Thursday, November 16, 2017

Galaxion

Always up for some Sciencey-type Fiction whether in book, flick or comic form, I've been flipping through Galaxion's archive recently, so as to refine my already mighty eye-rolling powers. Call me a jaded old escapist but most of its foreshadowed plot twists seemed blatantly telegraphed even for its presumed intended audience of naive adolescent comic book store layabouts.

Well duh, of course the experimental hyperdrive is going to land them in an [redacted][redacted] and of course the [redacted] is going to be an alien and the survivors will be mingling with the [redacted] of world-wide [cockadoodle] and the accident must have been sabotage by one of the [redacted]s acting under a latent form of [red][acted] and eventually somebody's gonna probe that damn cat.

Okay, fine, maybe I've seen a few too many Twilight Zones and I'm a bit too familiar with Chekov's phaser by this point in my star cruising. While not fundamentally creative, Galaxion's still adequately paced and doesn't unduly belabor its revelations, walking that successful popular entertainment line between facile and engaging. Meh, worth a skim, I guess.

What really gets me is the ship's crew, and by that I mean it gets me wanting to open up all the airlocks and vacuum out some stupid. How do you make Captain James T. Kirk look, by comparison, like a realistic portrait of a professional, hard-bitten explorer? Replace him with a spacefaring version of the cast of Saved by the Bell. Which might be fine if Galaxion sold itself as a goofier, more fanciful tale, but not if you want to involve military ranks and life-or-death situations. This well-coiffed ditz with the heart pendant wouldn't inspire confidence in a kindergarden classroom, much less in the grim, barren, icy depths of space. Suits her fine since her crew all seems to hail from Planet Sunshine in the Star System Lollipops, grinning constantly like maniacs, never backbiting or shirking duties or trying to climb the ladder over each other's corpses or acting in any other way human.

The only character I find even remotely relatable's the one token unlikeable, surly, overly-formal crewman who never talks to anyone. He fits into SF. The rest of them, I don't know what infernal, saccharine kids' puppet show they emigrated from, but it's not the cold, impersonal genre of emotionless ideas.

Surprising, the ways in which an author can surprise us. While I can predict a chapter or so ahead of Galaxion's young adult version of fictional science, I can't for the life of me figure out which cast member will be filling which role. Who will be sacrificed, who will save the day, who will berate whom? They are spawned by a mind utterly alien to my own.

Oh, that human element.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Behold tha kratos o' dem !

"Let's admit America gets the celebrities we deserve
Let's stop saying 'don't quote me' because if no-one quotes you
You probably haven't said a thing worth saying

Ask not what you can do for your country
Ask what your country did to you"

KMFDM - Dogma



I was in my last year of high school back in 2000 when his most holy imbecility the child king Bush II was anointed to ruin the world to the best of Dick Cheney's abilities, so the whole embarrassing mess was etched rather painfully into my loopier, darker, soggier sulci. (For you young'uns, just ask your parents about "hanging chads" and see them roll their eyes.) Only... I didn't see the point of it. The whole slapfight over those few thousand Florida votes seemed like small potatoes to me. Forget the two thousand retards who might have voted Bush and worry about the whopping fifty million who really did vote for him. I repeatedly pointed out that regardless of who technically won the election, roughly half the country wanted to be mastered and commanded by a drooling, bumbling, illiterate oaf. Choke on that!

It was about a year ago that were were afflicted with the curse of President Trump, who makes "Bush with the IQ thereof" look like Pericles by comparison. Seeing the yuppie outcry over every single one of Trump's deliberately distracting media stunts, seeing the obsessive focus over this one media figurehead, I can't help but wonder how in a single generation we could have completely forgotten that most important lesson from the 2000 and 2004 elections. Stupidity is elected by stupidity. Nero and Caligula were pretty damn popular with the rabble initially as well. Donald Trump is the will and embodiment of the people.

