I find the term IRL offensive.

Well, not the term as such, but its common usage.
I know where it’s coming from and it may even make a certain sense, but still. I dislike it. A lot. Assuming you all know the term I’ll spare you the definition, you all know where google is.

Referring to your local social circle, be it at school, at work or at your gym as “IRL” (in real life) may seem logical at first, but – to me – it’s actually rather bad taste, and in some situations downright offensive.
The fact that it’s often used carelessly makes it even worse in my opinion.

By using that term when talking to people you primarily speak online, you basically imply that you don’t consider those people part of your life.
They are gone when you disconnect or turn away.
You insinuate that they don’t have an impact on you, that you don’t actually care about them. They are not important. Not real.
I don’t assume that everyone using that term uses it with intent to hurt, harm or offend, I just guess people don’t give much thought to it. Maybe we all can try to stop doing that.

Or as a friend said: People seem to have this weird sense of separation, as if the technology prevents meaning. Especially when, in reality, the opposite is actually true. Technology enables a lot more than it takes away.

Just think about the people you’ve met “online”, those you talk to regularly. Those you’d never have met if it wasn’t for the internet that you so cruelly separate from your “real life” by using those three letters.
Would you be the same person without them? Would you have experienced the same things? I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have.

So yes, all of those, all of YOU are part of my real life. Part of what made me who I am.
I will not debase that by sticking the IRL sticker to things or people that just happen to be geographically close enough to me so I can interact with them without the internet between us.

I’m not saying it’s wrong per se to distinguish between your internet interactions and whatever you do with your body. Just please, please don’t go around saying one is less real than the other.

There are enough words out there to make up your own terms of it, if you really feel you have to.

In the end, do what makes you happy, but think of what the people on the other side might feel. They’re real, too.

I was not “sad” hearing of Leonard Nimoy’s death.

Stop. Polarizing title. Bear with me. Let me explain a little.

I’ll start by copying/paraphrasing my tweets on the subject of Leonard Nimoy’s death on Friday, May 27th 2015.

I wasn’t sad. Leonard Nimoy passed away in relative peace, after a long, creative and possibly rather awesome life. Definitely a full life. I watched a lot of Star Trek, as with many others Spock was one of my favorite characters for various reasons, from being smart to the “Vulcan Death Grip” ((I know, I know))

But no, I’m not actually sad.
Some reasons for that might be:
– I didn’t know him personally.
– He didn’t die with having a great deal of uncompleted works. He didn’t die of a tragic accident or anything like that.

Yes, he was a great man, and the world is worse for not having him anymore.
But we do have his legacy. An awesome one of that.
I for one am glad we have it. He has all my respect for what he did.
My sincere condolences to any who actually knew him.
But sad? Eh. Not REALLY.

Which brings me to an interesting point. We’ve had, naturally, quite a few celebrity deaths in the past months, years. Even if we don’t want to think about it, they are not actually immortal.

And I get how some people are more touched by the life and work of one or the other celebrity than others. Some people are more sad about “Spock” being gone than others.

You know what? That’s totally fine! And if you need a hug because he’s gone, I’ll totally give you one. Three.

One observation irks me though. In the past, people have stated their disdain for people mourning celebrity deaths like the loss of a family member. Or claiming that it’d depreciate the death of a random person or the “proverbial starving child in Africa” or any single victim of a civil war, etc.

Some of these, especially the very vocal ones, now publicly cry rivers about the death of a celebrity they apparently think was worth more than others.

I’ll be right here, judging them.

So yeah, I am not actually sad about Leonard Nimoy’s death. That doesn’t mean I’m happy about it. Or that I don’t respect anyone elses grief about it. I do.

Hell, I’ll be on the business end of that sentiment rather sooner than later, when a celebrity dies whose books I pretty much devoured between age 16 and 25, until I caught up with his writing. I’ll probably have to take the week off when that happens.

 

the black things are the music

As some of you already know, I play the tuba. I started in 1993 with a baritone (I was just a wee lad, then) and switched to a rather small tuba within a few years.
I got into it because…well, to be blunt I was sort of forced.
It was either that or sports, probably because my parents wanted me to interact with local people so I get more friends. When I stopped wanting to go to the track and field stuff that I had been doing and that division kind of fell apart anyway, I got put into music.

