Archive for May, 2010


May 27, 2010 1 comment

Tasmantis among the Supersyndics

Tasmantis at the Seminary

Tasmantis: Calvinist Insect Avenger

Cuts through Papist obfuscation!

Explores Australia!

Bites heads off!


best of bldgblog: hollow cities

May 24, 2010 Leave a comment

fake doors, facades and dummy houses in Paris and London (a la Gaiman)
Rentable basement maze (subway cars and stations repurposed. Watch for the aquarium!). Or a whole other subway system.

Michael Heizer’s City. On google maps. referred to in bldgblog’s Oncecity post.

mildly amusing david mitchell monologs

May 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Oh god this is so me. Although I don’t think I could deliver this one, even with the caveats about stupid generalisations.
King Cnut

I couldn’t care less
 – this last one makes me think about -og(ue) words. I don’t like them ending in -g. Sorry. When you do that they all remind me of dog. So monolog, dialog, ideolog, demagog and synagog (!?!) all look like they’ve had their tails docked. And then why rogue and brogue and baroque? (don’t quibble, you know what I’m talking about). If you really can’t abide -ue on the lot then for these last I recommend roag, broag and barock.

Since we know it’s not buroak. Right?

the best moment in Lost so far…

May 18, 2010 Leave a comment

season 2, episode 17. In which we finally get to see where Claire was when she was abducted. What’s so great about it?

The props cupboard, full of those fakey home-madey Fred Flintstone costumes The Others were wearing when they waylaid Jack, Sawyer et al in the forest and said stupid things about coffee tables. Because it shows that They deliberately set out to present a visual impression of themselves to Our Protagonists as backward forest folk. Or as crazy culty survivalists, when in fact they’re perfectly capable of running a fairly modern looking medical facility and shaving.

Why would they do that, when our heroes have already met Ethan and know that Herne-worship is not their gig? I think to implant an idea, no matter how irrational. I suspect, actually, that this implanting was probably the whole reason they decided to reveal themselves to Jack et al at all.


May 18, 2010 Leave a comment

open tweets to James Maliszewski

May 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Which is another way of saying: some things that seem applicable to concerns about authenticity, roleplaying, old-school sensibilities and Robert E Howard.

The film reviewer at the WashPo likes his Robin Hood more Lincoln Green and less olive drab. The review is otherwise forgettable, but this point in particular reminds me of James M’s objections to the not-so-creative reinterpretation of iconic characters. James says, in brief, “if you’re not going to do a proper Conan story that respects the character, then don’t call it Conan.” And that seems kinda fair enough, although also kinda a problem for Batman stories, say, where reinterpretation has become part of the character. What I’m intrigued by here, though, is the source of authenticity the reviewer feels is offended. See, there is no Robin canon or literature, really. As a character he predates all his literary treatments, which leads me to think he’s more of a Batman than a Conan, but the WashPo author wants his merry men, his Maid Marion. Some smiling. And maybe some singing. As to whether Robin is now a closet teabagger, I can’t comment, I haven’t seen it. But I thought the knee-jerk right-wing audience were all busy watching Iron Man?

Gamma World.

an extra-terrestrial “roadside picnic” has left dangerous and incomprehensible materials strewn across a zone of Northern Canada. Although sealed off for scientific research, this zone is raided by “Stalkers” who sell the unnatural trinkets for black-market cash. To do so, they brave bizarre dangers, because the zone has been transformed into a place that is utterly at odds with our own world. The alien is never seen or even described, and all the characters encounter is its terrible remainder: landscape made alien. Pools of jelly that will cripple a man lurk in basements, extra-terrestrial cobwebs that can stop a heart beating are strung across doorways, and gravitational mantraps will crush anyone who passes over the wrong patch of mud.
Bldgblog does it again with a Jim Rossignol piece on the Chernobyl zone in computer games. Here authenticity comes with a side of carcinogens.

Which leads me to the thorny problem of demihuman longevity. Having spent last week paddling about in environmental history it occurs to me that a Really Interesting fantasyland would be one where elves and dwarves might “naturally” have very long lifespans, but in practice they don’t get to realise them because of the massively toxic/dangerous environment – they were all fished out during the last Awesome Magical War so that now only juveniles are left. Except, of course, for a couple of secretly rawkk guys hiding out in deserts and swamps waiting for the right apprentice to show up.

The Wailing Octopus
is “A Rick Brant Science-Adventure Story,” …released by Project Gutenberg. Some of the chapter titles are irresistible: “The Fancy Frogmen,” “Wreck of the ‘Maiden Hand,'” “How Sings the Gay Sardine?” (via Maritime Compass, but could just as easily have come from ratmmjess or grognardia)

My response to the Facebook privacy upskirt

May 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Go read Zak’s Six Questions From The Iron Cobra – also, Gelatinous Cubes

May 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Long ago dnd with porn stars did a survey of all the monsters with ideas for what to do with them. Go read it if you haven’t. Here’s a high point from the I monsters:

The imp… can provide six answers from Hell… That’s a whole adventure right there–a siege is coming, a sorceror wants to ask six questions that will allow him to prevail, the PCs are hired to find out as much as possible (they’re paid by the meme) about the battleground, the army, etc. and then to help the sorceror formulate six perfect questions.

