Monday, October 5, 2009

Get Your Surfboard Ready...

...time to surf the huge waves of mass anger and negativity that are rolling our way.

I should be working on about ten other things, but I must admit I'm distracted, waiting to see if we are going to plunge off the cliff in the next month or so or if the markets and credit system will poke along in a more complex corrective pattern, drawing the last few suckers back into the financial markets before guillotining them all.

While waiting (and of course working diligently at my day job...), I've been trying to think up a variety of "crash businesses" to get into should this collapse wipe out said day job.

The recent issue of The Socionomist and George Ure's warning that 25 October could mark the beginning of a serious credit and banking lockdown have helped add both urgency and, hopefully, a little creativity to the search for a "crash business" or, as will be more likely, a variety of enterprises that can fill different niches as this ginormous bear market unfolds in its fury and grandeur. I think long-term careers doing the same tasks over and over will be very rare in the coming Bear Market world. Extreme flexibility will be called for. You must be ready to play the role of both worker and facilitator - we all need to become small business owners. That will be hard transition for many. Don't be one of 'em.

Art as Crash Business?

This month's Socionomist gets artsy on us, with a discussion of music trends in bear markets. The theme itself is not radically new for those of us who have followed socionomics over the years, though the extra detail and insight from authors Lampert and Wilson is very useful - and not just to the artistic folks out there.

If you think art and music trends are useless in the coming environment, think again. Art, music, movies, various web and computer art trends (video games, flash animation, viral videos, etc.) are a key spice to life for many, many people. Providing a venue and forum for new, cutting edge, art can help provide you with some sort of small income and, just as importantly, provide a nucleus for a coming wave of new - and almost certainly disturbing - art and expression.

Here is what I am thinking: Do you have access to a building or even an option on vacant commercial property? Make ties with any local artists (or, as is far more likely, local wannabe artists - the real thing is hard to find) and offer it up, be it for concerts, art shows, plays, etc. Maybe find a core group of more reliable artist types and offer the building as a place to live and work in exchange for upkeep and some sort of compensation. Yes, I know this will violate about fifty local and county ordinances - that is just part of living in the Chump Phase of this decline. Figure it out.

For those of you interested in memeering as well, art is - in my opinion - not just an expression of underlying social mood, but a strong vector for reinforcing the underlying mood trends. If this type of manipulation interests you, now would be a time to see what you can do with it. Edit a magazine, experiment with computer content - don't just lock yourself into electronic versions of magazines or newspapers - play with incorporating video, music, animation, etc. Be prepared to deal with shocking material. Be ready to publish on conspiracy theories and radical topics (I think the Goldman Sachs beat will be crowded with angry muckrakers, so I'd suggest finding another avenue to travel - maybe the ten richest families in America and their holdings or something like that).

I would just ask that you also consider using whatever venues you operate as a local influence for a better society. Even if your artists or writers "rage against the machine" you can focus on doing good works locally and harnessing the energy and radicalism into everything from guerrilla gardening (stick it to Big Ag!) to local currencies (stick it to the criminal kleptocracy!) to co-ops (screw Wall Street and the market manipulators!) to technology that radically localizes production (screw Big Industry!).

If you focus solely on anger, hate and rage, you can certainly prosper in the coming environment for a little while - but those emotions burn hot and almost always consume those who fan the flames in a conflagration that burns them, and those around them, to a cinder. Strong local communities can weather storms much better than an angry, Mad Max landscape of fear and hate (note - the whole "Mad Max" paradigm that pervades a big segment of "survivalist" and "end of days" thought is just an artistic trope that resonated strongly and has held in place for decades - art matters). This is selfish self-preservation here folks - if you must focus on an enemy, make it a far away enemy and build up you and yours as best you can.

The foreign boogeyman can, of course, lead to separate catastrophes - I am thinking Israel vs. Iran here - but when the sea of mass mood are dark and stormy, you do the best you can to surf the waves.

Again, nothing radical here. Just remember, you are going to have to be nimble and courageous. Teams and networks will be worth more than a portfolio of corporate bonds and shares of GE by the time Thanksgiving rolls around.


Greg B said...

Thank Mike, great post! Ways of maintaining some cash flow if (when) things intensify is an important subject.

On your thoughts about providing facilities for art and artists: for an interesting sci-fi perspective on that read "Subterraean Gallery" buy Richard Paul Russo.

Having been trained as a Manfacturing Engineer, the idea of small-scale localized production is very attractive to me. Besides RepRap you should check out the 100K Garages project

But I think that re-manufacturing and repairing will be more important in the next dozen years than will be actual production. I have been pondering setting up a biz that is an old-fashioned machine shop and casting shop. Older style machine tools that use single point tools are basic drillbits and milling cutters are very flexible and easier to supply tooling for. Basic casting equipment can use broken parts as patterns for new castings OR turn weak prototypes made using equipment like the RepRap into strong cast parts that can actually be used.

My university town is sorely lacking these types of businesses, though some areas in the Rust Belt have a surplus of them hidden and disguised as the backroom machine shops/prototype shops of large manufacturing business. So it is not an option for everywhere.

Flagg707 said...

Hey Greg,

Amazing you brought up Russo's Subterranean Gallery - I thought I was the only one who had read that. It's been years. I finally got the last of my books out of boxes and on shelves and I flipped through it just last week. Weird coincidence.

No question that repairs and refits will be more in demand, in my opinion. I have a small library of casting books and have played around with aluminum casting recently. RepRap, in my opinion, will be initially best used to make molds for repair jobs. Wax and styrofoam casting could benefit from them.

Greg B said...

Then you are probably familiar the Lindsay's Technical Books?

For those who aren't, it's a catalog of relatively old re-printed books on things like machining, casting, steam engines, generators, and lots more. The books are inexpensive and the projects are do-able by amateurs and hobbyists.

I did some home-scale aluminum casting years ago and really enjoyed it, though my wife still gives me a hard time about catching the wheelbarrow on fire ;^)

Hey Mike, maybe we should talk about this more...