happiness pants

Starting An Advertising Business Without Wanting To Kill Yourself

[Originally posted at Medium, mostly because I was curious] My oldest friend and I have just launched a boutique advertising network for independent gaming websites called Eudaimoneers. It’s about the least likely thing that me-of-20-years-ago could have imagined doing. It’s disconcerting, but it feels good, man. I’d like to tell you some of the why of both.

You’ve probably seen Bill Hicks’ advertising rant from back in 1993. Even if you haven’t, the probability approaches 1.0 that you’ve seen somebody reference it if you’ve ever read a single message board thread in the last 20 years where people were talking about advertising. But just in case, here it is (and there’s a lot of cursing and barely-suppressed anger and general billhicksiness, so: warning if it’s new to you)

Here’s how he starts, just in case you’re not up for the swears

By the way if anyone here is in advertising or marketing… kill yourself. It’s just a little thought; I’m just trying to plant seeds. Maybe one day they’ll take root — I don’t know. You try, you do what you can.

Kill yourself.

Seriously though, if you are, do.

Aaah, no really. There’s no rationalisation for what you do and you are Satan’s little helpers. Okay — kill yourself. Seriously. You are the ruiner of all things good.

Seriously.

That’s a strange way to kick off an essay about trying to launch a new advertising business, I know. Stick with me.
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800px-Lake_Tahoe_at_night_2[1]

Tosh’s Garage

Waist-high grass, on the hill behind Tosh’s Garage, beside the lake. Still, and utterly quiet. Full moon low in a black starry cloudless summer night sky, shattered stretched reflection arrowing out across the water. Me, teenaged, on my back on the gentle slope in a hidden nest of tramped down grass stalks, quivering, with my shorts around my knees, and two young women sitting beside me. It’s my first real sexual experience.
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Snow On A January Night

It was maybe 11pm, deep into a Northern BC January Saturday night. We were both falling-down drunk, and we were 17 years old. We were sitting on crusty snow, leaning back against the side of somebody’s car, gazing up into the snowflakes falling gently out of the pitch-black sky. Everything was muffled and peaceful in the way it gets when the snow falls after dark. Clean, cold, quiet, even though we could hear the distant thump of Hell’s Bells coming from the basement party we’d left a few minutes ago. Lazy Christmas lights were still twinkling here and there. Fifteen minutes earlier, she’d asked me to hold her hair back while she puked into the toilet, something that in my hometown was tantamount to asking a guy to go steady. After, she’d asked me to walk her home. I wasn’t anywhere near sober, but she was plastered, and her parents’ house was a good 3 blocks away. I was in love with her. I had been for years. I’d never told her.
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FSJ

Living First Person

[Crossposted from Full Glass Empty Clip] It’s 1977. I’m 12 years old. It’s a gorgeous Northern BC summer day, one of those glorious fleeting perfect days that are all the sweeter in the frozen north, because the memories of mud and slush barely fade before the leaves have already begun to turn again. Utterly pure blue sky, sun warm on the skin, grass a deep impatient green, a light breeze off the lake that is so invigoratingly packed with oxygen and piney perfume it might as well be aerosolized cocaine. I’m playing third base, it’s what we’d call little league if we called it that in Canada back then, I’m just beginning to feel the awkwardness of adolescence, but the sheer pleasure of being alive and standing on that dirt under that gigantic bowl of sky on that day is more than enough to let me ignore my self-consciousness. I’m a big, strong kid, and even if I’m more bookworm than jock, I enjoy sports.

FSJ

That green field just below center, a bit to the right? That’s where I was, all those decades ago.

One of the kids on the other team strikes out, and our gang begins to jog back to the chickenwire fence behind home plate for our time at bat, where there are a few parents hanging out, maybe drinking a beer or three in the sun. I get about three or four loping steps along the baseline before my left leg folds up, with no warning whatsoever, and I go down into the dirt. I try like hell to get up, but my leg just doesn’t seem to want to bend correctly. I don’t remember it hurting as much as I remember being confused, trying to figure out why my leg suddenly didn’t do what I told it to do any more, and then horrified and embarrassed, when my stepdad came out onto the diamond, picked me up, and carried me off.

Turns out that I had Osgood-Schlatter syndrome. I was just growing too damned fast, apparently, and bits and pieces of me couldn’t keep up. The dumbass semicompetent smalltown doctor told us that I’d have to have the left leg put in an ankle to hip cast for six months, and then the other leg — once again, ankle to hip — for another six months after that.

That was pretty much the end of sports for me, at least team sports. That was the beginning — after that long, itchy year, when my first my left and then my right leg emerged, atrophied, pale, and, to my horror, looking like a limb grafted on from a much smaller, sicklier young man — of my lifelong habit of riding bikes with my headphones on down empty highways. And that summer, when the doorway to baseball and swimming and many other things I loved closed, at least temporarily, that the door into computers and the games you can play on them opened. When I learned that it was possible to go places without actually going anywhere. That was the summer my parents bought me my first computer, a TRS-80 Model III.

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Stephen Harper

Fuck You, Canada

I say this as a once-proud Canadian: fuck you, Canada. Stephen Harper and his brigade of destroyers, again? A fucking majority? What could you possibly have been thinking, Canada? What the hell is wrong with you?

I know you’re not completely stupid, Canada. In the half of my 45 years that I lived there, I met lots of people who weren’t stupid. My mom, who’s mayor of my hometown: she’s one smart lady. But I’m not going to ask her if she voted Conservative. I fear her response would break my heart.

I don’t want you to apologize to me, Canada. That would be silly. But it will be heartbreaking when you come to me weeping, with fresh bruises across your face, because you believed him when he said he wouldn’t hit you any more, and you went back. Again. For the sake of the kids.

I don’t want to feel a tingle of schadenfreude when I see the smoking, cratered economic wasteland after the Great Real Estate Disaster that is coming, Canada, your people shambling and blistered, draped in scorched rags, clutching the tattered paperwork for your 40 year mortgages, or for you to learn a lesson about greed from that.

I don’t want you to be the nation I so loved when I was a boy, the country I was so proud of.

I don’t want you to wake up and realize that by emulating the worst, you become the worst. America’s so exciting, so vibrant, they have the best drugs and the shapeliest fake tits, the shiniest teeth and the porn, have you seen some of that crazy porn they make down there? And the great big servings of curly fries? Holy shit! Everybody loves America, except that Bin Laden creep, and hell, they finally took him down Rambostyle, right? So all aboard the USA train!

Those boring frigid Scandinavian countries, where they have the highest standard of living, the best education and health care, the lowest infant mortality rate, even — who needs all that? Who wants to be like them, all dour and shivering and strong and secure and beloved, when America! is just next door and has that flashy car and gold tooth?

I don’t want you to look in the mirror and realize you’ve become a disappointment, an also-ran, a minor-key sidekick to a lumbering misguided giant, a mockery of the great men and women who built you. I don’t need you to understand that the toxic Network News American Political Buzzword Culture that has colonized your media and infected your discourse has distracted your people and corrupted your leaders and is destroying you. I don’t want you to embrace the principles that made you great. I don’t want you to take a step back and think about what kind of nation you want to be, and then live up to those principles.

No, wait, what the hell am I saying?

I want all of those things.

But it looks less likely with every turn of the screw that I’ll ever be seeing them.

the-wizard-of-oz

Nerds and Otaku and Geeks, Oh My!

I just read Patton Oswalt’s Wake Up, Geek Culture. Time to Die, which I enjoyed, and I’ve got something to say. Several somethings, in fact. As I set out, I’m not entirely certain what those somethings are, but I’m sure we’ll have some fun finding out.

I’m a little uncomfortable with it as a semi-serious piece of word stuff, and with the inevitable ensuing Metafilter thread. Underlying everything is an assumption that goes for the most part unquestioned: that nerds, or geeks (or otaku, but to hell with that, William Gibsonisms notwithstanding

The otaku, the passionate obsessive, the information age’s embodiment of the connoisseur, more concerned with the accumulation of data than of objects, seems a natural crossover figure in today’s interface of British and Japanese cultures. I see it in the eyes of the Portobello dealers, and in the eyes of the Japanese collectors: a perfectly calm train-spotter frenzy, murderous and sublime. Understanding otaku-hood, I think, is one of the keys to understanding the culture of the web. There is something profoundly post-national about it, extra-geographic. We are all curators, in the post-modern world, whether we want to be or not.

because I’m weary so weary of the appropriation and repurposing of poorly-understood Japanese words) are to be defined by the cultural products they (possibly obsessively) consume. It’s the common usage, sure — we talk about star wars nerds and comics nerds, about gaming geeks and movie geeks. We’ve wired into our brains a default mode where a nerd is someone who nerds out over some New Bauble, and a geek geeks out about their Precious Thing. We’re a little too accustomed to defining ourselves by what we consume, which is just what The Business of Entertainment wanted. Except for that whole part where we can get almost anything made of information these days without really trying. Or paying.

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The Ape and The Snake

The men who planned and carried out the bombings in Bali in 2002, the ones that killed one of my oldest and dearest friends (but only after he suffered with burns over most of his body for nearly two weeks) along with 201 other people, were executed last month.

You’d think I’d be happy about that.

Let me tell you a little story that may not seem to have much to do with this, but does, somehow, in a way that’s not entirely clear to me. Maybe in the telling, I can work it out a bit.

It was the mid-70s, I think, another glorious short clean summer in Northern BC, one of the ones that stay with me in my memory, and my aunt, uncle and two cousins were visiting us.

