[Metroactive Features]

[ Features Index | Silicon Valley | Metroactive Home | Archives ]

[whitespace]
Techsploits

Ika Resula

By Annalee Newitz

WE WERE both starving and made the bad mistake of drinking pear cider instead of eating. That's probably why Charlie wound up running down the street to buy two slices of extra-thin-crust cheese pizza, which she carried back to the bar open-faced in the rain. Munching on semisoggy, steaming triangles, we waited for our friends to arrive. Nobody was there yet, but my phone kept lighting up with SMSes.

"I'm eating dinner down the street," Jesse messaged.

"Oh, are you at Sunflower?" I messaged, naming his favorite restaurant in the area.

"No," he wrote back. Typical Jesse—always interpreting questions as if he were a computer. A human might have said, "No, I'm at Pakwan." Jesse, however, prefers binary minimalism.

It gets even worse if you try an "or" statement on him. "Do you want sushi or veggie Chinese?" I might ask. "Yes," he'll reply.

Just as the SMSing was petering out, Lorena and Gregor arrived in the flesh. I think they got my email about the movie, or maybe they saw Charlie's message on Tribe.net.

At least, we weren't using Dodgeball. The night before, Jackson had SMSed me after leaving the boring event where I'd been congratulating him on stealing somebody's unattended glass of wine. "Going to another bar with some nerds we picked up via Dodgeball," he wrote.

Dodgeball is a semicreepy technology (of course Google bought it recently) where you send out "check-in" signals that message a list of friends from your cell phone when you go somewhere. If any of them are in the area, they can stop by. Or your cell phone can alert you if you enter an area where some of your friends are hanging out. It also works with friends-of-friends, so you have an excuse to talk to semirandom strangers, viz: "Hi, you're a Dodgeball friend of my friend Jackson. Want to talk about blogs?"

Who needs surveillance when you can just broadcast your location to tons of strangers all the time? Lucky for me, I'll never be tempted to use Dodgeball, because it only allows people who pick "male" or "female" on their signup form to use the service. If you leave that section blank, a helpful red banner informs you, "You need to tell whether you're a boy or girl!" Apparently, you can't be located in social or geographical space unless you pick a gender. Fucking twits. Who the hell wants to alert all those "friends of friends of friends" that there's a girl nearby whom they can hit on drunkenly?

But I had actually been going somewhere before that little rant. Lorena and Gregor had arrived without the aid of mobile gender-identification technologies, and we were about to see the world's greatest movie ever: The Calamari Wrestler, a stirring tale about a Japanese wrestler who becomes a squid, conquers the pro wrestling scene and recaptures the heart of his true love.

I first heard about this cinematic gem from Joanne, a special-effects artist who knows more than any human being should about the private parts on the alien-human hybrid in Alien Resurrection. When she sent me a URL for the movie from the website for a local film festival, I knew I had to get as many people as possible to experience the glory of the seafood-man known in Japanese as Ika Resula.

Chris wasn't convinced until I spent all day haranguing him on an email list which is known as Waffles for perfectly logical reasons that I'm not going to share. But he joined us eventually.

While we were in line outside the theater, more of our friends showed up—and all of them had been drawn there without any phone calls (or creepy Dodgeball!). It was the power of electronic text alone that brought our crew out. And you could tell. Jesse was showing Gregor his new cell phone, which runs SSH and Java. Then Charlie and I saw the cute boys from social-software company Mosuki and proceeded to tell any of them who would listen all about the thrilling new Doctor Who series (showing only on BitTorrent in the United States).

During the movie, as I cheered Ika and booed the evil "squilla" crustacean wrestler, I realized happily that I knew and liked almost every person in my row and the two rows in front of me. It was one of those "technology brings us all together" moments that made me think of the twee voice-overs on that TV show Grey's Anatomy, where the main character will end each episode with a fake-profound realization like "Everybody laughs, but everybody also cries. That's what makes us people."

Thankfully I'm a nerd, not a TV character. If I had a voice-over for that perfect evening, it would say, "Whether you're a human or a squid, you can be a hero."


Annalee Newitz (ika@techsploitation.com) ) is a surly media nerd who is working on becoming a monkfish liver.


Send a letter to the editor about this story to letters@metronews.com.

[ Silicon Valley | Metroactive Home | Archives ]


From the June 15-21, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.




Foreclosures - Real Estate Investing
San Jose.com Real Estate