Saturday, June 30, 2012

the highway signs say we're close, but I don't read those things anymore

fxxxxx.rxxx changed their display name to νєηÕMÕÛş 乃αşイαя.

Are you kidding me? Those are not words! This is Unicode abuse!

Back on the 14th of this month, I covered a little of the Lara Croft controversy. I updated that by a bit on the 22nd. Now, the designers behind the Lara Croft reboot strike again, having this to say about their initial announcement that Croft gets raped in the reboot:
According to Crystal Dynamics global brand director Karl Stewart, there is no sexual assault or rape in the upcoming video game, despite executive producer Ron Rosenberg's statements to me in Los Angeles earlier this month. Rosenberg had said that island scavengers will imprison and attempt to rape protagonist Lara Croft. But Stewart says that's not true.

"He said something which is certainly a word that is not in our vocabulary and not in our communication," Stewart told me on the phone yesterday. "He did say it... It's his personal opinion and certainly... like I said, it's not something that we communicate."

Stewart says he doesn't know why Rosenberg used the word "rape." He continues to emphasize that the scene, which you can watch below, does not represent any sort of sexual assault. He calls it a "pathological situation." He says it was meant to evoke fear and intimidation.
Err. Let me just pull one phrase out of that mish-mash of backpedaling:
He said something which is certainly a word that is not in our vocabulary
A word that is "not in their vocabulary". Really? At all? That's incredibly badly phrased, and I can virtually guarantee will now irritate people more than simply going to Kotaku--and anyone else covering this--and saying, "We said it wrong. We meant this."

Another bit from the article:
There are undeniable sexual connotations, and Stewart even admits that if a male hero like Nathan Drake had been placed in the same situation, the thigh-rubbing wouldn't happen. But he says it's not sexual assault: it's "close physical intimidation."
That, also, is telling: if a male hero had been placed in the same situation, there would be no sexual interaction. Why does that change when the gender does?

Here's the grim dark heart of this entire thing: One in four women in America has been sexually assaulted. One in four. In 2000, that figure equated to 246,000 women who've survived rape or attempted rape (and no, this figure doesn't count the women who didn't live through the experience). That's almost a quarter of a million women every year, or twenty-eight every hour. That's both harsh and terrifying, especially with the figures on how often rapists are not convicted.

Seen in this (very dim) light, while they're absolutely doing everything they can to divorce the word "rape" (or even the words "sexual assault") from the Lara Croft reboot, think about it this way: what if, subconsciously, they're just reflecting the society they're in? Twenty-eight women an hour. That makes it within the realm of everyday experience. That makes it an experience that twenty-five percent of all women have had. Twenty-five percent of the gender who've been raped; who've had rape attempted; who've been sexually assaulted...and most of these women were raped or sexually assaulted by a family member, or someone that they knew. So it's not just random sexual violence; most of it is sexual violence perpetrated by someone they trusted (at least at some point).

Let's take this farther--the point at which the sexual assault takes place is not a cut scene. While it is pre-rendered (one would suppose to lessen the graphics burden and up the responsiveness of the controls for the console), there is a point at which control is restored. If the player does nothing, the sexual assault happens. It only fails to happen if the right commands are issued from the controller.

The Mary Sue post pointed this out:
Lara Croft will be punished with rape for failing to complete the game objective of not getting raped. The responsibility is wholly upon her to protect herself, it is not upon the scumbag rapists who are trying to hurt her. According to the producers of Tomb Raider, it is certainly not the fault of a culture that encourages depictions of sexualized violence against women. "The ability to see her as a human is even more enticing to me than the more sexualized version of yesteryear," Rosenburg states.
Let that sink in for a moment. This is victim blaming raised to wideband broadcast status, because as a section of the Lara Croft franchise, this will be highly advertised and--I think I can honestly state--widely bought by players looking for the Next Great Game, or wanting to see what all the controversy is about.

And let's also be brutally honest here--this is an industry that still widely sees itself as catering to men only. Which also ties in, uncomfortably, on that statistics level--because if one in four women have been raped by or after their fourteenth birthdays--that means one in four men have actually raped, or attempted rape. Which also makes that a common experience.

Maybe it's less about the game designers being blasé about rape, as much as it's about the game designers' subconscious understanding of our culture: namely, Lara Croft is sexually assaulted in the new game because everyone knows someone who has been. Sexual assault, in this light, is commonplace.

Forget the game; that's the truly outrageous thing.

In other news, Lego International is seeking votes on an upcoming game-tie in Lego set: namely, Portal. You'll have to register an account on the site to vote, but it's a painless, free process. If you want to see Lego-based Chell, a Lego-built Companion Cube, and Lego-designed orange and blue portals--go vote!

And not only will Warehouse 13 get a fourth season, but they've got a fun new guest star: Brent Spiner. Considering the amusing way Spiner met Rubinek in the first place, this pretty much brings both actors full circle.

A full-scale zombie wedding was planned--and executed brilliantly--in Colorado recently. If for no other reason, you should click the link and read the vows, at least: they're epic.
Finally, five years ago, artist Jason deCaires Taylor installed an underwater sculpture collection to highlight the problem of disappearing coral reefs. That video was shot in 2009, to show the initial two-year development of coral and sealife on the sculptures. It's both eerie and beautiful.

Friday, June 29, 2012

there are mountains to climb, so let me carry you

This is an exceedingly weird article for me, not the least of which is the author seems to gush about what an unusual experience this is for gaming in general:
Of course people already use online games to meet people, and sometimes romances develop from online interactions. But you’re not usually interacting in ways that so closely imitate real life flirtation and social interaction. And you don’t usually have the option to have sex with another character. The potential for the matchmaking platform is interesting to say the least.
Obviously, she's never used Second Life. Which baffles me, a little--I mean, of course not everyone is going to have experience with SL, but not to even mention it? Writing the entire article as if it's the single most amazing thing since raw toast, this sort of dating/gameplay experience? Because it's not just SL; there have been a lot of games with internal (or even external) dating components.

Still, the author of the Zynga article does share an intriguing comment, almost as an aside:
Cultivating romance online is now the norm.
Now, for me and mine, this is true; but then, for me and mine, it's nearly always been true. While my lady wife did not jump on the internet bandwagon when I did, by a certain point we both had online loves, and offline loves, and sometimes those loves changed categories. It became a facile means of referral to use "long-distance" to cover both those people we only saw occasionally, and those people we only interacted with online. For us, there was never a separation between online and offline, per se; it was just a matter of distance, over means of interaction.

When I started dating in SL, I did develop a mostly unspoken understanding that SL and RL were kept separate, but not for the reasons most people seem to foster this division. At least for me, loves that were "only SL" were not pushed to that side because I never intended to meet them, or get to know them better; in fact, in some cases I grew very close to certain individuals. But they were held within the sphere of SL relations because there were things I could do in SL that I could not in RL.

And I'm not limiting this to sheer deviance; mostly, it's things like growing fur, or being able to coordinate my outfit with my skin and my hair, or dating non-humans. Walking around as a doll, or a faun, or fae. These are things I cannot accomplish in RL, things that I thought contributed largely to how I interacted with these individuals.

