Glossary of Terms was a piece of mini-theatre I wrote and performed as part of Café Allongé in 2013.  It was a 25 minute performance for 1 at Ancora Coffee on King St. in Madison dealing with start-ups, seduction, and surveillance. Café Allongé was a city-wide festival of coffee-shop performances for the Wisconsin Triennial. This is most of the same group I performed with in Montreal in 2011, but this Café Allongé features 16 perrformances in 16 coffee shops with performances running for three months. Information about the project, descriptions of performances, bios of performers, can be found at cafeallonge.net.

Below, you can get a taste  of what that experience might have been like for that one participant:

It began with an email to the individual who signed up, sent from a disposable email by a man only called "Gripp:"

ARPANET REDUX ARPANET REDUX 1497 MARK 8 NAMAEWA = "GUERRILLA"
TRACKBACK, SECURE REPLY TO \\ gripp@[DOMAIN REDACTED]\\
HEXKEYSHORT = 7c 67 71 ab bc f7 5f a3 6e f3 6c 41 23 60 d1 9a 

MESSAGE BEGINS
****************************
The information you've requested can be found here for 24 hours: *********[this originallylinked to the "Appendix," included below]

Passcode is granted at the 11am meet at the agreed upon location. Come alone.

-Gripp
****************************
MESSAGE ENDS

HEXKEY =7c 67 71 ab bc f7 5f a3 6e f3 6c 41 23 60 d1 9a a3 a9 15 ef 9c 96 bf 60 45 4a 90 82 c8 2c 86 e7 2e 70 ca 7b 97 64 b1 05 b4 40 c7 77 6f d5 3d 85 e9 1a 1e 2c b1 35 e3 f2 fb cf 38 75 cf 9d 67 87 d0 d6 97 c9 78 a8 42 8e 4d c7 7c 7e 35 01 b6 bf de 95 6b 2e eb 28 3f 75 02 e7 a6 86 a8 c8 6d a5 f5 f0 31 c7 50 4f 58 61 21 0c ec dd 09 29 48 90 67 90 d1 c2 07 cf 0f a3 4d 87 5b f1 e0 43 fa 04 d2 67 e1 16 48 e1 2a a3 aa f0 b8 2a ab b6 d3 52 ce f1 4f ae 5e 80 db c9 5a ec 47 67 6c af 4e 62 80 60 4a 11 e6 75 f4 f3 8c 9a e5 f6 5a cf c0 6e f0 4f bc 69 89 51 0b b7 8c d7 85 be 22 4c 65 89 dd d4 df eb 65 d4 73 4d ca be 63 43 b1 d6 6c f0 9a d0 86 75 5a 54 29 66 bb 2c 94 0d ab d5 e1 b2 d0 a2 65 75 d0 c9 da 33 d7 24 8d 05 6b cf bd 99 93 b4 b9 49 ab fd 2f 11 a6 f1 76 85 93 f6 2c 99 60 db 20 06 54 d1 3d 26 eb df 52 6a 4b ff 8d 12 b5 d6 47 db 5b 71 0d ab 29 08 aa 5a db de 70 91 ea 50 f8 dd 23 8f c2 a7 22 89 eb 4c 31 00 3b 6f 10 e1 27 65 30 43 64 a5 e6 88 8a 02 dd e3 d0 7f f0 fb f1 fe 1c c4 41 d1 37 c0 5a 3b 1b e0 dd 0c c4 51 35 24 4a b8 b5 a7 92 81 f7 53 83 67 a7 0b 22 8e 9a 38 17 22 0d 31 17 6c 18 09 67 bd e1 b7 30 a5 21 a5 49 de b1 d9 91 74 b3 1d 5c b5 0a e3 ce 80 23 9b 40 04 06 79 87 d4 3f be 46 22 9b b1 88 fc b1 85 6c fd 66 ee 0c 66 16 7d b6 c3 a9 0f 20 0b 4a e1 17 50 27 da e7 35 b5 af b5 56 8d 42 d7 db 44 52 76 89 b3 d4 70 6c b4 76 87 d3 20 f1 70 94 28 7e 10 ce eb 40 5a bd 0f ae a8 13 ae 5d 78 e5 ea 0f c3 5c 10 0b cd c9 77 e3 29 e4 f2 7e 56 2f c9 39 f9 ee b2 2e 8a e5 14 83 27 5c d4 29 06 db c1 74

