Sunday, July 29, 2012

Book Triad: Humans are Overrated

This book triad the fourth, for those keeping score at home.  For this set, there's:

The Democracy of Objects by Levi Bryant
The Hundred Thousand Kingdom by N. K. Jemisin
Insect Media: An Archaeology of Animals and Technology

Reviews after the break.

Bibliophile: Derrida, Hayles, and Fart Jokes

Chairs are stools that got uppity.

This is Bibliophile.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Random Quotations: Technics FTW

"Whilst [intelligence] is inferior to the natural instrument for the satisfaction of immediate wants, its advantage over it is greater, the less urgent the need. Above all, it reacts on the nature of the being that constructs it; for in calling on him to exercise a new function, it confers on him, so to speak, a richer organization, being an artificial organ by which the natural organism is extended. For every need that it satisfies, it creates a new need; and so, instead of closing, like instinct, the round of action within which the animal tends to move automatically, it lays open to activity an unlimited field into which it is driven further and further, and made more and more free." --Henri Bergson, qtd. in Jussi Parrika's Insect Media.

 I'm a little leery of an intelligence/instinct duality, but there's something about the notion that tools open where instinct closes that appeals to me.

Later Days.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Firefly Themed Wedding Just looks vaguely western, except for the groomsmen with blue gloves.

So here's a bunch of pictures of themed weddings.  Now, I could do the theory thing, and talk about the history of weddings, and perform a psychoanalytic evaluation of the respective bride and groom.  We could do a ritual analysis, ala Turner, about how the wedding was once a liminal space, but through the theme wedding it becomes something that's both integrated and not quite integrated into everyday life (assuming they're fans in their regular personas as well).  Or we could go the Henry Jenkins fan culture route, and talk about how the fans appropriate their fandoms and write their own versions of the romances.

But we're not doing that.

Here's a bunch of pictures of themed weddings.

Sure, the Han and Leia romance is classic wedding stuff...

But the secret romance of Admiral Akbar and Monmothma?  That's style.
Speaking of style, a Katamari Damacy theme?  Slow clap.

And if you do Star Wars, it's only fair to  do the other side as well.

Somebody needs to tell that superhero that the bride costume just doesn't work for fighting evil doers.

Dude, you can't marry your alternate reality gender-swapped fan-fic self!  You're only 13!  Play the field!

Well, that killed some time. See you on the flip side, guys and gals. Later Days.


If you're someone who follows PC games, you are probably aware that Steam just held a big sale.  If you are not someone who follows PC games, you are probably wondering how hot air can sell anything.  Steam is the name of an online game distributor.  You sign up, pay them money, and they in turn provide you with the videogame you just paid for.  Their popularity and power is so broad these days that even mentioning a rumor of a Steam sale is enough to whip certain corners of the Internet into a slavering frenzy.

Myself included, I'm afraid.  I won't give a grand total (largely because I'm afraid to look), but I have spent far, far more money during the last week and a half on Steam sales than I meant to.  And it's put me in a bit of a quandary.  I recently finished both my playthrough of Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete and The Binding of Isaac.  (In your tear-soaked FACE, Isaac!).  I took my notes, I pontificated my theories (pontificated elsewhere; I can't give away all my secrets for free doncha know) and I'm now wondering what game to play next.  Since I'm an indecisive sort, and desperate (oh so very desperate) to get someone, anyone, to comment on my blog, I'll open it up to the general public. Here's the list of every game I have that I haven't played very much.  Vote on the one you think I should play next.  The list (and it's all PC games unless otherwise stated):

1893: A World's Fair Mystery
Anomaly Warzone Earth
Avadon: The Black Fortress
The Baconing
Ben There, Dan That!
Beyond Good & Evil
Brutal Legend (Xbox 360)
Cave Story +
Cthulhu Saves the World
Contact (DS)
Dear Esther
Deadly Premonitions (Xbox 360)
Depths of Peril
Dungeons of Dredmor
Empire: Total War
Frozen Synapse
Galactic Civilizations II: Ultimate Edition
Gemini Rue
 Hitman 2: Silent Assassin
Hitman: Blood Money
Hitman: Codename 47
Inferno +
Lone Survivor
Medieval II: Total War
Metal Dead
Mount & Blade
Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword
Napoleon: Total War
The Path
Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale
Saints Row the 3rd (Xbox 360)
Sea Will Claim Everything
Silent Hill HD (Xbox 360)
STALKER: Call of Pripyat
STALKER: Clear Sky
STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl
Secret of the Magic Crystal
Civilization III
Civilization IV
Civilization V
Star Ruler
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP
Time Gentlemen, Please!
Unstoppable Gorg
Vanquish (Xbox 360)
Witcher: Enhanced Edition
Zeno Clash

