"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Online Civil Disobedience

Online gamers engage in virtual civil disobedience in the realm of Worlds of Warcraft. I don't play, but i find the phenomena fascinating. Also, check the warning text from the admins:

Attention: Gathering on a realm with intent to hinder gameplay is considered griefing and will not be tolerated. If you are here for the Warrior protest, please log off and return to playing on your usual realm.

Minus the game-speak, this sounds exactly like what you hear cops say when people lie down in traffic to protest a war.

Bittorrent Cinema

I've been waiting more movies than usual lately. Not the kind of movies I go see in the theater or even rent; the kind I get for free off BitTorrent. So far I've seen Dark City and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and AI. My next attempt will be Equilibrium. I'll talk a little about the films later, but first a note about bittorrent, the MPAA (the motion picture equivalent to the RIAA) and the future of entertainment.

The MPAA is even dumber, it seems, than the RIAA. As it stands, Bittorrent and the p2p networks pose no threat (none) to their bottom line. They will at some point, but right now there is zero threat (none) of lost revenue due to these technologies. I don't know if they're looking to monazite these "on-demand" cable services, or if they're just upset over loosing control over their release schedule, but their newfound taste for lawsuits against torrent trackers displays a sadly predictable lack of entrepreneurialism.

Getting movies off bittorrent is a hassle, and the product isn't really all that great. It takes days of steady broadband to download a whole film, and even then you're getting something that's usually somewhere below VHS quality, with occasional and annoying digital defects. Analog interference detracts from the viewing experience, but if it's mild enough your brain will sort of accommodate it. Anyone who's ever given up with the antenna and settled for ghosty tv knows what I'm talking about. It's bearable. The digital hiccoughs you often get from the kind of compression it takes to squeeze a DVD down to 700mb can much more disruptive to the enjoyment of the film. If you really want to watch a movie, you're going to spend a couple bucks to rent the shit.

So why, then, is the MPAA trying to squash this stuff rather than looking for ways to take advantage of it? I have three ideas. One is that they're too myopic to try and turn this into a profit center. Two is that they're lazy enough to be satisfied with whatever vig they've negotiated from "on demand." Third is that they're not really motivated so much by profit, but rather terrified of having less control over their industry.

While I'm sure there's some latent fear of obsolescence and profit loss, if you look at the articles out there, one of the things that always gets a prominent mention is that some film made it out online weeks before its scheduled theatrical release. This suggests to me that the primary motive for the MPAA to crack down on bittorrent is not a direct fear of lost dollars in ticket sales and rentals, but a future fear of loosing control over their industry.

Here's a scenario: As more and more moviegoers turn to the internet for information about cinema, if advance reviews are available online, and they're negative, it could hurt the opening. It's no secret at the moment that there are "reviewers" out there who will hype anything in the hopes of getting advance screenings, gift-baskets, or even (they say) payola. A democratic advance-review process could break this system, and cause potential opening-weekend viewers to shy away.

I don't know that this has ever yet happened, but it might, and if it did it would be a threat to the current movie studio business model. On the other hand, what we're talking about here is undercutting the ability of movie studios to produce un-entertaining products and then recoup their losses by marketing the flick in a slick enough fashion. When you put it that way, it doesn't sound so bad. And who said business models are sacred anyway?

The point is, there are a lot of smarter ways to go about this. But if the studios (or even the theater chains) were to make a move, it would probably be public by now. Their strategy seems to be to try and sue their problems away. While they're clearly on a sound legal footing issuing Cease and Desist orders to tracker servers, the reliance on this strategy reflect a crippling lack of foresight. Maybe something to do with how many lawyers there are (as opposed to techies) in your average boardroom.

Nerding Out

Thanks all for the votes and comments. The Time Of Great Renewal is upon us. Thanks to my mother, I have a spiffy new 12" powerbook, which gets five hours of battery life and is light as a feather. I just slapped a 1gig RAM module into it after running around trying to find a screwdriver that was small enough. I went to the tiny local spot across the street, run by a friendly old guy who's always hanging out watching baseball with Horatio -- my local bodega-man -- when I drop in to get pounders of Tecate. Horatio is himself a great local character; a scrupulous price gouger who still hangs a painted portrait of JFK behind the register, calls me "capitan" (cap-ee-tan).

But I digress. Since it was a local hardware place, I just dropped two bucks to borrow a set of screwdrivers. Sadly none of them worked so I walked up the hill to get an even smaller one -- Apple, when will you just let us use regular tools? -- and popped in the RAM module. The Pbook is smooth as ice now. It comes stock with 256mb, which is a pittance in modern terms. Now it's a demon on amphetamines, a steroid-drivin aluminum-shelled calculating dervish with a Napoleonic complex. And all told it cost about 70% of what my last one did. Nice trendline, that.

