Z Media Institute Blog
By Garrett Graham at Jun 06, 2010
Sunday, June 6th, 2010
We woke up early to catch my flight. This is the earliest I've woken up in a long time. I've gotten very used to the idea of letting the sunlight wake me up. I woke up at four a.m. I can't believe I used to do this shit everyday! But this time there are no complaints. I'm anxious to get going. Darrel drove me to the airport which is quite a drive by itself. The DFW Airport is the largest one in the country. It's larger than the island of Manhattan, and constitutes its own miniature city. Well, I guess maybe the word “miniature” doesn't apply. It is its own city.
This factoid usually flies in the face of certain people's assumptions that Texas is still all tumbleweeds, ranches, and cowboy hats. While the tumbleweeds and ranches have been paved over by a thousand square miles of suburban sprawl, and concrete rivers of car exhaust have replaced the railroad towns that made the west wild, we kept the cowboy hats and traded in our six-shooters for six-cylinders and now the only Cherokees and Mavericks are the ones on four wheels and jumbo-trons.
I checked my luggage and made it through security with no problems, but I did notice one oddity worth mentioning. Among the usual homeland security notices was this: “Attention passengers traveling to Venezuela. The United States Department of Homeland Security cannot guarantee that the Venezuelan State Department is following necessary safety and security procedures for foreign travelers. Please note that you are traveling at your won risk.” I half-expected the footer to read “God Bless America.” or “This Notice Courtesy of the Ministry of Truth.”
The TSA employee is wondering why I'm laughing. This is supposed to be a serious moment, when all of us good citizens strip ourselves of unnecessary trinkets like wallets and keys and civil liberties under the watchful eye of Big Brother to prove that we're not one of those “others”, those trouble-makers, those “evil-doers” so we can enjoy the privilege of traveling within the borders of our own country. Land of the free, home of the brave. It's almost as funny as the sign about Venezuela...almost.
The flight was mostly un-eventful and pleasant. I had a window-seat next to a very pleasant woman from Massachusetts heading home. I never did catch her name, but we chatted about the weather, how miserable Texas is, how much nicer Massachusetts is, and other trivial noise. Eventually the conversation comes around to the BP oil spill. She's appalled by the whole affair, naturally. I sympathize and tell her that I hope the whole experience lingers in people's minds and puts a sour taste in their mouth about our dependence on fossil fuels as we're hurling through the air in a metal Phoenix spewing fire and ash straight into the stratosphere.
She doesn't believe that anything will change until people learn to take personal responsibility for their actions. I coax her to look at the bigger picture. Is it more important for everyone to buy a hybrid, or for corporations like BP to stop raping the biosphere? Which weights more? Stopping 60,000 barrels of oil gushing from the ocean floor everyday, or a few million privileged Americans switching from one polluting commuter to a slightly lesser polluting commuter? She nods and agrees. “That's a good point” she says. Like I said, a nice lady.
I tell her that convincing millions of Americans to buy certain “green” products is not only more difficult than holding one corporation accountable, it's also not even tactically relevant; not that anyone who can shouldn't do whatever they feel they can whether it's riding a bike, recycling bottles and cans, or buying a hybrid if they can. I got the impression that she had purchased one and wanted to show off her “green” pride, and so my last statement relaxed her. She was doing what she though she could, who can blame her?
I occupied my flight with back-issues of Ad Busters and thumbing through Michael Albert's Moving Forward: Program for a Participatory Economy. Mike has read Parecon: Life After Capitalism but I've only heard Michael Albert describe Parecon on Z-Net Video. I really like the idea, and the lack of dogma and sectarianism surrounding it unlike orthodox Marxism and Anarchism. I've been trying to wrap my head around the vocabulary; balanced job complexes, coordinator classes, remuneration according to effort/sacrifice, worker's self-management, and values like equity, diversity, solidarity, and classlessness. I want to have a basic understanding of Parecon so that I can focus on asking Michael Albert questions that aren't answered in his book.
The plane lands without incident. I wake up to a landscape of grey skies and soggy travelers. I think I may have made a mistake by not packing more warm and water-proof clothes. If Mom hadn't bugged me about it I might not have packed my jacket. Thanks Mom. I change clothes and put on the only long-sleeve shirt I've brought. I guess I should just keep it in my bag at all times. Luckily the weather here changes as much as it does in Texas. We have a saying in Texas, but I've heard it everywhere else making me think maybe we just think it's ours. “If you don't like the weather in Texas, just wait a few minutes.” Yea, that's probably not ours. But we'll keep pretending it is. Don't mess with Texas.
