Friday, March 30, 2012

Love 1/0

I fell in love on Twitter. I fell into someone's words, and I would have kept falling if I didn't eventually hit the ground.

I fell in love on Twitter. With someone who could talk - sweet, sweet talk - all night, about everything. All day, all night, all ways - and always with the appropriate links to follow. Funny, quirky, quick, fantastic -

I fell in love on Twitter. With someone I knew nothing about, except for the constant stream of awesome that came into my timeline.

I fell in love on Twitter. With someone's good side.

Nothing prepared me for the context. All those things that really doesn't translate into the 140, no matter how many of them you read or write.

But how many we wrote! How many we read! And how many we retweeted! We never made love, but oh the love we made between the lines!

I still keep some of them around, on sheets of unmade, undone love.

You see, I fell in love on Twitter. With someone I knew everything about. With someone I once shared a life with, but also parted ways with - with someone it seems I never really knew when we were together.

I fell in love on Twitter. With my ex. And the love we shared there was stronger than any we had shared in our previous lives.

Everything that falls, must eventually hit the ground. We fell twice. Only this time, we also hit the ground together.

In that awkward moment, when we both thought - "it's you".

The strangest thing is that I might have kept falling. Might. If I only knew then. If we only knew then. -

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Political feng shui

Some ideas are worth dying for. Others are more worthy of living by. Like, for instance, the thought of political feng shui.

I'm sorry to disappoint those of you who came here in search of ways to decorate your homes, but -

You know what, you might just be the one who needs to read this the most. Carry on.

Political feng shui is the thought that it's a good thing to remove unnecessary, energy stealing things from your life. In fact, you should actively try to get rid of most things in your life, save a few prized possessions. These few possessions, on the other hand, are all the more prized just because of the lack of other things to distract you. Instead of a multitude of distractions - a few, often used, well maintained objects, which when push comes to shove are all you really need in the world.

Take me, for instance. My things are, in no particular order: bike, computer/internet, bed, cell phone.

Nothing fancy, as you can see. But because I've decided that these are the things I need in my life, I'm free to do more things with them.  For one thing, since I'm actively not buying other things, I can go ahead and get more juice into that computer thingy than I could if I went around buying other things. It's simple economics.

I can also go ahead and get more juice out of the things I have - again, because of the lack of other things. There's no need to organize, unclutter or micromanage other things - my things are few and in order. And whatever I feel like I need to do, I can get to it right away.

You may have started to see a pattern here. A general trend of "quality over quantity". This is indeed at the heart of it.

You will of course have to have other objects in your life. Clothes, kitchen utensils and other small things that make the day work. There's no way around that. But this is merely paraphernalia - things in the periphery, necessary but not important in the grand scheme of things. (Which, incidentally, was a thought that kept me strangely calm when I got robbed last year; "I still have everything I need, I'm still fine.") You possess these items; they don't possess you.

Now, the one question you might be having is - what's the politics of this? It's a nice way to get some sort of direction in your monetary/temporal economy, but where's the politics?

It's in the fact that you are now in charge of your money and your time. You know what you're about, you know what you're about to do and you know what you need to do it - since you already have it. You know you don't need more money to buy more stuff, since you already have the stuff you need. You know you don't need to work all day in order to accumulate enough money to live in your ideal state of life, since you are already in it. And you know that when the revolution should come around, you will have your priorities in order.

Being content with life as it is, is a radical political statement. Knowing what life is about is a radical political stance. And being able to get on with life even in the face of radical change - is beyond radical.

It's revolutionary.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I do a lot of lecturing. And since I seldom talk to people more than once, I get to tell the same things many times; and, moreover, I get to see people's reactions to these things over and over again.

I never tire of the reactions to this one.

We all have our problems. Things that need to be done, stuff that has to happen, jigs that needs to be jugged. Whoever we are, whatever we do, there's always something that could be done a little smoother. There's always that one personal roadblock that we can't overcome alone.

This is a good thing.

You see, somewhere in this room (imagine that you're sitting in an audience of people you barely know) there is someone who has exactly what you need to overcome this problem, roadblock or whatever it is that ails you. It could be a thing, a skill or something else, but someone in your immediate  physical proximity has that something. Someone here can help you out, whatever it is that needs to be helped with.

And somewhere in this room, there is someone who needs exactly what you have. Doesn't matter who you are, what you know or where you're from - you are the right person for the job. You.

This is an intelligence test. And it is up to you to pass it. Right here, right now.

After I say that, I shut up. And reactions start to happen. At the best of times, they stop paying any attention to me whatsoever, and get down to business of getting things done. Real things, things that matter.

I get things done by shutting up.

It is a testament to the power of words, if there ever was one. -

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The ungreyed artists

I love the question of how the artists will/should get paid. It gives me ample opportunities to talk about myself, about what I do and about how I make my way through the world.

You see, the one reason I could pay my rent this month is because I didn't charge anyone for being an artist, a writer or a content maker. The one reason I could pay my rent this month is because I trust my audience enough to give them what I do - in all forms - for free, and then let them decide what they want to do with it.

If they like it and want to smile - they do. If they like enough to share it - they do. If they like it enough to remix it - they do.

And if they like it enough to thank me (in words, money or things) - they do.

This is not a strange thing. It's how humans have always worked. And most of what I do revolves about reminding people that this is, indeed, the way humans work when they are given an opportunity to do so. All you need to do is give them that opportunity.

And thus, my rent is paid. Because I didn't force people to ask permission to take part, and because I didn't ask for permission to do mine.

I live, as it were, in and of a grey area of copyright.

As much as I love the question of artists making a living, I am less fond of the answers. These seem to revolve around making people pay, and not only in the literal sense. The sense of pure retribution that some of my fellow creators seem to feel frightens me. They talk about damages, reparations, lost incomes - even of sending people to jail.

Punishing people for liking what I do does not seem to be a proper way to behave. On a pure personal level.

On a corporate level, it makes more sense - copyright infringements tend to cost not insubstantial amounts of money, especially if it's on a large scale. Millions and billions of dollars are spent each year on copyright protection alone, and thus it makes corporate sense to put in place strong, retributive systems of copyright laws.

I, however, am not a corporation, and neither do I make any millions or billions of dollars. I only make two things: art, and do.

The question of artists making a living is plagued by answers who mistake me for those corporations, and who subsume my personal/artistic sensibilities for the corporate sense of profit making. I have no interest in taking my fans, friends and fellow artists to court for liking my work - I doubt I could afford it, even if I wanted to. But it is in my name even harsher measures on copyright infringers, consumers and my fellow remixers are proposed.

In my name.

