ASCII by Jason Scott

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A Most Delightful Culture Clash —

I had a couple trips saved up on the to-do pile, paid for and so on, when I was laid off.  So for a while now, I’ve gotten to still enjoy the vestiges of my previous lifestyle laying before an austere future. The last of these paid-for events was this past weekend, attending and speaking at the Arse Elektronika event in San Francisco. I traveled in style on Virgin Air and got to see a bunch of stuff, including stopping at the outside of the Internet Archive building (it was closed, but I got to stand near it), attend the Pacific Pinball Expo, and also to remind myself how much I like being out here.

So here’s how I looked the first night of the event:

You know, in case you were wondering how the whole thing was going on. In fact, in an even nicer set of events, I was surprise-awarded a Golden Kleene/Prixxx Arse Elektronika at this event, while wearing this costume, for having’s collection of historical erotica of various stripe and spanning decades. But also, on this night, the last event on the program was a young lady being attached to a sex machine (combination of bench and various hardware) and notably satisfied by said machine over the course of 5-10 minutes. So I got to watch someone have sex with a machine on stage in a theater while wearing a large bunny suit and so if there’s any question I’ve ever done that, you can lay those concerns to rest.

I gave a presentation entitled “The Atomic Level of Porn” on the next night.

My talk was given at the Center for Sex and Culture,  which is a pretty cool space, and was attended by a pretty sizable amount of people, which was a very pleasant situation, and even included a few old friends who had not expected to find me speaking at such a place or event. After all, I’m the computer history guy, not the sex and technology guy.

A lot of the reason I was speaking here was because of this fellow:

This is Johannes. Johannes is one of the greatest things to happen to me in the last decade. He lives in Vienna and, to summarize, makes the planet better, artistically and creatively. He just makes good stuff happen, so whatever he ends up doing in the US every now and then, I try to be a part of, because I know it’s going to be great.

I was not disappointed.

But what’s most interesting is that Johannes doesn’t really work along structured culture lines – everything is open, and whatever and whoever wants to jump into the fun, he’ll gladly welcome with open arms. And a crazy rant. And a nice hat. I wore a bunny suit to the first night and Johannes adored said bunny suit and was quite happy to have me give my short award speech by shoving a mic into my suit’s mouth:

He is adaptable and makes everything better, is what I’m saying here.

My talk will be available online in the next week. Something happened there that I wanted to mention, because it sounds like awful news and was in fact great news, and maybe the next time some of you get such supposedly awful news you’ll see it for good news.

When I give a lot of presentations, the audience knows who I am. That is, they are aware of what I do and how I sound and they’re quite happy to hear more of it, or at least know I’ll curse and make weird jokes and maybe pass along some interesting nuggets. But they kind of know what to expect going in – like a Wes Craven picture or a Belgian beer, you have some expectations built in, and if the expectations aren’t met, so be it. But you don’t go in cold.

Some of the people in the audience went in cold! They were attending the event, not my talk, so they had no idea what to expect of me, and when I started going off on Remote TTY artwork or ham radio-transmitted video and Atari 2600 adult games, it was with either complete surprise or a focus on the content instead of the presenter. And this doesn’t happen enough!

Somewhere in the morass that is my presentation, I made several jokes of tasteless nature and referenced a previous night’s slogan, also of tasteless nature. Such that it is! In my regular travels, these sorts of jokes are just part of the situation and I make them and move on.

I have gotten positive responses from a lot of people, and some who had never heard of me and now wanted to check out the rest of the work I’ve been doing, but a number of people were pissed I’d make jokes like this or tread so lightly on such subjects just for cheap laughs, and such laughs were really cheap since they weren’t even funny at all to them.

This is great.

It’s great on two levels. First, it’s great that I am bumping into people who are not synchronized with how I look at the world – it means that I am reaching folks who are not looking for affirmation from what I’m saying, but are listening to it and drawing conclusions. And second, in some cases I made these jokes in ways that could have been approached just as effectively by using other subject matter – but since I’d not run into people bothered by it, I’d had no reason to even consider other ways to approach it. Now I do.

I met a lot of fun and interesting people at this event, people I would never have possibly crossed paths with in a million years otherwise. And now we have met and what comes of that, I don’t know – but I sure feel richer for it. And so more of that, please.

Categorised as: jason his own self | Speaking

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  1. Ryan Russell says:

    Let’s see… bunny suit… unspecified cheap jokes… you pissed off the furries, didn’t you?

  2. Rabscuttle says:

    Jeeze, I hope he didn’t…I was thinking someone needs to do a documentary on furries…

  3. Johannes says:

    a) I’m so flattered!

    b) Jason was joking about sexist slashdot nerds and two or three people didn’t get the irony and thought -he- is a sexist slashdot nerd. Meta-level-semi-fail. But the misunderstanding was pretty much clear later on…

  4. Swagstaff says:

    Culture merge: I tell wife we’re sending you magazines. “Ya, whatever.” A couple days later, I mention your relation to Sockington. Thrill; glad they’re going to a good family.