Saying Goodbye to The Rathskeller Club

I ask Andrew to leave me alone with the space for a few minutes. Dominic came by to help get all the items to the moving van. This would be the last time I would be inside The Rathskeller Club. One of the most important places in my life for the last seven years.

Andrew goes upstairs where Dominic is supervising the van. I’m alone in the Lounge, looking at the vacant space. Trying fill the empty space with memories. I’ll have the memories with me forever. This was the last time I could feel the textures.

I walk into the Bird room, moving my hands against the black walls, painted with flying birds in gold. I commit to memory the small differences in thickness where the birds fly. I look to my left at what remains of the pepper’s ghost effect, wishing I got that effect working again.

I move to the Velvet Corridor, but the curtains of the namesake are gone. Glaring in front of me is an open hole where Library Pod 1 was three days prior. Now a brightly lit floor of concrete punctures the hallway. To my left is a dark but still present Library Pod 2. I crawl in.

Seven years when I first entered this very pod, I was told a fable. A moment where part of my soul was healed and revealed a new artistic focus. My first experience of San Francisco form of psychomagic. I run my hands on the carpeted floor. This space is scared to many people as a place of reflection. Countless people have entered this space and the sister Pod 1 to find a new part of themselves. Or return to a self the once lost. I quietly say to the space: Thank you for everything. I crawl back to the Velvet Corridor.

I’m walking down the hallway we called Tunnel 3. Named as the third door bypassed the two doors of dark tunnels. Calling Tunnel 3 was inclusive for folks who didn’t take tunnels 1 or 2. Different experiences shouldn’t be less important. I run my hands agains the walls of the winding hallway and it’s gray-blue painted walls. Recalling the stories of the people who built this space. How they were torn apart in ways that rhymes with my own workplace abuse. I hope we reshaped the space to heal rather than harm. I raise my arms higher as I approach the end.

I’m in the Ticket Room. The original purpose to give each guest a claim ticket, and we couldn’t find another name for the room. The ticket window that was still there anyway. Now there’s a gaping hole where a wooden slide once deposited guests in the room. The other doors still exist. Once they opened into darkness, but now open to the brightly lit concrete floor. I approach the wall of black brocade wallpaper. If there is a texture that I most associate with this space, it is this wall. If I ever own a home, at least one room will have similar wallpaper.

The memories of the space flow through me again. Seeing the guests arrive and have a sense of wonder of this impossible place in The Mission. My own first entry where I stood in this room for longer than I’d like to admit, taking it all in. My work in house management for immersive making sure people arrived in this room armed with consent and ready to experience. I decided to lightly kiss the wall, as one would a close friend on the forehead. Strange, I know, but it was my way of thanking the room for it’s service.

I head down the emergency exit hallway, stopping in the monitor room one last time. The center of operations, this room controlled the technology that ran the space. The ephemera of past productions and various equipment, now reduced to the bare minimum. Many technical discussions about the work of crafting experiences occurred in this room. I take one last time opening the cubby window that connects to the Ticket Room. Grasping the brass handle on the wooden door and taking a look at the empty hole that was once a slide. I close the door.

I finish walking down the exit hallway. This area was originally considered back stage. In the need to make the second emergency exit more prominent, this hallway became an area of show. I try to run my hands on the right wall, but it’s too sharp. The left was a flat wall with chalk drawings of a skyline, some hash marks, and other markings from scenes long ago.

I pop into the kitchen, washing my hands in the sink one last time. The backside of the lockers, reflecting when actors would conduct 1:1 scenes with unsuspecting guests as heads in a box. Sometimes actors crawling out of the tiny spaces. The backside of the pepper’s ghost where Bryan’s ghost drawing in the glass’ dust still remains. This was the de facto greenroom at times, and sometimes show space to traverse guests to the hallway. I still feel guilty putting the wrong soap in the dishwasher.

Finally I’m back in the lounge. I’m next to the bar, running my hands across the smooth lip of the bar’s surface. I’ve shared drinks with friends, guests, and coworkers. For the high art that was the majority of the space, this bar represents the “third space” where all these points of my life intersected. Now I look out to an empty room.