Waiting for the bus outside the terminal I make my first ZMI acquaintance. Her name is Clare O'Connor, and she's the one who asked me “Are you here for ZMI?” I guess my Democracy Now! T-shirt and semi-counter-cultural facial accessories (piercings) must have given me away. I'm glad she approached me, I would have been fine just sitting on the bus in silence not even knowing there were other ZMI'ers on the bus, but now I had someone to talk to. She's from Toronto and has already graduated from college. She now works for an organization that I believe is called the Policy Institute Research Group (P.I.R.G.) but that's probably an incorrect recollection. I'm pretty sure it's close though.
We chat for a while before our heads nod off in opposite directions and we rest our foreheads against the glass and doze off to the images of moving scenery. One of the first things I always notice when I'm traveling is how three-dimensional the world is outside of Texas. The landscape rises and falls as rolling hills compliment the diversity of geography. Even the cities we pass through display a rich diversity of geometry and architectural styles. You can feel the history dripping off the edge of every edifice and collecting in rust-colored pools on ancient roads.
This may seem peculiarly romantic for a brief description of some random cities off the freeway between Logan and Woodshole, but back in Texas things are very different. My hometown is called Plano for a reason. (“Plain - oh”) I suspect that the residents of these towns probably don't give the texture and flavor of their cities a second thought, but where I'm from everything is flat, hot, brand-new, and separated by oceans of pavement. The hundreds of thousands of newly-leased shopping centers are the only islands of activity; a shopping oasis in a desert of flat concrete.
Nothing in Plano lasts longer than a few years before it's torn down, built back up, renovated, and replaced with a brand-new brand-name open for business. The only thing that changes in Plano are the yellow pages and the defenseless open fields where we used to play ball, before they're bought up by realtors and church-goers hungry for “expansion”. There is no culture or history in Plano because nothing lasts long enough for anyone to care enough to preserve it. (With very few notable exceptions) So anytime that I get to travel to communities where the architecture lasts more than one generation I always feel overwhelmed. It somehow feels more real than where I'm from. Like people actually live here instead of just shop here. What are suburban homes if not air-conditioned shopping bags? What are SUV's if not motorized shopping carts?
When we finally get to Woodshole I realize that the view is more beautiful than I could have hoped for. The village is populated primarily by scientists. It's host to the countries largest privately funded oceanographic institute. The whole village wraps around Eel Pond where sail boats and dingies bob up and down in the cross breeze. Greenery ebbs and flows over every inch of landscape, which is a major change from the colorless two-dimensional Texas grasslands. (or what's left of it) There is a Great Harbor surrounded by cool beaches where sea gulls and scientists depart and return on white wings throughout the day.
One thing I notice is how beautiful the trees are, and then I realize something about Texas I've never noticed before. Since everything gets renovated so often, the only trees we have in Plano (again, with rare exceptions) are these pathetic twigs that occupy the gaps between streets and shops. Here the trees must be decades old, wise, and gnarled. Great thick trunks of timber beneath a tapestry of crisp foliage. This description may sound silly to the locals, but for me, this place may as well be a fucking rainforest. I breath the ocean breeze deep into my lungs. This place even tastes different. I realize that we left the highway miles ago, and that here almost everyone walks everywhere. In Texas it's the exact opposite which explains the horrible air quality. I'm lucky I don't have asthma, which is a big problem in Texas.
It turns out there were more ZMIers on the bus. We find each other as soon as we all gravitate towards Lydia and Andy, the two ZMI staffers waving us over and holding signs. They both seem really nice, no surprise there. There are many quick introductions but nobody expects to remember names until later, when the real introductions will take place. We all pile our luggage into the two vehicles and get treated to the grand tour of Woodshole. I guess it's not just a Texas thing, everyone is blown away by how beautiful it is.
All of the shops and store-fronts are like something out of another part of the twentieth century. They have a history, a style, and a textural quality that can't be manufactured. There are no corporate logos, no huge parking lots, and no backed up traffic. People are actually walking around, and saying “Hello” to each other, and they seem to know one another. Did I wake up on another planet? Okay, maybe I'm making too big a deal out of this, but you should spend a weekend in Plano and see if you don't feel like you're on another planet; a dessert rock much closer to the sun, a primitive civilization of shopping-centered peasants living under corporate feudalism. I'm sure you could find more “life” on Mars than you can find in Plano.