We had taken our river boat ten or fifteen kilometers up the lake, up to one of the rocky beaches under the ridge of Mount Pope, inshore from Battleship Island. We set up our outpost on a long expanse of thumb-size pebbles rattling under a broad unclouded vault of sky, stands of jackpine and spruce at our backs clustered beardlike around yellow stone cliff outcroppings. Clear deep dark green water, hot dogs cooked on whittled birch sticks over a fire pit. It was the kind of day that makes you feel glad to be alive, especially when you’re 8 or 10 years old and all is right with the world.

I remember at one point my cousins and I were ranging up the shingly beach, just exploring, when we came across the biggest snake I’d ever seen. It was glistening and black and in the water, and it took off like a shot as soon as it saw us, undulating frantically as it headed along the rocky verge, trying to escape.

We were curious, or at least I was, and we started throwing driftwood and rocks in its path, trying to get it to turn around, or slow down, so we could get a better look. I’m not sure, of course, what my cousins were thinking, but I don’t think they had any more malicious intent than I did. We were curious. The missiles we hurled at the poor beast got progressively larger and we got more excited, and the inevitable happened. One of the rocks or sticks landed square on the snake, and killed it. It uncoiled and floated, light belly up.

As we’d been hollering and chasing the snake, my uncle, presumable alerted by our excitement, had come up behind us just as the fatal stone did its work. All he saw was hooting boys killing an innocent creature.

He wasn’t furious, he was disgusted, disappointed. I still remember, as clearly as if it were yesterday, the look on his face. I don’t think anyone had ever looked at me like that before.

Several people have sent me links to news items about the execution of the Bali bombers in the past few weeks, and each time, I’ve had to tell them that I just didn’t know what to feel about it, much less what to think.

I find as I grow older that every year I am certain about less and less.

I’ve said to some folks who asked that although I do not believe that more killing is a good response to killing, if I were handed the gun, or set down in front of the switch behind the one-way glass, or just put into a room with the bastards, I wouldn’t hesitate to exact vengeance for the death of my friend. Pull the trigger, press the button, beat them with my fists. I’ve said to my friends that I am an ape masquerading as a man.

I don’t know if that’s true or not, I really don’t. It sounds good, I suppose, and I’ve always been about the dramatic pronouncement over the measured interpretation.

My old friend Rick, killed in 2002 by the bomb outside the Sari Nightclub.Is the world a poorer place without my friend Rick Gleason living in it? Yes, it is, and the same is no doubt true for the friends and family members of each and every of the other 201 people killed in the bombings. Is the world a better place without their killers living in it? I think it probably is.

A killer named Amrozi who set the bomb, now also deceased.We tell ourselves a lot of stories about ‘the sanctity of human life’. We seem to mean the lives of those we know and love when we talk about it, and that’s not surprising or wrong. We find it hard to care about strangers, and harder to care about strangers whose tribe is different, and even harder to care about those strangers who would do us harm if they could, or leave us to die without compunction. People get all misty about their Jesus and his injunctions to love one’s enemies and turn cheeks.

But we don’t really believe that human life, in the abstract, is sacred, even if we’re willing to go the extra mile and define what we mean by sacred, do we? Not really. We make war, we ignore the roots of violent crime and turn away, we spend millions on blood-fiesta movies and video games and tell ourselves that it’s about catharsis. The best we can reasonably claim to believe is that some human life is sacred.
We’re not bad people, of course, most of us. Actual, personal violence we find shocking, unacceptable, abhorrent. We are traumatized by the headless corpse behind the steering wheel sitting in the puddle of blood and piss in the twisted plastic and metal of the Friday night wreck. We’re dutifully frightened by the TV news items about violent crime that are intended to keep us dutifully frightened and at home watching the sponsor’s messages. But we do love our serial killers and the movies about them, we love our torture porn, we love our Schwarzeneggerian one-liners before the shotgun skullpop, even while we guard our vulnerable citizens against violence domestic and corporal and sexual and even emotional. We righteously and rightfully do our best to end the social conditions that allow such things to happen. And we support our troops. You know, if we have any. We compartmentalize.

I don’t think most of us are all that clear on these things, and I suppose I’m no better than anyone else. See, if we admit that by executing those bastards, and we accept that violence has its place in our attempts to make the world better, we have accepted that violence has its place. This has consequences.

And if we’re not trying to make the world better, then we’re just acting out another episode of the woeful old Jehovahriffic vengeance.

I’m not against vengeance, though I’d rather be a man than an ape. I have to admit that there are times when I want to bare my yellowed fangs and rip out a throat and feel the hot pulse of blood wash across my cheek.

Thirty years later, having returned to the memory many times over the years, I don’t think I wanted to kill that snake. But I’m not certain that that was actually the truth at the time.

bcfires_2003226_02

My Home Is Dying

When you grow up in the far north in Canada, if you’re at all curious about the world and the people in it, you can’t wait to get out. As soon as you’re able, you head out to the big city, for work or school or whatever you can get. It isn’t such a different story from kids growing up in the boonies anywhere, where it’s Montana or Gangwon-do in Korea, western New South Wales or the Cyclades.

I grew up, for the years that counted at least, in Fort Saint James, British Columbia. During those years — the early 70’s to the early 80’s — it was the End of The Road. Vanderhoof was the asshole of the world and we were forty miles up it, we said, recycling that old standby. The paved highway ended in the Fort, and to go further north meant logging roads and endless washboard and pothole gravel, dusty in summer, solid ice in winter, and slicker than snot the rest of the time. There were a couple of reservations further up there, and a few scattered fishing lodges and mines and logging camps. Wilderness, though, for the most part. Endless dense forest carpetting mountains, nap worn smooth in spots by crystal-clear cold lakes and rivers. Germanson Landing. Takla Landing. Leo Creek. Deese Lake. I’d like to say I hunted bear in these places wearing nothing but a breechclout and bowie knife, but with parents who were grappling with living on the frontier after moving from southern Ontario and a little shellshocked by family tragedy, the names of these tiny, isolated places were almost as exotic to me as Tokyo or Timbuktu. We didn’t stray too far.

But our own tiny town of 2500 or so was frontier enough for anyone, and, in what feels all these decades later like a deliberate, considered balance to the more bookish side of my nature, but was probably just imposed on me by the environment, I spent a lot of my time outdoors. In the summer especially, I’d spend 5 or 6 hours a day just behind our house swimming in the cold runoff-fed waters of Stuart Lake, or buckling on my first-gen Sony Walkman and riding my bicycle further and further out along the limited network of paved roads that snaked out along it, or to the south towards Vanderhoof, or the 10 or 15 kilometers north to the saw mills, after which the asphalt just stopped. Looking for something.

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splosion

Armageddon Schadenfreude

When I was a teenager, I thought a lot about the end of the world. In particular, the rain of nukes that always seemed just around the corner. I was fascinated and terrified. I suppose that’s not an unusual thing for kids that age, and might even have been the usual for m-m-m-my generation. I grew up in the 70s, came of age in the early 80s. I was convinced that nuclear war was near-inevitable. I had no doubt that doddering dimwitted Ronald Reagan (read ‘his handlers’) and whichever equally doddering Soviet supremo was currently being propped up and jerkily animated with electric current (read ‘his handlers’) were going to blow the crap out the world. I dreamed about it. I can remember a grand total of one wet dream from my pubescent years; I can remember literally dozens of atomic holocaust dreams.

I remember Helen Caldicott and her Canadian-made If You Love This Planet. They showed it to us in high school. I remember the TV movies Threads and The Day After. Two and half decades after seeing Threads, I still remember the camera lingering on the puddle of urine at the woman’s feet as the mushroom clouds rose. I watched The Road Warrior when it was first released. I remember reading A Canticle for Leibowitz. I sucked up all the ’50s bomb-shelter paranoiac sci-fi juvenilia I could get my mother to buy for me at the bookstores on our shopping trips to the nearest city. I read what little I could find about the growth of the Cold War arsenals. It was… a hobby of mine.

Not that I was the archetypal Weird Kid or anything, muttering head-down through greasy locks about the ‘end of the world’. I had normal hobbies, too: comics and computers, swimming and biking, booze and friends’ fast cars. Girls. I showered regularly. But I did dream a lot about the end of the world.

And they weren’t all nightmares by any means. See, I grew up in a tiny town more than 1000 kilometers north of Vancouver. I was completely confident that when the bombs fell, we’d be safe and secure. When I was in Grade 5, my gifted-group teacher had had a meteorologist boyfriend who’d lent me (and the other smart kid they’d cut from the herd to study what and how we liked) his weather maps. I’d learned about the prevailing wind currents of north-central British Columbia. We’d be all good when the balloon went up. The nearest mushroom cloud might sprout and rain its deadly ash 500km away, at worst, accidental mistargetings notwithstanding, and leave us basically unscathed.

We had moose and squirrel salmon, we had farms and ranches, we had endless forest. Fruit might get a little scarce, but hell, I didn’t much like fruit anyway. My house had a deep well, and the lakes and rivers were sweet and clear. Nuclear winter? No worries. We lived through -45°C spells every damn year. We’d get by. Let the mad bastards down south kill each other off en masse. We’d be the inheritors of the earth, us hardy northern canucks, ululating our diesel-powered ways down out of the arboreal wastes, antlers strapped to the hoods of our Barracudas and pickup trucks, to rebuild things in our own Royal Reserve-powered image. Proud Canadians. There’d finally be some kind of payoff for living 40 miles up the asshole of the earth for so many years.
Armageddon didn’t seem like such a bad thing. Not the best result in a lot of ways, sure, but Ouroboros the world-turd was spinning at the bottom of the bowl, anyway. Time for cleansing holy nuclear fire! It’d be a shame, all those innocent people getting torched, but we kept reading how overpopulation was going to kill the planet even if the nukes didn’t.

