VR

I went to Guildford. Dan and Jules are there . Dan is an old old friend. He’s making things with virtual reality. “How many times in your lifetime has there been a new storytelling medium?” he asks rhetorically.

Loads though. Loads. What a lifetime for storytelling change. Technology changes and storytelling changes with it. Text based Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Twin Kingdom Valley. Adventure and Raiders of the Lost Arc on Atari 2600. Pools of Radiance on PC. Eye of the Beholder on Amiga. DikuMUDs using early internet. I remember talking live to someone in America from Reading and having my mind blown about how it could be possible. And having to type “eat bread drink flask” in the middle of my conversation to stop my text avatar from being hungry and thirsty even if I was hungry and thirsty myself. Those MUDS are still extremely deep games. Some still exist. But we went to graphics.

Wolfenstein to Doom to Half Life to Garry’s Mod to Minecraft. Forward to backwards to forward. GTA 1 to Red Dead 2. Unrecognisable, but trackable. The capacity of computers has multiplied and multiplied in the time I have been alive. So has the money available. It might be that in retrospect we are at the peak of the golden age right now for computer games. We are building the pyramids out of slave labour. Human rights and regulation might make future Red Dead 2 type games impossible.

In the early nineties we all thought that the people with mobile phones were needy. “Oh come on. Like you need to be contactable at all times!” “What a tit. Like he can’t arrange the evening before it starts!”

Now we all feel anxiety if we are parted from it for a second. “Ok Google, where’s my phone?” It’s our placebo. Our database. Our external memory. Our knowledge base. Our crutch.

I’ve been flailing around at Dan’s on Oculus. It’s incredible. Less sickmaking than PlayStation as the frame rate is better. Your brain is less aware that it’s being lied to. The potential for this medium is limitless, as soon as the base tech becomes affordable. If there were demo points all over the place where you could sample it for free, people would be happier to stump up the cash for the initial outlay. But as it is it’s a huge outlay for something that failed to take off in the eighties. Like 3D film, it had failed once before. Despite people being quite evangelistic about it, it seems that 3D redux is still an expensive flash in the pan and now you can go see Avengers without having to pay 3 quid extra for shit glasses. VR though… It’s here to stay and it’s only going to get deeper. You can do so much with it. Brian bought Super Hot, which is unusual but a deep demonstration of the medium. This evening I’ve played Tsuro VR, which is Dan’s own creation – although not on PSVR yet. Beat Saber. Res. You can be transported in these pieces of work. It really is like plugging in to the matrix. Terrifying and brilliant at the same time. We will make a whole generation blind. We will destroy human contact and replace it with stories. And we will smile and say “This is good.”

I’ll keep making theatre. I’ll do random stories where you have to come to the room where the story is happening. Where the actors can see you.  I’ve enjoyed being a mischievous mini golf pro today for A Door in a Wall, fucking with strangers in real life for clues. And then I’ve spent the evening plugged in to a headset, flailing like I’m having a dementia nightmare, my brain thinking I’m the lightsaber wielding dancer. To the world outside looking like the spasmodic helpless gimp. Now my eyes can’t focus.

I got to ride in the front of an ambulance though. Result. They were on a call for my friend who had picked up a heatstroke alcoholic. I helped them find him and got a ride. The real world can be as random and interesting as games. And less curated. How many of you have ridden in the front of an ambulance. And it just … happened.

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Damp Squib

Well so much for William. Antique identification is a lifetime of work and interest. Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted. But William didn’t seem to know much more than me really, despite him being close to me in age.