It's going to be a worky time these next months. Itinerant consultant boho hobo pomo mofo faux pho foe, and maybe even a little po'. The site shifts will come as time and inspiration dictates. Until then, bear with the business and crap.

Nerding Out

Thanks all for the votes and comments. The Time Of Great Renewal is upon us. Thanks to my mother, I have a spiffy new 12" powerbook, which gets five hours of battery life and is light as a feather. I just slapped a 1gig RAM module into it after running around trying to find a screwdriver that was small enough. I went to the tiny local spot across the street, run by a friendly old guy who's always hanging out watching baseball with Horatio -- my local bodega-man -- when I drop in to get pounders of Tecate. Horatio is himself a great local character; a scrupulous price gouger who still hangs a painted portrait of JFK behind the register, calls me "capitan" (cap-ee-tan).

But I digress. Since it was a local hardware place, I just dropped two bucks to borrow a set of screwdrivers. Sadly none of them worked so I walked up the hill to get an even smaller one -- Apple, when will you just let us use regular tools? -- and popped in the RAM module. The Pbook is smooth as ice now. It comes stock with 256mb, which is a pittance in modern terms. Now it's a demon on amphetamines, a steroid-drivin aluminum-shelled calculating dervish with a Napoleonic complex. And all told it cost about 70% of what my last one did. Nice trendline, that.

It's going to be a worky time these next months. Itinerant consultant boho hobo pomo mofo faux pho foe, and maybe even a little po'. The site shifts will come as time and inspiration dictates. Until then, bear with the business and crap.

Killing Word Macro Virus (W97M.Thus.A) On MacOS X

This blog entry contains instructions on how to clean up your system if you have a little outbreak of a Microsoft Word macro virus called W97M.Thus.A. It's also rife with commentary. If you want to skip straight to the step-by-step instructions, click here. Otherwise, read on.

Welcome New Visitors
It seems this post has gotten a kind of second life of sorts. That's cool. I just want to reply to this commentary from my most prodigal new linker: "This ends the myth that switching to MACs will make computing life any easier." I take exception to "any easier." If you meant "completely without hassle or danger," then you'd be right. But I think there's a little hyperbole at work here. Anyway, I'm glad people are finding this information useful. On with the show!

One of the great things about Apple software is its general security. The operating system has always been developed by a tight team of engineers (compared to Microsoft's assembly-line methodology) and now with a firm basis in the UNIX-like BSD system -- Apple's flavor is called Darwin -- the core system code is not only extremely efficient and well-documented, but also highly secure because of the number of people constantly vetting it all over the world.

Also, because the user-base is small compared to Windows, there's not as much incentive to create spyware/malware or viruses. However, the flip side of that is that most Mac users assume they don't need to worry about viruses, and if they do have a problem, not as much is known about how to fix it.

Case in point: sometime over the past year, I picked up the W97M.Thus.A, a macro-virus which uses Microsoft Word's internal scripting language to self propagate. It is harmless on Macs, but it can spread to PCs where it will attempt to delete files every December 13th. Annoying, but I really didn't want to spend $100 on some software just to clean my MS Word files. I don't like MS Word and very rarely use it, so I started looking around for another solution. Here's what I found.

Detection:
Thanks to the aforementioned BSD-base, Mac users and developers can make effective use of the wide world of open source libraries and tools. There's a collaboratively maintained and updated database of virus definitions and engine for checking files called ClamAV. Pretty cool.

Cooler still, British systems analyist Mark Allen has packaged for MacOSX as clamXav. Google eventually brought me that piece of code, which in turn informed me as to the name of the virus I was having problems with.

A little experimentation confirmed that some of the proposal files I was working with were infected with W97M.Thus.A. Since the folks I send these to are often PC users, there's a risk that the virus could negatively impact their system. I'm also asking them to employ me based in part at least on my technological acumen, so sending a virus with my proposal is embarrassing, perhaps livelihood-imperiling.

However, ClamAV/clamXav are virus detection programs. They don't deal with removing the bad stuff. I knew what I had, but not how to get rid of it without dropping ducats on MacAffee or Symantec.

Removal
I figured out that brand new Word files were infected, so I ran clamXav on the application itself, wanting to see if the virus code was somehow inside Word, or maybe living elsewhere. Turns out the only place it appears is in the "Normal" template, which is what all new documents start out as. I deleted the template and relaunched Word, and lo and behold I could create new clean documents. However, as soon as I opened any old infected document, my Normal template was hosed immediately.

