The mathematics of hatred.

While I have some objections to universal suffrage and democracy as flawed by design, I can't demonstrably prove myself right or wrong about this solely based on historical data.
From an empirical perspective, however, a solid argument can made that only a rough half of voters on any election vote in favor of something/someone, while the other half vote 'against'. That's enough to fuel the argument that majority rule sucks unwashed goats, yet also shines an interesting light on last night's election results.

Card-carrying members are taken for granted.

Just as with any other brand-pushing PR effort, more resources during a presidential campaign are devoted to bring in new supporters than to comfort the existing userbase, which naturally tends to reinforce itself when their beliefs are challenged.
Thus, campaign strategists go first and foremost for those undecided or uninvolved, and seek the fastest and cheapest way to bring them into the fold.

Why, oh why the hatred ?

A simple fact of a majority rule election is that it's really difficult to groom your own pony (no matter how good he/she may be) to look like a prize stallion in any possible voter's eyes.
Meanwhile, it's a reasonably trivial task to throw each and every accusation of awfulness you can muster (no matter how fictitious or far-fatched) in the general direction of the opposition and hope a little something will stick for everybody watching.

Ensuring a voice doesn't go to the other guy may not look as good as securing a vote for your own candidate, but it's at least half as beneficial when it comes down to the scoreboard: the worst that can happen is the voter is turned off badly enough by all parties that he/she simply doesn't vote at all, which is certainly better than him/her voting for the 'enemy'.

The more polarized the election, the stronger the case for this approach: when the game boils down to a duel, there's almost no apparent downside to smear tactics, since they can't result in outsider victories or kingmaker configurations.

From-the-hip probabiliguesses.

With this strategy as the default line of any strongly personalized campaign, one could expect the proportion of 'anti' voters to exceed that of 'pro' voters, but my guess is it's closer to a 50/50 split, as strongly polarized contests naturally tend to reinforce and freeze people in their preexisting biases, thus leading the 'positive' potential voters to opt in earlier and harder in favor of their candidate (than they would in a less intense election) which makes them largely impervious to the influence of smear tactics — either way.

Whether the final score is 50.1% vs 49.9% or 65% vs 35%, it is sensible to assume about half the votes on each side of the fence are cast in genuine support of their party's candidate/proposal, while the remaining half merely try to prevent a catastrophe by endorsing whichever candidate seems more likely to beat the one they don't want to see win the race.

[Caveat: This rule of thumb holds only within some limits of the scoreboard, however: the more extreme the final majority (from 70-30 up to 100-0), the higher the proportion of voters are likely to have cast a 'con' rather than 'pro' vote, and the more likely for the ballot result to simply mean: "This selection of choices is fubar, let's get the most scary stuff out of the way and run another, more sensible election, please ?"
This can be explained by an outlandish situation turning usually moderate people into temporary hardliners against the election configuration itself, rather than split over the choices divide.]

Speculating, one far-fetched idea at a time.

Obviously I have nothing to back this up to a reasonable certainty, my guesstimate roots in what I could gather over time from polls and talks over drinks with people of various political orientations (yeah, whoever they are for you, you can safely bet I'm all pally with your personal bad guys), but what I got from this thoroughly unscientific probing is nonetheless interesting.

Regardless of where the voters are on the political compass, or how polarized and ferociously fought the election is, each individual voter is just as likely to be motivated by genuine enthusiasm for "his" guy as he's to be only driven by a will to take down the opposition.

To clarify, the core values of one's personal political church are largely irrelevant to the proportion of 'positive' vs 'negative' voters in a group: obviously the farther out from the center one sits on the political spectrum, the more likely he/she is to be driven by hatred/fear of some 00ber ebil, be it soulless commies, vulture capitalists, christians, jews, muslims, atheists, fags, negroes, yni., and the main reason for people to niche into some extremist-yet-clearcut enclave is usually they're scared witless…
But that's not the nail I'm trying to hit here: extremist values certainly run on a hate/fear fuel mix, yet hardliners of any political group still can be separated between those who mainly idolize their leaders/candidates and those who mostly hate the guts of some specific political enemy/target/scapegoat, and when you take a bit of time to listen to them, both categories draw about equal numbers in the group.

So what ?

Well, by looking at this map, and in light of the 50/50 pro/con breakdown rule'o'thumb described above (assuming my hypothesis is of any merit), the spectacular victories achieved by either ticket in most states are telling a different story altogether.