Lydia Sargent is the one driving us around. Nick Bygon from southern California is riding shotgun. He talks almost as much as I usually do, which is a lot. If I weren't so enamored with the view I might be chattering as much as he is. He gets into the tiniest of altercations with Lydia about being vegan. It turns out Lydia, one of the founders of Z Magazine, is not vegan. Nick challenges her on it, gently, but presses the issue a bit further than necessary. Lydia makes the comment that Hitler was a vegetarian. The remark is clearly intended as a joke, and the rest of us in the back of the car laugh. Nick is not so amused. I've met plenty of orthodox vegans like this. The only reason I even bother to mention it will be made clear later when Nick asks Chomsky about it. So we'll save this thread for later. And just to be clear, Nick is a swell guy that I would grow closer to in the following days.
We check into our hotel rooms and I am surprised to find that I've been assigned a single all to myself. I was certain that we would all be having roommates, but I'm not about to complain about the private accommodations, not that expect to be doing much but sleeping in the room. I drop my things and join Nick and a guy named Bret Kelly from Michigan for a quick stop in the village to get something to eat before we head to the Z House. Bret is only twenty one and he already has a degree in psychology! He's really modest and humble about it, saying he wished he hadn't taken on so much so young. I don't think I could have done that even if I was inclined to. He's a quiet guy, but he must be pretty sharp.
We find a local burger joint where we can get a veggie-burger. We run through the usual introductions. I'm a vegetarian (a very flexible one) and Nick's a hardcore vegan while Bret's the apologetic omnivore. I don't think he needs to apologize, but Nick is still talking about the Hitler comment in the car. He can't believe that the Z Staff aren't vegan, or that she would make that comment. I tell him that I think he's overreacting a bit and try to change the conversation and talk about our activism. Bret doesn't have much to talk about and is a quiet guy to begin with. He lights up a Marlboro and before Nick can really jump on him I ask him about his activism. He tells us all about when he used to campaign for Ralph Nader.
I enjoy hearing about Nader, and I can tell Nick is enjoying telling us about him. I had recently seen the documentary An Unreasonable Man (2007) which is all about Nader. The title may be a bit misleading, it's taken from a quote by the playwright George Bernard Shaw:
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
The documentary is pretty favorable towards Nader and includes interviews with him and his staff as well as his opponents and self described enemies. I think it's a pretty good documentary and I've always harbored a lot of respect for Ralph Nader, even since I've become a self-described “revolutionary” which I do not think Nader would describe himself as. Maybe he would.
Nick obviously has a lot of respect for Nader and the Green Party. He tells us stories about Nader on the campaign bus. It sounds like it was a great experience for him. I tell him about how the McCain/Palin ticket scared me so much that I caved in and voted for Obama out of panic; a decision that I started regretting about twenty minutes after I got home from the polls, where I was the youngest person standing in line by at least twenty years. But considering that my very first time voting (well, second if you count the primaries) I decided to cast a ballot for the first black president, I guess I'll still sleep at night. I'll sure as hell never vote for the democrats again though, not that my vote even counts here in Texas. I might as well have written in Noam Chomsky for president, which some of my friends did! And I know they feel a lot better than I do about their ballot.
Wow! The Z House is totally fucking cool! Why in the world would anyone want to work in an office building when you can economize and work at home in a relaxed and familiar environment? The answer: because most people would hate to bring their jobs home with them. The staff of Z Magazine are obviously different. They love what they do, and they respect one another. That's one hundred and eighty degrees away from most people's occupations. So this is where the magic happens as they say. The Z House is a quaint little two-story on the water complete with a hammock, ducks, and a little dock with a kayak tied to it.
The first floor contains the Z Office, where they produce the magazine, a cozy looking den surrounded by radical literature that puts our impressive collection in Texas to shame, (although our library at home is still pretty impressive) and a big living room where they've set up tables and chairs for classes. The Z Staff lives upstairs, and in the back yard there is a shed with windows and carpet where they've set up more tables and chairs for classes. We will also be attending classes at the local fire station, the community center, the local library, and sometimes outside when the weather is nice, which is most of the time.
As I'm looking around the house and realizing that the coziness here is going to be much better for participatory learning than the cold sterile environment of most classrooms Michael Albert walks in to introduce himself to the new arrivals. I get a few butterflies in my stomach, I'm not sure why. I always try to resist the urge to romanticize “celebrities”, a term which I know Michael would never apply to himself. I guess I don't really have a word to describe how I feel. It's not that he's a “celebrity”, but he's well-known (among certain activist circles) and I have a lot of respect for him; enough respect to make me nervous about whether or not he would respect me. I guess that kind of makes him a semi-”celebrity” in my book. All of this is an over-intellectualized way of saying that I was nervous to meet him.
