Concerts: The Glowstick Story

Massive Attack/Thievery Corporation Nov 6 2010 Berkeley CA

Rob's question was reasonable: where had the glowstick come from? None of us were likely to think to bring a glowstick to a concert. But here was a glowstick. It was an fitting concert for a glowstick; a couple of 10-year-old bands. These bands were popular with folks who'd been club kids 10 years ago, glowstick aficionados of a certain age. It made sense that someone would bring glowsticks to the concert. But you wouldn't expect it of someone in our group. And of course, that's because we hadn't brought it.

We'd been watching the show when the big balloon bobbled into view. It was an outdoor show. Sometimes folks batted around beach balls. Sometimes balloons. So it wasn't too surprising when the balloon fell in front of me. I reached out, grabbed it. Like a dog who chases cars, I wasn't sure what to do with the balloon now that I'd caught it. So I handed it to Dave. Let it block his view instead of mine. That's the kind of friend I am.

Dave batted at the balloon to knock it away. But the balloon reacted strangely; it didn't move aside; instead it spun. Dave batted at it again—and the balloon burst. And a glowstick fell to the ground. That's why the balloon had reacted so strangely to being batted; it had concealed a glowstick. Dave picked up the glowstick. He didn't know what to do with it, so he handed it to me.

As I heard Dave explain the story to Rob, I realized why this seemed so familiar.

Folks who played the McGuffin Game might think it's because I remember retrieving a clue by popping a balloon. But that had felt different. We'd held down a balloon, cut it with a knife, carefully extracted its contents.

Dave had reached out, touched this balloon. The balloon seemed to disappear, leaving behind an object that fell. It felt like... it felt like a video game. Bounce an Arkanoid ball off of an obstacle; that obstacle disappears and a power-pill falls down... In so many games, you see this pattern. I blurted it out:

"Dude, you scored a power-up."

Dave immediately recognized this analysis: "You know, I've never scored a power-up before."

And that's a shame. We should be earning power-ups all the time. There are all these web sites that want to track our achievements. But achievements are boring; power-ups are much more interesting.

I'm not saying that I think that life works like the Scott Pilgrim movie. I'm just saying that I understand where that movie is coming from, is all.

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