OK, so I see a tweet from Bruce Sterling, the chairman of cyberpunk, that mentions he’s in Amsterdam speaking at the Next Nature conference. So I tweet an invitation to come visit the new Rainbow Warrior, telling him I can get him the captain’s tour. Next thing I know, he’s there on the gangplank. Of course as luck would have it, I can’t find the captain, but Sterling is happy to settle for the “Galley Slave tour.” Which is what he gets.
For the next twenty minutes, I had the INSANE privilege of listening to his stream of conscience patter that bounced around the rigging and ricocheted off into realms cyberpunk, political, design, artistic, and social. He showed interest in signage and stuff that none of the tens of thousands of people who have taken the tour of the ship to date showed any apparent interest in. He was intensely interested in the chairs in the campaign office. Not particularly special chairs, I’d have thought, but something of the professor of design caught his eye, and he was tipping them up to examine workmanship and labels.
The engine room and the ship hydraulics systems, with their orderly maze of valves and pipes and wires, sent him riffing on a visit he’d made to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. The single US style electric plug on a ship full of European standard fixtures caused him to call it the “last lonely vestige of American imperialism.” He was amused by the tiny little telex-style machines on the bridge that printed out pirate warnings and distress calls — I think largely because it’s probably been a while since he’s seen dot matrix technology at work.
Now, this really was like entertaining geek royalty, but there’s a kicker. The guy gave me the shirt off his back. I admired his “Next Nature” shirt, which featured 200 corporate logos made of stylized animals, and showed him our supporter banner, which features somewhat similarly stylized real animals. He saw the similarity too, said “it’s a sign” and gave me his t. We had it out in the lounge that afternoon playing “guess the corporation” and remembering a study in which children recognised corporate logos at a ridiculously higher rate than they could identify basic plant and animal species.
As if entertaining one of the fathers of cyberpunk aboard a ship that looks like it sailed out of a wormhole from the future isn’t enough geek cred, I got to meet Thom Yorke of Radiohead today. He’s sitting about 10 feet away chatting with us here in the campaign office on the Rainbow Warrior as we make 10 knots across the North Sea on three sails, heading for London.
Have I mentioned lately that I love my job?