That knuckledragging rabid baboon represents at least 63 million "people" plus all the ones who got too drunk on the way to even find the polls, plus most of the Democratic voters as well. Oh, yes. Those same Democrats loved him on "The Apprentice" after all. They love him as the embodiment of domineering profiteering. He represents their own chauvinistic sexism and racism, their greed, dishonesty, pettiness, laziness and ignorance. They just wouldn't vote for him because he was born the wrong sex and wasn't insulting the right evil skin color.

Forget Trump. Whether he finally gets impeached or not, whether Trump himself fades from the limelight, the Trump problem will not disappear and that problem is human nature itself. Look around you. Look at all the degenerate vermin who voted for Trump or would gladly have voted for him if he'd had a vagina: all the dudebros and soccer moms, all the valley girls and barflies, the rednecks and gangbangers and church-going mommas with their rodential litters in tow. That filth, that utter subsapient filth is the enemy. Normal human beings. The majority. Scum.

The People do not represent me. I am no longer of your kind. I am Werwolfe. A much wider gulf divides intellect from stupidity within the human race than the average human from a chimpanzee. Let's stop pretending we're all one species. The perennial, all-pervasive side project of every intelligent individual should be to extricate other intellects from the mindless glut of simian mediocrity. You've committed no crime to warrant such penance as subjecting yourself to the howling imbecility of the people. Stop trying to educate or change the majority, the vermin, the Trump wannabes. Just help the worthwhile few escape their grip. Abandon humanity.

Escape.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Spacecom

I can't think of a song tie-in for this one... maybe something from Tron?


I was debating whether even a screenshot's justifiable, given how little screen there is to shot. Yes, that's actual nail-biting interstellar fleet-on-fleet SciFi action right there, looking like the mere tactical minimap of most RTS games.

I'd added Spacecom to my GoG wishlist some time ago. Now that I've shilled out a whole dollar for it on sale, I do wish I'd bought it years ago at full price while it was still "popular" for whatever definition of popularity applies to a 2014 game with 1980s graphics. In contrast to the despicable "neo retro" trend in adventure games and platformers and the like over recent years, Spacecom manages to stand on its own merit instead of merely banking on suckering in a few hipsters and nostalgic 40-year-olds trying to recapture their 8-bit youth by buying anything pixelated.

Yes, it's a very limited game using a very old premise: conquer your way through a two-dimensional network. You've got:
-three types of nodes (solar systems) of various sizes, each capable of either producing your one resource, producing ships from that resource or repairing them.
-three types of ships, for fighting other ships, destroying solar systems or capturing them.
-three types of optional defenses for each system.

Yet from those simple elements plus various patterns of linking nodes and the always thorny element of time arises that same sort of surprising complexity found in classic abstract strategy games like chess or Go. Play offensively or defensively, tentatively or decisively, scorch earth, steal supplies, stall and reinforce. Spacecom's lack of immersion comes with a lack of interference as well; unpretentious and streamlined, the interface delivers everything you need at a glance, clearly and intuitively. Though I usually prefer broader, more freeform activities, I could see myself jumping online for a half-hour match now and then with some regularity, were it still being played.

Aye, there's the rub. This is obviously a multiplayer concept, and as it seems to have failed to build or maintain a critical mass of players, if you buy it now you'll be left pummeling the largely incompetent AI into submission until bored of its repetitive antics. For under ten dollars it's still worth it (especially as an example of clean, sober, focused, professional, no-frills game design) but I do slightly regret not having gotten in on Spacecom while the getting was good.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The British Lolcat Broadcasting Corporation

I typed "news" into my web browser and this popped up as my top interest-grabbing hit from BBC World News: "Little girl's stolen puppy returned by remorseful thieves" - and I swear to that idiotic primitive superstition the rest of you call "god" that when I visited BBC's site to grab the link for this post, the very next hit after it was "Australian jockey Caboche suspended for punching horse."

Flying Spaghetti Monster, give me strength.

