Apocalypse, told in ivy. VI. Door of the seer, cont’d.
Apocalypse, told in ivy. VI. Door of the seer, cont’d.
Apocalypse, told in ivy. VI. Door of the seer. It’s sealed shut.
Church has been holding prayer/revival nights. We came, some several hundreds of us, with hands raised to hail Christ our Lord and hearts open to receive him.
The teenagers were there, from middle school kids to high school youths, hands open, faces raised with passion. I thought: young lions, full of zeal. God, make them brilliant lights of hope and victory in a dark world.
The band played. I watched the young black African bassist with his groove and virtuoso fingers and flashing white grin, the young Chinese drummer whose hands and feet moved to conjure magic. Young lions, probably not even twenty yet, pouring their talent into a purpose greater than themselves, into worship.
Our pastor honoured the seniors in the congregation, asking those aged seventy and over to come forward to receive prayer and blessing. They came, the elders. Some were frail but they came from their seats to the edge of the stage. Some I know had been in this church for most of their lives, and are still here, still vibrant. We honoured their wisdom, their endurance, their faithfulness to the house.
At the end of one evening, I saw D. and R. in the parking lot. D., pastor out west, Latino, big in physique and heart, asked, “Vega, friend! you gonna make a pilgrimage out west to see us again?” R., white Anglo and fellow soldier, just smiled in his quiet way and hugged me. They got into the car and left, back out west, to the frontiers.
Soon, friends, I’ll make the pilgrimage.
Thanks everyone for the kind words about my post on diversity.
An example, and an exegesis.
The owner of Pinboard restructured his service to accommodate the needs of a subculture – namely, fan-fiction writers. Here’s his blog post about it. (I think he also posted a presentation online, but I can’t find the weblink currently.)
This looks like a success story to me. The fanfic subculture has very specific priorities and desires, and Maciej adjusted Pinboard’s infrastructure to accommodate their needs without compromising the needs of the other users. Tools were designed to foster diversity without compromising the vision and integrity of the service.
I think there are parallels between Maciej’s handling of an exodus from del.icio.us, and Manton’s handling of an exodus from Twitter.
I think Micro.blog should give thought to how the tools we use to engage on M.B are going to foster the kind of culture we want. This is because the structure and function of tools influence the way we perceive and engage with the world.
This thought has been shaped by reading From the Garden to the City by John Dyer and The Shallows by Nick Carr and a lot of blog posts to this effect, having some understanding of Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” (yet to read Amusing Ourselves to Death though), and my observations of the world at large.
An example: People who say that “guns don’t kill, people kill” fail to understand that a gun is a tool whose purpose is to wound and hurt from a distance. You can kill a person with a shovel too, but the shovel’s original purpose is to dig holes and move things around. Yes, the person holds the final responsibility, but holding a shovel in your hand puts you into a different frame of mind than holding a gun in your hand.
I’ve held both before. I was thinking quite different thoughts in both cases.
Digital tools do the same thing to our minds. Everyone knows about the smartphone.
I think if M.B wants to be a warm, thoughtful, small-villages-and-houses community (and it is, which is wonderful!), the people who build its infrastructure would do well to consider what kind of end state of being – culture – might arise from this infrastructure.
I think this is hard to do. It requires extrapolation and reflection, and of course we can’t control what the future holds, nor people’s behaviour. Technology can mitigate but can’t wholly eradicate the evil in a person’s heart. I still believe an individual holds the final responsibility for their behaviour and engagement on M.B, but like guns and shovels, the tools we use to engage with the M.B community puts us into a certain frame of mind.
I thought about the discussions about tagmojis and followers when I wrote that paragraph above.
I also think about tools because scalability is already an issue, and its effects are seen in this perceived lack of diversity.
I admire what Manton and Jean are doing with community management, but there will come a point where the community will become too large to rely on a couple of people to manage. Furthermore, diversity means not aligning with the current ‘status quo’/majority culture. As ecumenical as Manton and Jean may be, they are still embedded in their own cultural milieu (I mean, the Micro.blog landing page has a certain “look”), and the way they do community management is going to reflect that. This is all well and good for a small community, but it puts a limit on how much diversity can flourish.