What intrigues me most about that comment is how commonplace she seems to think dating online is; not just for me and mine, who half-live on the net full-time as it is, but for everyone. Is that truly the case? More people are meeting each other, talking to each other, becoming intimate friends, online rather than off?

[Help] Omega-Maiden: Pocket D is like Caprice in Champions Online, just not as terrifying
[Help] Crisp Ego: Caprice was terrifying? I had some okay RP there. xD
[Help] Hard Zero: Then you're terrifying.
[Help] Omega-Maiden: The vampire transexual toons are scary

Never checked out Caprice when I was playing Champions, but this amused me. I'd assume it's equivalent to roleplaying in Pocket D in City of Heroes, or, you know, Hentai High in SL.

In non-sex news, this is adorable beyond all reason. A young girl was asked what she wanted to be for Hallowe'en; her answer? "Batman Princess". So her mom made the costume, because her mom is cool like that.

And I just heard about one woman's quest to play every piano in Second Life. I don't know the state of the project now, since that was from back in 2007, but it might be fun to find out.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

but the secret is still my own

(from the loss album; from a 1908 edition of The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian 
Andersen; illustration possibly by Helen Stratton)
Of all my myriad maintained presences on the web, I think only Twitter has survived unscathed from the current bout of worry and depression. Every time I try to turn the tide away from one place, it explodes in another. I suppose it's notable, in some sense, that I'm not sharing my current anxieties--outside of brief mentions--with my loves, but I'd say that's more an indication of me falling into bad habits, than a sign of strength and safety.

It's never easy living with an open heart. And I have tried my level best to stay open, stay accessible, but I am watching myself fold away, close in, curl up. And the real tragedy is that I'm not entirely convinced that--right now, at least--that's not the best thing to do.

But I am going to make a better effort to lift the Train Wreck from the current mire (which is morbidly amusing considering the blog's name), and get back to other things. We'll see how long this resolution lasts this time.

Last night I had a chance to play through City of Heroes' new Summer Blockbuster event. It's actually interesting--which is good, because to get eligible characters all the badges they can get, I'm going to be playing through this a lot with friends.

There are two parts to the event, they're both fairly random as to which one you get first. The "Time Gladiators" part sends you to a Romansesque arena, to fight several sets of enemies. It's very challenging, depending on your group strength (and, since these events are limited to four players, that can very wildly indeed), and it's not uncommon to die on the arena floor--at which point, of course, you're sent back to the theatre lobby (where you can fill up on "concessions" at the concessions stand ("concessions" in this case being inspirations which help you heal, make you stronger, tougher, restore your endurance, give you luck--whatever it is that you need, they'll sell it to you), and from there you can click back on the Theatre 2 door to get back to the arena.

(from the media album; the Champion from the arena)
This is Götterdämmerung, one of the Champions from the arena, and you can see a larger version of this image here--if you keep in mind that both the characters on the ground are fairly tall, all things considered, this guy? He really is that huge. And he hits hard--one hammer blow from him instantly killed me three times!

But between him, the initial minotaur fight, the ninjas, the space monkeys, and the shooter with the feral dogs--it really keeps you on your toes. It's not easy, and I don't think it should be, because the end prize is one of six massively powered enhancements for a power set. You can get one of the six at the end of this part, once every twenty hours (per character, not per account).

The other half of the event draws so strongly on Leverage it's not even funny, but it's also a challenging event. The "Casino Heist" gives you the chance to play one of four archetypes, each with specific things they need to do: the Grifter (who mainly works the casino floor), the Hacker (who infiltrates the security system), the Hitter (who knocks out the generators powering that security system, and takes care of any casino guards along the way) and the Thief (who searches the casino owner's office, and uses that information to infiltrate the vault).

(from the media album; the lasers blocking access to the vault in "Casino Heist")
The first archetype I played on the "Casino Heist" section was the Thief; and I thought it was terrifically inventive how the devs mocked out a highly secured vault. While those blue lines are lasers, and will trigger alarms if you just blindly run through, there's actually a narrow clear path to navigate. If you're careful, it's doable, but you still have to make sure you're not bumping into any of the laser "walls".

The "Casino Heist" story is told in a set of flashbacks, split with what's supposedly happening "now"--so the cut scenes we see show us where we supposedly attacked (thus telling us where we need to go and what to do once there), and then we're always trailed back to our warehouse lair, where we fight several sets of enemies to end the event.

Both events make up a short time investment (we managed to do both in the half hour before CoH shut down last night), for a fairly significant reward, plus there's two notable reasons to do this event that are independent of what we actually do once there. First, there was a forum contest for what sort of movies might play in the world City of Heroes is based on--the winners of those contests have their posters up in the theatre lobby as "Coming Soon" movies.

And secondly, the winner of the last costume contest, "Theater Popcorn Man", is now being used as the series of "popcorn bots" that staff the concession stand. I've always loved how closely the devs behind CoH listen to their users.

Finally, I want to talk about another Kickstarter project--the Hauntbox. They have seventeen days to go, but there's already been enough interest that they're fully funded! Why is this such a cool idea? Because this offers an open-source, modifiable, enclosed console based on Arduino programming and Lady Ada's innovative designs, that will coordinate sound files, physical haunt effects, and haunt movements from a desktop console, a laptop, netbook, even an iPad or iPhone!

I don't know what anyone reading along knows about haunted houses and events, but trust me--nearly always, behind the scenes, is a snarled tangle of wires, various control units, sometimes even haunters stationed at specific points just so they can physically press a button at the right time because there's no other way to control it that doesn't take up more space. This? Takes up very little space, has maximum inputs for control options, can be weather-shielded, can be hidden or left exposed, and best of all, they're lowering the total cost of the end unit by acquisition of a 3D printer to craft some of the parts.

It sounds like it's going to cost between $250 and $300 for the end product if you don't toss in support on the Kickstarter, and again, that's very very reasonable for a controller that is going to save this much manpower and device management. Considering most big-scale haunt objects (think animatronic zombies and the like) are very expensive, this is a little investment for maximum control possibilities.

Just to make the point, Fright Catalog's Tortured full-body prop is lifesize and includes the metal table, leather hood, metal chains, cassette player and cassette tape, and amplifier. It retails for around $6,500 (including shipping), and that's without the optional motion sensor or timer, or the air compressor required to make it work.

Say you owned this prop for a room in your upcoming haunt. With the Hauntbox, you could record the sounds (or find your own), then set up the time for shaking, any motion sensor reactions, and time the bursts of air all from a single program. If you needed to change it on the fly, nothing simpler--open the program on a desktop or wireless device, make the change, save the change, and it will adapt to the new parameters then.

Obviously, this is intended for commercial haunts, but I think it's something even yard hobbyists could find useful, depending on the size of their animatronics or effects.

I can't love you this much, baby, and love you from afar

(from the loss album, adapted from An Echo of the Divine; a better view of the statue,
which is outside the Art Institute in Chicago, was taken by James Birbeck and can be bought as a print.)

when will I see you again?
you left with no goodbye
not a single word was said
no final kiss to seal anything
I had no idea of the state we were in

(from the loss album, and both adapted and reduced in size from a shot
taken by Brechtbug of a statue in Woodlawn Cemetary.)

