ORCHID 140.10.2014: a ghost army of lovers that cannot lose

Tomorrow: Next edition of my post-cynical queer night at K4.

“Being queer means leading a different sort of life. It’s not about the mainstream, profit-margins, patriotism, patriarchy or being assimilated. It’s not about executive directors, privilege and elitism. It’s about being on the margins, defining ourselves; it’s about gender-fuck and secrets, what’s beneath the belt and deep inside the heart; it’s about the night. Being queer is “grassroots” because we know that everyone of us, every body, every cunt, every heart and ass and dick is a world of pleasure waiting to be explored. Everyone of us is a world of infinite possibility. We are an army because we have to be. We are an army because we are so powerful. And we are an army of lovers because it is we who know what love is. Desire and lust, too. We invented them. We come out of the closet, face the rejection of society, face firing squads, just to love each other!
Every time we fuck, we win.”
QUEER NATION, 1990

orchid1410-webflyer

HARDLY PART…
ARTY PART
PARTLY ART
HARDLY ART
PARTY ART
PARTY HARD!!!

reflectinghearts

reflecting hearts reflecting politics reflecting communities reflecting art reflecting

appleWave your hands in the air like you don’t care

wpid-20140918_132851.jpgCash: the procedure of buying in which the exchange of goods for money is horribly visible, the spending of money most painful and the consumer profile least traceable. No wonder cash gets marketed as hard, inconvenient and unsocial. Poor cash. [insert image of person at the discounter checkout spending minutes searching for coins. teh horrorz! lolz]

Then the magic payment evolution fairy made us credit cards: Easier! Plastic is more slippery than paper. Faster. Plastic is everlasting and everywhere. The material itself suggests you can never run out of money. The sexy sliding of the card through the machine vs the awkward fumbling with cash. Paying with credit cards is the ice skating of payment procedures. Elegant and fast, and it scratches only the surface of endless frozen lakes of money. No worries, the ice is thick enough, come on! [insert image of person at the discounter  checkout spending minutes to chose which article to put back because they haven’t get enough cash with them. omfg the shame!]

Along comes applePay, appleWatch: No pulling, no sliding, just wave that *what’s the opposite of monument?* at the till as if it was nothing. The very gesture of careless spending, buying as ephemeral caress. It’s not about making things easier, it’s about disconnecting liberating us from the feeling of spending money, about erasing financial worries from the process of buying. [insert image of person at the Tiffany’s checkout spending minutes to realize that credit cards have never really been faster or easier than cash and also today plastic means pollution. sadface. Curtain.] 

Me, secretly whispering in the dark: Cash is my vinyl.

Cyborg Unplug

cyborgunplug

I consider Cyborg Unplug to be a positive, tactical response to a growing and widely felt social issue, one born from the technologically-enabled abuse of mutual, human respect.
Julian Oliver in Blinders For Google Glass

Cyborg Unplug, the anti-surveillance device by artist Julian Oliver has been widely written about over the last days. Mainstream press mainly reports on it as privacy tech that can block Google Glass. That’s a shame because it’s less and more. On the other side of the ring you got progressive techies that damn Cyborg Unplug for stepping on their rights and infringing their freedom. In his connected blog Tante compares it to pre-crime policing and writes:

This is the digital equivalent to a paramilitary group running through town and harassing people they don’t like. …

If you don’t want to share your wireless, that’s fine. Forcing your ideology on other people isn’t. And don’t hide behind “privacy” or “self-defense” when you mean “I want to be an asshole because fuck you and what you want.”

