Thursday, February 28, 2008
The tangle of their lifeline
Rarely entwine with ours.
I have only seen them twice
In all my years in the mountains.
His head was crowned
With an antique finished oak coat hanger.
His heir, of unknown gender
Was grazing the grass that hid in the snow.
I watched them
Through the rear window, listening to music
As they stood their ground.
Hearing only the crunching
Of hooves and the hum of the motor.
I'm working on a second poem, but I'm not satisfied with it enough to post it just yet.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Aside from the usual slogan shouting, pamphlet distributing, and sign waving customary for protesters, this group, calling themselves "Anonymous", also indulged themselves in Rickrolling, image macros, and other internet memes that would have you scouring wikipedia for hours trying to catch up with the times. One of the participants of the protest in London, UK noted that only half of the crowd really got the joke at any given time. However, it is the other half that would carry the momentum until the next inside joke is shouted.
One of my favourite quotes from the event: "Ideologically speaking, how do you fight a crowd who is enthusiastically shouting that you should "DO A BARREL ROLL! DO A BARREL ROLL!"
I won't talk too much more about Project Chanology as I'm no expert. There are many other reports about it that you can find with a quick search on Google. What is noteworthy in all of this is that this event signifies that internet vigilantism has reached a new level of drive and focus. People are no longer hiding behind computer screens, but are willing to allow their opinion of right and wrong to dictate their physical actions in the real world. The internet, instead, acts as a breeding ground for ideas, opinions, and organization.
In the case of Project Chanology, the source is 4chan.org, a seething cesspool of derogation and general ill-repute (author claims nothing to be his own opinion). This open forum is a nightmare to navigate, leading to hours of browsing with little to show for it. That, in itself, is a feature of the site as there is rarely anything substantial to be found on 4chan save for obscure thoughts that may one day spread like wildfire throughout the internet in the form of a meme, such as LOLcats did.
In the early and adolescent days of 4chan, John Gabriel's Theory holds true. Anonymity and desire for attention did lead a good number of "normal" (this cannot be tested or checked) people to become, pardon my French, bastards. In fact, there is a special section in 4chan, labeled as /b/, where there are no rules and people can be a politically incorrect as they please. If you're a light gamer and often wonder why other gamers find it difficult to avoid homophobic or racist remarks, part of the problem is 4chan.
However, in recent times, the collective direction of 4chan has shifted. No longer does Anonymous harass people over the phone and mail. These activities can be interpreted as juvenile: similar to how children may react violently to negative opinions, 4chan typically replies with DOS attacks on websites, notably news media websites. Instead, 4chan seems to have grown up, taking a stronger stance against pedophiles, even contributing to the arrest of a child pornographer.
While they may not necessary shrug off their dickwad behaviour, the target of said behaviour makes all the difference. You can think of them as a politician that makes things happen rather than the jock next door with a dead end job. In this case, John Gabriel's theory fails as Anonymous is gathering positive attention and, dare I say it, respect. They may be dickwads, but not total dickwads.
The focus of Anonymous' energy this time around is the entire church of Scientology, whose reach is quite broad. There is even a booth for them in my university where they offer stress tests and sell L. Ron Hubbard's book. If you are interested in Project Chanology, I'll leave it up to you to research on the many reasons why they are targeting Scientology and what they hope to accomplish with their actions, on the internet and otherwise. The important thing to note, for the sake of this ramble, is that internet vigilantism is evolving.
There is still anonymity, as the protesters hide their identities with masks, paranoia, and other methods. There is a larger audience, as Anonymous is trying to bring enough media attention to Scientology in order to garner the desired official actions. However, there is a palatable lacking of asshatery as all the protests across the world have been peaceful and polite (at least to the police). Anonymous stayed within their legal boundaries and whenever mob mentality started brewing, it was quickly quashed from within. For example, a brasher protester started shouting profanity on a megaphone, but did not find any support. Instead, he was booed and shouts of "Epic Fail!" were heard.
