Apr 29 2007

Proton Beam

Craig forwards me the Wikipedia entry about a Russian scientist who survived an accident with a particle accelerator:

The left half of Bugorski’s face swelled up beyond recognition, and over the next several days started peeling off, showing the path that the proton beam (moving near the speed of light) had burned through parts of his face, his bone, and the brain tissue underneath. As it was believed that about 5 to 6 grays is enough to kill a person, Bugorski was taken to a clinic in Moscow where the doctors could observe his expected demise. However, Bugorski survived and even completed his Ph.D. There was virtually no damage to his intellectual capacity, but the fatigue of mental work increased markedly. Bugroski completely lost hearing in the left ear and only a constant, unpleasant internal noise remained. The left half of his face was frozen, due to the destruction of nerves, and does not age.

Apr 28 2007

Rossignol Work Status 04/07

It’s been a while since I updated here with what I’m up to and what I’ve been working on. Since I’m doing some digital housekeeping – attempting to finish off old projects and start new ones – I thought it might be useful to do a quick sketch, if just to get my own head round it all.

Firstly there’s this blog. As long-term readers will know the Rossignol blog is a kind of notepad where I record things I’ve been looking at, and occasionally produce comment on them. I try to keep games-related stuff on here to a minimum, but there’s still enough for strangers to guess what my day-job might be. As a friend noted, the mix of games and politics means that this blog is about “wargames, and that war isn’t a game.” I sometimes think of it as a ‘research blog’, only I don’t think I’m researching anything in particular.

Most of my commercial writing is still being published in PC Gamer UK, which now has a website. Because parent company Future Publishing now republish most of their print materials online, much of my day-to-day scribbling will appear on this site. I probably won’t notice when it goes up, so I’m unlikely to link much of it on here.

My other regular print gig is in the recently redesigned PC Format, where I am once again producing a “weird science” column. This includes news on unusual info-tech, academic eccentricity, robotics, aviation, and any science outlandish enough to seem like science fiction.

I also write something games-related each week for the BBC Collective culture magazine. It’s fairly lightweight by comparison to most of my other games writing, but it’s pleasing to have something appearing in a mainstream outlet.

I’m also still writing a weekly column on Gamasutra. This is a more development-angled piece of writing, where I gently skirt around issues that concern the industry, poking them and cutting them up with mind-scissors. Yes, I am paid to read what developers are saying on their blogs and then add some of my own thoughts, or simply link to what I find interesting. That might change soon, we’ll see.

The other significant Rossignol project for 2007 is a book on videogames which will be published by DigitalCultureBooks. It contains some of my personal views about the value of gaming, and some ideas about the relationship between gamers and the games they play. I’ll have more details on this towards the end of the year, perhaps even a title.

In the meantime you’ll find me writing for the aforementioned folk, as well as The Escapist, Wired, Eurogamer, and even Dazed & Confused, where there’s a few hundred words about a book of conceptual skyscrapers in the latest issue. (Goodness, I’m in a magazine with Kate Moss naked on the cover.)

As always you can contact me directly via email on “jim at big-robot dot com”. (Editors and publishers should send me lavish proposals for highly paid writing opportunities, and mad scientists news of their unlikely exploits. Thanks!)

Apr 28 2007

Violently Disturbing

Chicago Tribune:

“I don’t see how somebody can get charged by writing in their homework. The teacher asked them to express themselves, and he followed instructions.”

Allen Lee, an 18-year-old straight-A student at Cary-Grove High School, was arrested Tuesday near his home and charged with disorderly conduct for an essay police described as violently disturbing but not directed toward any specific person or location.

The youth’s father said his son was not suspended or expelled but was forced to attend classes elsewhere for now.

Today, Cary-Grove students rallied behind the arrested teen by organizing a petition drive to let him back in their school. They posted on walls quotes from the English teacher in which she had encouraged students to express their emotions through writing.

