More about Flesh and Blood — or, ‘My Laptop came back’

Can I have another piece of chocolate cake? Tammy Baker’s got a lot on her plate Can I buy another cheap Picasso fake? Andy Warhol must be laughing in his grave! -Crowded House, 'Chocolate Cake' My laptop came back to…

Can I have another piece of chocolate cake?
Tammy Baker’s got a lot on her plate
Can I buy another cheap Picasso fake?
Andy Warhol must be laughing in his grave!

—-Crowded House, ‘Chocolate Cake’


My laptop came back to life. And then died again. And then it came back. Maybe it’s got what Jen Trance has. Jen? Have you been sleeping with my laptop?


I’ve been thinking about the topic of on-line friends and real life meetings again.

I’ve covered this before. But for a number of reasons, It’s fresh in my mind.

First, I’m watching, from the sidelines, an ugly breakup – being played in public on orkut – of a couple who met, yes, on line, on orkut. It’s an ugly side to Andy Warhol’s fifteen minutes of fame; everyone shares your triumph, and then everyone clusters around to watch your failures. It’s like some weird cross section of fame, in effect, because you get some of the effect of being famous (people all over the place know your name and want to know your business), without the actual benefits (the money, and the, you know, actually being famous.)

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The mystery of high-school

There's been a lot of talk both on and off orkut about 'popular kids' and 'cliques' and remarks that it's like high-school. None of which made much sense to me. I've been vaguely puzzling over this. And then it dawned…

There’s been a lot of talk both on and off orkut about ‘popular kids’ and ‘cliques’ and remarks that it’s like high-school. None of which made much sense to me.

I’ve been vaguely puzzling over this.

And then it dawned on me, not unlike when you wander the house looking for your sunglasses and car-keys to find the glasses are on your head and the keys in your hand.

I never went to high school.

Well, ok, I did. But not like that.

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Should I stay or should I go now?

A little more orkut talk. Click away now if you’re sick to death. I think the fun, as expected, is leaking slowly out. This isn’t to say I’m leaving. This isn’t to say I’m not enjoying it anymore. But we’re still in that fast-forward state, the evolution of an on-line community, in exaggerated time-lapse. It’s […]

A little more orkut talk. Click away now if you’re sick to death.

I think the fun, as expected, is leaking slowly out.

This isn’t to say I’m leaving. This isn’t to say I’m not enjoying it anymore. But we’re still in that fast-forward state, the evolution of an on-line community, in exaggerated time-lapse.

It’s funny to watch. Parts are falling off the car as fast as we put them back on.

Several isolated things:

-Friends I’ve invited are saying “I just don’t know about this thing”. And I tell them, “I don’t know either.”

-People who were complaining about not really getting much out of it are now dating people IRL that they met on orkut.

-People who were having a blast, just loving this thing, are now getting to the point where they’re leaving, or thinking of leaving.

-A friend who was having a great time being ‘someone else’ is now having a hard time with the way this is at odds with a call to ‘be yourself’.

-I’m suddenly losing the inspiration for writing testimonials. I blame Ray for this, but that’s a dodge. It’s either that I am seeing the first leading edge of a loss of interest, or my muse has simply deserted me again and gone on holiday. She does this, usually just when I need her.

We’re seeing the typical group problems. “Me Too” posting, people who think they need to answer every post in every forum. Fights over stupid shit. On the other hand, we’re seeing some good debate, or at least a little of it. The community format does not lend itself well to good debate when posts max at 2048 characters, but still, there’s some good.

But I think we’re already seeing problems of scale, and orkut is, still, very small. One of the advantages at startup is that it was very, very fast. Suddenly, it’s not, and many times of day, it’s hard to get in at all. More important though is that the communities are suddenly getting crowded and since we’re still seeing dozens created every day, it gets harder and harder to track where your friends are and where the good conversations are happening.

This is all stuff you’d expect. But the interesting thing is, it’s happening so fast. We’re seeing decades of USENET and months or years of some other forums compressed into days or weeks here. And it’s not obvious why.