My dad had been in the local orchestra since he was young as well, and he always had been in the comittee that ran the show. Since I had no actual preference or special talents, they gave me a baritone and said “tuba later”. My dad plays the tuba. Yes, I’ve been through the usual phases where I didn’t really like it, was frustrated with the kind of music we play ((I still sometimes get that)) but overall I enjoyed and still enjoy it. No small thanks to the projects and orchestras I was and still am a part off beside the vintner’s orchestra ((I live in a region that is very focused on growing wine)) that is the core of our local music association ((est. 1925)).

The one thing that probably kept me from wanting to ditch the whole thing during teenage years was my school orchestra. Our “Big Band”.  An orchestra consisting of about 40 students aged 12 to 19 lead by one of the school’s music teachers. ((let’s call him Charles, because reasons))

I joined the band in 1996 and it was probably the best decision I have made in my whole time as a student. I made friends, and while musically it might have been dubious ((playing loud and fast often took priority over precision and intonation)) but it was one hell of a fun time. Our new headmaster had connections to various European projects so we went to Poland in 1997, to Sweden in ’98, Bulgaria ’99, then Poland again in 2000 and 2001. The last trip I joined started the day after I graduated from school and it was our year’s farewell tour. Quite a number of friends from my school year were in the band at that time.

Charles, our band leader turned 60 in 2013 and retired. One of the girls that I think is graduating this year had an awesome idea. She started a year before to contact former students who played in the Big Band that Charles had been leading for more than 25 years. And she made it. His family (two daughters who had also been playing with us) kept it secret and we organized a surprise party and concert in the school gym.

We met up early in the morning, got our old sheet music and rehearsed for a couple of hours. Of course we had a few breaks to catch up with people we hadn’t seen in years, socialise with people who’d played in the band long before we even started. Or after we’d left in my case. We made a wall with old photographs, wrote memories and quotes on it ((“the black things are the music” was an alltime favorite, along with “listen up!”, “ok, from the beginning, for the eleventh-last time” and “don’t drink more than you can force into you”)) and took long trips down memory lane.

It was an awesome group of 60 musicians, about 30 current and 30 former members of the band. When Charles was announced to arrive in a few minutes we all hid in the next room and tried to stay quite. It wasn’t easy, we were quite giddy with excitement. His family led him into the gym and he let out an all too familiar groan. This orchestra sat there. A few teachers, friends, the headmaster, his family. When he sat down, the orchestra started playing one of our “classics”.  Tequila, by the champs. We had agreed on repeating one part over and over and have the former members entering the gym, ordered by age, youngest first. I was somewhere in the middle, having left about 12 years ago.

It was brilliant, we walked in with our instruments, waved, sat down and joined in playing Tequila, finishing the song after all the orchestra was complete. The girl leading the conspiracy said a few words and then handed us over to his lead again. She gave him the cues as to what we’d play next and it was just like old times for about an hour. His current 8th grade class sang a song for him and the current headmaster said a few words about how awesome it was that he made such an impact on people throughout the years to make us gather on a saturday afternoon and play for him. Charles said a few words as well, and it was hard not to start bawling for a lot of us, when we saw his slightly wet eyes.

He was blown away. I think it was one of the most beautiful things I have been a part of, and I still get a lump in my throat thinking about it. Which accounts for my slightly incoherent style today. Please forgive me.

He also impressed us by calling each of us out by name, no matter if we’d finished school one, five, ten or 20 years ago.

And I still get somehow giddy with excitement and a little sad with nostalgia, when I close with the words that he addressed us with so often, when we were about to play the encore, usually “Barbara Ann”.

And now everybody as fast and as loud as they can!

 

Oh, and here’s the new picture for www.52photosproject.com

I didn’t put one up last week because I couldn’t find anything minty or limey to save my life, so here goes. For the blog post obviously something related to music or the orchestra would have been good, but I found something else while looking through pictures of meeting people ((online friends, for reference see http://www.ollicrusoe.net/2013/12/here-be-dragons-friends-from-the-internet/ ))

Campfire, Cologne/Germany, 2005

Campfire, Cologne/Germany, 2005

here be dragons – friends from the internet

A lot of the people ((Funny, my first blog post, I don’t even know if anyone will actually read this, but I start with “A lot of the people”)) reading this probably don’t even need to be told what I’m going to write in my first post, because it’s – in a way – about them.

Internet people. Internet acquaintances. Internet friends.

