Thursday, February 24

Making Fun of Things my Teenage Self Enjoyed

Today: Todd McFarlane.

Honestly, I feel sorry for the sad sack. Losing lawsuits to Neil Gaiman, baseballs declining in value...

Anyway, let's make fun of him some more. The question for the readers is, which webcomic satirizing Todd McFarlane is funnier?

Penny-Arcade? Or Checkerboard Nightmare? Vote now!

Next, on "Making Fun of Things my Teenage Self Enjoyed:" Tool!

ripoffery redux

You think that's good? Check out this song by Piamenta, the "Hassidic Hendrix" as he is often called. Compare it to its precursor, Simarik, or "Turkish Kiss," by the middle-eastern hearthrob known as Tarkan, aka the "Turkish Ricky Martin."

That's right, folks! Only on this blog will you find an equation that balances "Hassidic" with "Turkish" and "Hendrix" with "Ricky Martin."

eggs, milk, and wheat: more music ripoffery

Look! it's not just Lifehouse!

Apparently, Nintendo rips off tunes too.

Wednesday, February 23

On h8

I was just discussing with Fraxas how I love to hate the things I hate. (To wit: the pop culture posts that have appear below.) But loving to hate something while pretending to love it - that is an art form.
To begin, I'd like to look at the opening verses of "Bed of Roses". You may think you understand the meaning behind this poem - that John Bon Jovi likes a lady, and is upset about it. This is just a sign of the brilliant, interweaving complexity of Bon Jovi. You can love the poem at that level, and many have, but let's go... inside.


comments on Dave Rickey's piece about item farming.

And he says things that are Angus-like in clarity.

It was specifically the part about having-is-fun-not-getting that really made me want to cheer -- it's good to know that there are at least some people in the MMO industry that haven't drunk Raph Koster's fucked-up Bartle-reading "achievment=time" kool-aid. Sing it, Jeff! GIVE ME THE SHINY so I can have fun with it, rather than forcing me to work for it! Ignore the catasses! Thumb your nose at the received truth of MMO design!

I promise I won't abuse my toys if you just give them to me. I also promise that they won't be worthless to me because I didn't camp the rare frog for 30 hours to get them, either.

Tuesday, February 22

Pop Will Eat Itself

Here's the post that follows up to this one.

Musicians rip each other off all the time. What shocks me is how open it is. In just a few minutes of brainstorming, I thought of 4 examples involving 8 songs.

These links will take you to the 30 second preview clips hosted on Amazon. Depending on your browser mood, you may have to scroll down and find the title of the relevant song in the tracklist and actually click on preview button or something. For each example, I suggest you listen to the preview clips in close succession. Some of these examples are more outrageous than others, but others are unabashed "homages" that the would artists admit, as in the case of David Bowie riffing off "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

This is pretty astonishing. The stanzas are pretty much note-for-note identical. No one said that Madonna was the emblem of musical innovation, but still - she's ripping off Ozzy?
Okay, this one is a bit of a stretch. But that weird, dissonant, descending-note structure to the verses of these songs sound similar at least to my ears.
This example proves my point, if only because David Bowie admits it - in interviews that I'm sure you can find with a little Google-work, or in the liner notes to the special edition rerelease of Ziggy Stardust. To paraphrase, there he says (or maybe his producer says) that this song was bound to be a hit because it had an ingenious crib of Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
The instant I heard that crappy Lifehouse song, my ears started to bleed and I keeled over dead. What manner of travesty has befallen rock music, my disembodied spirit demanded to know. Then I realized what was happening. They are ripping off 'N Sync, note for note. Unbelievable.

Thursday, February 17


Penny Arcade Rocks.

Automated Imagination: Jeremy's blogging

Automated Imagination is where to find him.

Welcome to the blogosphere, dude.

bash doesn't *always* suck.

< robT> Name ONE thing that your windows comp can do that my MAC cant
< bawss> Right click.

Banks on Banks

" I guess there's something about sarcastic nonhumans that I feel suited to writing about."
--Iain M. Banks, a Scots author with an anti-american pickle up his butt and the capacity to write pretty good SF novels.

