A Day in the Life of Mahmoud

image ‘Huh,’ thought Mahmoud. ‘If I somehow managed to put one over there in the corner. Let me just try to make my way round the sofa here… no, it’s too narrow.’ Not that he was fat or anything. Quite to the contrary, Mahmoud was a tiny man whose shoulders seemed to shrink into his stomach, and his khaki shorts looked like a tent looming over his matchstick-sized legs.

He abandoned his project for a bit — he was trying to find a spot for one of the 450+ 40-inch domino blocks he had ordered a couple of months back — and he started jumping up and down the sofa, trying to think clearer. He had this notion that if he was moving around, his brain cells would be more active and subsequently he would make better judgments, which was very important. Not just to him, mind you. After all, he was the head of state, and anything he could do to keep his mind sharp was required, even if it looked kind of funny. He used to remove light bulbs from lamps and stick his finger in the bulb hole for the same purpose, but he had to stop doing that after a couple of unfortunate experiences.

A couple of minutes later he had forgotten all about what he was supposed to think about, and he went into the kitchen to relieve himself and to have a bite of lettuce.

(A text based on a writing exercise generated by WriteThis -20.06.2009 12:46:25)

The Future of the Music Industry in the Hands of Imbeciles [excerpt]

image The judge sat back in his deep leather chair and took a deep breath. He was confused. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t bring himself to understand what the hell this was all about. He wasn’t a technical person. He and his TIVO weren’t on talking terms. He didn’t know how to program his alarm clock. In fact, he didn’t even know how to pay his bills on the internet — his wife took care of all that stuff. ‘I couldn’t even tell a Goggle from a freakin’ torrent,’ he thought to himself, laughing at what he realised was probably a ridiculous comparison, surely complete and utter nonsense. He shook his head silently. Let’s go over this thing once more.

‘So,’ he thought,  ‘the industry claims that this lady has cost them millions of dollars by giving other people access to her music by uploading files to the internet.’ He didn’t really get a grip on the nature of this “uploading” business, and he was too embarrassed to ask anyone about it, but in his mind he assumed it meant that the defendant had created a “hyperbolelink” on her computer so that other people could gain access to her machine and copy music to their machines. ‘Kinda like givin’ away the keys to your house, inviting anyone to come and go as they please,’ he reckoned. ‘Dumb, but hardly illegal. For fuck’s sake — I don’t think IKEA would ever sue you for giving thugs access to your living room furniture. Not that IKEA chairs reproduce themselves by human touch… Nah don’t matter, you can leave your stuff wherever you want to, even if it’s links on the interwebs. Nothin’ wrong with that. She bought the links… no…. the files, and she can do whatever she wants with ‘em.’ Or could she?

(A text based on a writing exercise generated by WriteThis - 20.06.2009 01:55:21)

A Ticket to Paradise [excerpt]

image I looked at the worn piece of paper lying in front of her. I knew it was kind of silly to hold on to a stupid ticket because of events that took place almost 15 years ago, but there it was. I had kept it in my wallet throughout most of my adult life, and now, finally, it was lying in front of the woman who once inspired me to save it.

I wish I could say that she was touched by my everlasting devotion to our long lost love affair, but she looked terrified and ready to run at a moment’s notice. I didn’t understand her reaction then, but in retrospect I have to admit that it was probably an odd thing to do on my part. After all, we hadn’t seen each other in a very long time and, in addition to showing every sign of being a desperate, lonely stalker,  I acted as if we had never been apart and immediately went into the defensive state of a perpetually forlorn lover and started asking all kinds of aggressive questions about things which she had long forgotten.

(Based on an exercise generated by WriteThis - 18.06.2009 09:35:49)

Yup, it’s now a writer’s blog. Just another way to keep up on my English, I guess. Or boredom.

How To Strike It Rich in 15 Minutes [excerpt]

image I didn’t exactly have high expectations when I went to the party that evening. I had met mr. Lindell on several occasions before and I didn’t look forward to seeing him again.

He was an awful person. A greedy and ruthless man with very little on his mind besides himself, money, and suspiciously well-shaped 25-year-old girls. If you couldn’t assist him in some of these aspects, you were basically air to the mighty mr. Lindell.

