Space Ramblings

Category Archives: Uncategorized

Angry Birds Star Wars: The Most Obnoxious Thing Ever Has Been Achieved

There’s a point in every culture when it hits absolute bottom. When it goes so low that there is no lower and all that its people can do is gaze in awe at the transcendent majesty of their achievement.

And so I give you. Angry Birds Star Wars, in which George Lucas completes the bastardization of the Star Wars franchise on the eve of its sale to Disney and Angry Birds becomes more ubiquitous and annoying.

Congratulations everyone. Take a bow. We’ll see each other in Babylon or Rome. And if you can find a way to work Katy Perry into this, the gates of hell will probably open and swallow the entire solar system.

The Frozen Rabbi by Steve Stern book review

The Frozen Rabbi is billed as magical realism but magical realism requires a sense of whimsy. Instead of whimsy, The Frozen Rabbi reeks of contempt for anyone and anything that comes into its view. A narrative that crosses a 100 years and the life of dozens of men and women seems to have no purpose except to humiliate and degrade every single one of them. Just when you think The Frozen Rabbi has gone as low as it could possibly go, it goes even lower. Any noble impulse has to be degraded in a book that begins with a teenager masturbating to a piece of frozen liver and ends with the dead teenager’s girlfriend having sex in prison with the titular frozen Rabbi.

frozen rabbi

The Frozen Rabbi isn’t even uniquely bad. It’s a bad pastiche of a hundred years of literature ending with Philip Roth and Michael Chabon. And Steve Stern makes a poor man’s Michael Chabon, which is sad because Michael Chabon is already a poor man’s Michael Chabon. Like Chabon’s Yiddish Policeman’s Union, The Frozen Rabbi isn’t a story of characters, it’s a collection of ghetto stereotypes wedged into absurd situations that the authors feel no connection with resulting in what deserves to be called, Minstrel Show Literature. It’s about an absurdity that the authors have decided is inherently noteworthy because of its absurdity.

The Frozen Rabbi is the kind of labored absurdist satire that has been cranked out for as long as disgruntled college freshmen have looked for books that reward their sneering cynicism. It’s Rob Swiggart’s Little America dressed up in a black hat and coat and there are enough similarities between the two books that Steve Stern could be accused of plagiarism, if there weren’t a million other books that told the same story in the same labored fashion.

Aside from the sexism, racism and homophobia, The Frozen Rabbi isn’t nearly as offensive as it wants to be. It’s just tired. Like its title character it’s frozen and it never thaws out.

Is This a Good Thing Really?

I love the fact that when my oldest daughter and oldest son were playing make pretend Buffy some years back, my daughter could say to my son, “Only girls get to be the Slayer!”

Corinna Lawson at Wired complaining that the Avengers is too male. Way to make an argument for inclusiveness while reveling in exclusiveness.


Supercrap! = SyFy + M. Night Shyamalan + Marti Noxon Ruin the Universe

This is so horrible that it’s almost wonderful. It’s like Michael Bay hiring Damon Lindelof to make a movie about robot monkeys who fight crime or Joel Schumacher and Akiva Goldsman teaming up to make Aquaman.

M. Night Shyamalan is a formerly talented director turned deluded hack. Marti Noxon ruined Buffy. The SyFy Channel has dumped Science Fiction and is just doing stuff about ghosts. And they’re all teaming up!

The cable network has given a put-pilot commitment to a project from Shyamalan and Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Marti Noxon titled Proof. Proof centers on the son of a billionaire tech genius who, following an accident that claims his parents’ lives, offers a large reward for anyone who can find proof of life after death.

This is great and by great, I mean it’s a tremendous pile of crap. This is like hell being other people and this project is exactly where they all deserve to end up.

M. Night Shyamalan ruined his career. Marti Noxon ruined Buffy. The SyFy Channel ruined itself. M. Night Shyamalan is horrible and thinks he’s a genius. Marti Noxon is horrible and thinks she isn’t. Both of them think they marry style and content when they don’t have either one. And the SyFy Channel thinks it appeals to sophisticated viewers when it actually appeals to housewives addicted to Oxycontin. So this is brilliant.

Google Marti Noxon and the first Google Instant suggestion is “Marti Noxon Ruined Buffy” followed by “Marti Noxon Ruined Everything“. That last one is probably unfair since after Buffy, Marti Noxon worked on crap like Private Practice and Glee, and it’s not actually possible to ruin those things. You can truthfully accuse Marti Noxon of ruining Buffy, but not of ruining Private Practice because Marti Noxon did ruin Buffy. But you can’t accuse her of ruining the entire universe. Not just yet. The first search brings you to feminist blogs claiming that Marti Noxon is being accused of ruining Buffy because she’s a woman, not because she wrote its worst episodes and oversaw its worst season. Only because of her chromosomes. But if this was sexism, then why isn’t Jane Espenson being hated on?