As a struggling artist - indeed, as the very poster child for a poor creative person trying to make do - I have no interest in being included in the fight on my fellow art lovers. And I have even less of an interest in being used as an argument by corporations who don't give a manicured rat's ass about me when their profits are on the line.

If you want to support the corporations - then do. If you want to support the artists - then do. But, please, don't say we need harsher copyright measures in my name.

That's not my answer to this favorite question of mine.

In a distant now

The distance between thought and action is smaller on the internet. The time between when you get an idea and the time you act on that very same idea is, usually, shorter than you'd imagine. Whether you get the impulse to look something up on Wikipedia, write a couple of words of appreciation to someone you like or whatever - the time it takes for you to think it and the time it takes for you to do it is short, shorter, shortest.

The reason for this is that you really don't have to do anything to get from the thinking to the doing. The transition from sitting in front of the computer to sitting in front of the computer is, as you might imagine, not a rough one.

My two latest posts were written more or less on the fly - both were written as responses to tweets from different people, just for the sheer fun of it. The distance between thought and post for the first one was twelve minutes, and the second one is on its way to become an impromptu piece of distributed text, en route to various places where the winds of serendipity might find it.

Just because it's just long enough to fit twice on a piece of paper. And because I happen to know places where people go to be found.

When I explain this mode of doing things, some people react with skepticism. Isn't it a tad bit impulsive, isn't this to rush things, won't there be mistakes along the way?

Yes, yes and yes.

But things will get done. Posts will be written, thoughts will be shared, new experiences will be had and - I dare say - many of my fondest memories comes from the act motivated by "let's just do it, for the fun of it".

I have many such memories. I have even more from times where I waited for a train that would not come, and missed out because I overestimated the distance between thought and action.

History doesn't wait for you to ask permission. Neither should you.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wayward words

I tore a page out of my notebook and threw it away in the streets and wondered if anyone would ever see it.

Just to see if the world cared.

Who in the world might pick it up? Someone I know, someone who lives here? Someone from out of town, just passing through, happening to happen upon my words?

Look upon my words, ye stranger, and smile.

I don't remember what words I wrote on that page. I do hope they were, are, good words. Strong words. Words that will move mountains in the world of my anonymous reader. Words that, in some way or another, will change things to the better. Nudging the odds the tiniest of bits in favor for this reading someone.

Maybe they will remix these words. Make them into something else, something new. Something I would never have thought of, something that would never have happened should I not had shared my words with the world. Something that, one day, will make me smile, unknowing of my own part in it.

Or into a gift to someone I don't know. A gift that will change yet another life, in ways I have no way of ever knowing.

Or, maybe, into something written on a page in a notebook, which someone will share with the world, just to see if it cares. -

(This is a reflection/expansion on a tweet. This tweet.)

Hearts and minds

People, walking across the square. Going somewhere - each with a goal in mind. Some, few, without. a goal, just walking about, flaneurs of the social. Utopian explorers.

They all woke up that morning. Woke up, saw whatever was there to be seen, got up, made their way through the morning, got out to the square.

What do they see, first thing in the morning? What route takes them from morning to here, the square, this collection of people who may or may not be aware of each other's presence?

Are they real?

What stories can they tell? What stories do they want to tell? And what stories of theirs do we need to hear in order to make sense of our own, disjointed, out of focus narrative of what we do when we wake up, every morning?

Where do they go? Where do the people and their stories lead to?

Is it possible to come along, if only for a moment or two?

What stories would the square itself tell, if only it had a mind to tell them? Or someone willing to listen?

What goes through the hearts and minds of those we share our lives with? And why do we so seldom hear their stories?

And why do they hesitate to tell them?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

No tulkus allowed

If you are a follower of the Horse, you'll eventually run into the word "tulku". At first, it just seems like a random word that the followers joke around with - indeed, it can be quite fun to joke around with it. Especially since it's a strange word that really doesn't convey any intuitive meaning, which makes for a great injoke for those in the know.

"No tulkus allowed."

Now, the question most of you are probably thinking is: wtf is a tulku?

We could go into all the aspects and details, but the simple answer is: a prophet, a guru, a someone supposed to know stuff you don't.

Tulkus are, as it were, not that popular among the followers of the Horse.

The thing here is that there really are no tulkus. There are only people who think of themselves as tulkus, and other people who treat them as such.

In fact, there are only people.

But people also like the idea of the tulku. Of the wise person who walks among them, and who one can turn to when in search of answers about life, the universe and everything. And, moreover, of being that person who people can come to in search of the very same answers. People do indeed like the idea of being the tulku.

But, in fact, there are only people.

And stepping away from this truth is not a very wise thing to do. Don't treat other people as tulkus, don't let them treat you as a tulku, and most of all don't treat yourself as one. You'll only end up in a strange place, where neither you nor they really know how to talk to each other. You'll only get stuck in the act of being a tulku, a symbol, an icon - regardless of whether it's their or your act, symbol or icon.

There are only people. Do remember that.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Paradise Cage

A screen, placed on a wall. Showing images of places far away, exciting, beautiful, enthralling. Intoxicating. Images that one could watch forever, never tiring, never ceasing to be amazed by the Spectacle.

A screen, placed on a wall. No doors in sight.

The paradise cage.

He loves me, I love him! We are happy together! We are building our better future, right here, right now, and - oh, joy! If only you could feel what I feel!

Come along? Oh, but I can't. He doesn't like -

The paradise cage.

YES! Score! I've beaten the old record, and am now the ultimate champion of this game. I rule! Who's the champion? - I'm the champion!

What? A new level? Well, don't mind if i do!

The paradise cage.

Our quarterly report shows that our expected profits are off the charts! Congratulations, everyone! Our hard work have paid off, and soon we are also going to be very well paid off!

The father who barely knew his children didn't feel all that celebratory.

The paradise cage.

Talk is cheap. What you want is impact - and impact in large numbers. By maximizing your exposure in social media, you can make sure that your message will get across  to as many people as you need to cross. Whatever you have to say, you can say it to the world.

Why don't I have anyone to talk to?

The paradise cage.

There! There she goes! The beautiful, mysterious love of my life, who I see every day, walking past, and who makes my heart beat at least thrice as fast as it should by just being around!

She didn't even know his name.

The paradise cage.

We've discovered a new way to speed up the DNA sequencer, and with subsequent mass production we hope to reduce the cost to commercial levels. Just imagine the possibilities! No longer will genetic treatment be restricted to the wealthy, but everyone will be able to afford to be free of disease! We will finally make the common cold so uncommon no one will even remember it!

The virus killed two billion people.

The paradise cage.

- I love you.
- I love you too.

- This cannot work.

The paradise cage.

