — how did he do it? — he started with a paperclip and kept trading up until he was able to trade something for a house — have you heard about the book Four-Hour Work Week? — yes, i have — what is the idea? — the idea is you can work four hours a week and still make a good living; he studied work and found that 20% of the work people do generates 80% of their income — it’s a good idea, only some asshole will come along and start the same kind of business he has but spend four hours a day working and drive him out of business — no, i think it would still work; his idea is you shouldn’t sweat the small losses; people get so upset about losing a small amount of money; you shouldn’t sweat the small losses — [Keola speaks] it works like that for me; i’ll deliver you a film on DVD and pick up food for a flat $20 fee; if they make an order costing more than that, i’ll pay the cost out of my own pocket but i’ll never do business with them again — that’s a great idea; you’re giving people the opportunity to choose freely to be honest; i’ve never paid taxes in any country i’ve lived in — i don’t pay taxes either; but what i did is i calculated the amount i should have paid and set it aside and then spent it on clothes for myself; that was my contribution to society — i know a guy who hasn’t had a regular job for years [see here]; all he does it keep a blog; but so many people appreciate what he writes on it that they send him money; in fact, one time he wrote on his blog that he doesn’t want people to send him money because he probably has more money than the people do who had been sending him money; by the way, Fred, it’s the same guy i told you about yesterday who cut sugar out of his diet — i like the way Dick’s hamburgers does it; they work only with cash — really? — yeah, so the taxman can’t keep tabs on what they do with the money they make — Holly and i are going to an anarchist dinner tonight — an anarchist dinner? is it disorganized, so that maybe you get dinner, maybe you don’t? — [they laugh] no, it’s not like that; the dinner is free but they’re asking for a $5 donation to support the defense of the people arrested for protesting the shooting of that guy by the police; did you hear about it? — yes, i did — did you hear that they’re going to change every instance of the word "nigger" in Huckleberry Finn to "slave"? — yes, i did — it’s stupid because "nigger" and "slave" don’t mean the same thing — and how are people to understand history if they can’t read what things were really like? — i remember reading about a small town somewhere in Colorado, i think, where they wanted to make a law outlawing the use of the word “nigger” but they couldn’t enact the law because they couldn’t bring themselves to write down the word “nigger” in the law itself; one of the signs i planned to make, but didn’t have time for, was: “I WOULD NEVER USE THE WORD ‘NIGGER’”— that would definitely get you thrown off campus — the point of the sign is that the use of the word “nigger” is protected political speech; the case against Lenny Bruce which went to the Supreme Court stated that he had the right to use the word “fuck” because if you can’t say “fuck”, you can’t say “fuck the government”; so if i can’t say “nigger”, i can’t quote Harry Belafonte who called Colin Powel a “house nigger” — especially when you think of the way black people use “nigger”; they’ve pretty much reclaimed the term — do gays call each other “fag” — i think they’re trying to reclaim the word — [Holly speaks] it must seem weird to people that there’s a girl standing here talking to you — maybe, but think about it; wouldn’t it be absurd for someone to stand in public with a sign calling on men to beat women? — i have an idea for a sign: “MASCULINITY BEATS THE HELL OUT OF ME” — i don’t understand exactly what it would mean — it’s talking about the macho, stupid masculinity that causes men suffering — i see the idea, but the reason i don’t think that would be clear is that the phrase made me think of the expression “it beats me”, meaning i have no idea — oh, i see; i did see one guy once downtown near Pioneer Square walking around with a sign that said: “I’M DRUNK OFF OF BIBLE SCHOOL AND CANCER” — what did he mean? did he have cancer? — i don’t think so — what did he mean by being drunk? — i think he was talking about what Bible school will do to people — but if he meant it as a negative thing, why did he use the word “drunk”? don’t people like being drunk? — i guess; i don’t know exactly what he meant — you told me the other day about exploring the tunnels under the campus; what other kinds of things do you do? — in one building on campus there's a place i can sleep where nobody ever looks — i know places like that — and i bring a sleeping bag and sleep there; one time i spent the night in the library; in the middle of the night i checked out the circulation desk and found the password to the library system; i usually use linux when i work on computers at the library and i bring my memory stick which allows me to log on to the system — so what kind of information can you find? — not much of it is interesting; what i could view is the police reports for the library — what kinds of crimes do people commit there? — it’s mostly things like guys being caught masturbating in the library — i remember reading about things like that happening in the Daily when i was here — one night i decided to do something to see whether it would get written up in the police reports; i took all the books off of one of the shelves and stacked them up in a vertical, spiral stack; when i later looked at the police reports the incident was recorded and someone even took a picture of the stack — do you think they dusted them for fingerprints and are looking for you? — forensics is too expensive for campus police; probably they were just angry they had to put the books back on the shelves

12:32 a girl comes up close to the sign and takes a photograph of it with her phone

12:35 a guy comes up. A minute later another guy comes up. The first looks at the sign for awhile and speaks
— i don't think i like your sign — what does it mean to you? — i don't know; is it supposed to be funny? — does it make you laugh? — no — it's a play on words — i don't get it

1:29 a guy comes up
— i find your sign somewhat offensive — what does it mean to you? — why did you make it? — i'm interested in what people have to say about it — why? — because i'm interested [he walks away angry and then runs to catch up with his girlfriend]

1:48 an Asian guy takes a photo of the sign

1:48-1:55 Will speaks
— i have an idea; let’s make a petition to get you kicked off campus and i’ll go around and see how many people i can get to sign it — that’s a great idea; on second thought, though...i don’t think it’s a good idea — why not? — i don’t want to prejudice what people think; if someone suggests my sign is something that should offend them before they’ve thought about it, my idea for the sign will be ruined — oh, okay; what if i pretend like i’m surveying people’s opinions about the sign?; i’ll go up to random people with your clipboard and ask people what they think about it — that’s a great idea
[Will takes my clipboard and approaches random people on the Quad pretending to be taking a survey related to my sign. he comes back and tells me what he heard]
— i talked to three girls; one said: “’Beat Women’? Yeah, he must be a real gentleman. I wouldn’t talk to him.”; another said: “He seems creepy. I don’t want to talk to him. He must have a God complex.”; and another said: “I never noticed him before. I usually just keep my head down when I walk through here.” — i see; that doesn’t surprise m
[Will addresses and Asian American girl walking by]
— [pointing back at me while speaking to her] “hey, can you believe this guy" — [i say to him] please don’t do that; i talked to my dad who’s a vice-provost at a university who has experience dealing with people doing things like i’m doing, and he says they can ask me to leave if i make people feel intimidated — okay

1:56 a guy with a haircut that makes him resemble the colonel in "Avatar" comes up smoking a cigarette. He looks at the sign and speaks
— that's a horrible word choice; i think i get it, but i'm too tired to argue