You morons!
... Ok, I suppose that second story's so close to a literal "man bites dog" headline that journalists might feel tempted to play it up, but it's still not close enough. If he'd instead turned around backwards and kicked the horse, then I might be interested, and even then only as a one-liner. The real issue is that this bull horseshit popped up as "world" news. It's not. It's really, really not... None of us over here in the platypus-free world gives a crap what Australian jockeys do. Nobody in Estonia or Paraguay or Asshead, Arkansas has ever woken up with a burning desire to plumb the mysteries of ethical conduct among diminutive down-under horse-humpers. Trust me on this one.

But a story about a cute puppy? Is this seriously a BBC World News article or am I being trolled? Is this shit seriously being promoted front and center on the world stage while in a tiny sidebar wait tiny mentions of Trump visiting China to kiss the asses of the most prolific human rights offenders in the world? While news of rampant worldwide tax fraud hides meekly in the corner?

Yes, I know "Mittens the kitten" segments have been used to lampoon reporters for over a century, from at least the time of Mark Twain and Ambrose Bierce. I'm in my thirties and I've never known any news media, whether in print, radio, tv, internet, blimp, whatever, to actually deliver the sort of sober, factual and above all relevant reporting on which we should all be able to depend. However, it's gotten much worse.

For one thing, "Mittens the kitten" used to ridicule local small-town news segments, not international ones. For another, news media fluff pieces have only grown more ludicrous with the onset of the internet, because now the public can make its own fluff. We're self-fluffing! Anyone who wants to know about Australian jockeys can visit those jockeys' Facebook pages. You want editorials about vampire-themed role-playing video games or anime or comics or the ethics of sniping in online shooters? I provide those right here on this blog! If this is what it takes to convince you, I will go into Dwarf Fortress and somehow name one of my dwarves' pet kittens "Mittens" then have a kobold steal it. I can write that article, and these half-dozen chumps giving me hits on the blog will actually read it. Amazing! - and amazingly enough, it doesn't take a multibillion-dollar international investigative conglomerate to produce that story.

BBC News, of all things, used to at least maintain some dim pretense of respectability, bit o' the old stiff opper lip, wot? When did the BBC grow content with becoming a Monty Python parody of itself? Do you know why everyone stopped reading the news? Because you, all of you from Los Angeles to Moscow, stopped doing your jobs in the late 1800s. If I can replace you by typing "funny cat videos" into Youtube, you don't get to whine about the public's apathy or low sales. You do not deserve your jobs.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Paradise Posers

About the Paradise Papers:

Stop acting so shocked, you morons. The real problem isn't that all those fatcats cheated the system. It's that you seven billion pathetic sacks of simian filth already assumed they were cheating and you've always turned a blind eye and kept voting for them and kept investing in their stocks, because you want to be those fatcats.

Your own desire for power is the power of the rich. It makes absolutely no difference which families making a billion dollars a year might have cheated on their taxes. No-one has earned that large a slice of the world's resources. I don't give a fuck if they personally cured three kinds of cancer and teflon-coated all the pandas. Nobody makes that kind of money by honest means.

You know that and you still vote for them, and you still buy their stocks, because you want to keep the corrupt system, and profit from it. So shove your feigned outrage up your asses, all you idiotic rock star wannabes.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Furies vs. Furries

"They call me Superman
I'm here to rescue you"

Eminem - Superman


Dwarf Fortress features a ludicrously detailed list of possible combat actions and injuries. A battle report reads like the intersection of hammers and crossbow bolts with an entire anatomy textbook... plus vomiting and existential angst. Even if they're unarmed, your dwarves will gleefully engage the local wildlife in fisticuffs. Now, fantasy dwarves are a hardy folk by nature and your particular group is assumed to consist of rough-and-tumble pioneering types, so this may come as no surprise. It's a bit more jarring seeing a bloodthirsty troll tear its way through your garrison squad toward a visiting human noble's consort, presumably a pampered, hoity-toity "bit of stuff" damsel in distress... only for said pampered damsel to bite the troll and only after that grab her axe, float like a butterfly around the beast filleting it to near death then finish it off by lopping off half its freaking skull!
Daaaaamn. This chick's a keeper.