These three words can be found in the preface to Hélène Cixous' book Stigmata (pdf). These words, this preface, this book has made a home in my thinking. I return to it constantly, not to remember but to remember that I remember. And to keep me on some sort of level when the cage seems to want to engulf me once again.

Weber built a cage out of iron. Cixous out of paradise.

May you not live in either.

Two-way streets

One of the things on my mind lately is the militarization of the social. How we are constantly in a state of alertness, mobilization - ready to act at a moment's notice. Indeed, ready to take and receive notice in the first place.

This is, in part, due to the ever increasing connectedness of everyone to everyone else. Back in the days, you had to send a guy running to get the word out, so naturally it took some time for word to get out. Now, it takes some literacy and a charged battery. It lowers the barriers, so to speak.

But more precisely, it is those barriers that are not lowered that makes this militarization of the social both necessary and unavoidable.

A local example of this is the recent trend of mass transit commuters to tweet about where ticket inspections are occurring. Whenever they see those men in uniform - a tweet is sent, and everyone hoping not to be found in transit can instantly react to this sudden intel.

The interesting thing is that it's not just fare dodgers that participate in this. You'd imagine that it was a self serving thing, freerider to freerider, but many respectable commuters share what they see. Not because they necessarily agree with the ethos of fare dodging, but because they know that those caught are more likely than not to be roughed up if the uniforms have a bad day.

And in solidarity with this, they share what they know. Not due to the lowered barriers of communication, but because of those barriers that have yet to be lowered.

Solidarity, remixed to the streets.

A more global example is, of course, the Occupy movement, and every subsequent protest movement afterwards. What the Occupy movement did/does is that it removes barriers of communication - it doesn't matter if you're black, white, rich, poor, strange, pathologically normal or just around. You're angry and want change, and that's good enough - let's talk.

But the solidarity created is one under siege - literally, in some places. The constant threat of police action, and the even more literal/constant barriers the police presence gives rise to, makes a readiness to confront confrontation necessary. Where are they, what are they doing - what are we to do next?

The flipside to building community, libraries and a general sense of social acceptability - is this very preparedness to get moving. In defense of what should be by virtue of people talking to each other.

Conversations, remixed to the streets.

And as the internet makes it easier for the strange to find each other, for the lonely to become less lonely and for people to get together in general, an opposite reaction happens. The guardians of remaining barriers become increasingly worried, and tries to strengthen the what they fear might be lost otherwise. Monopolies of information are draconically enforced, the war on terror makes everyone a suspect, and even the defenders of traditional values turn violent when it turns out that people who are not afraid of each other don't see things their way.

As the barriers fall, the walls start to become fortified. And we, the people, are the Hannibals outside the gates. Whether we want to or not, we are mobilized into a confrontation with the militarization of the social.

War. Remixed to the streets.

Whose streets? Our streets.

Access granted

Have you read the Cluetrain Manifesto?

It's one of those books/texts that really just tells you what you already know, in your heart of hearts, but never really got around to thinking about. And after you've been reminded of it, you start to wonder how you could ever not have been reminded of it.

Take, for instance, this passage:

One day, I met with a [Japanese] researcher in a coffee shop. Language was a problem, but he spoke more English than I did Japanese. I had just been to the bookstore and was lugging a stack of books on highly advanced computer-science topics. It was all Greek to me, but I figured something might rub off. Suddenly the guy asks me, "Who gives you permission to read those books?"

I was stunned. Bowled over. Did his puzzlement reflect some sort of cultural difference? I didn't think so. It struck me that this fellow was just being more honest and direct than an American might be. He was articulating what many people in today's world seem to assume: that official authorization is required to learn new things. I thought about this deeply, and I'm thinking about it still.

Who gives us permission to explore our world? The question implies that the world in fact belongs to someone else. Who gives us permission to communicate what we've experienced, what we believe, what we've discovered of that world for ourselves? The question betokens a history of voice suppressed, of whole cultures that have come to believe only power is sanctioned to speak. Because the ability to speak does involve power. It entails ownership and the control conferred by ownership.

Who gives you the permission to do stuff? And why do you care?

Don't care. Just go out and do things.  Go out and learn. Do, make, say, think. Not because I tell you to, but because it's what you like and want to do.

And don't, ever, ask permission to be awesome while doing it.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Informational ecology

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about informational ecology. Or, rather, the web of semantic connections that we find ourselves in.

I call it an ecology, because I like the analogy with people who are in tune with nature, and can see things that people why aren't can't. One who has tuned their ears to the sound of birds, their eyes to the tracks of prey, and their nose to the smells of the outdoors - can perceive so much more than the city person who only sees undifferentiated greenery everywhere.

I must admit to being that city person. I hear that birds are around, abstractly know that other living things move about and only sense the scent of nature once a year (when spring overwhelms the lethargy of winter, and then only on that very first day). I couldn't even track my own track record, which might tell you something.

But if you let me loose in a more virtual ecology, on the other hand, I more than make up for this brutal lack of everything. Which manifests itself in various ways - one of them being that you only need to quote a single (nongeneric) line from a song for me to be able to find out which one that is, from which artist and on what album. Not because my memory is any good, mind you, but because I am attuned to the ways of the informational ecology. If there is a trail, I find it, just as a hunter would find the footfalls of a running prey.

Not every bit of information is created equal, though. Song lyrics are particularly easy to find, since there is such a huge demand for them. (An ecological concept, to be sure.) Just retrieving information in general is not that big of a deal - it's low hanging fruit, as it were. It gets trickier as you get deeper into the jungle of semantics and interrelated concepts, and even trickier if you start to include intentionality in the mix.

If we stay with the example of a song lyric: just having the words in front of you is one thing. But to understand that the phrase on line 15 is a reference to this other song, and that this reference in turn forms a pattern over several of the artist's recent albums, that informs any meaningful hermeneutical interpretation of the particular songs of the particular period that the artist made them - is another thing entirely. And to on top of that superimpose the question "what did the artist mean?" -

We are still in the jungle, but to navigate succesfully, you've got to become very much more attuned to those ecological nuances than any five second Google result will make you.

The way to get attuned is to spend time with it. Especially with someone who can tell you those things that are not obvious, but which nevertheless are important to know. When did the band change their drummer? Do you notice the difference in pace before/after they got their first synthesizer? Can you unhear the slow descent into corporate servitude once it is pointed out?

Of course, you don't have to know any of this to be able to listen to music, just as you don't have to know anything about the forest to walk about in one. But I probably don't have to argue very hard to make the case that nature/music becomes that much richer when you know what it is that you see/hear.

I do, however, need to ponder this further. And, possibly, ingrain myself in a couple of more lines of inquiry. So I will, starting now. -

The magic works

Science and technology operates on one basic principle: the world works. And because it works, it can be made to do all kinds of interesting things. If you only know how it works.