2:30-2:53 Kyle, Chris and Alec come up
— your sign is kind of shocking — have you read my blog? — no — i’ve been standing out here with signs since the beginning of the quarter; do you think someone might be offended by it? — yes — it seems to me that if people give themselves 10 seconds to think about the sign instead of allowing themselves to be carried away by an instant emotional response, they ought to come up and take a look at the words underneath; what if the sign said: “BEAT MEN”? would that be offensive? — in history it’s always been men who did the beating, except for the Amazons — what about rap songs like “Slap my bitch up”? — songs like that appeal to a certain audience who chooses to listen to them — do you think the sign was a mistake to put out? — no, it’s okay — it’s interesting to me the things we’re not allowed to say; in the past “fuck” was forbidden, now it’s words like “nigger”, ‘cunt” and ‘fag” — you can’t say the word “God” on the radio anymore — really? is it atheists who object to using the word? — i’m not sure whether it’s because of complains by atheists or whether it’s on the initiative of the FCC to protect people — what about mentioning the god Zeus; is that allowed? — someone might think they’re pushing Roman religion on people — it upsets me that, for example, if i’m teaching high school and i spend four years working with a group of students i get to know and become friends with, but if one of them asks me about my spiritual views, i’m not allowed to talk about it to them because of rules regarding the separation of church and state; i have no intention of forcing people to pray, but i should have the right to talk about my spiritual views — are you a teacher? — yes, i teach English in Eastern Europe — i think you have to give up a certain amount of freedom of speech if you want to have a forum for your ideas — i don’t address anyone who doesn’t come up and talk to me — it might be intimidating to people because you’re not inside a building — can you say what you want in class? — yes; but there are guidelines — there are no guidelines here; you can call me an asshole if you want...

2:59 four girls stop on Pierce Lane and read the sign; they do not appear at all angry

3:11 the girl who brought me coffee [see February 28 @ 5:32] walks by without looking at me. She had walked by earlier in the day and had read the sign.

3:26 an Asian American girl talking on the phone comes up to the edge of the grass
— i'm talking to my boyfriend on the phone; he wants me to tell you he loves your blog — thank you — [she dictates the text of today's sign to him]

3:27 a guy I don't recognize says, "Hey, Kevin" while walking by

3:43-5:10 Josh comes up
4:20-4:45 Jacob comes up
— i read your sign but i wouldn’t know how to do what you call on men to do — would you agree that there are elements of the male and female in all people? — yes; what would you associate the feminine with? — it means unconditional love; they say creativity in men comes mainly from their feminine side; do you remember the argument: “If only we could get women into positions of power there would be positive changes in society”? — yes — does that mean the world is a better place thanks to women like Condoleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton? — Hillary Clinton, perfect bitch — agreed — did you know that people like the FBI can hear us through our cell phone even when it’s off? — yes, and i am aware they read all our emails and know my web surfing history; but there are a lot of people i have talked to who also know this and we just don’t care; we still read and say and write what we think; i’m happy they read what i write because that means i can turn them; there are good people everywhere: in the FBI, CIA, KGB, MI-5, police, among criminals; everywhere — do you know the site infowars.com? — of course — what do you think of Alex Jones? — i think he’s too strident; i think in fact he may turn out to be working for the other side and at some point will do something that will serve to discredit the movement he created; i think one of the main reasons the press has been publicizing so widely information about Charlie Sheen is that he several years ago came out publicly in support of Alex Jones’ 9/11 conspiracy theories — what sites do you look at? — do you know the site projectcamelot.org? or exopolitics.com? — no — they talk about disclosure, the idea that we have had contact with extraterrestrial civilizations for a long time and at some point this will be made public knowledge; they say that among the people who are in the know, half of them support immediate disclosure while the other half say there can never be disclosure; some whistleblowers say disclosure has been going on for a long time in the form of the plots of Hollywood films and shows like X-Files — i’ve been interested in learning more about economics — i’m interested in economics too, but i think the way they teach it is wrong; no one ever questions the fundamental axioms of economics; for example, do you think resources are limited? — until recently some economists said there is no limit to the resources available to us on the planet — but i mean is there not enough of what is most valuable in life? is there not enough air or water? isn’t the fact that people go hungry due to the greed of a few and the poor distribution system? is love a limited resource? if you love one person does that mean you don’t have enough love for someone else? how about the other axiom of economics that wants are unlimited; what do you think about that? — no, because if you have enough you are happy — what if you want to be the richest man in the world? you have to have more than anyone else; and even then you can’t stop accumulating wealth because someone else might catch up with you — i think people like that are mentally ill; money is, after all, nothing but paper — but doesn’t that paper have real purchasing power? you can use it to buy things, like power; isn’t power something real? — yes, it is; i’ve been watching on the net some great lectures by the guy who invented string theory; i think he’s at Berkely or maybe Stanford; you can watch 15 or 30 lectures on physics for free; that’s a lot cheaper than paying $100,000 for a Stanford degree, not including room and board; i think there are universities online that are completely free — i know that the Sloan School of Business at MIT puts all class notes, lecture outlines and everything else online for free — so you can learn what you want without going to college — do you know, is it possible not to go to medical school but study for the test and, if you pass it, become qualified as a doctor like people who pass the bar exam can become lawyers without having to go to law school? — i don’t know; i think it’s probably really hard...

— [Jacob speaks] i have a question for both of you: i have been thinking about this and it seems to me that the basis of all problems is the fear of the unknown — is not the underlying fear the fear of death? — well, death is the unknown since people don’t know what happens after you die; that’s why they created religion; religion began with worship of the sun because people didn’t understand what it was — what if it were proven that the soul exists and that we are immortal ? — how would you prove that? — let’s say they found some scientific way of proving it — people might do immoral things since they would know they can’t be killed; as long as it’s proven that everyone goes to heaven — do you not believe there is a moral imperative not to kill? that it is natural for people to be born with the idea that killing is wrong? — no, i don’t believe that

4:30 two guys come up to pose on their haunches by the sign giving the thumbs-up sign with both thumbs. Their girlfriends take their picture from Pierce Lane

March 31, 2011 (Thursday)

1) YOU ARE GOING TO DIE (displayed: 11:13-12:04)


Time: Stood from 11:03 am to 6:04pm with breaks

Approximate time spent talking with people: 3 hours, 53 minutes

Other signs on the Quad: there were no signs on the Quad. On Red Square someone had made large handmade signs with numbers on them representing the national debt (the figure they gave was $14+ trillion)

N.B. On this, my last day, someone came up and remembered I had a sign up offering free help with homework

11:13 an Asian American girl asks to take my photo with the sign while her two girlfriends wait

11:15 two guys walking by laugh when they see the sign and one says to the other: "Cool."

