Category Archives: There is no justice in poetry

Gamers said it could not be done

They faced a challenge. Or, more correctly, a meta-challenge. As a game development studio that specialized in making exceedingly difficult games, they had a reputation of making very difficult games indeed. So far, they had managed to perform the difficult balancing act of keeping things difficult but not completely impossible. To be sure, most players would give up and declare their games impossible, but the games were (in an ever more technical sense) not actually impossible. Just headscratchingly, hairpullingly difficult

At various points during the studio’s many years of doing business, the question of whether they’d achieved peak difficulty had arisen. Every time, the gamers had responded by taking what seemed to be impossible challenges and rendering them far easier than they should have been. Using tools, strategies and vernaculars that became increasingly opaque and specific with each iterations, the gamer base responded by demanding more difficulty, bigger challenges and larger impossibilities

This time, however, doubt lingered in the air. They’d thrown everything that could be thrown into a game, and even the kitchen sink based challenges had eventually been overcome. All hell-class difficulty spikes had been employed, having already used the ideas previously deemed to be of merely limbo, purgatory and wrath levels of non-completability.  In short, they were fresh out of hells

If only, one developer mused, there were additional hells. That’d do it

They did not know it at the time, but this one off-hand remark was just the inspiration that was needed. After some deliberation, it was decided that the next step in the studio’s trajectory would be to hire a slew of literary scholars, of which at least one had read both Dante and Joyce. It was time to up the difficulty to new, previously unimagined levels

The art of gracefully begging to differ

Being the moderator of a feminist facebook community was dramatic. Ironically, it was also very predictable. Something about the combination of drama and predictability spoke to her, like some unsung poem of modernity being scrawled on so many metaphorical walls. It almost took on the quality of a soap opera – everything happened at extreme velocities whilst also somehow standing completely still. At no point did anything change, yet the details of the standstill could enthrall the unwary for years upon end

This is not to say she hadn’t learnt anything from the experience. Far from it. Somehow, she had acquired the force of discursive obviousness that allowed her to instantly disable any troll wanting to stir and/or wreak havoc. Not by means of outright banning the offender (although that is always, in her opinion, an acceptable option), but by simply agreeing with the troll in question. This worked exceptionally well with those who entered into the group with the time-honored introduction “I don’t actually know anything about feminism, but I think my outsider’s perspective might shed some light on matters, if you but let it”. She let it, by responding thusly:

“I’m happy to see that you acknowledge your ignorance, and your further contributions will be read accordingly”

Until this day, only a single person had managed to not dig themselves into a hole after this radical agreement. The inherent irony of disagreeing with oneself seemed to be a radically new concept to many; they begged to differ even as she agreed ever more profusely

This, too, was part of the unseen multivolume, multimodal poem. Perhaps she’d sing it some day. Just to spite modernity

The last word on virtue signalling

I am here to tell you that I am not qualified for this position. I have no relevant experience, and no qualifications worth mentioning. I would bring nothing new to the table, my contribution would be substandard in every way, and in every aspect finding someone better than me would be as easy as pointing in a random direction. I do not justify this in any way – indeed, I have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Whoever you pick instead of me will be the correct, better choice. Thank you all for indulging my unwarranted presence

Glaucon’s lament

Glaucon was late. Later than fashionably late. It was way past time to get a move on, and high time to embody the notion that everything is change. Given enough velocity, it would be so, regardless of the presence or absence of arguments either way

Making his way downtown, he suddenly found himself in the midst of a crowd of philosophers, arguing. For some seemingly random but probably important reason, they suddenly decided to include him in their argument du jour. Caught between being in a hurry and knowing that any counterargument would be met by increasingly refined and subtle counter-counterarguments, he decided on the spot to apply the one foolproof strategy to get out of this situation

He was going to agree until they caved in and let him go. Surely, even philosophers have limitations to their inquisitive perseverance

The arrival of History

It all sounded very prim and proper. He had went into the Archives, diving deep into the Realm of History. Phrased that way, it sounded like an adventure, the ideal of academic pursuit. The mention of the difficulties in opening the Archival Locks – made all the grander for the unwarranted capital letters – completed the Indiana Jones image to a T. This was the Archive, where History dwells

In reality, the Archive consisted of little more than a heap of papers – only ‘documents’ by feat of retroactive efforts – stuffed into a series of filing cabinets, without any sense of order or organization. Worse, this lack of consistency was apparent in the documents as well, the bureaucratic whims going this way and that seemingly depending on the mood of the person holding the pen at the moment. The same went for spelling, even when taking into consideration the fact that it all took place before spelling conventions became standardized

History, it would seem, was something best seen from a distance, lest it became a mere collection of ordinary everyday things. Up close, History became history, documents became papers, and the ancient sages gradually morphed into old fools likely to blurt out the darnedest things at the least opportune times, repeatedly