The ballot scores on this presidential election sit in a 55-45 to 65-35 bracket, both in blue and red states, with few exceptions.

Using the 50/50 pro/con RoT, we can read about 30% of the voters in red states were strongly hostile to the Obama/Biden ticket, 30% were really favorable to the McCain/Palin ticket, while 20% of the voters were totally in the tank for Hopey/Joe-not-a-plumber, and another 20% hated McCain/Palin's collective guts.

Perfect symmetry in blue states, I'll spare electrons by not typing it.

Why half of the voters in each camp, boiling down to half of the total of voters would hate/fear the opposing ticket is left as an exercise for the reader, as the reasons are both plentiful and uncanny (for some at least), but one interpretation of the picture is that about 50% of the registered voters in any state each hate/fear the winning or losing ticket, and by extension, 40 to 60 percent of their fellow statemates.

On a national scale, the popular votes scores 52-46 at this writing , and it's a simple matter to extrapolate: 26% of the citizenry is ravished by Obama (hard to tell about Biden), and 23% just freak out about the idea of a commie-muslim-terroriss' nigger in the Oval Office, and plain want him dead.

Which could mean a healthy 49% sighed in collective relief (including John McCain) at the thought of Palin as president being no threat 'naymore — at least for now.

And yeah, because we're ugly cynics, we started a new betting pool on how long for some wacko to put a bullet in Hopey — predictions to be expressed in fractional values of a JFK term, obviously.

Enjoy the postponement of WW3, I know I do.


X-over 4 free 111

[Full disclosure: I am a CrossOver Advocate, for EVE Online, Teamspeak and Ventrilo apps, albeit an unpaid one, so you may want to take my opinion with a grain of salt over potential fanboism — but not corporate whore-ing].

CodeWeavers' CEO seemingly blew a fuse a while back (around july '08) with the Great American Lame Duck Presidential Challenge, and then another a few days ago when some hiccup in the US of A high-velocity circling of the history drain sent the gas price at St Paul's pumps back down to $2.79.

End result: Crossover if offered for free (today) at CodeWeavers' website.

Does it look like a shameless plug to you ? It is, certainly, but in no way a shameful one in my view, as CrossOver is one of the best standalone WinXX emulators on the MacOS X platform (at least).

I'm a daily user of Parallel's Desktop for Mac, TransGaming's Cider (as it's the official platform for EVE Online's Mac 'client'), and CodeWeavers' Crossover (which, did I mention it, you can get for free today).

Objectively, Crossover smokes Cider on everything but audio, of which there is none at this writing: it doesn't crash nor pukes as much in the RAM, and most importantly for laptop users, doesn't attempt to melt your GPU the instant you launch a second client — and who plays EVE with less than two sessions, I ask you ?

There are obviously things you can't do with a WINE-styled WinXX emulator, compared to a machine-level emulation a-la Parallels Desktop, but when it comes to gaming, you can't beat the performance of Crossover, short of rebooting in native Windows mode — which is usually something I personally try to avoid.

So if you have a MacOS X machine, give it a spin, it's free as beer for one year if you jump at it today…


Don't trust the candyman…

Not all wishes come true, and in the world of electronic hobby publishing less than in most places, but still… the Other Blog is finally on, and there's a slew of articles coming up for that one.

As for AcDpad, I'm still waiting on the long overdue upgrade to run more than one instance of self concurrently so I have time to write here too, but I'm not losing hope entirely on plan B, which is merely me becoming fantastically smarter and more efficient at time management.

Don't hold your breath though, or don't sue me if you do.


Harpo and C°

R-POW stands for Recreational Persistent Online World.

Anyone who's been gravitating around MMO*, MUDs, MUSHes long enough has come to hate the MMOG/MMORPG acronyms with a passion, for a number of all very good reasons:
  • Massive(ly) Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games is not a mouthful, it's the after-action of competitive eating (think what comes just after a bulimia attack).

  • The Massive(ly) is an abomination to grammar, and we look retarded enough spending our lives playing games way past our prime as it is.

  • The whole Game thing irks bearded academics and self-important hiveminds alike, not such a bad thing in itself, but kind of gets in the way of level-headed debate.