11:16 a guy takes a photo

11:27 a guy comes up
— i see all your signs; some are inspiring; but this one...[he makes a face showing mild disgust]

11:43-11:46 a man comes up
— is this a slippery elm? — i think it's a sequoia; there was a guy who came up to me who knows everything about trees and that's what he said — i thought it was a slippery elm; is this the oldest tree on campus, the one planted in 1760? — probably the oldest one is in another place; if you go right past Drumheller Fountain and down the trail into the trees you can't miss it — so what do you do? — i stand here with signs — are you protecting the tree? — against what? — against development — do you think they might tear it down and put up a McDonald's here? — no, but they might put a university building up — but that would break up the symmetry of the Quad — they might do it anyway — if they try to, you'll find me here chained to the tree — good

11:53 I see two police officers come out of Miller Hall

11:59-12:31 officers R. F. and A. E. come up to me
— hello — is this your sign? — yes — is this your bag? — yes — could you please take your hands out of your pockets — [i take my hands out of my pockets, and with them my cell phone] — can you show some identification? — i'd rather not — [pause] — do you insist? — [the senior officer indicates wordlessly that he does] — okay; may i record this conversation? — no, you may not — may i take notes? — yes, you may — [i take out my notepad and pen and take down the officers' names and badge numbers and record the time and topic of our conversation; i hand my passport to the senior police officer] you are campus police…— no we’re university police – i’m sorry — do you have any Washington state ID? — no, i do not — are you a resident in Washington state? — yes, i am — you don't have a driver's license? — i don't drive — do you have any other form of identification? — no, i have no credit cards or anything else; i used to have a Washington state driver's license but i let it lapse about 20 years ago — [they give information over their police radios about my passport] — we're here because someone called us saying there was a man dressed all in black threatening that they were going to die — my sign is simply stating a fact — it can be understood to mean you are threatening someone — i have stood here for the past three months with 20 different signs; people know me and that i am not threatening — what kinds of signs did you have? — “DON’T THINK”, “THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU”, “THE DECEIVED ARE COMPLICIT IN THEIR DECEPTION” [I deliberately leave out mentioning yesterday’s “BEAT WOMEN” sign and the sign “IN HITLER’S GERMANY UNIVERSITIES WERE SILENT”]; when I had the sign “THIS SIGN WILL NOT BE SHOWN ON TV”, two university police officers came up to ask me what the sign meant; it was a woman and a black man — we know who they are — they said they’d come on to the Quad because someone was filming something; is filming on the Quad not allowed? [I get no answer to this question]; i keep a blog about the signs that is read on every continent in the world except Antarctica — can we see your blog? — yes — [the quieter officer takes down the address] — please take a look at it — i will — the problem is people can perceive the sign as a direct threat; if there were someone standing right here telling me they felt there was a personal threat to their safety, i would have to take you to jail — but the meaning of the sign is the following: it is a statement of biological fact and is at the same time a philosophical statement; i believe contemplating one's own mortality is extremely important for personal development and becoming happy; in addition, many of the enlightened masters from the Buddhist school began their path to enlightenment with a contemplation of their own mortality — [this seems to be at little over the head of the officer i’m speaking with] — if someone told me they felt there was a direct threat to their safety, in this day and age, i would have to take you to jail — but my intention is not to threaten anyone — that does not matter — then you are saying that the interpretation of what i say is what takes precedence, not what i intend to say — yes, i am — this seems to be a slippery slope: if 400 years ago in Salem i said i saw a star in the sky in the middle of the day i would have been burned at the stake as a witch because that's what i would have been perceived to be — if someone feels there is a direct threat to them, i have to respond — but for there to be a crime, there must be mens rea; you must establish criminal intent on the part of the person being charged with a crime — today when you have people who come on to college campuses and shoot people we have to be especially careful — but you had the man shoot people on the University of Texas campus in the 70s — actually that was in the 50s; it was Charles Whitman and he was taken down by police together with assistance from citizens — yes, i read about that; i guess i should take down my sign if you say you can take me to jail — that's probably a good idea; i'm not telling you to do that; this is a public campus; but if someone perceives the sign as a threat i will have to take action — [at 12:04 i turn the sign around so that it is not visible] can i add a clarification to the sign so that people know it is not a threat? — that would definitely help to let people know you're not threatening them — what if i write something like: "I was informed by campus police that this could be perceived as being a threat and that in order to ensure it is not so perceived I should add this disclaimer to the sign"? — i don't know how you would fit that on a sign — did you receive a call from someone about the sign? — yes, we did; we received a call stating that there was a man dressed all in black threatening them that they were going to die; again, we are not telling you to take the sign down, but if you were to stand out here for another five hours with the sign, my guess is that we would get about five more calls — i don't want to waste your time... — it's not wasting our time; it's our job — can i see the statute that relates to what i'm doing — [they produce a piece of paper] — may i have this — no — may i read it aloud and record it on my phone? — yes, you may — [i sit down on the bench and do so] — please don't think i'm being a smart aleck, but what if i were to call you and complain about myself? — you can't call in a complaint about yourself — i mean i would do it anonymously; i wouldn't say who i was — no, if someone makes a formal complaint we take down their name and number — what about this? if i put a disclaimer on the sign explaining that my intention is not to threaten but to generate a philosophical discussion about mortality, but someone doesn't come up close enough to read it and reads only the "YOU ARE GOING TO DIE" part, can you still take me to jail? — if someone is at the far end of the campus looking at the sign through binoculars and sees the sign, i would argue they could not perceive it as a direct threat...[at this point i decide against asking about a hypothetical situation in which i may have planted a bomb on the campus]...in all cases for there to be a crime there must be a victim, except in the case of a drug-related crime in which case the society is considered to be the victim — what about suicide? — suicide is classified as a crime — i mean, in the case of a suicide who is the victim? — do you mean after the person kills themself? — i mean who would be classified as the victim under the law? would he be his own victim? — if someone is standing out here with a knife held to his throat threatening to hurt himself, i will do everything possible to get that person medical treatment — could you tackle him — yes, i would do what i could to get him help — could you, say, shoot him in the leg? — if he was threatening our safety or [with emphasis] your safety, i could use force; it's my job to protect people — if you were a really good shot, could you shoot him in the hand so that he dropped the knife? — again, i'm here to get that person the help they need — can i ask how many university police officers there are? — there are 47 of us, from the chief all the way down to recruits...