This meant that to get his attention, you either had to lick his ass shamelessly and give him promises you ultimately wouldn’t be able to keep, or you could confront him bluntly — that is, threaten to take something away from him.

At precisely eight o’clock, the usher rang his bell and people got seated. I ended up sitting next to a 60-year old former beauty queen who apparently had some serious issues with her facial expressions.

(Based on an exercise generated by WriteThis - 17.06.2009 22:45:40)

Yup, it’s now a writer’s blog. Just another way to keep up on my English, I guess. Or boredom.

Does Twitter Really Erode My Identity?

image In the UK, a certain Lady Greenfield, professor of synaptic pharmacology at Lincoln college, Oxford, and director of the Royal Institution said recently that she found it strange we are “enthusiastically embracing” the possible erosion of our identity through social networking sites, since those that use such sites can lose a sense of where they themselves “finish and the outside world begins”.

From my perspective this is a very odd point of view. My online identity and my offline identity are the same. And it didn’t happen gradually. My online identity didn’t mysteriously eat, digest and transform my offline identity. I enthusiastically took my offline identity online, to meet new people and to be more readily available for my existing friends. My conversations on the web are as real as the ones I am having taking a walk with my best friend, or talking with my wife and kids over dinner. Furthermore, if anything I’d like to think of my online life as an identity preserver rather than an identity eraser.

This is my great-grandfather. I have a few pictures of him, but I hardly know anything about him. He was born in 1910 and he died in 1971. I was born in 1971 and I never got a chance to meet him.

He worked as a bicycle repairman. When he was young he was a pretty good boxer and everyone says he was a very decent guy. My great-grandmother died when I was 25, but we never really spoke about him, and whenever I discussed my great-grandfather with my late grandmother, she always basically repeated the same three things: “He worked as a bicycle repairman, when he was young he was a pretty good boxer and everybody thought he was a decent guy.”

My family were never big on words. My grandparents are simple people, very kind, warm and loving, but they didn’t tell stories and they were always a bit uncomfortable when I wanted to know what life was like “in the old days.”

It’s a pity my great-grandfather wasn’t on Twitter. I would have loved to know some of the everyday things about him that are so prevalent on Twitter. I would have loved to know his immediate thoughts when German forces entered Norway in 1940, what kind of music he enjoyed in 1955 or if he enjoyed his work at all.

For me, Twitter is a diary on steroids. Well, sort of. It’s not a very powerful tool to analyze anything in itself and I certainly want to keep some of my thoughts to myself. But over time all these small messages will give people a pretty good impression of who I am — they will reflect my interests, my routines, my dreams and my fears in life.

The steroid part of it is the fact that my thoughts and actions may instantly spark an interesting conversation with another person on the other side of the globe. Is Twitter, as some cantankerous critics say, a tool to remind members of an insecure generation that they exist? Of course it isn’t. For some people it is. For other people it is something else entirely.

For me, Twitter and social media isn’t about self-promotion or exhibitionism at all. Quite to the contrary, I’m a private person who loathes when I’m in the spotlight. I don’t like to talk about myself with other people.

I do, however, like to talk about my ideas with other people. I like to share my thoughts and my interests, and I like to engage in conversations about them. I do it in real life with my friends, my family, and my colleagues, and now I can do it online with people I don’t even know, and I think that my life is all the richer for it.

And I really enjoy the prospect of my blog and my 75-year-old Twitter-stream being available for my great-grandchildren to read in 2082. Really, Twitter should offer an export button. Maybe there’s a certain amount of self-preservational vanity in that notion, but there is also the longing I have always felt to know more about my ancestors. It’s only been a couple of generations, and apart from the pictures, my great-grandfather’s life has been reduced to three things: Bicycle repairman, boxer, decent. Obviously, this is but a fraction of what my great-grandfather was about.

Regardless of the future of Twitter, Robert Scoble claiming it’s broken and all, I love the fact that people, regular people with ordinary lives, have started documenting themselves and their lives for anyone to see — on Twitter, Facebook, Bebo, on blogs and on any other social media platform that exist.