  • Also, everybody thinks of WoW when you invoke MMO* (or Everquest, back last century) which further skews the discussion when you're talking about POWs-without-elves.
Hence my coining (?) R-POW — pronounced Harpo.
Persistent Online Worlds is self-explanatory, and while the multiplayer angle is only implicit, it's also obvious from a craft/business perspective: there's little benefit in creating a persistent universe on the intarwebs if it's not to share the experience, and the more the merrier.

R-POW encompass the  games, but also social/business experimental worlds such as Second Life, as long as the users are expected to enter and stay in the world on their own volition and for the purpose of entertainment/fun/recreation. This remains true even if the experience actually sucks goats, is a painful grindfest, and a fraction of the population really aims at making a buck by farming gold, and is not there for fun and giggles.

E-POW (pronounced Hippo, obviously), are Educational, and can include many forms of Serious Games, such as those meant to raise awareness about political or social issues, teach history to kids and whatnot, as long as they fit the POW part of the bill and aren't just a Civ-like edutainment tool.

T-POW (teapot, pronounced Colbert-style), are Training POWs, typically military or specialty simulations meant to teach and hone practical skills (as opposed to support general education/information/debate on select issues). They can also include simulations designed to help businesses evaluate employees or build team spirit. Generally speaking, they differ from E-POW by being purposefully designed for a select audience and heavily goal-oriented.

With that out of the way, expect to see me maliciously sparkle future articles with both *-POW and MMO*, for variety's sake…


Fall update.

It has been a while…

And the drought is not over yet, I'm afraid: although there are quite a few notes piling up in my hard drive, I still am not the blogger for real, having sort of a block on pushing half-baked content in the open.

Namely, I've been goofing around with articles for the other blog, and reading like crazy, once again faced with the limitation of running a single instance on a linear 1 s/s time.

That said, I do sleep, and even dream. Thanks to one of the daily reads (I suspect), I woke up today with the vivid (albeit quickly vanishing) impression of a "perfect moment" kind of evening.

There was duck on the menu, but that's not key: I had the unrealistic privilege of sitting at the same table as Glenn Gould, Neal Stephenson and Will Wright, while Scott Adams was stuck in the elevator with Ayn Rand, to everyone else's relief (unfortunately, Charles Stross had missed his plane).

Unrelated, but the first episode of The Shield season 7 is out…

PS: Yeah, flight schedules are an insurmontable obstacle in my dreams, when death isn't, go figure…


I didn't take the week off.

...I swear.
For some reason, 6 days flew by since last post, and I have no idea where they went.
Subjective time flow here is really weird, and/or I can't seem to get the hang of it.

I've massed notes on design and world building, but I can't bring myself to post half-cocked rants, for some reason (believe that, previous entries aren't a fifth as bad the brain drool as they could have been without copy-editing) ...maybe I'm not blogger material after all.

Anyway, I'll play tease, be it only to guilt-trip myself into finishing those articles.

Coming Soon™ on this screen:
  • Monica VS Phoebe: the dirt.
  • MovieOS — Part II: The Bad.
  • The other blog: because I can't post daily on one, why not make it worse ?
  • Game making and the meaning of life: of the great why ? that keeps us awake at night.
Until then, I recommend this Gama article about MMO*s and addiction (yeah, it's about as original a topic as RMT and Virtual Property debates, but it still got me thinking).



Pentimento-free area.

Since I started populating this blog in earnest, about a week ago, I've improved the template and blog on the fly, cosmetics-wise.

A side effect is I've been looking back at already published posts more than once, and occasionally edited released content beyond mere spell checking and copy-proofing, which is probably a good thing on average, but it got me thinking about the abstraction layer of the blog template.

If I had a hard time writing here, up until I tweaked this blog template to an approximation of my taste, what does it say about reading it ?

I realize I'm using this platform as a poor man's (tiddly)wiki, because I'm lazy, and I can't help but try and emulate the organic nature of tiddler-based writing on a support that is meant as a fire-and-forget journaling platform.

Thus, I overdo on production value, revising the past as I go, which wouldn't be so much of a lie if it wasn't for the fact blogspot is conveniently (?) devoid of versioning and history.
A few months/years from now, will I be updating old entries to account for new developments ?
What of interface and cosmetic tweaks, could context change be enough to affect the meaning of old content ?

Does it matter ? In any way ?
Guess that's what the Brainfart label is for.

Cooking made easy.