Then I discovered through a little more googling that part of the action of the virus is to disable "macro virus protection" within Word. This is a feature that has Word warn you when a macro-embedded document is being opened, and allows you to disable macros while working on it if this is unexpected or suspicious. I was able to turn it back on simply by selecting Preferences from the Word menu and hitting the Enable Macro Virus Protection checkbox.

Now when I open infected files, I can disable macros and prevent my "Normal" template from picking up the bug. All that's left is to clean up the files I'm working on, which becomes as simple as opening them, taking the option to disable macros, selecting all, copying, opening a new document, pasting and saving.

Instructions
So, to bring it all back home, here's what to do if you get people telling you your Word files are infected:

  1. Get a copy of clamXav, and run it on your documents. See what's infected. Maybe move them all into one quarantine folder for the sake of keeping order.
  2. Find your "Normal" template. It's in the Microsoft Office X folder, in the templates sub-folder. Trash it. Word will auto-generate a new one.
  3. Go into your Preferences (in the Word menu) and hit the Enable Macro Virus Protection checkbox.
  4. Go through your infected files. When you open them, accept the option to disable macros. Select all, copy, create a new document, paste and then save the new document wherever you want to start storing clean files.

If you ever get another MS Word document which brings up the bit about macros, odds are you've found or received another infected file. Virtually no one uses Word's macro tools these days. Do not enable macros unless you are expecting a macro-dependent file! This is as basic a precaution as not downloading strange and unexpected email attachments.

Another Blast From The Past

I referenced this in the lengthy piece below, but for those who don't click "read more" and/or didn't click through in the array of links I laid down, here's something I remembered in all my nostalgia. This was made four years ago:

What I decided to attempt instead was to create a sort of combination "state-of-the-union" and "active-citizenship primer" for the emerging virtual nation. I say emerging, because as hot-shit as all the wall street boys think the internet is now, just wait another five or six years. If things go the way of cheap universal open access and not the way of monopolistic proprietary gold digging, the denizens of the net will be more numerous, more capable and more powerful by several orders of magnitude.

That's from the "about" page of Denizens, something I created instead of a final paper in one of my last classes at NYU. Re-reading it makes me wish I'd kept more of my academic work from that period, purile as much of it might have been.

Another Blast From The Past

I referenced this in the lengthy piece below, but for those who don't click "read more" and/or didn't click through in the array of links I laid down, here's something I remembered in all my nostalgia. This was made four years ago:

What I decided to attempt instead was to create a sort of combination "state-of-the-union" and "active-citizenship primer" for the emerging virtual nation. I say emerging, because as hot-shit as all the wall street boys think the internet is now, just wait another five or six years. If things go the way of cheap universal open access and not the way of monopolistic proprietary gold digging, the denizens of the net will be more numerous, more capable and more powerful by several orders of magnitude.

That's from the "about" page of Denizens, something I created instead of a final paper in one of my last classes at NYU. Re-reading it makes me wish I'd kept more of my academic work from that period, purile as much of it might have been.

Information Reformation Confessionation

This is another big old ramblin' post in the grand style of yore -- mashing up my own personal experience with art and etherial stuff I think, sparked by the news of the day. It just came out this way, man. I swear.

The Beeb says 32 Million Americans read blogs and research I saw presented a year ago shows that (at least in politix) online consumers are influentials. Interesting.

So does this mean I'll soon be able to sell out for big bucks? Will I and my cohort create the next online sensation to sell ad space on, or will Madison Avenue continue slowly catching up in it's ability to create faux internet projects which are really exercises in product placement?

David WeinerAlso, when will a viral bit of language blow "blog" out of the water? Do you want anyone with that much of a beard drafting your lexicon? What? Well, ok, so the recent merger of Six Apart -- the family biz of the Trotts until Joi Ito and his crazy Japanese VC skills got involved -- and LiveJournal, and especially this commentary by Danah Boyd, got me thinking about terminology vs technology. You can take the same fucking piece of functionalty, the same code even, and just give it a different stylesheet/brand/name and people will think about it differently, expect different things, use it differently. That's really something; what would Burroughs make of all this crazy shit, I wonder...

(2,000 words or so total; personal bits at the end)

I think the term "blog" has become rather strongly associated with professional pursuits, ambitious talkers and amateur punditry, in large part thanks to the 2003/2004 political cycle. The really addictive uses of these tools, though, are in creating communities of interest and inquiry. The publishing aspect is empowering, but my guess is at best that 1 in 100 people have the will to "publish" at any given moment, let alone consistantly enough to really create a "blog" or "ham sandwitch" or whatever it's gonna be called in 10 years. But the maxim applies: publish or perish. If you put yourself out in that melieu and your site doesn't have fresh and interesting content, your readership declines and you end up cold, lonely, howlin' at the moon. Or maybe you just eat some more skittles and call it a day. Whatever.