He shakes my hand and eyeballs my Democracy Now! shirt. “Hmm, nice” he says, and then walks off to shake more hands. I guess I made an okay impression. I feel silly for being nervous. I don't know how I'm going to keep it together when Chomsky arrives. I feel like a dork for even worrying about any of this, but I guess it's better to be over anxious out of respect than passive and rude out of indifference.
As more ZMIers arrive the room gets louder and louder with all of those getting-to-know-you conversations. I tell pretty much the same story to everybody. I almost always begin with “My name is Garrett. I'm from Dallas, but I promise I'm a nice guy.” and most people laugh. I never get tired of complaining about Texas, but I sometimes worry about pigeon-holing myself as a cowboy apostate, and then I remember the urban cowboy culture back home and immediately get back to blaspheming the Lone Star State. Most people seem to dig it, I highly doubt anyone here has a problem with all the things I have to say about Texas. Such as:
Texas citizens have the lowest average credit score.
Texas has the second worst women's voter turnout.
Texas has the lowest percent of women with health insurance.
Texas has the lowest number of citizens over 25 with a high school diploma.
Texas has the second lowest teacher's salaries.
Texas is among the lowest ten in SAT and ACT scores.
Texas is number one in air pollution emissions.
Texas is number one in volatile organic compounds released into the air.
Texas is number one in the amount of toxic chemicals released into the water.
(That last one was before the BP oil spill!)
Texas is number one in the amount of cancer-causing carcinogens released into the air.
Texas is number one in the amount of carbon dioxide emissions.
Texas is number two in the amount of hazardous waste generated.
Texas is number one in the percentage of obese citizens.
Texas is number nine in the income gap between rich and poor.
Texas is the third worst in the amount of worker's compensation and benefits paid.
Texas is the fourth worst in the number of workers that are members of a union.
Texas is the worst state in terms of homeowner's insurance affordability.
Texas is number one in the number of state executions performed.
(No other state even comes close to competing with us in executions)
Texas is number two in the rate of incarceration of its citizens.
Texas has the lowest percentage of voter turnout.
Texas is the ninth lowest in the amount of registered voters.
Texas is number three in the number of convicted public officials.
Texas used to be number one in the amount of hate crimes reported.
Texas used to be number one in the number of white supremacist organizations.
Texas used to be number one in the number of right-wing militia groups.
(Arizona and New Mexico have taken some of these last titles from us, so I guess we're improving.)
For more fun facts about Texas visit:
That may have been a bit excessive, but it's also true. There's a lot of shit about Texas that's fucked up. I mean really fucked up. I don't even think the data is available to properly quantify the sexism, heterosexism, racism, fascism, (I mean real fascism) and xenophobia that practically defines what it means to be a Texan. I mean the state slogan, “Don't Mess with Texas.” might as well be paraphrased to mean “Outsiders Fuck Off!”
I would have plenty of opportunities throughout the trip to elaborate on me feelings about Texas, and one of the first people to inquire (besides my earlier acquaintances) is David Marty. He's French but he's currently living in Spain. I try not to dwell on Texas too much (even though I'm sure I did) and ask him about Spain and France. I've had the privilege of spending a few days in Paris when I was in high school. I loved it, but to my surprise David hates Paris and calls it a shit hole.
I think it's hilarious. After everything I've just said, the time I spent in Paris was spectacular, but for a native I guess Paris is just another crowded smelly city full of tourists. The grass is always greener right? David is a wonderful guy, and he has much nicer things to say about Madrid and Spain which he says are beautiful. He's got a great sense of humor, and I can tell he's going to have me laughing a lot in the coming days.
I step outside to smoke. I'm worried that I might be one of the only ones, but sure enough off to the side of the house are a bunch of guilty looking faces and a small cloud of angst. I love smokers, they're addicted but they're dependable. I meet a tough-looking guy named Eric Fritz, “Just call me Fritz.” I love that name. There was also a way-cool older cat named Kim Alphandary. I assume because of her age that she must be one of the Z Faculty. This assumption is very premature and I'm glad that we got to talk much later about the way older women are treaded in society; written off or categorized as unimportant. She's totally right and I would learn a lot from her in the coming days. Bret was also out there and two chill guys named Collin Harris and Benjamin Laude. As smokers, we all understand that we're going to be hanging out a lot. My Gandalf-sized pipe attracts a lot of attention, as it always does, even though I really just like pipe tobacco. I promise it's not a fashion statement.
