Treetops glisten and all that

Merry Christmas everyone. May you receive loads of food and presents.

Please note the attached image of a burning manger.


This is why we can’t have nice things

I’m not much of a game player. I’ve had phases in my life where I played computer games for a while, but I’m not very persistent and I have the attention span of a fruit fly, so most of them I grew tired of after a rather short while.

So to my utter surprise I was finally caught up in a game that turned out to captivate me beyond any other games I’d ever encountered. It’s name – Glitch – is but a tiny indicator for the creativity, the quirkiness, the all-encompassing thoroughness in thought that pervaded this game.

Its relaxed nature of allowing me to play whenever and to whatever extent I wanted made it the perfect companion for all times and whenever I did play I was lulled in by its charm and general friendliness. Its ever growing massive world and the vast number of quests, items and quirks to explore seemed endless.

Endless, unfortunately, aren’t many things, and as it turns out, Glitch isn’t either. Two days ago it was announced that the game will be closing down. Why? Well, simply because there was no way to turn it into a viable business model. Once again, real-world constraints collided with the vision and creativity of an amazing bunch of people and whether we like it or not, there’s not a whole lot that can be done about it. While they had a subscription service, one of its great advantages, namely that every aspect of the game could be played without having to be a paying customer, was probably the one thing that took them down. It’s a terrible shame and the next time a VC invests in yet another photo-sharing app for the iPad, maybe they should remember that there may be more unique things out there deserving of their money.

The company behind the game, Tiny Speck, handled the situation very graciously, offering ever subscriber a refund for every monthly payment, something they had no obligation to do at all. Fortunately, it was just an offer, so I had the opportunity to give what I had already paid to a charity of their choosing (they did have the option of simply letting the company keep it, but I’m fairly certain that their employees will be paid out with whatever money is still left from their VC rounds).

On December 9th, Ur, the massive world of wonders in which Glitch was set, my little Glitchen, together with his house, the pigs, chicken and butterflies that live outside it, will disappear into that ether of all things that once were. What will remain will be a few snapshots taken during my travels as well as the knowledge that the world isn’t yet ready for something as unobtrusively amazing as Glitch.

Here’s to Glitch and the power if imagination.

PS: The good people at Tiny Speck created a downloads page where you can download artwork and music from the game. Do have a look, it’s all very charming.

Here’s to #London2012

I’m not much of a sports nut. In fact, in order to be able to write this entry, I had to go and look up the exact dates for the Olympic Games 2012. You’ll be relieved to find out that they start in pretty much exactly 64 days. Which would be the 27th of July.

Now, why am I writing about an event which I have no interest in at all? Because it’s necessary. You see, the Olympic Games, like any event of a certain size that gets broadcast all over the world, has sponsors. Very powerful sponsors who invest a lot of money so people all over the world can see that these modern-day gladiators do in fact splurge on Coca Cola. All day, everyday (it’s a no-brainer: I know how fidgety I get after a bottle of Coke, I’m sure professional athletes use that to their advantage). Anyway, since these sponsors invested a whole lot of money, they don’t want others, who didn’t unload truckloads of cash into the lobby of the IOC, to profit from the Olympic Games. Hence, they’ve managed to lobby the UK into passing a law which effectively outlaws the usage of “London2012″ or any combination organisers and sponsors deem to be infringing on their copyright, by entities other than official sponsors.

Here’s an example of what that means:

One day, the small espresso shop near the site of the London Games was the “Olympic” cafe. The next day, it was the “Lympic.”

So where did the “O” go?

The manager won’t say. But it’s more than likely the small business became another casualty in the battle against guerrilla marketers – advertisers who try to associate their products with an event without paying to be sponsors.

(This article gives more insight into how the IOC has been cracking down on unauthorized usage of the five rings and whatever shitload of terms they have put their copyright on – read it, but only when you’re done with this one.)

Well, today the media are flush with news about suspended Twitter accounts, one of which was a parody account. Apparently, the usage of the 2012 logo is enough to have an account suspended, for people might actually confuse the account with an official sponsor. Which is the world we live in – warped, but accepted. But it does get a bit worse: Twitter is working closely with IOC to guarantee only real sponsors can buy ads associated with the London2012 hashtag. Now, even that seems ok. It’s about ads, not content posted by users. But here’s the thing: the IOC is always afraid of guerilla marketing stunts, and what better place than social media to do that? There’s no ban (yet) on using #London2012 in a tweet, so in theory, companies could use it to promote their products (a practice all sorts of Twitter users employ to peddle their shit). And they will. And Twitter might start policing the usage of the hashtag, and they might delete accounts of private users and they might reinstate these accounts but they might not. All in all, Twitter might be turning shit within a fortnight and there’s not a whole lot we could do. Or could we? We actually can.