I had a conversation with my dear friend Squidgirl a couple of days ago about the sudden tide change. We agreed it somehow happened around the beginning of April, somewhere between March 31 and April 5. What exactly the change was remains unclear, but there was a sense that someone let some of the air out of the balloon. It’s still up there, yeah, but not so high, and not so happy, and there’s that feeling that it’s slowly sinking.

I switched metaphors there, but who’s keeping score anyway?

There was a change. The date range that we observed there may not be exactly right or consistent for everyone. But it changed in a tangible way.

It’s still fun though. Old friends are still sparring and flirting, re-connecting after many years. New friends are mixing in socially. Connections are made between disparate friend units. There’s fun and there’s value. It’s a silly, light-weight experience.

Where’s it gonna go? I don’t know. I don’t have much faith in the people who run it, but they may surprise me. They have built a clever, inviting interface that’s easy to use and easy to get used to. And they’re working on bettering it. It’s not clear though, if they’re just tinkering or if they’re really working on the fundamental issues. They’re not saying. It’s not clear if they even know the issues exist.

I hope it settles down, once the freshness wears off, and matures into something useful. It has the potential. But the pull of entropy is strong when you attempt social engineering. I don’t know if these people are good enough to overcome the inherent problems, or if the culture that will grow will be a mature enough one to thrive.

Again – we shall see.

There’s a lotta sex in the air though. And that suits me fine. That alone calls me back, the bee buzzing from flower to flower. “Just one more, just one more…”

But you know, if I could get that muse back, maybe I could chuck orkut and get back to some writing.

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And through the wire…

This started as a comment on an entry titled “Is it wrong?” on the Solipsisters blog. But then I felt an essay coming on (and you know how you know when an essay is coming on? You ears start to go numb, and your smile gets bigger and bigger and bigger), and so decided to […]

This started as a comment on an entry titled “Is it wrong?” on the Solipsisters blog. But then I felt an essay coming on (and you know how you know when an essay is coming on? You ears start to go numb, and your smile gets bigger and bigger and bigger), and so decided to move it on over to my space and not take up theirs.

You might read the above linked entry for context, it’s short. Basically it’s about how odd it is to “meet” people over the internet To play roles and find mutual desire for what are, in effect, pretend personae, but also behind these masks, maybe real people.

It’s an interesting thing, “meeting” people over the internet. The faces turned to the light are, sometimes, only those we choose to show. To quote the old New Yorker cartoon (and I’ve lost my link to the actual cartoon, I must find it), “On the internet, nobody knows I’m a dog”.

Thus can I be, in some forum somewhere, a pirate or conan the barbarian, ming the merciless, the sheik of araby (Well at night where you’re asleep Into your tent I’ll creep), or a master of slaves on some counter-earth. You, you can be the mysterious temptress, the super-villainess with thigh-high boots and whip, the wicked schoolgirl, the willing slave, the haughty business woman, the tavern wench.

Or I can be me and you can be you. And we never really know where one ends and the other begins.

And through the wire I hear your voice
And through the wire I touch the power
And through the wire I see your face
It’s through the wire

–Peter Gabriel, ‘And Through The Wire’

It’s a dance, sometimes. Do we want truth? Fiction? Do we care or want to know? Is the illusion better, or in fact, the real point?

But who are you really?

Some people don’t seem to play this. You get face value. On the internet, they say, I am a dog. really_a_dog@no_really_a_dog.com. But even then, it’s only the words they give, only the side they share. They may not, truly, control what they’re showing, but still it’s a flat two-dimensional image presented over the wire.

It’s different now, year-of-our-lard 2004, where the internet is made of pictures and sounds and video and real-time chat. There was a time when the internet was only words, and our interaction was in a space where we could and did hide, or reveal, based only on words. And where we used facilities provided by employer or school, and thus had an authority to answer to, sometimes, for what we did and said and presented. Now, today, I’m not a name and a set of words, I’m a picture and a web site and an identity that’s as much larger than life as I make it. I’m the devil on fire (thanks, Paul!), I’m the laser-eyed bastard, I’m the sullen kilted warrior. Whatever I want. A digital camera and a whack or two with photoshop, I’m any and all and more.

With all this, though, an interesting thing happens. With all the roll play and unknown ‘reality’, one connects. One finds a point of common ground, respect, shared interest, atraction. One finds a dialog, sometimes public, sometimes words whispered off in the shadows.