This is a shameless plug for a piece of MacOS X software, but since it's freeware, you don't even have to worry about me having a vested interest in pushing this to your Dashboard.

Reminder ?

Reminder is a Dashboard Widget that took me some time to find, and which I've been depending on ever since, for everything from cooking to calling people back, to keeping the infamous *just 5 minutes* computer-time warp in check.

Reminder grab
What it does is deceptively simple: create iCal events (complete with alarms) in the future with minimal keypresses and interface fiddling.


Summon Dashboard, and if you — like me — leave Reminder on as your last/default text input, all you need is to type the number of minutes until the event, optionally hit Tab once to edit the name of the alarm, and press Return or Enter before you resume normal activity.

Time units can be toggled to hours or days prior to digit input, by hitting the h or d key first. Beautiful in simplicity.


This is one of those *basic* tools I'm confident no MovieOS designer could overlook, yet is consistently absent from RealWorld™ vanilla OS distros.
In fact, before CASE Apps became Gravity Apps, their slogan was:
Applications that should have been in the box.
Spot on.

Their other stuff is nice, too — I'd buy Steel in a blink if it was cross-platform, but I'm still entangled to good ole S3's PasswordWallet, for compatibility reasons.

As a final note, it's worth mentioning what a nice chap Martin Kahr is:
Back in 2006, when Reminder 1.x was still Rem!nder, published by CASE Apps, I had problems getting it to work reliably on my tuned version of Panther (notably using case-sensitive FS), and Martin whipped a custom build overnight that fixed it and got me running up to the 2.0 release (Leopard friendly).

Tip'o'the hat, that's solid freeware support.


Zulu Time 4tw !

Seriously folks, as if DST wasn't stupid enough, do we really have to combine it with the retarded concept of time zones to make things even more uselessly confusing ?

One would argue having hours all fuzzy and mixed up around the clock has a redeeming value, would it contribute to raise awareness about the notion that time is not, in fact, a constant and frozen dimension, but c'mon: grab anyone at random in the street — not on campus, you cheater ! — and ask them how switching the clock forward one hour every spring makes them feel about their LightCone.

Chances are the answer will be something akin to "Huh ?", or "Go away, you pervert !", depending on gender/age differences between the guinea pig and yourself.

Not only are Timezones stupid in essence, when no one sets their clock by sundials anymore, but they are botched beyond repair. Check the map, and tell me if it makes sense to you...

As national borders erode in favor of continental (global) and regional (local) spatial references, clinging on a literal translation of sovereignty from map to clock is about as relevant as the defense of flat earth theory, or the selection of rulers based on physical prowess.
...hold the presses, does "best hair" count as physical prowess ?

Moving on.

Zulu to the rescue.

That's an easy fix: let's all switch once and for good to Zulu, GMT, UTC, UT1, TAI, however you want to call it, and be done with that.

No matter where you go, then you are: no more clock fiddling, local time confusion, longitudinal discrepancies over nonsensically expanded/shrunk timezones. US east-coasters would have diner around 23.00h, just like they do now, only their clocks won't be blinking stupidly on 6 PM anymore, and it will still be about breakfast time in Osaka, just like today.
[And yes, we would take the opportunity to get rid of the dumbalicious AM/PM notation, as it really, really wouldn't mean squat anymore.]

If people can adjust to DST twice a year — a change just big enough to be unsettling for a couple weeks every time it happens — odds are pretty good they can adjust to a one-time, however severe change of display on their wristwatches.

Maybe the transition could be helped by going for dual-display of *old* and *new* time, while I suspect it could be more a drag than anything.
Alternatively, clocks could be upgraded with a fourth hand, coupled with geolocation, that would point solar noon for your current locale, and give a feel for one's "when" in the day.

That would be cute, and sell a lot of wristwatches, gotta love it.
[If someone knows how to hack a google gadget for that, eternal love shall ensue.]

Why UTC and not InternetTime ?

Short answer: because Swatch's iNet Time is a proprietary time.
Long answer: because Swatch Internet Time is just as ridiculously stupefid as the short answer above hints.
  • It's locked on Biel, Switzerland (no kidding), and not even accurate at that ;
  • It substitutes an arbitrary unit everybody is used to for another no one will get used to, as it doesn't fucking divide (because-we-can type of design flaw) ;
  • who wants to to mesure 2.31481481481 friggin beats to properly cook an oeuf à la coque, anyways ?
Case closed, as far as I'm concerned.