Finally I put on my hoodie, walk to the exit door, and look across the room. I take it all in one last time. “Thank you, for everything you have done for me.” I say to the space. I exit the doorway and attempt to lock the door.

It takes me a number of tries to successfully lock. I push harder and harder on the door to get the deadbolt to catch. As if all the memories are pushing back at the door, not wanting to be left alone. Finally I successfully lock the door and walk up the stairs to what served as our guest lobby. I walk out onto Capp Street where Andrew and Dominic wait by the rental van. I take a deep breath, and I close the gate.

Seg’s last time in The Rathskeller Club’s Ticket Room.

Interactive Fiction & Netflix

This article won’t contain spoilers. I haven’t experienced Bandersnatch yet.

As 2018 came to a close, Netflix released Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, an interactive film exclusive to the platform. Black Mirror is our current time’s Twilight Zone where the genre allows for a deep dive into a single idea of fiction and allowing us to reexamine choices in our present time. And it’s time that the Interactive Fiction world to get their butts together and make pitches to Netflix.

In 2015, The Atlantic wrote about the process Netflix undergoes to improve the dataset for their recommendation engine. The company spent the resources to define every piece of media it could define, including media it hasn’t (or ever) released on the platform. Using this dataset, Netflix is able to obtain the value of the property by how many users the company believes will enjoy that content.

With that dataset and recommendation engine dialed in, Netflix knows the value of a piece of content. This dataset is absolutely instrumental to the development of self-published content. The pitch process for motion pictures is along the lines of tastemakers dictating if a project was financially viable. This was based more on subjective opinions of executives, mostly of white men.

What happens when you take a pitch, do the tagging work as if the piece existed, and see what potential viewership numbers come out? Now you have a more calculated guess to the financial viability of a project. This is how we got Orange is the New Black after their endless search and turndown across other media buyers.

I turn to the Interactive Fiction (IF) community and ask: Which of your works can be adapted to film and Netflix’s interactivity capabilities?

And if you have any recommendations for any IF I should read, reply to me on Twitter @TheSeg!

The Speakeasy and Audience Consent

On Friday September 30th 2016, I attended a preview performance of The Boxcar Theatre’s The Speakeasy, an immersive theatre performance at the production scale rivaling that of Sleep No More in New York City.

Marketing photo from Boxcar Productions.

There are a number of aspects of this show that were going right. The cast are all extremely talented delights who really show the depth of their abilities as performers. The content itself has very challenging questions posed both in content and to the art form. Sadly, the piece obfuscates all of that with significant consent issues.

I have serious issues with the safety and comfort of the audience of this show. As a professional house manager and immersive experience artist, there are conditions and policies that concern me. Conditions which, at best, prevent audiences from enjoying the piece. At worst, can cause emotional, if not physical harm. It comes down to providing constant and continuous consent throughout the performance. An audience that is well informed of what’s expected and how to opt-out of the space temporarily, if needed.

My concerns can be solved by the following:

  • Clearly identified, accessible non-performing ushers in every room;
  • Clearly identified, accessible non-performance audience lobby;
  • An organized front-of-house experience.

I’m deeply concerned this production will leave a horrible experience to people who haven’t experienced immersive theatre. After my experience, I wouldn’t blame someone to cast off the art form completely. I’d rather not make a habit of saying other productions could improve respecting an audience. I want Boxcar Theatre to respect their audiences now.

Continue reading The Speakeasy and Audience Consent

Two Houses [Alike in Dignity]

On March 24th and 25th 2016, we did an abridged version of Romeo & Juliet we called: “Two Houses: Alike in Dignity.” An immersive theatre production where the audience is moving and interacting around in spaces, and not a traditional stage & theatre seats, told between two physical houses on a street in Oakland. The production is framed as all the scenes with Romeo up till and including the balcony scene.

Like most good art, this started as a Twitter joke between Bunny (the director), Aaron Muszalski, and Jonathan Pirro (Mercutio) of doing the balcony scene in the middle of Oakland, ambient noise and all. One and a half months later, we did the show.