Now, Dwarf Fortress was built around dwarves, the fantasy race most notoriously lacking in sexual dimorphism, so thematically it's unsurprising to find bearded ladies acting much the same as bearded gents. Especially true since your stout little underlings are represented by very simple ideograms and text. No character models or voice acting, nothing to identify them as male or female in an intuitive sense anyway. It would actually take extra development time to differentiate them.

So, though it's technically guilty of the same crime, I'm less inclined to blame Dwarf Fortress' forced, one-sided, facetious re-balancing of the sexes on feminist dogma, as it obviously is in wealthier games. Like, say, The Elder Scrolls, for instance, where town guards and mercenaries are as often as not female, because everything boys can do girls can do better, so there! End. Of. Story. We're permitted to give the matter no more thought for fear of transgressing the dictates of the moral majority.

Hmm.
Actually, y'know what? Let's do some transgressin'.

That this decades-long trend is mere feminist propaganda, facetious glorification of women and not any sort of egalitarianism is easily verifiable by counting the villains and heroines in any game which forces female characters into masculine roles. Even the relatively daring and risque Pillars of Eternity, which toyed with the idea of negative female divinities and feminine crimes, kept these conveniently off-screen while pitting, front and center and in lavishly voice-acted groaning detail, a male villain versus two female martyrs, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

It also goes without saying that while filling their rosters with amazons, such entertainment products will make no effort to lend male characters in return the moral high ground, the presumed innocence and entitlement reserved for women, but for now let's focus on the supposedly egalitarian even split between genders among soldiers, town guards and every other violent role in games.

Sounds good at first, I know. It seems a neat way of washing your hands of the question of sexism, while tacitly endorsing the socially acceptable brand of sexism, misandry. How can portraying the sexes as equal possibly be wrong?

Well, as it happens, Pillars of Eternity's poorer cousin, Tyranny, decided to get edgy about sexual roles. In addition to the aforementioned 50/50 split among hired thugs and thuggettes, it also featured an androgynous world dictator, a female-chauvinist-led society (naturally, they're the good guys) and a female-dominated anthropoid race. I've gushed before about how much I like Kills-in-Shadow and the rest of Tyranny's beastwomen. They actually work, conceptually, as female warriors, not perfectly but to a much greater extent than humans. Here, take a look at what came out of a beastwoman's brood-hole:
A litter! A litter of fast-growing, fully mobile cubs requiring less parental investment per unit and carrying a less absolute penalty if that investment should falter, thereby decreasing the evolutionary pressure toward nonstop mothering.

See, the main problem with the sick pretense that women might share equally in danger alongside men is that it's utter bullshit from an evolutionary perspective. Look up a term called neoteny, if you've never heard it, the retention of infantile physical or behavioral features into adulthood. Yes, human males are neotenized. Check even a standard burly, bearded lumberjack's face against an adult chimp's. We Homos are freaking adorable by comparison, thankyouverymuch! But anything males can dish out in the cuteness department pales in comparison to women. Smaller, less hairy, more babyish in their bone structure, giggling and cooing and crying in youthful high-pitched voices and artificially enlarging their eyes with make-up, human females have evolved to elicit levels of protectiveness normally reserved for the species' young - from each other, sure, but mostly from their tribe's males, the less-cute-by-comparison short end of the evolutionary stick. By default, human females don't fight their own battles as long as there's a male around to fight on their behalf, champion their cause.

In a species already dependent on social interaction, women go one better. Instead of evolving for personal ability in the physical world, femininity, in humans, has specialized in social manipulation, in extracting service from males. The male's role in the trinity of "-and baby makes three" is to get bled for everything he's got then thrown under the bus to protect his (presumed (often incorrectly)) genetic investment. The children of men who have accepted this sacrificial role have had a better chance at survival. The children of women who have successfully played on men's protectiveness have also had a better chance at survival. Their genetic material, their predispositions have passed on to us.

