Not Really Introducing Kin

For the last six months or so, I’ve been spending an not insignificant amount of my free time building a social network application. No, not an app that connects to Facebook or Twitter. More like something you can use as your own private Facebook.

I originally built it for the College of Wizardry LARP, as a way for characters to creations relations and interact, thus deepening their experience. It seems to have worked out well.

But then I figured, maybe this could be used for more. And so I tweaked the code and made it fairly usable across a broad spectrum of uses. So theoretically it can be used for other LARPs, a closed social network for you and your friends (or family). Basically anywhere you’d like a group of people to have Facebook/Myspace-like interactions without sharing it publicly.

It installs on your own server, so there’s no need to worry about your content being located somewhere else and what’s happening to said content.

Here are some of the features:

  • User Walls
  • Friend lists
  • User Groups
  • Private Messaging framework, w/ file attachments for messages
  • Flexible user profile field system
  • Notification framework
  • User Relationships (romantic and familial)
  • Likes, comments and more
  • Text and picture status updates
  • oEmbed support for Vimeo, Soundcloud and Youtube (more to be added)

Now, it’s not done yet. I’m currently working on Beta 0.9.8, but I plan on having a stable production ready version for no later than summer 2015. You can find out more about the project on Github.

So long and thanks for all the fish

Today is going to be the last day where I can say that I am travelling home to Aarhus. Come monday I will once again be a resident of Copenhagen.

This has been a 13 year long adventure, with me living in Aarhus. It started, as many stories do, with a girl and ended with building a life, making amazing friends and having some really grand adventures. But as it is with all good things, eventually they end. It’s now time for a new adventure.

I’ve been with Peytz & Co for almost eight months now, and it looks like it’s going to be a long time before I start looking for work elsewhere. They’re not without their faults, but it’s been a long time before I’ve worked with so many talented developers. It’s a really good environment.

I am going to miss the amazing people, the wolves and all that Aarhus has to offer.

So … thank you, Aarhus, for this round. We’ll see each other again in the future, I’m sure.

The Lucas Line

Yesterday I finally went to see ‘Interstellar‘ and damn – what a mess of a movie (but that’s a post for another day). I posted a quick thing on Facebook and said it seemed like Nolan had finally crossed The Lucas Line. Then someone asked “What’s the Lucas Line?”.

The Lucas Line is a small theory I’ve had for a few years, and it’s so named because I first thought of it after having watched the Star Wars Prequels. Now, it’s probably unfair that this is named after George Lucas, but his movies were the first to push this thought into my brain, so … there you have it.

The core of the theory is this; crossing the Line is the point in time when a talented and great director or producer becomes crap because they’ve grown so huge or famous that they no longer need to take creative input from anyone. They’ve basically started believing their own press.

It’s happened to many great directors; Ridley Scott, George Lucas, J. J. Abrams, John Carpenter and Oliver Stone to name a few. And now Christopher Nolan.

Everyone has creative darlings, and sometimes we’re so enamoured with them that we’re unable to see that they’re really crap. Kill your darlings is the greatest advice any creative mind can follow.

Villains and evildoers

Quite a few times I’ve played the villain of LARPs, and over the years I’ve seen a development in the way I’ve tried to play and portray these characters. Most profound was the impact the latest villainous character had on me. In november of 2014 I participated in the College of Wizardry LARP in Poland. It was a magnificent and amazing experience.

At this LARP I was given the character of Octavius Landsvik. A pureblood with a vendetta. He’d lost everything after the Second Wizarding War in ’98, and blamed just about everything around him for the hardship he’d endured.

They wanted a villain? Well, wish granted! You’ll give them all a villain all right, one they truly deserve.
The character description for O. Landsvik

While the experience was awesome, the character read to me as a bit one-sided. And the more I thought about it, the more I realised that often villains are evil, but it’s rarely explained what led them down that specific path. What influenced them to choose to hurt people? What happened in their past to shape their perception of reality, so what they do is somehow perceived by themselves to be okay?