I know more about Stephen Fry than I know about my great-grandfather. Hopefully my great-grandchildren will know more about me than they will know about Britney Spears’ granddaughter.

Yes, yes, I know. Fat chance.

Anyway, if you want to, you can help me lose sense of myself, prove Lady Greenfield right or convince my great-grandchildren I was incredibly popular in 2009 by following me on Twitter. See you around.

Breathtaking Insight: The Norwegian Society of Composers and Lyricists Says "It’s hard to say what the future will look like"

Ooh, I’m slightly annoyed after submitting a few questions for a Q&A session (in Norwegian, if you’re so inclined) on a local site today with Ragnar Bjerkreim, a board member of TONO, the Norwegian Performing Right Society, and leader of NOPA, the Norwegian Society of Composers and Lyricists. Today’s session was about the record industry and file-sharing.

Admittedly, no matter how much you try to avoid it, you look somewhat like a member of the Green Ink Brigade posting questions for these Q&A sessions, forced into asking multiple questions in a slew, unable to format them in a sensible manner on a lousy submit form. Nevertheless, I think his answers were foggy and evasive to the point that I suspect he didn’t even understand my questions. Or maybe he just didn’t have any real answers. I sure don’t — that’s why I asked him.

My questions:

  • What do you think the future will look like? Do you think it is possible to agree on international technology laws to effectively put a stop to illegal file-sharing?
  • If so, how are we going to avoid affecting the democratic and legal exchange of information […] on the web in a negative way with this kind of legislation?
  • Is it alright to sacrifice parts of this democratic and legal exchange of information in order to protect commercial interests, or do you rather consider these aspects to be unrelated? If so, why aren’t they related?
  • And finally: Do you think recorded music is permanently devalued, or is it possible to regain the commercial value of recorded music in a reality where — if technology continues to evolve at the pace we’ve seen so far — we will be able to get all music that has ever been recorded onto our iPods in 20 years’ time?

Granted, the general direction of these questions is somewhat colored by my own views. I’m trying to force him into a trap. I’m also taking for granted that introducing new technology legislation implies restricting the use of file-sharing tools, which is totally relevant in regards to the ongoing Pirate Bay trial. But maybe I wasn’t clear enough after all.

Here are Ragnar’s answers that pissed me off a little bit. Not much, but enough to put it on my blog. He probably answered a lot of questions within a limited timeframe, but I say that doesn’t excuse him from actually reading the questions. My comments in parentheses, if you were wondering:

  • It’s hard to say what the future will look like (No shit. Stupid me for asking)
  • Your questions include several assumptions that I don’t agree with (?)
  • It’s allowed to share files that are not copyrighted  (Yes it is, but I didn’t ask)
  • It’s not a democratic right to walk into a book store or a music store and take whatever you want and not pay for it (No it isn’t, no one said it was. I asked how we could avoid affecting the democratic and legal exchange of information with new laws)
  • As time goes by, I’m sure new and better technical formats will come along, where you can choose whether you want to own or rent your music (?!?)

None the wiser, then. He answered my first question, I’ll give him that.

A little bit about my viewpoint: I’m all for finding viable solutions that will ensure that the artist gets paid for his/her work, but to be honest I’m more worried about the potential implications of new technology laws for me as a regular web user.

I can upload my holiday videos to YouTube. I distribute my music (I’m an amatur musician) to last.fm, iLike or any other service that is willing to host my music. I’m a total publicity whore. I write this blog to express myself, and I upload all of my pictures to Flickr. I don’t use BitTorrent — but I might as well have uploaded my pictures to the web using a BitTorrent-client if that was my preference, it’s still totally legal.

To my knowledge, everything I do on the web is legal. But at the same time I could easily have used either of these services to upload large amounts of illegal content, copyrighted material for which no permission has been obtained. As, indeed, many do.

The way I see it, if you’re ever going to reduce the amount of illegal sharing on the web, you inevitably have to reduce a lot of the perfectly legal sharing that is going on all over the web, because the tools are the same. For every paragraph I publish, for every song I make available to the public, for every video I upload, I could have chosen to do something illegal - I could have copied a large portion of someone else’s book onto my blog, I could have uploaded the latest Britney Spears album to the web using my ftp-software (not really, I don’t have it)… anyway, you get the idea.