(Now, I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a narrow demographic. Narrow can mean a lot of things, including focused and specific and particular. Is that what M.B wants to be?)
Currently we all want a warm, thoughtful, small-villages-and-houses vibe. Community management can foster some of that, but it has its limits for scaling and for diversity. So the digital infrastructure will have to do some heavy lifting and management of the boundaries at “we are X” and “not-X”. So how can the infrastructure be the boundary keeper that fosters the formation of small villages and houses – a farming community, a kampong village, a cluster of adobe huts, 12 units on a strata plan, isolated shacks in a forest linked by footpaths, a monastery, a Roman villa, large feudal estates with serfs? One may be uncomfortable with the presence of a feudal estate or a monastery, next to their shack in a forest. But aren’t they also small villages? Beyond that, do we agree that we don’t want a noisy metropolis around?
We cannot wholly prevent the metropolis from growing up around us. But I think we can design tools that, structurally, encourage small communities and discourage big urbanization.
I’m just one voice. I don’t work in IT, I’m not a developer. I just watch the world and think a lot about stuff, and try to do my part to make M.B pleasant for myself and others. I’m not the last word on anything, and I will be appalled if I was read as gospel just because I identify as a minority. This is meant to foster more thinking.
Apocalypse, told in ivy. V. The system of the world, cont’d.
There’s been a bit of hand-wringing in the Micro.blog community about its apparent lack of demographic diversity. This thread (between @brucegodin, @dgold, @adamprocter and a few others) was the latest that got me thinking.
I’m the minority in just about all of the diversity categories the Micro.blog community has defined for itself, except that English is my first language. (There, I’ve outed myself.)
From my point of view, M.B’s diversity challenge comes out of Indieweb’s own priorities and values. Decentralization, independence, tech-centrality, building your own bespoke blog/website with home-grown/open-source tools… to me, these values originate from a particular paradigm and method of engaging with the world. This paradigm is itself shaped by the wider culture. To put it in reductionist and stereotypical terms, the “self-made” webmaster who builds a self-contained website, independent of the centralized aggregate (and by extension, The Man), using home-grown tools, falls very much in line with the values of the American Dream.
M.B can’t be reduced to stereotypes, of course. But there’s also a bar to entry into this social-media network, and it’s a distinctly technophilic, first-world, Western bar. One needs the finances to have your own webhost/domain or pay M.B to host it, the technological know-how of building your own website and establishing social-media capabilities on said website, and most importantly, the desire to have a blog/online presence independent of the centralized aggregate, before you can even begin to join the M.B social-media community.
These are many hurdles. The way I see it, they all come from the Indieweb movement and how that movement was birthed in the first place.
An example of some hurdles I faced getting into M.B.
Many Indieweb pages have a certain “look” in my eyes: American, technophile, and Apple-centric. M.B’s signup/landing page has “that look”. I remembered thinking, when I first landed on Micro.blog, “Heh, looks like yet another American-Silicon-Valley-Mac-exclusive-technophile enclave.” But after reading about the Indieweb movement and realizing that it encapsulated some of the things I missed from the old Web 1.0, I understood my first impression (like all my first impressions) was prejudiced and reductionist. Being a non-technophile with only basic HTML/CSS skills (enough to know the meaning of what I’m copy-pasting, not enough to interpret the meaning for troubleshooting purposes), M.B currently offered the simplest “in” into microblogging and self-hosting according to Indieweb principles. And I was tired of being spread out over Wordpress.com and Twitter anyway. So I signed up for hosting to try it out.
