Things to cheer NSFs up

August 28, 2012

Hey, on the bright side at least we aren’t actually fighting a war



Review: The Secrets of A Fire King

August 12, 2012

Reblogged from Goodreads

There are books that have substance, and there are books that are pure style. Not that there’s anything wrong with style: see this short piece about Joyce and the “New-Agey claptrap” Paulo Coelho churns out.

But, it is exceedingly difficult to write a readable book that is pure style with, at the heart of it, very little substance. Edwards tries, and the result is a collection of short stories (fictional vignettes really) that falls far short of her debut novel, The Memory Keeper’s daughter. The stories focus on a character, and tries to play on her transformation or growth, or a turning point in their life, but often fails. Engagement in the character falls short, and is inadequately replaced by far too many adjectives, or unconnected passages that try to connect the reader to the scene.

In short, I found the book tiring and unsatisfying. Unsatisfying, because the stories lack meaningful conflict and resolution (more the latter than the former), and tiring because the writing style gets trite pretty quickly. The stories are mostly plotless (something that I can envision working, but only in the hands of a few truly skillful authors), and the author doesn’t pull it off. It was a struggle to finish reading

Let’s Chat: IM is so last decade

July 18, 2012

Let’s talk about Social Media. Let’s talk about online personalities. Let’s talk about Facebook and smartphones and always online. According to my sources, these things have become somewhat popular of late.

Discussing modern life connectivity invariably brings up two responses. The first:

1. OMG it’s GR8, I can tell the world what I had for breakfast and where I am RIGHT NOW and I can keep in touch with my friends ALL THE TIME, I ❤ how I can share my cool thoughts the moment they come into my head through twitter

and then there’s the mourning and woe and much gnashing of teeth:

2. Oh woe! This generation of kids babysat by glowing white rectangles can’t tear themselves away from their screens long enough to enjoy what’s around them, to smell the roses and appreciate the world. They demand satisfaction and entertainment and instant gratification that they miss the value of introspection and reflection and creative boredom. I pity them for they are DOOMED to a lifetime of cretinous consumption and superficial socialising.

The first is true but pretty much completely misses the potential of being Connected, while the second is mistaken and missing out. Now, I’m not so intelligent as to have fully-formed original ideas spouting out of my head, so I will point in the direction of a long article which, by-and-large, had me nodding along with assent.

If you haven’t the will to read the whole thing, I’ll summarise it as follows: The obsession with being offline, and celebrating being able to disconnect, be it by abstaining from Facebook, putting away a phone,  feeling secretly superior at keeping away from email, or proudly declaring distraction-free digital sabbaths for introspection are a fetishization of being offline. Rejecting the attention span-destroying and creativity-sapping convenience of modern connectivity for the retro and the vintage steams from Digital Dualism: the belief that the online and offline are distinct and mutually exclusive. That one can be one, or the other, but not both.

But, fact is, we don’t have digital dual personas, we have online extensions. Photos posted on Facebook were taken at a party where you actually danced with someone, and that lunch date you just had was at a restaurant recommended by a friend online and organised through the internet. When you turned your phone off and went sightseeing on holiday, you were thinking of  sharing your great experience on your blog.  As the author puts it:

“But this idea that we are trading the offline for the online, though it dominates how we think of the digital and the physical, is myopic. It fails to capture the plain fact that our lived reality is the result of the constant interpenetration of the online and offline. That is, we live in an augmented reality that exists at the intersection of materiality and information, physicality and digitality, bodies and technology, atoms and bits, the off and the online. It is wrong to say “IRL” to mean offline: Facebook is real life.”

Permit an illustration through a medium of which I’m particularly fond: games. This article was what prompted me to go down this rabbit hole, and it is as dauntingly long as the previous one, and very likely even less penetrable or interesting. In fact, if you ask me I’d say I don’t get half of it either (and I’d ashamedly surrender some geek cred), but the bit that is relevant, as illustrated through a pair of games a decade apart:

“In truth, ‘the internet’ doesn’t exist anymore. There is rarely any point speaking of it as if it was separate from the rest of the world – which is a cyberspace too. Uplink’s fantasy of separation (or separatism?) is now barely coherent. But then, it was always based on a Hollywood vision of the electronic frontier. In their use of space and distance, and the aesthetic choices that surround them, Watch Dogs and Uplink seem to bookend an ontological shift in how we think about the internet, a move from fantastic digital dualism to rhizomatic complexity. Now the only question is whether Ubi’s game can capture this moment as brilliantly as Uplink captured mine.”

