A Day to Remember

We attended the wedding of some dear friends yesterday – a beautiful ceremony, delicious meal, wonderful reception (including a midnight movie screening) and bus trips between each. As after-dinner coffees were finally being served, the bus arrived to take us to the reception venue. While the rest of the guests finished them off, the groom’s father and I went to let the bus driver knew they wouldn’t be long.

“Well,” the father of the groom said to me, ” It’s been a day we’ll remember for years to come.”

It was true, but I couldn’t help but think how much work had gone into making it so. Following close behind was the fact that so few days fit into that catergory. What is it that marks them in the memory, and why are they so far between?

My brother’s flat recently suffered a power cut. Thanks to a gas stove they were still able to make dinner, but the normal evening activities were unable to go ahead – namely either sitting around watching telly, or sitting around watching youtube. With no lights (let alone electronic entertainment), they lit candles, got out guitairs and had a night of cards, music and chat. Apparently it was such a great night they’re considering pulling all the fuses once a month and hiding them in order to recreate it…

So what is it? A break in routine? A night actually interacting with friends and loved ones? Something carefully planned, or perhaps totally spontaneous?

What isn’t it? A night in front of the telly – unless it’s watching something like the Olympic Closing ceremonies or Princess Dianna’s Funeral, perhaps…

What I do know is that I’d like to have more days to remember. I like the idea of “pulling the fuses” once a month, or at least doing something that will be hard to forget.

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Published in: on 31 August 2008 at 9:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Invisible Chomsky

On the topic of media silence, in chatting with a friend about independent media options, I remembered a modern instance of something being kept out of the mainstream news.

Almost 10 years ago now, in November 1998, Noam Chomsky gave a talk at Wellington’s Opera House. It was free entry, and I joined the line as early as I could to gain a seat. The interest from the public was so great that as well as filling the Opera House’s three levels, the organisers also provided a live video feed (which from memory had some issues) to the Paramount Cinema too.

His talk went largely over the heads of myself and most of my friends, but we tried our best to keep up. Despite the snazzy editing of the documentaries that have been made about his work, in person he came across as incredibly dry. All the same, we were thrilled to see such an incredible thinker speak in person and hoped to understand what he had been on about one day.

My most lasting memory of the talk, however, was the fact that the mainstream media totally ignored the entire visit. Nothing on the television news, nothing in the two main newspapers, and as far as I know nothing on the radio. The only local media I saw that mentioned it was a totally independent community newspaper called The City Voice, which sadly no longer exists. Clearly the advertising that got people along was almost entirely “viral”.

In 1943 we experienced media silence due to state intervention in a time of war. Fifty-five years later, it certainly wouldn’t have been the government getting in the way of this obviously interesting news story. I can understand that the media is under no obligation to cover every event or happening, but to this day I wonder who made the decision that this wasn’t newsworthy…

Riot Police in Manners St – Then & Now

While looking into the history of NZ’s capital some time ago, I came across an amazing story of a 1943 riot in downtown Manners Street involving “over a thousand American and New Zealand servicemen as well as several hundred civilians”. As noted in the linked article and elsewhere, it went unreported in the news due to wartime censorship – so everything we know about it is via the stories of those who were there.

I was reminded of this event last week, when I came across THIS. Sixty-five years later, here is a tale of riot police once again having to keep the peace in Manners Street: “Riot police had to control fights among a crowd of almost 200 people as they tried to arrest a suspected thief wielding nunchaku in Wellington’s Manners Mall.”

The thing I find most interesting about this case however, is the first comment. Another witness to the event describes its reporting as “almost wholly inaccurate and quite irresponsible”. It appears that while the facts were left entirely unreported in 1943, these days they’re manipulated so as to be more eye-catching.

If what James says in his comment is true, then in both cases we’ve had to hear from eyewitnesses to get the truth. Here’s to individuals without state pressure or the need to generate advertising dollars keeping us informed of what’s really going on.

Can anyone recommend some good grassroots news sites?

Published in: on 28 August 2008 at 1:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The 2008 Peanut Crisis?

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I saw this sign at the Supermarket today, and did a double-take…

It seemed fitting to link it to the upcoming Superstruct game, and the above was the product of my lunchbreak. How is it that as soon as you begin to tune into something, you start seeing evidence of it everywhere?

Published in: on 20 August 2008 at 3:49 pm  Comments (1)  
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A Search for Cognitive Purpose

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I’m haunted on a regular basis by an Ashleigh Brilliant quote: “Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what happened.” However inevitable that may be, I feel a deep urge to prevent it.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons that Clay Shirky’s talk on Cognitive Surplus really spoke to me. After being pointed to it a couple weeks ago, it’s really stayed with me – to the point of driving me to find a way of applying it to my own life. If you haven’t watched (or read) it yet, I thoroughly recommend it. Thoroughly.

As I thought about the scenario Shirky describes, I began to realise I’d been in a limbo situation within it. The smug knowledge that I’m already over television soon gave way to concern over where the heck my Cognitive Surplus had been going instead. Eventually it struck me: I spend most of my free time “faffing around” online. Not participating, not learning, not even having much fun really. I was faffing. As a result, my potential & time was being frittered away…

Truth be told, I wanted to put my Surplus to use, but that vague generalised desire wasn’t enough. The essence of what I was lacking was twofold – a pull from the outside, and a push from the inside. A good parallel is my copy of Final Cut Pro and high-speed external hard drive. They sat virtually unused for over a year, for two reasons – noone provided me with any video material to edit, and I simply hadn’t been inspired enough produce my own from scratch.

The first thing to really draw me out of cognitive dormancy was actually the discovery of Alternative Reality Gaming, perhaps an increasingly common story. When The Lost Ring began around five and a half months ago, I was suddenly provided with that pull and push – the invitation to participate was coupled by a real desire to become part of the epic story unfolding before me. This combination drew from me a high level of participation – something that sites such as icanhascheezburger.com had never quite been able to achieve. Oh yes, and I finally found a use for my editing software. =)

What my involvement in The Lost Ring emphasised, however, was my lack of other avenues of participation. When waiting for the next advance in the story, I found myself suddenly at a total loose end – right back into just faffing about. And it was while experiencing this all or nothing scenario that I saw Shirky’s presentation – perfect timing for it really. In the couple of weeks since, I’ve begun working on seeking out new ways in which to engage my brain – options which are inviting, and that I care enough about to engage with.

My first venture is a personal challenge to write the start of one short story a day. As I’m only writing the start, there is no pressure to create an overall structure, or worry about how it will continue – I just write until I’m satisfied (so far usually 2-3 pages in my small journal). The second avenue is deciding to finally attempt to keep a personal blog – this one. I always figured that the last thing the world needs is another blog, but I guess as Shirky says: at least I’m doing something.

Happily, for a six week period I soon will find myself with plenty to do in my spare time. I’m very excited to have been offered a part on the team managing the world’s first massively multiplayer forecasting game: Superstruct. I’m hoping that for many this invitation to participate will be combined with their desire to do so, because it’s got the potential to be something really extrordinary. I reccomend checking out the site, and even having a go at the first pre-game challenge.

Aside from that, I will continue to pursue ways in which to engage my mind fruitfully. I wonder too – am I alone in my tendency to fritter time away online with little to show for it? What ways have others found to direct their energy and attention to good use? In future posts, I intend to follow up on how I’ve been going – as well as devoting some time to considering the parts of The Lost Ring which I’ve found the most interesting. It’s now not much more than a week until the Multiverse Olympics – but perhaps I’ll get onto that next time…

And so this blog begins. Here’s to the pursuit of Cognitive Purpose!