At times, people might worry about vigilantism as it can get out of control. As with anything, who watches the watchers? In this case, Anonymous has a built in self-checking system. This is mainly due to the fact there is no systemic unity or cohesiveness in Anonymous. Rather, they are joined by a roughly similar sense of justice and callousness. Anonymous consists of individuals, not members. They can turn on each other at any moment and are eager to do so. There is no leader, no immunity. And yet, as is the beauty of the internet and social networking, they somehow can organize and work together efficiently and effectively. The call to action for Project Chanology was in late January and by the end of the February, there will be three global protests already.
So what is fueling this evolution? My supposition is fairly simple, it's age. In a way, you can compare this evolution to that of Alex in Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, and by that, I mean not the movie. Both the movie and the original American publication of Burgess' work are missing the true ending that reveals Burgess' thoughts on criminality and juvenile delinquency. Essentially, Alex, after leading a life full of crime and ultra violence, finds himself oddly yearning for a quiet, peaceful life with a nice wife and child. I would even go as far as saying that he wanted to positively contribute to society. The message here is clear: criminality is but a phase and eventually people move on to become participants in society.
Naturally, that isn't always true, if you think of crime as a job, you either take it up a notch and get "promoted" to more organized forms of crime or you become discouraged by the high risks and low rewards and "quit" to rejoin society. But with that aside, this idea is applicable to debunking John Gabriel's Theory. Eventually, people will stop being dickwads with little outside influence. In a word, they'll get bored of it and will start acting like normal, decent people again.
In the case of Anonymous, this means that the users are maturing. Even if there continues to be a huge influx of young and new participants in 4chan, the original core group is already moving onto bigger and more constructive things, like political lobbying. These actions will have a huge impact on the next generation of 4chan users and, as a whole, Anonymous will grow up.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Jasper had a particular tidbit of information that he verified for himself beyond reasonable doubt. For a nine year old, living in an era of force-fed education, it was an astounding feat of persistence and intelligence. He had determined that no one liked the town barber.
The elders living in Jasper’s small hometown were very curt and tight-lipped. One could go as far as saying that they were political. They knew that gossip spread like wildfire among the dry conversations that irritated Jasper. His own caretaker was one of the more talkative types and, as invaluable as that quality was for his research, it pained him greatly whenever he had to sit through lunch dates with her friends.
Equally disliked was Dr. Au, the dentist. That, however, was a long sustained fact that was learned during one such lunch discussion. Dentistry seemed to suffer seasons, becoming busier at certain times of the year, not unlike the efficacy of the sun. Halloween and Easter were usually blamed. When Dr. Au was unable to manage and cope, the town barber would lend a helping hand. It was a strange undertaking considering the modern age that they were living in, but it was often stated that the barber was over qualified for his job. Still, heralding medieval practices made the townspeople uneasy. Jasper also suspected that Dr. Au’s unpopularity slowly transferred over to the barber through association.
Either that or the barber was an awful dentist. It was something that Jasper could not test, being blessedly cursed with teeth that seemed impermeable to cavities. Jasper had even tried skipping brushing once, but was found out before anything good got going. His caretaker took him immediately for a check up after that. Since it was never busy season during regular check ups, he only saw the regular specialist. Similarly, the town’s only barber did Jasper’s regular haircuts.
Jasper was thinking about the barber more than usual today, allowing himself to become deeply immersed in his thoughts in order to drown out the boring banter during lunch. He had a haircut appointment today and was dreading it. Everything about the grooming process made Jasper suffer cold, steely chills up and down his spine.
First, there was the barber. The greeting heard when one first walks through the door is less of a greeting and more of an utterance of distaste. It was as if the barber did not welcome business and would much rather be standing and gazing out the window all day. The next thing that Jasper dreaded was the chair. The barber could somehow know your weight just by looking at you. Jasper was sensitive about his weight, which was deceivingly immense, giving his physique. It bothered him greatly that he had to sit in the heavyweight chair. He would much rather risk breaking one of the normal chairs than to suffer the humiliation of sitting in the big chair. Although it was a weekday and most people his age were at school, Jasper still found himself ill-logically making a quiet prayer that the barbershop would be empty.