As a pre-emptive strike against what might turn into a freedom of speech issue, let’s have some idiotic fun: starting July 27th, whenever you tweet, add the London2012 hashtag. Ask your friends, followers and/or foes to do the same. And while you might anger or bore your followers, you’ll have done something good and noble as well. For free speech, for people with little cafés in London called “Olympia” and maybe even for yourself (by disproportionally blowing up your sense of self-importance, of course).

Last but not least, don’t forget to share this posting wherever you go, preferrably of course by appending the mother of all hashtags: #London2012

That time of the year

It’s that time of the year again. You know, that time where lists of what was great, what was awful, what was insignificant, what was most pressing during the last year are published.

I’m not  a fan of this, as I’m generally not a fan of compartmentalizing what we here on earth call our existence. For the simple reason that what we enjoy here, on earth, is too much of an arbitrary thing. We have years, which help us create some sort of order when it comes to ending, say, a fiscal year, but these years don’t really say anything about the way we live and the way we are.

Sure, the last year saw catastrophic things, but it also saw great things. It saw hundreds of thousands of people dying, but it also saw hundreds of thousands of people surviving. It was a year – strictly speaking – like any other.

For most people, it’ll be the end of a bunch of months which culminate in one that sees Christmas and ultimately a bunch of fireworks, champagne and some resolutions which will fade as quickly as they have come into existence.

In the end, it all boils down to this: You should worry about the very small and the very big stuff. The small stuff, like what you’re going to have for dinner, is what keeps you happy. The big stuff, like whether we’re really the only planet with life in the whole of the vastness of the universe, is what keeps your mind open. Everything in between is really quite irrelevant.

So if, during the course of that next year, you feel like you’re having a bad day, think about dinner or the vastness of the universe and it’ll all be alright. I promise.

Tree of Life – a review

When a few months back I first saw the trailer for Tree of Life, I thought something along the lines of: “If that film is only half as good as the trailer, it must be fucking fantastic!”. If my life was a screenplay, you could file that as foreshadowing in the first act.

I was fortunate enough to get tickets to the premiere here in Austria a few days ago and I was expecting, well, a lot. And as great expectations go, they are bound to go unfulfilled (here’s some more, less subtle, foreshadowing for you). Now, it would have been easy for the film to please me, because I really wanted to like it. I’d been going on and on about the film, in conversations with other people and on my other blog. I’d read about what some reviewers had called the very spiritual aspect of the film, and even though I’m not exactly spiritual, let alone religious, I thought that I could let that slide for the sake of the complete package.

As it turned out, I couldn’t.

The film starts off great, with nuanced performances and beautiful camerawork and even though there was a lengthy piece of creation footage which felt a bit like a high budget version of a National Geographic documentary, I was still sure I could really like that film. But then came the whispering. THE WHISPERING! Off screen voices just kept rambling on and on about nature and grace and every pretentious notion pertaining to these concepts you could think of. And directly addressing the “Lord” too. Which, I thought, was probably just part of the concept. Surely, the nature part, the science of things (and stuff) would get some more weight in the course of the film too. Well, it didn’t. And I’m still mad at every reviewer out there who didn’t pounce on the fact that this is ultimately an extremely and utterly Christian film.

Not just the open verbal references to God, but also the iconography that dominated throughout the film. I don’t want to spoil anything here, but hell, can you really get any more blatantly Christian than portraying the female protagonist as some sort of Mary mother of God?

Now, not everything was bad, and that’s the real shame here. Actually, a lot of things were brilliant. There were great observations of family dynamics, fantastic images and sometimes awe-inspiring work done with the music, but it was all ruined by a sophomoric approach to religion, spirituality and death.

Terrence Malick knows how to make good films, but with Tree of Life, he didn’t give us one film, he gave us two: one about a family in the 50s, which by all accounts would have been a touching piece, and another about spirituality and creation which should have been scrapped and shown in mega-churches all over the US instead. I’m sure that would have been a great success.

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