We did the dishes, now where’s the revolution? (Danger Zone reprise)

(Follow-up to my most recent post about the Danger Zone...)

So… Today the court decided the partial eviction of the Rigaer was indeed illegal, and neither the owner of the house, or the police were in their right to violently clean those rooms out.

Poster about "dangerous goods" in the Rigaer Str.
Poster about “dangerous goods” in the Rigaer Str.

They now have to evict the premises, and give them back to the former users.

With help of the bailiff.

Here’s the link  and here a vid , where the senator tries again and again to duck the question: why did he evict the premises, if there was no document available to justify this eviction, nor for keeping a huge police force at the site for weeks?

I SO want a video of this: A bailiff, possibly with police support, kicking the security of the owner and the police supporting the owner out.

And in the mean time, Henkel, the senator responsible for the danger zone, still refuses to talk with the people from the neighborhood about the whole “your civil rights are suspended here” thing.

Possibly because by now he has A LOT to explain:

  • personal data of people searched in the danger zone ending up straight from the police files on nazi websites
  • the only person caught hot-handed burning cars down, turned out to be a Pegida activist, and a police informer
  • it was the testimony of this police informer on what’s going on inside the Rigaer house which was one of the basics on which the danger zone was installed -> hear-say around the neighborhood (yeahyeah, I know….) says when the guy was exposed as a police informer & kicked out of the scene some time ago, one of his last words was “I’ll get my revenge”…
  • now it turns out the eviction of part of the Rigaer was illegal. And this senator, who keeps referring to “respecting the legal state”, obviously had his own interpretation of “legal, illegal, scheißegal”.

Well… I wonder how he’ll make up for the destruction of the inventory of the pub, the kitchen for refugees, for the destruction of the inner house garden, and the weeks of in-house heavy surveillance of the people living there, including bluntly refusing visitors entering the house after 9 pm…

Of course, the article ended with a reference to the “riots” of last saturday. Something the senator keeps referring to too. Which I seemed to have completely missed out on, though I was present at the “scene of crime” for three hours…

And I do frikkin hope it’s the end of the political career of this “hawk”, and the end of the Danger Zone (hey, we can keep dreaming, can we?).

If you want to follow the party in the Rigaerstr: here’s a live blog from a local newspaper.

Yes, that’s quite a bit of confetti 🙂

Rant – When A Flux of Pink Indians might not be such a bad idea

Cleansing the underground, cleansing the neighborhood, cleansing the population: A rant about bad things happening, over-reacting, pointing fingers, underbellies & crocodile brains, and my personal aversion against (self-)proclaimed protectors. And why it might actually come to me dressing up in bright pink, slapping faces with my house-shoes.

People sometimes tell me I’m a pessimist. I rather describe it as “I hate it when I’m right”. Or worse, when my more absurd jokes become true (hey, Life, that was a frikkin’ JOKE!). But lately, I’m beginning to lose that sense of pitch-black humor, and feel the need to hide under a blankie, being “sick & tired of waiting for this world to end”.

I’m sick and tired of hate. Sick and tired of generalizations. Sick & tired of polarization. Sick & tired of “cures”, which are worse than the “disease”. Sick & tired of (self-)proclaimed “protectors”.

Yes… many bad things happen. Thing I can’t, and won’t condone. Things I can’t and won’t laugh away. Things which make me want to hide in a dark corner. But the reactions to those bad things are so out of proportion, I have to shake off that blanket.

“Cleansing” the underground

Recently, an underground – neofolk – party had to close, because the owner of the venue where it took place received threats from “the Left”. I’m very much aware that, in some undergroundier than underground music scenes, there are some “bad apples”. I walk around in those scenes, and am not one of the people who shuts up when I spot “brownish” tendencies. And I’m not the only one. The reaction however, of some people outside that scene, to threaten the venue where a party from that scene takes place with violence, and on the net, start a hate campaign, is completely out of proportion.

Condemning a whole (albeit very small) music scene because of a few bad apples, and a lot of unfounded suspicions, will only lead to polarization. To the people who threatened the owner of the venue: you in fact give the opportunity to those few bad apples to take over that scene, because this kind of intimidation won’t make people give up their music. But it will make any kind of discussion completely impossible. I’m on the fringe of that scene, and consider myself an antifascist. Believe me, I can really do without the “protection” of some self-proclaimed, uninformed, self-righteous, outsiders.

And be realistic: the fascist threat isn’t coming from a few dozen people dancing slowly to neofolk music by candle light…

“Cleansing” the neighborhood

Another local “incident” of the past few weeks: cops invading squats in full riot gear because an uniformed person dealing out parking tickets was beaten up. Probably more than just the parking ticket happened, but still, beating someone up with 5 people is not ok in my book. Now I know dealing out parking tickets in Berlin is a risky job (just like telling people not to smoke in a small pub where the owner smokes himself). And really, not just in this neighborhood. It still is not ok to beat someone up for it. However, the reactions of the cops to this incident was absurd. It became the excuse to invade a local squat in full riot gear, and quite a few other actions following this. Resulting in the confiscation of a few fire extinguishers (hooray!). It was not exactly the first time the cops interpreted their task of “keeping the peace” in a rather, well… violent and disproportional way (for example last summer).

