Browsing the blog archives for June, 2007

Intermission

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Games, Unreal Tournament

Unfortunately I’m still far busier than I expected…

Here’s two UT2004 videos that I came across the other day, by a player called T2A`. Pretty nice work, good music choices and humor value. I’ve uploaded them to YouTube, but the quality really suffers in the small YouTube window. I recommend you download the full sized versions, which are linked after the embedded YouTube versions. Total running time for both is under five minutes, so if you’ve got a few minutes to spare and have an interest in frag videos you might find them worthwhile.

Full version here.

Full version here.

Healbot Blues

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Guild Wars, Miscellaneous

Healbot2

While browsing over on the Guild Wars Guru forums I came across this little gem of a webcomic called Healbot Blues. I have no idea how well this translates to non-Guild Wars players, but I find it pretty hilarious. The art is really quite nice as well, the guy who draws these definitely has some talent.

Healbot1

This one actually makes me want to try to create a Guild Wars d20 system … Or maybe 2d10, or 3d6, or 4d6… Hmm.

Child-Proofing the Internet

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Miscellaneous, Politics

There’s been an interesting story developing over the past month at Digg. Apparently it all started with this Digg posting: My $2000 camcorder was stolen and I know who took it. Help get it back! The posting was made by a man named Phil who is claiming that his camcorder was stolen by a woman named Amanda, who was apparently his former roommate. Apparently, after Phil lost his camcorder he found it being sold on a couple of auction sites by users whose names mysteriously matched Amanda’s screen name(s).

The Good and the Bad: In a lot of ways I think what Phil did was the best course of action to him. I am really in favor of public shaming for thieves, cheats, and other sorts of scumbags. On the other hand, Phil decided to post up Amanda’s email address and home phone number with his Digg.com post. The email address isn’t a big deal, but the phone number is. My attitude is basically, the Internet is Vegas: “What happens in Internet stays in Internet.” Taking things from the Internet to real life without mutual agreement is about as close as it comes to a cardinal sin of internet etiquette.

So a few days ago I saw this post: Warning! Felony for submitting a Digg story. As it turns out, the guy has apparently been charged with violating some podunk law in Michigan. A followup story was posted today on the website of some sensationalist local TV station: Man faces cyber-bullying felonies. You can’t make this stuff up.

Amanda Brunzell, 23, said she is living in fear because of the actions of a man.

It is not his threats that got him in trouble, but the fact that he got others to do the harassing and the high-tech way he accomplished it.

It is a case that shows the power of the Internet and tests the waters of a relatively new law.

The former roommate Phillip Hullquist, who lived with Brunzell while she was working in Texas, claimed she stole his video camera.

It was not until after Brunzell moved back to Michigan that the former roommate, named Phillip, claimed she stole the camcorder.

He was so upset he put a video on YouTube and a post on another site, inciting supporters to get his camera back. The response was massive cyber-bullying.

The man now faces two felonies and Brunzell is afraid to sleep. The World Wide Web has become her personal prison.

Hullquist splashed his claims online and riled up Digg.com users to get his camera back. He gave out Brunzell’s home phone number and e-mail addresses.

She has received dozens of chat requests and hundreds of e-mails, some threatening her life.

Kentwood Chief of Police Richard Mattice and his detectives are investigating the case.

The World Wide Web has become her personal prison. Boo-Hoo! She got instant messaged by a few of the trolls over at Digg and then immediately a plan hatched in her head: Instead of instantly blocking them, and preventing further messages by blocking unknown users and sending mail from unknown people into her spambox, she’d decide to wreak vengeance on this guy, trying to ruin his life by going to the police and playing up the victimized woman angle. Even more absurdly, the Michigan police seem to be playing along with her, having charged the original poster with two felonies for merely posting the woman’s phone number and email address.

Let’s be clear, Phil was in clear violation of Article 1, Section 1 of the Internet Conventions Convention of .COM, but this manipulative hag took things beyond the next level by turning a simple situation of internet asshattery into a legal one that could lead to jail time for the guy. Michigan, too, is to blame, for having on books a completely asinine and unenforceable law which basically states, “If you do anything online that causes someone else to possibly behave in a way that could be construed as harassing, you can be held responsible for their actions.”