Quote from here, if you care.

Wednesday, February 16

Humour Through Absolute Truth

Spamusement is a comic of pure, brilliant simplicity. Even Lore Fitzgerald Sjöberg has weighed in on its awesomeness. Telling you to read it every day would be recommendation enough, but today's installment is making me laugh and cry at the same time. Enjoy.

Monday, February 14

James Governor's not a stupid guy.

James Governor's MonkChips is the public face of a small, independent, maverick tech-analyst company that's doing all sorts of neat stuff and saying things that make me go "hunh", even if I don't think about them all that hard.

The entry I've linked to here is one of the more representative ones. Incidentally, JG's on Johnathan Schwartz' and Tim Bray's "read daily" lists.

Friday, February 11

MS Fiddler



man, Dune II was awesome. It was The Best Game Ever. No RTS was better than it until, like, Starcraft. (except maybe C&C, but C&C was only really Dune II with a different suit on.)

And it accurately leveraged, and extended, a world that's Totally Great in a number of important ways. At least one of which is that it has these sarlacc-looking sandworm things that pwn j00 like a mofaka if you run your tanks over the sand instead of on safe rocks. And you know when these worms are coming because of Wormsign.

Which, if you have *any* idea what I'm talking about, should strike you as a fantastic name for a blog about The Future. Too bad this isn't it! Also, I wonder if is taken...

obsessive? me? apparently so!

Angus has more stuff up today, but I'm actually just picking on one thing he said today:
But just seems annoying and inefficient and arbitrary and weird in a single player game.
Now, modulo the grammar and incomplete sentences, this quote exposes something big about Angus: he considers "inefficient" a negative trait of the same Badness Magnitude as "annoying" and "arbitrary" and "weird".

Think about that for a second. He's saying that something being inefficient is as bad as that thing being annoying and arbitrary and weird. I'd argue that there's a relatively narrow segment of the population for which that sentence is true, and that most of those people grew up in the past 20-30 years with computers. (Most, not all; I'm sure there are some machine-shop geeks whose engines (to borrow a quote from Stephenson) don't waste any fucking energy making noise.)

Anyway. Efficiency as a Good per se. I think that there's a lot of value, and simultaneously a lot of pitfalls, in optimizing an experience (any experience!) for efficiency over everything else. Optimizing for efficiency leads to metagaming (which is what Angus is complaining about -- his inability not to metagame). Optimizing for efficiency leads to the bash shell and horribly disfigured people who prefer it over a mouse and some hand-eye coordination for basic computer maintenance tasks. Optimizing for efficiency leads to user experiences that are a mile deep and an inch wide. Overspecialized.

OK side rant: I just thought to myself, "you know, that last part there is overoptimization PERIOD (HI RANDS LOL) not just optimizing for efficiency." And that's largely true, but it's more true of optimization for efficiency than for a lot of other things, because the very word "efficiency" implies optimization. So there's an argument to be made that "optimizing for efficiency" and "optimization for its own sake" occupy very similar notional territory. Whoo! side rant complete! Let's pop this off the stack.

What was I talking about? Pitfalls of optimizing for efficiency. Right. But I'd said there was value there too, right? Well yeah. If you do it right, you only have to do that optimization once. How many little scriptlets do I have in ~/bin (the place unixheads put their scriptlets so they can run them from anywhere, if you're not a unixhead) that I wrote Back In The Day to make something easier once and it took 4 hours to get perfect and it would have taken 30 minutes to do the thing the hardway? Lemme go check. 9. So that's basically a work week there, devoted to microtools in my home directory. But I never have to think of them again! I take over someone else's keyboard sometimes, when I'm logged in as them, and try to do something like `dcscope foo foo/bar` and their bash (fuck bash, man. it's all about csh.) says "bash: dcscope: command not found" and I have to go log in as me, because who the hell remembers what dcscope actually does for me?

I'm sure you get my point about optimization not being all bad.