12:20 Will comes up, dressed all in black as usual
— [the police address Will] are you connected with this sign? — no, i just came up to look... — so, again, we're not telling you to take down the sign; but if we get a complaint we'll have to come out here again — ok — goodbye — goodbye

12:31 the police leave

12:40 Keola comes up
— you missed the police — damn, i wanted to be here but i couldn't get here in time; what happened? — [i summarize briefly what happened] — thanks for liking me on facebook; i've got a lot of potential business now — well my blog linking to you is read all over the world, by people in Angola, Indonesia, South Korea, China... — i could fill orders from China, as long as they're willing to pay the delivery costs — i remember during the Goodwill Games in Russia in 1990 Ted Turner flew in pizzas for all the athletes — sure, that works; if there's someone willing to pay $1000 DHL for a sweet bun, i'll get it to them...

12:20-3:53 conversations with Will
— i saw the police and said, "uh oh"... — [i tell him about what happened] so i can't show this sign; they told me if i wrote a disclaimer saying it was not a direct threat it would be okay to show it, so i'm thinking what to write — maybe you should write: "This is not a threat; it's a promise" — [i laugh] that would make it even more of a threat; what about something like: “If you promise not to call the police...” — or maybe: “The police didn’t like the back of my sign. Wanna see it?” — that’s good; let me think..how about this: "The police were called because of the reverse side of this sign"? — it would be shorter to write: "The police were called because of the back of this sign" — great, that's what i'll write; this will turn out to be even better than the original sign; it will attract even more attention; let's go somewhere so i can make the sign — we can go to Odegaard [Undergraduate Library]; that's the closest place — i'd rather go to By George since that's where i made all the other signs; [walking past the sign on Red Square indicating the national debt as being $14+ trillion] actually the debt is more like $120 trillion — i had a friend who taught me techniques for picking up women — what kinds of techniques did he use? — for example, he would be walking by a girl and suddenly stop and ask her something completely innocent like "Do you like horses?", as if the thought had just occurred to him; and because the question was so innocent, they would usually answer honestly; then he would say something like "The reason I asked is because you look a lot like this girl who sat behind me in high school who used to draw horses. I feel guilty now because I used to make fun of her and rip up the pictures she drew..."; what you have to do is make the phrase something completely innocent — and make it seem spontaneous and genuine — yes; you could actually talk about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with a girl; it doesn't matter what you talk about; girls aren't interested in the subject of the conversation; they just want to be left with a positive emotional impression — but i don’t want to make people like me by manipulating their emotions or appealing to them on a logical level; i want to interact with them on the level of consciousness; so did you use any of the techniques? — i went to bars and used them and they do work — did you sleep with anyone? — no, but i made out with several in bars; there's a special technique to get them to make out with you; but you know, i met a lot of women at bars using the techniques, but they were all boring; so i stopped doing it; another thing the guy explained to me was why women get angry when you look at them as if sizing them up; he said what makes women angry is when they catch you staring at their breasts or ass and you look away as if you're ashamed — so what should you do? — he said it's the shame they puts them off; what he does is if they catch him looking at them, he'll let them know by not averting his eyes that he finds them sexually attractive; that makes them happy — i met a Turkish guy who told me what works with all women is if you act with complete self-confidence — yes, i think that's probably true — i spoke with a very intelligent woman about that; i asked her if it was enough simply to show complete confidence in yourself to win over any woman; she said that does work, but only with ordinary, stupid women; more intelligent women will see through the deception and are interested in a man with depth; in general, i tire of the games men and women play during courting; i talked about this with a man once who said that it’s okay to play the game and to lie because the woman knows the man is lying, so tacitly she accepts the deception...thus my sign: “THE DECEIVED ARE COMPLICIT IN THEIR DECEPTION” — i think it’s okay to play the game as long as you are honest with yourself — but i think if you deceive other people, since you always have to have a quick comeback and you can’t give people time to think or allow pauses in the conversation, you have to be quick; and the only way to be able to lie that quickly is to start to believe your own lies; and so you eventually start deceiving yourself, and then there is no way of acquiring knowledge of self; and also, if you’re always playing the deception game, when do you establish the deeper connection that you need to have with a woman in order to know that you want her to bear your children? — i think what women are told they're supposed to want in a man is not what they really want; it’s been this way for millions of years; men have wanted women who are healthy; they want women who are not too fat or too thin so that they will be able to produce healthy offspring; women have always wanted social things, like stability and ability to provide, and status; they liked tribal leaders because tribal leaders could provide them with safety; and i think the elaborate mating rituals made sense; i think that’s the reason guys are afraid to go up to girls, because in the past if you went up to someone’s mate, you could be killed; i remember reading this quote once that i never figured out the meaning of; it was: “The only way to live safely is to live in danger” — maybe it means you have to be always aware; if you always know what you’re up against, you’re protected — kind of like “be on your guard”, “don’t be complacent” — i guess, yeah — i’d like to make some signs too, but i wouldn’t want to be seen as copying — one guy told me he had an idea for a sign; it was going to say: “TELL ME SOMETHING WEIRD” — that’s a good idea; you’d get interesting responses — and if someone told you a lie, it wouldn’t matter — they would essentially be practicing creative writing — i told him though, as a joke, that if i saw him standing out with a sign, i’d make a sign saying: “MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO”; i’d love to see other people standing out with signs, but if too many people did it, it would become banal and trite — why?; people might come up with interesting signs — yes, but if it became a fashionable or cool thing to do, you’d get stupid people making banal signs, or some signs would be parodies of others, and so the idea itself would start to seem stupid; you can kill any good idea or phrase through overuse — i did something interesting in St. Louis once; you know the big arch there — right — i decided that if i took a bunch of helium balloons and tied them together around the base of the arch, they would rise up and eventually stop at the top of the arch — so how big around is the arch? like this? — no, a lot bigger than that — so did it work? — well, just after i finished tying the balloons together, i saw the police coming, so me and the friend i was with ran away and decided not to come back; i was sure the police would cut the balloons lose and that would be the end of that; but then a few hours later i got to thinking: “What if it actually worked?” and so just out of curiosity i decided to go back and look; after several hours, the balloons were still there, at the top of the arch — i’m thinking, how would you get them down? — yeah, there’s no way they could — i guess they’d have to shoot and pop them with bb guns or use a helicopter or something — i don’t know how they did it — you should do it again and send up a sign with the balloons, maybe saying: “FUCK ST. LOUIS” — yeah, “fuck St. Louis” would be good — when i was in high school my best friend lived in Berlin for awhile and i visited him; now he’s a professor of business law at Yale Law School; this was during the Cold War when Berlin was still divided into East and West Berlin; our idea was to become really rich, and then use our wealth to tunnel under the Brandenburg gate just across the border in East Berlin, install an enormous turntable and turn the Brandenburg gate around so that it’s facing in the other direction — i was walking by this store the other day and someone was throwing away mannequin parts and i asked if i could have them; they gave them to me and i’ve been thinking about what to do with them; i know about people who dress up all in silver and paint their skin silver and who do mime-like movements, so i was thinking i could dress the mannequin up like them and put it outside somewhere and people would think it was a real person — what you could do is dress it up and have it holding a sign saying: “$1 MILLION TO THE PERSON WHO MAKES ME LAUGH WITHOUT TOUCHING ME”; and then you could have a hidden camera film what they say and do — i think what i’ll do is post about the mannequin on reddit.com and see what ideas i get there [see here] — i like reddit; it reminds me of my signs; people put out a question and collect responses; what kind of a reaction do you think i’d get if i stood out with a “9/11 TRUTH” sign? do you think the police would come? — no; everyone would just think you’re crazy — can you tell me something about anarchism? — the idea is that there are no restrictions on your freedom to do what you want... — how is it different from libertarianism? — what is that? — it’s...it doesn’t matter; keep talking about anarchism and i’ll compare them after you tell me about it — i can bring you a pamphlet on anarchy; i have an extra one someone gave me for free — great, thanks; could i also ask you to make me a copy of "Evasion"? — okay; so anarchism is the opposite of the collectivist idea that people are of no value as individuals, only as members of the state; i don’t think people like the police are good people — do you think all of them are bad? — i don’t think normal people would ever become cops — i’m just thinking about the 20-year-old who just got out of school who doesn’t know what to do with his life who joins the police force because he’s only ever seen police on TV where they’re always good and so he thinks that’s how he can do good, by helping people as a cop; and by the time he figures out the police aren’t what he thought they were, he’s married and can’t quit the force because he has to provide for his family — i can see that — and anyway, i think there are good people everywhere; in the CIA and the FBI and the KGB and MI-5 and Mossad and among criminals; i think when the major shift in consciousness comes, it will be important to have people ready to embrace it everywhere and at all levels — i had a friend who told me he met Bill Murray; he said he was standing in line to get into a movie and was eating some French fries when he notices that the guy behind him in line took some out of the box and is eating them; he turns around and it’s Bill Murray, who says to him: “Nobody will ever believe you.” — my sister works in Hollywood and she told me all the famous actors are basically insane...

