Aside from the Nine to Five

Pro Pants: 2K11!

Pro Pants, celebrating its fourth year, is a response to Improv Everywhere’s annual No Pants! Subway Ride. Pro Pants exists to inform the pantsless about the pant options available to them, if they feel that something in their lives may be missing. Pro Pants is a non-pantisan organization, accepting all pant belief systems.

This is clearly a year for pants: ‘11 even resembles a pair of pants. In 2011, Pro Pants exploded in size; over thirty highly trained representatives circulated in Union Square, distributing literature and engaging many of the 3,000 pantsless in conversation about pants. We were proud to offer information in several formats:

  • Eight Pro Pants representatives wearing sandwich boards handed out pamphlets and engaged passersby in thoughtful dialogue. These conversational ninjas presented open minds and information to hundreds of the pantsless.
  • Two dozen more representatives walked around passing out literature, speaking with the pantsless to explain the Pro Pants mission and the Free Pants Test option. The literature this year was in hot demand, perhaps indicating an increased interest in pants in 2011.
  • Eight Pro Pants representatives issued Free Pants Tests, one-page questionnaires entitled “Do You Need Pants?”.
  • Two Pants Technicians measured and fitted willing questionnaire-takers with pants if the results indicated they were in need (they always were, of course).

Pro Pants representatives issued more than 300 questionnaires, distributed 1500 pamphlets, and gave away 40 pairs of pants.

As of this writing, as expected, roughly 100% of the 3000 pantsless riders had accepted pants into their lives!

This year we were saddened by the absence of co-founder Jason Eppink, whose art star life pulled him into Astoria instead of Union Square. We are happy to report he was wearing pants in solidarity! See his excellent report from 2K10 for more insight into our mission.

We have infinite love for Improv Everywhere, which provides the pantsless with a community, and Pro Pants with a venue for our activities. Thank you, IE!

See our photos here.

Awaiting Haydur’s always-fantastic documentation!

Social Activism plus Crowds minus Guilt = Fun-raising?

Being all social work-oriented, my goal is bringing small elements of community service and social consciousness-building to the large, hilarious crowd events in NYC. I love and respect the free spirit of randomness that permeates events like Santacon. Adding a quiet option to donate, do good, help clean up after, or not, without guilt or politicizing, seems like it can only bring good press and positive community perception to the huge flashmob/urban playground-style events.

Santacon currently collects canned food at the start points. Collecting money throughout the day, with the distribution of information packets and donation bins to hosting bars, could help Santa raise money for a cause. Something entertaining and thematic, like penguin rehabilitation.

This is where it gets sticky: What cause do you choose?

Raising money for a local cause, like diabetes awareness programming for the poor and crappily-nourished children in East Harlem, may produce a negative reaction in the flashmobbers. Maybe there is a foundation of class guilt which goes along with being confronted with the fact that you, Santa, have the disposable income to buy a costume and drink all day, while others do not. Feeling guilty is no fun, and I don’t want to ruin someone’s good time. Fun is healthy and very worth supporting.

Raising money for animals is easier than for people. For example, Pepsi’s Refresh program, which distributes cash grants, crowdsources its selections. Three of the four Top Voted programs this month and last month, in each of the four funding levels, are to benefit animals. Twelve of the thirty-two programs funded in November, and elevent of those in December were for animals.

Helping animals is morally uncomplicated. Funding long-term, gradual changes which are not cute or amenable to pictures will be hard to raise for, especially when issues of class or race privilege arise.

To raise funds/donations at smart mobs or flash mobs, does a cause also have to be light-hearted and animal-related? How do we fun-raise without guilt or changing the character of the overall event?

Kitten Wall

(Kitten: suzanneandsimon on flickr) (Skyline: giabar on flickr)

Setting: A party at a building in Dumbo. A beautiful view of downtown. The party host asserted that nothing could compete with the stunning view of the Manhattan skyline from the apartment, thus the lack of any décor in the room. I counterasserted that a wall of kittens would get more attention per guest per minute.

There’s only one way to settle these claims: Build the Kitten Wall to compete with the View.

Step One: Build wall-sized kitten habitrail. Plexiglass cover optional; breaking the fourth wall by having kittens interact with guests could add an interesting element. Having interaction could invalidate the comparison of views. On the flip side, playing with kittens rocks.

Step Two: Rent a whole lot of kittens.

Step Three: Have a party! Don’t tell the guests the Secret Purpose. Set cameras to record the View + Kittens Room. Enjoy!