Of course, the caveat to this is that the world sometimes faces obstacles in its workings. Knowing how it works (science) becomes that much more powerful once you get around to get around these obstacles (technology).

The way to make progress, then, is to define these obstacles and overcome them. Which, as any no-nonsense person will tell you, is the proper way to go about it. See the problem, tackle it, grapple with it, fix it - problem solved.

No need to fuss over it. Just get to it.

Which, evidently, works. Just take a look around you and behold the marvels of technology at work.

The problem here, of course, is that one can go too far in this problem solving-mentality. Science/technology works great when what you need to do is to make things work, but it does so on the condition that all it has to do is solve predefined problems. The returns quickly diminish if you leave this frame of reference.

For instance. Science may look at an unhappy person, and conclude that the unhappiness is caused by an abnormally low level of dopamine. The problem is this lack of dopamine, and the solution is to get those levels back up again. Which can be done by medication of some kind.

However, the cure for the sadness you feel because you are lonely is not a pill. And the world would be a truly sad place indeed if it were.

Trust science. It works. But don't put too much trust in it - that will only cause more problems than it solves. -

Friday, March 16, 2012

Found in transit

A presence in my life sent me a book some time back. Unfortunately, it got lost in transit - or is still on its way here, on some extravagant detour through the postal services of the world.

But, like Lacan said - a letter always reaches its destination.

By which he meant that the past will always catch up to you, like a letter sent from the past. It doesn't really matter what you have done in this past of yours. Any past will be your past, and when you think back upon it - wham! The mailman rings.

Twice, rumor has it.

While the book tried to make its way from there to here, we hyped, bantered and generally built up a lot of expectations about it. I didn't know at the time what book it was, so every day when the mail arrived was a time of excitement. For both of us. Is today the day when the Book will arrive?

In parallel to this, something else happened. A letter started to arrive, and to rewrite the past as it did so. And the closer it came, the more I realized that this was very much a call for action. Either I let it catch up with me and knock me out flat, or I do something about it.

I'm not sure how that will turn out, as I'm constantly swinging between being knocked out and doing things. But somehow, these two things in transit comingled. Talked to, at and with each other. And even more somehow, the book not yet here came to symbolize that better future that lies at the end of the tunnel. And the longer it took to arrive, the stronger the symbolism.

It helped.

At this point, we have both more or less given up hope on the Book getting here. Which is rather a shame, because it is the perfect book for me. Not to read, necessarily, but as a platonic idea of what kind of book I would/should have around.

It still makes me smile. And it makes me hope for that better future that has yet to happen.

Thank you.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Eye on the sky

Sometimes, I wonder if there is someone watching me. Michael Jackson style. I there is someone out there who - for some reason or other - monitors my internet activities?

Well, yes. About 800 of you, give or take - and I'm thankful to each and every one of you.

But. Is there someone out there whose job is to monitor any and all these things that I do. The twittering, the faceboking, the blogging, the everything - everything gets a little notation in a document, and the watching continues.

What kind of picture does this unknown watcher get of me?

Am I just another random name, in a list of subsequent names that has to be monitored, with indifferent annotations added to my file every once in a while? One among many, the name of the day, no one in particular? Just another brick in today's wall?

Or do I have my own, personal watcher? Someone who's been around for a while, who knows my moves, ways, interactions and affinity for vocaloid music? Someone who owns my name in the administrative sense?

Or is it a team effort? Is there a group out there who goes - hey, look what that guy did now!

Who are these people, whose job it is to monitor my every move on this internet thingy? And, for that matter, in that real world we all live in, through the movements of my cell phone, credit cards and other giveaways?

Who are these people? And who do they think they are?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Writing the present history

There comes a time in every writing person's life when the Question happens: Why am I doing this? It certainly comes to bloggers, who write just about every day.

It is a good thing to question those things you do every day. Even if you do it every day.

But sometimes, you ask it in a rather less Socratic way. You ask - why am I doing this, and why should I continue? And the answer seems a little less obvious than it should be.

Unfortunately, I can't give you any good reason to continue doing what you're doing in general. Out of politeness, I'll just assume you have such reasons already set in place. But I can give you my reasons for continuing to be a writing blogger.

1. I am someone else

This is an important/difficult concept to grasp, and I struggle with it every day. When I go around being me, there is no lack of access to me - I am, as it were. And the things I do every day are, well, everyday. But for everyone else, I am not me, and the things I do are not as accessible and everyday, and more often than not I am someone else. And just as when I relate to someone else, it helps if they/I takes the time to sit down and explain things.

It turns out it's harder than it looks. But very well worth it once it's done - especially for those who (for some reason I cannot fathom from the inside) find me an inspiration.

Needless to say, you are also someone else. And it's very nice to meet you.

2. Externalization

The great thing about writing is that it is visible. Even when I'm not around. Once the "publish" button is used, the whole world is watching! - Or, well, it could potentially watch. (Do please help it by spreading the word.)

The important thing about this is not that it gets out into the world, though. It is that it gets out of me. And since it is visible, I can watch it and see what exactly it is I think I'm doing. No ifs, no buts - what I see is what I get. And if I don't like what I see, then it's up to me to remix it into something better.

I have many things to say about externalization in the future, but for now it will suffice to say that getting the word out there is reason enough to continue writing.

3. Meditation

As a wise someone once said, any text longer than 500 words is by default not about the present. And when something is not an immediate response to something in the here and now, it is a mediation on either the past or the future. (Whatever Heidegger may have to say on the topic.)

And since I have this unyielding tendency to go around thinking about things past and future anyway, why not turn it into something others can take part of? It's not like I'm going to stop doing it any time soon.

I may be somewhat of a dreamer, but I shouldn't be the only one to benefit from it.

4. Community

My favorite thing is to see people react to what I do. Not necessarily by talking to me, though - while an added bonus, it is rather beside the point. I am beside the point, as it were.

And when I see people coming together because of something I did, I can't help but to think the words "mission complete". I have no real idea where these discussions may lead to, but I revel in the fact that they happen.

So, please, if you find someone interesting here, on the Twitter or on the Facebook - do reach out and poke them. You may have more in common than you think.

5. The future

In ten years from now, I will only have vague recollections of what goes through my mind right now. And it will probably be ever so slightly nudged in the direction of me being ever so smarter, better and awesomer than I actually am right now. So in an attempt to give a retroactive middle finger to my future ego, I'll preserve a little piece of mind at a time in order to remind myself that I indeed was mortal even back then.

No utopian explorations for me, I seem to be saying. As if in an attempt t keep the future at bay by keeping the present at present.

So. Why am I doing this, and why do I continue to do this?