Anyway, it's a Real Thing to take up the responsibility of "publishing," but almost everyone will gossip, kvetch, banter, chit chat; and they like to do it a lot. Every day even. I sometimes find this annoying -- noticing that my friends have the same conversations over and over again for instance -- but there seems to be an impulse within human nature to do that sort of thing. It's backed up by science, it seems. Robin Dunbar (of the magic 150 idea) says this:

The group size predicted for modern humans by equation (1) would require as much as 42% of the total time budget to be devoted to social grooming.

...
My suggestion, then, is that language evolved as a "cheap" form of social grooming, so enabling the ancestral humans to maintain the cohesion of the unusually large groups demanded by the particular conditions they faced at the time.

Monkey CommandmentsI found that quote pulled out on another VC's inquiry into the solidness of the 150 number; his point being that 150 seems more like a maximum, not a norm. But the notion of language serving the same function within regards to social cohesion as social grooming (picking yr neighbors bugs, a core monkey value) explains the repetitive nature of many group conversations, and the uniformity also of small talk. This brings me back back to a little book on communication I found in my High School Library when I was developing anti-violence curriculum with Luke (and our AP psych class). It introduced me to the five levels of communication, which I made art about much later on, after college.

So then it's interesting to me to read Danah's bit about LiveJournal culture. Particularly this:

LJ folks don't see LJ as a tool, but a community. Bloggers may see the ethereal blogosphere as their community, but for LJers, it's all about LJ. Aside from the ubergeek LJers, LJers don't read non-LJs even though syndication is available. They post for their friends, comment excessively and constantly moderate who should have access to what.

LJ has a lot more social grooming going on than the "blogosphere," and I think that's a great thing. We could learn a lot from that. They seem to drive down further in the five levels, closer to truth. It's scary, yeah; communities of cutters, for instance. But that's the breaks. Humanity is weird and messy.

Weird and messy don't often combine well with professionality. That might be why you don't see much stuff in the "blogosphere" about feelings, about truth. It's too bad. I think that's what Uncle Weinberger and the rest of the cluetrainers all hope will happen; and I do too, because I think it will lead to Better Things. I was writing in my paper journal the other day about my blog (pomo to the max!) about how what makes blogs valuable is that they're essentially true. That's the "human voice" bit. Marketing and PR are lies in their hearts; blogs are people, and that's different. It's what differentiates them most, and it's really intriguing how the interplay between this value and the realities of politics took shape. It was a real nutbuster for me and many others this past year or two... whether we realized it at the time or not.

I mean, if your objective is to bring truth to light, to what extent can you compromise the truth in the pursuit of this objective? It's not an academic question, because in praxis it's going to happen.

This is all stuff I'm going to keep chewing on for ages and ages; but to bring it all back home, having re-read my out-of-date monkey page, pondered some old art of mine, and feeling two cups of coffee skimming around my nervous system making me bold and fast on the keys, here a story I'd label "confession" both for its titillating elements and the fact that I haven't told many people about it before.

Theres a bit from the art piece I referenced above:

But you know what the real bitch of truth is, in real life? It's that in interpersonal terms, the truth is often very unsatifying, because the truthful answer to many questions is "I don't know."

What do you want? What do you want to be? Where do you want to go?

We're faced with these questions all the time, and you look bad if you always answer "I don't know." It's like, "next time on 20 questions, a complete ass!" "I don't know", "I don't know", "Uhhh... shit, I should know that but...","I just don't know."

As with a lot of my performance writing, I pull things from conversations I have, overhear, etc. This bit came from a conversation I had with this woman Jill who I met because she was stage-managing another piece of work I had done. She was six feet tall and beautiful and I have a pattern of being attracted to stage managers (obvious power-play turnons, and for some reason I've had more hot girls in that role than you'd expect), and so I wooed her a little there in New York at the end of 2001.

We went out and saw a Norman Rockwell show at the Gugenheim. We went for walks along the Hudson and sat on the cold ground talking about life. The day before I was to fly back to Oregon for christmas, she called and wanted to hang out. I had gotten a little stoned previously and I wasn't sure if it was a good idea, but my then-roommate Christina told me I should, so I did, taking the bike ride over the bridge in the December air to clear my head a bit.

We met up and had coffee at this 24-hour french joint on Park Avenue, and she invited me back to see her place (a nice big spot; she came from well-heeled family) and one thing led to another. I remember that when I first kissed her John Lennon's "Imagine" started playing, and it seemed really appropriate. It was natural. It was good. She'd never had orgasms from oral sex before. But I couldn't sleep over or stay for another round even, because it was 1 or 2 in the morning and my flight was at 7 and I had to get my things and so on. It's never a good thing to leave at a moment like that, end the intimacy, but that's what I did.