I find this a disturbingly aggressive “public’s public” take on a device that does hardly more than a technical version of asking you to stop. Let’s look a tad closer at what got this anger boiling: Cyborg Unplug is a router that is able to disrupt the connection to your wifi for not only Glass but also similar devices that can be abused for unwanted surveillance. It does not block the actual filming. If someone has recorded something they can simply connect to a different wifi and upload it. In my eyes that makes Cyborg Unplug neither the effective Glass blocker the Glass haters report on nor the evil pre-crime tool that tante tries to portray it as. Both opinions show how the tech realms often are not the best place to review smart devices that pose social questions. After all the average white tech guy’s horizon for that seems to end at making it an issue of social acceptance of his latest smart tech toy and loudly protecting its unlimited use against the issues of those who are socially more vulnerable by material that gets filmed or gathered and/or published without their consent.

When I first read about Cyborg Unplug I thought: I would. I host a little queer club night which is exactly the kind of semi-public space you wouldn’t want someone to Glass-film without asking and make it public on some social network. To give you just one obvious reason: There might be people who have not come out yet. Another is the “dance like no one is filming” part: It’s supposed to be a safe party space in which people can let go and letting go acquires a kind of unspoken mutual agreement in a “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” style. One of the reasons why I love small underground club nights of the left is that most of the time that consensus automatically is in place and people party hard but are respectful about whom and what they snap and publish pictures of. A tool like Glass is a game-changer though, even in such places. After all it takes away the inhibition of being seen while filming someone – that makes for one social acceptance border less to cross. It makes filming without consent so much easier.

cyborgunplug-a

And looming larger than any app or platform is Google Glass, a technology that fully embraces and instantiates the street-photographer ethic, prioritizing the wearers entitled right to see. “The key experiential question of Google Glass isn’t what it’s like to wear them, it’s what it’s like to be around someone else who’s wearing them,” Mark Hurst, CEO of the consultancy Creative Good, wrote a year ago. Glass wants to place the wearer behind a portable two-way mirror: On one side, the viewer sees all without being seen, while the objects of Glass’s gaze can’t tell how their image is being processed. More than just a new way of seeing, Glass also enforces a new way of being seen.”
Nathan Jurgenson, Permission Slips

A tool like Cyborg Unplug puts up a permeable substitute border for the one Google Glass broke down. It’s not exactly like smashing someone’s Glasses, it’s polite. It’s not technophobic but a tech lover’s reminder of respect of privacy, and privacy is about consent. The makers of devices like Google Glass don’t mind privacy, else they could have long gotten active about this. They could have integrated a pop up that, whenever your camera lense face-detects that you are about to film a person, asks: “Do you have their consent?” It’s not that they don’t know how to place annoying pop up reminders wherever it is good for them.

With our digital devices becoming more and more mobile the ethics of respecting someone’s privacy have long gone past being a question that can be answered geographically, like “at home is private, everywhere else is public”. As the digital network surrounds us with every step we take “at home” can be public (e.g. if you do a video blog from there) while a geographically public space can be a digitally private space (e.g. if you share intimate texts with someone while standing in the middle of a crowd). Privacy ethics have become a nomadic question, an omnipresent issue so complicated that most of us just shrug it off. Social implications often only get tested by pushing the social limits of a new gadget. The discussion of possible effects always lags behind. Many people don’t realize what it means that anything you do can be taken out of the frame of a certain time and place and be published anywhere and archived and dragged out forever. This potential decontextualisation still often is met with the standard victim-blaming “simply don’t do anything in public, that you don’t want to be seen doing” or with the post-Snowden data apathy. Not to mention the luddist “smart tech depraves our youth and steals our jobs!” credo. Me, especially as I love so much about the possibilities digitally enriched life has brought I can not and will not ignore its often negative implications, especially for those living outside the norm. That’s why I am happy about little tripping stone tools like Julian Oliver’s router.
May Cyborg Unplug hit right in the face of the privacy ¯\_(ツ)_/¯s the NSA leaks have summoned.

P.S.: <3 cyborgs, hate borgs.

“Discreetly” up yours.

nails“We are Undercover Colors and we are the first fashion company empowering women to prevent sexual assault.”
 
