queenlua: (Greater Bird of Paradise)

a couple weekends ago i stayed up late and had a couple beers while trying to figure out why The Velvet Underground is a big deal.

uh, let me backtrack a bit.

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when i first played porpentine's "howling dogs", i rolled my eyes at the opening, which is just a long quote lifted from a kenzaburo oe's teach us to outgrow our madness. i had an unconscious, knee-jerk reaction: oh gee, look at this pretentious person, probably into lousy MFA fiction, majored in lit, putting on airs by name-dropping foreign nobel prize winners. (my unconscious it not very nice.)

i played the game and didn't much like it. it felt pretentious. its language was overwrought. there wasn't really a solid core.

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iii. )

iv. )

v. )


i've noticed lately that i've used the word "patient" to describe art i really admire.

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vi. )

fin. )
queenlua: (Magpie)

My dad and I went birding in Colorado. Not for long, just for as long as we could sneak away from the family, one hour one evening, when we drove up to a nearby ski resort and tromped through the forest.

There was a path, but I abandoned it because I could hear a hermit thrush singing and I wanted to see it. Hermit thrushes are elusive little birds, prone to hiding in the underbrush. We went deep into the forest; I took a step and got soaked all the way to my calves in mud. Damn, wetland.

Dad and I struggled through the mud for a bit before my dad noticed—there were these slender white flowers that seemed to like water; the mud was deepest where they were, shallowest where they weren't. Sure enough, we wound a far-drier path forward by creeping between patches of white, and just a few minutes later, we came to a clearing and saw the thrush: singing, loud, triumphant, at the very top of a tree where no thrush ever sings from.


I started writing this because in my mind all my hobbies are the same: programming is music is writing is birding is everything. And I thought I'd come up with some brilliant connection between birding and programming, how they're exactly the same, but I wound up convincing myself it was also, well, everything.

The key to everything—it's so zen-sounding obvious-sounding stupid: awareness. Or rather, observantness. But hear me out; I promise there's not an iota of pseudo-zen in this post. (EDIT: rereading this by the light of not-3am-on-a-work-night, this is a blatant lie and this is all hippie shit but feel free to read anyway!)

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queenlua: (Magpie (Snow))
here, have an article on campus activism, focused on oberlin specifically, but probably more broadly applicable than that. (also, the list of student demands referenced in the article.) also, a tumblr post on the subject, and some blogger dude.

i share these links because i think they're the only ones i've been able to find that try to offer a balanced perspective on the recent spate of student agitation over SJ-y issues. i thought the new yorker article was interesting enough that i tried to google responses to it, and i couldn't find anything beyond "lol these oberlin students are so DUMB and SPOILED and want to GET PAID TO SKIP CLASS whiny yanks need to stfu and go back to class," which was depressing. given that a lot of similar movements have been sparking across the country (u of missouri, yale, stanford, seattle university are the first ones that come to mind, but i know there's many others), i think it's important/interesting to try and understand where the students are coming from.

so, here's me cobbling together my own response.

the sense i get from the new yorker article is, the current wave of activism is a sort of third-wave pomo activism. the previous wave of student activism in the 60's/70's gave rise to stuff like, say, affirmative action, which is a good way to get more underrepresented/lower-class students into universities, where they can then learn upper-middle-class values and join a middle-upper-class profession and have middle-upper-class babies. for folks who had been kept down for so long, this was awesome progress, and i don't have actually statistics/links on hand, but i know people have drawn pretty strong links between these policies and stuff like "hey now there are actually black lawyers" and "hey now there are actually enough black lawyers that they can support each other and form professional networks" and "hey now the idea of a middle-upper-class mostly-black suburb is a thing that can actually happen." hashtag progress.

but the most recent generation of underrepresented students is showing up on campus and saying, jeez, this is a sham, upper-middle-class values suck. why am i learning only about dead white guys? how come no one cares about non-western cultures? how come i feel like a token rather than a fully-integrated part of this campus community?

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queenlua: (Default)
Here are some links that are relevant to some thoughts I've been turning over in my head lately wrt the very broad areas of morality and tribalism:

It's pretty long. )
queenlua: An adorable puffy little bird. (Broad-Billed Motmot)
So lately I've been reading Who Owns the Future? by Jaron Lanier—slowly. I'm having trouble reading it more than a little scrap at a time, because I find it a pretty damn depressing read. It articulates a lot of my vague uncomfortable worries—the increased dominance of algorithmic and high-speed trading in the finance industry, the staggering scope of gentrification issues in San Francisco and other mega-cities, and ever-increasing income inequality in the US—and ties them together into a pretty compelling argument of "how we got in this mess and here's where that takes us if we keep this up."

The basic outline of Lanier's argument is this: the twenty-first century is increasingly dominated by "siren servers," networks which own and generate wealth by accumulating huge stores of information: Google's huge database of user searches and data, quantitative finance firm's models which react to even the tiniest blips in real-world data, and so on. Rather than driving increased opportunity and wealth for all, these networks seem to mostly disempower people. Observe that Google employs far fewer people than, say, GM did in its heyday. This trend is skewing the nice middle-class bell curve we've enjoyed in the past, toward the "1% vs 99%" divide we're seeing now.

Such a problem seems to be outside the powers of traditional regulation to control. You can't effectively legislate limits on technology. For instance, it doesn't really matter how much you regulate the banks doing high-frequency trading—forbid banks from trading based on one thing, or at a certain pace, and they'll just find something else to trade on, hedge their bets based off a different frequency model, using their huge network of information to win. (A friend of mine at a trading desk mentioned that last Friday was an especially exciting one at work, because as soon as an ebola case was reported in New York, they started trading based on what markets that would upset. Isn't finance charming.)

So wealth gets concentrated into the class of "whoever owns the siren servers." The common wisdom to "get a job in tech" is sound short-term advice, then, but seems tenuous in the long-term, when you not only have to control a server but control the best servers to have a prayer of staying in control.

it's been a while since i've done a long, disconnected, thinking-aloud sort of essay, hasn't it )
queenlua: (Default)
I recently got into an interesting e-mail discussion about games as an art form with a friend, and this entry is a result of that discussion. I know a lot's been said on the subject before, but I'm hoping at least I have a bit of something new to contribute (even though my thoughts are still a bit scattered and sparse).

So let's start with this: I don't think there's an exemplary example of a video game that I would (a) count as a piece of art, and (b) effectively utilizes the tools of its medium.

Or at least, I don't think there's a great example of this yet. Think of early cinema: it took early filmmakers a long time to realize, wait, we're doing this all with cameras now, so we should stop acting like this is just a play. Nowadays, movies are really distinct from plays; there are things filmmakers do in movies that wouldn't be possible in plays, and vice versa. But movies are older than games by a fair margin.

I think games are still suffering from that—game designers are taking their storytelling/art cues from cinema and novels and whatever, but they haven't quite figured out what it is that makes their medium unique.

The two types of games. )

Integrating story and gameplay. )

What I'd like to see more of in games (mild Radiant Dawn spoilers). )


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