Dear cops: I applaud you. Very brave. It will most definitively help to release the tension in the neighborhood and make us all just love & want to hug you. Especially if you invade another house a few days later because of a small bag of garbage dumped 20 meters away from the helmeted, shielded, and well-insulated invaders. Or raid a small bakery because a few “suspicious people” are buying their breakfast there. Or get up a ladder in full riot gear to silence the music coming from a nearby balcony.  Circling low above the neighborhood for days in a row with helicopters until deep in the night also makes me wish I had a bazooka at hand. And, as always, when such an “incident” happens, I just love being followed by a police van when I walk the streets with two friends of mine. Gosh, I never felt so safe in my life, having our own, private, surveillance unit.

Again, me, as one of the people living in the neighborhood, can do without this kind of “protection” from outsiders. Really, dragging people out of bakeries, invading a house because of some garbage thrown out, trying to intimidate with helicopters or following any group larger than 2 people on the streets, does not make me feel any safer in my neighborhood.

Again, this kind of intimidation won’t work, it will only lead to polarization. And again, be realistic: the chances that this will lead to a “bloody revolution”, the government being overthrown or Friedrichshain declaring its independence are pretty minimal.

“Cleansing” the male population

Last but not least. A very belated reaction to the “incidents” on New Year’s Eve in Cologne and other cities. Just to bring it back into memory (though I don’t think people have forgotten, yet…), on New Year’s Eve near the Central Station of Cologne, a lot, and I mean a LOT of women were sexually harassed or even raped, and subsequently robbed, on a scale rarely seen, by a mob of drunken men. This is bad. This is very very very bad. However, the reactions in the press, the social media and especially, the violence coming from “gangs” of hooligans and other self-declared “protectors of the german woman” were completely out of proportion. Within hours, the rumors about “nord-african” or “arabic” looking attackers, or “refugees” were all over the net, and the hate-campaign started. Again, leading to generalization & polarization.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m pretty sure there are quite a few male chauvinist sexist pigs among refugees or people from the Middle-East. I just don’t think there’s more of them among those groups as in any other group… (hey, I’m a pessimist, remember?). And I’m all in favor of rooting this out. But…

Pointing the finger

What scares me are the reactions. First, I see people from whom I thought they had some kind of brain all of a sudden supporting the Pegida-movement.”oh, they were right about the hordes from the middle-east threatening our o-so woman-friendly culture”.

Already much has been said about this elsewhere, so I guess I don’t need to repeat the statistics in detail. Just a quick summary: most refugees are christians;  gang-criminality, including robbery and group-rape (aka “gang-banging”),  is associated with poverty & bad perspectives and yep, being an immigrant is associated with poverty & bad perspectives; rape is caused by rapists, not by the clothing the victim wears nor the “ethnicity” or “religion” of the rapist: there’s no statistical evidence of a higher occurrence of rapists within “refugees” or ” people from the Middle-East”.

Not to forget the instrument of  robbery under cover of sexual harassment or grinding up (“antanzen”) is not exactly a new strategy. It is, unfortunately, a pretty well known, and used, instrument by petty criminals for example in touristic areas or by gangs in Berlin (who supposedly already have divided the different club-districts among each other). We had quite a few nasty incidents last summer here in Berlin. The latest trend I’ve heard about distracting someone to be able to rob him/her (usually her) is to set his/her hair on fire… This resulted in a completely stupid and helpless reaction of “law and order” (leave your phone at home, or don’t use it openly, don’t wear expensive jewelry). Which boiled down to another nice case of victim blaming. Just as stupid as the reaction of the mayor of Cologne: keep those men at arm length.. yeah, right… So the phenomena is not new, and to blame it on certain groups or the victims is pointing the finger in the wrong direction.

But well.. I guess the people who now all of a sudden go over to the Pegida camp are probably just as fact-resistant or susceptible of conspiracy theories as that Pegida guy I tried reasoning with (until he started denying the Holocaust, then the discussion stopped from my side).

The underbelly & the crocodile brain: fear is all you need

Second, I see fear. I see people sharing this “Taharrush gamea” (organized sexual harassment)  phenomena when referring to Cologne, and being afraid this might become “normal”.

Well, except for the fact there’s a lot of discussion about this phenomena, especially about the (pre-)-organized aspect of it, rape culture isn’t exactly new. Any woman in any culture, also in our oso beloved western culture, does not at least take a deep breath and mentally prepare herself before walking through a mob of drunken young men. One of the yearly events in our neighborhood I hate the most, the so-called “Biermeile” on the Frankfurter Allee, I mostly exactly hate because of this. I think the average hair color there was some darker shade of blonde, and I observed a higher occurrence of mustaches. Also, I do not enjoy walking past a club just around the corner on a saturday, which “clientele” used to consist mostly of young white males from the surrounding countryside. It changed ownership a few times after that, now programming mostly russian artists. The cat-calling and harassment diminished, but sure as hell is still there. Typically enough, it was the least when that club programmed popular turkish artists… Again, I don’t like generalization. Not when it comes to blonde hair, or mustaches, or being from the countryside, or russian or turkish.

