Not having much to do in the past couple of weeks, I started to read my old entries to this weblog — stuff I wrote ten to twelve years ago. My original purpose had been to see if there were any old links still working and to hide the posts with broken links, but I ended up paying a lot more attention to my old prose. And that was somewhat... embarrassing. I've noticed that sarcasm doesn't age well and things that were obviously written as jest don't seem so funny in retrospect. They only seem sad.
So I better just come out and admit that my younger self was kind of a douche.
I've noticed that, with a few notable exceptions (mostly A-listers who were mature enough from the start) most people who still blog nowadays did start over multiple times. Unlike them, I took the atypical path of always posting to the same place, always merging the changes in technical backend, writing style, media & etc. to the same main trunk, doing so through URL changes, name changes (from the blog called If Then Else through Found Objects to the website simply called [My Name]'s you are now reading). Reasoning that if I have a single life, I might as well have a single journal collecting all the stuff I spread over the Internet.
I don't think that approach is wrong, mind you. I really, really like to have my own domain and website in this day of mass standardization. However, a look back in the archives is jarring. It presents a clear picture of how someone changes over time: how opinions change, how sensibilities change. I read stuff in there that made me want to hit my 2001 self in the face with the back of my 2013 hand for being such a troll. With time, one becomes an entirely different person.
So I decided I should start over, retroactively. Being such a backup freak (that hasn't changed a bit), I naturally saved all old posts to a safe place where I can still read them, but I set a cutoff date from which old posts are no longer available at this website. Somewhat arbitrarily, I went for
January 1st 2007** as the new starting date for this weblog.
I'm thinking that in the future I might roll that cutoff date even upward. It's perhaps more interesting if a blog is a window into a certain timeframe of a person's interests and content becomes private after a certain time. Of couse, I might find really interesting stuff worth sharing outside that timeframe, and in such cases I might make those posts available.
In the meantime, I'd like to leave a note to my younger self:
Internet anger won't be worth it.
** Update: As there were actually a few interesting posts from earlier than 2007, I rolled back the cutoff date a couple of years for the time being. So now the archives start at April 6th 2004 (my 25th birthday).
It seems Twitter is seven today, to which my first reaction was “Wow, already?!” Lately I’ve been disappointed at Twitter’s handling of its API, so I’ve been hedging my microblogging through Identi.ca, but it is still worth remembering my first tweet:
Trying hard to do nothing.
Some things never change.
I’m late to write about my impressions of the year 2012, not because I’ve been busy but because I should be busy and somehow a sense of guilt about it prevents me from doing something as egotistical and pedestrian as writing my personal thoughts about those 366 days filed under 2012. Or perhaps I just feel that writing on my blog is just low-priority work disguised as leisure. Or perhaps I feel only twelve people will actually read this, and none of them will be any of the persons I enjoy imagining doing so.
And I’m annoyed I’m writing on my old netbook because my home computer died last weekend. Not a good moment because my PhD requires stuff done. The fucker.
But I digress. Even though it had its moments, 2012 was a shitty year. Even though I try not to mention it to my international readers, lest I be interpreted as belligerant and/or depressing, know this: the Long Depression — that is, structural socio-economical Crisis — got real here in Portugal. I’m actually lucky to have a part-time teaching job which requires me to take a PhD I’ll have to pay for. I’m lucky to be able to pay for a small studio where I can work and study, and that my parents can help with the other things I can’t afford. I’m 33, and like most of my friends my age I’m stuck with little perspectives. And the fear of unemployment and the little money due to frozen wages and rising taxation and the feeling one’s work became an auction won by the lowest bidder while empathy is rarer as selfishness, not selflessness, is generated by and feeds The Crisis, all that is on my mind as I wake up every morning. Lonely mornings. 366 of those don’t make a good year.
And why? Because of turbo-capitalism, because of Euro-banksters, and because of what can only be Northern/Central European governments’ climate envy and racism (an ugly word, I know, but how else to explain the beautifully orchestrated media campaign to convince Southern Europeans they brought this on themselves because they are lazy, when they actually work more hours for less pay, less perks and more taxes?). And obviously, because of those among ourselves (starting with our turbo-liberal — that is, Social Darwinist — government) who honestly or cynically believe such bullshit, that we must suffer for our sins, however factually unspecified those sins are. And there are lots of shit-believers, because The Crisis is actually a Cold Civil War, with external interferences and profiteering like all civil wars, therefore a Civil War indeed. Ongoing in 2013.