I know I have a fickle heart
and a bitterness, and a wandering eye
and a heaviness in my head

(from the loss album; adapted from image found in the Alchemy of Grief entry on the
Raven Essences blog)

but don't you remember?
don't you remember
the reason you loved me before?
baby, please remember me, once more

(from the loss album; adapted from an illustration on the Health News blog)

when was the last time
you thought of me?
oh, have you completely erased me from your memory?
'cos I often think about where I went wrong
and the more I do, the less I know

(from the loss album; original by Callee MacAulay from Toronto, Canada, and seen here)

but I know I have a fickle heart
and a bitterness, and a wandering eye
and a heaviness in my head

(from the loss album; adapted from the Waclaw Wantuch original, seen in the
book Akt. All Rights Reserved.)

but don't you remember?
don't you remember
the reason you loved me before?
baby, please remember me, once more

(from the loss album; adapted from unknown original, but seen on
the Loving Awareness blog)

I gave you the space so you could breathe
and I kept my distance so you would be free
and hope that you find the missing piece
to bring you back to me

(from the loss album; adapted from unknown original, but seen on
the Test-Mistake blog)

why don't you remember?
don't you remember
the reason you loved me before?
baby, please remember me once more

(from the loss album; adapted from original photograph found here
about Laura Ford's "Weeping Girls" series in Edinburgh, Scotland. More information can be found here)

when will I see you again?

(from the loss album; photographer and model unknown, but adapted from image seen
on the Najafi blog)

(Song is Adele's Don't You Remember.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

bounce down the dark until it hits the floor

Valve is now telling us that the long-anticipated "Meet the Pyro" video for TF2 will be released...soon. Or at some point. Some point relatively...soon.


[Edit before posting: They weren't kidding! It's been released! Wooo!]

Kotaku runs a "fake gamer" of the week post every now and again, and for the most part, they're just found images put out by retailers or game companies to push some game or other. Most of the time they're at least mildly diverting, but this one I thought was just hysterical. Poor thing--it must be hard growing up without a couch.

If you like the BioShock games, and you like the idea of playing Little Big Planet in a more portable way--you'll want to look into pre-ordering it to get your very own Little Big Daddy and Little Big Sister costumes.

And this is just priceless:
"We never told it during the training, 'This is a cat,'" said Dr. Dean, who originally helped Google design the software that lets it easily break programs into many tasks that can be computed simultaneously. "It basically invented the concept of a cat. We probably have other ones that are side views of cats."
Teach a computer algorithm to interpret data, and the first thing it reaches for is a lolcat. How appropriate.

But it's deeper and richer than that, if you break it down: Google's researchers are attempting to learn more about how our brains work, and process data, by inventing a synthetic brain to do the same thing. They filtered its experience through YouTube, as one of the wider data channels on the net, and--on its own--this synthetic brain began to search for amusing cat videos. They didn't teach it to follow any specific data path. They just rigged it, set it in motion, then let it loose on the internet to learn.

And the first thing it learned was to identify and understand a cat. I'm thinking of all those Dick and Jane books that were used to teach children to invent the concept of language and understanding in written form. To grasp a thing, after all, we must first be able to perceive it.

These researchers have taught their synthetic brain to perceive cats. I'm dying to know what it chooses to learn next.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with an interesting City of Heroes bio--sadly, the gentleman in question left before I could snap a pic. He was a big guy, dressed all in black, with long black hair. His name? "Luscious Mary". Here's his bio:
Description: RP Any
Walk up friendly
Tell friendly

Real Name: Kent Summers

Day Job: Activist, Artist, mostly known for artwork with highly suggestive religious themes. His most famous piece "Raptured Madonna" a.k.a "Luscious Mary" has every religious zealot trying to get him banned from just about everything.

TS: Army of me

Dislikes: Those who sit on the sidelines, religion, magic hokem (but likes magic magical creatures; go figure), those who manipulate and control (you know who you are)

Likes: Art, Literature, Alcohol (alcoholic), Fire (pyromaniac, secretly wishes he was a fire tank, usually carries a mixture of napalm and greekfire), strong minds, those who expose the truth. Way less Zen then he thinks he is...
I actually adore that there's an explanation to go with the name. Full points, sir, for innovation. Carry on.

the one you can't repair

So, clear back in February, I analyzed a "magic-based" bit of spam that hit the blog. I figured, okay, weird, oddity, but it didn't happen again, so I went on with things.

And then...I got another one.


OMG STOP SHOUTING AT ME. Dear gods, lady. Lower the dosage.


Also, it might be an idea to use a couple commas, here and there.


Okay, still trying to parse this...Really powerful magic guy, check; will help to bring back the "misbehaving" lover, check (though it always confuses me why people seem to want "misbehaving" lovers back...); apparently, he can also bring back people who get lost? Or who just left, period...or, wait, did you mean "dead" again, for gone?



Still not happy with the shouting, but errr. You lived with a man for two years and he left you two weeks before the wedding? What the hell did you do?


Then, frankly, good riddance. Tell him he can come back to you when he gets employed. Move on with your life.


Um...good for you? I guess?


Gosh. Happy everything worked out.

And you're still shouting.

Now, the weird part of this, for a spam thing? What's missing from this all-caps nightmare thing?

Yeah. This is pretty much just "hey, trust this guy, he worked wonders for me..." without ever ONCE giving out an email address, website, or even the man's name.

What the hell, people?

Oh, and of note, for that sense of full morbid irony: I found another mention of this person, that led me to another address entirely. Seems our Miss "Sharon" goes to a university in Nigeria. And his name is David.

Why do people send me these things??

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

stay wilder than the wind

First up, an occasionally NSFW Tumblr paying tribute to a lot of really, really bad art called Boobs Don't Work That Way. Taken mostly from game and anime sources, it's a hysterical defense of anatomy and female attributes, and the artists who get both wrong. Well worth the occasional perusal, if not actually choosing to follow them.

Also, if you have a pool, and you like coffins (this seems a very niche market, but hey), these people make pool floats with you in mind. You're welcome.

I've never been drawn to the EVE Online experience; I know people that are, but seriously, if I'm going to spend a long time playing a game about cargo deliveries between worlds, I'll set up Starfarers of Catan. Still, that being said, they seem to have one of the best character creators currently available.

There's a bit of good and bad in the next two bits. First the bad: for whatever reasons occur to Hollywood producers, a remake of the Killer Shrews movie has been made. I'm deeply scared by this.

Thankfully, a friend of mine found the Quintek Group's homage to Star Trek for me. Part typography, part stylized alternate credits sequence, all fantastic to watch.

Also, have some carnivorous cakes. You're welcome.

