Jun 14 2005

Eerie

Classic illustrated horror story magazines.


Jun 14 2005

Hypersurface

“Essentially I’m building a physical space that responds to the actions of it’s inhabitants. It will be 2 ‘Hypersurface’ walls running in parallel that will come to life once inhabited.”

We’re not quite at JG Ballard’s psycho-responsive house just yet, but we’re getting there. This project creates a space in which the walls adjust their shape, depending on the actions of the inhabitants, creating a rippling, distorting surface as they move. South West types can go and see it in Bristol.

Via, We Make Money Not Art.


Jun 12 2005

Eve

“Sell your character and never go back, Jim.”

“Never going to happen.”

Friday night’s pub conversations pushed me over the edge. I’ve reactivated Eve and relaunched my character in the starry heavens. I’ve tried twice now to sever my relationship with Eve Online. The problem with it is that games aren’t simply my addiction, they’re also my pay cheque. I can’t devote myself to a single game: I have to sample them all. I simply can’t afford not to taste everything. I’ve always played as much as possible, but these days it’s practically mandatory that I push a salty finger into every pie. But I could, theoretically, devote everything to Eve. If I didn’t have to work then all my life would be bent on it. I’ve had that obsession only once before – and that was with Quake III. I lost a job over it. That’s kind of sad.

So I’ve quit Eve twice over, and gone off to sow my experiential oats in far slung fields. There has been a lot I’ve enjoyed. Most recently, Battlefield 2 is particularly exquisite and yet, when the servers are exploding and all my friends are raving, I’ve logged back on to Eve. She’s still there. Still beautiful. Sure, high-impact FPS team games are one of life’s adrenal highs, but they don’t tend to have many mile-long battleships, or vast emergent events, driven by the inertial mass of player activity over months and months of play…

Last night reminded me of all the things about Eve that connect the depths of my brain and set it humming, zen-like. Its occasional acute intensity, its slow pace. (I read three excellent short stories by Brian Aldiss and downloaded a tonne of pre-war Jazz and Blues while waiting for the fleet to engage. It’s hard to demonstrate how that can be a good thing in a game, but Eve’s lulls, chat-line socialising and demands on patience give it a sense of purpose that buzzing arcade blazes do not possess.) So seldom do games get across the enormous gravitas of space-bound monstrosities slugging it out across the void, but here it is in Eve, every night. And really rather human, too. There’s something detached about most space games. But not here. You’re thrown in with a cussing, grumbling, exploiting, caring, daring, twattish, highly-intelligent throng of people from across the world. Texans fight alongside Germans, who are betrayed by Russians, who trade blows with that guy from Israel. Agonisingly, my Fraps recorder stopped working, or I’d have posted the skirmishes up here in all their laser-tongued glory. And that could have been complete with battle chatter from the 50+ people in teamspeak, except that would betray our clever tactics.

Delightfully, the in-game corporation I set up last year is still running, and has gone from strength to strength. They’ve taken full advantage of the political situation I dragged us into, and now have a station, hidden away in deep space. It’s the kind of vision of how players would use the game that I know CCP are excited about. The Exodus expansion has provided so much, but it has taken players a while to work out how to use it.

Perhaps it’s that, more than anything, that keeps me coming back. The game is organic. It is a mass-relationship, like those of economics or fashion. It is a gigantic structure of play that represents an evolutionary dialectic – two parts of the symbiote, player and developer, interacting to create something that cannot cease to develop.

Games like Guild Wars or Warcraft will benefit from player feedback, but the ultra-complex processes within Eve are defined far more by how players find ways to use the tools they’ve been given. As an environment, Eve is more interesting than anything else out there because it is not concrete. It is not, ‘just another themepark where you queue to get on the next ride’. It’s closer, I think, to an actual town. Structures can be demolished, tracts of land repurposed, policies altered, blood spilt. The player alliances are the social groups trying to make the most of living (together) there, while the developers are the ones trying to make sure everything works, and that everyone gets a fair deal, including them. They want their vision to be realised, but it is a vision that changes as they struggle to understand how 50,000 players will interact in the game world they have created.

It’s not ever going to get boring, and I’ll write more on this quite soon.


Jun 8 2005

Hot Commodity Action

Commodities aren’t just objects in the world that we – detached, autonomous subjects – would apprehend from a distance. Rather, commodities, as animate beings, are somehow already inside us, molding us from within, present before we are there to respond to them. Parasites.

