Monday, July 27, 2009

never the same again

Life has changed a lot!

Some for the better, some not so for the better.

When I chose to leave my marriage of 18 years, I knew that any changes to come could be difficult. At the time I thought little of what might be positive about the future other than a chance to start again and for life to be "different". Certainly, I was feeling there would be more pain and distress in the staying than in the leaving for the Big Unknown.

Over a year now and there have been tumultuous tides of change and yet hardly any to be seen on the surface of life per se.

After the initial shock of catastrophic physical change and the tumult of emotional pain passed, and time has morphed into days of more smiles than tears I still find that I've been huddled inside a shell of sorts this past few months. Like a tortoise or some ascetic hermit on a lonely mountain - I have battened down the emotional and social hatches of real life social engagement to recoup and thus nurture a changing emotional and social landscape within me! How ironic it is to say it in that way. I both cringe at and welcome this new phase of growth. The old wood is withering and I am in wait, under the ground, for the blooming season of Spring to begin something new. I now wonder if old tree trunks feel this kind of quiet accepting remorse as they shed one history in preparation for a move to the next.

The people I used to know are busy and I do not bother them. I have nothing to say. There are no common interests anymore, no familiarity of spirit ... just a bit of shared history now tainted with suspicion, repressed anger and the repose in their demeanour, which to me, suggests I am now a proven, betrayer in their eyes. I knew this would be so and I had prepared myself for its inevitability.

When it is cold outside, we close the doors against that cold; we light a fire at our hearth and sit beside it to wait out the bitter seasonal winds for the duration. All that frosty blustering, clamouring for reproach against us outside our emotional doors? I do not want it right now. It has been is.... a time for nurturing me.

Normally, I feel guilty during phases like this. I am so hive-minded for the social collective I have an innate distrust of cloistered self protections. Depression, when one lives under a blanket of fear and isolation, can be ever present. But as much as I am wounded by the loss of what was before, I am positive that what will come will be worth the wait.

The changes being wrought in me during this shut-in time are in response to the changes being wrought out there where I do not yet have the courage - or the tools - to tread. The old life passes. A new life will emerge. In between - as it is now - is the Wintering of the Soul.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The girl who couldn't cry: Chapter 9

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8

The Psych-doc was sitting in a large faux-leather chair, the back of which towered above his head. The top of the chair had a panel, which incorporated a camera, sound equipment and recording devices. The person sitting in the chair merely had to pose the questions and all information was processed through his or her chair into the mysterious chambers beyond the Perspex walls of the “Counselling Room”.

“Tell me Ariadne, about your request?” the man said smoothly. Ari knew that each Psych-doc they sent her was trained to keep their emotional feelings and thoughts as quiet as possible. They were drilled in the art of merely asking rote questions, prepared well in advance and rehearsed with as much repetition as to inure the questioner against imprinting the question with their own emotional energies. Ari never got to really “know” a Psych-doc because “They”, on the outside of the Perspex, deliberately kept them on a wide enough rotation that she only saw each one a few times a year, at most.

She could still sense the rush of their heightened emotional energy as they entered the Counselling room, they could never quite mask the combination of fear, awe, excitement, self-focus, horror and sadness inside of them when they initially entered. They would never engage Ari in “idle” chit chat while they composed themselves for the session, and she would often find herself sitting in her own chair, watching them shut their emotional radars down as best as they could. Some were better at it than others. Women were always easier to read for the most part.

In a way, it was like the Psych-docs were as manipulated and controlled as she and the other mutants. They seemed to be almost hypnotically induced once they sat in their own chair, and their initial rush of emotion was quickly pulled in and down like shutters against the glare of a high noon sun. Their voices would change and all of them would speak in a similar tone, a deep, soft, mellifluous drawl as if dark chocolate were pouring from their mouths instead of pre-rehearsed questions. Their personalities, temperaments and their uniqueness were quelled and subdued to the point where each Psych-doc, male - or female - blended one into the other. It was deliberate, strategic and very, very costly. A good Psych-doc on a program such as this, earned Leverage Credit very much above that of the ordinary citizen, sometimes in excess of ten times more!