While I don’t find it that amazing that a teacher would freak out and call the cops over a scary piece of writing, I am slightly incredulous that the cops wouldn’t call it wasting police time. “You want us to arrest a kid for doing his homework? Okay!”

Furthermore: how is this possible in a nation supposedly founded on freedom of expression? I guess all those about-to-kill-everyone campus murderers are going to have to watch what they write in the English homework from now on.

Apr 27 2007

Largest Siberian Cities

The hyperlinked map.

Apr 27 2007

The First Soul To Be Stolen

Today’s featured image on Wikipedia is unique and oddly spooky.

The blurb explains:

This is “Boulevard du Temple”, the first ever photograph of a person. The photo was taken by Louis Daguerre in late 1838 or early 1839 in Paris. It is of a busy street, but because exposure time was over ten minutes, the city traffic was moving too much to appear. The exception is a man in the bottom left corner, who stood still getting his boots polished long enough to show.

Apr 26 2007


While I was on the Tube I was sat next to two middle aged women talking about the gaming habits of their (presumably fairly young) children:

1: …of course all he wants are games for his computer, but I’ve had to say no. They’re far more addictive than videogames.

(My ears prick up…)

2: I had no idea!

1: And I don’t want him being brought up by Dungeons & Dragons, it’s so involving that he’ll get lost in it and have no social outlet. Children his age should be playing videogames with other children, not sat in front of a computer screen.

2: Yes.

1: I bought him a Nintendo DS with a dog game, like a Tamogotchi. He played with it for about four hours and never looked at it again. He’s far more interested in his Playstation. I’ve put a curfew on that, but he doesn’t listen to me. He creeps downstairs and turns it on after I’ve gone to bed. He forgets that I have ears…

At this point the women alight at Earls Court.

Apr 26 2007

Themes Merge: Nazis/Robots

Edit: Part 2 here.

Apr 24 2007

The Escapist: Formula Futurist

Rossignol finest word-fu on The Escapist:

Futuristic racers seem to embody something essential about videogames: fluid, neuron-firing challenges for our coordination and dexterity, explosions of color that meld high-concept science fiction with the vertiginous thrill of accelerated speed and kinetic violence. Complete with whirling missiles and magnetic humming, futuristic racers are iconic, vibrant experiences that could only be videogames. Titles like Wipeout are routinely selected for montage clips intended to encapsulate the spirit of contemporary videogaming: the speed, the violence, the spectacle. Yet when you look closely at this genre it becomes clear that the future racer is actually a neglected, unfulfilled genre. You’d expect futuristic racers to be

defining, obligatory gaming experiences, yet only a few turn up in each generation of gaming. What is wrong with the game of flying cars?

Be sure to read Gillen’s piece too.

Apr 23 2007

Mask Ball

Gasmask fashions, via Tom.

Apr 23 2007

More Than This

BBC News:

Once the King of Cool, Bryan Ferry’s crown has been badly dented by remarks he made praising the marketing and presentation skills of the Nazi regime.

“My God, the Nazis knew how to put themselves in the limelight and present themselves,” he gushed to the German magazine Welt am Sonntag. “I’m talking about Leni Riefenstahl’s movies and Albert Speer’s buildings and the mass parades and the flags – just amazing. Really beautiful.”

The press didn’t hold back. “Musings of a Ferry silly man,” declared the Daily Express.

I know I’m not the only person wondering why Ferry felt the need to apologise for this. Triumph Of The Will is widely recognised as a highly accomplished piece of film-making that just happens to be about evil Nazis, and Speer was an ambitious (if not exceptionally talented) architect. “Really beautiful” might have been a slightly over-the-top description of the Nazi marching-fetish but Ferry should have stuck to his guns: the Nazis did understand the power of presentation, and of technology. These were things that made them so powerful, so modern, and so dangerous.

I understand, of course, that the press is keen to stress “Nazis are bad”, but does that mean that no appreciation of their aesthetics is possible?

Also, was Ferry ever actually “The King Of Cool”?