Wrapping up

Zulu is good because it's already a standard for time-critical applications, like airlines, high-sea navigation, and basically anything that has a non-cosmetic use for timekeeping.
Also, most people who routinely relate or travel to distant locales are already up to speed on their relative position to UTC.

As an ancillary benefit, coming to agree on giving each other the time of the day could be a nice first step towards acknowledging we're all more or less on the same boat.

Holy Carpaccio, Melissa: how campy can I get with punchlines ?

Ball-point ride.

Toss a couple random items in a beta-grade teleporter, and you don't quite get that flying car I was promised in the 50's...
but this thing still makes for some cute future shock.

[PS: free cookies for anyone who can tell me how to avoid borders on pictures.]

[PPS: Found it ! Free cookies for meh.]

MovieOS — Part I: The Good.

Don't let the Anal Nerd Squad put you off: MovieOS is great.
In fact, it's probably one of the best hopes for the otherwise sclerotic field of computer user interfaces to ever improve.

This is Part 1/3 of a short series about the relevance of MovieOS to designers.
Links to Parts 2 and 3 tba.

For those who are behind on their nerd jargon, MovieOS is the umbrella porte-manteau blanket label (picture this !) that applies to the peculiar logic ruling over all things computing, and notably user interfaces, as depicted in movies and TV shows.

Why you shouldn't hate MovieOS.

MovieOS is generally blamed by the Anal Nerd Squad for its lack of "realism" and technical soundness, in view of what is deemed CommonSense™ about computers and user interfaces.
It says more about the lack of imagination and insecurities of computer nerds than anything, except maybe for their cluelessness about story telling.

MovieOS generally does its job, which is that of a prop or plot device, meant to tell us somehing and further the story line.
As a believable operating system and user interface, it is usually out of touch with the state of affairs in RealWorld™ computing, and that's exactly why it's interesting to this armchair designer.

What MovieOS can do for us, already.

User interfaces, like all things human, are the product of their history, and it shows.
To this day, even though the available memory, computational and rendering power of most computers and appliances exceeds by far the requirements of spartan implementation, we're generally stuck with interfaces that say a lot about their ancestors and about the culture of the nerds and marketing drones who botched them, yet have little relation to what the user intends to do with the software/hardware, nor how she'd like to do it.

MovieOS, on the contrary is all about the user intent, purposes and ways: its form is supposed to let us know all we need to learn about function, because it is mainly through MovieOS that we will experience the impact of the protoganist's actions on the computer/traffic light/giant combat cyber-bunny.

So... MovieOS is all about usability, with iconic representations, symbols and metaphors which anybody in the audience can relate to and intuitively grasp.
...yeah, that's pretty much what you'd expect from a good OS/GUI.
— Except *in reality* computers don't work that way ! (object the 1337 nerds)
— Guess what ? It's a damn shame they don't, for the most part. (counters I)
Precisely that which irritates the ANS is what makes MovieOS a great bootstrap for reflexion on user interface: it's designed "backwards".

Let's dive in...

What MovieOS can do for us, almost.

A frequent objection to MovieOS is how it often performs seemingly impossible/ludicrous feats, like infinite image enhancement from a grainy CCTV/satellite shot.
Without pulling the Advanced Technology≈Magic joker card, we already have software that can provide us with results of seemingly finer granularity than the sample item provided as user-level reference.

While the classic "magic endless zoom" of Hollywood movies may be overreaching, what is within reach already (in some areas), is the possibility to pull pinpoint geolocation for a target from a satellite shot, and poll all relevant CCTV data from the immediate surroundings and timestamp.
If we assume streaming video pooled from multiple angles, even at low res, we end up with a solid base material to build a full 3D image, possibly in higher resolution (interpolated) than that of any individual witness camera.

With SmartDust sprayed in the wild or embedded in wall paint, no place is safe from such visual recompositions.
For a nice example, of SciFi-grade tech turned RealWorld™ product overnight, check this.

Another of the archetypal fallacies pointed by its detractors is MovieOS apparent predictive capabilities:
How comes the M-I laptop knows in advance Tom will need to bring up a satellite view of that specific area in Chile, to have it at the ready just on cue ?

Because there *is* a cue: It's scripted, stupid !
In some ways, MovieOS bashers, for all their technical superiority posturing, are just like 5 year old kids who can't help themselves and yell at the actors on the screen: Watch out ! He's behind you !