Undercover colors is a product that a team of four young men wants to throw on the market: Nail polish that changes its colour after contact with date rape drugs like Rohypnol or Xanax. The idea is that you stir your drink “discreetly” with your finger to test it. And of course on first look it sounds nice: You don’t need to spoil your date by showing distrust, like when you pull out a testing strip in front of his eyes. I love the CSI mobile chemistry lab science gadget part of the idea. They are good in marketing. They have learned from similar products’ promo mistakes. They use the right words: “Choice”, “discretion”, “empower”, “shift the fear from the victims to the perpetrators”.
 
“Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard but I say oh bondage, up yours!”
 

 
I guess you already feel the huge BUT coming up: While this nail polish sure might be handy, this doesn’t shift the fear. It’s just one more way to keep the problem restricted to women. I’m tired of things women should do discreetly. We are to bleed discreetly, we are to shave discreetly, we are to keep our anger about sexism discreetly, oh, we are so well trained to not spoil men’s fun with our problems (see that “our” melting from acidic sarcasm? Not nice, I know. But, hey, I empower you to save it by simply not treating human’s problems like women’s problems). How they market it, this nail polish is just one more way to keep our fear secret. Thank you, men, for giving us a “choice” to find out or not if some guy might rape us. Discreetly. Thank you for “empowering” us with nail polish. I think the marketing here is worse than the product. It plays with feminist language, takes it out of its context and twists it into, well, I guess Poly Styrene would say: into bondage.
 
If i was to come up with a fashionable date rape drug testing tool, it would be something clearly visible, something flashy, it would be the new cool to stir your drink with it. In fact every edgy club and every cozy pub would serve all drinks with it, no matter to what gender it’s served. It would be a glow-in-the-dark stick, sonic screwdriver-style, that goes off blinking and buzzing madly when it senses date rape drugs, shooting glitter cascades so that everyone around notices it. And it would automatically pour a permanently sticky neon glow-in-the-dark colour in your drink – (you know, like that stuff that cops in tv crime shows use to mark ransom money) – so you could pour it all over the person who put that crap in your drink and even if he ran away it would be visible to everybody. And the colour would itch like hell. That would be nice. And empowering. I clearly should have become a scientist designer person.

A non-holiday

A non-holiday is basically infusionhow I feel at the moment. After a summer flu (my diagnosis) had turned into a sepsis (the hospital’s diagnosis) end of July I was taken out of my regular life and dropped into a strange new one filled with a fixed time schedule, lack of privacy and lots of health checks. I had to spend 11 days at the hospital and it seemed three times as long. I was proper scared by the diagnosis as a friend of mine had died of a septic shock and the first few days there were quite a blur. I had a fever and felt weak and constantly on the edge of throwing up, and my lower left leg was swollen and red. I can’t even remember how I helped coordinating our shows in that state – I may as well have texted feverish nonsense. But my wonderful musikverein gang and friends decrypted it all and made everthing work. I’m still sad that I missed so much – Kurt Vile, Karo, The Tidal Sleep, Perfect Pussy and so on…. Anyways: Smartphones once more proved to be the best invention ever, connecting me with friends by a few simple gestures.

My veins proved pretty bad for needles and after five days of punching holes into me only for the infusions to stop working after an hour or two they gave up and switched to pills. That introduced me to the first allergy of my life: My body didn’t like the first kind of antibiotics they had given me and I was covered in red dots from head to toes for three days. But then I liked the next antibiotics better anyways because they were red and even in that state I liked my world filled with pop cultural references: I chose the red pill!

What surprised me about the hospital experience was how little I minded the lack of privacy. It didn’t matter to me that nurses and doctors entered the room without knocking at any time and interrupted whatever you were doing. I would have imagined me being pretty sensitive about that. I guess it’s due to the weakness and the trust you put in them to heal and help you that makes you give up any claims for private space or time.