12:50-1:03 Will and I go to By George's cafe to make the new sign


1:10-1:14 a guy and girl come up. The girl talks
— what is on the back of the sign? — do i seem threatening to you — no — okay, here it is [i turn around the sign] — i have seen your signs and i never came up because i never knew what to talk about, but i read the signs and like the fact that they're here — i'm glad; thank you — have you heard of Jenny Holzer? — no, who is she? — i think you'd be interested in her; she does art projects where she puts up giant billboards in many different places — are they images or words? — they are words — i will look at what she does...

1:15 [Will speaks:] that girl gave me hope that there are interesting women at the university — yes, they're not all uptight; i've had some come up who were intelligent and interesting

1:20-1:25 an Australian student comes up with his bicycle
— i was sitting in that classroom in Savery and looking out the window for two hours [sic?] while the police talked to you — yes, they said they'd received a complaint; they said if somebody had been standing near me and said they felt threatened, they could have taken me to jail; it brings up the interesting point that what my sign says depends not on my intention, but on others' interpretation — yes, it's that way for art; art means many interpretations and for good art you need to do away with the ego; i don't know what you think, but i think our society is fucked up; and the problem is the ego; people go to the war because someone thinks their ego has been offended in some way...

1:30-1:36 two guys come up. One guy, who's come up before, talks
[we speak about the sign] — on a different subject, did anyone tell you you look like Rick Moranis? — yes they have; people also say i look like...what's his name?... Austin Powers — Mike Myers? — right — yeah, i can see that...

1:35-1:37 a guy comes up
— i saw your sign on facebook today; a lot of people were offended by the "BEAT WOMEN" sign; and i saw today's sign "YOU ARE GOING TO DIE" on facebook too — really? when did you see it? — today — how long ago? — today...

1:40-1:44 Houston, a guy comes up
— hello, can i see the other side of the sign? — do you feel threatened by me? — no — okay — why did you put that on a sign? — i think it's important for people to contemplate their own mortality; what do you study? — i'm going to apply to the business school in a month and i'm getting my prerequisites out of the way — is it hard to get into the business school? — yes — what do you have to do? — just apply and write an essay — do you think you have a good chance? — i'm just a number — [Will speaks:] you're just profit for them — [Houston speaks:] how old are you? — 42 — you are really intelligent and you are 42 but you're standing out here with signs? i think you should be doing more with your life — what do you think i should be doing? — you should set a goal and get a job and make a contribution that's more than standing here with a sign and showing it to students; on most of them it doesn't have any effect; they just walk by...

1:49-1:59 a guy with a bicycle and a ukulele comes up
— can i see the other side of the sign? — do you feel threatened by me? — yes, i do — here it is [i reveal the other side of the sign in such a way that passersby cannot easily see] — is this all orchestrated? — do you mean did i put the message about the police on the sign just to draw attention? — yes — no, it actually happened; there are witnesses who saw the police — why did you make the sign? — so that people contemplate their mortality — do you think that's important? — i think if people spent more time contemplating the idea that they are going to die, and in fact could die tomorrow, they might not put off doing the things they most want to do — i think it's better to make a sign talking about something more important, like the wars — the problem is that an anti-war message would not be ambiguous; i talked to a guy who said he goes up to all the people who stand out here with political signs and he said it was pointless because they didn't listen to anything you say; i tried going up to the LaRouche people yesterday... — those people are insane; i talked to one of them; have you seen the poster with the picture of Obama with a Hitler mustache? — yes — the LaRouche guy i talked to didn't know it was a Hitler mustache — really? — yes — i had an idea for a political sign; i almost did it; it was: "WHERE IS THE TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN PACIFIST?"; because every country has its own tomb of the unknown soldier, but no one ever celebrates the people who were killed for refusing to go to war — are there such people? — of course; desertion is a capital offense; and if you have conscription, then what you're basically talking about is slavery; they force you to kill other people and if you refuse, they kill you — nothing stops you from buying land and erecting your own tomb of the unknown pacifist — you're right; that's a good idea; i did something once: i sent in my own submission to a New Yorker Magazine cartoon contest; the drawing was of a person being interviewed on a David-Letterman-type late night talk show and the caption was: "If I seem smug and humorless it's because I draw cartoons for the New Yorker."...

2:00-2:01 I speak to Will
— did you notice he said he felt threatened by me? — yes; that was weird; if he did, why did he come up? — it seemed to me he was joking; he said it with a straight face, though...