Ari always felt a little bit sorry for the Psych-docs despite hating what they made her say and do in these sessions. They were considered Normal Human Beings, whilst she and her fellow mutants were considered mere crops to be analysed, studied, genetically modified and controlled. She was not a Normal Human Being. The irony to this was that she at least could behave uniquely, different insofar as possible from her own genetic group. Uniqueness was encouraged among the different varieties of Ariadne. She was a special case in point as she was only the second mutation to display such strong empathic powers. Her predecessors’ genes had been a freak of nature, the cells of which had been quickly grafted into the next crop. Ariadne was the only one of this next crop to show any evidence that this particular genetic accident might be reproducible. Being empathic, as well as her extraordinary art, had kept this Ariadne strain from being re-integrated a lot longer than most.

The argument still raged in scientific papers as to whether this Ariadne should be sacrificed to scientific progress again or kept for further developmental studies. Her additional attributes, empath and artistic genius, in addition to her designed inability to shed tears meant that, so far, the camp for keeping her alive, were winning the debate.

The Psych-doc sitting in the chair was looking at her silently. Up until now, his focus had been entirely on himself, going within to quiet his own capacity to throw emotional information Ari’s way. Now, that he felt contained, he was studying Ari intently. Waiting for her to reply to his initial question, he looked down at the small table between their two chairs facing opposite each other. On the table were two glasses and a pitcher of water and a little packet. The packet was transparent and vacuum-sealed. Ari noticed it was a new bottle of eye drops.

“They’re different” she commented, avoiding his original question.

“Yes Ariadne. They are,” answered the Psych-doc matter-of-factly.

“What will they do?” she asked again

“We will find out.”

“Oh” replied Ari disconsolately. Some of the eye drops they’d given to her in the past had made her eyes very sore and they had burned constantly. Some had made her vision particularly blurry and the shapes of things had been difficult to make out in low lighting. Other eye drops had had the effect of blinding her temporarily in the eyes. She’d learned to not drop the other eye if this happened, so she could still see enough to draw her spirals, at the very least. Sometimes, they would refuse her the basic saline tears she kept at hand all the time. However, the dryness in her eyes would eventually cause her to pound at the Perspex and scream for it to wet her eyes in relief. She hoped that these eye drops would not have too many side effects.

“I need more saline,” she said, placing her own bottle, almost empty, on the table.

“It will be arranged,” said the Psych-doc simply. He never said when.

He repeated his question, more slowly and deliberately, his voice a study in the deep rich tones of conciliatory calm. “Tell me, Ariadne, about your request.”

To be continued…(I hope)

Sunday, July 05, 2009

it's hard not to comment on the MJ thing.


This past couple of weeks, the world "lost" a couple of iconic personalities that have graced our screens and magazine editorials for many years.

Farrah Fawcett died as a result of her long-running battle with cancer. To all intents and purposes, she appeared to have displayed great courage and fortitude and a clear desire to help others going through a similar battle to her own.

She was known in the 70's for her hair and her amazing smile. There was a fresh-faced "All-American-Girl" style to her that typified the perceived beauty standard of her day. It made her famous. She also did some strong and gutsy performances in 80's and 90's tele-drama's about domestic violence. She never really made it "big" in the movies though but despite that, she did attain a kind of iconic status for simply being her unique self as a talented and privileged woman.

Micheal Jackson is iconic too but more infamously so. His mysterious persona and outrageously anti-establishment approach to his life, career and life-style since a young and very talented child in The Jackson Five, polarised the world into two distinct camps - those who loved him and those who loved to loath him. We know little about him really, the real MJ.

For all the media reports of his strange habits, desires, needs, wants, diseases, attire, and family history, Micheal Jackson is and will probably remain something of a mystery.

His music legacy will certainly live on - there is no question that he gave the world some catchy tunes that will probably be on Karoke playlists for some years to come but I am rather bemused by the fact that so many people are now embracing a man they disparaged barely three weeks ago.