Shaviro on the satisfying emptiness of that trip to the mall. Again demonstrating the philosophical application of Bill Burroughs and the idea of the language virus, with supporting thoughts from Derrida and Wittgenstein.

My girlfriend remains unimpressed by this analysis of the joy of shopping. For my part, does my perfunctory, standoffish attitude towards shopping say something ugly about the state of my soul? Or did I just mutate the relationship with my shopping parasite?


Jun 6 2005

Blok

This is wonderful, although there is something rather sinister about it.

D: He can talk to the shoes? Are they alive?
B: Yeah.
D: Do the shoes have different personalities?
B: No, they’re just shoes.
D: Nice shoes.
B: Magical shoes… and they can understand him.
D: I wish my shoes understood me.


Jun 4 2005

Journey To The Squidgy Hotness

Fearsome news from The Guardian.

The 57,500-tonne drill ship Chikyu (Japanese for Earth) is being prepared in the southern port of Nagasaki. Two-thirds the length of the Titanic, it is fitted with technology borrowed from the oil industry that will allow it to bore through 7,000 metres of crust below the seabed while floating in 2,500 metres of water – requiring a drill pipe 25 times the height of the Empire State building.

The deepest hole drilled through the seabed so far reached 2,111 metres.

Cheers, Tim.


Jun 4 2005

BitKraft

Blimey. (Needs sound on.)

Via WurzelTod


Jun 2 2005

Indiana Brainsteak

Deep Fried Cow Brain Sandwich, served at the Hilltop Inn, Evansville, Indiana.

Via GOD.


Jun 1 2005

Fundamentals

What is the fundamental problem of philosophy? The rather ‘eccentric’ Colin Wilson has a stab at it, via a discussion of A.N. Whitehead:

According to Sartre, “nausea” is the fundamental reality of human existence, the basic truth. That is why “it is meaningless that we live and meaningless that we die” and why “man is a useless passion.” But according to Whitehead, this is in itself a delusion, due to a kind of tiredness, a collapse of perception – rather like a child feeling so tired after a Christmas party that he feels all parties are totally futile.

This, for me, was the fundamental “Outsider problem,” the problem of so many of those oversensitive romantics who committed suicide or died of tuberculosis in the nineteenth century, the problem of “negation” as expressed by Dostoevski in The Possessed or by Eliot in The Waste Land and The Hollow Men. And here, incredibly, was a respectable philosopher in the British empirical tradition going right to the heart of the matter and declaring that the “meaninglessness” is a delusion, like our conviction that the sun goes round the earth. This, I think, is ultimately what I find so amazing about Whitehead. The style and the manner convince you that here is a more-or-less academic philosopher, building his incredibly abstract system in a kind of vacuum, when in fact he is a creative genius of the same order as Plato or Beethoven.

This problem of “meaning perception” is fundamental. When van Gogh painted The Starry Night, he was overwhelmed with a total conviction of meaning. When he shot himself in the stomach, he was overwhelmed with a total conviction of tragedy and meaninglessness – not just personal, but universal. “Misery will never end.” Dostoevski had raised the same question in the most powerful chapter in all his work, the “Pro and Contra” chapter of The Brothers Karamazov. And here was a British philosopher answering it quite coolly with the comment: “No, the meaningless is a simple delusion” – and then explaining it all in words of one syllable.

Wilson takes it further though, and looks at the opposition between these two poles of human experience, and suggests that the most important perception lies in the middle:

What I found so fascinating is that there are moments when the two visions seem to combine. Even Sartre’s “nauseated” hero Roquentin experiences such moments – for example, when listening to a record of a Negro woman singing “One of these days.” “My body feels at rest, like a precision machine.” Yes, in such moments we experience a curious sense of precision, of control. It is as if the two beams of perception – meaning and immediacy – combine and operate simultaneously. I compared the effect to what happens in the film The Dam Busters. The problem for the Royal Air Force was how to destroy the Moener Dam with bombs that bounced along the lake like golf balls; the bombs had to be dropped from precisely the correct height – too high and they broke up, too low and they sank. But how to judge the exact height of an aeroplane above the lake? The solution was simple: to place two spotlights on the plane, one in the nose and one in the tail, whose two beams would converge only when the plane was at exactly the correct height. When the pilot saw the two circles blend together into one on the surface of the lake, he knew he was at the right height and could release the bombs.

This whole topic makes me crazy with brain-flux, and I’ll come back to it. For now though, I’m just making a note of the most important bits.