I also started to feel a little weird because I knew my friend Sam had been pursuing her, and in all honesty I hadn't expected this to happen. Further, I'd just gotten done screwing up good relationships with two other quality women and recall feeling at the time like I aught not to keep blundering around, take a more monastic view of things. And so I kind of didn't follow up. I didn't really strike up an email dialogue. We didn't make small talk. No social grooming. No more conversations on the west side. No more rendezvous at french places, and certainly no more bedroom fun. I rationalized it in a couple ways, but it's something which I regret, obviously.

The point was, all this happened at the same time that I launched this blog, but I didn't mention it. I mentioned breaking up with Yuliya. I link back to my earliest collected thoughts about truth and identity online, but I said nothing about Jill.

This isn't self-referential narcissism -- or not entirely. It's an effort to recall the difference between what I said and what I did, to remember what I thought and the context in which those thoughts came forth. It's reaffirming to me to recall how my belief in "the truth always feels better" was born, and I take a kind of solace in how difficult a belief it is to enact in your daily life. Good living isn't easy. The truth sets us free from secrets and silence (the seeds of madness), but it can also make us vulerable. That takes strength, and in all truth strength comes not just from within, but from your social network.

To bring it all back home -- for real this time, no more tangents -- I hope we humans can work it all out. We're going to keep experiencing change, and I still believe we could be getting into something really good. Social revolution, information reformation, cultral cachetism, who knows. For really good things to happen, people are going to have to dive deep for the truth, and work on their social grooming at the same time. That means more than diplomacy and small talk: it means finding ways to be comfortable with one another, to be open and true, and finding the will to keep it up when the going gets muddled.

It's a tall order, but I think humanity just might be up to it. My role seems for now to be in making the tools, finding the names, and writing some of the words. Building and selling the dream. Yours may be too, or it may be completely different. Any which way, the process is a pleasure.

Information Reformation Confessionation

This is another big old ramblin' post in the grand style of yore -- mashing up my own personal experience with art and etherial stuff I think, sparked by the news of the day. It just came out this way, man. I swear.

The Beeb says 32 Million Americans read blogs and research I saw presented a year ago shows that (at least in politix) online consumers are influentials. Interesting.

So does this mean I'll soon be able to sell out for big bucks? Will I and my cohort create the next online sensation to sell ad space on, or will Madison Avenue continue slowly catching up in it's ability to create faux internet projects which are really exercises in product placement?

David WeinerAlso, when will a viral bit of language blow "blog" out of the water? Do you want anyone with that much of a beard drafting your lexicon? What? Well, ok, so the recent merger of Six Apart -- the family biz of the Trotts until Joi Ito and his crazy Japanese VC skills got involved -- and LiveJournal, and especially this commentary by Danah Boyd, got me thinking about terminology vs technology. You can take the same fucking piece of functionalty, the same code even, and just give it a different stylesheet/brand/name and people will think about it differently, expect different things, use it differently. That's really something; what would Burroughs make of all this crazy shit, I wonder...

(2,000 words or so total; personal bits at the end)

I think the term "blog" has become rather strongly associated with professional pursuits, ambitious talkers and amateur punditry, in large part thanks to the 2003/2004 political cycle. The really addictive uses of these tools, though, are in creating communities of interest and inquiry. The publishing aspect is empowering, but my guess is at best that 1 in 100 people have the will to "publish" at any given moment, let alone consistantly enough to really create a "blog" or "ham sandwitch" or whatever it's gonna be called in 10 years. But the maxim applies: publish or perish. If you put yourself out in that melieu and your site doesn't have fresh and interesting content, your readership declines and you end up cold, lonely, howlin' at the moon. Or maybe you just eat some more skittles and call it a day. Whatever.

Anyway, it's a Real Thing to take up the responsibility of "publishing," but almost everyone will gossip, kvetch, banter, chit chat; and they like to do it a lot. Every day even. I sometimes find this annoying -- noticing that my friends have the same conversations over and over again for instance -- but there seems to be an impulse within human nature to do that sort of thing. It's backed up by science, it seems. Robin Dunbar (of the magic 150 idea) says this:

The group size predicted for modern humans by equation (1) would require as much as 42% of the total time budget to be devoted to social grooming.

...
My suggestion, then, is that language evolved as a "cheap" form of social grooming, so enabling the ancestral humans to maintain the cohesion of the unusually large groups demanded by the particular conditions they faced at the time.