Most of this stems from the utterly debilitating effects of our very slow, prolonged gestation and infancy. Human foetuses and infants are needy little fuckers, not only in themselves but extending to their primary caregiver as well. Mothers have, for most of history and prehistory, simply not been in a position to fend for themselves. A less debilitating form of motherhood with a less absolute investment (redundant backup offspring) helps, and if you really want to create a race of warrior women, then you'd also likely be talking about a race with higher paternal than maternal parental investment. For that to hold true, males would have to be certain it's their sperm fertilizing a woman's eggs, as the prospect of cuckoldry puts a huge damper on the benefit of paternal investment.

So you'd likely be talking about a species of fish or amphibian-like egg-layers where the males care for the eggs and young, are smaller and cuter than females and less apt to travel, live longer and tend to put their mates through the wringer before deigning to fertilize their eggs, to ensure they're not stuck caring for sub-par material.

But to return to the example of Tyranny, you can also see how much more consistent Kills-in-Shadow is in her tough bitch nature compared to the much more poorly conceived and developed Verse. While initially presenting Verse as a sadistic, bloodthirsty cut-throat (and cut-everything-else) the game's writers simply couldn't resist also imbuing her with that all-too-girly vulnerability and pathos, yielding a downright schizophrenic characterization: a vicious killer whom you're expected to pity every time her voice acting suggests she's pouting or scared. Ooohh, my sisters, my poor sisters, boo-hoo, my poor sadistic sociopathic sisters.
Bullshit.
-and the simple fact that most people will swallow such bullshit without a second thought speaks volumes as to the steel grip femininity holds on our communal psyche.

As a last note, human reproduction and infancy have not only shaped our evolution but have presented a very clear logistical problem for iron-fisted dictators throughout history. The upper classes need the lower classes to reproduce as much as possible, as quickly as possible. Women's most productive role from the point of view of the wealthy is in producing more cannon fodder, more wage slaves for the good of the only entity above the level of chromosomes which directly benefits from reproduction: the tribal unit or state. The few times women have been forced into dangerous work (e.g. factory work) has been during periods of rapid industrialization or when the male workforce is already depleted. Otherwise, keep safe and keep cranking out those crib-stuffers.
So it makes absolutely no sense for Tyranny's resident megalomaniac Kyros to disagree on this central tenet of empire-building with the likes of Hitler, Stalin, most all religions and the American Republican party. Overlord/lady Kyros, the immortal dictator waging constant centuries-long war on the rest of the world, the strategist thinking whole generations in advance, would in no logical way allow the use of women in combat. Not unless Kyros can conjure babies out of thin air. (I assume that brand of magic's sigils would take two hands to portray. [O<-<-)

Warrior women will occasionally arise in most human societies (and they can make excellent stand-alone characters in fiction) but they only make sense as exceptions to the rule, not replacing the blatantly obvious human norm of female self-preservation and the sacrifice of males in their stead. Actually making women carry their weight in dangerous, unhealthy or otherwise harmful enterprises never enters into the equation. At least not when you're talking about the human species, that species divided into a cute, seductive, self-serving, emotionally manipulative half and the other, male half: disposable, easily dismissed as unlikeable and expected to place itself in danger to profit the cute ones. If you want some other guiding principle, then you'll need to fabricate an alien species for which that principle would make sense. At the very least make them into bearded ladies.
(Or better yet, think up some humans, male and female, consciously attempting to transcend their biological limitations. Including innate male slavishness before female whims.)


'cause I can't be your Superman, can't be your Superman, your Supermaan, your Supermaaan...

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Hope Lope Ares Worries Bradburied

"They had a house of crystal pillars on the planet Mars by the edge of an empty sea, and every morning you could see Mrs. K eating the golden fruits that grew from the crystal walls, or cleaning the house with handfulls of magnetic dust which, taking all dirt with it, blew away on the hot wind. Afternoons, when the fossil sea was warm and motionless, and the wine trees stood stiff in the yard, and the little distant Martian bone town was all enclosed, and no-one drifted out their doors, you could see Mr. K himself in his room, reading from a metal book with raised hieroglyphs over which he brushed his hand, as one might play a harp. And from the book, as his fingers stroked, a voice sang, a soft ancient voice, which told tales of when the sea was red steam on the shore and ancient men had carried clouds of metal insects and electric spiders into battle.
Mr. and Mrs. K had lived by the dead sea for twenty years, and their ancestors had lived in the same house, which turned and followed the sun, flower-like, for ten centuries."