Michael steps outside to join us. He sees my pipe and immediately takes a gander in the bowl. I can't tell if we wants to make sure it's not grass or if he's disappointed it isn't. Either way, it becomes apparent that he's not going to smoke with us. He's not a prick about it, but he does gently harangue us about our habit, asking us why we smoke and stuff. Naturally, none of us have intelligent answers. Eyes look to shoes, we know the drill and none of us are about to say what we usually say to the self-righteous non-smokers we know at home. I can't tell if he's just curious to know why we smoke or if he's really trying to make us think. I know we're here to learn, but I wasn't expecting to be taught a lesson so soon.
Michael changes the subject and starts talking about these burn-outs he used to know in the 60's. These cats did everything they could get their hands on. The fun drugs, the dangerous drugs, and the non-drugs; specifically sniffing glue, which is absolutely horrible for you. He describes how difficult it was to get these kids to stop even though they knew how bad it was for them. Their attitude was that since they weren't going to college, they couldn't afford a future, and they were getting no love from home why shouldn't they enjoy themselves while they could? If it was taking years off of their life then that was all the better. They were all doomed to bag groceries and clean toilets anyway, the sooner you die the better.
Jeeze. This kind of story is not unfamiliar territory for me. Not that I ever sniffed glue, but I went to a high school that once appeared on the cover of Newsweek for the alarming number of heroin deaths that occurred there in a single year. I even knew some of the kids who overdosed. I wish they hadn't died, but none of them were what you would call “nice guys” if you know what I mean. And I can totally understand where they were coming from.
In Plano, once you graduated from high school you really had one of three options: either you got accepted to some college and were going to get the fuck out of town as fast as you could and never come back, you joined the Marines, or the Air force, or the National Guard or whatever and were going straight over-seas, or you were a “nobody” who never made it out of town and were probably going to bag groceries or clean toilets or some marginally better occupation. The point is, either you got out or you were going nowhere. I was fortunate enough to have the grades and the privilege to go to University. I knew a lot of people who had the grades but not the means, I shudder to think of where they are now. Heroin is pretty cheap in Plano.
“You know what we said to finally get them to stop?” Michael asked us. He said that they told them that sniffing glue would make them sterile and that they wouldn't be able to have sex. “Is that true?” somebody asked. Michael laughed and said that it wasn't true at all, at least as far as he knew. He said they completely made it up, but it got them to stop. He said that he didn't know how to feel about it, that it had been the most manipulative thing he had ever done. It could have been true in some form right? Was this story supposed to be directed at us? Was he just making conversation? Either way I felt like a schmuck standing there puffing away. I had quit smoking cigarettes in favor of a more natural and less frequent smoke, wasn't that enough?
I don't know why, but once he's finished I start telling the story of how Ana and I (my former lover) used to do a lot of cocaine. It's not a pleasant story, but it has a “happy” ending. She introduced me to it and I liked it a lot (well duh, that's why people do it) and the two of us went on a six-month binge. I was a recreational user (whatever the fuck that means) but she was a former addict who promised me she wouldn't abuse it again. Having no experience with it and being a fool I trusted her. Once she got to the point that she was cutting lines for breakfast, lunch, and dinner I decided that this had to stop.
I guess that's why I told the story, to show how strong and un-adicted I was. As the story goes, once I decided that I had to get Ana to stop using I knew that I couldn't use it either. To do otherwise would be the definition of hypocrisy. For me there was no withdrawal, no come down, no craving, no nothing. I quite cocain at the drop of a hat. There was almost no effort involved at all. Getting her to stop was another story. It cost us our relationship and any amount of affection she used to have for me. That's a story for another blog, but the story ends with the two of us going our separate ways and with her flushing her whole stash down the toilet. As far as I know she's never gone back. So even though she hates me now, I guess I feel pretty good about what I did. Needless to say i've never touched the stuff since.
Was Michael impressed? Was I trying to impress him? I'm not sure about either question, but this was my first impression of and impression on Michael Albert, the founder of Participatory Economics. I got harangued for being a dirty smoker and told an embarrassing story about a past drug addiction to try and make myself look better. I know that I'm overreacting, and I'm positive that nobody else even remembered the conversation after we went inside for our first meal together, but I care about what this man thinks, and what these other people think. Whenever I respect other people (which is not very often unfortunately) I always want to entertain the thought that they might respect me too. I guess we'll just have to see how the rest of the week goes.