Marti Noxon is horrible and while she doesn’t get all the credit for ruining Buffy, she gets a lot of it. Maybe most of it. Not to mention that Marti Noxon is a middle aged woman who desperately tries to talk like a teenager. When you interview her, you’re supposed to mention how young she looks and sounds. Actual viewers hate what she does, hipster outlets like Boing Boing and I09 love her. But they’re going to have to learn to love Proof, which will be hilarious.

Separately the SyFy Channel, Shyamalan and Marti Noxon are completely terrible batches of crap. Together they’re where they belong.  Writing and directing crap about ghosts on the crap ghost channel. They’re not just crap anymore. They’re supercrap.

SyFy, Shymalan and Marti Noxon are talent black holes. They ruin everything they touch. Anything good that falls into them vanishes into another dimension. Together they might just destroy each other.

Also robot monkeys who fight crime please.

Art and Games

In a post at The Verge, Brian makes an important point about how seductive art or the illusion of it can be to game reviewers.

I think the reason critics fell for it was because they were perfectly set by the nature of their position as professional reviewers to be hooked by it. The game is (according to some, I’ve not played it) a poor execution on the mechanical level. The controls are poorly implemented and the game takes ‘real is brown’ to a ludicrous extreme.

Critics and reviewers, and I speak as one of the breed, want to talk about the meaning of things. We want to find the meaning of things. But often games are not about meanings, they’re about experiences. There are bad art games, the way that there are bad art films and bad literary novels, works that exist only to make some higher point while providing a miserable and unpleasant experience, but they have even less reason to exist because a game is an interactive experience.

Spec Ops: The Line

Spec Ops the Line fails mechanically as a game. It plugs that failure by referencing Apocalypse Now and Joseph Conrad and setting up an absurd cliched ending that most of us have seen done in movies before. But this blew away game reviewers, even ones who would have laughed off Spec Ops the Line as a movie, because it was moving gaming forward, in their minds, to some wonderful world where games would be deeper works of art instead of murder sims.

Unlike Day Z, there really isn’t much talk about Spec Ops the Line, even by those who like it, because there isn’t much to say about it. Unlike Day Z it doesn’t provide moral choices or a complex experience. It is just a student film cover for incompetence. But that cover makes people feel smart and critics like feeling smart.

The seduction of the critic is that trap of fake intelligence, whether it’s reviewing what a game should have been instead of what it is or reviewing a game positively because it made you feel smart, not because it was a good experience.

Recalling Total Recall Recalled

What if Total Recall got remade without all the Mars stuff, but more like Minority Report? If that’s something you wanted, here you go.

Yesterday I reviewed the reissue of Philip K. Dick’s novel In Milton Lumky Territory and noted how it was only around because of the fixation on Dick that literary Science Fiction has. But Hollywood has an even bigger fixation on Philip K. Dick and the remake of Total Recall proves it.

Most Science Fiction writers have trouble getting bestselling novels adapted. Clarke is the only one of the genre’s grandmasters who ever saw a legitimate version of his book go to film. Asimov had the name of his most famous gestating adaption ripped off for a Will Smith shitfest and Heinlein’s Starship Troopers got a big budget adaptation attacking him. (Then he got Spider Robinson doing the same thing to him in his reworking of a Heinlein trunk novel.)

But PK Dick, the Dude of Science Fiction writers, now has two movies based on a short short story that he once did. Total Recall 2 is obviously more based on Spielberg’s Minority Report movie. Between Blade Runner and Minority Report, movies based on Dick’s work have created the “look” of the future in movies.

Dick would have found it absurdly amusing that his throwaway stories created an entire cinematictotal recall boom. Total Recall based on “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” couldn’t possibly adapt the original story in which a man goes looking for programmed fantasy only for the programmers to discover that the fantasies are true. Total Recall can’t actually end with the discovery that Doug saved the world from an alien invasion through his goodness. So it ends with the classic, “Shoot her, no shoot him” scenario that’s been sent up so many times it should be in orbit.

About the only thing that Hollywood took from Philip K. Dick was his paranoia. Not his sense of humor. Total Recall’s sense of humor was crude. Total Recall 2 looks humorless. Like Minority Report, it’s polished chrome paranoia, massive urban dystopias, flying cars, government surveillance, and nothing more.