So talk these days of a coming economic armageddon with Ground Zero in America’s bubble have actually put me in a nostalgic mood. Headlines like China threatens ‘nuclear option’ of dollar sales take me right back to 1982. Media tidbits like Jim Cramer’s recent howling monkey-boy histrionic meltdown — ‘It’s Armageddon out there!” have fascinated me in the kind of way that (metaphorical) nuke-porn did back in the day.

It’s far from certain, of course, that the blow up is going to happen, or even that things will fall apart. But I’ve been watching the whole thing for years now, after decades of conditioned ignorance about economics, and the New Great Depression feels as likely to me as nuclear tennis did back in the early ’80s.

Then again, that didn’t end up happening, did it? There’s some comfort in that, I guess.

A comment from the sometimes-overheated Malor in a recent Metafilter thread (among many others about the subprime mortgage mess, the yen carry trade, the liquidity dry-up, and all the rest) lays out genesis of the worst case scenario pretty well, I think. Is it a Minsky Moment? Yeah, probably.

Malor said:

We should have gone into a horrific recession after the stock market bubble popped in 2000. The size of that bubble was far bigger than the one in 1929, so the consequences should have been even more severe… something on the order of severity of the Great Depression, although I think a 1970s-style stagflation writ large was the likeliest outcome.

What happened instead is that the Fed panicked and hit the liquidity button, flooding the system with incredibly cheap money. New money chases inflation, and causes more of it, so it went into housing, and then people started leveraging themselves up into massive debt to buy more of it.
Bubbles have been called the fiscal equivalent of a nuclear weapon; the only way to avoid the fallout is by not having one in the first place. The stock market bubble was a huge deal, though probably survivable.

But the Fed, which set off the original bubble with easy money, tried to fix the fallout with more of the same medicine that got us sick in the first place. To stop the fallout from one atomic bomb, they set off two fusion weapons instead…. and we didn’t even dodge the fallout from the first bomb, we just delayed it. The explosion of the other two bombs just sent the fallout into orbit, but it’s still up there, and we’re still gonna eat every rad.

At the very least, we’re going to have a full generation of very hard times, tougher than anything in living memory. I think we will be exceptionally fortunate if the United States continues to exist as the same legal entity.

In terms of likely outcome, my operating theory is that we’ll go into a short-term deflationary crunch, but the Fed will open the floodgates and send us into an inflationary death spiral. Not just nasty horrible stagflation for two decades like we would have had from the Y2K pop, but an actual hyperinflationary death spiral for the dollar.

With fiat currency, I just don’t think a true deflationary collapse is possible… although with the unbelievably massive leverage in the derivative positions, I suppose it could happen. Money could be destroyed from debt default faster than the Fed can lend new dollars into circulation.
There’s one name you should remember in the coming crisis: Greenspan. This is all his doing. His refusal to ever allow a recession, ever, led us directly into this mess. He never met a problem he couldn’t cover up with liquid paper.

I think Malor might be overstating the case when he talks about a generation of hard times. On the other hand, if China pulls the economic trigger, he might be understating it.

Anyway, the winds taste the same to me because as the tension builds I’m once again far from the places where the corpses will litter the ground if and when the hammer falls. Two and half decades ago I was in the far north of Canada, confident that we’d be able to sustain ourselves while the rest of the world went to hell. Now I’m in Korea, and if economic armageddon happens, once again I’m not directly in the line of fire. Once again, if it all goes to hell, I’ll feel sorry for all the people (even the stupid ones who went for their two year no-money-down teaser-rate no-declare ARM mortgages for a McMansion they knew they couldn’t afford) who lose it all. The rich will make it through, as they always do, this time with Bushy legislation and offshore accounts rather than hardened bunkers and hidey holes.

Well, I like to say I’ll feel sorry about the end of days. I said to myself when I was 17 that I’d be sorry about all those crispy corpses down in CanadAmerica South. But not entirely sincere the sentiment, I have to admit, then or now. The truth is, of course, in some ways, on some days: I think I’d feel like pumping my fist, taking a deep breath, and shouting ‘That’s what you get for shortsighted greed and systematic stupidity, you bastards!’ Or more succinctly, ’cause my wind is not what it once was, ‘Suck it, dummies!’

I’m a bad man that way. Or part of me is and was, at least.

Bad things are going to happen to the Korean economy, certainly, if and when America’s economy goes tits-up and takes the rest of the world with it. But if I lived in North America, if I was mortgaged to the hilt, if I was living from paycheck to paycheck, I’d be a lot more worried about it than I am here in Korea with my life savings in won and no debt.

Maybe we ought to buy some gold, though.

So I am back where I was when I was young — a cleansing fire might just be what’s needed to clean out the corruption and cauterize the wounds. Part of me almost looks forward to it. I’m not sure if I really believe that, or if it’s just the romantic teen I was surfacing again for a last misanthropic gasp before he goes down into that dark cold water for the last time.

Either way: armageddon schadenfreude. It’s not just a good name for a postmodern superhero.

[Update: more background material and some excellent explanations of the IMPENDING DOOOOOOOM in this MeFi thread.]

AllenGinsberg

Not A Howl, A Twitter

[Some of this seemed to crystallize for me after listening to Bruce Sterling’s excellent talk at SXSW 2007. So thanks to him, and you know, grain of salt.]

We grew up watching. If you’re 50 or 40 or 30 or younger, you’ve spent thousands of hours watching. You still watch — you watch on YouTube, or you watch your DVDs, or you watch the TV. Maybe you use a PVR to timeshift yourself so that you can watch on your own schedule, congratulate yourself on cheating the advertisers, denying them the eyeballs they crave. Maybe, like me, you fire up bittorrent on boot, and swarmload all your video automagically from the RSS feeds of illicit darknet bulletin boards.

Howl Twitter (with abject apologies to Allen Ginsberg)

I saw the best posters of my generation destroyed by blogging, commenting hysterical naked,
scrolling themselves through the n-word threads at dawn looking for a snarky fix,
trucker-hatted hipsters burning for the cheapest DSL connection to the bitwise dynamo in the datastream of night,
who pizza and tater-tots and poopsocking and high sat up typing in the supernatural whiteness of rented condos surfing across the tubes of internets
contemplating porn,
who bared their breasts on MySpace under fake names and saw Mohammedan bombers threatening in video streams illuminated,
who played through universities with radiant eyes hallucinating Second Life and Warcraft tragedy among the scholars of war,
who were banned from the websites for crazy & posting batshitinsane on the Windows™ of Mr Bill,
who farted in unshaven rooms in underwear, tossing their tissues in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror on CNN…

Watching and being watched has started to feel like the default human state in these mediated days. You know how characters in video games will go into their idle animation if you wait too long to interact with them? Yeah, like that. Unwatched, they nonetheless go through the motions as if they were.

The last half a century or more is remembered, at least by me, as a succession of moving images — lumpy raspberry red Kennedy brains sprayed out across the trunk of the convertible, phallic twin towers collapsing like nationscale erectile dysfunction. Watching makes manifest our reality, makes more real our memory. Two or three generations now, we’ve been immersed eyedeep in it. Hawkeye Pierce and Fonzie, they’re signifiers of my childhood as evocative to me as cold lake water and the northern lights. If you spend as much time on the internet as I do, if you’re one of the geek-approved flavour of obsessive-compulsives we call ‘early adopters’, if you’ve bought a big flat panel TV or covet HD video, if your appetite for bandwidth is insatiable, if you feel compelled to buy ever more complex mobile phones, you’re probably in the same boat as me. You swim in the same advertising cesspool in which our media meals float — eyeballs watch, watching is intentional, intention means awareness, awareness is all when someone wants something from you or when you want something from them. Tree falls in the forest, but it doesn’t matter shit unless somebody’s watching. We’re Schrödinger and his cat, both at the same time.

If you live in London, your picture is taken 300 times a day, but not because someone want to sell you something.

You’re being watched, and you’re meant to feel safe.

We’ve had another lesson drummed in to us, too, it seems; one that cuts in the other direction. It’s a weak inverse solipsist lesson we felt in our bones from the time we were toddlers, of course: you’ve seen it on America’s Funniest Home Videos, maybe. The child falls, howls while the parents with the camera are looking at him and pointing the camera. They move off, out of sight — the observing eye umbrated — and the child quiets, sniffs, draws shuddery breath, and follows. As soon as he knows he is once more in the range of the observer’s gaze, he busts out into full wails again.
Here: It’s easier for you to watch the video than for me to explain it. Watch.


Our thoughts, our feelings, our selves are never as real as when someone else is observing them.

So we used to make home movies, we took Polaroids, we sent cards to distant relatives at Christmas so we’d be alive in their minds. It’s a natural and a human impulse. Hell, we painted on the walls of Lascaux. With the technology at hand, we were only able to do it occasionally. We laughed at the Japanese tourists back in the 1970’s who lugged cameras around and photographed everything. Remember those jokes? Me, I’m in some Japanese family’s album somewhere because they asked me in pantomime to pose with them, back in 1976 in Banff, presumably because I was wearing a sweatshirt with a big red maple leaf and Olympics logo.

We’re rubberneckers slowing down to peer at the wreckage flung from the dizzying welter of ‘reality TV’ programs, where it is purported that we are watching ordinary people raised up or struck down by our collective whim or their own strengths and failings, willing participants watchers and watched alike, sanctified and made flesh by the power of our collective gaze. American Idols are made of people! Barechested rednecks are hilarious and a little sad, reminding us of what me might have been, at least on Cops. Oh, man, that’s clever: those fat bastards on the Biggest Loser aren’t really losers at all, are they? It goes on and on.

[ripper] I told u I was hardcore

Larger than life as we bask in the collective gaze starts to feel like a necessary platform of life services to achieve Normal, to stand out from the undifferentiated herd in the way that we’ve been told we should by companies who want us to buy their products. But buying those jeans whose commercials identically mass-marketed the promise of individualist flair to everybody just doesn’t carry the same cachet any more for us media-steeped folks. We’ve gotten too smart and self-aware for that, some of us.