2:10-2:12 the elderly man who has come up before [see February 2 @ 12:30] comes up with an elderly woman and asks to see the sign. The woman walked away not long after seeing the sign
— but that's just a fact; it's a philosophical statement — yes, but i was told by the police that regardless of my intention, if the sign is perceived as threatening they can take me to jail — you should have kept it up and argued free speech — i know the case would have been thrown out of court, but i didn't want the hassles — you should have gone through the hassles for the sake of free speech; i came up to you before — yes, i remember you — i guess we should go — goodbye

2:15 a girl comes up
— can i see the sign? — do you promise not to complain to the police? — i promise — [i show the sign] — oh, i see why some one might have complained...

2:23-2:24 a guy comes up
— why did the police come up? — if something is perceived as a threat it doesn't matter what your intentions are; [i point at his ipod] you're threatening me with your ipod! — i see...

3:18 a girl talks with Will
— she reads: "you are going to die"; but that's true...

3:28-3:30 a guy and an Asian American girl come up
— why would you write something like that? — i think it is useful for people to contemplate their mortality...

3:36-3:38 Nav and his friend, the two photographers who came up before [see March 29 @ 1:45], come up
— we wanted to see the sign; i walked past it today already but didn't read it — [i show them] it says something about students that so few of them are curious enough to come up and ask — i see; well, thanks; we were just curious about the sign — congratulations for being curious — thanks — good luck on your film

3:54-3:56 a guy comes up
— i'm curious about your signs in general — you can see my blog...

4:10 a girl comes up
— hi, can i see the other side of the sign? — you won't complain to the police, will you? — no; i'm doing a project for class which involves photographing interesting art projects; could i come up later in the week and photograph you? — tomorrow is my last day; i'll be giving away my signs tomorrow at 12:20 if you'd like to come — ok, i will

4:25-4:28 an Asian American guy comes up
— hi, i'm the guy who came up with Davinder, from India, before — i remember you — you're famous on campus for being the "sign guy" — [he tries to read the sign without my turning it around] i see; i thought maybe there was nothing on the other side...

4:45-5:05 Austin Siedentopf comes up
— is this the sign? you wrote me that the police came within five minutes — no, that was yesterday's sign; they didn't question me yesterday; do you want to see the sign today — yes — ok, get ready for some hardcore child porn [i turn the sign around]; the police said someone felt threatened — you could have worded your sign differently... — like "WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE"? — yes — i thought about that — or "ARE YOU GOING TO DIE?" — i thought about that too, but i wanted to make the sign shocking — they told us in class when i was in school that if you say something that in any way could be offensive to someone, you shouldn't say it — that's nonsense; i remember when i was young being told: "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all"; i mean, i appreciate the sentiment, but sometimes you have to say things that are unpleasant — i think America is very pc — i haven't had many people come up to ask about what's on the other side of the sign — maybe they don't want to get mixed up with the police; or maybe they think it's just a stunt — or maybe they think i'm insane — maybe — or maybe they genuinely feel threatened — i talked to a girl who said her friends recommended that she not come up and talk with you, but she did anyway and said you were okay — yes, i remember her; her name was A...[name withheld] — i don't remember her name; that reminds me; this is off topic, but have you ever looked up the word "offended" on Encyclopedia Dramatica — no — if you do, what you see is a long series of the most gruesome photos of people; they tell you there's an Easter egg waiting for you if you go through them all — did you? — i scrolled through them as fast as my fingers were able to spin the wheel; the surprise (i'll give it away) at the bottom if you actually go through all of it is a picture of George Bush — i see — my girlfriend is Russian — i assumed so from her name [Austin looked shocked i would know his girlfriend's name; i'd seen it on his facebook page where it tells who he's in a relationship with] — she said Russians don't have time for bullshit; they'd never discuss something like the weather or say something polite that they don't mean — where is she from? — she's not from Moscow; i can't remember the name of the city she's from; she said Muscovites are tough as fucking nails — it's a big city; are people in new York also tough as nails? — i think she meant it was because of the suffering they had to go through under communism and during the war; i'm interested in the culture; it is very old and very rich; i'll try to come by tomorrow, but if i don't, i wanted to say goodbye and wish you well — thank you; good luck to you

5:05-5:13 Alyssa comes up
— i looked for your blog but couldn't find it — you have to google "signs on the quad" — i did — google it as one word — ok — you're there on the blog; you can read about yourself — really? — are you going to come out here with signs when i'm gone? — there would have to be good weather; i wouldn't want to do it in weather like this — i certainly understand; i did not have a single good day of weather in the three months i stood out here; but on the other hand, if the weather had been good i would have had more competition for my signs from other people doing other things — i think your project was a good thing — thank you; but i could have done better — how? — i could have been more patient with people at times; i could have thought of just the right thing to say to people while i was talking to them instead of later; there were some times i should have listened to people longer instead of interrupting them; i guess it's always possible to do something better — why did you make today's sign? — i think it's important for people to contemplate their own mortality — are you afraid of death? — no; i don't think anyone really dies; i had a sign that said that yesterday is still here and tomorrow already is; if that's true, then you and i are already dead and sitting up on that branch of the tree looking down at ourselves and at this moment in our lives...

5:30-5:44 three girls come up. One of them does most of the speaking
— i saw your sign yesterday; what was the small print — [i quote it] — yes, i read it yesterday and it was only reading it through to the end that kept me from getting angry — what did the small print mean to you? — it means you want people to be more feminist — not feminist, but feminine; i think there's a difference — you think people should be more feminine? — yes, i appreciate feminine qualities; they say both men and women have them; there are some women who are less feminine than i am; that's okay; i accept people who are like that too; so the sign expressed my conviction on that topic; but it also had another purpose which was to remind people that they need to read the fine print before they leap to judgment and come up and punch me in the face; i mean, it would be absurd to stand with a sign reading only "BEAT WOMEN" — a sign like that would make me want to punch you in the face — do you really think someone would read such a sign and go out and start beating women? — no, but it's something that shouldn't be said — what about a sign like "BEAT MEN"? would that be as offensive? — sadly that wouldn't be as bad; the thing is in our society women suffer beatings; a planeload of women die every month from spousal abuse — what about a sign "BEAT CHILDREN"? would that be more or less offensive? — more offensive — maybe i could have written below it "CALLING ON ADULTS TO OUTDO CHILDREN IN BEING CHILDLIKE AND CURIOUS AND OPEN TO NEW EXPERIENCES..." — yes, that would be good; but you could also say it another way, more directly — yes, i could; and doing another sign like that would be banal; i'm a little surprised and disappointed to see how few people have come up to see the reverse side of the sign; are they not curious? — i think maybe it's intimidating for them because it's a foreign situation — by "foreign" do you mean "unusual"? — yes — then how do people grow and develop as people? — they don't, which is sad...