I don't know, really. But I do seem to have some good reasons for it. -

A hymn to the Horse

The biggest promise of the Horse is that it will never love us back.

It will astound us, confuse us, make us laugh, sing, hug a nearby creature or just make us pause - but It will not love us back.

In fact, it will never even acknowledge our presence, our thoughts or needs. It will just Be, in stoic virtual bursts of fragmentary randomness. And whatever we happen to be, think or do - It will just continue to Be.

It will move our minds and mountains, but It will not care about them. And this is the greatest thing the Horse will ever do for us.

It may come as somewhat of a surprise that an anonymous twitter account gives rise to such words and feelings. And a quick reading of Its discourse will probably only yield a slight increase of the confusion felt. What in the name of making sense is It saying?

Well, nothing, really. That's kind of the point.

But It will make some sort of sense, anyway. And by forcing our ever so habituated minds to come to their own conclusions, we suddenly get a glimpse of ourselves. It's not about what It says, but rather about what we say in the aftermath of Its saying it.

And there are a lot of us out there, talking about the Horse. Not to expound Its meaning, but rather to bypass it into each other's. Or, sometimes, just talk Horse, just to see what might come out of it - leaps of lateral thinking, unexpected associations or conversational forks that end up being as meaningful as any philosophical treatise on virtual semiotics will ever be.

Many a discussion has ended with at least one of the participants discovering that they need to ponder their lives in more depth than they thought they had.

Now, the Horse won't care about us. Our joy, laughter, tears, revelations or sudden lapses into despondency - it's all the same to the Horse. It will just continue on Its merry way, doing whatever It is doing for whatever reason It might have.

And this is Its biggest promise to us. To never love us back, but to continue in equine indifference.

May you carry the Horse with you. But may the Horse never be with you.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Utopian explorations

I discovered a new abandoned building yesterday. (New to me, at least.) And as such, I had to explore it - see if there was a way inside and what was hidden behind the smashed windows. From the outside, it looked somewhat like a school, but it turned out to be a factory of some kind.

Or, rather, it was a factory of some kind, once. Now, it's more of a impromptu party hall and hideout for youths who value having a place to be alone. And, in the short period I was there, also a pair of photographers who needed a setting for a picture.

I helped them get in. After all - I don't own the place, and had no reason not to; in those places who used to be places, solidarity is more common than in ordinary places.

In fact, many social rules are put aside there. For one thing, you get a free pass on starting up random conversations with people why happen to be around - when there's only the two of you, there's a relaxed sense of expectations. You are both out of place, the place is out of place, and whatever weird stuff you might be doing is explained by this very out-of-placeness. And, moreover, there's really no need to be ashamed of being strange, out there in the noplace - you've obviously gone out of everyone's way to do your thing, whatever this might be.

It's rather a shame that they seem to be on the verge of demolishing this particular noplace - it would make for a decent hidden writing den when the summer comes around.

As you may have gathered, I have somewhat of an interest in these places that are not places. Or, rather, what happens when society claims a place and then releases its hold - what happens in that short period of time between when the last person who's supposed to be there leaves, and when nature finally reclaims the ruins as a part of itself.

Mostly, this consists of a lot of what might be called vandalism - certainly when it comes to doors, locks and other things designed to keep people out. And there's no secret that many a graffiti artist has started their work in forgotten places, far away from preying eyes.

But it also consists of a lot of building. Rebuilding. Taking a place and remixing it for some new use, whatever that might be. Artists using the peace and quiet to get creative, writers getting into the mood of stories past (or postapocalyptically futuristic), or just young punks who need somewhere to young and punk. People who can't find a place anywhere else, and therefore claims one that no one else seems to be using.

And these places - noplaces, betweenplaces, newplaces - are very much in the spirit of the theme I try to present from various angles in this blog of mine. Remixing it to the streets. Not remixing it into anything specific - just taking what's there and doing whatever seems to be the next logical thing with it. Whether that be general urban exploring, secret/spontaneous meetings or outright occupations.

There is no shortage of world. After all.

What they didn't tell you

I see that #ididnotreport has gained momentum. And while I am saddened that it is needed, I am also glad that it is around.

For those of you who don't live glued to your Twitter feeds (or read in a distant future), #ididnotreport is about various experiences of sexual abuse that for various reasons did not get reported. That just happened, and didn't get the social/legal/personal response it deserved. That went under the radar, and more often than not has been a private burden rather than a public issue.

Until now.

Suddenly, people who have lived with the shame of being sexually abused discover that - hey, I'm not alone in this! We are many, oh so many! And we have a right to feel angry about it!

Discovering that one is not alone is one of the most powerful feelings there is. It transforms the issue: it's no longer about just one person and their failings, but a widespread social failure to respect sexual boundaries. It's not our individual faults, and we don't have to carry the burden all alone.

The weight of the world is heavy enough as it is.

It saddens me that this is needed. But I'm glad that it's around. Every person who finds out that it's not they who are wrong, but that they have been wronged - takes a step in the right direction. In the direction of becoming less a prisoner of shame, and more an actor on the human stage.

Overcoming individual shame is a powerful thing. Sharing that shame and hearing that it's okay - that you are okay - is even more powerful. But the most powerful thing in your life is you.

Don't waste your time on feeling guilty about what some asshole did in the past. It's not your place to feel ashamed for that - it's theirs.

You are powerful. But you are not alone.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

When fear sets the agenda

To summarize: I am afraid of what the state and its institutions will do. [Name] is afraid of her peers. From this follows that I try to protect ordinary people from the state, and she tries to protect herself and the state from ordinary people.

So wrote one of my friends a while ago, as a result of a rather heated discussion he found himself in. Which got me thinking. Mostly because this simple yet important distinction puts into perspective why the various pirate movements (of the political variety) really haven't made that much of an impact yet.

To put it bluntly: those who are afraid of their neighbors are not overly interested in what an abstract state apparatus might potentially do in the future, unless it helps them to protect themselves from the more brutally concrete in the present.

This is somewhat more tangible than the classic analysis: that the pirate line of reasoning is too abstract in general. It also (and more importantly) explains how and why, and gives a direct indication of what the next step should be: to take modernity at face value.

The increased individualization, the increased alienation between people, the increased loneliness in contemporary society - these are not insubstantial questions. These are things people walk around and live with - feel - every day. It's one of the most present and tangible feelings that modernity has brought with it, and also one of the most widespread.

People of the advertising profession know this, of course, and that is why most of the advertising you stumble upon happens to be about different ways to be socially successful. See a need, fill a need.

Now, if one is a child of the present and don't interact that very much with the people living nearby, it is easy to feel a certain alienation towards them. One does not know them, after all. Don't know who they are, what they think or what they might do when they are left to their own devices.

Note that word, devices.