His interest was mostly in the stuff that I’d already identified as useful, although he did put his interest into one thing which I hadn’t rated so I’ll send that lot to him. As for my mum’s extensive and expensive porcelain habit, buffered for years by my dad’s auction addiction, he either couldn’t help me or didn’t fancy it. Maybe I didn’t help him too. I was deliberately downbeat about it all.  He’s probably used to people telling him “All these pieces are Ming dynasty, my granny told me.” I thought I’d go the other way for refreshment

Of some of the stuff I’ve saved from the smoke:

“These are probably good,” he says of troglodytic children proffering flowers that were covered in a membrane of tar until I sprayed them with bleach and chlorine, left them overnight in ammonia, went at them with oven cleaner and a wire brush and finally scraped the residue off with a tiny screwdriver. When they were smoked the contents of the trays looked like deadly mushrooms.

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“They’re probably Derby by the patch marks.” I respond. “But they’re hideous. It’s like they’re trying to poison you.” His interest flicks away. It’s like I’m talking to a customer, not a potential ally, where I’m supposed to sell things. Come on mate. “What about these ones with the nodding heads? I haven’t cleaned them yet. They’re probably crap.”

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His gaze passes them. Probably as I haven’t cleaned them but also as I suspect that they’re bad and he’s listening to me rather than using his gumption. Because he knows very little. Mum loved them though. I have to be careful not to be that guy who thinks his parents’ stuff is the best stuff in the world. Still, William doesn’t even lift them up to look for marks. Because he’s here to find the magical million pound piece. And this guy works for the bottom of the pile in my (maybe flawed) estimation of auction house ranking.

He picks up a platter. It’s very attractive. Mel picked it up too. It’s out because it’s interesting. I know it’s ribbonware. I think it might be German. “I like this,” he says. I say “Yes, me too. What is it?” He’s the expert. He turns it over to find the nothing useful that I found. *He keeps on doing this behaviour, as if I haven’t done the basics before calling him. Why would I call him if I hadn’t drawn a blank?* He draws a blank. “Well it’s ribbonware,” I prompt. “Any idea where it’s from though?” Nothing. Still. “Might be German?” He shrugs. He moves on.

“These pieces are definitely Nanking Cargo”, I say. “Some of them still have the Christies label from the original sale. Others I think are the same provenance but the label’s fallen off.”

He responds to the words “Nanking Cargo” with the silence of the person that doesn’t know about it, which is fine if you’re not “an expert” in porcelain, but shoddy if you are. I am deliberately vague about how many pieces there are. He shows no interest anyway. He’s losing points hand over fist now.

In 1752 the Dutch ship Geldermalsen sank with a consignment of porcelain from China, who had worked out how to make porcelain long long long before Europe did. The goods lay shipwrecked under the sea for over 200 years before Mike Hatcher found and salvaged the boat in 1986. It was a huge discovery, intact after all that time. Christie’s sold it all, broken up into lots. The pieces are valuable enough for their age, and more so for their provenance. Blank looks coming from our boy though. He’s overlooking things left right and centre. This is the wrong person and the wrong place to move this stuff. That much is clear.

“Seven years ago, we’d have taken all these boxes, organised them into lots, and sold them  all for you.” “But now?” “But now the market’s changed.” “So what are you going to take” “The things you already identified as valuable and told me were valuable. Those are the only things I want. Plus one surprise.” (Not his exact words but his content.) So he wants to cherry pick, and there is only one single item he has made me understand has value. Screw that. I’ll bring them the surprise item to sell because it surprised me. I’ll trade their 15% of that for his time – certainly not for his knowledge. He didn’t even want this cast iron clockdude.

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Which is good as I love him. “He’s made of wood!” says William for a second, with a sneer, revealing the shape of  his expectation with this stuff. I almost wang him with it when he goes that far. In that moment I’m done with him. He’s an idiot. He’s a keen amateur, sent over when they can’t be bothered to send someone good. I hope that’s the case, because if that’s what passes for an expert I’m catching up with him after just three months of applied learning. He told me nothing new. But he missed a lot of stuff with value.

I stopped selling on eBay, which has been going very well, in order to make space for that doofus to come with his “big lot” potential. Seven years too late, he says. The bugger. He cost me a week of maximum one pound listings.