Monkey CommandmentsI found that quote pulled out on another VC's inquiry into the solidness of the 150 number; his point being that 150 seems more like a maximum, not a norm. But the notion of language serving the same function within regards to social cohesion as social grooming (picking yr neighbors bugs, a core monkey value) explains the repetitive nature of many group conversations, and the uniformity also of small talk. This brings me back back to a little book on communication I found in my High School Library when I was developing anti-violence curriculum with Luke (and our AP psych class). It introduced me to the five levels of communication, which I made art about much later on, after college.

So then it's interesting to me to read Danah's bit about LiveJournal culture. Particularly this:

LJ folks don't see LJ as a tool, but a community. Bloggers may see the ethereal blogosphere as their community, but for LJers, it's all about LJ. Aside from the ubergeek LJers, LJers don't read non-LJs even though syndication is available. They post for their friends, comment excessively and constantly moderate who should have access to what.

LJ has a lot more social grooming going on than the "blogosphere," and I think that's a great thing. We could learn a lot from that. They seem to drive down further in the five levels, closer to truth. It's scary, yeah; communities of cutters, for instance. But that's the breaks. Humanity is weird and messy.

Weird and messy don't often combine well with professionality. That might be why you don't see much stuff in the "blogosphere" about feelings, about truth. It's too bad. I think that's what Uncle Weinberger and the rest of the cluetrainers all hope will happen; and I do too, because I think it will lead to Better Things. I was writing in my paper journal the other day about my blog (pomo to the max!) about how what makes blogs valuable is that they're essentially true. That's the "human voice" bit. Marketing and PR are lies in their hearts; blogs are people, and that's different. It's what differentiates them most, and it's really intriguing how the interplay between this value and the realities of politics took shape. It was a real nutbuster for me and many others this past year or two... whether we realized it at the time or not.

I mean, if your objective is to bring truth to light, to what extent can you compromise the truth in the pursuit of this objective? It's not an academic question, because in praxis it's going to happen.

This is all stuff I'm going to keep chewing on for ages and ages; but to bring it all back home, having re-read my out-of-date monkey page, pondered some old art of mine, and feeling two cups of coffee skimming around my nervous system making me bold and fast on the keys, here a story I'd label "confession" both for its titillating elements and the fact that I haven't told many people about it before.

Theres a bit from the art piece I referenced above:

But you know what the real bitch of truth is, in real life? It's that in interpersonal terms, the truth is often very unsatifying, because the truthful answer to many questions is "I don't know."

What do you want? What do you want to be? Where do you want to go?

We're faced with these questions all the time, and you look bad if you always answer "I don't know." It's like, "next time on 20 questions, a complete ass!" "I don't know", "I don't know", "Uhhh... shit, I should know that but...","I just don't know."

As with a lot of my performance writing, I pull things from conversations I have, overhear, etc. This bit came from a conversation I had with this woman Jill who I met because she was stage-managing another piece of work I had done. She was six feet tall and beautiful and I have a pattern of being attracted to stage managers (obvious power-play turnons, and for some reason I've had more hot girls in that role than you'd expect), and so I wooed her a little there in New York at the end of 2001.

We went out and saw a Norman Rockwell show at the Gugenheim. We went for walks along the Hudson and sat on the cold ground talking about life. The day before I was to fly back to Oregon for christmas, she called and wanted to hang out. I had gotten a little stoned previously and I wasn't sure if it was a good idea, but my then-roommate Christina told me I should, so I did, taking the bike ride over the bridge in the December air to clear my head a bit.

We met up and had coffee at this 24-hour french joint on Park Avenue, and she invited me back to see her place (a nice big spot; she came from well-heeled family) and one thing led to another. I remember that when I first kissed her John Lennon's "Imagine" started playing, and it seemed really appropriate. It was natural. It was good. She'd never had orgasms from oral sex before. But I couldn't sleep over or stay for another round even, because it was 1 or 2 in the morning and my flight was at 7 and I had to get my things and so on. It's never a good thing to leave at a moment like that, end the intimacy, but that's what I did.

I also started to feel a little weird because I knew my friend Sam had been pursuing her, and in all honesty I hadn't expected this to happen. Further, I'd just gotten done screwing up good relationships with two other quality women and recall feeling at the time like I aught not to keep blundering around, take a more monastic view of things. And so I kind of didn't follow up. I didn't really strike up an email dialogue. We didn't make small talk. No social grooming. No more conversations on the west side. No more rendezvous at french places, and certainly no more bedroom fun. I rationalized it in a couple ways, but it's something which I regret, obviously.

The point was, all this happened at the same time that I launched this blog, but I didn't mention it. I mentioned breaking up with Yuliya. I link back to my earliest collected thoughts about truth and identity online, but I said nothing about Jill.