Again (yes, I’m a pessimist), I’m quite sure all groups have quite a few male chauvinist sexist pigs among their ranks. Believe me, there’s no pre-organization needed for sexual harassment on a huge scale. Just add alcohol, add “group dynamics” or male-bonding-rituals: many of these men would not try to grab you, or even do some cat-calling if they were on their own. My impression is that often, they are more trying to prove themselves in front of their mates, than actually trying to get their hands on you. Though it’s still frikkin scary and disgusting. Add the above named factors, and the crocodile brain takes over and any woman suddenly becomes a potential prey, who “should know her place”. And me, as a woman alone, I rather avoid places on a weekend night where I know I might bump into a group of drunken men, exactly because of this.

Oh great.. there are the protectors again

Third.. I see this “phenomena” of “we have to protect our women from the invading hordes” and these self-declared protectors patrolling public spaces (and beating up anyone dark-skinned in the process). Protectors. Oh really. Knights in shining armor. Sure. Need a white horse? Get real. I’m a woman. Not german, and probably a tiny bit too dark to be considered “worthy of protection” by those self-declared protectors. But heck, even if I was german and a platinum-blonde, I’d rather pass on that protection. I wouldn’t trust it. Rely on a group of male chauvinist pigs to protect me from another group of male chauvinist pigs? And expect them not to turn on me to “express my gratitude” for being protected? I don’t think so….

A flux of pink indians

Nope. If I would see any group phenomena which would actually protect against large scale, organized or not, sexual harassment of women, it would be self-organisation. Of women solely, yes. Non-aggressively of course. What I’m thinking of, is something like the “pink ladies” (or Gulabi Gang) in India. If you don’t know what this is, look it up. Rape culture, again, is everywhere. And in India, a group of women, wearing pink saris, organized themselves to educate, to protect and, in unfortunately some cases, to avenge. And how did they avenge? By beating rapists with house shoes, and thereby publicly shaming them…. I don’t like revenge, I don’t like publicly shaming.. but heck, I laughed me ass off with a vid of a group of pink ladies slapping a group of rapists with house-shoes and giving them a good verbal bashing… Thereby making clear that sexual harassment is not cool, it’s not normal, it’s not something any woman asks for, no matter where & with whom she is or on her own, or what she wears, and it’s something you should be fukking ashamed for even thinking about it.

And believe me. Male chauvinist pigs won’t like women organizing themselves. Not the so-called aggressors, and not the so-called protectors. One the regular demonstrations I participated in, was the so-called “witch-night”, when a huge group of women only, went on the streets to claim them back. No other demonstration I participated in, not even the most controversial ones, met so much verbal, and also physical aggression from the “general public” as that one. Yes, from males. No matter what age or background or even “intellectual” level (heck, one of the most aggressive reaction usually came from the balcony of a fraternity, and from mostly white, university students).


We don’t need reactions which are out of proportion and only lead to more hate, more generalization, more polarization.

But a Flux of Pink Indians… I’d like to see that happen on the Biermeile on Frankfurter Allee next year… Actually, I might even put on a pink sari for that..

Blurp – Hands Down the Drain (reprise)

How come when some alternative project asks for help with their heating or water system, I always end up repairing the sewage system??

Yes, I KNOW I posted this before. I fell for it so many times now.. And I really planned to stay clear from the sewage this time. *dangit*

Just utterly btw, there’s is no such thing as a drunk-punk-proof system to keep a poor lonely radiator in the men’s toilet from falling down after there’s almost no wall left to hang it from. I advised putting some bricks under it & pray the pipes hold.. thank goodness they were copper and not steel.

Rant – The world in a handbasket… or not?

Sometimes reading the news feels like reading a leftish satire magazine. I sometimes SO hope it’s all really becomes true: the government is starting to squat!

More or less serious plans to house refugees are:

  • Berlin’s new to be built airport, which already costs billions too many, and prolly won’t be finished until 2050 or something, might be used to house refugees
  • Empty, luxurious apartments, too expensive for the average Berliner and only used as “investment objects” and speculation. should be confiscated. The owners will receive an “average local rent”. Also other cities consider confiscating luxurious apartments, criteria named are “owned by large investors” & “empty for a longer period”, in other words, speculation objects…
  • Same goes for empty office buildings and bank buildings standing empty, only used for speculation. Not just in Berlin, Hamburg is considering the same thing. Investors fear this will set a trend for other cities. I can hardly wait..
  • Villages completely empty in the old east of Germany will be used (and therefore, an older dutch win-win solution will actually get implemented: there are so many “ghost villages” all over Europe, on fertile soil…)
  • A known “conservative” organization, which presents itself as an interest group for tax payers, emphasized the government should not waste tax payer’s money, and pay no more than the “average local rent” even if the investors try to rent it out for many times more that average local rent.

Gosh, I’m sure beginning to like this refugee “crisis”. Bring ‘m on 😉 With a bit of luck, nobody will object to a few weirdos doing a bit of squatting too…

Rant – How to disturb a party (reprise)

It’s relatively quiet again in the neighborhood. That is, relatively. And only concerning the amount of cops. But holy shit, you got a pretty good idea how the people in Baltimore, or in the Schilderswijk in the Hague, Netherlands feel.