A hosted M.B may have been my simplest “in” into Indieweb, but I face another hurdle in USD $5 and the monthly currency conversion and fees involved. It is not a big hurdle. I can afford it. But it is still a reality for someone not living in North America, and every month the hurdle reappears and I have to face and jump over it. And not for much longer: I recently got a domain/webhost on a local provider, and a big motivation was to remove this USD $5 hurdle, even if it meant spending a bit more effort to setting up my domain. I understand this cash flow is necessary for this independent M.B community to survive and thrive, which is why I supported it. But I’m willing to bet that this USD $5 is a significant barrier to getting non-technophile, non-North-American voices heard on M.B.
Finally, the Indieweb value of decentralization is, by definition, in tension with “social media”. And people are complicated and have diverse motives and priorities: not everyone who has an Indieweb-type website desires an Indieweb-type social media hub to broadcast their activities. Personally, I’ve always had a disinterested attitude towards social media: it’s the necessary, annoying evil I have to put up with when getting my content out on Tumblr and Twitter and Instagram. So far, I’m only interacting on M.B because of proximity, ie. I have to go through my Timeline to get to the “Add New Post” button. I appreciate what goods M.B has brought and is bringing to me currently, but in the big scheme of life and things, I have other priorities, and between blogging and social media, the latter will be first to jettison. If I follow Indieweb’s in-built inertia of decentralization and move my blog wholly to my domain, M.B runs the risk of losing my voice – a tiny inconsequential one, but still a voice. Well, so be it, then. Independent and decentralized means that a person has the freedom to self-select out of a community.
Just a few examples of structural barriers; I’ve encountered a few more on M.B and getting my head around Indieweb worldview and ideas at large. I don’t think that is necessarily a problem: it’s good to face challenges and figure out how to conquer them, and allow my paradigms be challenged in turn. But while I’m willing to put in effort to overcome them and live with the discomfort of facing them constantly (sometimes repeatedly), someone else may not.
Is M.B a privileged place? Perhaps. (I abhor how that good word, “privilege”, now carries so much inflammatory, politicized baggage with it.) Rather, I’d say M.B has hurdles that are technical and structural, born out of the wider Indieweb cultural milieu, itself a specific, particular culture. And these hurdles, and that culture, end up sifting the potential entrants to allow a certain, particular demographic through.
I don’t know of any solutions. I’m not sure that removing the hurdles I mentioned above will necessarily be good or right. Maybe they will be! But maybe they won’t. These cultural boundaries are currently, for better or worse, part of (but not necessarily the whole of) what makes M.B the place it currently is. Every culture, in defining the boundaries of who/what it is, will inevitably exclude a subset; “I am X” necessitates such a thing as “not-X”.
There is another discussion happening on M.B currently: whether or not to show your Followers, and how to implement tags/”tagmojis”. It’s not an accident that those are happening simultaneously with this discussion on diversity, because they’re all about the same thing: M.B is trying to find and define its identity. From identity then comes culture, and from there, the extent of diversity the culture can contain.
The boundaries of every culture are always being contested, from within and from without. To know what boundaries to bend, and which to maintain, involves knowing (or at least, having a vision or ideal of) who we want to be. These are good discussions happening on M.B. We will see what emerges.
Apocalypse, told in ivy. V. The system of the world. Every branch is a thread is a life. The history of the universe written on a wall. Can we interpret it? If we could intrepret it…
Apocalypse, told in ivy. IV. Framing device. The ivy knows how to compose a story.
Senegalese male names. Khadim. Adama. Kalidou. Youssouf. Lamine. Moussa. Idrissa. Salif. Cheikh. Cheikhou. Alioune. Sadio. Moussa. Diafra. Ismaila. Mbaye. Keita. Cisse.
Praise. Panegyric. Qasida. Praise-Poem. (African praise-poetry is amazing. Kudos to the African music show at my local independent music radio station for introducing it to me in a moving, visceral way. The DJ interviewed a musician, and the latter improvised a praise-poem extolling the radio show. He was speaking in his native language, but my hair stood on end at the fierce passion in his voice.)
Sanskrit. Brahmin. avatar. tarati (“he crosses”). pundit/pandit. karma. swami. Lashkar. dharma. mantra. ahimsa. sutra. nirvana. “re” (“oh” - interjection in Hindi).