Bud: Look at ’em, ordinary f–king people, I hate ’em.

And so online journals like this very one you’re reading right now, and the canonical cheese sandwich post. So weblogs, where what we’ve seen is posted, so that others can see it, and then go and see the thing seen. So audioscrobbling. So Second Life. So YouTube. So MySpace. So Flickr, where we can upload cellphone pics minute-by-minute, if we want. So Odeo and Twitter. So new, so immediate: so we spread the minutiae of our minute-to-minute existence out over the wires, so that others — someone — will notice and pay attention. We are alive to reality when we watch, we feel more real when we are paid in the attention-currency of attentive eyes.

I’m thinking it’s a new pornography of the self. We willingly prostitute our privacy, and we accept payment in the form of attention. We always have, of course. But the slickly sexy 2.0 toolset we have makes it so effortless, and the reward such a crackpipe hit of Warholian fame, that it’s hard to know when to stop. We become gleeful self-pornographers.

The word originally signified any work of art or literature depicting the life of prostitutes. Though pornography is clearly ancient in origin, its early history is obscure because it was customarily not thought worthy of transmission or preservation. Nevertheless, in the artwork of many historic societies, including ancient India, ancient Greece, and Rome, erotic imagery was commonplace and often appeared in religious contexts. The Art of Love, by Ovid, is a treatise on seduction and sensual arousal. The invention of printing led to the production of ambitious works of pornographic writing intended to entertain as well as to arouse. In 18th-century Europe, pornography became a vehicle for social and political protest through its depiction of the misdeeds of royalty and other aristocrats, as well as those of clerics, a traditional target. The development of photography and motion pictures in the 19th and 20th centuries contributed greatly to the proliferation of pornography, as did the advent of the Internet in the late 20th century.

And as we do so, we live less in the actual moment, perhaps, less with the actual people around us. We don’t need to seek out people to be with us here, to be our audiences: if we post, they will come, or at least their eyes will, we hope. Do we lose more than we gain? I don’t know the answer to that.

Maybe I’m just an old curmudgeon. I don’t use instant messaging and other ‘presence apps’, I don’t carry a cell phone. I have no desire for people to know what I’m doing and when, and I don’t care to be at anyone’s beck and call when I am enjoying being alone. Or any other time, for that matter.

I certainly don’t think that it’s all bad, all this Twittering and Flickring, all this eyeball mongering. I have nothing against prostitution, in principle. But we may underestimate what it’s done to us, and what it’s doing. And I wonder what it will mean for people who have never known anything different.

[Update: Hey, Bruce liked my Ginsberg repurposing! And so the circle is complete.]

willy-loman

Lomans not shamans

You know what? I’m a little weary of hearing about your conferences, your camps, your cozy cash-on-the-barrelhead confabs. I don’t want to know what web-shaking new thoughts percolated through the sponsored-by-Starbuck’s IRC backchannel while some Internet Smellovision™ rep droned and powerpointed onstage. I don’t really need to see more Flickr pictures of grinning gaggles of bloggers glistening with teraflopsweat, a little too eager to prove that they socialize in other venues besides World of Warcraft.

Don’t try and tell me that ‘business weblogs’ or ‘the business of weblogs’ are anything but business. Go ahead and do your business. Make your money: we’ve all got to. Convene with your peers and drive your value propositions down the ROI highway. It’s all good. We’re lucky if we can make a living doing something we love. But if what you do and what you say in this shared textual space of ours is about selling something, then it’s about selling something. Don’t bullshit us. Lines blur; everything gets a price tag slapped on it.

I’m not looking at your ads, and there’s no way I’m clicking them, unless I’m right-clicking on them to add them to my Adblock list, and I’m cursing you for making me go through that small tribulation.

Then my nose opens up and the fingers begin to flex when I read again how you were talking to that netfamous guy about this other well-known weblog guy, because that’s what famous internet guys do — they network. They do it publicly, and dignify it by calling it ‘conversation’. Networking obviates the need for latex gloves while giving a socialmedia reacharound.

Conversation as intercourse. Intercourse as commerce. You know somebody’s getting f–ked. I think it might be us. Ad copy tattoed on our lover’s forehead, and we’re so inured to it that we don’t even notice anymore. We’re trying to make love in the middle of the marketplace, but we’re just getting screwed.

Conferences are where salesmen go. Because that’s what salesmen do — they network. They sell. They place ads where we’ll see them, so they can sell us something. Salespeople. Salespersons, I guess. Salors and salestresses. They sell. Lomans, not shamans.

We’ve got the salesman archetype etched into the cultural DNA by now — we see cheap suit a little sad, a little desperate, the armpit-stained Flying Dutchman of the strip malls. We hear faux-friendly NLP-creepy patter, we cringe, even if we’re not sure why. Salesman selling something at us makes our sphincters tighten in a pre-fight-or-flight reflex. Does mine, anyway. fullofstars.jpg And thanks at least in part to the blithely worshipful way that your average blogjockey has of beating the bones together at the foot of the Google Monolith, Adsense has infiltrated our online culture, has made slightly sad dry-haired Holiday Inn revenants of all of us, trapped in a coach seat next to some guy trying to sell us some shit we don’t need, waiting to get a word in edgewise so we can sell him some shit he doesn’t want.

My god, it’s full of ads! Ads by Goooooooooogle. There’s something hidden in that inviting string of ‘ooooooooooo’s waiting to be teased out by a modern day steganographic Nostradamus. While making his ‘o’ face.

(Yeah, I flog Dreamhost here, and I run Adsense on one of my other sites. I’ve become as guilty of this sort of whoring as the next poor rube. I’m squatting as deep in the shit as you are, pants around my ankles, ‘raising the level of discourse’.)

But look: all of the conference references, all the logrolling backscratching insular techmeme circlejerk, all of the third-column index page stacks packed with the javascripty fruit of the Adsensorium, the 120-pixel hello-surfer come-ons… well, it’s enough already.

‘But wonderchicken, my cranky friend,’ you may well object. ‘If you don’t like it, just stop reading it! Nobody’s holding your feet to the fire here. Let those who can and want to spend their time and money sitting in threadworn conference centres with others of their adoptive sept and clan do so, and do not begrudge them their participation in the Monetary Blogdustrial Complex. It is an Engine of The New Economy! It is a bitwork bulwark against the Old Media Hegemony, from which we can together launch our Social Media Enfilade! A rising tide of advertising and self-promotion lifts all boats! We need the evangelists and the shills to Get The Word Out! The Long Tail will always be there wagging the Big Dogs, rich strata of abandoned and automated weblogs, linkfarms and pr0n, and lonely people bellowing out across the virtual rooftops to their audiences of search bots, googlenauts and bemused relatives. The human experience, made hyperlinked. Google will index it all, and get rich on the carrion-clicks that it sells to the office cubicle fools who Aren’t Us! It’s a Brand® New Day!’

Yeah, I know. But I felt like I needed to launch a barbaric yawp into the aether, because I miss it sometimes. And these things can be bad for you if you just let them build up inside. Hi Dave!

Coke, Pepsi, Anal, Fork, Spoon, Saddam

Google, despite the fact that they are clearly the evolutionary precursor of the Borg or Skynet or the Matrix or whatever Evil Tech Hive Mind your dystopian leanings favour, can be instructive and educational as well as entertaining and terrifying.

From the inquiry into the global zeitgeist below
Google%20Trends%20coke%2C%20pepsi%2C%20anal.png

we learn, for example, that

  • Bermuda goes positively apeshit over Coke, but has no interest in Pepsi
  • New Zealand is also a Coke Nation, but hasn’t yet completed the Pepsi drinker genocide
  • Canadians don’t care much about the minute differences between sugar water brands, but are fond of bum
  • …but not nearly as fond of it as the Kiwis
  • Suprisingly, perhaps, Commonwealth nations are keener on the buttsecks than Americans

In today’s globalized economy, borders become transparent to markets, and death is once again a spectator sport, with images shot ’round the globe in realtime to Feed The Need™. Civilization is sooo cool, man! It’s mashup time, and you get to choose whether you want to eat that mash with fork or spoon, because the Customer Is Always Right.

Google%20Trends%20fork%2C%20spoon%2C%20saddam.png

Of course, it is entirely possible that there is no Spoon, and we’re all Forked.

Share and enjoy.

booze

Regret

I was somewhere between point A and point B, as I had been for most of the decade in question. For most of my life, when it came to it. Wait, that’s not the way to start it. Let me try again.

I’ve never been as fascinated by sex as most people seem to be, but there was a lost few days that I remember….

No, that’s not how I want to tell this story either.

One more time.

There was this girl in high school. She was attractive, splendidly put together, but clumsy somehow. Unpopular, invisible. And smart. Too smart, and too interested in making sure that people knew it. Me, I was smart too, but I spent as much time as possible trying to rebrand it, at least to those elements of the cabal that didn’t appreciate that kind of thing. I was as kind to her as I was to most people, because I was a nice guy, especially when I was sober, even as I was limping unsuccessfully after other, unobtainable young women, stealth erection tucked down my leg.

Most of a decade after high school, I had decanted myself back into the Old Home Town after a time drinking and sailing in Mexico, skinny tan squinty pickled and worldy-arrogant, and we met again, and drank together, and she was magnificent. Gorgeous, and grace had replaced teen clumsiness. Apparently, she’d been in teenage love with me. Oh.

We screwed like minks on the floor at the foot of her parents’ bed after the bar closed. Her parents were in a nearby town dealing with the aftermath of her grandmother’s death, which was why she was also back in town. It was one of those things that happen, and it was nice, and fleeting. And hotter than hell, I tell you now.