There's a new JIRA on scripted object permissions that I, personally, think sets a bad precedent--namely, and at least in my opinion, the Lindens have gone overboard on what a good "caution" against giving objects account permissions should be:
The text reads:

"The object ****** wants total access to your Linden Dollars account. If you allow access, it can remove funds from your account at any time, or empty your account completely, on an ongoing basis with no additional warnings. It is rare that such a request is legitimate. Do not allow access if you do not fully understand why it wants access".

Users are being frightened by this new message, and many percieve it as a "different thing" to the regular debit permissions dialog.

In addition, the text "It is rare that such a request is legitimate" is completely inaccurate - it's not at all rare, many of us deal with many objects every day which require this permission.

I completely understand the need for transparency regarding debit permissions - it's a dangerous point of access for malicious scripts. However, the dialog should be reworded so it is informative and accurate, rather than trying to frighten users into paying attention.
Now, to me, that particular language is just designed to scare people and make them fearful of rezzing out any object that requires account permissions to use. How'ver, as a friend pointed out, it is extremely difficult in the new official viewer to revoke account permissions once given.

For me personally, that's a) yet another reason not to use the official viewer, and b) perhaps something that the Lindens should also look into--making account permissions easier to revoke.

Finally, Soul Caliber V has released a new DLC, and--it's wedding outfits. Wait, what? An arena fighting game with a higher-than-average percentage of male players of the game in the first place, can now attire.

To fight in.


I've found some better-quality pictures, and overwhelmingly I think it's a severely odd design choice for the game, but keep in mind, this is what some of the characters look like normally, so weirdly, the new DLC will give them more clothes to wear. I...guess that's a good thing?

the opposite of love's indifference

(from the loss album and the Where There Is Life blog)

there's a chair, in my head,
on which I used to sit
took a pencil and I wrote
the following on it:
'now there's a key,
where my wonderful mouth used to be

'dig it up, and throw it at me
dig it up, and throw it at me'...

(from the loss album and Shepherd's Notes blog)

where can I run to?
where can I hide?
who will I turn to,
now I'm in a virgin state of mind?

(from the loss album; the Pandora marble sculpture by John Gibson,
circa 1860, in  the Victoria and Albert Museum in London;
adapted from the image in Christine Grabig's Flickr album. All Rights Reserved)

got a knife to disengage
the voids that I can't bear,
to cut out words I've got written,
on my chair, like:

'do you think I'm sexy?
'do you think I really care?

'can I burn the mazes I grow?
'can I? I don't think so.'

(from the loss album; adapted from image seen in the Triumph of the Spirit blog)

where can I run to?
where can I hide?
who will I turn to,
now I'm in a virgin state of mind?

'can I burn the mazes I grow?
'can I? I don't think so.'

(from the loss album; bronze statue of a mourner in Greenwood
Cemetery; picture adapted from original taken by Brecht Bug. All Rights Reserved.)

where can I run to?
where can I hide?
who will I turn to,
now I'm in a virgin state of mind?
a virgin state of mind
a virgin state of mind
a virgin state of mind...

(Song is "Virgin State of Mind" from K's Choice.)

Monday, June 25, 2012

blink your eyes just once, and see everything in ruins

So the latest amusement comes from here, and I thought it was worth it to bring some of the reasons over to this blog, mainly because anything that makes me smile right now is worthy of a small celebration. So here we go.

1. You've no idea why you started the blog in the first place.
Actually, I know exactly why I started this blog in the first place. Now, I've also started three others since I arrived here (I know, I know, trust me I know), and those aren't as frequently updated because...there's only so many hours in the day, frankly.
2. You only promote your posts on Twitter and post nothing else.
I used to do this. Mainly because Twitter was my main point of social media. Since then, I've picked up a Tumblr, which has nada to do with this blog for the most part, and I got nagged into a Pinterest account, which I hardly ever update. How'ver, interesting thing happened a few days ago: a new follower of my SL profile asked me why I never used the feed to send out new post notices. I told her I didn't see a need for it, but she convinced me that it's a fairly effortless way to up my blog views.
Unfort, from there it gets strange. We got into a minor tiff when she told me that the next big thing to do was to get friends to "love" the posts, so I'd be on the trending page, and that's when I hit the brakes. That was my "oh HELL no" point, and I told her so, at which point she flounced off. Here's the interesting bit: she deleted her conversation with me. Which--and I was unaware of this until this happened--deleted MY record of the conversation as well.
So...I guess I owe a minor point of gratitude to the woman I've forgotten the name of, because her dramatic flounce killed all record of the interaction on my feed which mentioned it. So...thanks?
3. Your Twitter avatar sucks.
Take that back!
4. You switched all your efforts from your blog to Facebook.
See, and this will never, never, EVER happen, because I never intend to have a Facebook account. Ditto for a Google+ account.
5. You're on Blogger.
Oh, that's low. But seriously--why does Blogger have such a bad rep? Granted, Blogger's made some changes that I'm not too keen on, but other services either aren't as convenient or it would just be a stone bitch importing everything over.
6. You're too afraid to make a video or audio.
It's not fear, precisely, as lack of equipment. For instance: I don't own a webcam or a freestanding mic. I own a headset with mic, which works well enough for Skype calls, but kind of sucks for recording anything. Plus, while there are people on SL (and some other services) who've heard my voice, it's never been my goal to ensure that people hear--or see--me. 
7. You write way too much.
This is true.
8. You wander off topic.
This is also true.
9. You forgot who your target audience is.
Now, this one's an interesting point. When I started my blog, I had my target audience firmly in mind: me, and that's not ego saying that--this was a publically-maintained private venting spot. (I know, don't think about it too hard, it'll cause brain cramp.) At this point...well, I'm still not a huge blog, nor do I want to be, but I'm read by a small segment of the population internationally, and I'm close to breaking 150,000 page views. That's kind of a large number (though it lessens the impact when we factor in that's over the past six years.)
The thing is, though, I'm still primarily writing what interests me, because if it's not interesting to me, then why do it? What I'm hoping is that somewhere in all the emotional clutter there will be genuinely interesting things for other folks as well...and, by and large, that's proven out. Right now I can say fairly comfortably I've found a tiny little niche of entries on emergent technology, gadgetry, gaming, gender issues, comics, fashion and music that seem to appeal to people.
10. You forgot to put the link in your email signature.
Why would I do this? By and large, my email has nothing to do with my blog.
11. You still haven't hired a content creator.
...Why would I hire a content creator? I write everything that I'm not quoting from someone else. It's my blog.
12. You hide behind your company name, logo or avatar without mentioning who you really are.
You know, this used to be true? How'ver, over the years I've slipped a fair amount, so--while my so-called "real name" still hasn't been revealed, a lot about who I am as a person has been. (And, considering both the ladies who live with me call me Em a fair amount of the time, that whole "real name" thing is getting vague as well.)
13. You can't write a shocking headline.
Sure I can. I just have to find the right song lyric.
14. You have no sense of humour.
This is debatable, but at times, I will accept that yes, my dogmatism and literal nature do get in my way, humor-wise.
15. You don't bother to follow anyone, listen to anyone or engage with anyone online.
16. You forgot to pay your web-hosting bill.
Considering Blogger is a free service...How'ver, taking this last one seriously, it's true--I don't have my own website. I'd like to have my own website, but alas, affording one? I cannot do currently. Still, should my fortunes ever change, I'd be happy to join the ranks of people paying for data. There's a lot more on the site these article bits come from; but these were the main ones I wanted to address.
On to other news. There's a fascinating article on the neuroscience of illusions that is well worth the time to read; in brief, it breaks down why our memories so often trick us, because our brain, while one of the greatest organic processors ever designed, has built-in lag. Ordinarily, it's nothing we notice--it's on average about one one-hundredth of a second--but that's enough for illusionists of all stripes to use to confuse what we think we just saw, with what we actually did see.