 

Then, upon arrive at Ancora Coffee, the participant would have a short interaction with Gripp. Here's a video of what that might have been like:

And at the conclusion, the name within the matchbook would unlock the password required to read the Appendix, now included here below. This concludes and explains the nature of the piece, the source material from which was drawn, and some of my motivations for creation and performing the work:

 

Glossary of Terms: The Appendix

Thanks for taking part in A Glossary of Terms , part of the Café Allongé

And thank you for having some coffee with Gripp.  If you've arrived at this page, you probably followed the link he provided, in order to receive the information he wished to divulge. I'm afraid that instead you've found this post-mortem of my performance. If you'd prefer to let the experience speak for itself, then go about your browsing and perhaps finish the coffee you got at Ancora. Thanks for coming.

But if you're the sort who likes to mull and pick things apart a bit, here's where Gripp and his struggles at work originate. As you can tell, he's a deeply troubled young man. His story, while fictional, is built from three true activities; start-ups, seduction techniques, and surveillance. In each of these areas, I've directly quoted and remixed real-world source material into Gripp's dialogue and narrative.

If you'd like to listen to the song that goes with the lyrics on the matchbook, you can do so now by clicking on the widget provided.  It's from the movie Paprika,  which is worth a watch. Be mindful and use headphones if in public.

The "Jank & Drank" is a real technique employed by the startup Medium.com when coding. Started by Ev of twitter fame, the site seeks to make writing simple. As a start-up, it's accountable to share-holders and investors, so periodically does little write-ups to describe its progressive approach to management and productivity. In the process it inadvertently describes so much of the saccharine hell that start-up culture can entail: everything is free, flexible and fun, as long as you live your life at work. The post about Jank & Drank on Medium's blog inspired both praise and criticism, but saw one developer sarcastically calling for the destruction of Medium by fire. Gripp's employer is also a start-up of sorts, with a very similar work culture, but is working on a very different product.

Seduction is a blanket term for the use of techniques, typically by young men, to "self improve and seduce" women. In general these techniques utilize an analytical approach to personal relationships, pop psychology, and Social Darwinism. While the community surrounding these techniques holds a variety of opinions about which terms they'd use, the techniques that have validity, and the social value of women, seduction is considered predatory by most outside observers. Because of the procedural, complex nature of these techniques, they've inspired active internet communities and vast amounts of terminiology, including: cold reading, field reports, neurolinguistic programming, shit-test, bitchshield, agree and amplify, and chick crack. "Negging" is perhaps the most famous; the use of insults to undermine the self-confidence of women and make them more susceptible to ones advances. Like many socially insecure and desperately lonely young men, Gripp has turned to behaviors that he does not fully understand. The vastness and complexity of the terminology and the methodical approach it asks for implies to him a certain authority, much as such terms do at his job. He is less concerned by how this technique views or demeans women, as Gripp believes he is too smart to be sexist.

Finally, as may have become clear, Gripp helped develop the surveillance software XKeyScore, the tool the NSA has been using to collect vast amounts of information about people all over the globe. The function of the software Gripp describes is quite similar to the way XKeyScore works, including the ease with which a  justification for investigation is selected, the general lack of judicial oversight for those choices, and the way it has been used for to spy on romantic interests. While the implications of this program are vast, in this piece I'm more interested in exploring the nature of being a "leaker." The Chelsea Mannings and Edward Snowdens of the world are often people who feel like outcasts in their lives. Some speculate that such personalities are a key motivation, even a necessity, in the defiant act of divulging classified information. Whether Gripp himself fits this mold is up to you.

Lastly, Gripp's name itself is a code about codes. He's taken the name in honor of William Gibson's Agrippa: a book of the dead, a digital poem from the early 90's that was designed to be read once and then encrypt itself forever. Instead it was "hacked" within days of it's release, and now occupies a significant place in the lore of the early internet. If you have a moment, I really recommend you take a look. 

I usually shy away from an overtly performative style in an intimate setting like a coffee shop, so this piece was a departure. I appreciate you engaging with Gripp honestly, even as I pretended to be someone else, a man whose thoughts are so very different from my own.  

Please consider attending some of the other Cafe Allonge events. They're all unique, and all carefully crafted experiences from some great local talent. If you'd like to leave a comment, feel free to send me an email at jtburling@gmail.com (or click the mail icon below). Thanks again for coming.

 -Jim