Monday, June 28, 2010

From Douglas Lain

"Pick Your Battle" (foraging as revolutionary self-help)

The following project is the brain child of Douglas Lain, the son of one of my oldest and dearest childhood friends.  He lives in Portland, Oregon and is trying to obtain enough money to fund the writing and self-publishing of a radical "self-help" book entitled "Pick Your Battle." He has presently raised on Kickstarter over $3,600. His pledge goal is $6,000.  The project will only be funded if at least $6,000 is pledged by Wednesday July 14, 3:00am EDT. $1 is the minimum pledge. Any assistance you may offer will be greatly appreciated.

You may click here to make a pledge or scroll down to read more about the project.

From the Author

"Pick Your Battle" is the title of a radical self-help book that starts off from where my more pessimistic and surreal effort at self-help "How to Cut Yourself to Pieces" left off. In a time of peak oil, peak population, and peak insanity just stepping outside and getting to know the plant life in your neighborhood represents a radical break.

Money raised for the "Pick Your Battle Project" will cover the writing, printing, promotion, and distribution of a book that will explain and explore urban gleaning, situationist theory, and unschooling while telling the story of my own and my family's attempt to revolutionize our everyday lives. It will support efforts to organize local foraging, community gardens, psychogeographic field trips, and a confrontation with the current system.

While writing the book I will also continue discussing permaculture and the radical politics on the Diet Soap podcast and give updates on my progress.

What I Need and What I'll Do

I am asking for $6000 to cover printing, postal, travel, organizing, and some living expenses while I write. The fruit trees will blossom and produce their goods throughout the summer, so from June to September I'll organize picking expeditions while simultaneously meeting up with others who want to put this project into the broader context of developing an inclusive and democratic food economy for Portland's various communities.

Chomsky for a Dollar

I am offering a PDF copy of my novelette "Noam Chomsky and the Time Box" to anyone who pledges a dollar or more to the Pick Your Battle project. The novelette is similar in spirit to the Pick Your Battle book. It is yet another attempt to wed radical critique to the imagination.

Daniel Coffeen, whose lectures on Rhetoric at UC Berkeley can be heard on iTunes U, commented on the story:
"I was afraid it was going to become didactic, but it never assumed that tone. It's got this impeccable feel to it. Just in tone there is resistance. The tone is engaged, open, and playful. I laughed out loud."

Listen to Me Talk

As this Kickstarter campaign has proceed I've discussed the project on podcasts and radio programs. You can listen online or on your MP3 player.

If Your Just Joining Us Podcast with host Jon Armstrong

The Next Step Podcast with host Jarett Sanchez.

Media Monarchy, with host James Evan Pilato

Shamanic Freedom Radio, with host Opaque Lens

Agroinnovations Podcast with host Frank Aragona

Black Light in the Attic with host Cody

Tuesday Morning After on KCUT Community Radio with host Ed Yersh

Community of Backers
I've been excited by the many pledges and emails offering ideas and moral support. Here's an example:
Hi Doug,

I am especially excited about your "Pick Your Battle" project.

I have taken an interest in your Pick your Battle project because I am a biology instructor at El Paso Community College, and for a while I have had an idea to do some psychogeography and food forest projects with my students. The students I teach are so disconnected with the world of the "outside of buildings" that they have almost no experiential context to which they can tie the content that they learn in my biology classes.

I am keenly awaiting your book and I hope that your efforts have some foraging, psychogeography, and community building work out well. I will probably use some of what you are doing as a model of future projects with students.


I am primarily a fiction writer and I've always left my best ideas on the pages of magazines and books filled with made up stories. I've operated as though creativity was something separate from life. Dreams were relegated to the realm of art. To keep my fantasy life safely inside the box of commercial fiction, to deny the imagination, this was realistic.

With the zero years behind us we've all seen how destructive this realism can be. There are wars and occupations, there is economic collapse, a huge swath of the Pacific ocean has been polluted into a plastic soup, there is climate change, we're facing peak oil, and so I'm finished with the usual realism. I want to take something small and tangible, like a cherry from our backyard tree, or a fig from the tree around the block, and step forward into the impossible.

Using the harvesting of the fruit trees in my neighborhood as a jumping off point I hope to pick my battle, work with others, and create an ongoing community effort toward self-reliance, connection, and solidarity. I'd like to start a process of revolutionizing my every day life.

More concretely I plan on reaching out to pre-existing organizations such as the Portland Fruit Project, Urban Gleaners, Growing Gardens and others as I organize with neighbors to map out and harvest my immediate environment. Perhaps this will mean we simply split the spoils between the pickers at first, perhaps we will participate with pre-existing distribution networks, but the idea is to reach out to others and help spread abundance and self-sufficiency. I hope to participate in what I see as a free food movement where planting trees and gardens is integrated into what we do. I dream of smashing the industrial food system with locally produced free food.

In the meantime I'll start over on that radical self-help book. This time the self that is helped will be plural, a "we" instead of an "I".

Project location: Portland, OR 

Douglas Lain is the author of dozens of short stories and two novels. His work has regularly appeared in nationally distributed literary magazines and journals such as Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and Amazing Stories since 1999, and his first book “Last Week’s Apocalypse” was a collection of these stories published by Night Shade Books. His first novel, entitled “Billy Moon: 1968,” tells the story of Christopher Robin Milne’s fictional involvement with the French general strike in May of 1968, and is due out from Tor Books in 2011. His second novel, entitled “the Brainwash Brand,” is currently under option at Tor.

Since 1991 Lain has been involved with various activist and liberatory projects. He is a member of the radical nonprofit Education Without Borders, a former participant in the Portland Peaceful Response Coalition that formed after the attacks of September 11th, 2001, and an organizer of protests against the Patriot Act and against the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. He has also been an organizer of events and fundraisers for literary and political organizations such as Books not Bombs and Veterans for Peace. His overtly political writings have been featured in ‘zines and journals such as Magnitizdat (a journal of illegal writing), the Portland Alliance, and Flytrap.

Lain is also the editor of the ‘zine “Diet Soap,” which Stephanie Holmes of the Xerography Debt described as “the equivalent of reading the well-written diary of the paranoid neurotic you have a raging crush on.” Lain is also the host of a weekly podcast with the same title as his ‘zine. On its 46th episode the Diet Soap podcast typically has well over a thousand listeners every week, and has featured conversations with Penelope Rosemont of the Chicago Surrealist group, the journalist David Lindorf, the novelist Geoff Nicholson, the anarchist philosopher Takis Fotopoulos, and many others. Douglas is also a frequent guest on a variety of other podcasts including the C-Realm, the Next Step, Frank Aragona’s Agroinnovations podcast, and others.

Lain’s metafictional and autobiographical short story “A Coffee Cup/Alien Invasion Story” was reprinted in Richard Horton’s Science Fiction Best of the Year anthology in 2006, and Lain was nominated for the Elliot Fintushel Short Story Award in 2003 and 2004, but lost to Elliot Fintushel both times. He has also been nominated or shortlisted for the Nebula, the Fountain Award, the Locus Award, and strangely enough the MTV Music Video award for best choreography.

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