Because we can tell from MovieOS display what the protagonist just did, that's clue enough for us to guess her likely next moves, one of which will be confirmed by MovieOS eye-candied display.

Believe it or not, it's not too hard for a contemporary expert system to guess, either.
It's not a walk in the park, but provided enough background and context, it's not far-fetched to imagine automated systems making educated guesses, or responding fast enough to complex situations to seem like they anticipate.

For a RealWorld™, relatively mundane example, see trajectory correction, anti-spin/drift and electronic gear shifting systems on high-end cars: some of those rides would make you think they actually use the onboard GPS to tell the next curb in advance (they don't), and notice the pavement is wet and slippery before you did (they do).

Give an expert system enough history about your typical behavior, some good heuristics to turn that into meaningful context, keep it available as a portable/ubiquitous and non-obtrusive resource, and you got yourself an OS that will be one steap ahead of you 80% of the time.

Before anyone gets shot: no, Microsoft Office Assistants and various Wizards are not a step in that direction (because they ask you too many questions, too early, in a context with too many options in the decision tree anyhow), but the "recently used items" in Windows™ Start Menu are.

Wrapping up the goods.

Not encumbered by the software designer's set of aesthetics prejudices, moviemakers certainly overlook a number of technical objections, and generally make horrible mistakes, but no one among the large number of me is saying we should use MovieOS as a literal blueprint for an OS/GUI (although I'm a huge fan of Galaxy Quest).

Instead, we should see MovieOS for what it can be to us, a strong source of inspiration for usability, as it gives us a hint of how people who aren't software designers — yet know a thing or two about getting a message across — imagine what an OS/GUI should look like for a given application, and how it should perform.

Those of us willing to break the ranks of the Anal Nerd Squad and look beyond the superficial (and irritating) misrepresentation of hacking and engineering may realize this kind of fantasy tech data can be mined for gold.

[To be continued in Part II: The Bad.]


MovieOS is a blanket designation for the way Hollywood movies and pop SciFi (in comic books, film, TV, etc.) depict human/computer interaction.

UserFriendly MovieOS cartoon

Summarily, MovieOS combines:

  • infinitely interoperable hardware/software (you can plug everything into anything, sockets match and much succesful handshaking ensues) ;
  • seemingly limitless computational and rendering power (sound and image can be enhanced to crystal precision from the crappiest original image/recording) ;
  • psychic-grade usability (a couple of neatly placed obvious pads/buttons activate just the function you need next, regardless of how unlikely it is for you to summon an Instant Satellite Hijack wizard in the middle of perusing the Online Traditional Thai Cookbook) ;
  • ubiquitous interconnection (you have link anywhere, unless the plot requires you don't, and the webcam in your backyard dog-house not only has X-ray and thermal modes, but is direct linked to NSA surveillance grid, and to every soda vending machine in South Africa) ;
  • GUI that come in three main variations, possibly mixed together, (1-DEU mode) visual -impaired, size 72 clear-on-dark glowing text and full-screen zooming kindergarten-themed icons, (2-Xpert M0de) manyfold-plentiful fast-scrolling lines of tiny blinking text filling the screen, (3-4L1EN Mode) 3-D floating glyphs resolving through smokey/watery effects, Jaron Lanier phant'sy ;
  • quantum computing, or something similarly magic, is implied by the ability to reconfigure any piece of hardware into almost anything (including nuclear grade power source/weapon) by mere fiddling of the software ;
  • obviously MovieOS doesn't crash or bug out, yet is susceptible to advanced malware, notably video-enhanced virri.
I have a passion for MovieOS, expect to read a lot about it here. Just follow the flag...


Reality TV, what if ?

Anyone with a passing interest for the genre knows by know how Reality TV (like documentary film) is all about storytelling, be it at the expense of facts and 'reality' (unlike good documentary film).

So why do we still buy in Reality TV, knowing it is, in no way, 'real' ?
Call me biased (I am), but I'd wager it is somehow tied to expectations management.

Reality TV sets us in a hawk/voyeur mindset, were we expect to see 'real people' confronted with situations they aren't entirely prepared for, without the lifeline of a script, or the pact with the director she will try to make the best of their performance.