It's a ridiculously long list, I know.  If you're unfamiliar with any title, you can ask, and I'll give a brief description (or you could just, you know, google it).  Or just pick the game with the best sounding title.  Either way.  Let me know what you think.

Later Days.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bibliophile: Wild, Wild Western

7/10 of the earth's surface is cover in water.  6/10 of a human body is made of water.

The human body is 1/10 away from being the earth's surface at any given time.  That's math.

And this is Bibliophile.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

It was Between the Couch Cushions. Library couches are dangerous.

I've got a ten minute wait till the bus comes.  Let's see if I can do this in full.

Yesterday, I lost my cell phone, for the second time in as many weeks.  Last time, it had fallen out of my pocket, then disappeared behind a seat.  This time, it was a chair in a library.  There is a lesson here: my phone is so eager to get away from me that it's flinging itself into strange places.

This time was particularly irritating, though, because I didn't even notice it was missing until I got a Facebook message from a family member with Big News.  (It was good news, but it's not mine to share, so we'll remain vague.)  It wasn't the sort of news that you normally share over facebook, so I teased him/her about that, and got the message back that they DID try to contact me, but I never carry my stupid phone.


Realizing it was missing, I went into a frenzy, searching the house, retracing my steps, even biking back to the university to continue the search there.  It was a bit of an overreaction, to be honest, but I was convinced that it was really important for me to get the phone back as soon as possible to contact said family member.  (Incidentally, the only reason I haven't yet is because I don't want to interrupt their day; if family member reads this, by any chance, let me know when a good time to call would be.)  And it was important for me to convey the effort I went to to find the phone as soon as possible.  I felt guilty.  I feel guilty.  Not just for losing the phone (if I felt guilty about losing things, I'd never get anything done.) but for not being there for the news.  The worst thing about moving out east is not being there for my family.  And sure, it's not like they needed me there, but... that doesn't make it any better, you know?  I missed out.  I feel about it, and even though I know I'll get over it... it's not a great feeling.


Later Days.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday Quotations: Object Oriented Headaches

"However, with the realists, onticology and object-oriented philosophy argue that objects have no direct access to one another and that each object translates other objects with which it enters into non-relational relations." --Levi R. Bryant, The Democracy of Objects.

I think I was in a non-relational relationship with a girl during the summer of 2005.


Later Days.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Book Triad: Auschwitz, Robots, and Flagg

I've finished my third trio of literature, and I'm here to tell you all about it. 
For this set, we have:
Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive by Giorgio Agamben
The Stand by Stephen King
Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other

Reviews follow after the break.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday Quotations: Gestating Slave-Wombs

"I came to this world 22 seasons ago in a breedmart warehouse in Chandalar's fleshmarket district.  My father was an automated seed sprinkler.  My mother, one of the thousands of frozen eggs harvested each month from female factory workers as part of their government-mandated body-taxes.  I gestated in a slave-womb, in the belly of an alien brought in chains from some conquered world or another, an alien whose body was not designed for birthing Shi'ar babies. So when I was born, it was in a rush of blood and alien death screams.  By the time I drew my first breath, I'd already claimed my first kill for the Imperium."  --Warbird, from Wolverine and the X-Men 13.  

Oh comics.  Never change. 

Later Days.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

They'll Pry the Paragraphs on Battletoads from my cold, dead fingers

It took real determination today to exorcise the phrase "from whence Oscar the Grouch came" from my dissertation.