Dick’s stories worked because they reached beyond the obvious structures. The police state, the machines and the spaceships, to get at something deeper and human. Blade Runner took a shot at doing that, but none of the other adaptations have. If the original Total Recall at least had a sense of the ridiculous, the new one is a sterile corporate product, as totalitarian as its landscape, as empty as the exercise of the action movie can be.

Philip K. Dick sought the spiritual in Science Fiction, but Hollywood gave his adaptations a success that depended on taking out the spiritual and leaving only the materialism of the action movie.

Ladies, Never Marry a Dalek

Sierra, Space Quest and Jane Jensen

It was nice to see Mark Crowe and Scott Murphy, the Space Quest team, reunite and get their Kickstarter funding, though it shouldn’t have been such a close call. It’s ridiculous that Jane Jensen had no trouble raising almost as much money for what, her “studio” and she did it with half as many backers.

Crowe and Murphy came to the Kickstarter quest late, when Kickstarter fatigue had already set in. But I can’t help thinking how many space questprojects could have been funded. Corey and Lori Cole could have gotten on board and funded another Quest for Glory game or something like it. There’s no mention on their blog that they’re in any way aware of Kickstarter. But there’s at least one Kickstarter game close to being funded, Quest for Infamy, that looks like a takeoff on the series.

Jane Jensen got in on the ground floor of this and benefited. And her Kickstarter humbly describes her as a “Master Storyteller”. Seriously?

To me, Jane Jensen, doesn’t represent what was good about Sierra, but what happened when it began to go downhill. KQ6 and Gabriel Knight were good, but after that came an FMV sequel, from when Roberta Williams decided the future of adventure games lay with bad actors reciting lines against green screens. Since then she’s done a bunch of “Click to Discover Stuff” games aimed at old ladies. Her new games will probably be more of the same, except crowdfunded, and there’s a ton of these games already. You can’t throw a brick without hitting one.

Here’s Agatha Christie, Death on the Nile, see how fast you can click through to find objects before the clock runs down. It’s as bland and unimaginative as you can imagine. I’m all for crowdfunding nostalgia, but that’s not what this is. It’s crowdfunding the work of a woman who was there when the Sierra ship went down and never really did anything notable in gaming.

Setting the Bar for Provocative Opinions Really Low…

Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell, no stranger to provocative opinions, is at it again. During a recent interview in Toronto, Gladwell said that people a half-century from now will revere Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates but will have no clear memory of his longtime tech rival, Apple chief Steve Jobs.

Is that really a provocative opinion?

Does anyone really think Steve Jobs is going to be remembered 50 years from now? I wouldn’t bet too hard on him being remembered 25 years from now.

Gladwell thinks that Bill Gates might be remembered for his philanthropy. Not too likely. Philanthropists don’t get remembered. Not unless they put their names on buildings and even then it’s a wash. How many people use Carnegie libraries and have any idea what that means. There were philanthropists who did much more to fight disease and aren’t remembered.

“We need to be clear when we venerate entrepreneurs what we are venerating,” Gladwell said in Toronto. “They are not moral leaders. If they were moral leaders, they wouldn’t be great businessmen.” AJDTZGU26Q7E

Aren’t moral leaders just people who promoted themselves really well? Isn’t Gladwell just a guy who promotes himself really well?

The same things that can be said about Jobs and Gates apply to most public personalities. They’re overrated, they’re sharp at seizing opportunities and they picked the right moment to get ahead.

Custom Commenter Avatars on WordPress

It takes a little experimentation but setting up custom commenter avatars in WordPress isn’t hard.

I wanted two things. A custom avatar for everyone who had commented or will comment without a Gravatar. And a selection of custom avatars for future commenters to choose from.

This took two plugins.

First Add New Default Avatar [Emrikol’s Fork] from Emirkol let me set up a default avatar for everyone not using Gravatar. I couldn’t do this in the second plugin without overriding Gravatar and non-Gravatar avatars which is a little too controlling for my taste. There’s AJAX uploading and automatic thumbnails and easy management of uploaded avatars making it a good choice. Switching default avatars can be quickly done under Discussion settings.

Then Custom Avatar for Comments from Nkuttler lets you add a list of custom avatars for users to choose from. This requires creating a directory and uploading some avatars. There’s an option for letting users upload their own, but I haven’t tried it. There are a few handy options dealing with size here that give it a better appearance.

The comments I’m using are Discussion from James R Whitehead which has a clean look and AJAX for less reloading.

Custom Avatars For Comments
%d bloggers like this: