This post title is something I also considered as a possible title for the blog as a whole - referring of course to the fact of my username on the internet forum commonly known as the Playground, Thufir. For those who are unaware, the name Thufir comes from the novel Dune, by Frank Herbert - Thufir Hawat is the mentat in the service of the Duke Leto Atreides. Dune is set in a distant future, some time after some sort of conflict between humans and artificial intelligences, leading to the axiom "Thou shalt not fashion a machine in likeness of a man's mind." And so, to fill the gap this left, mentats arose, these being people who, having received appropriate training, could effectively act as computers, at least to some extent. To those who know me, it should not come as a great surprise that my response was "Man, I could totally have been a mentat with the right training."
Anyway, I've sidetracked myself - quite impressive, first paragraph of my first blog post and I've already gone off on a tangent - as I said, 'Musings of a Mentat' was one possible blog title I was considering but decided against. Some other possibilities were suggested to me by friends, and I might end up using those as titles for individual posts as well. Now this all neatly segues into what I want to talk about, which is the actual title of the blog.
The title, as you should be able to see, assuming I haven't somehow made it unreadable by fiddling around with the background and text colour and things, is 'A Dinosaur, Not a Spaceship'. This refers to a sentence in a blog post made by my friend Buttercupliffy on her own blog (I don't know yet if I'm going to completely adopt here the principle I use on the Playground of never using people's real names when I talk about them, but it's a distinct possibility). The sentence in question was "You're just putting a different box on your head and saying you are now a spaceship and not a dinosaur." My immediate response on reading it was "I am so going to quote that out of context." And indeed, so I just have. However, the context and the meaning behind the metaphor are in fact rather significant, which is why I just named my blog after it.
As a sidenote, when she subsequently asked me, I did indeed say that I was a dinosaur, not a spaceship.
Well, actually to be precise I said "I'm a dinosrawr. RAWR!" The alternative spelling is in deference to a past discussion on the Playground.
Now one of the difficult things about coming up with a title for this blog was that it's not really about anything in particular. I'm just going to use it to voice (Figuratively speaking) my thoughts on whatever subject I happen to have been thinking about at the time, whether that be chess, maths, Gilbert & Sullivan, books, TV shows, films, video games, music, work, or just life in general. In the sense of a common phrase, I will be donning many different hats as this blog goes on. Or, in terms of my title-inspiring quote, I will be putting many different boxes on my head and declaring myself to be many different things.
On a deeper level, the context of the quote is, as I said, also somewhat significant. Buttercup was talking about alter egos, the way people can put across different personas under different circumstances, and that is something which has had a great deal of relevance to me, particularly over the past three years, because of one big thing: The internet. The reason it's particularly the past three years is because of the aforementioned internet forum, which I joined in March 2008, having been lurking for about a month while I tried to think of a decent username.
The obvious link here is, of course, that I present myself differently online to how I do in real life. I think the two are converging somewhat of late, possibly because thanks to some excellent friends both on- and offline, I've become more comfortable about aspects of myself which perhaps in the past I would only have let out in the relatively safe and anonymous environment of the internet, or possibly because those aforementioned friends have simply increased my self-confidence, allowing me to more freely express myself. But while the two personas may be converging, the fact that they started out different and separate (Though obviously similar) remains significant and there remains something of a dichotomy between my real life and my internet life. A dichotomy which I may risk breaking at this point.
(Oh, as a sidenote, in case anyone's wondering, my level of verbosity and the sporadically sesquipedalian nature of my communication is not a difference between my online and real life personas. I talk like this in real life as well)
Sidenote passed, I return to my point ("Meantime Apollo plucks my by the ear/ And tells me to resume my story here.") You may be wondering how posting a blog risks breaking the dichotomy between my internet and real lives any more than adding Playgrounders as facebook friends, inviting real life friends to join me for Playground meetups, or inviting Playgrounders to come see me in shows (All of which I have done). And the difference lies in the scale and degree of potential contact between the two. On facebook, I am friends with both Playgrounders and people I know offline, but the two are unlikely to interact significantly. While not unheard of, it is rare that people hitherto unacquainted strike up conversations and get to know each other on a mutual friend's facebook status or photos. Additionally, I only have so many Playgrounders as facebook friends. At the meetup, likewise it was only two real life friends meeting those Playgrounders who came to the meetup. Little contact. Inviting a friend to the show, well, that was one Playgrounder who would possibly have met a few fellow G&S people afterwards. And both times she was too busy to come anyway, so it didn't happen.
This, on the other hand, well. I'm going to put a link to this blog on my facebook profile, and I'm also going to put it in my signature on the forum. Anyone I know from either could come to it. Not to mention that I may mention people specifically. Curiosity is obviously a possibility. OK, maybe I'm over-estimating how interesting I am. But maybe not! I might mention specific threads on the forum, people from my real life could go find them. My two lives could start linking up all over the place! Scary times.
Now you may say, "Ralph," (The name Ralph Pocketwatch is because I played Ralph Rackstraw in HMS Pinafore and I really like pocketwatches, and so on my birthday, one friend called me Ralph and another called me Mister Pocketwatch) "Ralph, it's true that this could happen. But it's hardly likely, now, is it?" And the answer is, no it's not likely. But it's possible, and I'm paranoid. I am, in the above paragraph, venting my paranoia for your amusement (At least, I hope it's amusing). The extent of the contact between my two lives hitherto, other than the above mentioned instances which I instigated, is that a friend of a friend who I met once at a birthday party met and became facebook friends with one Playgrounder I know.
The final point to explain is of course, why this worries me so much. I rather like mixing my friend groups sometimes, just to see how they react to each other, and certainly some I would expect to get on rather well. I thought about this for a while and realised it's basically that the forum, the Playground, is, to a certain extent, 'my place'. My thing. If all my real life friends suddenly jumped onto it it could be rather weird. Should any of you wish to join, I do not wish to discourage you - it's a lovely forum community. This is more of a knee jerk reaction on my part. It's not even like I write anything there which I wouldn't want my real life friends to know about. I may have occasionally said some unflattering things about people I know, but I'm pretty certain they won't end up reading this blog. And if they do, I've made over 4500 posts on that forum, good luck finding the incriminating ones! :P
Ooh, a further thought - it could be some level of me feeling insecure and worrying that if my real life friends and forum friends got together, they might end up liking each other more than me, and I would lose my status as one of the in-inverted-commas 'Cool Kids'.
Because I'm totally cool.
(Actually, the concept of the in-inverted-commas 'Cool Kids' is a subject on which I could quite possibly write a blog post, full of anecdotes from my schooldays, if I can remember any)
So, in short, my worries are totally irrational, but then to quote Tom Stoppard, "If rationality were the sole criterion for existence the entire universe would be one gigantic field of soya beans!"
So, this has been me, rambling about titles and friends and paranoia. I hope it afforded you some small amusement or at the very least avoided being relegated to tl;dr territory. (tl;dr = Too long; didn't read) (I genuinely have no idea how long this is - one of the reasons my internet and offline personas are converging is because now at least I generally try to write on the internet just off the top of my head, so it'll be more like a real life conversation. So while this isn't a full-blown stream of consciousness, since I did take the opportunity to go back and add the odd sentence to the paragraph to which they were relevant, rather than sticking them in later on when I thought of them, it's still pretty close, with the result I'm not entirely sure what or how much I've written, though I'd hazard a guess it's pretty long)