Personally I’ve never been as deeply enmeshed into the online world as some people; I don’t tweet, I can stay away from Facebook without withdrawal symptoms, I don’t upload photos of everything I eat or everyone I meet. But I still consider myself a digital native. I like undistracted time to work or think, not offline time for simply being offline.If I have to disconnect so that I’m not interrupted by invites to Farmville, so be it, but I’ll still meet you as readily online as offline.

But, for all the folk who haven’t yet developed an intuitive understanding of how there can be no online/offline divide, it’s time to get with the times where online and offline selves are the same. Web 1.0 Email and IM, or Web 2.0 social media, or whatever comes next, we connect with our fellow fleshbags in both meatspace and online, often simultaneously. So, take a leaf out of the book from the characters in Christine Love’s (absolutely fantastic must read/play) visual novel don’t take it personally, babe, it just ain’t your story and curate your online personality with a bit more care, because it’s only going to become more important, and more real.

Somethin’s a brewin’ tonight

July 17, 2012

I, evidently, haven’t been updating much here. Call it writer’s block, or simply being uninspired (I’d love to blame an uninspiring, nay, downright dismaying, work environment, but that would be an Intolerable Self-Justifying Excuse), but that doesn’t matter anymore because I am going to prepare potent brews of creative juices and biting wit by forcing myself to write, regardless of how utterly dispirited I may be.

I for one welcome our new AI overlords

June 4, 2012

This comment just appeared on a post from a while back:

One Response to “Education is broken, but subtly different from how you think it is”

  1. website Says:
    June 4, 2012 at 8:31 PM | Reply   editJust to let you know your webpage appears a little bit strange on Firefox on my computer using Linux .

It got through WordPress’ spam filters, which I, based completely on personal feel, believe to be at least as robust as Gmail’s. It won’t be long before the spambots get better at conversation than Youtubers.

Non-Obligatory Birthday Post (and possibly cake)

June 4, 2012

It is kind of silly to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of a being who has, technically and objectively, contributed nothing to anything in everytime. About as silly as describing a social occasion of joy, happiness,  good reminiscing and general enjoyment as silly.

What does it say about us that birthdays can be treated as utterly unimportant, and also potentially stuffed to overflowing with personal significance? That we, so small as to not even be a speck in the universe’s eye, are so monumentally caught up in our selfish pettiness as to be unable to appreciate much beyond our tiny spheres of perception? Or that the capacity for personal significance memories, for history, for nostalgia, for life-threads crossing and intertwining and weaving with others’ into a glorious, eternal, braid is more precious than anything the heavens or the Fates can devise? Probably a bit of both; just like any other thing that gives us pause to consider the scale and grandeur of the universe, or reminds us that we are essentially social beings.

Besides, most people’s choices on where on the scale of non-celebration to new car and giant cake festivities probably depends a lot more on mundane things like money and time and guestlists.

Inception, disexplained

May 12, 2012

I never really understood why people reacted to Inception like it was LSD; Nolan did a pretty good job in presenting his idea. And hence, I always thought explanation charts would have been much more in order for things like Nolan’s earlier Memento or crazy things like Primer (I mean, look at that diagram, it was confusing enough to warrant a mention in XKCD). Ok, all that aside, I just wanted to say I can’t quite believe that this explanation of Inception seems harder to understand than the original movie itself.

NS and bureaucratic buzzwording makes my head go in funny directions

May 8, 2012

In another interminable lecture, a dark epiphany coalesces in my mind and squats, inky, black, and brooding. It bleeds and melts and settles, one by one, with the shadows dancing upon the wall of my mind’s cave, indelibly staining everything. I sense myself, and find: a creature grown slowly bitter; a creeping ivy crawls across the spirit, choked off from light and life.

I remember, lit with the fuzzy, golden vagueness that tinges nostalgia, having dreams. Having aspirations, instead of desires. Fulfilling goals instead of needs. Through my fervent daily wish for the workday to end, I glimpse memories of waiting for another day and another chance to chase a glory insignificant enough to be attained.

I have substituted the joy of new days and new climbs for the despondency of routine, and the taste in my mouth is sour. I spit at what I have let myself become. I wish I could bother. Let me eat. Let me sleep. Let me wake and let me wait. Let the waiting be unbearable and the pain intolerable and let me bleed, bled until I am dry and withered and a husk and a pile of ashes, till I look forward to a fiery resurrection.

Sounds as sadistic as the original series. Score!

May 4, 2012

Ah, Simcity. So looking forward to this

Music: More To Life Edition

April 24, 2012

tenth avenue north is heart-breakingly good