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Not Belonging

ISEA 2008. I am one of the presenters. Of course I am terribly happy, not to mention proud to be here. But...

There was this art opening, artists-in-labs, this evening. Why do I have this feeling of not belonging? I do belong! I submitted a paper, which underwent a juried and competitive process, at the end of which I was accepted to be here. All fair and square. Furthermore, there are plenty of people here that I know already: Some colleagues from my PhD program, also colleagues from elsewhere, two of my PhD tutors and of course lovely Nina Czegledy, who is such a warm associate to have. It is not like I am forced to stand alone in a sea of strangers. Admittedly when I first started to do this sort of thing 3 years ago, that first time at Siggraph for instance, that was exactly what it was like... But nowadays I seem to have earned my laurels somehow. In fact, tomorrow I will be one of the moderators in the Leonardo Education Forum. So what the hell is wrong with me? Why do I feel so uncomfortable, so ill at ease, so displaced? Why am I so dreadfully unhappy in any kind of crowd that involves more people than you can seat comfortably around a medium sized table? Especially a crowd such as the one that was there tonight?

It was lovely. In this really lovely building, with a huge courtyard. There was freshly squeezed juice and a wonderful buffet dinner. And orchids. Singapore is full of them. They grow here like geraniums elsewhere. Still I left while the whole thing was in full swing. Scarpered out in sheer agony and walked back to my hotel. I went through what I guess was one of Singapore's hip neighborhoods. Loved it. Sat in a cafe all by myself and had a Diet Coke. It was crowded of course, but as long as I don't know any of the people, as long as I am anonymous, crowds are perfectly OK. So, I feel comfortable in a crowd of people, unknown to me, halfway across the globe, that speak a language I have no idea about? So why is it that I feel completely displaced, miserable and heart achingly lonely in a crowd of my own peers?


The New Aggressive Look

I have been wearing my ninja cat boots and arm brace for quite a bit now and I truly did not realize that the two sticks are these really nasty gadgets that cops use in Latin American countries. Bett told me what they were only yesterday. When she saw me there was this "hmmm... what's with the aggressive new look Alpha?". She meant the sticks but also the boxing gloves. So, I figured that it really does behoove me to look into this bizarre apparel and what it might be all in aid of.
Now, the sticks I didn't know about but the boxing gloves I did, of course. And here's how it happened:

I get quite a few visitors at Syncretia and for the largest part they tend to avoid me. They are quite respectful of one's privacy and do not really venture anywhere near me. Well, not so this one avatar a week or so ago. I was working in the gym, fine tuning the exercise benches and what have you, when suddenly this dude shows up, right? He is one of those conspicuously (and intentionally) ugly avatars, but not a noob. Incidentally I am becoming a real pro at this, nowadays I don't even need to look into someone's profile before I have them sussed. But I do look anyway, just to make sure of course, and sure enough he has been around for a while, belongs to all the right groups and bla bla... Oh and, the ugly avatar look is kind of like going to the opera in jeans. It is this eeever so subtle way of implying to the SL community that you may be here but you are nonetheless maintaining your objectivity, you are refusing to become part of the system, you are maintaining a critical distance. So you run around looking like a crossbreed between Ruth and very badly mangled up road kill - but no matter: Who cares how you look! You are making a point! You also avoid buying anything at all costs, because that, again, would make you part of the system, a horrifyingly capitalist one at that, right? Tsk tsk... You are soooo different from all those frivolous avatars around you, the ones that are actually enjoying themselves? Right?

Anyway, back to the gloves. So, he starts chatting. We are standing in front of the workout benches. First he asks me whether he is interrupting me. What am I gonna say? Yes? Of course he is interrupting me. I am up to my armpits in virtual machine grease over there. But I am polite of course, and I say "no no not at all". He tells me that he has read about Syncretia on the NWN blog and that he thought that it sounded "interesting" so he came to check it out. Then he asks, "is this an artistic installation?". "Is what an artistic installation?" I want to know. "Well, what you are working on, with all the wheels..." he says. "Ahumm... it is actually a gym", I say... "Oh... interesting..." he says... I don't reply to that one so after a bit he says "well, let me look around a bit" and takes off... Like 5 minutes later he is back: "Where is the artwork?" he asks. "Oh" I say, "there is only this one thing that is kinda art, it is all those type thingies and rocks on a platform out front". He asks for directions, I give them and off he goes. 5 minutes later he is back again! "Very interesting..." he says... And... before I know what I am even doing I have rezzed the gloves!!!

So, in hindsight, I guess what I am saying is something along the lines of "OK, these may be slung over my shoulder at the moment, but one more interesting out of you and I am gonna put them on and then things will start to become really really interesting around here...". "Here take this... and this... and this...", "on the nose... on the nose!"... "You sanctimonious twerp!"...

Needless to say he takes off... teeeeee heeeeee

(I bought the gloves ages ago. I liked the texture and the color but I really had no idea if or where or how they would be needed. But you see, here's my motto: Always err on the side of caution. When in doubt buy! You never know when something will come in handy. Like all of my wonderful Geisha animations. There has yet to materialize an occasion for their usage. But when that day comes I am so gonna be prepared! I'm telling you... Buy first! Think later!)

So folks, onto some good news: There is this somewhat remote possibility that I might come into quite a bit of money. (And this is no joke btw, it really might happen. An inheritance thingy that involves a lawsuit with the State of Bulgaria - so, really remote but...). Anyway, if it does... I am setting up my own metaverse. Or better still, I am gonna buy up the decisive voting shares of SL. Get me a nice, cushy seat on the Board of Directors. What am I saying? Become the Board of Directors, I meant! And from that day onward this ain't gonna be no namby pamby democracy no more. Forget all of that malarkey! Dictatorship all the way! Applicants will be strenuously interviewed. I will be controlling login times. Like with pilots? Where they have to clock a certain amount of flight hours a month or their licences get revoked? Same here. None of this ambling in every so often, to check out "interesting" stuff. You wanna be here mate? You live here! End of! I will also be controlling rezzing activity. There will be random checks on what you have purchased or built - if it is less than XXX lollies/XXX prims, you are history!!! Random checks on all chat and IM activity. Verrrry important this one. Words like "interesting", "objective"; "discourse", "critical", "analytical", any word that ends with an "...ology", in fact any word that is longer than 3 syllables - and you are out on your intellectual little ass faster than you can type "epistemological"! hhh... I mean it! I really do!
So yes, it will be a very sparsely populated metaverse indeed - but well worth the results don't you think?


Hmmm... So are my non-intellectual pretensions really any better that other people's intellectual pretensions? Of course not! But... then again, yes and no, I guess.. To give myself credit where I do in fact deserve some, I kind of tend to keep the intellectual bla bla to research work and papers and stuff. And I do make a point of not using words like "epistemological" even there.
And I most certainly do not go to someone's home (which is what Syncretia ultimately is, of course) and say "interesting"...


And one does have to be vigilant with these things you know. So, in a way the gloves are there for my benefit as much as anybody else's: The nasty beast lurks within, barely contained...