Human beings are so bloody fickle! We denigrate weird people, but if they are particularly famous - and if they pass way suddenly - we flock to the shrine of their memory as if we had always lived there, happily bathing in the luxurious fantasies of having connection to their fame and persona. We celebrate the carnival of their famous life and we can't get enough of the intense chimera of their persona in death.

I wonder if we might have treated Micheal Jackson with more respect if he had had cancer and had died quietly after a courageous battle, extending good will and good humour to others in the process? The fact that he died "unexpectedly" is I suppose, the match that has lit this flame of hysteria and hype.

Micheal Jackon's memorabilia from his many years as a pop icon was dropping rapidly in "value" in recent years because of the accusations against him about pedophilia and his public mistakes regarding the safety of his children. He was too weird; too strange; too mysterious and other-worldly and was the butt of many ribald jokes. Disrespect for MJ - the man - was pretty much evident in most casual conversations. For some, his music was a cute passing wave at the 80's and his trade-mark dance move, the Moon-Walk was a gesture of silly fun, re-enacted when remembering the decade of excess.

Now that he has died at THIS time, people are clamouring to purchase pieces of that same fading memorabilia and the prices are sky-rocketing. It apparently pays to die famous...but only if you go suddenly while you're still more or less famous (or infamous)... and young it seems!

I think there has been more respect paid in death to Farrah than there ever will be paid to MJ. Farrah died as a courageous woman - or so it seems. There is no question of her integrity or her character. She fought a very human battle and lost it and we have respected that I think.

However, even I have bagged MJ out and taken pot-shots at his strangeness, post death! It seems he has become something other than mere human, maybe a sort of cute, grotesque monster perhaps. Certainly, we have not respected him as we have other famous people who have died. He has been fair-game in a mystery story, in life and now especially in death.

MJ isn't so much a man or a person but seems to have become, over the years, something of a reflection of the uncomfortable weirdness we sense in ourselves but cannot define. MJ has become a Thing, an un-person and that's kind of sad really.

The brouhaha of Micheal Jackson will die down eventually I guess. It took approximately 20 years before people began ignoring the anniversaries of the unexpected death of Elvis. I suppose it will be similar for MJ.

I could write some platitudes here about him "resting in peace", or that he was a "great talent that the world will always miss" and so on, but I can't really. I can't feel anything remotely warm for the man that he was because I simply didn't know him as a man in that sense. He's always been a circus to me. Fantastic, surreal, other-worldly, weird, grotesque, NQR and so on. The hype surrounding his death is like a thriller movie already. There is melodrama and edge-of-the-seat wonder about what will happen next.

It's bizarre and it tells us more about how weird WE are weird *I* am... than it does about who the real Micheal Jackon is.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

A wave just took on a new meaning

I've just spent a very pleasant and informative hour watching a YouTube of the "preview" for "Google Wave" at a web development conference.

The little YouTube vid might be one giant ad for a new product but because the product is going to be Open Source (more or less), it means that it has the potential to become one of the most revolutionary communication tools to hit our desktops and mobile devices since the advent of email!

I watched the entire presentation! That's saying something for me! I usually lose interest pretty quickly on this under the hood techy stuff. I don't fully comprehend the inner workings of the www but I like what it produces. This video presentation however, is not that dull really and there wasn't much in it I didn't understand either. I am no developer and I can't read code other than a smattering of HTML. On this video, which explains what is intended with Google Wave when it launches, I could understand the implications of - and the amazing potential - to transform live, real time 'over-the-net-at-a-distance' conversations and collaborations, with people all over the world.

Dave Pollard pinpoints the potential of Google Wave nicely in a recent post of his and I'm grateful he's shown me the link! I'm quite blown away by the potential especially for community building.