Miscellaneous. deasil/dessel (clockwise). tantivy. satori (Japanese, sudden enlightenment or intuitive understanding). hegira (Arabic). fain.
Hello, @vasta. Sending a calling card to say that I’m following you. I’ve enjoyed reading your thoughts, especially the recent conversation about Twitter and digital permanence/ephemerality - it has prompted my own musings which I may post eventually.
Installed Hugo and playing with it. This is incredible. All the laboriousness of coding webpages has been automated. Hugo can handle all the rote tasks, and I can get on with making content in markdown instead of stuffing around with markup. Most of my online presence is suited to static webpages, but has been spread around social media because I didn’t quite have the tools to build everything I wanted. Hugo offers a way to do that. Consolidation FTW. The days of finally leaving Tumblr, Wordpress, Wordnik, Instagram, and Twitter are on the horizon.
Things to do: Find a good website theme, or learn how to make one. How to make one theme adapt to different content types.
How to syndicate a static blog/site on RSS?
How to integrate Hugo into my existing creative workflow, and then publish everything online, with the least amount of friction. FTP is too much friction.
Hugo’s local server, and Writemonkey’s abillity to bind its database to independent files, may be the keys to some of my writing workflow problems.
Apocalypse, told in ivy. I. Fractals, cont’d.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth by speaking the language of mathematics, the first and most beautiful of all speeches. I’m convinced of that. If God wasn’t a mathematician, why is the world so full of wondrous geometries? Even the ivy growing quietly at the side of the house does so in the fractal appointed to it from the very beginning. So much repetition, so much monotony. So much beauty.
Taken while out walking on the evening of Thursday, 16 August 2018. (First of a series, hopefully.)
I got myself a domain. Watch out, cyberspace, Vega has claimed territory.
Today’s unusual words: tokamak and theremin. Both curious objects, both loanwords from Russian. In my ears, they have a hard-edged sound of European modernity, made dissonant with non-Latinate strangeness.
🎵 Good set now playing on Bassdrive. The Prague Connection hosted by Blofeld, August 13th, 2018.
Alexandria. Atlantis. Alhaerie. Byzantium. Ctesiphon. Damascus. El Dorado. Ecbatana. Firenze. Gehenna. Golconda. Garternay. Heliopolis. Hy Bresail. Hyperborea. Hiigara. Illyria. Ithaca. Irian Jaya. Jerusalem. Karakorum. Khartoum. Khatovar. Lhasa. Manzikert. Marrakech. Massassauga. Narayan. Neverwinter. Obernewtyn. Persepolis. Qumran. R….. Samarkand. Sarnath. Saqqara. Tripoli. Urumqi. Undrentide. Varanasi. Wichita. Xanadu. Ys. Zerzura. Zion. Ziguinchor.
archon. exarch. sphinx. amphiptere. polis. hyaline. makhaira. spatha. chiliarch. basileus. basilissa. basilica. basilisk. agora. amphitheatre. cataphract. tyrant. cyber-. eidolon. amphora. pterosaur. hoi polloi. adytum. daemon (agatho- and caco-). asphodel. autocrat(or). baetyl. -lith. athenaeum. bibliotheca. boustrophedon. ophidian. omphalos. ekklesia. nymph. odeon. odyssey. phage. naphtha. narthex. chthonic. pelagic. benthic. abyss. nous/noo-. nautilus. nepenthes. morph. medusa. gorgon. hierophant. ichor. cosmos. apotropaic. gnosis. gnomon. arctos (bear). ekistics. metanoia. rhyton.
The Gatekeeper, by Nuraliah Norasid. Read July 2018.
An urban fantasy novel set in a world heavily reminiscent of Singapore. Norasid is a Muslim Singaporean author, and this novel won two literature prizes in 2016 and 2018.