The opinion of people in the neighborhood about what happened last week varies: some distinguish between the “good” squatters of the Kreutziger, who are indeed, very constructive with all their DIY projects – also for the neighbors, such as the “Rent advice” and the “social support”, and the “bad” squatters of the Rigaer, who supposedly make a mess of everything, throw garbage on the streets or just leave empty bottles everywhere (“and I don’t get it, they all ride a bike, don’t they?). This even from leftish people. Strangely enough, some of the more “mainstream” people, for example a young born and raised Friedrichshainer, are far more positive: all cops are bastards, and long live the squatters – as long as they keep living here, and protest (and yes, are loud and make a mess), the rents wont rise that much. In other words “those squatters, they never did anything to me…” – thereby implying the cops do…

In general, the average neighbor is on the side of the squatters.

They’re part of the “Kiez”. Just like the elder citizens drinking their beers  in front of the late night shop until it closes, the spontaneous art made of disintegrating bikes, the guy refusing to tie his dog outside the supermarket since “that’s patronizing the dog”, the small pubs which are more or less extended living rooms, the senior hooligans in the park asking for cigarettes, the light technician projecting his light-effects on the walls of the house opposite the street, the fact that the only butcher around sells “bones for dogs” only, the begging punks at the metro station, the guerrilla knitting, the buskers, the small patches of squatted soil around many trees in the streets with benches or flower beds made out of left-over wood, the Roma guys making music and singing on their balcony, the carton boxes put on the streets with stuff “for free” everywhere & all the time, the dread-hippy giving his ouija-board an extra layer of varnish in front of his window, the notes “clean your dog’s shit, damned” getting endless responses with other notes taped under it..

What is NOT part of the Kiez are the uniformed semi-cop-traffic-wardens who only dare to walk around in groups of five, complaining about ghettoblasters or dogs-without-a-leash in the park, or the metro security who just outside the station starts pissing people off (a few days ago I walked passed them when a not completely sober and slightly worn-down fellow-neighbor shouted some stuff towards them about uniforms and too small genitals). or “new” neighbors who complain about a klezmeh-band playing in pub which exists here for more than 10 years – after which the klezmeh band picks up their instruments, and continues in the park, resulting in a nice get-to-gather-and-sing-and-dance at 2 in the morning…

Rant – How to disturb a party

This weekend, both Kreutziger & Rigaer Streetfest (crawling distance from each other) took place

The Rigaer Fest started last monday. And what should have been a celebration of DIY-Culture, has been disturbed quite a few times by unnecessary and sometimes violent police action.

Worst was last wednesday, when the “everything-for-free-fleamarket” on what is known as the Dorfplatz ((“village square”, the crossing between Rigaerstr & Liebigstr.) was cleared out by 100s of cops. First thing they did was put up a HUGE light pole. Then, when the people tried to build up the market-stands, they started clearing the place. Again and again. And though the neighborhood-people tried to be peaceful, the cops were there in full riot gear.

Why is still unclear.. Especially since it was not a concert or parties or anything LOUD, it was a frikkin market…. which wasn’t even allowed to be build up. All what was planned was a lot of nomoney-economy and neighborhood initiatives presenting themselves. There should have been free tattoos, free silk screen printing and a lot of people just giving stuff away.

But yep, the street would have been blocked with all those people enjoying it. So the dear dear cars couldn’t drive through… And yep, the beloved Bild-tabloid was already predicting riots for weeks…

The only complaints the neighbors had about noise, was the noise coming from the generator for the police light pole…

Blurp – Hands down the drain

Rhetorical question: how come, if you offer to help some – alternative – project to repair their heating or water system you always end up renewing the sewage infrastructure (too)?

(*sighs & rubs her hands clean…*)

in this case, it was a huge amount of paint residue causing the problem (silk screen workshop with a sink without a siphon … oh, and the pipes were going up & down, without being fixed except with about two cans construction foam mixed with glass wool inside the walls… *shakes head & tries not to ask for a ban on construction foam*)

How to prevent setting yourself on fire (while spitting it out)

This is a rather old piece of text, I wrote it in 2006… but might still have some good info for anyone ever interested in some experiences of a fire-spitter…

This is about fire-spitting, also referred to as fire-breathing. But I prefer fire-spitting, since you don’t really breathe flames, but spit their fuel ;).

Decided to make this post after a little incident on one of my message boards. Story is someone once saw my pic while fire-spitting on that board and decided to try it himself. And said he couldnt find any info on the net. So he just tried. Well… I send him a very very long scolding including a very very long list of risks and precautions.Next, I realized the info I gave might be of use for other people.. so here we go.

So, this is about PRECAUTIONS. And what you’re actually doing when you spit fire. And the unpleasant (after-)effects. And the risks you take.

You won’t learn how to spit fire. That can only be done in person, and showing, and practicing to get control over the flame. And frikkin HELL, dont try to figure it out by yourself.

This is about minimizing risks. And know what your doing. And be aware of what you are doing.


1.1.1      The short & quick list of precautions

(the rest of this post will elaborate on the why, when & how, cause I guess some advice sounds logical, but some .. a bit… out of the blue & weird)

1. Use the right fuel, and the right torches .

2. Protect your skin by using vaseline

3. Eat well beforehand, and drink fatty milk (or salad oil when you’re a vegan)

4. Brush your teeth

5. Test the wind and be aware of buildings causing wind changing directions

6a. Wear non-inflammable, non-meltable clothing, cotton or leather is good, or do it bare-chested, (skin-tight) nylon = wrong.