Describing Google Wave is quite possibly going to be the hardest aspect of the whole thing I think. Many of the people I associate with outside of the www - in so-called "real life" - barely seem to grasp anything other than the usual suspects of online communications such as email and Instant Messaging. Web tools such as Facebook and Twitter are slowly becoming more common amongst friends and relatives but these are also reasonably linear and static in functionality. Google Wave appears to be a zillion times more interactive than ANY social media could conceive to be, (except maybe for Second Life - which is viewed by many in my immediate circles as totall NQR as in Not-Quite-Right. I'm apparently, more than a little "weird" for being a Second Lifer in these parts).

Google Wave is going to be tough to describe to friends, co-workers and family. It will be like trying to describe a spiral staircase - without using your hands - to demonstrate that concept to someone who has never seen one before.

So what IS Google Wave? Well....... let's see if I can encapsulate it, although I think Dave's story in his blog does this better really.

It's email; it's IM; it's a wiki; it's capable of supporting many innovative applications; it can interface with multiple kinds of social media, such as Twitter and; it's as private as you need it to be and as public as you want it to be. You can have multiple threads across several different waves and cohere them into one wave if necessary or you can take the threads of one wave and dissect it into multiple offspring conversations that can evolve into their own waves. It even has live real-time translation of other languages built in so that conversing in someone from France or Germany, Japan or Holland will eventually become as seamless as conversing with others in English. It uses the language protocols of the web to intuitively surmise your spelling AND context as you go. You can embed photo's, blog posts, tweets, vidcasts, podcasts, documents, and whatever else the current tech allows us to do online within a wave for others to manipulate or utilise or comment on. Google Wave will make Facebook look like a chalk board I think in time. Community is now officially "Global".

I can see so much potential for this type of online interactive tool. Thing is, here in my corner of the physical, real life experience, many people don't seem to fully grasp the possibilities of tools like this. We're so used to the linear versions of snail mail, email and telephone that applications like Google Wave might remain largely under utilised for some time here, except by those in the world who are highly invested in web based technology anyway. They would most likely include corporate business privateers, web developers, online marketers and a few hobbyist bloggers like myself. For the masses who are only just now tapping into the wonders of Facebook and Twitter - Google Wave is going to have to be a real snap for people to grasp....and explain to their friends!

The beauty is that Google Wave doesn't NEED to be on every computer in order for it to work! Just like with email and IM, it won't matter which service provider you have an account with, if you have the interface....ANY kind of wave interface.... you can access whatever wave of information comes your way, even if the other users in your wave have a different interface than you! That's the really cool thing about this new tool, it's open and adaptable to the market. The sheer flexibility of that will make the product probably work very seamlessly and I guess most people will just catch on regardless if they understand it or not.

What I'm really excited about is the possibility for a collaborative learning system for isolated rural communities. If we can bring high speed broadband into the regional areas of populated Australia, applications like Google Wave will revolutionise these tiny communities to strengthen relationships not just online but also within their own real world settings.

For example, communities can communicate with elected members of Parliament, educators and health advisors more efficiently. Kids won't need to leave their communities to go to Uni unless they really want to. Small business can have markets that don't rely on local populations to sustain them. And, I think there'd be a whole raft of conversations between linked rural hubs where meetings, networks, and grass-roots social exchanges would take place.

For example, someone says on a Wave, "Let's go down to the local hall and play 500 next week to raise money for the childcare centre"... from that one question, local members of the community can plan, iterate, select, argue, debate, execute all the required planning needed for the project to happen all within the Wave itself, where everyone can participate either in real time or when they log on later. Google Wave has the ability to allow people to "play-back" the threads of conversations they have come in on half way through. That way they can catch up with the conversation and they'll know exactly how it has played out so far. No more having to attend meetings physically to arrange community meetings! Wow!

This will not only save small communities a lot of time, it will revolutionise the way we plan and conduct meetings. We will still meet! But the getting to meeting will be handled more effectively via tools like Google Wave. It's not about replacing face-to-face, it's about having access and more importantly, input, into the process of conversation that will make the difference. The success of actual face-to-face will be that much greater as people will still effectively have been included in the process and the conversations for making that event happen.

If you have enough bandwidth to view the presentation, I heartily recommend you do. Google Wave is set to launch late 2009.