It also didn’t bother me much to have a room mate but both I had didn’t make it easy on me. It was two 90 year old ladies. Both were basically nice persons but it was tough to share their lives for a few days each. The first one was lively and chatty, even fun at first but then she started repeating her stories. Again and again. No matter if you listened or not, no matter if you told her you already heard it, she kept talking until I could quietly mouth her words along. Also she was insomniac and a few times she scared me shitless: imagine getting up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet and suddenly a voice starts talking to you out of the darkness. It was as if she was watching me constantly only to start talking at me as soon as I didn’t seem asleep. Or reading. Boy, was I happy when I was strong enough to start reading. Books saved me in there. Books meant privacy and escape.

After this woman went home, they brought another 90 year old woman to my room and this time it was a rather weak and slightly dement lady. She was nice but had a talent to time vomiting, urinating and even diarrhoea to our meals. So for the second half of my stay at the hospital having something to eat was steadily combined with heavy smells and trying to look away from her being helped by a nurse to get cleansed after peeing on floor etc. I lost 6 kilos while in there. (I do not just blame her condition; the hospital food was not exactly good nor healthy. I was so happy when my sister and friends brought me fresh fruit.)
It was stressful though because I not only had to contain myself but also help and talk her into not feeling ashamed. It is natural after all and we all get old sooner or later and we will be just as helpless and happy for others’ empathy.

As bonus stress factor there was a construction site in front of my window which I kept open most of the time because summer, sunshine and to get smells out. The workers there really showed off all the cool tools they got, from cement-mixer to jackhammer and something that made really high shrill beeping noises. Soundwise, it was not lacking in variety. Honestly, most of the time this hospital stay was like having to pass a stress test. I was constantly ommmmmmming myself, constantly telling myself: It’s just a few days, you are quiet, you are relaxed, others are far worse off, you will get better, just focus on this book. I think I passed. The last week-end was especially heavy as in a room next to mine a man was apparently in heavy pain and he was screaming, wimpering, shouting… Even all the nurses were on the edge of their nerves. I almost wished for the construction site workers to also do their noisy job on the week-end to make those screams go away. It didn’t help that at that point I was reading Philip Roth’s Everyman.

ninjaI just wanted to go home. I’m still not sure if it was too early that I got out – my main doctor said it was okay but the dermatologist said she would keep me in there for another week. That’s why the happiness and peace of being at home (and being with Ninja the cat again!) now is distorted with a little fear that it might not heal properly, that I might miss some bad symptom, that I might do something wrong and make it all worse. Suddenly I missed the controlled cage with all its blood-testing and temperature-measuring and professional bandaging. Especially yesterday, when I realised that it was the first day without antibiotics after three weeks I honestly felt a ripple of fear. My leg is still far from being healed and it’s a kind of wound of which I have no experience to tell what’s a regular time span for it to take to heal. Feels like alien meat, like not-me, alienated shin. Being restricted by having to put that leg up doesn’t help. I miss walks.

From reading one book a day at the hospital I have now switched to binge-watching series in order to escape and pass time. I still feel weak and somehow not capable of thinking more complex than “whoa, it’s not very doctorish to let that scared and lonely dinosaur burn alive!” when watching the new Doctor Who or “gosh, will people read this as police-state-in-the-making as it is? as scary and dangerous transgression from secret service military realm to the citizen-concerned realm of the police? will people read this at all?” when seeing the new Crisscross NSA leaks article. Words don’t come as easily as I’m used to. Contemplating the things I read and watch doesn’t come as easily as I’m used to. Watching and reading things as an escape, not as a stimulus for thinking or getting me creative as I’m used to. With every book I put down and with every series I finish watching I just come back down to the here and now to check if my injury has gone away and to be disappointed again. Ah – patience never has been my strength but I promise I’m trying not to let self-pity rule my world. And taking up writing again is a first step.

Oh, and I miss my musikverein gang and going out with my famiglia of friends! Illness is so isolating. Each visit brightened my day like sunshine melting snow. This Friday, Confused, I will try going out again for the first time. I even have been promised a hammock but will be happy with a chair to rest my leg on and be among huminz and chatting and enjoying a bit of loud pumping bass music.