Real friendships are born out of the game play and the masks. Which is what makes it worthwhile. Yes, the game itself if fun. The picture one hides behind, the persona made of smoke and mirrors and reality, in a shifting array. The reveal, hide reveal game of internet dialog. But when the game grows old, and it does grow old, you’re left with real connections. Sometimes close, sometimes far, half a world or a continent away.

But then a funny thing happens sometimes. Sometimes you meet in real life.

This was a little different, again, in the old days. There was a time when most of the internet, outside colleges, was here, in silicon valley. Where if you met someone on line, like as not, they were within an hour’s drive of San Francisco in one direction or another. Now, the internet is as global as people are, and my friends may live on any continent, in any time zone.

It’s a funny thing though, meeting people you “know”. Because you never really are sure who, what you’re meeting, how they compare with the fantasy, the image, the imagined person behind the name. Even if pictures have been shared, and today, they so often are, it;s so very different when there’s a voice, a form. People are so much more than what they say in writing, what they show in a photo. They’re body language, gestures, mannerisms. Nervous silence. Skin tone, eye contact, smells and laughter.

I’ve met people who proved to be all they showed on line and more. And others, brilliant in writing, who cannot maintain a conversation or meet my eye. I’ve met people who are stunning in person but fear to share a photo, people with whom I clicked on line but found nothing there in person. Some of these relationships were cemented, permanently, by a meeting. Others were in effect ended by meeting face to face.

One always wonders. If I meet you, will it be like this? Or like that? Will we find the human connection endures when the wire is shortened? Or will it prove to be as ephemeral as the internet itself, elusive and spoiled when the mystery is removed?

And here we are back to me – I will always choose the real over the pretend. The flawed reality over the image of perfection. Live music over the studio, amateur porn over glossy professional. I’d rather know a real person with quirks and oddities and imperfections over the shiny, pretty picture shown to the public. For me, real itself is attractive.

Your mileage, as they say, may vary.

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Rejected by Orkut!

I got this page when I logged in today: http://www.orkut.com/accountsuspended.html Account Suspended. Why? They’re not saying. They’re not responding. No fucking idea. Don’t like it? I don’t either. Let admin@orkut.com know how you feel! Fuck you, you fucking fucks! Update – There’s now a ‘Free Karl Elvis‘ community. See? It pays to have 200+ people […]

I got this page when I logged in today:

http://www.orkut.com/accountsuspended.html

Account Suspended.

Why?

They’re not saying. They’re not responding. No fucking idea.

Don’t like it? I don’t either. Let admin@orkut.com know how you feel!

Fuck you, you fucking fucks!


Update – There’s now a ‘Free Karl Elvis‘ community. See? It pays to have 200+ people on your friend list.

On ourkut? Join up and share the love!

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Songs of the Cellblock

I swear to god, I’m leaving orkut, I really really am this time. Really. I hate it. ‘I’m gonna start tomorrow I’m gonna kick tomorrow… I’m gonna kick tomorrow…’ For some reason being in orkut jail saps my will to do anything else. I don’t want to write fiction, I don’t really feel that much […]

I swear to god, I’m leaving orkut, I really really am this time. Really. I hate it.

‘I’m gonna start tomorrow

I’m gonna kick tomorrow…
I’m gonna kick tomorrow…’

For some reason being in orkut jail saps my will to do anything else. I don’t want to write fiction, I don’t really feel that much like blogging – other than about fucking orkut fucking jail – I can’t concentrate on the email to friends I want to be writing, and worst (or best), I can’t seem to get any work done either. So where you’d think I’d be using this time and nervous energy to kick some ass around work, I’m task-swapping so fast I’m not doing any processing.

Funny thing is, this is spreading like a disease to other blogs. Is it a virus?

I even have a cool picture with lasers in the eyes made up by Rossana  Fischer
(www.wumanity.com). And I can’t even put it in my profile. I’m like Captain Jack Sparrow all locked up while Barbossa shells the jail. And yeah, I look just like Johnny Fucking Depp too, only with lasers!

Hell. Damn. Blast.

Read more “Songs of the Cellblock”