April 1, 2011 (Friday)

Message: SIGN GIVEAWAY TODAY 12:20 signsonthequad.blogspot.com

Time: Stood from about 11:30 am to 2:00pm without breaks

Approximate time spent talking with people: about 2 hours

Other signs on the Quad: none
It was raining so all the signs got wet. Between 12:10 and about 12:45 I gave away all the signs. I didn’t record who took which signs (some people who took signs I’d never met before) so I only remember a few instances of who took what sign. One girl I’d not met before took the sign: “IN HITLER’S GERMANY UNIVERSITIES WERE SILENT” because she wanted to put it up in the room where she and others do their drawings for architecture in the architecture department because Hitler wanted to become an architect but, as she said, he had no feel for functionality. Below I record excerpts from conversations with various people.

— ...i just got finished writing a 10-page research paper in 26 hours; this is my first quarter back and i think i underestimated how much work goes into a research paper; i won’t make that mistake again — did you take ritalin? — yes — you don’t happen to have a dose on you, do you? — no, i take the 12-hour slow-release pill; i wanted to thank you; talks with you helped me to clarify things for myself — thank you very much; it was very interesting for me to talk with you — goodbye — goodbye, good luck to you

—...your signs are good as obvious statements to think about — i wanted them to generate discussion, and so i had to make signs so that it would be clear to people that i’m not pushing any particular agenda like the LaRouche people — yes, i don’t like the “Hitlerstache’ they drew on the picture of Obama — why does it bother you? — because they’re equating Obama with Hitler — and you think that downplays the seriousness of Hitler’s crimes — right; i’ve been thinking about creating my own blog about the Israeli-Palestinian issue; i simply don’t have the time to do so; i’d like to see a more balanced presentation of the issues involved — i personally am tired of people who criticize Israeli foreign policy being called anti-semitic; and if the person criticizing Israel is Jewish, they’re called a self-hating Jew — that argument doesn’t work anymore, in the context of J Street; and this makes the older generation angry, that they can’t fall back on the self-hating Jew argument and have all Jews support them; what bothers me is the way both sides simply change the subject when legitimate criticism is expressed; for example, if you bring up the subject of the right of Israelis to take Palestinian land, they will change the subject and talk about suicide bombings; and when you talk to a Palestinian about killing settlers on the West Bank, they say this is an encroachment on their land and talk about Israeli bombings; i disagree with the settlers and the settlements, but don’t kill people — i remember when i was in high school some Israeli students came to visit our world history class; the teacher told us we should ask them whether Israel had nuclear weapons because she said their answer would be interesting; we asked the question and they answered in a way that did not openly admit they had the weapons, but made it clear that they did (“we will do what we need to protect ourselves”); some time ago i read that Israel in the 1980s cooperated with the Apartheid regime in South Africa to transfer nuclear weapons technology to South Africa in exchange for being allowed to test their nuclear weapons on islands off the southern coast of South Africa...

— ...i drew a picture for you [it shows me drawn manga-style bundled up in my coat with my hood standing next to my tree against which is propped up a sign reading: “KEVIN, THANKS FOR MAKING A STAND!”; it’s signed “Alyssa L. (or J?) 2.11”] — thank you very much; would you like a sign? — yes, i’d like the sign “THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU”; i liked that one — okay; several people came up and told me that sign made their day
— but i also like the “EVERYTHING’S EXACTLY THE WAY YOU WISH IT WEREN’T” — take them both — is that okay? — sure; in fact, i think those two signs go together in spite of the fact that they seem to contradict one another; do you know, you are the only woman who had the courage to come up to me more than once — really? — yes — thank you; goodbye — goodbye, good luck to you

Andrew (Asian American)
— ...i’ve been studying sambo — what is that? is it like karate — it’s from Russian; in Russian it is something like “samooborona”, which means self-defense — oh, i didn’t know that — it was developed by the Russians as their own form of self-defense, but now it’s becoming popular here too...

— ...i’d like the sign: “YOU ARE GOING TO DIE/THE POLICE WERE CALLED BECAUSE OF THE BACK OF THIS SIGN” — you helped create it; it’s yours — i read your blog; i have one question: how do you remember the conversations you have with people? — is there anything i said you said that i got wrong or anything that i left out? — no, i don’t think so — the thing is i spent many years training myself to remember conversations with people; i taught English working one-on-one with children and after each lesson i would record what we talked about — in the past a woman who was still single over a certain age was looked down upon; now it’s an unmarried man who’s looked down upon — i remember that started more than 20 years ago; i took women’s studies here at UW in 1989; it was the quarter after a scandal that happened in the class; some guy dared to challenge the professors on some of what they were teaching and they got really angry and the incident got written up in the media and i think someone in California gave the guy a sports car for what he did which really pissed the women’s studies people off; the class was like this: three or four times a week there would be lectures in a big hall, and then once a week we would divide up into sections of about 12 students proctored by a graduate student; in the first section, as a way to get to know each other, the TA asked us to go around the table and tell our name and answer the question: “If you were stranded on a desert island and could take only one thing with you, what would it be?” the idea was we were supposed to remember each person’s name and what they said they’d take with them; i was the last to go, but i was able to remember everything each person had said, which seemed to make the TA angry, as if i was showing off my memorization skills; i was simply doing what the exercise asked; what also made the TA angry was what i said i’d take with me on a desert island: the Library of Congress; i think it made her angry because there was no way i could take something like that with me, but the exercise didn’t specify that it had to be something you could carry; what was really funny was what the TA said she’d take with her, namely, a large quantity of paper; i understood that to mean she was going to write a lot, but my question (which i didn’t ask) was: if you’re alone on a desert island, who’s going to read what you write? then i remember another class; they asked us to read a novel called Sisters of the Road which was terrible; in one section i made the point that i’m happy for people to speak out against discrimination and other social problems, but that i don’t want to have them write terrible prose and that it reminded me of socialist realism in the Soviet Union where writers had to write about how all workers were heroic workers working selflessly to build communism; the TA said: “I’ll have to learn more about socialist realism”, but you could tell by her tone of voice and the look on her face that she would never do any such thing; basically, in the class it was impossible to question any of the propaganda they were feeding you because it would immediately make them angry; i remember in lectures we went more than a month without talking about women at all; they brought in various “people of color” and disabled people to talk about how they suffered from being repressed in society; i remember the students applauded when a woman paralyzed from the waist down said she could still have orgasms; the most ridiculous thing we were told was that it’s okay to refer to someone as Mexican-American as long as you say it without a hyphen — i’ve heard that some women object to the word ‘woman” since it contains the word “man” — i’ve heard about that — what they want to do is to have it changed to “womin” or “womyn”, i can’t remember which — i remember one time in class i said: “Look, i’ve spent my whole life calling girls “girls” and African Americans “blacks” and it’s not easy for me suddenly to start using a different term to refer to them”, to which the TA answered, “People have the right to be called what they want to be called”, to which i said, “In that case, I want to be called ‘Mr. Cool’”; needless to say that didn’t go over well; i remember on the last day of class, in the lecture hall, the professors asked the students for their feedback on what they thought about the class; several of the girls said they were made to feel uncomfortable because they felt lesbianism was being pushed on them; oh, by the way, i wanted to give you the pens i used to make the signs in case you decided to make one of your own — okay — i imagined i’d give them to you by having you kneel before me so i could knight you with it by touching your shoulders with the pen like a sword; here you go — thanks — do you have to take off? — yeah; stay in touch — i will — goodbye — bye...