6b. Tie your hair low in the neck when long hair. Scarf protecting hair is not a bad idea, scarf around neck also good idea. Watch it with those beards or hair-sprayed mohawks.

7. Bring a rag or other cloth to clean yourself, try to ensure washing facilities for right afterwards, bring clean clothes

8. Listen to your body, if it tells you it’s enough, it is enough

9. Dont be afraid of the flame, but be aware of the risks .

10. Control. Know what you’re doing. Practice. Dont do it under influence

1.2        The extensive version

Fire-spitting is taking risks. Always. Ever. Even the most experienced fire-spitter can have an accident. And accidents can mean being transported to a specialized hospital for burn-wounds by a helicopter. This did happen to someone I know, who was a very experienced fire-spitter (the “fuel” soaked his beard). Your lungs can collapse. There’s the risk of infections. And so on. A less horrorfying story is another friend of mine, who used to have a huge mohawk. Suddenly he had a shaved head. Wind turned and flame came back…..

But the accidents you read about in the media are also exaggerated. Most of those horror-stories do not involve fire-spitters that know what they are doing, but stupid drunk idiots on festivals using alcohol or car-petrol. That’s asking for it. Idiots. Plus they give fire-spitting a bad name, and that kinda stories made friends from me worried about my little hobby.

What I say here, is mostly based on my own experience, and what I saw happening. I used to travel through Europe, earning money on the way by spitting fire, and combining this with belly dance, and, if I had a partner, with acrobatics. Made quite a bit of money that way, but by now (and here comes one of the risks) prolly spend it all on dentist bills ;).

I also used to teach it to quite a few people, mostly women btw, since during the “women reclaiming the streets” demos we noticed somehow a women-only demo met a lot of aggression, both verbally, but also physically. Having a few human flame-throwers around helped ;).

Just to show where I’m coming from and my credentials so to say ;). I was addicted to fire-spitting. Which is also a risk but not devastating :). It’s not that I am a great or professional fire-spitter, I considered myself a good amateur, who has to make up lack of lung volume by little extra tricks. But I did it a lot for quite some time.

The things I say here will be illustrated by small horror-stories about what happened to friends of mine, or the unpleasant effects I experienced myself. Just to say I am not kidding about the precautions being utterly and totally important.

The common idea is with fire-spitting the main risk is getting burned. Sure, there is a risk, but more common are the other effects of the fuel you use. I will focus on that.

1.2.1      What you are actually doing when fire-spitting (i.e… the risks)

The “fuel” you use

I heard about and tried to spit fire with powdery stuff like milk powder. It’s hard though, I didnt like the stickyness in my mouth, which also made the next flame close to impossible to make, and the flames are different.

I prefer using lamp-oil or petroleum. Whatever you use, always be aware that this stuff is utter and total poison. It has short- and long-term effects which are to say the least unpleasant. Never ever ever use a more volatile substance. Horror-story again: old mate of mine from nigeria couldnt read the labels, and accidently bought terpentine. He burned his mouth from the inside….

First of all, something about lampoil or petroleum.

Lampoil loves grease. It’s a grease-loving, water-hating substance. This has negative effects (i.e. it eats the topmost protective layer on your skin), but can also be used (drink fatty milk to prevent the “petroleum burps”). A long term effect of the stuff loving grease is that it ruins your teeth.. It is an irritant.

It’s a volatile substance. Not as volatile as car-pertrol or alcohol, but still volatile. This means it already starts evaporating inside your mouth, and you will breath in the vapour. With your lungs going happy-happy joy-joy, NOT.

Short-term effect I know of is someone’s lung collapsing (I was there when it happened), long-term effects can be infections in your lung, Not pneunomia, but a real little infestion, a sore. And you will notice (always) a bit of coughing up weird-tasting slime the next day.

The longer you keep it in your mouth, the more vapor will arise. Unfortunately, especially for some tricks (for example making “staccato” little flames or while getting into position during acrobatics) it is necessary to keep it in your mouth for a bit.

It’s one of the more “heavy” oil derivates. This is good for fire spitting, since it makes nice droplets which can be set on fire. It also means it can be set on fire somewhere unwanted… It is subject to gravity, even burning. And it wont evaporate as easily as car-petrol. Good thing about that is that it isnt, well, explosive, bad thing is you will be soaked in it after fire spitting. Not so that if someone puts a lighter to you, you will go up in flames. But. You will smell. Bad. And it will take at least 2 turns of the laundry machine to get your cloths clean.

As said before. The stuff is poison. Think about it. Would you voluntarily, when not fire-spitting, put petroleum in your mouth? And accidently swallow bits? And breath in the evaporation? Get soaked in it? Smear it on your skin?

Petroleum or Lamp-oil are also mixtures. They are not 100% the same derivate. Lamp-oil is more consistent in its composition. To me, it tastes “smoother” (dont have any other way to describe it), and is also, well, thicker, to disperse. Petroleum can vary immensely from where you buy it, and especially from country to country. I always practice a bit to get the feeling for dispersing it before I start performing. Never use the coloured lamp-oil. To me, it tastes “sharp”, and my lungs start hurting sooner. Mixing it with a very small amount of orange juice is no problem, and can result in better flames (found that out accidently because there was a bit of orange juice left in the bottle which I used to carry the petroleum).