In 2012 I fell in love; things didn’t work out but I loved!
I feel I’m a wiser person. Not always a good thing, but its own reward neverthless.
My friends were my friends and were my friends. That is incredibly important. And even though at my age it is getting difficult, I think I made new friends — and I’m not talking about Facebook.
In 2012 I watched some great, great films: Alexander Payne’s The Descendants, Miguel Gomes’ Tabu, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist and what must have been my favourite Bond movie, Sam Mendes’ Skyfall. But my two favourite movies of the year came right at the end of the year: the powerful Detachment by Tony Kaye and Leos Carax’s fantastically charming weirdfest Holy Motors. Holy Something, indeed!
2012 was also the year I rediscovered music thanks to (advertising alert) Vodafone.fm, a radio station I got in the habit of listening to while driving and manages to have a playlist that doesn’t prompt me to switch channels every other song (something we in Porto had lost in the late 1990s and I thought would never come back). Here’s a beautiful automated medley of my favourite songs of the year, courtesy of This is My Jam.
And in 2012 I read David Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. That book is a keeper.
A few hours ago I went to the movies for the first time in 2013. I watched Michael Haneke’s Amour, the 2012 Palme d’Or at Cannes and a wonderful film — one of the saddest I have ever seen. And yet another item that underscores my growing realization that being a busy person is worthless, working a lot on stuff is worthless, if you prioritize that over the people in your life, if you value the bustle above the building of relationships and friendship and love (and if you don’t want to just take it from me, go read Tim Kreidler’s The Busy Trap, who puts it a lot better than I do). I do want my PhD and I am driven to do stuff. But if I’m going to choose a future regret, between failing a deadline for a paper and failing to accept a coffee date, I know which regret I’ll choose. If this makes me a lazy Southern European, so be it: I choose love.
I’m pretty late to the Instagram bandwagon, but after seeing a friend using it I was convinced that anything that makes me want to take pictures can’t be all that bad.
This is my thousandth post on Tumblr, entry number 1945 on my stream. If I printed all these posts and entries, averaging one post per page, I’d have a pretty thick book by now — almost two thousand pages of randomness. However, considering I’ve been adding stuff to my blog since April 2001 that doesn’t seem all that impressive. In fact, considering that I have had my Tumblr since March 2007 the fact it took me five years to reach post one thousand actually characterizes me as a Tumblr dilettante: perhaps I should really give away my nice Tumblr username to one of those teens who routinely ask me for it (not that I would — if I bother replying my first answer is still ‘no’ and my second is still ‘fuck off’).
The fact that I’ve been a weblogger / tumblrer / twitterer / data entry hobbyist in modest quantities for such long periods of time without ever closing or restarting my web records from scratch allows me to appreciate change. Not surprisingly, my posting style changed dramatically through the influence of the tools I used to write and post. Whereas before I had a HTML text box as my interface, using Tumblr (with its predefined types of content) and its API as a content management system for my own weblog brought a profound shift (compare January 2007 to March 2007). A new style took years to crystalize, and is still ever crystalizing. The tools’ influence lies in the surface however — the kind of posts I make —, but obviously time is the factor in the greatest shifts in what goes in each post. A graph for my changing attitude could be traced, from naïve idiot to whatever I am now, which I hope is better.
Back in 1999 you could learn almost everything you, the young web developer, needed from a book such as Webmaster in a Nutshell. Those simple times (the 1990s — simple!) are now long over. Much as days’ worth of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, now it seems as if college degrees’ worth of web technologies are invented every week. I feel as if the Technological Singularity arrived, and I (we?) lost the grip on History. However, instead of a single machine intelligence, some Cray-like box, simulating and running away with the Future, I feel there’s this distributed Singularity, part made of machine and part made of highly-focused individuals who are able to surf the technological zeitgeist for a brief amount of time until they wipeout — highly-skilled, motivated, caffeinated workers who are like the human cogs in Amazon’s Mechanical Turk: people programming machines that program people that program machines, the Singularity created of this runaway ressonance that also concentrates wealth and employement.
Perhaps the Web needs less builders, just enough architects and more planners.
The above illustration was made with this small Processing sketch.