Ofc, this is a broad generalization, Reality TV is not so much a genre as it is a technique, or a platform, and not all shows focus on the same story, nor tell their stories the exact same way, yet beyond the pure voyeur shows exploiting the assumed candor of the consenting stalkees (which are pretty much constant in their mechanics and attraction), players' performances in recent shows generally stand apart from the typical lamb-to-the-slaughter of yore.

We all have stopped being naive about the medium a long time ago, both the viewers and the protagonists of reality TV.
The we-know-that-you-know-that-we-know convention may be why, ultimately, we can still identify, empathize with the people on display: both they and us are trying to bring out some depth and relief from what we all see through for a shadow play.

This dynamic may be more obvious in "People" shows (a la "Big Brother") than in game/adventure shows (such as "Survivor"), where the weight of character drama on the storyline is mitigated by action-centric plot devices, but even gamey shows such as Survivor would make for a pretty poor show of Iron-Man-Next-Door, without the backstory and character contextualization.

Why I am rambling on that now ? Well, because of a TV Show I've been watching, of course.
It's called "The Comeback", ran for only one season of 13 installments in 2005, and revolves around a has-been TV actress who agrees to be stalked by a Reality TV crew as the condition to get a part in a fledgling sitcom.

There are just as many good reasons to watch this show as there are to explain why it didn't make it past season one: it's unsettling, lacks pace and rythm, and is actually painful to watch (at times) for being eerily verisimilar — arguably more than most audiences are asking for.

And there's a catch: it's not Reality TV, it's fiction, docudrama-flavored.

The Reality show in "The Comeback" isn't real, the main protagonist (Valerie Cherish, of non-real "I'm it!" fame) is portrayed by an actress (Lisa Kudrow, of undisputable "Friends" fame), followed around by a pretend Reality TV crew, led by Jane (Laura Silverman).
Valerie's misery is exposed yet staged, as she's filmed acting a supporting part in a (nonexistent) network sitcom called "Room and Bored", directed by Jimmy Burrows (as himself).

Shown to us (directed by James Burrows, how clever) is what we're told to be the raw, unedited footage shot by a single camera, assumed to be that of the quite-not-entirely-fake-then-maybe Reality TV show.

Yeah, like it wasn't enough of a mess already. Eyeballs melt under matriochka-induced overload.

It's really hard to believe we're talking about one-take, no-edit footage, despite the aforementioned aching pace of the show... since we know what we're witnessing is an act, shown to us by professional actors and showbiz people, presumably following a script.

There's a strong disconnect happening here, not the least because of the irreprochable acting — man, these people pretending not to act really look like they're not acting... — yet also because our trained couch potato brain isn't sure what it's meant to look at/for.

The hurdles of grainy footage, mumbled lines, dragged-out developments and semi-boring memes we are willing to endure, or even embrace for the sake of watching something 'real', but they unsurprisingly turn out to be more than most viewers can take when watching a fiction.
Unless you stamp a large 'modern art' sticker on it, this turkey won't fly better than a videogame designed by the Windows Vista Experience Team.

Our perverse curiosity can get no satisfaction here, as we know from the onset we're watching a scripted performance, but neither can we indulge in a cozy ride of crafty entertainment, for half of the skill here goes to make "The Comeback" everything but cookie-cutter entertaining.

In a nutshell, "The Comeback" feels too close to reality to be entertaining or funny, and is not real enough for us to hope for any moment of truth, except maybe flaws in the fabric and cracks at the seams of the showmanship.

"The Comeback" feels very much like a labored jaywalk about the immediate surroundings of the Uncanny Valley.
That it doesn't quite ever makes it there is titillating, irritating, and definitely food for thought.
...enough that I'll ramble about it some more in an upcoming "Monica vs Phoebe" entry.


Live museification.

George Clooney googles himself for Esquire, artfully pretends to be a virgin.
Because one really has to make the most of any Georgean Encounter, there is a "behind the scene" feature about the feature about george looking into the webospheric mirror.

I don't know what exactly yet, but it flipped a switch in the back of my mind.


Does that count as a post ?

I couldn't say, really: although I'm vaguely aware electrons aren't among endangered species, the whole stream-of-(un)consciousness trip is something I usually keep for special circumstances — quality rambling time, solo under a hot shower, preferably barely awake, or drunk, or both.

I'm probably not the best judge of what's appropriate when it comes to blogging... let's go for a second opinion on the intarweb.
...and a third.

