Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Book Triad: Games and Atlases

It's been a while since the last book triad; it's not that I haven't been reading things, it's that I haven't been finishing them.  But, well, we're here now.  Today's books are:

The Leafs in Autumn by Jack Batten.
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.
Rise of the Videogame Zinesters: How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Drop-outs, Queers, Housewives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form by Anna Anthropy.

Reviews after the break.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Admittedly, the Second One is Still Not Very Good

I'm reading a book (Thacker's In the Dust of This Planet) with a section on witchcraft and its prosecution by the Church, and it strikes me that the version of this that we get in the Dragon Age series might deserve more credit than it generally receives.  Like most things about the story of Dragon Age, the story of the Chantry is usually dismissed as stock fantasy fare, and it is, to an extent: mages and knights and templars and God and so forth.  But it's also an approach to witchcraft that said, not just let's prosecute it, but let's also take over the policing of those inflicted with it, and let's use them as weapons as well.  It's an idea with some legs to it, I think--taking the real-life idea and forcing it one step further.  The great advantage of fantasy, in my opinion, is less the use of magic and more the chance to look through human culture and nature through slightly different lenses.

Later Days.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Game Studies: A Pointed Digression from the Lord of the Rings

I'm writing up a review for a games studies anthology on Lord of the Rings Online called Ringbearers. Like most of my game studies-related book reviews these days, I'm keeping the main text to myself, in the vain hope that I'll one day be able to publish it in a venue that's a little more likely to be noticed than my modest blogging efforts.   However, there's a short part of the review that I've decided isn't worth keeping for that purpose, simply because it could never be published anywhere else--not because it's bad writing, but because it's a bit too vitriolic and rambling to be allowed in a place with a certain objective standard. 

So clearly, it's perfect for posting to this blog. 

And while, yes, it's rambling and somewhat accusatory, I think it's still worth posting somewhere, because I think it speaks to an important part of game studies, the part that leads to dozens of studies of Grand Theft Auto while ignoring every other sandbox game, the part that defines MMOs by what you can do in War of Warcraft.  So here it is.

Friday Random Quotations: And when the Zambonis ran during the intermission, we drew the curtains, so the children wouldn't be exposed to the rougher elements

"Class didn't mean anything to Leaf fans outside the Gardens, but inside, in the red seats, upper-middle-class Anglo-Saxon protestantism counted for almost everything.  The reds were a bastion of old Toronto; Eatons sat there, and Laidlaws and Parsons, Amells and Airds and Ryners and E. P. Taylor.  When the Gardens opened in 1931, the city's first families rushed to subscribe to the reds, and they kept a lock on them forever after, all the better to preserve an orderly succession.  There were exceptions.  I remember a man named Tarshis, big in manufacturing something or other, who had reds.  He was conspicuously not a WASP.  There were Catholics, too.  The McNamaras had seats somewhere close to my uncle's, the father of the immortalized Judy, and the O'Connor family, beginning with Senator Frank O'Connor, sat in the first row behind the visiting-team bench.  Not everybody was WASP, but everybody seemed WASP.  The reds were a very polite place to be."
--The Leafs in Autumn, Jack Batten

I think being somewhat nostalgic for a time when everyone seemed WASP is perhaps the most WASP-ish sentiment I've ever heard.

Later Days.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I find your lack of faith...frustrating as hell.

Sometimes, when I'm particularly upset, I visualize what I'm upset at, and me standing in front of it shooting lighting bolts, ala Emperor Palpatine.

That's the stuff.

Later Days.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Note to self: Remember this, dummy.

I know this is a topic I come back to on a vaguely regular basis, but that's because it's something I do on a vaguely regular basis.  I just came back from 10 k run, and I feel utterly relaxed.  And that's something worth remembering about running, for me: it's good for me, mentally and physically.  Granted, I've become a very picky runner.  Not in terms of clothes or footware, but conditions.  Raining?  Gonna be a bad run.  In the morning before my ablutions?  Gonna be a bad run.  (Also, my feet will start cramping, because that's what my body does in the morning.)  Too hot?  Bad run.  Too much going on?  Bad run.  But when the stars align... it's great.  Simply great.

Later Days.

Friday Random Quotation: Don't Take the Train.

"On a summer day in Brooklyn, the sun doesn’t go down ‘til 9 PM. You’d be forgiven for letting entire lazy, hazy days pass without eating much besides two single-serving tubs of Marino’s Italian Ice -- which is basically what you did today. It’s now 9:30 PM, and the sudden fist of hunger angrily plunges itself into your gut, so you and Jarvis decide on getting some cheap sandwiches nearby the subway station." --"SAVE MERLIN THE PIG!", Leigh Alexander.

Following the link above will take you to Leigh Alexander's inklewriter project.  It's a short little CYOA (Choose Your Own Adventure, for those not savvy in Interactive Fiction-speak) in which the reader plays the role of, essentially, a hipster in New York who has a crisis of conscience about their next meal.  It's well-written, and lightly satirical, pointing to a moral message without overselling it.  And even if you're not interested in any of that, you should still read it, because Leigh Alexander is a really good game journalist.  (And yes, I am saying that you should consume any product created by good game journalists.  I call the Keiron Gillen principle.  Who writes some amazing comics, BTW.)

Later Days.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Any day now, I'll be leaving the radio on in every room of the house. (Well, I'll be leaving podcasts on, at least.)