Later Days

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

One Hundred Pages of Solicitude: Medium for Kids

Sometimes, I look back on the blog posts of the past, and I weep.  Not for the loss of innocence.  Not for the melodramatic ponderings of my past self.  Not even for all the time I could have spent doing something useful with my life.  No, I weep for the features abandoned, the series unfinished.  Whatever happened to the rest of The Bionic Woman?  Where is the Let's Play for Princessmaker 2?  Gone, gone, gone, into mists of time.  Well, not this time.  This time, we fight, fight against the dying of the light.  We strike boldly, to reclaim what is lost.  We gather 'round, and think of times past, and times new.  For this... is an edition of One Hundred Pages of Solicitude.
For those who have forgotten how this works, (what, you don't remember summer 2011?) essentially, I read 100 pages of a semi-scholarly book, and post my thoughts.  Simple, right?  Well, the book de jour here is Perry Nodelman's Words About Pictures: The Narrative Art of Children's Picture Books.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Does this post count as research? Probably. Why not?

I've been sitting in on a game studies graduate course this term, and one of the questions we keep coming back to is how we do game studies to begin with.  I'm not talking about adopting a methodology, or what it means to do university scholarship--I'm talking the basic, meat and potatoes, question of how you do research on a game, and how that differs from a book.  I've got the similar parts down pat, I think; I know where to look for game-related secondary sources, I know how to construct an argument, and I know how to write (I'm even actively writing every day, which is an oddly productive experience).  But my method for playing the game to get to the scholarly stuff has definite room for improvement.

The two major game-related research projects I've gone on were the Mass Effect stuff and the Lost Odyssey stuff, both of which I discussed on the blog in great detail.  And in both cases, I played through the game once to experience it, then played through it again taking lots and lots of notes.  And they're very good notes; they are extensive and detailed, and cover basically every approach I can think of, even months and years later.  But that kind of playthrough is just too time-consuming.  I need something better.  I don't know what other game scholars do (note: any game scholars reading this, comments on what you do would be welcome), but I figured there had to be a way to develop ideas without spending an eternity transcribing everything that comes out of Shepherd's poorly formed mouth (character creation is hard.).  So when I started playing Lunar: The Silver Star Story Complete, a classic PS1 adaptation of a classic Sega CD game, I thought I'd take a running collection of notes for my first playthrough.  And that worked great.  My little notebook filled up with comments on plot points, game mechanics, and RPG conventions, all of which I could pursue later at my leisure.  And because I'm looking at the game from an academic standpoint the first time through, I know where I want to make strategic savepoints so I can come back and flesh out points later.  It takes less time, it encourages me to condense my thoughts, and it encourages stream of consciousness developing.  There's only one problem.

Has anyone seen my game notebook?  It's small, ringed, and has a lot of pen marks on it....

Later Days.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Book Triad: Try to make a game out of your crippling alienation at the bottom of the ocean.

Welcome to the second edition of triple book reviews.  If you missed last time, the rules are simple. I read two nonfiction books and one fiction, write a paragraph long review of each, and then spend a paragraph on general musing. And them we can all go home. That sounds nice, doesn't it? Without further ado, then, this installment's books are:
 Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal
Starfish by Peter Watts
 Inventing the Medium: Principles of Interaction Design as Cultural Practice

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Bibliophile: New York, New York

First, the answer everyone's dying to hear (I assume) to the question no one's bothered to ask: what's happened to Bibliophile?  Well, I went to talk to librarian at the information desk, and asked her why the library online system stopped being updated.  This process turned out to be slightly more onerous than I had expected, as I had to repeatedly, patiently, explain that no, I was not asking whether we had an online new books section.  I already knew the answer to that one.    Finally, we were on the same page, and she made some phone calls.  Then I got the bad news.  For the past two years, our library had been in the process of shifting from one online system to another.  We had finally reached the point in the process where the library had decided to disable the new items feature in the old system.  The problem was, the new items feature in the new system wasn't ready yet.  The librarian told me to keep checking back, because it was sure to be up eventually.

I sulked for a few days, and came to a conclusion: if my library wasn't going to offer the services I needed right when I wanted them, I'd find a different library.  (I'm going to be a great boyfriend.)  So Bibliophile is going on the road; we'll still do our thing every week, but now, it'll be done anywhere there's an online library index with a new items tab.  Hurrah.  I'll put an "H" next to the items that my library has as well, for anyone from the area who actually uses this site to pick up interesting books.

First stop: York University.  If you have the time, take a look at the York University New Books tab. First, it's broken up into labelled sections, so you know exactly which parts have which books.  Then, there's a handy number for each section, noting how many new books it has.  And to top it all off, every section and subsection has an RSS feed, so you can be informed whenever it gets a new book.