The thing that worries me with this whole story is the possibility that Amanda might win. I have very little interest in this spat, but I see a victory for Amanda in this case as a blow against the heart of the Internet. There is no way the Internet could exist if every thin-skinned, vengeful harridan could bring lawyers around and sue anyone who might be responsible when some internet troll makes a death threat. Grow a pair and realize that the rhetorical style of the whole damn Internet is inflated to extremes. Telling someone to go die is a casual hello. If one person can be held responsible for the actions of other people, why stop with Phil? Why not sue Kevin Rose and the rest of the people behind Digg for publishing Phil’s story with Amanda’s contact information? Heck, why not sue AOL for delivering the harassing messages to her, and every company running a wire between her and Phil? Go for the big fish, Amanda, Phil is small fries.

It’s not like Phil is some Charles Manson authoritarian pseudo-cult leader personality manipulating a bunch of drugged up women. Digg users may be drugged up, but the ones who were stupid enough to go about harassing Amanda were acting under their own free will. In the past I’ve had to deal with imbeciles who aren’t capable of making this sort of distinction, that Person A isn’t Person B and doesn’t send out mind control rays to Person B … Unfortunately, the lawmakers in Michigan seem to be the same sort of dolts.

In conclusion, both of these nitwits need to have their internet privileges permanently revoked. Amanda needs to die, and the state of Michigan needs to fall off the face of the earth.

AdSense

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Administrativa

I figure I may as well mention, for anyone who may not have already noticed, that I’ve went ahead and added AdSense to the site. I haven’t had much time at all to dedicate to tweaking things to work with my current WordPress theme (K2), which means what you’re seeing now is liable to change at some undisclosed point in the future. K2 seems particularly persnickety when it comes to adding in AdSense, as the nature of the thing is to have a completely modular sidebar without needing to fiddle around in WordPress’ code (ie, “The Loop). AdSense, on the other hand, pretty much instructs you to copy and paste the code into the desired spot in WordPress’ “Loop” where you want the ad-block to appear. That the two agendas are in contradiction means I’ll have to sit down one of these days and really figure out what K2 is doing and how I can incorporate AdSense into that in the way that I want.

As for reasoning: Well, not that I expect to make any money off the ads in the first place, but I figure I may as well try to recoup some of my hosting costs for this site. They’re not substantial, and I’m not in any real danger of needing to update to a more expensive or robust hosting plan, but what the heck? I don’t really plan on being a Steve Pavlina, or any of those other AdSense/SEO /Self-Help hucksters out there, so it’s unlikely I’ll ever decide to do anything more with AdSense than have them sit unobtrusively in the bottom of my sidebar.

No Boy Is An Island

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Culture, Miscellaneous, Politics

Except at Kilmer Middle School in Virginia.

All I can say is that I’m glad my kid isn’t attending this school. If he were, I’d be compelled to schedule a meeting with the Principal’s skull and a blunt object.

I can’t say I’m too surprised to find out that the Principal of this school is a woman. This sort of reductio ad absurdum policy is straight out of feminist modalities: Touching can be both good and bad, but using rationality and observation of reality to determine which is which is insufficient. Since we can never truly know whether a touch was good or bad, we must ban them all. This is not to say that a male principal couldn’t be just a empty-headed and nannyish so as to want a ridiculous policy like this, but I’d like to think that a man who’s so craven so as to think this would be a good idea would also be too spineless to actually try and implement such a policy.

This story found via Reddit. Although the Reddit comments are usually a cesspool of anti-Bush, anti-Religion, and whatever other banalities I can’t be bothered to dredge up in my memory right now, there are a few interesting tidbits here. Check out these comments:

Actually I attended Fairfax County schools (where Kilmer is located) and distinctly remember getting in trouble for sneezing during a school assembly in the 5th grade. I wish I were joking…

Oh yeah, I know exactly what you mean. In Northley Middle School, outside of Philadelphia, a kid would receive detention for sneezing during class presentations.

I distinctly recall learning that year how to suppress a sneeze.

It’s things like this that make me consider that the human mind is the enemy of reason.

Detached

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Culture, Games

In my usual daily browsings I came across this article on PopURLs, which purports to explain the answer to the eternal question, “Why are there so many World War 2 games?”

Unfortunately, the article is absolute trash. What does this article set forth as the reason why WW2 games are so popular? That (a) soldiering is a ‘core fantasy,’ that (b) WW2 is the most important and largest scale war the world has ever known, with a dash of (c) it’s much easier to develop games with backgrounds people are already familiar with.

It’s absurd to me that we’ve got a full page article on why World War 2 games are popular and yet we don’t have even one reference to the elephant in the room: World War 2 games are popular because they present a clear moral universe. There are technical reasons relating to style of the game and historical versimilitude which make WW2 a ripe period for exploitation in game universes (Mostly about the level of technology at the time and why WW2 era technology works better for that style gameplay than, say, holding a spear in a Greek phalanx, or being a supersoldier from the 22nd century), but absent the grounding a clear moral imperative provides there’s not much to differentiate, say, World War 2 from Korea or Vietnam.