It worries me. How are they going to stop all those “pirates” and all those “thieves” without bothering me and my legal web habits? I just don’t think it’s possible, and I don’t think the entertainment industry cares about how their crusade affects me and my internet habits. I am skeptical of the entertainment industry, the right holders and their motives at large. I’m worried about how their endless search for petty cash may ultimately harm the web. Most of all, I’m skeptical because of the way they have treated fans, developers, technological innovation, competition, thieves, bands and musicians in the past.

That being said, I have no sympathy for self-righteous people who assume that it is their God-given right to get things for free either.

Last.fm: Baby I’m-A Want Your Cash

Yes! Yes! As some of you may know, I’m a “recording” artist, and some time ago I signed up for last.fm’s royalty program. That means that every time someone streams my music on last.fm, I make a little bit of money. I’m all for transparency and being open towards my fans and all that, so please let me share my revenues with you so far (not share share of course, just share as in… well, you know, show you the numbers… I’m not stupid or anything):

image

So you see, it’s no joke. I’m actually making money off my music. And I want more! Dear fans, you’re wonderful, you’re beautiful. I love you all. Now off you go, off to my artist page on last.fm to help me make more money. Stream my music as if there was no tomorrow. Support the my art. $ee you soon.

Why I Haven’t Written a Blog Post in Three Months

I’m now officially living my web 2.0 life to the fullest, hereby inviting unsuspecting readers to get a glimpse of some of my personal problems by posting them on my blog. I think I know all of my readers by name, so it should be OK. It probably won’t be a habit, I’m merely presenting this as a backdrop for my new plan to get back in shape — at least I think so.

You see, I’ve been sick. I am sick. I’m having a virtual writer’s block and I’m not at work at the moment. I’m trying desperately to force myself back to work and into shape, but it’s not going very well. I have written a series on Popdose.com over the past several months, but I don’t know whether I will be able to continue to do so in the months to come. Pressure and deadlines don’t bode well with me at the moment.

It’s a small part of the puzzle, but I will try to force myself to post more regularly here on schiing, in an attempt to get back into some kind of writing flow at the very least. I’m not going to put much pressure on myself right now — the diagnosis is fatigue, and not being able to write blog posts is the least of my troubles. If on the other hand this may help me to recover… well, I just don’t know. I’ll just have to wait and see how it turns out, if it helps at all. Maybe it’s a bad idea, after all.

I still think it’s worth a try. Writing has always been therapeutic for me. Like this post; I’m primarily writing it for my own part — as a kind of diary entry, setting goals for myself, clarifying my situation — but writing in public makes me feel more… accountable for my words, I guess.

Anyhow, I mustn’t overdo it, so with these vague prospects and foggy thoughts I bid you farewell for now. See you soon.

WTF?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I agree with this writer, I really don’t understand why the use of single exclamation marks are considered to be such an abhorrence. Of course, she’s from Britain, where I suspect even general danger signs are symbolised by a punctuation mark.

I don’t endorse the extensive use often seen around the web (f****** brilliant!!!!!!!!!!), but used sensibly, I think exclamation marks do serve a purpose.

Exclamation marks have suddenly become everyone’s favorite grammatical pet peeve, and it’s all just silly snobbery, really: “Look at me, I’m expressing surprise with my bare words (!)”

Ariane Sherine on what makes acceptable punctuation | Comment is free | The Guardian

I like exclamation marks!!! Not to that extent, but I do. I use them sparingly, to liven up dialogue, signify volume and incredulity, and inject punch. But this, according to certain other writers, is a gross literary misjudgment on a par with ending a sentence with a comma,

Web Therapy

I loved this one. It’s from a very funny web show, featuring Lisa Kudrow as Fiona Wallice, a rather self-centered psychotherapist offering three minute sessions via webcam. Here she is, meeting a new patient, Ted Mitchell, portrayed by the brilliant Bob Balaban. More stuff like this on the web, please.