John Furie Zacharias
having a bad day in a strange place
Thunderstorms Anywhere

Thunderstorms in the Imajica

 The different ways I don't like you 
 in a list that may never become organized
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Thursday, July 15, 2004
BBSes 2 Blogs

Things are never just black and white
The namesake for this blog is from my old BBS, Imajica.  Imajica was the first fantasy novel written by famed horror guru, Clive Barker.  Like the many worlds or dominions of Barker's Imajica, Imajica BBS had more than one personality inside its collective digital mind.

To the first time visitor, Imajica BBS was an interesting, but fairly tame board with local message bases, Fidonet message bases (similar to usenet news groups), handy shareware files to download, and some addictive and well-liked online games to play.

If I knew you, or a trusted Op or friend knew you and could vouch for you, Imajica was an adult board.  Typical of adults-only material was the ever-expanding file system of porn .JPGs and .GIFs, of course.  Most of the images were quite small or of lowest resolution to today's standards because people were downloading them using dial-up modems as slow as 2400 baud.  I also brought in and zoned for specialty message and file networks like CATNET for adults because people seemed to enjoy participating in the daily interactive erotica.

If you could really be trusted, Imajica had several elite personalities to it.  People would make long distance calls from various dark, monitor-lit basements around the planet and transfer files.  Although it was tempting to fantasize that Angelina Jolie might call from a payphone dressed in a red latex outfit someday, I remember much tamer visions of the actual callers.  While it was fairly exciting when I might see someone making an international long distance phone call and knew many of the Europeans that would call up and say, "hallo", the one guy I remember the most lived in the middle of nowhere in Homer, Alaska.  He would call regularly, and mostly download games -- and oftentimes just new shareware -- because, well, he lived in the middle of nowhere in Homer, Alaska.

While my background and introduction to digital communications was in the Army dealing with strategic and tactical message switches, I enjoyed running Imajica for more than just learning about and playing with some technical toys.  The hardware and software made that early precursor to our modern internet possible and fun.

More importantly, it's what we did with those toys.

The one epiphany I had early on while running Imajica in Metro-Detroit was that the BBS was blind.  It couldn't heap prejudice upon the caller for being fat, or ugly, or whatever.  Being blind, or more specifically color-blind, Imajica afforded its users something completely different from the normal interaction between people on the street (in meatspace).

Detroit is one of the most segregated cities in North America.  This is supported by census data.  I feel Eminem's movie, 8 Mile, could have been called Berlin Wall.  For those of you who know or have read about the Cold War and the former Soviet Union, you'll understand the reference.

Unlike meatspace, or the real world, users on Imajica could get to know each other without the burdens of instant physical prejudice, like the color of one's skin.  A person could argue, debate, agree, or cheer for any topic of discussion without ever actually seeing what the other person looked like.  You had to get to know people from what they wrote, from what they said, from what was in their mind.

Maybe because of that unusual quality that the bulletin boards like Imajica operated under, people did get to know each other better.  And, it was the birthplace of online dating, and some people who met online did go off and get married, as well.  It may have been the dinosaur era of the digital age but most of the friends I have now, I met then.

With the huge number of weblogs continually churning out entries like this one, authored by one person or a group, the opportunity has never been greater or more available to the netizens of the world to do just one important thing -- get to know each other a little better.

This morning, I read the blogs of different members of the Jarrar family.  They're Iraqi.

Raed is a secular muslim who seems to dislike long-bearded fundie-extremists like Osama bin Laden as much as he dislikes the arrogant neo-cons of the Bush Administration.  He's in Amman, Jordan working on a thesis paper right now so he keeps in touch with his Irani girlfriend, Niki, on a shared blog.  Since he's on hiatus from Baghdad right now, Raed's original blog (with extensive archives) is being updated by his friend Salam who posts about the lowdown on the streets of Baghdad.

Salam posts some serious stuff because, well, the situation is serious in Baghdad.  I gathered he also must be a secular muslim, like his friend, Raed.  I laughed my ass off when I read:

I frikkin' met an Ayatollah! a real life Ayatollah, I watched him eat a banana and then he put his hands on my shoulder and prayed that I get married soon, my mom was beside herself with joy and I just couldn't stop laughing.  The heretic fagot getting a blessing from an Ayatollah. that is how great those four days were.

Raed also has two brothers with blogs.  It may surprise some of you to hear how very much like typical U.S. teenagers they are.  On Khalid's blog, he talks about the big political issues we blog about too.  But he also laments failing an exam in school, just like we do.  The last entry I read was about the show Malcolm in the Middle.

On Majid's blog, (the younger brother), he hasn't really posted since the middle of last month when the family went to Jordan but he talked about graduating from high school.  And Iraq.  And Majid is filled with teenage angst.  And he seems to like Metallica.

Raed's mom, Faiza, has a blog.  It's in Arabic and English.  Last week, they were still in Amman.  Faiza is an amazing, eloquent writer.  She bought some books on U.S. History last week in Amman and shared some of her thoughts about America.  After reading only a few entries, it isn't surprising to hear her maternal compassion and wisdom come through:

When I was in Baghdad, I used to listen to news and events directly from the people, or see them with my own eyes, but here, I feel that only a small margin reaches us…and many details are skipped, then I imagine the people in the west and how would they get the news… they being very far away from all this reality, from the true picture of matters…and I do not blame them when they think about us in a way very different from the truth.

Maybe she is right about one thing.  I think we'd all be better off turning off the television once in a while, abstaining from the fast-food media propaganda being shovelled into our brains for a day or so, and taking that time to get to know someone better.

Posted at 06:29 am by John Furie Zacharias

July 15, 2004   10:30 AM PDT
wow you must be so into politics! i have to get ready for a birthday party in less than an hour so i can't really stay and read but i did go through the entry, lots about iraqis and a family over there.

i think i'm gonna be late, i gotta go do my hair. tag you later!!

July 15, 2004   08:28 PM PDT
You know, I never thought badly about the people of Iraq, just their leaders. It is quite interesting to see just HOW similar they are to us...I mean I know they're human just like us but I just didn't think they had access to ANYTHING Western. Metallica? huh, never woulda guessed
J f Z
July 16, 2004   02:02 AM PDT

>>You know, I never thought badly about the people of Iraq, just their leaders.

I think the Iraqi people feel the EXACT same way. I heard plenty of stories about pre-Saddam Iraq from 'John', and his uncle 'Jeff' who owned the party store at the corner. They fled Iraq when Saddam came into power and then allowed persecution of the christians. They came to the U.S. way back then. Iraq has always been one of the most 'westernized' of all the middle east's arab countries. I talked with them alot about it. That's why it was ludicrous to believe Saddam would have anything to do with an guy like Osama. Osama would have liked to take Saddam's westernized society down and replace it with the Taliban model of government.

As it turned out, Osama got the U.S. to do the initial decimation of the country's infrastruction and government (as bad as Hussein was, there was some order before the country was split up into thirds). Now, Al-Qaeda is simply taking advantage of the chaos and anarchy we created and taking their fight with us, or the west in general, to the battleground that is easiest for them to engage us on.

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