If you are a frequent visitor to my website or subscribe to its RSS feeds you'll notice that my weblog / lifestream / whatever you call these things these days is now, *ahem*, polluted with my tweets. Consider this a feeble attempt at making my website seem fresh with updated... stuff, rather than an alternate style for my Tumblr with the limited-edition extra pictures thrown in.
Anyway, this is a positive change. I'll be extra motivated to post proper blog stuff in order to prevent tweets from overrunning the place and making my website's homepage look like a rather ugly list of short and poorly formatted text entries that will make it even harder to convince anyone there is really interesting stuff lying underneath, accessible through the menu (really, there is! you should try it someday). And also, the list-of-tweets' essential ugliness presents a really interesting design problem, many horrible solutions to be considered and discarded: should I replace those Twitter logo bullet points with tiny thumbnails of my Twitter profile picture? Should I make tweet lists collapsible? Should I present users unrelated random images of kitty cats in order to make the homepage look, if not better, at least cuter?
Expect some bad design ideas to be tried out. Meanwhile, enjoy — there's interesting stuff here, I promise.
Now you can use www.eduardomorais.pt to get to this very same website. Some day I might use the address for something different. I’ll think about that later.
So we have come to this: twenty-twelve. That year.
In which the world is supposed to end (as pictured yesterday), the Mayan myth getting some traction here because the future seem pretty bleak in this old and impoverished southern European economy, a feeling opposite to the innocent optimism of the previous apocalypse, during the Y2K Belle Époque. The consensus here is there’s not much to look forward to in 2012, except for inflation, unemployement, crappy digitally-televised Olympics (the analogue TV blackout is due in a couple of weeks), emigration, government and citizens alike being dicks, a slightly higher rate of civil unrest, a slightly lower rate of meals to be had in restaurants, bond market bondage being equated with ‘freedom’: serious problems in the First World, in which percentage points, rather than orders of magnitude, mean the End.
Of course, none of this will go as planned, not even the Euro or Mayan apocalypses (apocalypsii?). So there’s no reason to bother making lists of resolutions or go about planning stuff (suggestion: listen to this). 2011 taught us that: it was the strangest year on record. I won’t even go and repeat last year’s mediocre excercise of reviewing a full 365 days as if they were a record album or a movie to be digested. But if I did, I’d rate 2011 with five stars. Despite having spent the summer in bad health, despite the precarity of my work and the freelancing troubles, despite the illnesses of close relatives and the troubles of close friends, despite the melancholy in the morning and the inadequate relationships and the heartbreaks. Despite the laziness, the many productive hours wasted on crappy computer games, the fear of being sincere in doomed romances, and all the times I didn’t even try. Because I’ll remember little of this as being 2011. What I’ll remember is the sublime, unscripted weirdness. Consider the evening of April 6th, a date I find easy to recall as it is my birthday, as a scale model for all of 2011:
While having dinner with friends in a restaurant downtown, there’s this sudden announcement the IMF is bailing out Portugal. People’s smartphones are produced out of their pockets (we had, and still have, smartphones, get it?), 3G internet used to summon the mobile webpages of newspapers, fact-checking — yes, Portugal is getting ‘help’ from the IMF (in the form of a big loan the economy — meaning us, the working people — won’t be able to pay). The girl I was seeing at the time had to wake up very early the next day and had to leave the restaurant soon after the meal was over (another crazy detail — I was seeing someone at the time), so I left the restaurant for a few minutes to walk her to her car, and as I came back to rejoin my friends I already sensed this palpable but yet-understated hysteria, as if a carnival would start to unfold later that evening. It was a very hot evening — about thirty degrees Celsius, in April! — and, as our party left the restaurant after a couple of drinks and went for further drinks in bars nearby, we all had this shared feeling of “let’s spend all our money today because we’ll all be poor tomorrow”, the drunken circularity of which you have to admire. Walking in the streets, our party wasn’t the only party not minding the sidewalks. It was a Wednesday. Later that night, I met a friend in an equaly advanced state of drunkeness at a club, and I spent a good deal of time listening to his awesome narration of the most disgusting and gory parts in A Serbian Film.