And the Lindens still need mesh clothing samples donated by makers of mesh clothing, in order to get Qarl's mesh deformer properly tested and encoded. Come on, people, what's the hold-up? Get on this!

Bob Egan's on a pilgrimage, of sorts--because America (but in particular New York City) is constantly in a state of architectural flux, he decided to try and document all the places he could find where album covers, or early video of musicians, was shot, as best he could. You can check in on his progress here; he also has a Twitter account.

Finally,'s kind of odd. Apparently, there are women who go past idle daydreams of wedding details, to actually buying the wedding dress, registering at stores, selecting invitations, flowers, chapels, reception halls, bridesmaid gowns, and wedding music, all without actually having a spouse in mind. I can't decide if this is a good use of current resources to put aside these items for the "rainy day"--the rain in question arriving in the case of said spouse--or if they're way too obsessed about getting married in the first place.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

beams of light he's working under

I'm certainly not going to say that any crafter who chooses a price for their wares is wrong; heart, soul and effort went into every handcrafted item, all handcrafted items. I'm just saying that, price aside, this is the cutest Creeper I've ever seen.

So, going back to the Marketplace JIRA again, I find a comment from Sassy Romano:
Status: Fix Pending

•WEB-4587 (Listings with the wrong images): This is currently under test. (from )
And yes, that's the complete text of her message, but the reply to which she refers hasn't been updated since the seventh of June.

Still, for what it's worth--even though I'm fairly sure I linked this earlier in the month--here's the latest reply to that comment on a sub-thread of a forum no one reads, so it's confusing why CommerceTeam Linden still insists on hitting "reply" to that one, buried comment, over, you know, actually COMMUNICATING WITH CUSTOMERS...
Overall Marketplace

There are also several issues that occurred around the time of the Direct Delivery launch that we are still working to address, but are not issues with Direct Delivery.

  • WEB-4587 (Listings with the wrong images): This is currently under test.
  • WEB-4441 (Orders stuck in "Being Delivered" state): We have been able decrease the number of orders getting stuck and continue to work on preventing all orders from getting stuck.
  • WEB-4567 (Bulk delete fails for some merchants): We will evaluate the priority of this once we have completed the above Direct Delivery fixes and features.
  • WEB-4592 (Orders marked as "Delivery Partially Failed" on success): This is currently under investigation.
  • WEB-4696 (Deleted listings appearing in search results): We continue to investigate this issue.
  • WEB-2974 (Listing enhancement stuck in "Charging, cannot edit right now" state): We are investigating this issue.
  • WEB-4138 (Confirmation emails failing to deliver): We are currently investigating this issue.
In addition to the above issues, there have been reports of Direct Delivery purchases silently being delivered and the Merchant not getting paid (the order is marked as "Failed"). We have not been able to confirm this report and would like to investigate further, so please file a support ticket with details if you see this.
So basically, that's where we...likely still...stand: more than three months (for the Direct Delivery/corrupted database issue), possibly up to two years (for the original corruption when moving from XStreet to SL Marketplace) it any wonder people are reaching their breaking points?

And seriously, people, how many sim-owners, merchants, institutions, corporate accounts, and even average consumer customers have to leave Second Life before the Lindens take this seriously? Because right now, all we're seeing is "hey, thanks for your patience, we're working on it"--which is being sent into a sub-thread instead of any of the other avenues of communication the Lindens have.

For completion's sake, those are:
Is it sinking in yet?

If the Lindens wanted to be excessively arcane about it, they could even choose one of these:
  • SL Universe (while not owned by the Lindens, messages could be left and reach a more diverse section of the population, including merchants and sim owners who are more directly impacted by Marketplace dysfunction)
  • the SL Universe Twitter feed (again, not owned by the Lindens, but they could easily hashtag a response to the feed, which again, would reach more people than CommerceTeam Linden making eternal replies to a buried forum thread)
  • the Second Life Wikipedia page (again not a main avenue of communication, but hey, for fun and profit they could create a page here, then link it on their Twitter feed)
  • the New World Notes blog (which has a large readership, and being run by a former Linden, has a certain trust cachet built-in)
  • Tateru Nino's blog (which isn't operated by a former Linden, as far as I know, but is also a generally trusted resource for actual journalistic details)
What they seem to fail to realize, any time this comes up, is how many diverse sources for spreading information they actually have. Do they ever use any of these? Beyond the forums, and scattered personal letters (some of which, in the past, have been radically wrong and drama-laden themselves), I'd have to say the answer is no, more often than it's anything else.

So why doesn't a company who wants to reach its customers persist in avoiding 98% of all forms of direct communication with those customers? Got me. I've never been able to figure that one out.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

existence in the dark

The next variation of SOPA/PIPA/OPEN is upon us...only this one's going to be far more difficult to combat. Why? Because the commercially-owned media companies behind almost all internet service providers have decided to band together and do what SOPA, PIPA and OPEN were designed to do, but were prevented from doing when each of those proposed laws were struck down: mainly, catch anyone they believe is violating their held copyrights and prevent them from violating copyright again.

With no government, FBI, or even local police oversight.

From everything we understand so far, the first line of defense will be slowing data speeds for suspected violators to a crawl. Past that, service will be suspended until each suspected violator agrees to, and signs a document saying that they understand what copyright violation is, and that they won't violate any held copyrights in the future. Then and only then, service will be restored...if the ISPs think it's a good idea.
With no oversight of any kind on when that service is restored.

Here's what's really worrying me about this, and it's nothing, specifically, to do with the violation of held copyrights in the first place. While I continue to have strong reservations on the length of held copyright, I am a proponent of copyright in general. However: where I live (RL), our entire building is on one router, which--as far as I understand--gives us one IP. With this new "plan" in place come July, anyone in our building could trip this new "watchdog" mentality with something they do online. What happens at that point? Does the entire building get data slowage--or data stoppage? Do we all have to then agree to that copyright provisions form before we're allowed access again? Or just the person who owns the router? In that case, does that default to the manager of our building, or to the owner of the entire chain? (At this point, that's four buildings, each of those with at least ten units per floor, so we are potentially talking over a hundred individual apartments.)

And would that even work, specifically, given that our building chain is owned by a cooperative board of advisers for a non-profit organization?

No answers to any of these questions have come to light, so far, and that's just pulling one personal example into the light. What about parents who have children who download things from the net? Or flip that the other way--children who rely on the net for schoolwork, whose parents download things and run into this in July? What about children with networks in school--if one student downloads something that violates copyright, does the entire school get hit? And how would that be resolved?