Why is this important? Because storytelling in videogames is still in its infancy, and modern cultural biases rail against portrayals of historical conflicts other than WW2, as having a clear moral angle. Because game storytelling is tapping into primal and undeveloped energies of play, e.g. “Cowboys vs. Indians” or “Cops vs. Robbers” it needs to have the moral angle to justify the conflict. Most games are simply too superficial to deal with any sort of deeper motivation than these delineations to tell their story, and our cultural vocabulary is so impoverished anyway that we struggle to provide compelling rationales for villains — Today’s most common constructed narrative for understanding, say, political opponents, is paranoid conspiracy-theory thinking.

Poetry?

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Culture, Literature

The other day I was browsing on YouTube and came across this video. I’ve been sort of simmering on the idea of using video with poetry to try and make interesting readings/experiences for the past couple of months — And though this isn’t exactly along those lines, it’s in the general spirit of using the popular medium of YouTube to try and reinvigorate poetry as a medium.

Watching this video I’m rather torn between whether I think this sort of thing is helpful or not. Watch the video, I think it’s pretty compelling. The performer, in this case Taylor Mali, seems adept at playing the audience. It’s an entertaining performance, I’ll grant that, and it’s got a good social message too (assuming that matters).

The question, I think, is whether it’s appropriate to endorse this sort of venue, a “Poetry Slam” — Whatever that means — and this sort of craftsmanship — Which is, very little. I’ll admit I have absolutely no knowledge of what a “Poetry Slam” is, but by the format of this video, and ones like it, I can gather that it’s some sort of competitive poetry reading. And who needs that? Is getting the biggest rise out of your audience by pandering to their lowest common denominator tastes something that should be encouraged, or is the benefit in popularization worth the theoretical downsides?

And on craftsmanship: What we see in the video is a good oratory — But is it a good poem? Being rather more of a traditionalist I’d say no. What is here to say, “This is poetry”?

Reading down the transcription
Of what he says, it’s more like a sentence broken
Up with line breaks than meticulously thought out
Stanzas, accorded meter and rhyme and rhythm

Try as I might, I can’t find myself accepting that this is in any way representative of “good” poetry, or even worthy of that title at all. Good oratory? Sure. But writing down one’s thoughts in prose and adding in line breaks has never struck me as valid craftsmanship.

I’d like to know what you might think on the matter. Are poetry slams good? Is popularization of poetry good? Should we insist on standards of craftsmanship, or play it loose with terminology, since it’s all constructed categories anyway? If not, where’s the line? And am I just being a snob?

Predelictions

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Personal

So I’m finishing up work on a major project and, though I’m not yet done, I can’t keep my mind from wandering to other things.

After reading Shamus’ DM of the Rings for months now, I’m feeling inspired to watch the whole series of movies again. But then I got to thinking about it, and it’s been at least a decade since I’ve read the books. In fact, it’s been a long time since I’ve read any fantasy novels of any kind — The last few have all been George R. R. Martin books and before that I tried reading Robert Jordan before deciding his series was going nowhere and was too derivative. So I figure I’ll probably start reading the books again, which will hone my knowledge of Tolkein for the inevitable internet battles.

And, what the heck? I may even get around to doing the WoAdWriMo ideas. And possibly start up my D&D campaign again. And I can paint my Circle Orboros army … Hmm, sounds like an excessive amount of geekery coming up.

Dot-Blog Domain

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Miscellaneous

The other day I was tossing around ideas in my head and I was wondering why there isn’t a top-level domain of .blog? I mean, consider how many millions of blogs there are, and how many millions more there will be in another few years. Then look at some of the existing TLDs with far more esoteric purposes — .museum? .pro*? .travel? C’mon.

I’m not going to argue on principle that every endeavor that’s big or popular enough should have its own TLD, but I do think it might be a good idea in this case. We’ve got a whole subset of internet sites sharing nearly identical formats and modus operandi. Visiting a site called www.somename.blog? Chances are, it’s a blog. The intuitiveness and transparency is pretty appealing to me. Considering that we’ve already got Google trying to filter out blogs and blogspam from general searches, it’d certainly help with that endeavor.

Anyway, just an idea that I’m tossing out there. Remember, you heard it here first.

*An aside: How many gaming-related people and companies would love a .pro domain name, but can’t get one because it’s restricted to distinctly non-pro people? Disappointing!