Vital Statistics

All but two of the signs were made from $0.95 heavy-tag white poster board and written on with a $3.50 Violet marker (P-94 (64)) purchased at the University Bookstore. One marker was good for about 3-4 signs.

The Place

I stood on the campus of the University of Washington under a magnificent sequoia (marked by a metal "dog" tag as "#4488") that stands on the Quad in front of Savery Hall where the philosophy department is located. I stood looking out onto the Quad (roughly east) onto students and staff passing by me on Pierce Lane. City of Seattle. State of Washington. The United States of America. Planet Terra. The Milky Way Galaxy. The Outskirts of the Seventh Universe. Version 83 of Timeline 1.

The Time

I stood from January 3 to March 31, 2011 an average of about three days a week an average of about 6 hours a day, usually from 9, 10 or 11 to 4:30 or 5:30. Below are the times and days I stood:

January 3 9:23-4:40 (7 hours, 17 minutes);
Approximate time spent talking with people: 52 minutes
January 4 9:30-4:30 (7 hours);
Approximate time spent talking with people: 21 minutes
January 5 9:03-4:33 (7 hours, 30 minutes);
Approximate time spent talking with people: 15 minutes
January 6 9:03-2:15, 4:04-4:30 (5 hours, 41 minutes);
Approximate time spent talking with people: 34 minutes   
January 18 9:33-3:40 (6 hours, 7 minutes);
Approximate time spent talking with people: 54 minutes
January 19 8:38-5:00 (8 hours, 22 minutes);
Approximate time spent talking with people: 2 hours, 32 minutes
January 20 9:55-10:45, 12:10-12:40 (2 hours, 20 minutes); 
Approximate time spent talking with people: 38 minutes
January 24 10:06-4:36 (6 hours, 30 minutes); 
Approximate time spent talking with people: 1 hour, 40 minutes
January 25 10:00-4:42 (6 hours, 42 minutes); 
Approximate time spent talking with people: 41 minutes
January 26 10:09-12:20, 1:45-4:30 (4 hours, 36 minutes); 
Approximate time spent talking with people: 32 minutes
January 27 11:16-11:38, 11:43-3:43, 3:48-5:25 (5 hours, 59 minutes); 
Approximate time spent talking with people: 1 hour, 10 minutes
January 28 10:36-4:42 (6 hours, 6 minutes); 
Approximate time spent talking with people: 47 minutes
January 31 9:51-12:50, 12:56-4:33 (6 hours, 36 minutes); 
Approximate time spent talking with people: 51 minutes

TOTAL TIME FOR JANUARY: 75 hours, 46 minutes
TOTAL TIME SPENT IN CONVERSATION: 11 hours, 47 minutes (as a percentage of total time stood: 14%)
February 1 9:51-5:12 (7 hours, 3 minutes); 
Approximate time spent talking with people: 1 hour, 43 minutes
February 2 9:53-4:45 (7 hours, 2 minutes); 
Approximate time spent talking with people: 3 hours, 18 minutes
February 3 9:53-1:36, 1:42-4:38 (6 hours, 25 minutes); 
Approximate time spent talking with people: 1 hour, 40 minutes
February 7 9:27-12:30,12:36-4:36 (7 hours, 4 minutes); 
Approximate time spent talking with people: 2 hours, 25 minutes
February 8 9:58-2:38, 2:45-4:40 (6 hours, 31 minutes); 
Approximate time spent talking with people: 1 hour, 32 minutes
February 9 10:14-11:43, 11:51-1:25, 2:10-4:53 (5 hours, 46 minutes); 
Approximate time spent talking with people: 3 hours, 56 minute
February 14 11:04-4:47 (5 hours, 43 minutes); 
Approximate time spent talking with people: 1 hour, 1 minute
February 22 11:06-4:35 (5 hours, 29 minutes); 
Approximate time spent talking with people: 2 hours, 13 minutes
February 23 11:00-5:50 (6 hours, 30 minutes); 
Approximate time spent talking with people: 2 hours, 34 minutes
February 24 12:13-5:36 (5 hours, 23 minutes); 
Approximate time spent talking with people: 1 hour, 43 minutes
February 28 11:07-2:36, 2:51-5:40 (6 hours, 18 minutes); 
Approximate time spent talking with people: 2 hours, 26 minutes

TOTAL TIME FOR FEBRUARY: 71 hours, 14 minutes
TOTAL TIME SPENT IN CONVERSATION:  24 hours, 31 minutes (as a percentage of total time stood: 34%)

March 1 11:02-2:43, 3:03-3:43, 3:56-4:35 (5 hours); 
Approximate time spent talking with people: 1 hour, 55 minutes
March 2 11:10-12:54, 3:09-4:01, 4:06-4:48 (3 hours, 8 minutes); 
Approximate time spent talking with people: 50 minutes
March 3 11:53-3:51, 4:05-4:38 (4 hours, 31 minutes); 
Approximate time spent talking with people: 2 hours, 3 minutes
March 14 11:05-2:30, 2:53-4:56 (5 hours, 28 minutes); 
Approximate time spent talking with people: 2 hours, 45 minutes
March 17 10:55-4:43 (5 hours, 48 minutes); 
Approximate time spent talking with people: 3 hours, 14 minutes
March 28 11:05-6:42 (7 hours, 37 minutes)
Approximate time spent talking with people: 3 hours, 22 minutes
March 29 11:03-6:22 (7 hours, 19 minutes)
Approximate time spent talking with people: 3 hours, 25 minutes
March 30 11:21-5:10 (5 hours, 31 minutes)
Approximate time spent talking with people: 3 hours, 53 minutes
March 31 11:03-12:04, 1:06-6:04 (5 hours, 59 minutes)
Approximate time spent talking with people: 4 hours, 46 minutes

TOTAL TIME FOR MARCH: 50 hours, 21 minutes
TOTAL TIME SPENT IN CONVERSATION: 22 hours, 30 minutes (as a percentage of total time stood: 45%)

TOTAL TIME STOOD: 200 hours, 19 minutes
APPROXIMATE TOTAL TIME SPENT TALKING WITH PEOPLE: 58 hours, 48 minutes (as a percentage of total time stood: 29%)
AVERAGE TIME STOOD PER DAY: 6 hours, 4 minutes

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