Saturday 21 April 2007

Life is a game of cards

Not an original remark, I'm sure. So here is a further refinement.

The other day I was sitting at my Solitaire during another boring backup session. Then a not uncommon situation occurred, one that is most frustrating.

The Aces are laid out on top, almost all of the other cards arranged in red/black sets below, and only two or three remain to be turned. At that point you need one Two or one Three of some suit to begin hauling the deck up to the Aces, but that very card is one of those hidden and to retrieve it some other must be removed. That other can't be used because, you guessed it, that Two or Three blocks any move.

Just about all the cards are there and waiting to go, but a single one holds everything up.

There endeth the metaphor.

In life things can get arranged, one by one, until a single item is left to set the closing event in motion. Sometimes the air becomes almost palpable, so obvious is the next step. But that next step is yet to come, the outcome still in the future no matter how obvious. Perhaps akin to the way a storm builds going through the familiar phases, but when it breaks no-one can say for sure.

Is that how the story of Otoom goes? The pieces have come together for years now, some clearly visible, some less so. Those pieces like the cards belong to many suits and have many different values. Together they form an entire deck, although there are still some missing.

The game is not finished until all the Aces are covered. With one card here and one there to go the final stage will be quick - but when?

Sunday 15 April 2007

The joys of reality (Jean Baudrillard)

In our constant search for the ultimate symbol of reality, so that it may reflect to us the spectacle of death, the recent act by Jean Baudrillard has given us a timely invitation. People of reflective moods eagerly enter into engagements to fulfill the destiny of their thoughts.

The creative act becomes attuned to the lights, be they the summary manifestation of a nuclear furnace by day or the local subsidiaries in our streets and shops during the night. It also assumes the silhouettes of darkness, the non-reflection of the something without intent, without act, and without causality, making it the perfect representation of any wish ready to come into being.

Light, the positive, to accentuate the other; and darkness, the negative, the succor to the former. The act of our creating of course does not care for the causality of either. For the hero the light is not a friend; it is the foe because without a danger his status is brought to ridicule and the night needs the danger to give it spice. The essential need of light is then darkness, and the prerequisite for adulation must be the destroyer waiting in the shadows. Yet the foe would not realise the awaited destiny alone and so depends on its counterpart yet again. Causality remains undefined.

The symbol of one becomes the symbol of the other, until its trademark is the combinatorial reflectivity shimmering under whatever radiation.

If life on earth is the creative effect of its star, and if the neon tube or TV screen is the creative result of us, then the symbolisation process initiated by the sun moves in the inexorable direction of mutual ambiguity in its attempt to portray life. It has passed many a way station, but today the acquisitioned technicity from ancient plants and ancient atoms translates the world for us. It also translates the world to us, because the representational complexity of Life has become too large for our linear minds to process.

To be sure, the serious thinker grapples with the iconoclastic significance of nothing. But for the rest the reference is compacted into the form of infantile worlds, or worlds within worlds, who play their theme songs in endless repetition. Why shouldn't they - we need to remember them as templates.

The formality of linear constraints prompts for an escape. Amorphous symbols have programmed society to conceptualise on their own terms, and the real, that universal template already suffering its first interpretation via God, has turned into a prefabricated logo-set long ago. What else but for on-off voltage potentials to transmute the ying-yang nature of our spirit into the digital realm. Functional modules of a third-order programming language reflect the perceived symbolisation of manifested energy from some star; they are clustered to produce 3D renditions of societal arrangements and give themselves off as being virtual.

But the gamer knows better. Roaming the conceptual space where symbol and simulation interplay as if being moved around the surface of a Klein bottle, there never is an inner, because there never can be an outer. The synergy of both is the emergent icon, a representation in its own right just as the ancient hero carried light and darkness on him.

And so the rendition within the computer game is not Life, but equally Life does not exist without the computer game. The new reality is of the nth order. Symbiosis through synergy through clustering through complexity - a recursive function that has become the arbiter at all scales.

Is it the ultimate symbol of reality? Only annihilation will tell.


J. Baudrillard, "Simulacra and Simulations", from "Jean Baudrillard, Selected Writings", ed. Mark Poster (Stanford; Stanford University Press, 1988), pp.166-184.

J. Baudrillard, "Paroxysm: The Perfect Crime", AFAA (Association Fran├žaise d'Action Artistique) 1993, pp. 5-12.