One artist’s good-bye to Soundcloud (and facebook)

I have deleted my facebook artist page and my soundcloud site for good today. Both contributed to make me feel my art as something valuable only by numbers, clicks, likes and forcing you to promote your stuff – all in all: it turns it into a bland quantifiable product. For me music is more about community than about popularity and cashing in. Those channels are part of what has made me turn more and more quiet. This is not the way music works for me. It makes me sick, tbh.

Why today? This article was the final drop that made me do what I had thought of long before: “Soundcloud Boldly Releases New App, Allows Universal to Flag Your Account, and Quietly Announces Data Mining, All in One Month“.

That’s what I have (hastily) typed into the ‘tell us why you are leaving’ box:

“Because soundcloud is slowly turning into everything I have ever hated about music platforms and from which it originally was a nice harbour. Soundcloud only became that big because of a lot of small artists and djs who used it and spread the word. They did so because Soundcloud stood for a certain kind of freedom and interaction. Those are the ones driven away by new policies that are enforced now that Soundcloud has become big enough to cash in from the big players and by a mass market that is only interested in widening the gap between bigger artists/producers and listeners/fans – smaller artists who don’t bring money are no longer welcome but get threats of acccount suspension for the very same kind of dj mixes and remixes which Soundcloud still welcomes from bigger names/labels. Music industry has managed to kill the next platform. Goodbye for good.”

Dear omgdigitalpanic journalists,

Dear omgdigitalpanic journalists, I have news for you: EVERYBODY would like to work from a safe space outside of capitalism.

I get it. You’re scared. Of robots and readers, of algorithms and austerity. But:

If you want to rage it shouldn’t be ‘us against the machines’ but ‘us against the machine’.

To spell it out: Not ‘us against technology’ but ‘us against the system’, not ‘us against the inhuman’ but ‘us against the inhumane’.

(just to make it really clear: system = how and why technology is used)

As much as I like self-reflection I am getting tired of your constant luddist ‘omg future of journalism is at stake’ crying.

One day it’s the digital readers, the other day google or clickbait sites. Never yourselves.

Stop the demonisation of digital. You have a once in a generation chance of reinventing what your work is about – use it.

At least you have a voice. Many others don’t.

And whenever you feel scared and like self-pitying turn your headphones up to the max and try dancing naked in your bedroom to this:

 

Prey by Michael Crichton

I have finished Michael Crichton’s Prey last night. I had picked it up because I wanted to read at least one nanobots sci-fi before they enter our everyday lives. With headlines like “Nanobots Can Now Enter Human Cell With Help Of Sound Waves, Offering Hope For Guided Missile Attacks On Cancer” or “Behold The First Nanobot Assembly Line In Action” this day seems to come closer.

prey

Prey passed pretty low-temperatured on my “can’t stop reading” vs “bath tub water getting colder and colder” test, which means: decently thrilling. What disappointed me though is Crichton’s technophobia. He is clearly fascinated by future technology but his focus always is on a wagging finger: Huminz, thou shalt not play god! Prey shows a strong interest in the technical side of things, in how nanotechnology can work as an interface between biology, chemistry, IT and med technology etc. but it doesn’t have much patience for the technology/human relationship beyond the predatory. The new life form is an enemy bred from Silicon Valley capitalist greed, more like a demon possessing a human than an enriching symbiosis. The stranger stays strange and must be destroyed.

prey1

A fear of technology-driven evolution, if not even fear of change creeps through this book.

There is no exploration beyond a technological one.  There is zero communication between the swarm with its hive mind and humans. There is only Disneyesque good/bad guys communication  with the nanobots who live symbiotic with humans. It’s disappointing because with all the knowledge he gathered you’d think Crichton could have fleshed that part of the story out quite good. If only to make it a more tense decision to crush them bots. Even Mary Shelley let us sympathise with Frankenstein’s monster but Crichton has no pity for the new life form he created. Crichton’s swarm is ultimately evil, as is the hero’s wife from the moment she starts creating it.