And here goes. Even today ((or maybe more than ever?)) people like me will get looked at in a slightly weird way if you tell them something like “a friend I met on the internet”. I’ve occasionally tried to avoid that phrase when telling things regarding those people, because it’s often easier than facing skepticism  when you just want to give some context to something that has happened.

To a lot of people out there, the internet is a tool. They use it to buy books or movies, plan their holiday, copy their homework from wikipedia, watch cat videos or even catch up with old friends, relatives, colleagues or even people they met on their holiday. “Real life people”.

Granted, a lot of these people are from that generation that did not grow up with the internet, but there are as many younger than me who hold the same views.

The internet is full of phonies, liars, criminals, or worse. You can’t meet real people out there. You can’t make REAL friends out there. Dating websites (( Never used any, not that I mind people using them, but I kinda stick to the regular social networks. For now. ;-) )) don’t count.

HERE BE DRAGONS

Well, first of all, even if most people who know me probably wouldn’t think of me as “shy”, I am not the kind of guy who just goes out and “meets new people”. For some reason I have trouble going to a pub or bar and just randomly strike up conversations with people I’ve never met in my life. I don’t go dancing or to the village fair to meet new strangers. I’m social enough, I love having company and if I find some common ground to connect with someone, if there’s a certain spark, I might even be talking your ears off before I realize it.
If it doesn’t happen that doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t like you, it’s just that I often need a little warming up.

The internet makes that a lot easier for me. Whether it’s the old web chat rooms, IRC, forums and starting earlier this year twitter, I have had little trouble finding likeminded people of all age groups and various nationalities online and met quite a few in person, but more of that later.

So I wonder, what makes people think that “internet people” aren’t real people as well? Why is it okay to go to a pub, disco, barn dance just to “meet people”, but not into the forum of a gaming community, a chatroom on IRC or join twitter not just to stalk Justin Bieber but maybe have some fun random encounters and maybe even make friends and meet people?

“Oh, but that man/woman from the internet could abduct, kill, say bad things to or even rape you!”

Yeah, like that’s never happened to anyone who’s gone to the pub on a Friday night.

I’m not saying that you should throw yourself at the first person to suggest you meet up  in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike. For heaven’s sake, trust your guts, make sure someone knows where you are, have some basic safety measures. Whether you go to the pub or to your first meeting of your new internet community.
I pride myself on having a pretty good judgement of people and I probably also got lucky with the people I met, but I’m willing to bet that in most internet communities you will find people that are looking out for each other. More likely than at any local watering hole.

But whatever reasons you give to people, there’s always some who will disbelieve or remain skeptical. So maybe take a moment and think about what awesome social things have happened to you that you have to thank the internet for.

Here’s my list, in chronological order, of the parts the internet played in creating my social life and a large part of who I am. Well, the parts I remember or was able to reconstruct from my picture collection.

In 1997 still in school I first entered a certain webchat, met a girl, and after a couple of days of chatting, we decided ((well I suggested)) we’d start writing letters. We’re still friends, see each other occasionally ((Once a year or every two years, I’d say, depending.))

2003
I became a regular in a webchat and joined a web radio ((Just a bunch of people who enjoyed streaming music to a bunch of friends and talking nonsense. I’ve been a show host and member of the organisatorial commitee in various positions, including leading the whole kindergarden)) that was based in that chat. I am still a member, albeit inactive. There I met people from throughout the country and beyond I still count among my best friends.

It’s also where I met my first girlfriend. It didn’t last very long, but I also met her best friend at the time, who became one of my best friends and our friendship continues to this day. She got me into Doctor Who two years ago.

I went to my first community meeting ((actually chaperoning said best friend)) and started meeting up with people I’d never seen before.

2004
The webchat and webradio became a circle of friends. I went to three community meetings that lasted a whole weekend. ((basically a group of thirty 16 to 40-year olds went camping, including bbq and board games, nobody killed anyone. Amazing, huh?))

Also some coworkers got me to join a large-scale browser game where I met people from all over the world via the game itself. I quit after a while but I stuck to the IRC network people organized their tactics in.