Though there are tricks that dont involve torches, usually you use some kinda torch to spit the fuel over to create the flame. Some people make their torches almost on the spot (a stick with some rags tied around it), some people use clubs used to juggle with fire, and anything in between. The advantage of using improvised torches is that, when you perform somewhere where it isnt allowed (I was asked to get a frikkin circus permit once…) and the police confiscates your stuff, it’s not a big loss.

The official juggling torches are safe by definition, they are made for playing with fire.

Self-made torches however, can be a risk. The rags tied around a stick for example. The knot can burn away, resulting in a burning rag falling on your hand. Usually shaked lose quickly, but still. The tied-rag torches are definitively inappropriate if you combine fire-spitting with throwing the torches or swinging them. The extra oxygen will surely burn the knots, and it’s no fun for your acrobatic-partner to get a burning rag in his face. Or when you throw the club in the air, the burning rag falling on your face. Looks bad while performing too.

I made my own torches, but not the throw-away ones. I didnt like the juggling torches for swinging and fire-dance, too light. So I made m out of metal (bike parts and some weird metal pieces I found in a Tsjech second hand shop), welded the stuff, and screwed tight to it cotton wraps also used for fire-juggling clubs, and winding metal thread around the result to prevent loose ends.

Using metal however, can result in a very very very cold grip on your torch in mid-winter as I experienced ;). And gloves are not an option (slipping).

When making the torch, if you are determined to make your own torch, dont use any stuff that is set on fire easily. Wood can be used, since it actually does not  start burning that fast, but it does get scorched and is usually a one-time thing. Someone told me he used lots of glue to assemble his torch. Though I didnt hear his torch burning in the wrong spots, I would stay on the safe side, and attach parts and/or the cotton by well.. physical means (i.e. welding, or screws).

Also make sure, especially when planning more than just holding the torch and spit over it, that you have a good grip. No fun for your audience if you lose control over a torch and it ends up in the crowd.

Playing with fire and your surroundings

When fire-spitting, you are playing with fire. You are making flames. And not always those flames can be controlled 100%. So you risk burns.

Usually, this does not mean being hospitalized with third degree skin burns. But I almost always get rid of the small hairs on my face, shorten my eye-lashes, and get rid of the tops of my hair if I dont protect it.

This can happen when “the flame comes back“. Usually this is the case when the wind turns, and blows into your face. Watch out for high buildings or other situations which can cause strange and sudden changes in wind directions.

Another risk is the flame travelling back to your mouth. See pic in pic section. You can see the stream of petroleum coming for my mouth. 99% of the time, the flame develops away from me. Occasionally, however, the flame jumps over the drops back to my mouth. Resulting in slightly burned lips. In a reflex, you usually close your mouth when this happens, so I never experienced myself, or heard about it, your mouth getting burned from the inside because of this.

Some tricks involve extra risk. Staccato flames (i.e. a series of very fast short flames, preferable over 2 or more torches) means leaving petroleum in your mouth, and hence, when the flames travels back, extra risk.

Spitting the flame up is another example. The cloud of flame is right above you (and develops beautifully upwards) Though it looks like a flame, the burning petroleum is subject to gravity and can come down. Little burning drops may fall down on your face, or your whole body if you are lying down.

Or, combined with acrobatics, and being swung a bit, the resulting wave-of-flames being a risk for both you and your partner because of well.. lagging behind you (and you getting swung back into it 😉 ). And I also have a little trick not involving a torch but a cigarette (should see the audience when I ask for a light 😉 ), which gives an explosion very close to my face. Sure way  to get rid of those eye-lashes.

All I can say about these tricks are: NOT FOR BEGINNERS. DONT TRY THIS AT HOME. Any extra trick and fire-spitting anyway is, if you’re not 100% sure, are inexperienced yet, or you dont trust the surroundings or the wind, dont do it. Maximize control, minimize risk.

1.2.2      Minimizing the risks & other unpleasant effects

Short-term effects and minimizing them

First of all, as said before, it’s not so much the risk on burns that is most common. There is risk however, as said before, I will go into that later.

What always happens, is that the stuff eats the top-layer of grease on your skin, leaving it very very very dry to an almost painful degree. Itching. Red. And because of the nature of spitting fire, there will always be quite a bit of petroleum running from your mouth down. To prevent it going down to your chest, I always use a (cotton) scarf to soak the stuff before it runs there. And to give my skin some extra protection, I put on a thick layer of vaseline. A very very very thick layer. The longer I plan to spit fire, the thicker the layer. Even then, it might not be enough and your skin gets irritated.

If possible (not always when performing on the streets), immediately wash, heck, scrub yourself and change clothes. Soaked clothing will irritate underlying skin too. Bringing an old cloth to wipe yourself inbetween shows (and extra vaseline), and bringing a clean  t-shirt for immediately afterwards is not a bad idea either.

The infamous petroleum burps. No matter how experienced, you will always swallow a bit of the stuff, since it also spreads in your mucus. And in the beginning, when not so experienced, a lot ;). And the stuff comes back, including the taste, in burps till like 24 hours later. The taste isnt so bad when spitting (or you ignore it) but afterwards, blegh. What helps is, a. make sure you have eaten well, and have a nice layer of preferable greasy food in your stomach, b. drink a liter or so of fatty milk, or, if you’re a vegan, I know people who use salad oil instead. The petroleum attaches itself to the fat, and wont be burped up again. What the longer-term consequences are when the fat is decomposed in your intestines, I dont know, and actually, dont want to know ;).