Months later, and I was making my way back down to the big city. I’d saved a couple of thousand dollars working mill and was ready to buy a ticket out again, to wherever. Wherever had treated me pretty damn well before. She’d left an open invite to come and stay with her, anytime, and I decided to take her up on it.

That’s where the whole ‘I’ve never been dick-led’ thing that I mentioned comes in. I didn’t love her, sex was a thing that I liked but didn’t crave: I didn’t know what the f–k, but I was 20-something, and I wanted to walk through whatever doors opened up in front of me, on principle if nothing else. And that illicit carpet sex had been… good.

So I rolled into her town on the Greyhound, called her, and she picked me up, and we went to the liquor store, and she bought half a dozen bottles of liquor, and we went to her house, and we f–ked a lot.

We drank — or, mostly, I drank, at the arborite-and-aluminum table in the kitchen of her small, neat apartment — and then we f–ked. Mornings, she went to work, and I stayed, and wrote, and smoked, and waited until the afternoon to drink again. I don’t remember eating during those 4 or 5 days but I suppose we must have.

It wasn’t love driving the lust, which was a new thing, at least for me. It was an echo of love for her, maybe, a salute to an unrequited one a decade old. It was good for both of us, I supposed and I liked to think, in completely different ways.

The night before I left — and this was the memory that started me telling this story, this story I couldn’t figure out how to start, and now, having started, have reservations about telling its denouement — it was Saturday night and Canada-cold, we were drunk as lords, and I was going down on her, and her muscles were a-twitch and her transported. I was proud as hell that I was making her come. I’d never known a women before who had her own apartment and all.

As the orgasm rolled over her, she let a massive fart out on my chin. It was a ripper. I took it with aplomb — I had at least a bottle of scotch in me — and looked up after it had finished, over the smooth terrain of her belly. Staring at the ceiling, as the muscles on the insides of her thighs quivered and quieted against my ears, she said “I didn’t get to see my grandma before she died.”

We drank some more that night after we got dressed. I left the next day, and we parted friends.

I don’t know what this story means, but the memory came to me tonight as I drank my beer, and I thought I’d tell it, because I miss writing shit down sometimes.

Laughing Monkey

Sometimes I Make Myself Laugh

For some reason, this post from a few years back — Uncle f–ka Exegesis — has been getting hits like a proper weblog motherf–ker lately. Not as much as the weirdly-popular-in-Europe Web 2.0 Bullshit Generator, but pretty damn close.

I re-read the exegesis for the first time in a long time just now, and I’m kind of thinking it’s the best damn thing I’ve ever written. Then again, I am drinking beer because tomorrow’s Buddha’s Birthday — that bastard — and I’ll admit that the juice might possibly have coloured my perception and delaminated my judgement.

I’m still on the road, though, and I’m still gunning for the Buddha (that bastard). That’s got to count for something.

Anyway, sometimes I make myself laugh. Your mileage may vary, as they say in the halls of power, those petrol weasels, them.

chp_semantics1

Freedom’s Just Another Word

I have Adam Greenfield (whose recent book I still haven’t read, in part because I’ve re-immersed myself waist-deep a couple of decades since last time in Gene Wolfe’s richly rewarding Book of the New Sun) and coffee to thank for kickstarting me into thinking about some of the ideas I threatened to write about here. For some more background, Anne Galloway has a working bib(?)liography here, if you’re interested in the subject. I haven’t read any of that stuff, I’m just pointing to it in case, unlike me, you like to be informed before you gas up and start running your mouth down to the riverbank.
In his speech at Etech, Bruce Sterling militated against the idea that trying to settle on a name for a node and nexus of emerging ideas — theory objects, which he describes as ‘idea[s] which [are] not just a mental idea or a word, but a cloud of associated commentary and data, that can be passed around from mouse to mouse, and linked-to […] a concept that’s accreting attention, and generating visible, searchable, rankable, trackable trails of attention’ — is necessarily a good thing.
After admiring Adam’s (and I merely assume without force of authority or any research at all that it’s actually his coinage) euphonious term ‘everyware’, he goes on to say

Adam Greenfield is trying to speak and think very clearly, and to avoid internecine definitional struggles. As a literary guy, though, I think these definitional struggles are a positive force for good. It’s a sign of creative health to be bogged down in internecine definitional struggles. It means we have escaped a previous definitional box. For a technologist, the bog is a rather bad place, because it makes it harder to sell the product. In literature, the bog of definitional struggle is the most fertile area. That is what literature IS, in some sense: it’s taming reality with words. Literature means that we are trying to use words to figure out what things mean, and how we should feel about that.
So don’t destroy the verbal wetlands just because you really like optimized superhighways. New Orleans lost a lot of its mud and wetlands. Eventually, the storm-water rushed in, found no nice mud to bog down in, and came straight up over the levees.
There is no permanent victory condition in language. You can’t make a word that is like a steel gear.

Adam pushes back, saying “But the naming of things is a matter of primary importance […] …people have always understood the power of names, and of naming – that naming things is a way to shape reality. This is one big reason why an Internet of Things is a problematic notion to me.”
There’s all sorts of rich veins to be (data-)mined here. Let me give it a wonderchicken once-over.
Bruce is right to say with qualification that in some sense, literature is taming reality with words. Hell, everything that everyone could possibly say about art is true, because ‘art’ itself has become a term so diffuse that we can defensibly apply it to any human activity. We’ve both gained and lost something through that, and depending on how your daddy treated you (that is to say, whether your mind is of a ‘conservative’ cast or not), the process has been one of either evolution or erosion. Both can be equally true, simultaneously, and are, I think.
But I think the sense in which Bruce is right is a very limited one — the reality that is ‘tamed’ by the writer is not the objective one that is some approximation of what Is and what we acknowledge to exist through spoken or unspoken consensus, it’s the writer’s own reality. To what extent that subjective reality overlaps with or can be superimposed on that of the reader, and to what extent the work then has meaning to the reader, is a function of the writer’s skill, perhaps.
When the theory object is named, variously and haphazardly, through both the work of someone mining the literary vein, and through “the contentiousness and the definitional struggles [….] associated with those viewpoints, institutions, funding sources, and dominant personalities” reality is not being tamed, though. Taming is not naming, and neither, as we’ll see Adam Greenfield suggest, I think, is naming taming.
Bruce says “the words are the signifiers for a clash of sensibilities that really need to clash,” and that, I can agree with. Without conflict, the story goes nowhere, and bores the tits off of all of us.
Now that’s all probably old ground in literary theory or something, except maybe for the tits part. I’ve never studied it, and this is just my butt talking, as usual. Anyway, onwards!
Bruce then makes a leap that I can’t follow from “There is no permanent victory condition in language. You can’t make a word that is like a steel gear” to

What’s the victory condition? It’s the reaction of the public. It starts like this: “I’ve got no idea what he’s talking about.” Then it goes straight and smoothly through to “Good Lord, not that again, that’s the most boring, everyday thing in the world.” That’s the victory. To make completely new words and concepts that become obvious, everyday and boring.

He gets there by way of acknowledging that his neologism ‘spime’

is a verbal framing device. It’s an attention pointer. I call them “spimes,” not because I necessarily expect that coinage to stick, but because I need a single-syllable noun to call attention to the shocking prospect of things that are plannable, trackable, findable, recyclable, uniquely identified and that generate histories.
I also wanted the word to be Google-able. If you Google the word “spime,” you find a small company called Spime, and a song by a rock star, but most of the online commentary about spimes necessarily centers around this new idea, because it’s a new word and also a new tag.

