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Tom the Alien Cat

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Twenty Years [Aug. 23rd, 2016|09:43 am]
Tom the Alien Cat
This is a remembrance of a friend that died twenty years ago today, on the Feast of St. Rose of Lima.

Waaay back before that, I heard a communications expert explain that the "world network of broadband lines" was going to turn into "the nervous system of the human race" ... in other words, the Web, the Net. And that happened. One still has trouble imagining the possibilities that it can provide to us individually.

I was one of the geek boys that liked people, but found people frustrating, and found machines more cooperative. Another one (in my opinion) may have been a guy named Carl.

In person, I understand that Carl was a polite person. He saw the Internet as a place where he could try other approaches to people.

But online, he could use the online posting areas, the conversation areas. Instead of normal conversation's "say something, hear the response immediately, respond to the response immediately", one can "type up something, correct it and think about it and 'craft' it, finally post/send it and wait for the response later". It probably fit his style of logic-based thinking.

Or maybe I am projecting. Because I also liked that about that part of the Net, called "Usenet".

He and I also shared an interest in what could be called the "virtual reality" part of the conversation areas. Many folks there did not know what Carl looked like, or what I looked like, or what anyone looked like. As someone imagined then, a dog could be typing these posts, and then the dog could say to another dog, "On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog".

So one could wear a mask, and try new 'poses', and try things that are impossible in Real Life.

Carl saw those possibilities. It was hard not to notice the experiment he was living, out on the Net, twenty years ago, when it was called Cyberspace.

His posts were outrageous in style. I didn't know if they were intentionally posts of the "I dare you to disagree with me" kind. But he would say that they were meant to be read literally, and I took him at his word, at face value, and gave that a try.

The result would be what looked, to the outside, as a "flame war", but some folks noticed that I wasn't responding to any of his "baits" and instead that I was digging into what he was supposedly trying to say.

And durn it. Almost all of the time, I'd see what he was getting at, and respond to that, and he'd settle into his less aggressive mode. Not always, but often.

It was a lot of work, but it was rewarding. But Real Life intruded, and I had to stop the online stuff for a while.

And while I was offline, he "stopped", too. August 23, 1996.

* * * * *

Of the sad things about it, a big one is that I don't think it did him as much good as should have. That is because his death interrupted it. He probably did not start this all until about 1993. And he was found dead of his medical condition on August 23, 1996. (Some of his friends out there may know the years or exact dates of his first and last posts.) Whatever he learned, it didn't have much time to be used.

Oh, yes, his medical condition. I hope it is not intrusive, on my part, to report that he had diabetes, and that had a lot to do with his passing, but it was more of a heart condition.

I mention that, as well, because, in Real Life, his blood sugar would sometimes get out of control. Then, in Virtual Reality, his "Avatar" would be (even) more aggressive than usual. Then, later, in what seemed to be an other-than-logical manner, his online persona would make an apology, a quiet 'sorry but my blood level' kind of post.

* * * * *

Of the happier things about it ... He could help people having a rough time. Someone might post about some real trouble they were having because of bureaucracy, or official stupidity, or some other kind of problems. He might respond with one of his explosions, with his incredible swearing, and the force of his online anger would be posted in support of someone who needed help.

So there would be a outraged blast of humanity. Included, sometimes, with detailed advice in the form of instructions and information. He was capable of empathy and sympathy, it seemed.

He is missed, I know.

[User Picture]From: wcg
2016-08-23 09:04 pm (UTC)
There are strange things found by Long Island Sound
where the Suffolk County roads
turn to blacktop trails past abandoned rails
and a bar that's never closed.

(Go on. Click. Read the rest.)

Mute evidence is on the wall,
charred leather under glass
with kzinti-claw-carved 'StM'
in the flesh of C'thulhu's ass.

It just might be the best thing I ever wrote.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: tomtac
2016-08-24 01:24 pm (UTC)
Well, you have written a lot of fine things.

This one is well remembered, a good y a r n. I think I remember you presenting it in The Place as a piece with your guitar?

(after the re-read -- perhaps the guitar was something I added in my mind at the time.)

Edited at 2016-08-24 01:27 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: wcg
2016-08-24 01:27 pm (UTC)
No, I never set it to music. I did used to repost this every year, on All Souls Day. My guess is you remember it from there.
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[User Picture]From: tomtac
2016-08-26 12:02 am (UTC)
Well, guess no more. You are correct.

People may not have noticed at the time, and don't remember much, but the 1990s was a time of a lot of layoffs in the private sector. After a fine couple of years in The Place, 1994 onwards, I had had to disconnect and focus on keeping my job, as all those workplaces were getting more and more embattled, and I was trying also to finish graduate school.

So I was offline when stm died, found out about it later, and did indeed catch your work from an All Souls post sometime after the year 2000. I did not know at the time that "The Cremation of Sam McGee" was not a folk song, since I was actively not allowing myself much time online.

But the Kzin vs god battle was striking, and the whole thing sounded like Beowolf/Grendl/Tolkien sort of thing to me. Of course, the mental image of the signature on the enemy's nether region seemed "iconic" to me. (I didn't remember, until now, that my kzin avatar did something similar at the end of that "Haiti" thing I put up.) There is something fierce about that.

And Barbara's final stance (in the story) fits my mental image of her perfectly. The initial attack on behalf of her friends, then amnesia and going on with the Barbara kind of life she has.

So, yeah, if you think this might be your best, I will agree.
Keep healthy, you and yours.
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[User Picture]From: wcg
2016-08-26 12:44 am (UTC)
It was your kzin avatar's action in the Haiti story that inspired me to that "signature."
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[User Picture]From: tomtac
2016-08-29 11:14 pm (UTC)

I /am/ surprised.

Thank you, Bill. That made my day.

Edited at 2016-08-29 11:14 pm (UTC)
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