Step Four: Figure out who was right. Review the tape. Track per-visitor viewing time of the View and the Kitten Wall. Make a graph to make things official. Declare victory.


Getting the owner of the View Room to agree to host this madness.

Ethical issues? What ethical issues? There are kittens!

Penguins Sell South Pole Real Estate at Santacon

NYC just hosted its annual SantaCon, with somewhere between 2,000 and a bajillion Santa attendees. Santa is infinitely divisible with no discernable loss of Santitude, allowing us to speak to many Santas, and sometimes elves, trees, gifts, and dreidels!

Naturally, South Pole Real Estate's Penguin Salespenguins were there. Santa is our key demographic!

We passed out 500 fliers with information on the benefits of moving to the South Pole, created by the wonderful Ashleigh!

We expect 700 Santas to be moving south soon, according to the legally-binding stickers we passed out!

Concept: Treat Clothing Like Whiskey

Putting your current clothing away for 25 years can increase their value! It’s an investment.

How long does it take for regular clothing to age into vintage clothing? Exhaustive research, which involved clicking on the top link for “average age of vintage clothing”, reveals that 25 years is the minimum.

To make the wait more pleasant, pack your clothes away in a sleek cedar box. For a nominal fee, it can have a beautiful timer which counts down by year, in the style of Kouji Iwasaki.

Be a Nice Polar Bear!

Myself and hundreds of other do-gooders will be jumping into the freezing Atlantic at Coney Island on New Year’s Day to raise funds for Camp Sunshine, which is a summer camp-style haven for chronically ill children and their families, set in the Maine countryside. I am very excited to help raise funds to enable families the space to concentrate on their child’s health in a beautiful, calm setting.

NEW THIS YEAR: If you donate more than $5, I will write your name on my body before my swim, so the world can see your generosity! I hope to be entirely covered in names, so I can raise $500!

Please make a pledge on my behalf for this great cause:

As a thank you, you’ll get hilarious pictures of me looking cold and philanthropic! These pictures look great on fridges and clipped to tax returns to demonstrate deductible donations.

Thank you and Happy Holidays!


Jen “It’s Bearly Cold” Small

ShareTruck: Talk and Listen to Strangers, in a truck.

(Photo credit: vipgala)

Mid-November found my fantastic group putting together a truck for the Night Market. The premise was simple: One participant was the talker, the other the listener, both strangers, with 2 minutes in a timer. Sit them in a booth, and have the talker talk, and the listener listen. See what happens.

People enjoyed the concept. I frequently opened the curtain after two minutes and found both people leaning forward, looking keenly engaged in the one-sided conversation. We had repeat listeners, and a few would-be listeners who were firmly encouraged to be talkers. No one managed to sit in silence the whole time.

Discovering people in the booths after we stopped running the truck, doing EXACTLY what the instructional signs told them to, was the best possible cap to the night. I loved it.

Another beautiful Night Market!




(J&R and your friendly neighborhood can provide you with megaphonery. 10W is plenty for recreational use.)

The Fun Police of the Forbidden City

The Fun Police kept order in Winkel and Balktick’s Forbidden City, ensuring the safety and funitude of attendees.

Our fine officers issued tickets to partygoers.

Eventually I’ll put the final version up here. We added “Excellent/Poor use of face”, which was a frequent citation.

Officer Shane Perez took photos of troublemakers to keep track of them.

Criminals were asked to write confessions and place them in the highly secure Confession Box. Anyone who walked by was likely to be megaphoned over to the station and instructed to pick a confession from the box. Then they read it aloud through the megaphone, no matter what it said. Some of them were quite, er, remarkable!

Our line was impossible to walk, with gaps, curly bits, and chairs right over it.

Forbidden City’s Finest may have accepted bribes to let the Macau Casino continue operating.

We issued hundreds of tickets, elicited two hundred astounding confessions, took hundreds of mugshots, and kept things fun and silly. Thanks for hosting us, Winkel and Balktick!

Saber-toothed tigers released in Prospect Park

My accomplices and I, the Non-Traditional Park Preservation Taskforce, posted signs in Prospect Park, trying to ask people to stay out of the newly restored areas. Gothamist blogged us before we got around to blogging ourselves!

We love Prospect Park and the Ravine, newly restored after years of abuse. The topsoil can’t compete with folks hopping the fence and tromping on the plant life. We’d love to see the area stay beautiful for years to come!