Petroleum vapor and your lungs. Luckily, I only know of one case of lungs collapsing, but felt slightly guilty since I was the one teaching the person to spit fire. You will get warning signs though. After a certain time of spitting fire, your lungs will start to protest. LISTEN TO THEM. I can’t emphasize this enough. Your body will know. Listen to your body! If your body says it’s enough, it’s enough. Stop. Immediately when it starts aching. Stop. And I keep emphasizing this, since I know way to well how addictive fire-spitting is, and how you can get carried away, fascinated by the flames, and on a slight adrenaline rush. I have made the mistake of going over the limits myself, not with the devastating effects, but I sure paid the next days.


There’s always the risk of burning. Always. Some tricks involve extra risk.

First of all. Control. Can’t emphasize this enough. Control the flame. I cant give any advice on this, practicing is the only way to get more control. Also has the quite nice side-effect of making beautiful flames, and spend your fuel for the flame and not on the audience. Quite a few times I saw obviously not-so experienced fire-spitters, and I always feel a sorta.. well.. shame.. if I see a bad fire-spitting performance where the audience gets soaked in petroleum (and to my even bigger frustration, actually seemed to like it?? since still lots of applause).

Control also has to do with your surroundings. Wind.

First thing  I do when I get to a spot is test the direction of the wind by wetting a finger and noticing where it cools off first. And of course, spitting with the direction of the wind, and for sure not against it. Has the additional effects of larger flames ;). However, winds can change direction, sometimes quite suddenly, and you get the flame back in your face.

One of the reasons winds can change suddenly has to do with the structure of the surrounding buildings. Not much you can do about that, except be aware of it. A spot I spit fire regularily was on a roof, with a little building for the elavator near it. The wind sure was unpredictable because of that. Only experience sorta makes you recognize these kinda spots. Though in general you can say large open spaces = predictable wind, lotsa high buildings near = unpredictable. Also, strong wind is more risk when it turns (of course), but has the advantage of larger flames. Though it can be too strong. Once tried to spit fire in a storm on a ship, and my flame was simply blown out before it could develop.

Control. Again. The most stupidiest thing in my personal opinion is spitting fire while being under influence. Just as stupid as drunk drivers. Sure you can get away with it. But to prevent negative consequences, you’d better be on your toes. Lucky me, I always kept having the slight adrenaline rushes, even after doing it for 10.000 time, and adrenaline sure keeps you on your toes. Also, the adrenaline makes it possible to ignore the unpleasant by-effects such as taste, the smell and such until afterwards ;). I never had the tendency to place fire-spitting on the same level as say.. .doing the dishes.

The opposite of thinking too lightly about it (either by being drunk, or well.. having done it too much) also can mean losing control. I never experienced it myself, but I did see performers, even on stage, that obviously were afraid of the flame they produced, pulling involuntarily back from it. These kind of reflexes also incorporate a risk of losing control, and it can be a downward spiral that way.. But I guess people being afraid of the flame never spit fire for a longer period of time.

Spitting fire inside. I am a street-performer at heart, but was sometimes asked to give a show at some kinda event or party. First thing I did, before I said yes, was to inspect the place, see how the stage looked, how lights and electricity was placed, and ask about planned decorations. There is a certain fun in popping balloons with your flame, but short-circuiting a venue or camouflage nets coming down on the audience is not. Well, I guess common sense is all here :). I preferred high-ceiling places, so I didnt have to spit the flame over the heads of the audience, but low-ceiling places were possible. Or I would just ask for room (or people would give it after the first flames 😉 ).

Clothing and Hair. Well, of course, you dont want the flame to come back to you. It can happen though. Mostly, no more happens than losing a few hairs. But, your clothing will be soaked, so will be any facial or other exposed hair, making it more likely to burn or melt. It wont happen easily, but to be sure, best clothing is stuff like leather, or cotton (like a t-shirt). Lots of men prefer to spit fire bare-chested, but if you’re female, you might feel otherwise. Skin-tight nylon is something I would never wear during fire-spitting, no matter how nice it might look.

Scarf around neck was already mentioned to prevent the fuel running down your chest.

Hair: you will lose some hairs. Not burning, but melting a bit, just like accidents with a lighter. Lose hair is a nogo, especially outside and windy. I usually tie my hair down low in the neck, and the scarf around it. Some people also put a cotton scarf on their hair, to prevent the small hairs sticking out melting away. Facial hair: until I heard about the accident mentioned above, I always thought facial hair was no risk, no more than soaked clothing. Both arent set on fire easily. But I guess it can happen.. it was his beard being soaked that caused the accident.


Long-term effects and minimizing m

Many of the precautions already named, will also prevent longer term effects.

But there are long-term effects, especially if you do it extensively for a prolonged period of time, as I did. These effects are mostly associated with the fuel you use.

Some long term effects are already mentioned. Lung infections, or other negative effects on your lungs.

I knew about most short- and long-term risks. I got taught by an experienced fire-spitter myself (who was having a lung infection at that time). So I always took precautions, and was very aware of what I was doing and the risks I was taking.