Just consider for a little while the following impressions, all co-existing in space, time and mind: a oral history of Serbian extreme gore, the IMF bailout, the heat (when I took a taxi home at about 5am, I was still in t-shirt, carrying my jacket as a twisted knot in my arm), the binge drinking. And the awareness that the Belle Époque was finally truly over, that job precarity (eg. my not having a contract despite working at the same place for seven years now) was not the past, the present, but the future as well, and that we might as well live that present evening — listening to fragmented accounts, voices like random radio chatter, of what the Finance Minister had said, if the PM had been contradicted & etecetera — and ask for a shot of Bushmills if one could still pay for it.
That day was hyperreal. Anyway, the next day it became pretty obvious things wouldn’t go as expected, either for better or for worse. People’s ways of life didn’t come to a sudden stop as the hot sun rose that morning. There are still dinners in restaurants (fewer — or far fewer) to be had, extravagant gadgets and other toys are still bought and sold, some people lost their jobs while others got raises. I have close friends who were forced to go back to their parents’, while others moved into a bigger apartments with their partners and their kids went to kindergarten. But still, the overall feeling of 2011 is indeed depressive, that injustice and overall stupidity were on the rise in this country. The expectation for 2012 is that the austerity forced from Above will do no good, and may in fact force good people into doing things they are not supposed to in a healthy society: leave the country or fight the power(s).
Then again, consider that week in November: I had been well down in the dumps, counting evey day until that Tuesday when I’d get my first paycheck of the school year. The day before, I was penniless and attending a meeting concerning a play I was going to make video for. As I search my backpack’s pockets for a scrap of paper in which to write a quick note, a 50 euro bill comes out. I had stashed it there for safety before the summer and had completely forgotten about it. I called a close friend and invited her for dinner that night. On me. I had had to share that good fortune, and taste a bit of luxury after weeks on a tight budget. The very next day, as some kind of karmic reward, my paycheck has a significant raise — which I had actually expected last year (as finishing my Master’s degree had brought me to a new carreer position), but after getting no pay increase then I became cynical about it and didn’t expect it in the current ‘austerity’ climate. Feeling pleased about myself (even if you think I’m a shallow person for letting pecuniary rewards influence my self-esteem, the truth is, they did), I invited a girl I had met a few days before to go out with me the next weekend, and she replied she’d be delighted. We started dating but things didn’t last, and we parted ways after a couple of weeks. But despite that, if I could just capture the feeling of hope, the knowing things were going to be all right and that we’d get through these troubled times, the expectant happiness, all the optimism I felt during that week in a bottle, I would take a sip of it every day.
Despite it being 2011. Despite the IMF, the troikas, the precariousness, the expensive rents, the price hikes. Despite the Arab Spring going bad. Despite the populist Eurocrats, despite the US Republicans, despite our new Prime-Minister, the old Prime-Minister, and the people who vote in hate of a candidate. Despite Islamic terrorism, despite right-wing terrorism, and the jornalists and politicians who blame both on immigrants. Despite Obama being a letdown, despite Merkel and Sarkozy. Despite the easily offended and the eagerly offended. Despite censorship. Despite the thieves, despite the police, despite the politicians who blame everything on authority and the politicians who blame eveything on the poor. Despite earthquakes, despite floods, despite the heat and the freezing cold. Despite oil, coal and gas, despite nuclear power, despite the villages flooded by dams and the birds killed by wind farms, despite solar power and the exotic materials, toxic chemicals and the energy wasted in building batteries and panels. Despite the infinitely regressive ecologists who will never be satisfied. Despite anxiety, despite fear, despite suspictions. Despite fashion, despite technolust, despite gluttony. Despite the hypocrites and despite those who are bad at simple math:
When you feel you are worth something, this all goes away. This is something all leaders and managers must know; this is something all lovers and friends must know.
For 2012, I expect the unexpected: the truly unexpected.
I never knew exactly what We Are Unreasonable People was. Probably it was just an outlet for a certain class of stuff I made, and a few friends also did. Probably these are the sort of artifacts people call ‘art’ — except others rarely called these as such.
Anyway: I redesigned the homepage and adapted some of the works for nowadays (eg. some videos still required Real Player or Windows Media — ugh!). If nothing else, it’s a relic from pre-blogging, pre-Flickr, pre-YouTube days, a short era in which people who wanted to show stuff on the Web got dirty with HTML and made up a homepage.
Maybe I — or someone else — will come up with new Unreasonable stuff soon.