Meanwhile, my library has no  new items tab at all.  Sigh.  Let's get moving, shall we?  One advantage my library system has over this one is that it provides a sum total; here, adding is a tedious process, and yields 1756 new books.  That's not as bad as it sounds, actually; there's a lot of overlap between the books listed for a section and the sum of the books listed in its subsection (ie., a book is listed for G and for GV).  It's not a total overlap, though, so I still have to look at both separately.  That's actually a real pain; this is clearly a list designed to be viewed in small sections rather than as a whole.

First up is York's lengthy new songs list.  There are a lot of things with ukelele accompaniment.  This piece--"Misery is a Butterfly," by Blonde Redhead--is sadly without a ukelele, but it's more or less representative of the songs on offer here.

Tecumseh & Brock : the War of 1812 / James Laxer. 
I love reading about the War of 1812, because it's a case where the victors didn't write the history books, simply because there was no definitive winner.  So what we get is a bunch of history books declaring the United States won, a bunch declaring Canada won, a bunch declaring no one won, and one particularly odd book declaring it was a victory for Luxemburg.  Laxer is taking a different approach altogether, and looking at the war in terms of what it meant for Aboriginal history, studying the leader of the Native Confederacy Tecumseh and his relationship with Major-General Brock of the British Empire.

The locavore's dilemma : in praise of the 10,000-mile diet / Pierre Desrochers, Hiroko Shimizu. 
This comes from the section H, Sociology.  The title's obviously an imitation of Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, which is a very good book except for the passages where Pollan gets very defensive about his carnivorous inclinations.   This book is looking at current trends supporting local food distribution, and, controversially, they argue that it's not the system of choice.  The global food market, argue Descrochers and Shimizu, is nutritionally superior, has evolved through rigorous screening and constant competition, and would be just fine, if we could get past those pesty subsidies.  Frankly, this sounds a bit like Big Food propaganda, and I put on my skeptic's hat whenever I see anyone trying to seriously argue that Darwinian evolution works as a metaphor for the free market, because it shows a basic misunderstanding of both.  On the other hand, the local alternative is clearly can't feed everybody, so arguments for improving the global system are worth hearing.

York seems to get a lot of Spanish and French titles.  It makes my job easier, since I can just skip by them, but I wanted to take a moment to appreciate the multiculturalism, all the same.

Racism on the Internet / Yaman Akdeniz.
Our library also tends not to expand our Law section very frequently, so York's commitment to this genre is interesting to me.  Akdeniz looks at the regulatory rules in place to monitor racism on the Internet.  I didn't know there were any (youtube comment threads seem to support that lack), but I'll try anything once.  The book is aimed at discussing what states can do, but also has a national focus, looking at cases in Germany, Canada, Australia, and France, and concluding that all these disputes demonstrate the limitations of nations when it comes to policing online activity.  And who knows?  After we finish with racism on the Internet, maybe we can deal with homophobia and mysogyny.

 Workplace mobbing in academe : reports from twenty universities / edited by Kenneth Westhues.
Mobbing in this case refers, essentially, to bullying, but given the stigma surrounding that phrase (that it denotes childishness, for example), I can understand why the editor went with "mobbing" instead.  You might think that people who have dedicated their careers to the promotion of learning would, by training and nature, be open-minded in their approach to others.  You would be thinking wrong.  Academia tends to attract a lot of high pressure personalities, people who are very driven, and very forward.  Mix this with the need to defend your area of study and your approach in order to protect your livelihood, and you've got some volatile situations.  Westhues' book.  It's serious, because it prevents people from speaking out against injustices, on the grounds that they don't want to be ganged up on or blacklisted.  This book has narratives and case studies on the subject, as well as methods for prevention and reconciliation.  H.

The duration of a kiss / Peter Wells. 
Oh, I like that title.  The book is a series of stories about film-making by, uh, film maker Peter Wells, he of a series of New Zealand indie flicks.  The book also has a heavy focus on AIDs, homosexual relationships, and, I'm told, "emotional intensity."  The duration of a kiss, in case you're wondering, is measured in pecks.  Heh.

...And we're done.  Huh.  That went fast.  Well, see you next week.  And if there's any university library you're dying to see reviewed, let me know.

Later Days.