During my poking around, I stumble on this, which I will probably be wasting some hours on over the next couple days.

Still, the hive mind isn't helping much, and I feel stuck for about as long as it takes to fix a coffee, until I realize I'm sitting at ground zero of the blogosphere, or pretty close, and I oughta take a look around.

So I hit the "Next Blog" button in the navBar a couple times.
At last, I learn something about the blog-geist: at 11 PM GMT on a saturday night, half of the most recently updated blogs here are spanish speaking.

Moving on.

Apparently a header can't be taken seriously these days if it doesn't sprawl halfway down a 17" screen...

I've been fiddling around with the 'pad layout, in order to make it a tad less awkward, and finally took advantage of a nice 3-column template from SuckMyLolly.com, thanks to it being released by Sharnee under a CC Attrib License.

As you can see from the demo blog, this is a very nice layout, but it's sort of a waste at resolutions larger than 1024*x, since the main central column is static in width (a common issue with most blogger templates I've seen so far), so I quick'n'dirtied my way around that, switched the theme to trog mode, and finally got rid of the classic photo banner that forces you to scroll just to get a good view of the last post and sidebars.

Speaking of screen real estate... the tiny composing window of Blogger is annoying as hell, so I guess I will have to find a third party-editing tool, since the (otherwise peachy) Resizeable Textarea FF add-on doesn't work on Blogger's WYSIWYG editor.
Any clues/hints welcome about that.

Anyhow, not only is the 'pad much less of an eye sore than a couple hours back, but I believe I also crossed all the required boxes on the checklist of a typical blog entry:
  • Blogging about blogging: check
  • Linking to other blogs: check
  • Ranting about my frustration/struggle with the medium: check
  • Pointing to a few authoritative/semi-useful resources: check
  • Not getting anything done while I muse about stuff to do: check
Hey, this thing is easy as pie — and I guess it counts as a Post™, after all...



OK, one entry every three months probably doesn't exactly fit the bill of online journaling, unless one lives on geological clock.
In my defense, I'm not really happy with the medium, and would rather use some tiddlywiki-like sort of platform, if I could find the time to tweak it to my taste for blogging.

Meanwhile, I've been stockpiling articles drafts on the laptop, waiting for some quiet time to sort notes out into something akin to legible content.
That time, I believe, may be about now.

Thanks to a recent relocation to an otherwise pleasant but internet challenged locale, I've spent the past 10 days sieging the local great firewall of censorship, and generally just trying to get on the damn intarweb.

Now that things are more or less sorted, I'm slowly making my peace with the notion that I'm just about stuck in a 20th century-flavored asynchronous online paradigm, where mail and semi-static content rule.

After I found myself firing up IRC as a substitute for MSN/Gtalk (because it's easier to catch up on group chat logs when one drops unexpectedly on IRC), Blogging suddendly started to make sense, in a @well mailing list way.

So... stay tuned, something may yet happen before another three months.



This place is the armchair designer drawing board.

It is not an artsy (of the eye-gouging school) book of prophecies, nor the feverish questing for absolute truth of a nerd groping at pseudoscience to reassure himself making games is grownup stuff after all, nor a lot of other things...

It is the semi-honest, barely edited, account of a journey through a world of thoughts, written in perfectly broken English.

This journey, and the relation thereof, have no clear beginning nor end, little periodicity or schedule, and only a vague notion of direction, in that everything that happens and is told herein relates more or less to the weird, sticky, mildly sick and wildly confused art and craft of building game worlds.

As to why you, or anyone should or would want to read that, I have no definite, much less convincing, answer. It is intended as a personal notepad, for reference mostly, meant to get half-gelified ideas out of my system before they clog a pipe, or something.
...which is not to say it couldn't be your thing, maybe you'll enjoy parts of the reading, maybe it will click for you like it clicked for me at the time I wrote it.

Possibly you'll identify, find some echo of who you are, were, or may turn into, but there's no lesson here, no deep truth or all-encompassing theory of the world, nor of the self of the gamey world creator: only what you get when a freewheeling mind jolts down stuff so he can move on to a different ramble.

Because of all of the above, there will be a lot more first-person voice than is usual on pseudo-technical/academic/theory e-writing, for I speak unto thee, reader, from nay higher place than this non-ancient, unimpressive armchair, and do so only in my own name, wary that I am to find myself — or you — in bad company.

If you're new here, this is a recommended read.