This isn't self-referential narcissism -- or not entirely. It's an effort to recall the difference between what I said and what I did, to remember what I thought and the context in which those thoughts came forth. It's reaffirming to me to recall how my belief in "the truth always feels better" was born, and I take a kind of solace in how difficult a belief it is to enact in your daily life. Good living isn't easy. The truth sets us free from secrets and silence (the seeds of madness), but it can also make us vulerable. That takes strength, and in all truth strength comes not just from within, but from your social network.

To bring it all back home -- for real this time, no more tangents -- I hope we humans can work it all out. We're going to keep experiencing change, and I still believe we could be getting into something really good. Social revolution, information reformation, cultral cachetism, who knows. For really good things to happen, people are going to have to dive deep for the truth, and work on their social grooming at the same time. That means more than diplomacy and small talk: it means finding ways to be comfortable with one another, to be open and true, and finding the will to keep it up when the going gets muddled.

It's a tall order, but I think humanity just might be up to it. My role seems for now to be in making the tools, finding the names, and writing some of the words. Building and selling the dream. Yours may be too, or it may be completely different. Any which way, the process is a pleasure.

Information Reformation Confessionation

This is another big old ramblin' post in the grand style of yore -- mashing up my own personal experience with art and etherial stuff I think, sparked by the news of the day. It just came out this way, man. I swear.

The Beeb says 32 Million Americans read blogs and research I saw presented a year ago shows that (at least in politix) online consumers are influentials. Interesting.

So does this mean I'll soon be able to sell out for big bucks? Will I and my cohort create the next online sensation to sell ad space on, or will Madison Avenue continue slowly catching up in it's ability to create faux internet projects which are really exercises in product placement?

David WeinerAlso, when will a viral bit of language blow "blog" out of the water? Do you want anyone with that much of a beard drafting your lexicon? What? Well, ok, so the recent merger of Six Apart -- the family biz of the Trotts until Joi Ito and his crazy Japanese VC skills got involved -- and LiveJournal, and especially this commentary by Danah Boyd, got me thinking about terminology vs technology. You can take the same fucking piece of functionalty, the same code even, and just give it a different stylesheet/brand/name and people will think about it differently, expect different things, use it differently. That's really something; what would Burroughs make of all this crazy shit, I wonder...

(2,000 words or so total; personal bits at the end)

I think the term "blog" has become rather strongly associated with professional pursuits, ambitious talkers and amateur punditry, in large part thanks to the 2003/2004 political cycle. The really addictive uses of these tools, though, are in creating communities of interest and inquiry. The publishing aspect is empowering, but my guess is at best that 1 in 100 people have the will to "publish" at any given moment, let alone consistantly enough to really create a "blog" or "ham sandwitch" or whatever it's gonna be called in 10 years. But the maxim applies: publish or perish. If you put yourself out in that melieu and your site doesn't have fresh and interesting content, your readership declines and you end up cold, lonely, howlin' at the moon. Or maybe you just eat some more skittles and call it a day. Whatever.

Anyway, it's a Real Thing to take up the responsibility of "publishing," but almost everyone will gossip, kvetch, banter, chit chat; and they like to do it a lot. Every day even. I sometimes find this annoying -- noticing that my friends have the same conversations over and over again for instance -- but there seems to be an impulse within human nature to do that sort of thing. It's backed up by science, it seems. Robin Dunbar (of the magic 150 idea) says this:

The group size predicted for modern humans by equation (1) would require as much as 42% of the total time budget to be devoted to social grooming.

...
My suggestion, then, is that language evolved as a "cheap" form of social grooming, so enabling the ancestral humans to maintain the cohesion of the unusually large groups demanded by the particular conditions they faced at the time.

Monkey CommandmentsI found that quote pulled out on another VC's inquiry into the solidness of the 150 number; his point being that 150 seems more like a maximum, not a norm. But the notion of language serving the same function within regards to social cohesion as social grooming (picking yr neighbors bugs, a core monkey value) explains the repetitive nature of many group conversations, and the uniformity also of small talk. This brings me back back to a little book on communication I found in my High School Library when I was developing anti-violence curriculum with Luke (and our AP psych class). It introduced me to the five levels of communication, which I made art about much later on, after college.

So then it's interesting to me to read Danah's bit about LiveJournal culture. Particularly this:

LJ folks don't see LJ as a tool, but a community. Bloggers may see the ethereal blogosphere as their community, but for LJers, it's all about LJ. Aside from the ubergeek LJers, LJers don't read non-LJs even though syndication is available. They post for their friends, comment excessively and constantly moderate who should have access to what.

LJ has a lot more social grooming going on than the "blogosphere," and I think that's a great thing. We could learn a lot from that. They seem to drive down further in the five levels, closer to truth. It's scary, yeah; communities of cutters, for instance. But that's the breaks. Humanity is weird and messy.