In Landsviks case it was a combination of things that led to his unfortunate demise. He lost nearly his entire family overnight after the war in ’98. After that times became tough, and he watched as his father (an already weak man previously ruled over by a fierce and stern matriarch) crumble further and removed himself from the world. Now at that time Landsvik would’ve been 7 or 8, and so I imagined that experience to be the start of his downward trajectory. Unable to understand why, it was only natural for a kid at that age to get a feeling of immense injustice.

Now, granted, these thoughts are shaped around the fact that I don’t believe any person is born evil. We’re also not born good. But we are given choices and options during our lives. And it’s those decisions that ultimately end up defining the kind of person we are.

The choices we make dictate the lives we lead.
William Shakespeare in Hamlet

To me, the most interesting and scary villains are the ones you can relate to. You might object to their actions. You might find them reprehensible and despicable. But on some basic level you can understand their actions, because maybe – just maybe – you’d do the same if you were in their shoes.

That’s what I tried to do with Landsvik. He wasn’t inherently evil or bad. He was angry and desperate. He felt isolated and alone, even amongst his friends. And so he relied on the only person he believed he could trust – himself. And like many young adults he greatly misjudged his own capabilities. The story ended in tragedy when he was sentenced to death for his crimes, which subsequently led to his girlfriends suicide, when she learned what had happened to him.

Of course, evil is rarely this easy or convenient. In the real world evil often springs from psychosis or a warped moral compass. Some people simply do not possess compassion, and horrific events take place each and every day. But once we start to delve into the self-rationalisations and motivations of people who can at best be described as aberrant, it can at times become increasingly difficult not to empathise with them. Most come from broken homes, having experienced massive trauma during their younger years. While we can’t point to a single event that ruined a person (that would also be massively reductive), we can often see, retroactively, the path that ultimately ruined the person.

You might as well ask why a middle-aged man with no criminal record might put a paper bag over his head and rob a bank. I acted out of personal desperation.
Aldrich Ames

But evil is an interesting concept if portrayed correctly. I think it’s because when we’re presented with villains we can relate to, we’re presented with the fact that we all have great capacity for evil. It’s part of human nature, and it’s something we’re all capable of. The only difference is whether we’ve been pushed or moved to a point where we can justify and rationalise these acts.

I think, what I mean is that being evil for the sake of being evil quickly becomes one-dimensional. Where evil with motives you can understand, and perhaps relate to, creates a much more compelling and chilling narrative.

Solstice

The full moon hung over us as the fire crackled and snapped. The frost had claimed most of the grass around us, and Mani’s light twinkled and danced in each straw.

Grandfather Fire had been fed and paid by our food and drink, and he repaid us with warmth and light. Grandmother Smoke had already brought tears to our eyes and clogged our throats when we spoke folly.

Around the fire Grandfather Aslak had placed thirteen pieces of firewood. One for each of the thirteen tribes. Twelve were standing, and one had fallen. The bone was carved with the moon, and Grandfather Aslak told us to keep the bone warm throughout the moot. That the cold should not take hold in it until we were done with it.

Fenja with the weaver-tainted leg spoke of the Spindler Spire growing on our land. We had attempted to find out what it was, her and I. We had failed and now the Weaver had token hold in her leg and my arm.

Jord held a rite over his father, and we learned of a Loving Father, a Lying Father and a Father Who Must Die.

We learned that war is brewing among the spirits on our land. On one side, Aros, my pack totem and a spirit that has been slumbering for too long. On the other side, Silt, the old lady. She has crafted her banner and spirits are rallying to it. It has been foretold that there will be a battle. And so we who run for Aros have begun readying ourselves for battle. We asked our sept for help, and reluctantly they agreed. This is a battle where it doesn’t matter much who wins. We’ll lose, one way or the other, for we have failed to protect and care for the spirits on our land, and now they’ve been too divided that we can bring them together again.