But no one ever mentioned the effects on my teeth…. I used to have very healthy teeth. Used to. Now my grin looks like the cheshire cat grin of my avatar. This really has to do with the petroleum, because, a. the rotting dimished immensily after I quit spitting fire for a bit, b. later on, I met other long-term fire-spitters complaining about the same thing. What causes it is that petroleum likes to adsorp into the dirt on your teeth, and does it damage incorportated there. This includes your gums retreating from your teeth slowly in the course of time, exposing the less protected areas of your teeth, and the direct effects on the ivory. Well.. so the solution is simple. Brush your teeth before each performance ;).

Other stuff & tips

There are other risk, not related to bodily harm. The first one is well.. related to performing on the streets. I usually dont prepare, just go. But many many many cities have some kinda regulation about street performing. And though they might be relatively tolerant towards not-so-intruding performances such as the living statues, when you are very.. well.. present.. by performing music or fire-spitting, you might find a police officer asking nasty questions. Or fining you, or confiscating your stuff. I dont give a shit about the regulations, and sure wont go and apply for a frikkin circus permit, but dont like to lose my stuff either. So, I usually inform myself on the local situation (asking other street performers for example). A large city mid-summer, with lots of tourists, and no streetperformers on the main square might indicate something…. Oh, and I actually had someone call the fire brigade once when I was practicing.

Another, rather pleasant risk, is the one that you might get addicted to fire-spitting. Not bodily, and literally to the fuel. But omy. Though I quit because of the long-term effects, the typical smell of burning petroleum still sets of that urge to grab my torches. I guess it has to do with the slight adrenaline rush that I always had, even after doing it for a very long time. That adrenaline can be quite addictive ;). And the fascination I had with producing flames, and being able to make an element, considered dangerous, to do as I want. And yah, I gotta admit, I got a kick out of performing and the ooohs and aaahs too ;).

Which brings me to audiences. I love interacting with my audience. One of the reasons I liked performing on the streets.

But, first of all. You need to gather that audience. Fire-spitting has its advantages, since it’s visible from relatively far away. A short round about at a square trailing a crowd behind you which you promised a show also helps. Few introductory flames, and start show. To my luck, I am a small skinny woman, while spitting fire is usually associated with big tough guys. So, the fact that this woman, which looks so fragile, is doing the dangerous stuff already attracks a crowd (and gets a bigger financial reward 😉 ). I prefer gathering my own crowd instead of starting a show for an already assembled one, for example sitting at a cafe. You get the people really interested in the show that way.

Shows on the streets are by necessity short. You cant expect an audience actually passing by to hang around for 45 minutes. So, usually, my shows were 10-15 minutes, and with a fast pace to keep the audience attracted. Planning the show ahead is thereby essential, and practicing it to make sure it goes smoothly.

Interaction. This is such an important difference between performing on stage, or on the streets. Of course, you can just do your show in a distant matter and hope the audience likes it. But.. having a few tricks to involve your audience more actively helps. I consider humor and having fun with my audience very importnat. And having a big mouth and being extrovert helps too. One of the things I liked to do, is to pick a big tough guy (preferable with big tough friends) for my temporary assistent. Holding torches and such. And of course dismissing him in a friendly humorous, but dominant bitchy way, because he was obviously doing a bad job. Or, if my instincts tell me he’s capable, get him to lift me and of course thank him and include him in the applause afterwards. Or daring my audience to give me a light for the cigarette trick (amazing how many people pull back 😉 ). That kinda stuff. But everyone each own, my bitchy-dominant-stamping-feet-performers-attitude is something that fits my personality and, because of my posture, guarantees a few laughs too;).

And more money afterwards. Cause let’s be honest. The money IS nice. It sure paid for the fuel. And it is very well paid in terms of money/hour :). But well. The thing is.. the crowd tends to disperse after you do your last trick and bow. If you’re alone, and no mates already gathering the money, you must act quick in both collecting the money and gathering your stuff. Dont be afraid to (verbally and of course in that friendly-humorous way) ask the crowd to contribute. Best is to approach people personnaly, but well, in case of emergency a hat on the ground or so will do.

Cleaning up after yourself and that other people thing Well.. out of experience I noticed a few things being important. One of the stupidiest things I ever did was not cleaning away the bottles I used to carry the petroleum. Glass re-closable beer bottles were standing still around while I was gathering my stuff, and some idiot thought it was beer. Ok, maybe not my mistake, but since it is not my goal in life to poison people, I take care of that kinda stuff first.

Some stuff is already mentioned. I dont like to treat my audience on unwanted gifts such as streams of petroleum going under the flame instead of in, burning clubs or other not so friendly side-effects. Same thing about working with a partner. Working with a partner gives more opportunities (acrobatics, or for collecting the money), but also means more preparation.

One of the things I really dont give a shit about is the usually quite extensive smear of petroleum on the pavement. Though I’ve had some pissed-off police officers pointing me to it, heck, the stuff evaporates after a few minutes, so. But it will be visible, just so you know. Oh, and grass doesnt like it. My practice spot in our garden had some very miserably looking plants.

If you made it till here..good for you 🙂 quite some reading, though I dont know if I ever will put people on my preferred list so anyone can actually read it ;).