Note: All of the photos are by Joe Carrow, our official photographer of the production.

Continue reading Two Houses [Alike in Dignity]

Rich Media Content on Social Media

This is a comprehensive guide for making links from your website look good when shared on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

All of these features are free to implement. You’ll need to either register for an account on each platform and in some cases create a “Page” for the entity (organization, brand, etc) for the website you’re developing. Most of the platforms share the same if not similar settings. We’ll walk through all of the options in a combined view and how you can optionally customize to a particular platform.

Continue reading Rich Media Content on Social Media

My story of The Latitude Society

I was on board very early in the appointment. Crawling down a pitch dark tunnel, feeling my way through a winding path, a light source finally revealed a library. One very similar to the Myst library, albeit smaller. I knew I was in for something special. What I soon gained was a community of wonderful people and a part of myself I had lost: My desire to create.

This is my story of Nonchalance’s The Latitude Society.

Latitude Society: Invite Hand off
Continue reading My story of The Latitude Society

The Quick Indie Guide to Protecting Your Accounts

Hello! If a friend linked you here, it’s because they care about your online accounts from getting seriously steamrolled. While there’s always a degree of risk, these steps will cut that risk significantly. Where at worse, if one account becomes compromised, it doesn’t give the keys to everything else you have.

Update: Crash Override Network’s tool C.O.A.C.H. is a great step-by-step guide you can also use.

There are two parts to how I protect my online accounts. One is free but available for a few services. The other is buying a piece of software. Together they do change the philosophy of how you create and manage online accounts, but you’ll be much more secure by doing it.

Continue reading The Quick Indie Guide to Protecting Your Accounts

Breaking DNS and Putting it Together Again (ish)

Last Sunday I read an article in Wired Magazine about Dan Kaminsky who had discovered a flaw with one of the basic fundamentals of the Internet, the Domain Name System.

The experts watched as Kaminsky opened his laptop and connected the overhead projector. He had created a “weaponized” version of his attack on this vulnerability to demonstrate its power. A mass of data flashed onscreen and told the story. In less than 10 seconds, Kaminsky had compromised a server running BIND 9, Vixie’s DNS routing software, which controls 80 percent of Internet traffic. It was undeniable proof that Kaminsky had the power to take down large swaths of the Internet. 

To be honest, the Internet dodged a bullet with this one. Had this been discovered with someone with less moral character, there would have been a very very bad day for the world. Then again, we currently only patched the hole; Bought some time.

Secret Geek A-Team Hacks Back, Defends Worldwide Web

A Fat Pipe

Following up from the last post about AT&T, I want to talk about what I want from my cell phone, internet, cable, and the rest of the communication sector: A fat, dumb pipe.

I don’t care about Comcast’s video content. I don’t care about AT&T’s Blue Room or any other crap. I am paying you as a bridge to obtain other people’s content. That’s all I require from you. Why only the fat pipe? Because you suck at content generation. You’re spreading your resources to do something extra and it’s just not working very well.

Thing is, I never asked for you to make your own content. It’s really a non-issue with me. There are millions of other people that can do it so much better and that’s who I want to have access to. I’m paying you to give me unfettered access to other content providers. Is making your own content really helping you out? I would figure focusing on the speed and availability of the content of the Internet would be a bigger drive than your special little video program. I know that on the feature list, saying you have this unique content gives the impression of better value on a flyer.

You know what gets me to stick with your service without disdain? Giving me access to all available content without bullshit. For example, if Comcast spent more dedication and time to improving their horrific customer support, the product would have more value than ‘Channel 1’. Or perhaps finding a better long-term plan to keep the bandwidth infrastructure on par or surpassing the rest of the modern world. Why spend time finding ways to inhibit use of BitTorrent when you can spend that time more productively by improving the network infrastructure.

Please, I don’t care about your content as it is unmatched to what the rest of the world at large can provide. Give me unfettered and uninhibited access to the world, then you have won me over!