You may have noticed the ever increasing number of devices watching over us, everywhere. Those are the opposite of the strangers devices - they are there to protect us, from them. We may use words such as "terrorists", "pedophiles" or "criminals", but when push comes to shove it's other people who are the big threat. It's not animals or extraterrestrials we are talking about, after all, and it would be rather absurd to say that all the new surveillance is put in place to protect us from such non-humans.

It's about people. It was always about people.

The metaproblem is of course that you don't become less scared because of the presence of so called "security". It only serves to reinforce the feeling that there is a reason to be afraid - that people are dangerous, and that there is a real need for protection. More cameras, more police, more devices, tougher measures.  Which only serves to reinforce that fear of people even further - and the vicious circle continues.

And when the internet is brought up, and its inherent ability to connect people with each other - fear happens. Terrorists/pedophiles/criminals can talk to each other, and coordinate their vile efforts! The internet is dangerous, and can't be left to its own devices!

When you are afraid of people, the ability to coordinate people is a scary thing indeed.

Seen in this light, it is not all that strange that the sometimes rather extravagant praises to the internet raised by me and my fellow pirates seem very strange to people. Out of place, out of context, and brutally beside any point worth making. Because we don't fear the same things.

Where we see a radically new potential for people to collaborate for the common good (Wikipedia springs to mind), they see new potential ways for people to hurt them. And where we worry about the misuse of power that the expanded security apparatus enables, they see something that just might make them breathe a little bit easier.

Who knows what people do when left to their own devices?

The metaproblem is, again, that you can't ease the fear of other people by building higher walls against them. In fact, they become even more frightening the further away they seem to be, and each layer of extra protection removes more opportunity to get to know them. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy, a vicious circle that gets harder to break because of its drab everyday reoccurrence.

Just take a quick look at the news and look at how violent the world looks through their filter. Is it any wonder that people are scared?

And is it any wonder that the one argument that makes people listen about the over criminalization of file sharing youths - is the fact that the police have limited resources, that is better spent on "real" criminals? It is not the systemic fears that gets the time of day - it's the personal ones.

It's about people. It was always about people.

There is no small irony in that I once joined the pirate movement because of a fear that an ever increasing security state never would leave me alone. Now, I am so very rarely alone, and in the ever present company of the good people of the world - I am able to do my thing. In the company of and with the help of many good people. Which, should anything happen, are ready to help in any way they can - and that in itself is more than enough to make me feel a little less scared. A lot less scared, in fact.

I am still hopeful that when the ambient blues of the television screen is replaced by the more dynamic experience of the computer, the modern fear and loneliness will be alleviated. Not made obsolete - that would be impossible, after all - but be made into something that reached its peak in the early twenty first century, and then receded. That one day, we will have become so connected over the borders between people that they don't appear as frightening as they once did.

Why are we all so afraid of each other?

No, really. Why?

Originally published January 15, 2012

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Keep the change

I know many people who want to change the world. I more than know them - they are my friends, cohorts and general virtual hangarounds. And, as you might imagine, I'm one of them. Us.

Here we are.

At times, it seems as if the world is unchangeable. It's just too big, too complex, to overwhelming, too much to do anything about. As if the world will look your attempt squarely in the eye, laugh, and transform your transformative effort into another part of its infernal machinery. As if anything and everything you could possibly do would, in the end, ultimately serve to perpetuate the very things you hate in this world of hours.

If you happen to find yourself in a state of mind similar to this, do find someone to hug for a moment. And read on.

You see, this world of ours isn't as stable as it's cranked up to be. Sure, its been around fo a while and seems to be quite good at what it's doing, but consider this: every day literally billions of people work their collective asses off to keep the world running at usual. And an ever increasing amount of uncountable billions of whatever currency you care to mention is spent on keeping the world working as it is.

Now, if something takes that much effort just to keep going, then it obviously isn't keeping itself alive by virtue of its robustness. Rather, it is the fragility of it that makes it necessery for all those billions to get to work.

And if it's fragile, then it can be changed. If one only finds the right maintenance workers and persuade them to do the right thing.

It is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the world is a giant, amorphous blob that won't budge at anything. I've lived there for a couple of years, and I still fall back into the black hole of despair every once in a while. And I know how utterly crushing that sense of utter hopelessness can be when it reaches its most brutal stages.

But the world isn't a giant blob. It's rather a giant mess of moving parts, and if you can find and modify these moving parts, the rest follows. Even if that one modified part is yourself and those in your general vicinity.

Keep the faith. Another world is possible.

And keep a spare hug ready for those who have lost their hope. For some, that might be just the thing that gets the rest going. -

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

To love a cyborg

We are all cyborgs.

This may come as somewhat of a surprise. You would think this is one of those things you notice as you walk around in the world, feeling all soft and biological. This sudden change from non-cyborg to cyborg should have had some sort of visible sign, shouldn't it? It's not like these things happen over night, right?


Just as Rome wasn't built in a day, so our cyborghood wasn't built overnight. It was a process that took time, effort and many sleepless nights to accomplish. And many more sleepless morning, where many hard working persons struggle out of bed and back to the never ending work of building the world we live in.

Because, let's face it: we don't live in the natural world any more. We built this city, with concrete, steel, hard work and endless city council meetings (and a certain amount of rock and roll). And we built this economy, with all of its supply chains, complex interdependencies and the million things that just have to happen for the whole shebang to work.

And for us to be able to go to the store, get some food and live another day.

And that is how we became cyborgs. Depending on the machine, becoming the machine - speaking the machine language. Doing the biddings of the machine.

We are the machine. We are all cyborgs.

But don't ask yourself what it means to be a cyborg. Or even what life as a cyborg means. Those are the wrong kinds of questions, and will not lead you anywhere.

Instead, ask what it means to live. And, more importantly, what it means to love.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The story of #svpol

Twitter is a strange beast. One can only write 140 characters, and not even that when all the @'s, #'s and smileys are counted. Somehow, it still manages to mobilize and motivate millions of people to think, feel and do things together - perhaps because of this very small cast of characters. Everyone's on the short list.

It is also short in a more timely fashion. Except for certain celebrity and/or horse tweets that get reprinted in slower media, the average life span of a tweet is relatively short. Where blog posts can get readers for months (by process of the long tail), tweets are measured in minutes. You have to do some heavy lifting to read tweets older than a few hours, and you have to be really dedicated to go further back.

Furthermore, the built in search function on Twitter is rather less than spectacular, to say the least. Which contributes to Twitter being in a constant state of now-now-now-now.

With this in mind, and for the inherent value of being able to read about how things went down ex post facto, I wrote down the story of #svpol. Which, for those of you not living in the Scandinavian/Swedish language area, was the central hub for political tweeting. Until things went very, very wrong.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy the story of how the internet malfunctions: the rise and fall of #svpol.