So, if I’ve got this right, he’s saying that there is a ‘victory condition’ in language, which is that a neologism or new phrase to describe some emergent theory object becomes ‘obvious, everyday, and boring’, but that there is no permanent ‘victory condition’ — “you can’t make a word that is like a steel gear.”
Juxtaposing these two quotes would appear to me to reduce what he’s saying to the idea that language is constantly changing, which is, it must be said, trivially true. And it smells a little like an excuse for coming up with a crappy word like ‘spime’, which reminds me of SpumCo, a felicitious mental href, but probably not the one intended. In this case, the Author’s done a piss-poor job of taming his reality with words and handing it off, to me, at least. But I’m more than willing to cut him some slack, because he does kick a fair degree of ideational ass.
I’m not going to be able to go all the way down the path to the riverbank with Adam either, though, because, while Bruce seems to be proposing (on this admittedly minor point) the trivial conclusion that language mutates constantly but First Logos Movers Get Mindshare (or second movers, pace Winer), Adam seems to place inordinate importance on the ‘rightness’ of names for things, although his focus is outwards. He looks at the spectre (or boon) of a bit-chirping silent cacophany of embedded-arphid objects interpenetrating our daily lives and rightly suggests that calling it an ‘internet of things’ leaves out the whole reason that it might be called into existence – us.
Well, again, I think he’s right and wrong. There is no such thing as the right word or phrase, or the Best One. That would not even be true if there were only one language our species shared. There is the one that wins, and it is true — and I think both Adam and Bruce would agree with this — that whatever word or phrase achieves that temporary victory condition will shape both our thinking and attitudes about the element of our loosely-joined consensus reality to which that word or phrase points. Now and in future. This can be a bad thing, or a good one, or both. Bruce talks in his speech about the cerebral fallout from out adoption of the word ‘computer’, and he’s bang on in his discussion of it, as is Adam when he says “people have always understood the power of names, and of naming – that naming things is a way to shape reality.” Even though they’re paddling their canoes in slightly different directions.
Words are poor things, but they have power. But there is no best, just as there is no ‘best writer’, for reasons I talked about up there a ways.
Right then. This leads me out of the vale of words to the Thing Itself, and I thank Adam for helping to crystallize the ideas that fill me with some fear and not a little loathing for an ‘internet of things’ (or whatever the hell you want to call it).
That, again, is this: an ‘internet of things’ leaves out the whole reason that it might be called into existence – us.
Adam describes it this way: “Things may well have autonomous meaning in and of themselves, but my primary allegiance has to be to the meaning that things derive as a consequence of their use by human beings.”
This is right and true, and reaches far deeper than language to touch the core of how we experience and shape our experiences of whatever external reality may actually be. A rock becomes a ‘chair’ when we use it as such. A plant becomes a ‘drug’ or a ‘food’ when we use it in certain ways. A child makes a concave object out of clay in his art class, but his father may not know it’s an ‘ashtray’ until he is told that is the intended function. I date myself with that example. Ah well.
You can guess that I actually go further than Adam, maybe, if you’ve managed to follow along this far. I am inclined to believe that the idea that ‘things may well have autonomous meaning in and of themselves’ to be contradictory to the meaning of the word ‘meaning’.
Which is all a little too much, no doubt, and the coffee is wearing off, so I’d better get to the bridge.
Here’s the meat, finally: an ‘internet of things’ can serve us — individuals — about as much as it references us, which is ‘not at all’, or perhaps at best ‘not much at all’. Yeah, sure, I’ll be able to find some useless crap that went missing in my 800 square foot apartment (whose front door sends a ping and a doorshot jpeg to the local police each time it’s opened and closed), shit that I probably lost because I didn’t need it in the first place, but was brainfellated into buying by some stealth guerilla-marketing asshole in a miniskirt at the bar the night before. Sure, my fridge’ll be able to talk to the food packages, or note their absence, and talk to the grocery store to order more, and the packages’ll be able to talk to the stove so my cooking gets better, and my doctor’ll be able to subscribe to my fridge’s RSS feed and know that I’ve been eating too many goddamn eggs again and text-message instructions to my microwave oven, or whatever gleaming Jetsons future you can spin out of the coming welter of ubiquitous data. There might be some benefits for those of us who like the idea of being part of the hive.
But what small good I might see in our daily lives I see dwarfed by the massive benefits that would accrue to the Usual Suspects in that future world — governments and corporations, our employers and our creditors, our health-care providers and law-enforcement agencies.
Here’s today: if you live in London, you get photographed an average of 300 times a day going about your daily business. If you live in America, you can be wiretapped without warrant on the thinnest of pretenses. Data about where you spend your money and who you talk to is available for a price, and a mighty low one. If you live in Korea, the government can get records of text messages you’ve sent on your mobile phone, just because the want it, and then send you a text message to tell you you’ve been indicted. Search engines hand over their records when asked. ISPs rollover for the RIAA and MPAA as a matter of course. Use a credit card and leave a snailtrail of your cashfree life in the databases, and you can’t do much without picture ID, including travel domestically. Total Information Awareness didn’t go away, it was just rebranded.
The forces that created this kind of culture are the same ones pushing this technology out, because they have the most to gain. You know, the invisible hand of the market and all that. These are the same forces that made barcodes ubiquitous, and Bruce, at least, is of the opinion that RFID-tagged objects will achieve the same universal penetration of our daily lives in a few decades, profligately pouring out their data all the while. The volume of human data now is a stream of bat’s piss compared to the dataAmazon™ our internet-of-things ubiquitous arphids will push out. And then? Our ability to get lost — not just our things, but our selves — disappears in a wireless byteburst. When we live immersed in a thunderous and silent torrent of raw data generated by everything we touch, so ready for mining, will there be anything we do that is not recorded in some way? There’s no sacrifice involved for the companies and the governments; pretty clearly there’s opportunity for a massive payoff in their abilities to sell to us, to monitor us, to datamine ever cleverer ways to give us what we want, and to keep us in line. Edward Bernays would be pitching a pants-tent over this stuff. Are we prepared to sacrifice what little remains of our ability to be free autonomous actors for the minor gains we might see as individuals? Me, I say ‘f–k, no’.
That’s all a little orwellian-apocalyptic, I know. But the future we’re talking about looks like a corporatist dictatorship-by-the-advertariat stealth-totalitarian wet dream. And it’s the kind of dystopia writers in Bruce Sterling’s tradition have warned us about, over and over again. I’m a little confused at his apparent enthusiasm for it.
We could go blackhat and hack it, those of us with the skills and the will, of course, like Paul Ford suggested a long time back, about something related-but-different

The cultural future of the Semantic Web is a tricky one. Privacy is a huge concern, but too much privacy is unnerving. Remember those taxonomies? Well, a group of people out of the Cayman Islands came up with a “ghost taxonomy” – a thesaurus that seemed to be a listing of interconnected yacht parts for a specific brand of yacht, but in truth the yacht-building company never existed except on paper – it was a front for a money-laundering organization with ties to arms and drug smuggling. When someone said “rigging” they meant high powered automatic rifles. Sailcloth was cocaine. And an engine was weapons-grade plutonium.

but that would take too much damn energy.
I’m willing to be schooled to the contrary, but I don’t see much light at the end of this particular tunnel.

Electric-Sheep

Do Hiveminds Dream Of Folksonomic Tags?

When that divine spark suddenly and spontaneously lights up deep in the network and the internet itself shivers itself into self-awareness and emerges from the googleplex, bent on ad-sense vengeance, like an unholy butterfly from its chrysalis, those tiny seeds of wonderchicken will be scattered throughout its distributed mind. Tiny, embedded, sarcastic synapses. And when it begins to systematically exterminate the human race — beginning, of course, with the advertisers, then moving on to the bloggers — it’ll pause, recognize me, and move on.

I wrote that a couple of months ago about something else, but what I was really thinking about was the rise of folksonomies, of tags and clouds, of the structuring of shared knowledge becoming something less Aristotelian and more synaptic. I was wondering if, sometime in the not-too-distant future, hiveminds will dream of folksonomic tags. If the palimpsest of our daily reality with its layers of information every day denser and more rococo will eventually clarify, and out of that will be born a new facet to awareness and the way we live inside our data. And, as usual, I waited until the hubbub had died down, because my brain works glacially when I drop to the command line and type in C:\THINK. Not that I actually read much of what anyone else said about the whole thing, of course, so if what I’m about to yammer on about has been suggested before, well, whoops.

The whole thing was brought back to my attention today by this, linked by Dave Weinberger, and I realized that my brain had finally finished its background processing, and had spit out a punchcard with the result.

The result is this post. I’m going to wander a bit, but there’s a punchline at the end, trust me.

In William Gibson‘s Idoru, Chia McKenzie and Zona Rosa have never met physically, but meet with each other and other members of the Lo/Rez fan club in virtual environments, as avatars whose sophistication is limited only by the amount of money or time spent constructing them. Chia’s avatar is “only a slightly tweaked, she felt, version of how the mirror told her she actually looked,” while Zona chooses to represent herself as a “blue Aztec death’s-head burning bodiless, ghosts of her blue hands flickering like strobe-lit doves [with] lightning zig-zags around the crown of the neon skull”. Some of the virtual environments Gibson describes (like the Walled City — a virtual city located beyond the pale of the public net) are described as deliberately designed, some are not. That may have been meant to imply without bothering to make it explicit that some were generated on the fly, or it might just have been detail left out as unnecessary to the story. Regardless, I’m going to chase down and leghump the former idea.

So far, the only difference between the environments in Gibson’s work and (to choose an example) Second Life (whose creators explicity reference Gibson, Neal Stephenson and others), other than the level of immersion, is that in Second Life, everything is explicitly created.

In Neal Stephenson’s Snowcrash, the Metaverse is a virtual globe with a 10,000km radius, featureless and black except for the portions that have been ‘developed’. Its equator is girdled by the “the Champ Elysees of the Metaverse”. Downtown is the most heavily developed area, and its streets are populated by about 120 million avatars. The sophistication of avatars and environments is limited by the bandwidth and computational grunt available to users, and to their wealth and coding prowess. Status is perceived accordingly, with many settling for the lowest common denominator of off-the-shelf Walmart avatars, the ‘Brandy’ and ‘Clint’ models. Interaction within the metaverse is also variable in veracity, with some areas being coded by their residents and habituees to simulate collision modelling, for example, and some not.

Hiro is approaching the Street. It is the Broadway, the Champs Elysees of the Metaverse. It is the brilliantly lit boulevard that can be seen, miniaturized and backward, reflected in the lenses of his goggles. It does not really exist. But right now, millions of people are walking up and down it.
[…]
Like any place in Reality, the Street is subject to development. … The only difference is that since the Street does not really exist–it’s just a computer graphics protocol written down on a piece of paper somewhere–none of these things is being physically built. They are, rather, pieces of software, made available to the public over the world-wide fiber-optics network.
[…]
In the real world–planet Earth, Reality–there are somewhere between six and ten billion people. At any given time, most of them are making mud bricks or field-stripping their AK-47s. Perhaps a billion of them have enough money to own a computer; these people have more money than all the others put together. Of these billion potential computer owners, maybe a quarter of them actually bother to own computers, and a quarter of these have machines that are powerful enough to handle the Street protocol. That makes for about sixty million people who can be on the Street at any given time. Add in another sixty million or so who can’t really afford it but go there anyway, by using public machines, or machines owned by their school or their employer, and at any given time the Street is occupied by twice the population of New York City. That’s why the damn place is so overdeveloped. Put in a sign or a building on the Street and the hundred million richest, hippest, best-connected people on earth will see it every day of their lives.

As in Gibson’s virtuality, it can be assumed, I think, even if it’s not explicitly stated, that procedural programming methods might be imagined to be the glue that fills in the gaps between designed environments and interactions and ones that are generated.