So now that I've said that -- the whole point of this blog entry was to say "we who live at the intersection of professional coding and computer gaming have to be careful that we don't overoptimize, because doing less work in a game isn't necessarily what you want." Consider D2JSP, a JS scripting system for Diablo II. This is an effort that literally *automates* Diablo II. Someone went to the trouble to optimize the play right out of the game, and now you can do endless meph runs all night on closed battlenet if you want to. Or at least you could a year ago, when I last looked at it. So, is it fun to play d2 that way? I guess. But only if you're playing the economic rare-collecting metagame, and not the "battling the denizens of hell as a necromancer" GAME game.

And I think the game's more fun.

(at least I try to tell myself that. I still have to stop myself from overoptimizing, though. Like in DOW. Sorry about that, Atlas.)

Tuesday, February 8

Life Lessons From Coworkers

So I'm on the phone right now with a co-worker who is "taking me under his wing". It's a little embarrassing; he's telling me about how to achieve my dreams and what to think about and all that kinda stuff.

I think this stems from a semi-private discussion I had with my boss yesterday about a third co-worker who's leaving soon -- I threatened to quit, and demonstrated some rather poor office-politicking skills. So now the guy I'm on the phone with has been tasked by our boss to make me feel better about myself.

Also, there's an anonymous comment on the blog! holy crap! I guess it's One Of Those Moments when you realize that, in fact, you are publishing these things to the public internet and not just to 3 or 4 friends.

Did I have a point? I don't think so. but Angus doesn't think I need one, so there.

Sunday, February 6

I hate losing

Yup, I really do. It's horrible.

The only way I can really tolerate losing is when I have a ready-made excuse. Like I was playing against a computer, and the computer's cheating, or something like that. Or I know the odds are stacked against me in a game of chance or something.

But losing because of being outmatched? HATE IT. Makes my blood boil. I have to go hit things when I lose because of being outmatched. It doesn't even really matter why it happened -- or if there are good reasons, like The Asshole Who Beat Me having 10 years of experience at the game to my 5 minutes or something like that. Losing is humiliating. It demonstrates, in a conclusive way, some fasion in which I am inferior to the person that beats me, and that's an ego blow I've shielded myself from for a long time. OH HEY HERE'S A GOOD IDEA LET'S TELL THE WHOLE FUCKING WORLD ABOUT IT.

...and here's the part where you stop reading, because it's just Fraxas feeling sorry for himself.

Thursday, February 3

Trochaic Dimeter of the Impromptu Kind

Trochaic dimeter is quite a bit more common than I expected. I suppose, though, that the number of people who have been the subjects of such poems is still quite small. Fraxas, you're now one of the lucky ones:

I've never ever
Even seen
A single thing
That acts as Fraxas.

Tuesday, February 1

more impromptu dactylic quadrameter

I can't help but think there's something to be said
for keeping your thoughts to yourself, in your head.
Few things reveal in a more direct way
that you're foolish than thinking you've something to say.

Apologies to Mr. Twain.

The dearth of originality

Okay. We all know how totally bankrupt Hollywood is. We already know that they cannibilize each other's ideas to the point that each hackneyed, trite movie concept resembles everything else.

Now, here's a concept that defines "hackneyed:" A covert war is happening between humans and vampires. Our race's only hope is a dark anti-hero, someone who is half human, half vampire. whose side will win?

Here's what I need you to do. (Warning: bandwidth intensive. ) Go here and watch the trailer for the movie Blade II. Pay attention to the dialogue about halfway through. Now click here and watch the trailer for the movie Bloodrayne.

If you're not in the mood to wait for these downloads, I don't blame you. You can swipe the invisitext below to spoil the surprise:

( In the trailer for Blade II, Wesley Snipes says "Keep your friends close. Keep your enemies... Closer." In Bloodrayne, some talentless hack says "Keep your freinds close... enemies even closer." I mean, wtf. )

Seriously. It's bad enough that two movies would have such ridiculously simplistic, trite concepts; but the dialogue is the same -- not only in the movie but in the trailers!

I think the Penny-Arcade boys said it best.

Watch this space for a similar post about the blatant ripoffery in popular music! Bet you can't wait.