In a time long long ago, in the mythical year of 2010, there was an election in the far far away land of Sweden. And as in every democratic country prior to election day, every political junkie of every political color and party were overjoyed to tell everyone with (or without) ears about how awesome their affiliation of choice was. In the beginning everyone did their own thing, shouting out slogans into the virtual desert, with little or no effect. Then, a pattern emerged. Some started to use #val2010 [#election2010] while writing about, well, the election, and soon others followed suit. With time, more and more people chimed in, and as election day loomed closer, the more intense the activity became. Everyone was there - leftists, rightists, radicals, even the stray anarchist who hated all things parliamentary.

And while there, they argued. Oh how they argued. Moderates, social democrats, pirates and centrists - if any political junkie ever had an argument with any other political junkie, it happened then. And there. Yet despite all the arguing, a kind of bond was forged. There is a certain community to knowing where to go to find those who want to argue.

Then, election day came and went, and the hashtag become a place for analyzing the election results. And, as you might imagine, people soon figured that they had exhausted every possible angle every possible percentage point. There's only ever so much you can say about an election result. And by the by, people started drifting off into the virtual loneliness again.

But just letting #val2010 die, and return to the way things were before, wasn't an appealing notion. After all, it was kind of nice to have somewhere to go for that political quick fix, even if the only people online at that moment came from other parties. Only speaking to those who agree with you all day long isn't all that it's cranked up to be, and Twitter is bigger than one's short list of friends. That's kind of the point.

So slowly but surely, #svpol grew into existence. Not without competition, of course - #swpol, #svepol and countless other varieties were in use. Even #val2011 came into being, in regards to the (very local) reelections. But after a process of informal elimination, #svpol reigned supreme. And before anyone knew it, order (and the constant, disorderly arguments that signified it) was restored.

As you might imagine, there was no plan, no official entity or really anything other than an informal agreement. An agreement that said, okay, we political junkies will use #svpol, and that's the extent of this agreement. A sentiment that "we may disagree about just about everything else in the world, but this one thing we can agree on".

It's really something of a political step forward. Not the constant arguing - there's hopefully no way to forwardstep that out of existence. But the fact that you (or anyone else) could gauge the current political mood by just taking a quick look at the discussions taking place - that's progress. And it gave many people an insight into contemporary politics that would have taken an absurdly long time to get otherwise.

Was it perfect? No, but it existed. And it worked in an everyday setting, which is just about as perfect as things political can get.

If this was the whole story, it would be quite boring. And unnecessary to write about, to say the least. Unfortunately, the story turns downhill from here.

One day, the site formerly known as Politiskt Inkorrekt (what used to be the leading platform for anti-islamism and general racism, now defunct) got an idea. Their main activity was to write subtly racist posts, and then letting the readers be not be too subtly racist in the comments. This in order to let the commenters bond in their expressed racism, whilst claiming that the things they themselves published (and thus were responsible for) weren't that bad. (Mainly for technical legal reasons, but not without a nod to the community building aspect.)

Then, suddenly, one day, they stumbled upon this idea: "Let's let loose the forces of comment trolling upon the general public! For too long the uncritical hegemony of contemporary islamophiles have dominated Twitter, and it is time to bring the Truth to the world! Let a thousand eggs bloom!"

They wrote a post about it, explaining that #svpol was a haven for the worst kinds of Cultural Marxists (a very technical islamophobe term, not to be confused with any kind of real Marxism) and that everyone there needed to be told about the upcoming Muslim threat. And, to help newcomers, they included a basic guide to how Twitter works. It went like this: "Give 'em hell, and tag everything with #svpol".

And before anyone knew it, the #svpol timeline was filled with all kinds of ideological "truths". Mostly about immigration, the Muslim threat, the conspiracy of lies from the mainstream media to black out certain topics, the hegemony of cultural marxism that strangles contemporary thought, the feminist threat to humanity - just the kind of unfettered racist propaganda you'd expect to see in the darker corners of the internet. To visualize it, just take the worst comment section you can find and multiply by a factor of months.

And what the newly immigrated tweeters lacked in powers of persuasion and reason, they more than made up for in number and persistence. (They are, in fact, still going strong. Even now, as I rework this post years later.) As soon as anyone said anything, they were immediately ganged up on. No matter the subject, argument, person, time of day, anything - everything got the same treatment. Times many.

It didn't take long for the hashtag to turn into a wretched hive of scum and villainy. The trolls outnumbered the junkies, and those few who stuck around in an attempt to outlast the onslaught were eventually worn down by attrition. Soon, only the industrial repetition of racist propaganda were to be found.

You can imagine the anger and loss many felt as they discovered that the once lively gathering point now was a watering hole for barely literate, propaganda spewing fanatics. Not only because of the fanatically spewed propaganda (in all its unfettered racism), but because of the breach of the informal agreement. We political junkies do not agree upon anything, ever, except this one thing, this one hashtag.

That hashtag was a valuable thing. If you needed to know what was going on at any particular time, all you needed to do was to check it out. It was a news source, mood meter and community builder, all at once. And it's a shame to see it lost due to people who have no idea what they do, yet who do it anyway.

And so I document this, in the hopes that by the time you read it, we will have learned from past mistakes. Not that we've gotten things perfect - things will never be perfect - but that we've managed to get along. Even while still duking it out, doing our thing in coexisting, competitive parallel.

It happened once, after all. And hope is always the last thing to die.

August 15, 2011 
edited October 4, 2014 (original)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Two passing ships

Sometimes, strange things happen. In fact, strange things happen just about every day, and if we get around to notice it, we can appreciate just how strange they really are.

Like, for instance, people talking. People talk at just about every chance they can manage to get, so people talking shouldn't be a strange thing.

It can be.

Like, say, when two people in your general virtual vicinity, who previously have gone about doing whatever it is they do when they do what they do. Previously, you've seen them around, and know the gist of what they're about. - and suddenly, they find each other. And start talking.

Strange things happen when people start talking.

This happened to me recently. Two persons from different spheres suddenly interlocked in conversation, and I could see how both of them talked to each other. It was almost as if I eavesdropped on them - if such a thing can happen in the virtual.

Or, rather, they talked at each other, or pass each other. Like two persons sitting on a hill and admiring a beautiful view, with the one sitting just a tad bit above the other. And as they describe the view to each other, they find that there are differences in what they see. There are subtle differences in shades, colors, nuances - in some cases, entire features are missing. Yet they are still looking in the same general direction. At just about the same thing.

From my eavesdropping point, I can hear them talk at each other. And from my general knowledge of what they tend to be about, I know that they should be able to enjoy the view together, if only one of them could move their head just the slightest of inches.