The story follows Ria and Eedric, two characters who, amongst other things, are racial minorities – Ria is fully non-human, and Eedric is of half-human, half non-human parentage. Both characters face ongoing prejudice and ostracism that comes from being of an unacceptable, defeated bloodline. The story is about their struggle against a ruthless world and the increasing gulf between the majority culture and their minority status. While there are moments of brightness and hope, the story has a fatalistic overtone and ends bleakly. But not unsatisfactorily – this bleak ending is a prompt for reflection about one’s own assumptions about race, culture, and the position of minorities within a majority culture.
This book is of particular interest to me because I was Norasid’s countryman. The Gatekeeper is steeped in South-east Asian culture: the history and setting of Manticura is reminiscent of Singapore’s own history, Ria and Eedric are representations of the indigenous Malay people prior to Chinese and European colonization. The novel contains a subtext of highlighting and critiquing the progress of Singapore from pre-colonial to colonial to independence to modernity, and also the social ills and complexities of inter-cultural and interracial matters in modern Singapore. The dialogue is written in the colloquial English of the region, rife with “Singlish” grammar and Malay words. When I read the dialogue, in my mind I also heard it spoken out loud in an accent well familiar to me.
Reading this book was an interesting experience. Norasid uses a fantasy setting to put distance between the reader and the cultural commentary on the real-world, to “make strange” the reality of the world so that we can see issues that would otherwise be camouflaged in normalcy. The cultural commentary was clarion and prompted my own reflection (I’ve experienced both sides of the racial-cultural majority/minority divide), but more than that, I was captivated by the juxtaposition of familiarity and strangeness of Manticura-Singapore. In some ways, that’s how I feel every time I go back to the region: it’s familiar, but also strange, and I’m now a foreigner in a place where my roots were – and perhaps, still are.
I dreamt about AR last night. We were in a room in a building (apartment block? hotel?) chilling out and talking before he had to leave. We were probably talking about life and everything and nothing – nothing memorable, the way idle conversations between friends are like.
I’ve lost track of AR for many years. I haven’t thought about him for just as long. Not enough to prompt a dream, when I seldom dream these days.
I guess it’s time to pray again.
At last, an article that explains the state of the art. Now I have a framework of reference for how the Internet is built, what all those tools/coding/markup languages/etc mean and do, and how they fit in with each other. Things are making more sense.
It seems that my skillset is all in static webdesign (HTML/CSS), whereas dynamic webdesign was the doorway I couldn’t/didn’t get through. Probably as a result of that, I dropped out of the game right when dynamic websites were taking off.
And it looks like the days of writing markup/content in Notepad and then uploading those files to my host via FTP are well and truly dead. If I want to revive my old domain into a proper website I’ll have to find out what new tools are being used. And then, get some web hosting where I can tinker.
Next to investigate: What are static site generators, are they the “post-Web 2.0” version of WYSIWYG? How do I use them, how much effort do I need to spend to learn that, and is that effort worth it? Can I use a static site generator to blog? What, exactly, am I going to do with a domain (and not a microblog like this)? How will it enrich my life? How will it enrich others’ lives?
💡 Things I looked up today. Dusted off my very old, very neglected domain to see if I can link it back to M.b here. I ended up reading through W3Schools’ tutorials on HTML and CSS.
It’s been about ten years since I last wrote markup. The last thing I was doing then was getting my HTML4 webpages compliant with XHTML 1.0, and trying – and failing – to wrap my head around all the new coding languages of XML and PHP. Now… HTML5 has some neat little quality-of-life updates, but otherwise, seems much the same as it’s always been, to my enormous relief.
My old domain has been hosted all this time by a former friend I’m no longer in contact with. A great kindness, there. I doubt anyone still links to it anymore. I’ll just put a redirecting link from there to Micro.blog. And maybe tinker around with some of my old webpages. Writing markup isn’t my jam, but it’s a good skill to have under my belt, and I can’t deny there’s still a modicum of fun and satisfaction in producing a neatly designed webpage.
📚 Now reading: Tathea by Anne Perry