Ultimately, it's even a question of enforcement regularity--are all these ISPs planning to hire new people, just to police and enforce this new policy? Because if they don't, are they going to be able to keep up with every single potential violation? Plus, while this is purely a commercial issue--and thus, not tied into law or freedom of speech provisions, unfortunately--it seems as if all the potential consequences of internet actions seem to accept guilt first, and innocence only after several different varieties of proof--and that's assuming they even care if anyone's innocent or not.

In less distressing news, Prada's gone steampunk! What's more intriguing to me, personally (I have, tragically, stopped following fashion for the nonce) is that their womens' wear line is pretty much as mod as you can get.

Plus, hey, they asked Willem Dafoe to model for them. How can you not love that?

From a casual mention on Twitter, I discovered an all-in-one skin/outfit/shape package for elves in SL, and...I'm having great difficulty with it. In fact, I am going to openly defy anyone who says elves look like this in SL...because frankly, if you do, you are wrong.

I don't think any elf with a quarter-ounce of self-respect would choose a shape with no hips, bird legs, eyes that could only be achieved through severe thyroid dysfunction, and not only the highest possible cheekbones, but severely puffy cheeks as well. Insanity.

And I'll leave you with a very fun concept: literary rap! Enjoy.

some people call it a one night stand, but we can call it paradise

From Mysticarose Olinger on the Marketplace JIRA:
I am angry that some of my items show images from other sellers. How are the buyers supposed to know what they are buying? This is not cool.
I am ready to shut down my store if this is not resolved soon.
Here's what I know, for a fact, about customer complaints: if a company (any company) received a letter (we're talking the days before email was a big deal) of complaint, that one, sole letter represented eight people who did not complain formally, but were just as upset.

When email arrived and became popular, the overall average of customer comments and complaints went up because it was easier to dash off a reply in a format that didn't require envelopes, stamps and a postal box. How'ver, that didn't change the equation by that much; in fact, for many PR departments, the advent of email tilted the equation in very unfavorable ways. In essence, receiving an email complaint meant there were, on average, thirty people who did not complain via email, but were just as upset. Further, those thirty people had other venues of complaint open to them, from telling their friends to posting on product review sites.

While, granted, I haven't pored over this particular JIRA lately, but when last I did, there was one individual who's had no problem with switching over to Direct Delivery from the (usually not renamed) XStreet boxes.

One. Versus everyone else in the thread who's complaining.

Multiply that by potentially hundreds of individuals who don't read the Marketplace forums, post to the Second Life, forums, comment on the JIRAs, or directly interact with the Lindens to try to reach a resolution both sides can feel happy about.

At one point, I said something akin to there being about half a million corrupted items on the Marketplace right now--products which cannot be edited or deleted, because they are not actual physical listings, just corrupted data points--which I still feel is a fraction of the true depth of the ongoing problem. But let's say, just for argument, that each maker affected lists one hundred items. (Obviously, individual makers will have less or more, but this is just to pose the argument.)

That works out to about five thousand affected accounts, give or take. (And I think that's a radically low figure.) Now, admittedly, operating from this mythical five thousand accounts, when the figures for SL are much, much higher, makes this seem a low and insignificant number indeed. In 2007, Beta News reported that there were 6.16 million user accounts for Second Life. In 2009, WebProNews reported a figure of fifteen million user accounts--with the additional metric of having 70,000 users online at any given time.

In 2012, Tateru Nino posted a reply to a similar question on the community forums:
There's between 800,000 and 1.1 million Second Life users logged in per month - but there's very little data on how many per day. Based on concurrency data and a few not-too-unreasonable assumptions, I'd say that there's roughly 150,000 to 175,000 users on any given day. Only a small number of those, however, would be people who log in seven-days-per-week, though.
Okay, so just going from there--taking the higher figure of 175,000 players in world, each day, then 5,000 of those are having Marketplace issues. Big Marketplace issues. And that's not even three percent of the total, but...multiply that figure by the total occupancy of Second Life?

How many of those are having problems? And how much higher is that number, then? How high, in fact, does the percentage of users with issues have to get before the Lindens pay attention?

There's a lovely article on objectification in Lollipop Chainsaw which I think is well worth reading; of course, for those of you who've never heard of the game, here's the official trailer, the special Hallowe'en trailer, the trailer for the Japanese edition, and the official Nick and Juliet trailer. Do I even need to describe the game after those?

I'm not saying it's a sign of progress in gaming, but hey--at least in this one, the main gender of the objectified person is male. At the very least, as the article points out, it just might get through to some brains that if they're uncomfortable watching this level of objectification in another male, well, hey--it might just be wrong to objectify women the same way.

Just a thought.

Friday, June 22, 2012

only you have seen such storming in my life

Back on the 14th, I covered the now-with-added-rapey-content Lara Croft reboot. Two things have come up which I think are worth mentioning since then.

First, Extra Credits did a feature on the "hard-boiling" of franchises--their main game for explaining this is Max Payne 3, which was pretty much a complete departure from the first two games. As they explain:
"The old Max Payne had something he was fighting for. He didn't spend the entire game wanting to die, or talking about how nothing mattered. Sure, he was a little cynical, but his perserverence and underlying faith in what he was doing belied his cynicism, and gave him some character. He was interesting because he was a fundamentally good guy trying to do the right thing, under that veneer of wry cynicism.

"But with the new Max Payne, you are going to spend the first two hours of the game saying to yourself,
All right, I get it--he drinks."
And this is never the realization that game designers want, or even should create, for their players. Essentially, even survival horror games are supposed to be just that--games. They're supposed to be what-if explorations of some pretty basic themes, and this is a core truth of any game, from Angry Birds to Skyrim.

The Lara Croft reboot falls squarely into this debate. Making games "mature", that can tackle important philosophical/emotional points, that's not the bad thing. Making games that can tell us new and interesting things about our own lives through the media of those games, that's not a bad thing. Those are actually really good things, and we've got games that are doing that. The problem comes in when we equate addictive behavior with maturity, when we equate sexual content (because, even though I profoundly agree that rape is NOT sex, it adds back the sexual component when programming characters for game display) with maturity, when we equate gore and violence with maturity. These, separated out, are not mature concepts on their own if the story being told in the game doesn't support them as part of that tale, not the tale in and of themselves.

Let's be honest, here--there's just as much violence in Team Fortress 2 at times as there is in something like Dead Space. The difference is in the emotional tone. In Team Fortress 2, while everyone dies--and usually in terrible ways--we understand that's just what happens. It's not desensitizing--we still get upset when whichever character we're playing expires--but we are told through the art style that some will win, and some will lose, and all that matters at the end of the day is helping our teams the best ways we can.

Conversely, with something like Dead Space--or a hundred other games in similar genres--we're told explicitly to care for our character, and try to keep him (nearly always a him) from dying in terrible ways. The game itself feeds us horror and gore in heaping portions, and we learn as we go that that's just how this world works. This, conversely, is desensitizing, because there's just so much blood, pain, damage, and terror that we become overwhelmed. Add to this a young, attractive woman who's forced to crawl through hell--with hell occasionally being other people--just to survive...that's really stacking the deck. Moreover, it's an artificial choice--"forcing" us as players both to be complicit in her abuse, and conversely to care about her and want to protect her. These are two profoundly dissimilar emotional states.