Weird and messy don't often combine well with professionality. That might be why you don't see much stuff in the "blogosphere" about feelings, about truth. It's too bad. I think that's what Uncle Weinberger and the rest of the cluetrainers all hope will happen; and I do too, because I think it will lead to Better Things. I was writing in my paper journal the other day about my blog (pomo to the max!) about how what makes blogs valuable is that they're essentially true. That's the "human voice" bit. Marketing and PR are lies in their hearts; blogs are people, and that's different. It's what differentiates them most, and it's really intriguing how the interplay between this value and the realities of politics took shape. It was a real nutbuster for me and many others this past year or two... whether we realized it at the time or not.

I mean, if your objective is to bring truth to light, to what extent can you compromise the truth in the pursuit of this objective? It's not an academic question, because in praxis it's going to happen.

This is all stuff I'm going to keep chewing on for ages and ages; but to bring it all back home, having re-read my out-of-date monkey page, pondered some old art of mine, and feeling two cups of coffee skimming around my nervous system making me bold and fast on the keys, here a story I'd label "confession" both for its titillating elements and the fact that I haven't told many people about it before.

Theres a bit from the art piece I referenced above:

But you know what the real bitch of truth is, in real life? It's that in interpersonal terms, the truth is often very unsatifying, because the truthful answer to many questions is "I don't know."

What do you want? What do you want to be? Where do you want to go?

We're faced with these questions all the time, and you look bad if you always answer "I don't know." It's like, "next time on 20 questions, a complete ass!" "I don't know", "I don't know", "Uhhh... shit, I should know that but...","I just don't know."

As with a lot of my performance writing, I pull things from conversations I have, overhear, etc. This bit came from a conversation I had with this woman Jill who I met because she was stage-managing another piece of work I had done. She was six feet tall and beautiful and I have a pattern of being attracted to stage managers (obvious power-play turnons, and for some reason I've had more hot girls in that role than you'd expect), and so I wooed her a little there in New York at the end of 2001.

We went out and saw a Norman Rockwell show at the Gugenheim. We went for walks along the Hudson and sat on the cold ground talking about life. The day before I was to fly back to Oregon for christmas, she called and wanted to hang out. I had gotten a little stoned previously and I wasn't sure if it was a good idea, but my then-roommate Christina told me I should, so I did, taking the bike ride over the bridge in the December air to clear my head a bit.

We met up and had coffee at this 24-hour french joint on Park Avenue, and she invited me back to see her place (a nice big spot; she came from well-heeled family) and one thing led to another. I remember that when I first kissed her John Lennon's "Imagine" started playing, and it seemed really appropriate. It was natural. It was good. She'd never had orgasms from oral sex before. But I couldn't sleep over or stay for another round even, because it was 1 or 2 in the morning and my flight was at 7 and I had to get my things and so on. It's never a good thing to leave at a moment like that, end the intimacy, but that's what I did.

I also started to feel a little weird because I knew my friend Sam had been pursuing her, and in all honesty I hadn't expected this to happen. Further, I'd just gotten done screwing up good relationships with two other quality women and recall feeling at the time like I aught not to keep blundering around, take a more monastic view of things. And so I kind of didn't follow up. I didn't really strike up an email dialogue. We didn't make small talk. No social grooming. No more conversations on the west side. No more rendezvous at french places, and certainly no more bedroom fun. I rationalized it in a couple ways, but it's something which I regret, obviously.

The point was, all this happened at the same time that I launched this blog, but I didn't mention it. I mentioned breaking up with Yuliya. I link back to my earliest collected thoughts about truth and identity online, but I said nothing about Jill.

This isn't self-referential narcissism -- or not entirely. It's an effort to recall the difference between what I said and what I did, to remember what I thought and the context in which those thoughts came forth. It's reaffirming to me to recall how my belief in "the truth always feels better" was born, and I take a kind of solace in how difficult a belief it is to enact in your daily life. Good living isn't easy. The truth sets us free from secrets and silence (the seeds of madness), but it can also make us vulerable. That takes strength, and in all truth strength comes not just from within, but from your social network.

To bring it all back home -- for real this time, no more tangents -- I hope we humans can work it all out. We're going to keep experiencing change, and I still believe we could be getting into something really good. Social revolution, information reformation, cultral cachetism, who knows. For really good things to happen, people are going to have to dive deep for the truth, and work on their social grooming at the same time. That means more than diplomacy and small talk: it means finding ways to be comfortable with one another, to be open and true, and finding the will to keep it up when the going gets muddled.

It's a tall order, but I think humanity just might be up to it. My role seems for now to be in making the tools, finding the names, and writing some of the words. Building and selling the dream. Yours may be too, or it may be completely different. Any which way, the process is a pleasure.

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