2005
More of the same things of course. The highlight of the year: An American from said game I met in IRC had become something between an acquaintance and a friend. He was married to an Italian and they were planning to marry a second time for her family which still lived in Italy. And I got invited. Which was pretty exciting. But as his wife put it: “You spend so much time with these people online, if he’s  a friend, why not?”
That was a first for me but I actually didn’t even think twice about it. We’d spent hours chatting about pretty much everything, and it wasn’t the first time I got to meet internet people and their friends and family. So I flew into Rome, got picked up by his wife at the airport and actually had lunch with her family before I even met him. It was eerie but they were very welcoming, and ‘lo, there was nothing awkward or weird about it. Look, he’s human just like us. ;-)

Also in 2005 I started writing product reviews and parodies for a large community and product review website. I don’t write for that website anymore, but I’ve found friends there as well, there’s a meeting once a year and it never fails to be awesome.

2006
I visited my cousin in Manchester, England and met up with several friends from IRC, two of which I joined on a train to Newcastle where we’d go see Iron Maiden and share a hotel room.

2007
Apart from the usual community meetings, a friend I met through the web radio and seen in person twice for a weekend each chatted me up on an instant messenger.
“Hey, what are you doing?” – “Oh, just checking trips to the United States, but the single room surcharge is offputting” – “When are you planning to go?”
We went there together and had great fun when people assumed we were either a couple or siblings until we explained that we were just “Internet friends”. Oh, and I also met up with an internet friend in Las Vegas.

2008
I paid a visit to a friend and her husband in the UK. I met her via an internet forum that belonged to a webcomic both of us were reading. To this day we’re friends and I’ve visited on two more occasion. I’ll miss her 30th birthday next year because I’m going to be on a road trip along the US East Coast, visiting … yup, internet friends. Friends.

2009
The year I met my current ex. ((Is that the way you say it? Huh.)) We’d talked before, online, on the webradio, had a few phone calls, and then we hit it off on the anual community meeting of the web radio. Basically camping, a day of team building games, bbq, board games and all that. Quite a few relationships began that weekend. Oh, remember the best friend of my first girlfriend? Yup, met her again after years, and while the relationship with my girlfriend didn’t last, that friendship made it through ten years and two relationships, still counting.

2010
Things were a little quieter on the internet front, but my girlfriend and I visited a lot of common friends that year

2011
We’d moved in together, but the relationship ended in April. I met up with more internet people that year, but the highlight was the trip to Ireland. I had booked that for me and my suddenly ex. Cancelling the trip would’ve been rather expensive, but my friend who I toured the states with was available, and even though we hadn’t met up even once since 2007 we just continued where we’d left.
So the relationship ended, and suddenly I had more time on my hands, so besides connecting to my internet family I also started up playing an MMO ((something something spaceships)), getting to know awesome new people, becoming friends with them.
Another friend had vanished from the internet for months due to financial and internet connection issues and there were dozens of people trying to reach him. We’d all feared the worst because of what we knew about his medical background, but everything turned out right.

2012
I took a round trip around southern England. Basically I flew into London, rented a car and first visited MMO people, then my webcomic friend who got me hooked on BBC’s Sherlock, and after that someone from IRC who I dragged around London for a day.

2013
You thought nothing could top the wedding? Well, it certainly will be one of the all-time-highlights of my internet bio, but it turns out that one of they guys from the MMO lives on a tiny island in the South Pacific, and I’d gotten a travel voucher for my 10th anniversary at my company the previous summer. Long story short, banter happened, I got invited, booked three days later and then dragged a friend and coworker 20.000km across the globe, drove 10 days around New Zealand and took a plane to spend a week in paradise and still have more or less constant contact to him/his family.

In the same year I went to Cardiff with two internet friends ((one of them the girl I met via my first girlfriend)) and a boyfriend, we met very nice people via the couchsurfing organisation and got to see the Doctor Who Experience.

Also I joined twitter, and I’m pretty sure that at one point I’ll start meeting up with people I’ve found there. Dammit, if I had a teleporter, I’d probably spend more time buzzing around as a cloud of highly energized molecules than at home.

As to next year, I’m looking forward to meet all kinds of internet friends, from a gaming community, friends I’ve talked to on IRC from 3 to 7 years and who knows who else?

Hey, maybe YOU know me and you want to visit? I’m sure we can arrange something.

So. Yeah, I guess the internet is full of phonies and it’s not worth spending any more time there than it takes to order a book or watch a few cat videos on youtube.

TL;DR
The internet is awesome, there’s great people to discover and a lot of them just mean the world to me.

I don’t even distinguish between “internet” and “other” friends anymore, unless I have to explain where I met certain people.

Thanks for bearing with me, this got longer than I thought. And I mean every word.

Olli