Continuing in this vein, on the Dork Tower blog, John Kovalic is taking on the concept of adding "maturity" and depth from another direction:
"Rule of Thumb: If your plot point seems arbitrary, awful, lazy and/or just plain dumb as fuck when applied to a male character, just assume it'll be kinda the same with a female one."
Exactly. Which, to be honest, is a position any game designer should memorize. If you wouldn't do it to a man, don't do it to a woman. Ever.

And in other news, the Marketplace JIRA still has the wrong description. Has no one noticed? Seriously? Because I'd be questioning why the JIRA itself is corrupting.

Guess I'm not a Linden. Obviously they have bigger problems...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

it is gone like something large, hovering high, has covered up the sun (part III)

(continuing from part II)

So, where were we?
I'm not apologizing for who I am anymore. I certainly don't need your help. And I don't give a damn if you approve.
Right, the 21st of June. Still.

Spoony, at this point, was at the eye of quite the little storm of drama, rivaling me at my best. Or, well, worst. During this time, he did manage to put out four--four? Maybe six--E3-based video logs onto his site (but not onto That Guy With the Glasses, where his videos are now pretty conspicuously absent). Even with that, the comments kept flying in on his feed. From @MaffewGregg on the 22nd:
You'd think @TheSpoonyOne would know how netiquette works by now.
Spoony's response:
@Maffewgregg you'd think you'd know how to mind your own goddamn business by now.
From Karkat Vantas:
@TheSpoonyOne No wonder Scarlett left you, you disgusting shit stain. I'd tell you to die, but living would make you suffer much more.
Spoony retweeted that, followed by this:
You see the kind of thin-skinned, ignorant, cunts I gotta deal with on a daily basis?
Obscurus Lupa responded:
@TheSpoonyOne Is this the part where you call everyone lesbians for not wanting to go out with you?
Spoony replied back:
@Obscurus_Lupa Case in point.
Lupa back:
@TheSpoonyOne Has Oreo found you a new "mommeh" yet?
Spoony retorted:
@Obscurus_Lupa Well now, look who's sunk to my level. Welcome to Thunderdome, kid.
Kaite said:
@TheSpoonyOne Noah, you are the only one responsible for letting this continue with yourself. Seriously, google narcisstic traits. :(
The response?
@KaiteEmm Seriously, google "shut the fuck up."
From Romaku:
@TheSpoonyOne I'm ashamed I used to look up to you.
The response:
@Romaku1 You will be missed. By someone, I'm sure.
David Key:
@TheSpoonyOne Noah. Calm down, man. Just relax. I know you got over by being sarcastic and angry, but you're not doing a video. Just chill.
@LvOverRide I'm perfectly calm, dude.
I'd hazard a guess to say he really is, or at least, thinks he really is--that all this has been cathartic for him, allowing him to vent against someone that's not himself. And we've all done it, I think, because we still haven't completely socialized the difference between speaking to ourselves/our local family/friends and speaking to the wider world. In part, services like Twitter compound this lack of comprehension because first, it's so easy to send out 140 characters or less on practically anything, but second, because it's very easy to equate "followers" (who may not share even common likes/dislikes with us or our local social sets) with "friends" (people we believe can be trusted when we need to share our experiences).

From Spoony earlier today:
There's nothing more boring than people who love you.
That's possibly true, but I'm more on the side of Jim Bevan, who said a few hours past that:
Freakin' train wreck happening here. And I am seriously concerned that the person at the center of it all is going to do physical harm next.
As a denizen of the net myself, it's not my place--or anyone's--to try to constrain behavior. We can advise, we can recommend, we can suggest, but at the end of the day, we as netizens do not have individual power for anything other than choosing to intake (or not to intake) what we see.

That being said, there's a lot of worry currently about Spoony, partly based on how completely he seemed to fall apart on Twitter. I would be the first to tell you that posted behavior may have nothing to do with actual feelings--but on the other hand, anyone still reading likely also read the recent storm of drama on this blog. While both Spoony and I have the capacity to exercise restraint, we both chose in our own ways not to exercise that restraint.

The result in my case was a lot of worry from my friends. I've answered a lot of IMs and emails reassuring people, and I'm trying to think as clearly as I can and let venting on the blog go for now. It's not always easy, because the automatic turn in my case is to dwell on what's gone wrong, what could go wrong in future. I'm a cheerful pessimist in the best of times.

Spoony, well, as he pointed out himself, he tends to turn to Byron in times of deep pain, he also pointed out, that's not the best thing. And from there, he turns to anger as a cover for that pain. At this point, he may well be happily spinning off froth with no greater emotional weight than a glasswing--but when he started, that anger, that pain, that rage was clearly visible.

I think the best thing to take away from this--and part of the reason I turned this into three separate entries in the first place--is that we have a long, hard road to travel to get to the place where we can separate ourselves and our intimates from our social media contacts. Cases like this show the potential danger of forgetting that--due nearly entirely to what he said on his Twitter feed publically, he lost a rehosting gig, all the other Channel Awesome contributors who were working with him into meta storylines likely lost the ability to continue those storylines, and at the other end of this observation, I'm still thinking Spoony has a long way to go before he really accepts what's happened in the first place.

Train wreck? Meet the Train Wreck.

it is gone like something large, hovering high, has covered up the sun (part II)

(continuing from part I)

Through most of the 16th of June, Spoony thought about moving, pondering if relocating would help him get through the emotional storm. Ultimately, he decided against it, citing family issues and, well, general apathy. At this point he was also the target of a lot of misdirected ire, I think, from both fans and random strangers--and to be fair, more random strangers than fans. His response to most of these comments was sarcastic, edging into generally bitchy, but then The Invitation went out:
Anyone else want to publicly denounce me? C'mon, it's fun.
What followed, especially where one Twitterer was concerned, was an anger-laced, invective-laden diatribe against meaningless platitudes. When called on the several tweets he sent out (in an extraordinarily mild fashion), this was his response:
@0dge A bit harsh? No, it's extremely harsh, and I'm beyond giving a shit at this point.
Most of June 17th, he spent going on a diatribe against partially-finished basements:
You think Bilbo Baggins partially-finished Bag End? No, you shithead. Bilbo finished that fucker.
HopeWithinChaos tried again:
@TheSpoonyOne You realize you're going off about shit that is seriously insignificant now, right? You're just mad to be mad.
His response, as expected:
@HopeWithinChaos Fuck you, I'mma be mad at what I want.
He seemed to realize around this time that things were veering off the rails:
Hopefully will have a couple of videos up tomorrow, if I have any fans left.
Someone else got involved at this point. Spoony (of course) answered:
@Takahata101 Dude I will mess you up. You seen me lately? I'm a crazy motherfucker. You ever fight someone who's out of his fucking mind?
On the 18th of June, the folks behind Channel Awesome put Spoony on a four-week suspension from the site. You won't be overly surprised at his answer:
The accumulated filth of all their shit games and comics will foam up about your waists, and in agony youll look up screaming "review this!"

