Community Legacy

Berlin’s most influential & groundbreaking coworking space Co.Up is closing shop. Their famous event space remains open.

As Co.Up’s first ever renter, nine years ago, about a year before it even became Co.Up, I feel obliged to say a few words. This is, however, not a eulogy.

On the surface, a coworking space is office space with tables for rent, and there’s at least one in every major city today. When what eventually become Co.Up started in fall of 2008, coworking was decidedly not a thing, not usual, not common.

Of course, people have shared office space since there was office space, but a dedicated office sharing culture, a notion of a temporary home for digital nomads with globally shared values, that was new. And Co.Up was at the forefront of this now ubiquitous movement.

sad to hear about the closing of @co_up as a coworking space. your atmosphere was formative for me. thank you, @freaklikeme and @langalex.

In the past ten years, and without hyperbole, Co.Up has been the foundation and nurturing space for sustainable communities that started with technology, but now spans culture, education and the arts.

How is Co.Up different from other coworking spaces in this regard? The openness and willingness to try things that are different, that are unconventional, but ultimately the right thing to do.

Co.up was born out of the desire of Upstream founders Alex & Thilo to have a nice office they can share with others. Alex’s & Thilo’s community involvement made it an attractive space for other technologists to hang out. Later, and with Aleks’s initiative and support, other communities found a home at Co.Up.

These communities and the coworkers participating in them enabled thousands of people per year to connect, start out their careers in Berlin, find jobs, find partners in crime^Wbusiness, found companies, start user groups. Even OpenTechSchool, a global initiative in volunteer education, has its roots at Co.Up. On top of all this, countless friendships have found a beginning at Co.Up that have since long outlived the confines of the offices at Adalbertstraße. And this is only a tiny sliver of groups that started out at Co.Up.

Thanks co.up for being my work home for many years, for all the people I got to meet, and everything you did for the community :’(

Co.Up’s probably most radical initiative was the opening of a 100+person event space that was free for events that were open to the public. I keep meeting folks that say they want to start something and they need place to meet and every time it comes down to Co.Up’s generosity to support the Berlin communities pro-bono that enables so much. In other cities and contexts, the deal usually involves a commercial involvement, hindering many initiatives.

Luckily, Co.Up’s event space remains open.

Met lots of great people by way of @langalex and @freaklikeme, and the team at @co_up. All the best on their next journey.

Personally, I’ve given up my desk at Co.Up in 2015 after founding Neighbourhoodie and needing a space of our own, but we continue to support Co.Up’s event space financially, like many other Berlin companies. I’ve simply outgrown the model of a coworking space and now Upstream is going through the same transition. As they mention in their closing blog post, success is a matter of focus, and their focus is now their software business Cobot, a very successful coworking space management software, so they are still very much support the coworking community.

My thanks to Alex, Thilo & Aleks for all their hard work. Your dedication will live on in the DNA of so many Berlin communities, people, and hearts.

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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