The haircut itself was the most frightful thing of all. The barber seemed to assume that Jasper’s head was as hard as his own and would make grotesque, grandiose motions, pausing and posing his hands far above Jasper’s head before swooping in with the scissors to make a single snip. It was an artistic endeavour for the barber, who was of European make, and he liked to create a spectacle and show out of each visit. Most of the time, however, he only succeeds in shocking and scaring his customers. Still, he was the only barber in town and people were forced to go to him when they want to look good.
As his allotted appointment time approached, Jasper’s anxiety increased. Lunch was over and he helped carry the day’s shopping to the car. They had run out of errands for the day and next item of note was his haircut. Along the way, Jasper fidgeted endlessly in his seat. The thought of watching the reflection of the barber’s terrible cold and stern demeanour in the mirror as he contemplated Jasper’s hair made Jasper contemplate jumping out of the car. If he timed it right, he could tuck and roll on a grassy patch and get away with only a few minor nicks and dents. It was only the greater fear of being caught afterwards that kept Jasper in the car.
When they arrived at the barbershop, Jasper obediently got out and politely opened the door for the caretaker, but he dragged his heels when he walked towards the door. As in the past, the barber’s greeting to him was cold and monotone, almost forced. The barber’s eyes fixated on Jasper and his arms gestured awkwardly to the heavyweight chair. Jasper let out an audible sigh, but his caretaker’s stern look made him pick up his heels as he made his way to his seat.
Jasper glanced at his reflection in the mirror before sitting down, committing his long haired appearance to memory. He noted that his outward expression was stoic as usual; save for the slight redness in his eyes that gave away his fears. He closed his eyes for a moment in an attempt to get rid of the redness, but when he opened them again, the first thing that he saw was the barber hovering behind him with a pair of scissors ready in each hand. In that moment of surprise, Jasper could have sworn that his eyes went completely red and glowed brighter than Rudolph’s nose. The barber simply chuckled and waited until Jasper relaxed and calmed down before starting the haircut.
With surgical precision, the sharp edges of the barber’s tools danced about Jasper’s head. His caretaker watched on, intrigued. At times, especially on the sideburns and around the ears, the scissors came within a millimetre of his face. Jasper was normally good at keeping still, but it also helped that he was scared stiff. Unable to watch the blades buzz about his head without shuddering, Jasper watched the barber himself. There was an air of concentration to be found in the expression of the barber. His eyebrows furrowed deep wrinkles on his forehead and Jasper could make out sweat beads that trickled down his nose and unto his neatly waxed mustache.
Suddenly, probability struck. One of the droplets of sweat was too close to the barber’s nostril when he inhaled and the discomfort caused him to falter. The barber’s right hand erred towards Jasper and jabbed him just above the ear while the left hand moved on impulse towards the barber’s nose to wipe the sweat and he poked himself in the cheekbone lightly before stopping himself.
Jasper was still disinclined to move, but he could feel the wet slickness oozing out of his head wound, the cool liquid trickled onto and around the back of his ear. The barber apologized profusely and immediately grabbed a towel from the counter and held it to his own face. The damage on the barber was minimal and he stopped bleeding almost immediately. Using the same towel, the barber wiped around Jasper’s ear and guided Jasper’s hand to hold the towel against the side of his head.
Jasper looked at himself in the mirror again. The towel, which was previously bleached white, was now soiled with black and red. The black in particular was in abundance and Jasper looked around, checking the countertop for a clean substitute. On the bright side, Jasper thought, his hair looked great.
The bleeding stopped before the barber came back with a patch for the cut, making the bandage unnecessary. The barber apologized again as he gave Jasper’s hairdo a few final flourishes. Jasper entertained the notion that the barber’s reputation would surely drop a few more notches after this incident, but he made sure to keep his smile to himself.
Apologizing once more, the barber waived the usual charge for the haircut. Jasper felt alleviated. It would be months, maybe years, before he would have to visit the barber again. He took the sullied towel with him as a keepsake. There was a wonderful tie-dye-like pattern on it, tiny dots of red freckled the middle while streaks of black formed petals around it. Jasper was reminded of the eyes he saw in the mirror, though the colours were reversed.
They were halfway home before the caretaker thought to take Jasper to see the usual specialist regarding the cut on his head.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
In the meantime, have a good week. I'll try to have a short story or something up this week.