There comes a time in every child's life when they realize that their parents were Right.  It can come at any time, but it most often follows a disaster.  A laundry mishap reveals that yes, it is a good idea to sort out the reds and whites.  And picking at it does mean it won't heal.  The big one, for most, comes when they raise their own children (and really, child-rearing is essentially a disaster that unfolds on a local, slow scale).  The newly minted parent stares exasperated at their begotten brat and thinks, "Man, I'm glad I never behaved like that.  ...Oh wait."  And then you get your mom more flowers next Mother's Day.

For me, the moment came a little earlier.  Three years ago, on the second year of my PhD studies, I went home to Saskatchewan for Christmas.  That meant going from -5 celsius in southern Ontario to the -25 of the Prairies.  It was a shock to the system, to say the least.  The thing was--it never stopped being a shock.  I spent the whole break shivering, wrapped in blankets, and complaining whenever anyone left the door open for more than a few seconds.  And when I went back to Ontario, the chill persisted.  And still persists, anytime the temperature starts to dip.  I lost my innocence that Winter.  Never again would I be someone who took their inner temperature for granted.  Never again would "winter" be equated with coziness and warmth.  No, from this day on... I would be Cold.

If anything, it's gotten worse over the years.  And it manifests in strange ways.   If I'm tired, I'm more prone to get Cold.  If I get too Cold, I start coughing.  The only solution, at that point, is to put on a toque--even if indoors--and, gradually, the coughing will subside.   And there's more.  From mid-October on, it's a rare day when I'm not wearing at least two pairs of socks. But recently, the socks haven't been enough.  My feet are still Cold.  And when they're Cold, I don't sleep.  A few nights of this syllogism have convinced me that it's not something that can be borne on an ongoing basis. 

My mother had a number of solutions for her own ongoing Coldness.  She'd turn up the thermostat.  She'd huddle under blankets.  But the main solution was a heating pad.  Every night, she'd toss her heating pad down the stairs for someone to microwave.  We would do so, and toss it back up.  (Some readers may inquire why we were tossing things up and down stairs instead of just walking up and down them.  These people have probably never had the benefit of stairs in their domiciles.  If you have multiple stories and you're not tossing things up and down stairs, you don't know what you're missing.)    And for a few fleeting moments, the Cold would go.

We teased her about it, a little.  About being so sensitive to the temperature, and whether she needed a blanket, and  so forth.  And, like all realizations concerning the wisdom and lives of parents, it's only in retrospect that you realize you were wrong, and feel bad about past actions.  My mother was right.  I suspect she might always be right.  It's a cold world out there.  Often, even a Cold one. 

As for my own Cold problems, I think there's only one possible solution.  I'm going to toss down the heating pad, and you put it in the microwave, okay?  And don't make fun of my toque.

Later Days.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

More than three status updates a day? You're a feed flooder.

Normally, this is the sort of notice that would go on my Facebook feed, but I've posted there too much today.  Yet I don't want to lose the thought entirely:

I finally deciphered the note on our fridge as "Internet bill: 14.00 each."  Until now, I was wondering why my roommate was looking for "intolerant basil" and why he wanted to catch 1400 of them.

Later Days.

Bibliophile: Kickin' it alphabetical style at University of Athabasca

Who wins a fight, Emperor Norton or Prince Roy?  More importantly, in a war, who wins the battle for hearts and minds?

This is Bibliophile.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday Quotations: Fast Food Restaurants are Basically Gerunds

"Ingeborg Bachmann once compared language to a city, with its ancient center, its more recent and peripheral boroughs, and finally the encircling beltway and its gas stations, which are also an itnegral part of the city.  The same utopia and the same ruin are contained in our city and in our language, and we have dreamt and lost ourselves in both; indeed, they are merely the form this dream and this loss take." --Giorgio Agamben, "On the Uses and Disadvantages of Living among Specters."

Later Days.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Friday, October 5, 2012

Book Triad VII: Digital Humanities and Genetically Modified Rickshaw Girls

There's been a decline in posting recently.  I blame the economy.
Today, we'll be looking at:

The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information by Alan Liu.
Light by John M. Harrison.
How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis  by N. Katherine Hayles
Reviews after the break.

Friday Quotations: It'll probably be even better with Tom Hanks

" 'I thank you, sir, I thank you, but these ivories'—he shook his ‘kerchief—'are my angels of redemption. Permit me to elucidate. The Marchioness wears dental fixtures fashioned by the aforementioned doctor. Next yuletide, just as that scented She-Donkey is addressing her Ambassadors’ Ball, I, Henry Goose, yes, I shall arise & declare to one & all that our hostess masticates with cannibals’ gnashers! Sir Hubert will challenge me, predictably, "Furnish your evidence," that boor shall roar, "or grant me satisfaction!" I shall declare, "Evidence, Sir Hubert? Why, I gathered your mother’s teeth myself from the spittoon of the South Pacific! Here, sir, here are some of their fellows!" & fling these very teeth into her tortoiseshell soup tureen & that, sir, that will grant me my satisfaction! The twittering wits will scald the icy Marchioness in their news sheets & by next season she shall be fortunate to receive an invitation to a Poorhouse Ball!'
In haste, I bade Henry Goose a good day. I fancy he is a Bedlamite."

You guys.   Cloud Atlas is pretty good, you guys.

Later Days.