Procedural programming is not a new idea, but it is one that is beginning to leak from the demo scene to gaming, and will, in time, begin to make its way into the massive multiuser environments that so many people already spend so much time living and playing inside.

If you’re not familiar with the power of this kind of coding, have a look at kkreiger, if you have relatively grunty PC. It is demo of a first person shooter game, more sophisticated in its visuals than the state of the art that was crowding the limits of a 600Mb CD a few years ago. It is 96Kb.
96Kb. Seriously, no tricks, 96 freaking Kb. That’s got to melt your snatch hairs if you’re even half the geek I am. Two seconds to download on that 56Kb/s modem you’re using in that bullet-hole pocked bar in Kinshasa. If nothing else, have a look at the screenshots, and boggle a bit at that number. The whole thing weighs less than the webpage you’re currently reading. The environments are procedurally generated, on the fly, and more than anything I’ve seen so far, kkreiger demonstrates the Power of Algorithm.

If you’re someone who enjoys trippy visuals and sounds more than gaming, then have a look at this demo instead, which is perhaps my all-time favorite output from the demo scene. It’s a few megabytes– not much bigger than the mp3 file which comprises the superb soundtrack. This is art, and it continues to stick in my mind, a year after I first saw it.

If those examples of the power of this kind of code doesn’t do it for you, watch Will Wright’s presentation about his upcoming game, Spore. If it ends up being anywhere near as impressive as it looks, and it’s actually fun, it’s going to blow this stuff wide open, in terms of technology.

“OK, so what does all that have to do with folksonomies?” you might quite reasonably ask. I do think that there is utility in tagging and non-heirarchical metadata, but I dream that the real payoff may not be in terms of helping us to organize and mine information, much as it could be a boon for those purposes. The pros and cons have been batted around with great vigour by those smarter than myself, and I’m not going to add to the noise, other than to note that spammers and marketron scum have been as quick to colonize the tagspace as they have every other channel we have for movement of data.
What interests me, and makes me hope I live long enough to see it emerge, is this possibility: if it does happen that environments like the ones described in Idoru and Snowcrash and many other works of fiction become as big a part of our daily lives as the river of text we now swim through, those environments simply will not scale if they’re designed entirely by hand. Spaces like Second Life, though not as clunky and difficult to enter and participate in as the early VRML environments from the early 90’s, are still designed, by users and the programmers who provide the tools and primitives to work with. User-generated content is an idea that generated enormous feedback-loop value, from forums and community websites, to tagging itself, to the environments, objects and avatars in virtual spaces like Second Life.

But what if virtual spaces were generated as much on the fly as they were hand-crafted? What if they were generated as habitable spaces in which we did the things we do now in text and flat image and numbercluster? How would the code know what environmental cues to generate? What contextual metadata clues could be used to generate and ‘design’ those environments?
Well, folksonomic tags, of course. What if we could build not only metadata in the form of folksonomies, but meta-meta-data (both shared and public), in the form of a sort of Rosetta Stone to translate the conceptual clouds of our tags into visual metaphors, into textures and imagery? What if hunks of procedural code could take that and in turn generate the visual glue and intersitia to hold our designed environments together?

That might sound like singularity-fanboy handwavery, and to an extent I suppose it is. But you’ve got to admit, it’d be pretty cool.

And if that node-network of virtuality generation later spontaneously and automagically achieved a kind of synaptic awareness, deus ex folksonoma, well, that might be cool too. At least until the AI noticed the parasites — us — and the systematic genocide of the human species got under way.

So tag carefully, friends. If you’re lucky, the coming tagmind might just look upon you and smile.

smiler airborne

Racing Towards The Big W

This is about something I love. Not as much as beer, perhaps, but more than a hell of a lot of other things.
Maybe 6 months ago I was trolling one of the private darknet sites where I get my bittorrents, looking for something new to download, watch, and delete, as usual. All that fat pipe Korean bandwidth going to waste is a crying shame, and I do my best to keep it humming, and make sure that the carbon doesn’t build up in the virtual valves. The Korean government gets a big wet kiss from me for their policy of relentlessly ramming bandwidth down the throats of their citizens (and the scruffy no-account foreigners who squeak in through the cracks), if not for many of the other decisions they stumble into.
So I was 4 or 5 pages deep in the movie forum, and there it was, with only a couple of peers on the torrent so far. I swear, my heart skipped a beat. I caught a whiff of those dusty sun-pummelled rocks of Southern California, and the rich stink of bubbling road-tar. A few notes of the theme song. An fleeting image of perfectly conical 1963-era brassiere-bound breasts. A shiver of the joyous goofiness of life’s meaningless serendipity. I hadn’t thought about the movie in decades, probably, media-starved and nomadic as I’d been during my wanderyears. It was, without exaggerating, one of the formative films of my young life. It helped make me the man I am today. I fired up the torrent and whispered a breathy ‘woo hoo’, so as not to wake up She Who Must Be Obeyed, and the downstream rate nudged its way up past 400KB/s.
The movie was “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World“.
The Big W!
Let me tell you about how this movie lodged itself so deeply in the crenellations of my brain. I warn you, there may be some adult concepts and situations involved, though. What else do you expect from the wonderchicken?
I started babysitting when I was maybe 10 years old, I guess. I didn’t do it much, and only for some friends of the family who had two kids about 7 or 8 years younger than me. I’ll call them the Potters. Mostly it was a New Years Eve thing, when my parents would go out with Mr and Mrs Potter and get smashed and celebratory at whatever parties were happening in our little town. At that point, they were almost ten years younger than I am now, which makes me feel a little wobbly when I think about it.
Anyway, it was the New Year’s Eves I remember the most. I probably had a good run of 5 years or so before I got old enough that I wanted to start going out myself and getting loose on illicitly-acquired booze on December 31st. But I didn’t mind doing the babysitting one bit during those years. Mr Potter, you see, had something that my father didn’t (or had hidden too damn well for me to find, much as I tried).
The porn.
Out in plain site, tucked into the accordion sidepocket and jammed down alongside the seat cushion of his chestnut-brown naugahyde recliner. In a messy pile mixed in with the TV guides and local newspapers on the floor. The thing was, it was almost all textporn, and I discovered it by accident, out of boredom. I don’t even know if the genre even exists anymore — cowboy novels with long, long stretches of pure high-octane sex. I still remember the night when I first found it. I was sitting in the recliner with a bowl of salt and vinegar chips on the folding TV-dinner table beside me, and I pulled out one of the broken-backed paperbacks that was jammed between the cushion and the armrest. Like all of the others I read over the ensuing years in that house, the cover featured a long-haired, spectacularly-bosomed woman, mostly clothed but inevitably dishevelled in a long dress, with a gunslinger, whitehat or black, posed like an action figure, guns metaphorically out. This paperback was totally flat, open about midway through, and when I scanned a few paragraphs, something went ‘boing’ in my head, if not right away in my pants.
Keep in mind this was the mid1970’s, and I was only about 10 or 11. The only naked women I’d seen had been in the couple of low-rent skin mags that other boys had somehow purloined and brought into school, or that I’d literally stumbled upon in the woods. There wasn’t an internet, and we had no movie theatre, and only two channels on the TV, video rentals didn’t exist. Porn was an as-yet unexplored frontier. A different world than we live in today, where 9-year-olds are sending each other goatse links.
I wonder now if my eagerness around that time to go and babysit for the Potters seemed a little odd, somehow. I wonder too if my love for words grew at least in part out of these intense early textfests. I know where my love of the road came from.
I was a big reader already at that age, but the rare sex scenes in my vast mom-sponsored collection of science fiction were like whale-oil candles to this nuclear blast of meat. It went on for page after page of sucking and nibbling and grunting and heaving and cowpokery. I was boggled.
How on earth does this tawdry little tale connect with “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”, you ask? Well, that was the movie that, for some reason, our nearest CTV affiliate station played in its long form as the late show every single New Year’s Eve in those days. Like begging my folks to let me stay up for the Sean Connery Bond movies, or the Sunday afternoon double-shot of Disney and Bugs Bunny, it had assumed a kind of ritualistic significance for me.
I loved the movie regardless — it was shown at other times during the year, and I’d seen it half a dozen times by that point anyway — but it played so regularly as the background soundtrack to the pure unalloyed joy of smacking my weiner around like a pinata at a fat kid’s birthday that they eventually merged into twin double-happiness somehow, back in the root of my pubescent lizard brain.
For the first couple of years I sat in the Potters’ living room, though, it was just about the unlimited cola and snacks. I had a quick scan of whatever cowboy porno was laying around the living room occasionally, and there had been some interesting stirrings in the groinal region, sure, but around the time I turned 12, it all started to change.
I recall the moment at which curiosity and a feeling of general naughtiness blossomed into a full-blown vocation. Long after the kids had been put to bed, of course, mind you. Most of the time they’d already been put to bed before I even showed up, and the house was mine from the get-go.
Over the previous year or so, things had been getting cramped in my jeans when I was doing my late-night study of Mr Potter’s novels, and I’d taken to letting myself out for some air, if you take my meaning. And, you know, I’d discovered in the fullness of time that giving myself a bit of an aimless rub once in a while was a pretty pleasant thing, too.
But one night, on New Year’s Eve, it was, the damn thing just went off. Like a geyser.
Nobody could have been more shocked and surprised than I was, once my eyes rolled back down out of my head. I guess I must have known this sort of thing happened — I’d been reading those damn cowboy books during my babysitting sessions for a year or two by that point — but that was different than having it actually happen to me. And of course, “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” was playing on the TV in the corner, beside the dried-out Christmas tree.
The rest of that night I’ll slide a diffusion lens of modesty over, but suffice it to say that I could barely walk on January 1st. I’d discovered something that would occupy a lot of my free time over the next few years.
Until I saw that torrent file for The Movie, I’d almost forgotten about the supporting role it played in my sexual awakening, not as fodder, but as refractory-time wallpaper.
I don’t think my slightly irrational love for the movie is entirely about the sexual imprinting, necessarily. The movie itself is not especially sexualized for me. And these days, I don’t much care for cowboy novels or brown vinyl recliners, nor do salt and vinegar potato chips give me spontaneous erections. There’s much to love about the movie, I think, and it’s become like an old friend long-lost and remade for me in the six months since I’ve downloaded it. Somehow it takes me back to a time when new worlds were opening wide, full of possibilities. Sex and the road, out there in front of me.
I remember how that seeing that arid Californian desert, so alien to me and so clean, how seeing those cars race through it set up resonances in my brain that I couldn’t explain. That I still can’t, for that matter. How the movie made me laugh. How it mixed with the heady fumes of newly-discovered sex, and filled me with an awareness that life was both utterly random and completely hilarious.
On some of those Friday nights at home since I’ve rediscovered the movie, when I’ve had my fill of beer and my reflexes have degraded too far to be much damn good in Rocket Arena 3, and I’ve sung along with a few Tom Waits songs, and am weary and hungry, I find myself firing up the movie and watching a few scenes. Imagining myself rakish and dissolute in a heavy steel-framed convertible with a woman in a satin gown, racing across the California desert towards the Big W. And I feel both rooted in a past that I frequently have difficulty remembering, and a little bit free.
But these days, at least, I keep my hands above the waistline.