Chris Spannos, another one of the ZMI Staff, prepared a wonderful home-cooked meal for all of us. Nick and I both agree that the vegan lasagna is amazing. Michael Albert starts talking to somebody about the education system, and before long the entire table has stopped talking to hear what he says. After dinner we all walk to the library for our formal introductions and instructions. We all take our seats in the library's bottom floor. I finally take a good look around the room, and although the participants are mostly white, mostly male, and mostly from America and Canada, the amount of diversity is still pretty impressive. I would say (in my own biased recollection) that if you divided the room into two categories, white American/Canadian males and everyone who doesn't fit one of those categories, the two groups would be about even give or take. That's a lot better than the amount of diversity we usually manage in our activities in Texas.
Everyone went around the room and introduced themselves and gave a brief description of their experience in activism. There were obviously way too many stories to recollect or record, but the descriptions ran the gambit from years of experience and travel in revolutionary ideas to those completely new to the scene and its politics. When it was my turn to speak I got up and said my name and where I was from. I told them that I was the president of the Denton Texas chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (a title that didn't mean much of anything at the moment) and that I was also really active in the Campus Anti War Network and the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. I mentioned that I was a documentary film major at the University of North Texas and that I had interned at Dallas's only liberal/progressive talk radio station and co-hosted one of their shows.
The range of experience and diversity there was impressive. There were people as old as their sixties and seventies and those as young as eighteen, having just graduated high school the day before. There were other veterans of Students for a Democratic Society, both old and new. There were participants from all over the world: America, Canada, Bangladesh, Spain, France, India, Finland, Britain, Latvia, and Germany. There was even one other person from Texas there, although he wasn't living there at the time. From what I could glean from people's stories, there were many different classes, races, and cultures being represented in the room. I know that I'm going to learn a lot from these people.
Michael and Lydia explained how the ZMI would function and what to expect. The whole atmosphere was relaxed but kept under control. We were told about the four project groups and how each of us would be assigned to one. No one would be forced to do anything they didn't want to, and if anyone wanted to form a different group or do something else they could. Pretty decent of the I think. The four groups were: Building a Revolutionary Organization for a Participatory Society. Organizing a New International. Building a Left Media Network. And Creating a Political Theater/Arts Network.
Naturally I chose the Left Media group. We got together to discuss some preliminary ideas. I knew that Candice and I wanted to start an independent newspaper back home, and I wanted to make that idea somehow relevant to this group of people. I had come to the ZMI basically to help get this idea off the ground, and learn a lot in the process. So I pose the question of how we can enable and encourage activists on college campuses all over the country (and the world) to form their own media projects and have them interact and collaborate with each other. How can we provide a sort of “activist toolbox” to people so that they don't have to start from zero or innovate alone, like we did in Texas.
My independent paper idea kind of mutates into what we start calling “Z Spores” where the cuber-capital of Z-Net (the ability to have customizable web space) can be used by activists anywhere to create their own spore. So there might be a “Z Denton” which would be a subset of “Z Texas”, or there could even be a more specific “Z U.N.T.” for our campus.
I hope I didn't monopolize the conversation, but everyone seemed to like the idea , although a Canadian named Andre Guimond was worried about the idea not addressing communities other than college campuses. He's absolutely right, this can't just be a service for privileged American college kids. Then there was a German named Florian Zollman who said to call him “Flo” who wanted to focus more on developing new journalistic standards for the left that were different from the ones used by corporate news. He didn't want this project to be an “anything goes, post whatever you want” kind of enterprise. He has a really good point. I tell him that we should incorporate his ideas into the project infrastructure. Then there was Uma Chandru, a charming woman from India who loved the idea but was committed to making sure that the third world could participate in this endeavor, even if they have limited access to the internet and other resources. Wow, what a bunch of great ideas. This is why I wanted to pitch my ideas here. I knew I would get a lot of great input.
I can't believe how excited and engaged I already feel. We haven't even gotten started yet! We walk back to our hotels, waxing intellectual and swapping amazing stories all along the way. I feel so comfortable around these people, I feel so relaxed in this environment, and I feel refreshed in this beautiful climate. I can't wait to see what we do tomorrow, the first day of classes at the Z Media Institute, 2010.