Katla, first among us, is with child. She tried to hide it from the sept, but Fenja smelled the truth on her. Is a Jarl obligated to hold her own word high against herself? We spoke of many things, and Katla, first among us, was accused of hypocrisy for not tearing the child from her womb, as she had sworn to do with any pregnant female in our circle.

The pup barked and screamed, his frustration painted on his face and carved in his words. As so many young he still has the luxuries of thinking in absolutes, and does not yet fully understand our ways. We tried to console him. To explain that when we laughed at his words, it was not a laughter filled with mockery or spite. Rather we see something we all once were in his words and acts. And so we laugh at ourselves.

And Magne, furious and mad Magne, scolded the pup for not listening. For not understanding. For his impatience. And he spoke long of the responsibilities that come with rank. That you should take it. That just hold it, before you can take it.

As the moot drew to a close we thanked the spirits we had called upon and pledged ourselves to. Grandfather Aslak threw the bone on the fire after tipping the twelve tribes into embers and we settled down to hear stories.

Bror and Magne shared a story of a rat king, that made their midden it’s home and throne. The pup told of his first change and the life it had cost both him and his lover. It was a beautiful night, and the sept split recharged with energy for the days to come.

Still Standing

2014 was in many ways one of my more turbulent years. Between losing a job I loved, daring to open myself to love again and being absolutely fucking toasted to well … just about every fucking thing 204 threw my way, well, I’d be lying if I said I thought it was good.

2014 was the year where barricades I had built around myself were torn down. I dared to let others in on a scale that I haven’t done in years. And I was rewarded for it. I’ve been pushed, challenged, cajoled and even bullied into growing. I was forced to take a pretty hard look at who I thought myself to be, and found things were not as good as I thought. And so I grew. I even learned to love myself, not for who I wanted to be, but who I actually am … because that person is pretty goddamn great. The renovation is not done, but I’ve come along way.

The thing about taking chances is that more often than not, it pays off. Greatly. New friendships were forged, new possibilities have presented themselves and the world is truly out there just waiting for us to go do our thing.

And it’s been pretty amazing to see how people around me have had near similar experiences. 2014 just threw so much shit at us. But every single one of us are holding on to dear life, and coming out so much better and stronger for it. How awesome is that?

Here’s to 2015. It’s gonna be a grand adventure. Why don’t you join me?

Armor

It’s getting dark and cold now. The wind is biting my cheeks and knuckles, and it digs deep into my core. Winter has always been particularly brutal. I don’t do well with the short dark days and the cold. It feeds every negative emotion that I have, and multiplies them. I’m not sure it’s healthy, but then again … what is?

The dark and cold came suddenly this year, but I believe I think that every year. Suddenly the darkness wraps itself around us and we huddle inside our coats and scarves. Collars are pulled up. Every single person an island that tries to shield itself from the cold.

The christmas lights are coming up, and there’s music in the streets. I don’t listen to it. I shut myself in with the help of Spotify. I put on my armor … an angry look on my face, a cap on my head and the hood pulled up. It carves a path for me through the crowds. No one wants to get on the wrong side of the malignant asshole walking down the street. It’s one benefit of my size and look, I suppose.

This armor has served me well for years. It shuts everything out, and allows me to be alone in a sea of people. I used to think that I didn’t like to be this way, but it’s grown on me. It’s grown into me. It’s become a part of who I am, even as I’ve worked hard to put alot of my past behind me. Some things endure, I guess. It’s all a matter of self-preservation, I think. Some scars run deep, and especially this time of year pokes and pulls at the old wounds.

I’m not entirely sure when it became like this, but one thing is certain. The armor is not ready to be retired. I need it still, and I fear I will for many years to come.

A list of offensive things

So this week I learnt that the order of offensiveness looks something like this – from least to most offensive:

  1. “Your mom” jokes
  2. Dead baby jokes
  3. Jokes about WWII
  4. Really bad jokes about feminism
  5. Spoiling an episode of either Sons of Anarchy or Game of Thrones

I’m not entirely sure I understand the order of this, and luckily I don’t want to. But this is what I learnt. I’m a terrible human being, apparently.