But it all sounded good. After the fact was polished for a while


It was too late

A few weeks earlier, there might have been a chance to save the intrepid explorer. Alas, the environment had overpowered him and broken through all of his protective gear. The goggles, the standardized dictionaries, the regularly scheduled communal low-stakes domestic activities – they did nothing. Not even the makeshift metaphorical tying himself to the mast had helped. He had heard the siren call, and succumbed. He ventured too deep into the memetoxic environment, and did not return. Only a husk of his former self remained

To think that, back in the old days, they let young academics go alone into these territories, without even so much as a supportive conversation to back them up. A simple introduction to methodology, some theory, and then off they went. Alone, unprotected, at times also unfunded. Sacrifices to the optimism of early digital humanities

The broken man murmured, the only phrase he knew how:

Sonic, and Knuckles, and Knuckles, and Knuckles, and

Just checking

Someone told him to check his privilege

So he did

His first discovery was that he was not alone in the project of checking his privilege. In fact, statisticians and social scientists alike made rough estimates as to the geometry of the outer areas of said privilege, employing ever more sophisticated methodologies in their efforts. They said it was both fractal and exponential, getting bigger in different ways depending on the measures used to measure it. Overall, perplexity reigned; phrases like “somehow both bounded and infinite” were tossed around with frightening regularity

Moving from the periphery to the center, he quickly discovered it to be an intricately tangled web of services, targeted incentives and hidden opportunities just waiting for him to use them. Any one aspect would take weeks to understand fully, and the prospect of understanding it all in its entirety seemed beyond the scope of the limitations imposed by human longevity (the boost provided by free healthcare notwithstanding). Nevertheless, free university courses were available for the express purpose of enhancing public awareness of both parts and whole. The most difficult part of it all seemed to be knowing if and where to start

A profound sense of vertigo overtook him. If this was what it was like to be a regular nobody under socialism, imagine what it’d be like to be a slightly richer nobody under socialism

The skateboard academic

He was, to put it bluntly, a good educator. Not only did students leave his lectures heads abuzz with new thoughts and a desire to get new impressions – they also anticipated each new lecture with trembling knees, and a mild sense of awe at the upcoming widening of perspective. Nor were they mere passive recipients of information; the aforementioned anticipation sparked action, reading, discussions, in some cases a whole academic habitus. From a pedagogic perspective, he was quite the thing

From a pragmatic business point of view, his presence also had distinct advantages. In survey after survey, students reported they had actively applied to this university instead of literally all the others – based on his presence alone. Indeed, even those who had managed to get enrolled at more prestigious universities had turned them down in favor of coming here. Of all the things that put the university on the map, he was one of the more significant

Alas, he also had not published a paper in 2.7 years. When the administration took note of this abysmal performance and lack of academic excellence, they immediately informed him that his contract would not be renewed

Honest Johns

They look like job applications, she thought as she scrolled past the dating profiles, one at a many. Every ounce of social capital, real or imaginary, scrambled together in an effort to impress whomstsoever. Some were stylized using the tools of some trade or another; others were barely cobbled together. Not a single one of them, she guessed, were honest.

And then it happened. The unsolicited. Given her current mood, she almost appreciated the unrelenting directness of it all. No pretense, just the ding-an-sich.

Still. Report and block. Some dishonesty is worth the price of admission. But only when admitted.

Closing in on the encounter

It was a mystery to everyone involved. Children all over the world had started to draw very similar pictures, seemingly without talking to each other. All explanations as to why this happened drew a blank. At first, it was thought to be cultural influences – kids drawing what they saw on television. As pictures were reportedly seen in places like North Korea, the deepest Nigerian interiors and remote villages of the Amazon, this hypothesis was rejected. For the same reason, the notion that it was a group of artists roving the lands teaching kids to draw this way (for purposes unknown), were dismissed. Scientists were, to use a popular word in the press, baffled

A comprehensive research program was put in place to solve the mystery once and for all. Every scientific discipline (and a few unscientific one, just in case) got funding to figure it out. Most scholars made the rational decision to treat this as free money to finally do some actual work instead of being forced to hunt grants nonstop, but a few took to the mystery. And, after a daring adventure involving a container ship experience a week-long timelapse, many formal interviews and a whole lot of informal restaurant chatter, they finally solved it

Turns out, it was aliens

More specifically, it was aliens trying to send a message. The problem was, they had no conception either of money or how art circulates through society, so they blindly sent it to anyone willing to draw. Given that drawing is something that kids do, the images primarily ended up in their heads, resulting in the geographical distribution that so baffled the world. Given also that kids’ paintings are not seen as meaningful communication, the message remained unheeded

The scientists in question decided not to report their findings. Instead, their article opened up with the immortal words: “As Jung postulated,”