She is the mad scientist, working overtime out of passion for her experimental technology, a maybe cheating wife – she always stays ‘his wife’ – , and she gets to play a double-bad-mother role: for the human children she egoistically leaves behind for her job and for the nanobot swarm. Her symbiosis with the nanobots has ever so slight incestuous connotations and so much closeness between an autonomous mother and her offspring can only result in evil and must be killed.

While he is very bothered not to paint his male characters as tough guys Crichton’s depiction of women leaves a bad taste: they are handy helpers (babysitters, house cleaners) or faux-strong women. ‘Faux’ because even if described as tough colleagues they never are really equal or self-reliant, at best they get to contribute to his deeds but ultimately it’s the always-on-the-edge male hero, like Die Hard’s John McLane, who takes control, the self-sacrificing stay-at-home-dad coming back to science only to solve the problems others have caused. I think my name for this kind of heroes from now on will be male-flu guys.

Despite those flaws and read as an action adventure novel: All in all a fun mostly fast-paced read.

If you know of a novel that you think is better nanobots science fiction – please let me know!

 

The magic of repetition

You all might know the scene in ‘Good Will Hunting’ in which the psychologist breaks up/consoles the genius juvenile Will Hunting by repeating over and over: “It’s not your fault”. I hate/love that scene and for a long time I had thought it’s just appealing to people who have been abused themselves in whatever way. ‘Hate’ because how dare Hollywood touch us there with its dirty hands.

Now I feel that – similarly to Audrey Hepburn calling out for “cat” in the rain at the end of Breakfast At Tiffany’s, and like the endless repetition of “it’s alright” in Ted Leo’s ‘Little Dawn’ – it somehow manages to be both: cliche and whatever the antonym of cliche is, it breaks the cliche by making it unique again for a moment. By repeating those simplest of words – “it’s not your fault”, “it’s alright” and, yes: “cat” – over and over they tip the scale from empty sentimental gesture to brimming with emotion.

That vague feeling of being lost and scared that seems to connect many of us like an endless drone humming and vibrating underneath, a vague feeling of guilt, humming, like a far too tightly wound bass string vibrating so softly that we hardly can hear and feel it most of the time, but when we do, then it gives us that feeling within our stomach, the feeling that it’s always our own fault if we don’t ‘make it’. If we don’t earn enough money. If we don’t manage to control our body and looks. If we disappoint expectations. For some even just: if we let go. Those two scenes and that song manage to disrupt that for one sweet moment using the magic of repetition.

Or at least I like to think so.

Blue night

The town I live in has a few weird events in the desparate urge of making itself feel bigger. Like a cultural penis pump, if you like.

One of those events happens tonight: It’s called Blaue Nacht, blue night. I guess it’s called that because it _does_ make you kind of blue.

It is a weird mix of … erm… ‘art’ and marketing and carnival without costumes. No one knows exactly what it’s about.

But as the city has put up blue streetlights everyone goes totally FOMO & shoves through the FOMO masses.
(pic.twitter.com/X26hFRCZza)

Those who survive the shoving then ritually get as drunk as possible. Understandably so. Not only because it’s such a horribly bland event but also because ‘blue’ is a word for ‘drunk’ in german.

A taster: This year’s big attraction on the main market place: Illuminated plastic bags. Yay. Exclamation mark! Art!
(pic.twitter.com/W3CO8L4ukv9)

This is why I am staying culturally-safe at home on my sofa tonight but shudder ever so slightly whenever a picture of it shows up in my twitter stream.

Can’t complain though: I have seen Clipping., Black Cracker, The Body and Deux Boules Vanille this week and while none of it was the absolute brainmelting “wow!” I quite enjoyed having a whole week filled with bands from the more daring side of the force.