And I'll look down and whisper, "No."
Though he more directly referred to it on the 19th:
My videos will not be on TGWTG for a while. I've been suspended for 4 weeks for misconduct. I agree with the decision.
On the 20th, things continued to go downhill:
I should be whipped. I should be flogged. I am an evil, offensive excuse for a man worthy only of your spit and ridicule. Purge me.
He continued:
I am also not allowed to threaten fans or tell them to go fuck themselves anymore. Hopefully you've internalized my voice so it's automatic
And continued:
Perhaps I can come up with a code which adequately conveys my disgust and hatred towards you and the human race in general.
And continued:
Your concern is all very touching, but um, I think you're forgetting that I'm gonna say whatever the fuck I damn well please. kthx.
On the 21st, he kept going:
I don't really see the cause for outrage here. I've always been a hostile bastard. I've always ranted and screamed. Wear a fucking helmet
And kept going:
I'm just being myself. I'm simply enlightened enough to know that I am an angry, crazy motherfucker. I can't help if you don't like it.
And kept going:
I'm being honest and open. Last I heard, those were good qualities. Do you need help finding the "unfollow" button?
Suzanne Eldredge asked a question:
@TheSpoonyOne So, what do you want? I ask in all sincerity.
He answered:
@Ampersand07 I want a rebirth of glory, a renaissance of power!
And answered:
@Ampersand07 I want to stop running through my life like a man late for an appointment, afraid to look back or look forward.
And answered:
@Ampersand07 I want us to be what we used to be! I want... I want it all back the way it was. Does that answer your question?
I'd say so.

On the 21st, partially in response to these tweets, and, I'd be willing to hazard a good guess, in response to email and/or telephone conversation with Spoony directly, the Channel Awesome staff sent out a notice saying Spoony had left the building:
After recent events, Noah "The Spoony One" Antwiler and Channel Awesome have decided to part ways. Noah has made it clear that he wishes to pursue a course that is different from our own. We feel that with these different aims, it is better for Noah to be free to pursue his own goals unhindered by us.

Noah has been an immense talent on the site and we thank him for his years of hard service, both in numerous episodes of The Spoony Experiment and in the Channel Awesome Anniversary films.

We sincerely wish him the best in all future endeavors, and hope he continues to put out great quality work.
The four-week suspension, in this case, became permanent.

More to come in part III.

and something quiets the silken strumming

Briefly touching on comics today, especially concerning Amanda Waller:
Nicknamed "the Wall", she is a former congressional aide and government agent often placed in charge of the Suicide Squad, a semi-secret government-run group of former supervillains working in return for amnesty. She later served as Secretary of Metahuman Affairs under President Lex Luthor, before being arrested in the wake of Luthor's public fall from grace. Waller was recently reassigned to the leadership of Checkmate as White Queen, but has been forced to resign because of her involvement in Operation Salvation Run.
Now, like Kingpin, she came out of the projects--specifically, in her case, out of Chicago's Cabrini Green. She fought hard for respect after losing two of her children and her husband to gang violence (at least, I think that's what happened; I know she's introduced as an emotionally scarred widow when she first enters the scene), but ultimately, her adversarial relationships with the heroes under her control turned her to the path of villainy.

(from the media album; Batman, Amanda Waller, and General Eiling)

There's a great review of the toy pack she came in, but I think it's more valuable to note that she, like Kingpin, has always been represented as a strong black woman of size, first, and a villain after. And a lot of people responded to this. In 2009, IGN put out a list of the hundred greatest supervillains of all time; Waller ranked 60th. That's not half bad.

Then came DC's New 52. Amidst the various and sundry problems with the reconfigured line (most notably, the fact that every single hero and villain on the roster has now been "active" as a superbeing for five years or less), they also changed Amanda Waller.

To this:

(from the media album)

I'll let Newsarama field this answer:

Amanda Waller in Suicide Squad: Weight Watchers? Jenny Craig?
The Biggest Loser?
Pretty damn much. She didn't earn her nickname of "The Wall" because she held a firm line around the office (although she did); she earned it, pure and simple, by being the biggest, most inflexible boss on the planet, practically. It may not have been complimentary, considering her size, but it didn't faze her.

Until, you know, DC took a whack at her and carved her down for the new run.

(from the media album)

She was also seen in the Green Lantern film, played by Angela Bassett;

(from the media album)

and seen on season nine of Smallville, played by Pam Grier. Admittedly, Pam Grier comes closest, and I don't, per se, mind either Bassett or Grier getting parts in the DC universe. But as Amanda Waller? Neither of them are even close to her physically, so what the hell, DC? Proving yet again that male characters get (mostly) interesting parts with character development, and females are thinned down and bustily enhanced as Magic Pixie Dream Girls.

Screw you, DC.

Meanwhile, over on the Twenty-sided Tales blog, Seamus Young is taking on the bizarre dearth of streaming options on Netflix. It's not just him; I think everyone who has a Netflix account has noticed this. Now, most of the time I'm still able to find something to occupy some time when I'm interested in watching films, but that's also because I have "standby" features--AKA, titles I can always pull up and watch in a pinch.

My current crop of standbys that get around the slow patches:
  • Iron Man 2 (because, barring Less Than Zero, I'll nearly always watch Robert Downey Jr. in anything)
  • Cher: the Farewell Tour (What? I like Cher.)
  • Farscape (every now and again, I want to see the crew in action. Still miss this show)
  • The Dresden Files (double for this, I seriously miss this show and think it deserved a MUCH longer run)
  • Kevin Smith: Burn in Hell (because he's really, really funny in this one)
  • Paranormal State (because they do things so badly at times, it makes me giggle like a five-year-old)
  • Warehouse 13 (because if the plots are occasionally bafflingly dumb, the acting and the characters are top-notch)
But for most people, the fact that most of Netflix' choice films right now were filmed on the cheap by actors no one's ever heard of does not make Netflix points. I'll search out these films, because I like independent horror, but even there, I'd say I find one gem for every twelve titles. If you were to look down my history, it's staggering the amount of times it says "43 of 121 minutes watched", or something, simply because I pushed that film as far as I could, and walked away from it when the ennui overcame any shock/horror factor the film had.

Which means even my "it sounds interesting, and I don't care if it looks like it had a $29.95 budget" outlook gets crushed under the weight of movies that are so bad, it's well beyond even my ability to appreciate them.

And this isn't happening just in horror; it's pervasive throughout all the genres. When their contract with Starz expired, I'm fairly sure at least three or four additional cinematic firms pulled back as well, because that's about when it became pretty difficult to find something to watch reliably.

Will Netflix turn it around? No clue. They lost nearly a million accounts when they announced the Netflix/Quikster split, and I'm pretty sure they didn't gain back even a fourth of those losses over the course of the year following. I'd hate to see them go, but it does feel like I'm watching the mammoth slowly sink into the tar pits, unable to break free.