“Black Shoals Stock Market Planetarium is an animated night sky that is also a live representation of the worldâ€™s stock markets, with each star representing a traded company. Fed by massive streams of live financial information, the stars glimmer and pulse, immediately flickering brighter whenever their stock is traded anywhere in the world. The stars slowly move across the sky, clustering together or drifting apart in response to the shifting affinities of their respective companies, growing or shrinking as the companyâ€™s fortunes change. Digital creatures, a form of artificial life, inhabit this world, feeding on the light released by the stars, breeding, dying and slowly evolving â€“ while trying to learn to live in this strange artificial ecology into which theyâ€™ve been born.”
Fiddle me blank
Fiddle me blind
All the young girls
Fiddle their minds
- Momus, Sempreverde
The last three days have been archetypical of my life as a whole. Each day represents a kind of ur-day, from which all others may be regarded as derivative.
Tuesday was the Rossignol-standard weekday, which is spent playing games. And I really did play some games. In the morning I started off with the startling average Legend of Mir 3, toiling for a few hours in the fauna-fighting fields, before trailing off into installation, downloading and other tasks related to the library of ludology through which I must work as the week unfolds. Then I played Gish, the indy platform game. You play a ball of tar with excellently evil teeth. Amusing enough, but more thoughts on that elsewhere.
Then I visited Eve. I canâ€™t stay away, of course. Nothing particularly interesting occurred, and the process was just a little bit of house keeping. I hoovered up resources from a place that used to be a base of operations and played out some over-familiar missions while chatting with my fellow players. The aftershocks of last weekendâ€™s fleet catastrophe was still being felt. â€œWhat is to be done?â€ was question of the month. I didnâ€™t really know. So I made tea and fired up Boiling Point for an hour.
Boiling Point is one of those games that I was sad to miss out on being paid to review. Nevertheless I want to write something about it. Itâ€™s so beautifully the right side of broken that I just canâ€™t hang fire on the gibberish. Again, more to come on that: stuff and things that I wonâ€™t go into here. Suffice to say: those civilians are bad pedestrians. And why do the girls sunbathe in the middle of the night? Bah.
Then I attempted some deep contemplation of Garryâ€™s Mod. Again, thoughts on this are to appear elsewhere, but I should say that Half-Life 2 instalees who havenâ€™t already seen it should definitely take a nose, transform it into alien flesh and attach it to a rocket. I even briefly contemplated my half-arsed mod idea, made for me by my friend Simon. Itâ€™s the best one-minute long game in which you kill a man with an oven, ever. Probably. Anyway, after the twenty-fifth abortive Garryâ€™s physics fabrication I paid my second visit to Alwaysâ€™ Blackâ€™s Library. Itâ€™s a remarkable achievement, even if Boozebot is broken, and makes me jealous that I have no tolerance for extended fiddling. Second Life is free for a week, and about eight quid for a lifetime membership. If you havenâ€™t signed up, then thereâ€™s not much stopping you.
Of course itâ€™s a common impression that I do just play games all day every day (an impression propagated further by the bemoaning of my lovely girlfriend, â€˜how neglected is she that couples with the games journalistâ€™â€¦) But the following days do flesh things out a bit. Wednesday was the other type of day. It was the day of words. I got up â€˜earlyâ€™ to finish something before the Americans woke up, and then got on with blogging and reading the gigabytes of ephemera produced each day for our browsing delight. I wrote on and off for about fourteen hours. Two short reviews, one opinion piece and few other idle musings. Not to mention a gamut of emails, and a quick session taking screenshots in City of Heroes. (That counts as words because it has nothing to do with play.) I even dug out this old piece of fiction. While Iâ€™m largely irritated with my output in that area over the last few years, that one still amuses me. Then I read the opening chapter of this book. Pretty good, if you can be bothered with vaguely conservative analytic philosophy primers.
Today, or â€˜Day Threeâ€™, was the day that prototypically represents all the other crap I find imposed on my usual scheduling. The morning was all about tax and shopping, the afternoon about invoices and tracking down lost pennies. Tedious as golf, and even less healthy. But there was a ray of light: the Business stuff was interrupted by the realisation that I live in a beautiful town full of pleasant lunch venues. One of those venues now houses the Barmaid of Peerless Pulchritude from ex-local booze-trough The Garrickâ€™s Head. I stared agog at the buxom presence, chatted with an old friend and ordered chicken sandwiches. Perfect.
And now: to the pub.
The Failed States Index:
“Foreign Policy and the Fund for Peace, an independent research organization, have conducted a global ranking of weak and failing states. Using 12 social, economic, political, and military indicators, they have ranked 60 states in order of their vulnerability to violent internal conflict. (For each indicator, the Fund for Peace computed scores using software that analyzed data from tens of thousands of international and local media sources from the last half of 2004.)”
“Feeding poor people is useful tech, but it’s not very sexy and it won’t get you on the cover of Wired. Talk about it too much and you sound like an earnest hippie. So nobody wants to do that.
“They want to make cell phones that can scan your personal measurements and send them real-time to potential sex partners. Because, you know, the fucking Japanese teenagers love it, and Japanese teenagers are clearly the smartest people on the planet.
“The upshot of all of this is that the Future gets divided; the cute, insulated future that Joi Ito and Cory Doctorow and you and I inhabit, and the grim meathook future that most of the world is facing, in which they watch their squats and under-developed fields get turned into a giant game of Counterstrike between crazy faith-ridden jihadist motherfuckers and crazy faith-ridden American redneck motherfuckers, each doing their best to turn the entire world into one type of fascist nightmare or another.
“Of course, nobody really wants to talk about that future, because it’s depressing and not fun and doesn’t have Fischerspooner doing the soundtrack. So everybody pretends they don’t know what the future holds, when the unfortunate fact is that — unless we start paying very serious attention — it holds what the past holds: a great deal of extreme boredom punctuated by occasional horror and the odd moment of grace.”
Nevermind popping some ants with a magnifying glass, how about cooking a fry-up via the atomic sunshine:
“I use mine in my backyard all the time. I can cook while I’m enjoying being in the garden without having to go back inside to the kitchen to check on the food I’m cooking! It’s a great way to cook at a camp site or when traveling. Imagine cooking a freshly-caught fish, using solar energy, right beside the river where it was caughtâ€”without having to make a fire or carry a barbecue or gas stove!”
More at The Solar Sizzler. (We’ll all eat salad on a cloudy day.)
The BBC tech site has an excellent slideshow of recent and forthcoming ear-related technologies.
“The Surround Sound – created by the Industrial Facility – hijacks the popularity of glasses and incorporates hearing technology into the arms. The wearer will only hear sounds from their direction of view.”
God responded by observing that even if clothing is removed there is very little of interest to see: “This is nonsense. I’ve reviewed 100 percent of the universe. There is no content inappropriate for a teen audience. How old do you think all those people in the Bible were when they were getting it on?”
If there was ever a good reason to be a wealthy Australian, then it must be this coastal house overlooking the Indian ocean.
.nsf stands for NES sound format. They are NES ROM images with all the graphics and stuff removed leaving just the music – so in each one you normally get the entire soundtrack to a game. So they’re close to the best thing ever. And they’re only a few kb each, so you can have unlimited beepy goodness.
What they mean by ‘goodness’, of course, is ‘a history lesson in audio butchery‘. There are some truly awful soundtracks in there, worth listening to not for kitsch value, but for the excruciating realisation that you have spent so many hours battering your brain with this nightmarish midi crap, and somehow enjoying it anyway. Horrible, horrible. If you must listen, use this Winamp plug-in.