…Or: the imp is about to return to the crooked tower with answers that–progressively–will annhilate all that the PCs hold dear. The imp brings back one answer a day, and each makes the enemy harder to defeat–can they defeat the sorceress before her imp returns with the fatal final answer?

…Or: The situation is dire. The imps answers are known, yet it is also known that three are lies and three are true, and the PCs are hired or otherwise obliged to sort out which is which

The Irish intellectual deer devourer’s pretty good too.

Over in G monsters, the ghoul and the gelatinous cube get no love. But that makes me think:

Gelatinous cubes were the first things that made me think about the procedural nature of DnD: it’s like a satire on the dungeon. It’s exactly 10 by 10 because that’s exactly what the standard dungeon corridor is, so it reveals the pasteboardiness of the standard, like one of those giant Japanese municipal mazes made out of a grid frame and panels which changes every week. It fits down that dungeon corridor absolutely, mathematically precisely. Nothing escapes it. So it can be a herding mechanism, if only you beef it up.

There’s something postmodern cool about that, as long as it’s all left as a suggestion.

Now, the ghouls on the other hand make their own tunnels. Which means they can pop up anywhere, like Hounds of Tindalos boiling out of the corner of your belt buckle or eyelid. Which makes them a different sort of threat from those that wait behind the door you’re listening at. If the gelatinous cube breaks the fourth wall by showing it to you, the ghoul puts it back by unexpectedly sliding out of it to steal your wounded.

Lost island is the WIPP

May 5, 2010 Leave a comment

So obviously there’s a lot of ingredients that go into Lost. The shortest cut guidebook is probably GURPS Illuminati, if you can get a copy, otherwise start with The Prisoner, Robert Anton Wilson and Heart of Darkness, and you’ll be within 23% of the whole thing.

Here’s another chunk: the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. An attempt to make a very long term nuclear waste facility both uninteresting and forbidding to future civilisations, so they don’t feel like hanging around it or trying to get inside.

Yeah, right. I think they’ve actually done quite a good job of making it look bureaucratically boring but in the end it still looks like a Pyramid/ultratec treasure house, while the use of strontium hexaferrite magnets to communicate to people with appropriate technology that “something is wrong here” strikes me as exactly the wrong kind of signal.

And they’re the reason I think the WIPP is part of the Lost mix; because Desmond’s Mystery Bunker, under the hatch, also has strong magnetic fields. And they’re taken as evidence that there is something of value down there after all.

PS: If you really want the WIPP to be the sort of place where people won’t go, is it altogether the best thing to locate it a bare 20 miles from Carlsbad Caverns, a major tourist attraction? That’s probably better than the German solution, though, which is to put it in the salt mine where the engines for the world’s first functioning jet aircraft were built. Which, it strikes me, is probably the location Pynchon had in mind for his wildly inaccurate  descriptions of Peenemunde.

…and it keeps getting better: Unnamed Rd, Loving, NM – is this what censorship looks like, or is it a massive never-developed ghost town like that one bldgblog found in California?

meta-apophenia: how my estimation of Lost has fallen

May 5, 2010 Leave a comment

So it occurs to me, at the end of season 2, episode 3 (“orientation:” in which Desmond tells the gang about punching in the numbers every 108 minutes to “save the world”), that perhaps the theme of Lost is apophenia – the insistence on finding patterns and meaning in random data. Hurley has it with The Numbers (4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42); Jack has it with Desmond (whom he’d met before, briefly), Rousseau is swimming in it (it might explain “the whispering voices” – which could actually just be wind on leaves), and so’s Locke, who is especially vulnerable because he’s looking for meaning in his life: he’s apt to latch onto it anywhere he can.

And so the writers, knowing that apophenia is the theme, play with the boundaries of what’s accepted or rejected from the realm of the reasonable. Again and again they ask, is all this just a coincidence?

Fine. And the business of punching in the numbers now makes sense: it’s an essay on apophenia. And the pressure to obey instructions. The “saving the world” shtick is catnip to Locke – he can sit (ha! legs!) and Be Meaningful every hour and a half, babysitting some lunatic cult’s dead man’s switch.* But some bit of him is too smart, or insecure, for that: he needs Jack’s scepticism (not itself all that strong) like Hegel’s slave needs a master. And it’s perfect that he’s doing the bidding of some long dead weird cult from the hippie era. So we’ve got the key to the episode.

Unless my bit of interpretation here is itself apophenia, and they’re up to no such thing.

Because outside that interpretation, it’s also totally crap. It pretty much destroys Lost as any sort of credible, self-consistent world. It’s Olympic-class shark jumping. What you say? What about everything else? Yes and no: nothing else rubs your face in it like this does. Halfway through this episode my wife turned to me and said, “are they all dead? Is that what’s going on here?” And from one side I can see the writers doing unmentionable things in excitement at having prompted that sort of reaction, and on the other it strikes me that it’s really not a good thing if your audience is asking that. It means you’ve pushed them right up to the edge of their viewing attention, and they’re not going to stay there. They’re either going to have a revelation or fall off.

* One other possible explanation occurs to me: that Lost is an extended meditation on the stupidity and madness of institutional paranoia, and particularly of the Cold War. Why would you set up this ludicrous dead man’s switch over R’lyeh? Well, why would you load nuclear bombs onto a long-range bomber and fit it with an altitude-triggered dead man’s switch, thereby turning it potentially into a remote-control airburster capable of reaching anywhere on the planet’s surface? What could possibly go wrong?