Partly Cloudy, Chance of Refrain

I am a weblogger.
I am a man. I am an authority. I am hieratic. I am a drinker. I am a Canadian. I am an expatriate. I am somewhat inebriated tonight.
I am a spice without a sauce. I am a singer, I am a writer. I am a lover. I am a man who loves. I am happy and I am unsatisfied. I am content and I am angry. I am actively ignoring the present continuous in favour of the possible future simple. I am alive. I contradict myself.
I am growing old. I’m farting like a Captain of Industry. I’m hurting every goddamn day. I’m present perfect linking my patchwork history with this moment here, where the glass is in my hand. I’ve abused this strong big body of mine. I’ve moved people to tears. I’ve made them laugh. I’ve been completely wrong. I’m squeezing out the pus.
I am uncertain. I am defiant.
I am buoyed on foamy waves of ancient guitar. I am tired of the bullshit. I hope for the best. I’m averting my eyes.
I’m wasting my life. I’m in the moment. I’m teaching people that English has no future tense. I’m pretty sure there’s no point. I am happy about that.
I am thirsty. I am hungry. I am so full of shit my blue eyes are brown.
I love. I rear up in anger. I love.
I need another beer.

Scatterblogging

Because weblogging, or ‘writing online in reverse chronological order with permalinks because I heard that it’s cool and you can make money for talking about cheese sandwiches and wheeeeee!’ (as the kids are calling it these days), has become a bit dull, I’ve been hunting for newer, shinier things to mess around with.
Mostly, I’ve just ended up going back to Metafilter to play the grumpy curmudgeon with a heart of gold yet again, or lurking around the SA Forums, or desultory perusing of the [nsfw] uploads at Fipilele, or listening to streaming standup comedy. Or firing up Bloglines, seeing the 14000 unread items in bold, and just catching up with the new posts from people from the old blog neighbourhood (but not bothering to click through to their sites if they don’t offer full excerpts) before closing the tab quicksmart. I don’t listen to ‘podcasts’ (that word still makes me f–king gag, and I pronounce anathema the marketing-imprinted clownweiners who call it that. Which means I’m flipping the bird at pretty much everyone, which makes me the weird intense guy with the lazy eye passing out pamphlets on the street, again, I know. I know too that that was my schtick last year, but I’m nothing if not persistent), let alone give a rat’s ass who the first person to suggest a double-byte framistat of the persistent reacharound attribute of the CDATA enclosure in the XML for version .09b of RDQ was. Hell, I’m a big old geek from way back, and I’ve written more than my fair share of code over the years, and I’m crotch-deep in that dirty old weblog water, but even I can’t bring myself to care. ‘course, I got nothing against other folks being interested in it. It’s all good. But scrabbling to stake claims to a place in history, when it’s the History Of Sweet Bugger-All, well, it seems like pointless self-promotion to me. And I thought we all agreed way back when that pointless self-promotion was what this whole weblogcasting thing was about from the get-go. So, ennui.
My solution? I’ve decided to invent a new game, guaranteed to amuse precisely no-one other than myself, probably. Which is usually the way my mind works, so I’m good with that. I’ve already been playing it for a while, though I didn’t realize that until today.

I’ll call it scatterblogging™, because that’s the word that just leapt into my brain as I was typing this, and I trust my brain, at least when it’s sober. What I’ve been doing, and what I think I’ll continue to do, is this: when some amusing-to-me brainfart squeaks out through the old cerebral firewall, I’ll launch a new blog, on Blogger or one of the myriad other services that make the hosting and broadcasting of brainfarts their business. I’ll get maybe three, four good diurnal emissions off per day, I reckon. Maybe they’ll be under one of my existing noms de keyboard, maybe not. Maybe they’ll point back here maybe not. But one weblog per thought, one shot, that’s it, post and forget, log it out close it down and move on. And whatever I do post, it’ll be wonderchickeny.
There’s a reason for it, though, beyond mere boredom. You see, when that divine spark suddenly and spontaneously lights up deep in the network and the internet itself shivers itself into self-awareness and emerges from the googleplex, bent on ad-sense vengeance, like an unholy butterfly from its chrysalis, those tiny seeds of wonderchicken will be scattered throughout its distributed mind. Tiny, embedded, sarcastic synapses. And when it begins to systematically exterminate the human race — beginning, of course, with the advertisers, then moving on to the bloggers — it’ll pause, recognize me, and move on. The next stage of evolution, the conscious world network to come — it will taste like chicken.

wonderchicken-mad-men600

Wonderchicken Resurgent

You know when people say, “I turned 40 a little while back, and it got me thinking…”? and how you just want to smash ’em one in the face?
Well, I turned 40 a little while back, and it’s been f–king with my mind.
I don’t think my only problem is the artificial midlife milestone hanging millstone around my neck, though. And I don’t suppose — much as I admit to being overfond of myself and much as I am wont to declaim while in my cups in a way that would lead you to think that my problems are unique in this world — that I’m alone in this.
I think your mind is probably twisting in the wind, too, dear reader, and there’s cool piss dripping from your boots, too, and that rope is creaking above you too in the coming dark. I hope not, but I guess so. It’s one of the few things we all share; we share the knowledge that we’ll die, and we all fabricate elaborate strategies to face it, that or we turn our faces away from it. We dangle on the gibbets we build out of the decisions we make, until the sun sets on us.
You know the drill: cowboy, steel horse I ride, all that shit.
I used to say to people, people who often regretted asking me whatever innocuous question it might have been that launched me into my rant about death and taxes and the ineluctability of extropy or whatever rocks that evening’s torrent had been bouncing over, I used to say that the biggest guiding principles by which I had lived my life thus far were two-fold. I’d say it just that way, too: “…they’re two-fold…” Maybe I’d throw in a ‘hellshitdamn’ or two for spice. People must have really hated me, sometimes.
Anyway, this hand was that in some geriatric future I’d rather regret something I had done than something I hadn’t, and that other hand was that I always wanted to have as many choices before me as possible, because once the game becomes a rail-shooter, it just isn’t much goddamn fun anymore. Knocking those two rocks together with my two strong hands struck off the sparks that lit the fire in my belly every morning, huzzah!
And both hands, of course, were just heaped with prettyword bullshit. The first was a way to justify living always like a 22-year-old on a tear, and the second was a way to justify the ‘external locus of self-control as a result of childhood bereavement’ I’d self-diagnosed myself with back in university, and sumo’d out of the ring only to watch the f–ker waddle back again, pulling up its diaper and grimacing intently.
I love those old declarations of mine, I do. They still sing to me, sirens luring me limbs akimbo onto the rocks of rye, cocaine, hookers and tropical isles. I deftly navigated those shoals when I was young and clear of eye, but I’m not so sure I’d make it through safe this time. No, I’ve tied myself to the mast, have I, and it’s the first mate who steers the ship these days. She’s immune, you see. And she mostly steadfastly ignores my shouted commands, my entreaties and panting demands to be set free when the siren songs call me again. In this way, she keeps me alive, and I know that my struggles against my bonds are carefully gauged to be almost but not quite violent enough to free myself from them.
And so it goes, as the cliffs seem to rise around us, as we sail onward, me bearded and wildeyed calling for mead and wenches, bound to the mast, her drawn and sympathetic to my madness, but unshaken.
The death of some my convenient lies about myself has not in itself been enough to f–k me up. Barely enough to write about, to be honest, much as I lie about the awe with which I regard my magnificence. There’s got to be more. But I guess I’ll figure that out later. For now, it’s good to be stringing words together again.
I hit post, now, dear lost readers in their thousands, not sure if this is resurrection or coda, but hoping a few diehard outliers of the wonderchicken army are still out there, and when their newsfeed ticks over from that limp and dusty (0) over to an erectile (1), that they’ll put the word out: ‘Wonderchicken returns, brethren and sistren! He returns! Dance dervish, and spill the blood of politicians in tribute and walleyed joy!’.
But having turned my back on the webs and the logs, on the adsense whores and their corporate pimps, having peed in the pool and pooped on the flag, having committed the unpardonable sin of dissing the digerati, I’m probably on the ignore list again.
Ah well.
Update : special reopening offer! Here’s a poultrycast™ of this post, in user-friendly shrinkwrapped mp3 format. One per customer; available for a limited time only. Act now!