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Louis Greenberg

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Bloggers’ remorse and MOOs

I’m suffering a case of bloggers’ remorse. I feel a bit like I feel after I guzzle an eisbein with three pints of imported weissbier. A bit. Sharing ill-considered and knee-jerk opinions is a guilty indulgence I know I’ll feel the worse for afterwards, and I know too will line my arteries.

Isn’t it an odd thing to gather a group of strangers who most probably have never met, call them a community and get them to talk with each other, and then keep a record of the dialogue? Particularly a group of readers and writers, who are especially fastidious about what goes on record.

But I remember that I’ve been online-opinionating since before most people knew what online was, apart from a thing the bank’s “computers” never were.

I have a friend who moved to Canada straight after high school, and on a visit back he introduced me to this marvellous thing called e-mail. This was back in 1992, before the world wide web, before the porn-purveyors and the advertisers had taken the whole thing over, before the social networking. The internet was email, newsgroups, military secrets and slow transfers of papers from university library to university library. It looked like the matrix.

I would sit at the green screens of the Wits VMA mainframe – that’s what they called it – and email my friend in Canada, amazed all the while that this was actually happening. Up til then, you must realise, this friend and I used to write paper, posted letters and would wait weeks for the latest news. I had the emails printed out on two-foot-wide, sprocketed form paper in the Wits print shop.

I also joined newsgroups, where I opined on matters as diverse as Hawaiian beach cricket, vampires, 50s science fiction, South African politics, fine art, religion and girls. I joined a postcard-swapping group.

Then I hit upon the MUDs and MOOs, which nearly caused me to fail third year. Multi-User Dungeons and Multi-User Dungeons (Object Oriented). My God! This was a cyber world with actual people in it chatting, hanging out, playing exciting games, building cool places and things and sharing them with others. (And getting kinky: in the guise of Catwoman, I almost lost my cybervirginity to a giant cherry named Bing, but bandwidth being what it was, there was a lag at the crucial moment, and I was saved the embarrassment. My advice: read the description of the character you’re flirting with before you start anything. But that’s a story for another day.) And it was all text! Don’t give me Second Life – that’s the money-grubbing, late-capitalist logical conclusion to the utopia that was LambdaMOO and TrekMOO.

It all ended in a embarrassing bleep when I was banned from the computer room for using the history department’s entire bandwidth budget for the year, which in my defence, I didn’t know existed. Come on! What are your priorities? Sending your silly “scholarly articles” from place to place, or my Becoming?

Anyway, I suppose it got my feet back IRL for a while, and I progressed to my next year of studies.

But now here I am, back again, and I’m the first to admit that the eisbein and weissbier is a damn sight tastier than my opinions.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Alex Smith</a>
    Alex Smith
    September 5th, 2007 @16:38 #

    Well, Louis, I’m reading your book, finally. The intense detail creates a very real picture, the one it reminds me of actually is Rembrandt’s painting ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp’. There are all these characters, finely realized, gathered around as Dr Tulp dissects a human corpse. In this painting the colours are dark, certainly not frivolous, not magic-real, the view is not exactly bleak, though close to it, still there is fervour, confusion, astonishment, disbelief, fear even rapture in the eyes of the characters. The corpse is waxy but glows with some unseen overhead light and Dr Tulp is unsparing in his quest to dissect man. Maybe I thought of this painting because Tulp reminds me of your Hugh, for whom ‘Illumination is a sacred task.’

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    September 6th, 2007 @09:11 #

    Rembrandt - gosh! Thanks for the comment, Alex - I'm glad you're enjoying it.


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