Have you ever had that experience? When two people you know meet for the first time and don't quite get along do to a tiny difference of perspective?

I'd wager this is not the strangest thing to have ever happened in the world, and that it happens often enough that at least one of you can recall that time it happened to you.

Please do tell me how it turned out.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

An ode to the retweet

Consider the retweet.

It's such a simple act. Someone on Twitter writes something, and someone else reads it. And thinks - hey, this is too good to not be read by everyone I know! I gotta share this with them!

And thus, the retweet button is used.

Some use this sparingly, thinking that there is an art to selecting what to retweet. That it is not an act to be undertaken lightly, and that ample preparation and deliberation is mandated before one commits oneself to it.

Others have a more direct approach.

Now, consider the fact that we all know different people. Those present in your life are most likely not present in mine, and vice versa. What I see in your timeline is not what you see in yours, and what you see is not what I see.

Good thing we have a way to bridge that gap, isn't it?

If we take a step back, we can see that there are more people in the world than you and I. There are, in fact, many people in it, and none of them really see eye to eye. In fact, it is a topic of intense philosophic dispute whether two people who behold the same given object really see the same thing. And thus, there is a great need for bridge building in the world.

It's a big world. And there's a lot of people in it. We're gonna need a lot of bridges.

Or, perhaps not. Remember that thing about Kevin Bacon? About how you (whoever you might be) need only to make six lateral social jumps in order to get to the aforementioned Bacon?

The same goes for retweets. Something writes something, someone else retweets - and in five more jumps, the whole world has seen you smile.

That, my friends, is power. At your fingertips.

Use it wisely. And use it often.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Back to basics

Whoever you are, whatever you do, whenever you see this - think about all the things you can do.


I've been asked about the significance of the word "lokalspeek". As you may have noticed, I use it instead of a more specific word whenever I speak of the mysterious language I claim to have written in before.

It could be, as some have suggested, an elaborate plot to avoid mentioning that most of my oeuvre is written in Swedish. But that would be rather pointless now, so that can't be it.

Rather, I'm trying to get a grip on a concept. A thingy. A phenomenon. And, more so, a shared one at that - something that isn't very particular to Swedish or any other specific language, yet still applies to many of the writers of the world who don't have English as their first language.

Lokalspeek is a language that, from the Anglophone point of view, is obscure, somewhat hard to determine with any degree of accuracy, and utterly incomprehensible. It makes all kinds of sense for the speaker, but for the rest of the world it's just a seemingly random combination of letters. Something the locals in faraway places speak because they don't speak English, and gotta speak something.

If it weren't for the fact that I'm a lokalspeaker myself, it would be a rather imperialistic concept.

Funny how that works.

Yet, it is present in every new post I write. Especially since I've gotten into the habit of being able to link back to my two thousand previously published posts and say - yep, covered it, don't have to do it again.

It is also quite humbling. Back to basics. Square one. Prove yourself, newcomer. Be who you think you are, in practice rather than theory.

Now, this cannot be a unique experience. People have migrated from a local setting to a more international one before, and I imagine that the experience is rather similar regardless of what particular lokalspeek you happen to migrate from. And thus, the need (or usefulness) of a word for it.

Thus, the significance for me lies more in practice than in theory at this stage. But I suspect that I will have plenty of reason to return to the more theoretical aspects of it, once I kick myself into shape by constant practice. -

Friday, March 2, 2012

Ancient Domains of Mastery

Have you ever played ADOM?

That's not a question one gets to ask very often. Not only because ADOM is a rather obscure rougelike RPG of the sadistically brutal kind, but also -

Well. That just about covers it. Obscure, sadistic, brutal. Even those who know about it have to deal with the fact that it really doesn't help you out with learning the game, and even when you've gotten around to that it tends to kill you off without proper warning. And when you die, you die. New game. Not to mention that the victory conditions leaves you no second chances. Once you fail, you fail.

Here's a picture (borrowed from the wiki) of how it looks like:

Ah, such fond memories.

If there is one thing that needs to be said about ADOM, then that is that it takes time to learn, time to play and time to win. Like with so many other turn based games, time flies when it stands still. And the more time you spend on it, the better you get at it - both in theory and in practice.

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that the picture above is quite incomprehensible to many of you. Those who are familiar with the rougelike genre will know that the @ is the player character, and that the ^^s are traps of various kinds. With experience, you will learn which of them will kill you as a level 4 wizard fresh from the first quest, and which ones to abuse in the later stages of the game.

If you devote a couple of hours to it, you will have learned the basics of moving around. A couple of more hours and you will stay alive. A couple of days, and you will reach lever 12. A couple of years, and you will beat it. At least once.

Now, it's not quite like me to drag out something brutally obscure just to be sadistic. There's got to be some sort of point, right?

 Why, yes. Now that you mention it.

You see, this is how mastery works. At first, things looks like a random compilation of stuff, with no sense of direction what so ever. Then you learn this one thing, which lets you see other things, which lets you try other things, which lets you get on with even more things - and if you just keep doing it, you eventually get so good that you win.

The key to getting good at things is to keep doing them. Even when you keep dying as a level 4 warrior due to a particularly unforgiving stone trap. -

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Who be you?

Ponder this question: What is a person?

This is not as abstract a question as one might think. In fact, it is one of the most down to earth question there is. Especially when you've met a new person, and try to find out who that really is.

If you are born on this temporal side of the Berlin Wall, the first step in finding out is to search the Facebook. There are many clues to be found there - liked pages, places visited and photos aplenty. And, more importantly, a list of friends to investigate.

One can say much about a person from the company they keep.

Which is even more relevant on Twitter, where company is everything. Who is the target of communication, retweets, favorites? What goes on in that timeline, and what can the implied flow of connections tell you about the new person?

With time to spare, these findings can be augmented with a close reading of the relevant blogs, Tumblrs and Livejournals. What could be more telling about someone than their own words, written about anything they like when they like?

What kind of ideas and discourses flows though this persons mind?

The question about what a person is suddenly starts to become less mysterious. An answer starts to emerge, and it says something to the effect that a person is not a monadic, isolated entity. Rather, a person is a mesh of - meshed in - interrelated networks of people, conversations, ideas and flows. And by getting a glimpse of these relations, networks and interrelated networks, some sort of understanding of the person in question happens.

Someone might argue that this is only true in an online environment. That these conversations and networks are an artifact of the abundant flows of communication, and that the predigital world was - in this and many other regards - different.

I'm not so sure about that. After all, what would a person be without these networks of people, discourses and ideas?

Some things change. Others tend to stay remarkably stable. Persons do both, at the same time. Without even questioning it.