Ray Bradbury - Ylla



"Who wants to see the Future, and who ever does? A man can face the Past, but to think - the pillars crumbled, you say? And the sea empty, and the canals dry, and the maidens dead, and the flowers withered?" The Martian was silent, but he looked on ahead. "But there they are. I see them. Isn't that enough for me? They wait for me now, no matter what you say."
And for Tomas the rockets, far away, waiting for him, and the town and the women from Earth. "We can never agree," he said.
"Let us agree to disagree," said the Martian. "What does it matter who is Past or Future, if we are both alive, for what follows will follow, tomorrow or in ten thousand years. How do you know that those temples are not the temples of your own civilization one hundred centuries from now, tumbled and broken?"

Ray Bradbury - Night Meeting



Ten more voices died. In the last instant under the fire avalanche, other choruses, oblivious, could be heard announcing the time, playing music, cutting the lawn by remote-control mower, or setting an umbrella frantically out and in the slamming and opening front door, a thousand things happening, like a clock shop when each clock strikes the hour insanely before or after the other, a scene of maniac confusion, yet unity; singing, screaming, a few last cleaning mice darting bravely out to carry the horrid ashes away! And one voice, with sublime disregard for the situation, read poetry aloud in the fiery study, until all the film spools burned, until all the wires withered and the circuits cracked.
The fire burst the house and let it slam flat down, puffing out skirts of spark and smoke.
In the kitchen, an instant before the rain of fire and timber, the stove could be seen making breakfasts at a psychopathic rate, ten dozen eggs, six loaves of toast, twenty dozen bacon strips, which, eaten by fire, started the stove working again, hysterically hissing!
The crash. The attic smashing into kitchen and parlor. The parlor into cellar, cellar into sub-cellar. Deep freeze, armchair, film tapes, circuits, beds, and all like skeletons thrown in a cluttered mound deep under.
Smoke and silence. A great quantity of smoke.
Dawn showed faintly in the east. Among the ruins, one wall stood alone. Within the wall, a last voice said, over and over again and again, even as the sun rose to shine upon the heaped rubble and steam:
"Today is August 5, 2026, today is August 5, 2026, today is...
"

Ray Bradbury - There Will Come Soft Rains


____________________________________________________________

October is Bradbury Country. That country where it is always turning late in your life. That country where your deeds are fog and your ambitions are mist. That country composed in the main of cold mornings, stale afternoons and exhausted evenings facing away from your self. That country whose seconds are autumn seconds, bringing only autumn thoughts. Whose ticking between the empty walls at night sound in vain.

Memento mori. Ex nihilo nihil. Tonight was Samhain, when the veil between the worlds of the living and dead seeps nothingness through, so you hid behind make-up and masks, and you camouflaged your corpses in fraudulent husks, laughed and pranced, cavorted your certainties off.

Good morning. It's the first of November, 2017, a meaningless date by a meaningless measure. Bundle up, it's getting colder. Walk out. Look up. Look away from the town around you in gradual collapse, away from other incipient corpses littering the street alongside yourself. Look up. Pick your favorite direction. I know you find life there, dear fellow lotophagi, living-dead, dear witches and werewolves on the edge of humanity. Look to your own particular hope, be it Venus or Mars, Diana or Jupiter's succulent harem, wherever you've dreamt something-else-besides-this might await you. Those others, your others, your own after you disown the rest of us. Copper-skinned, many-limbed, bright-eyed or blind cozy furry or scaly and stolid, they hover and crawl, swim, jump, hum and whine, all to lure, all to greet you from past or future, or whenever you'll have gotten there. Away.

There are worlds beyond this one, all dying their very own histories. Bestiaries house homely sapients, just awaiting your emigrance. Send them your wishes, feel yourself warmed by rockets jetting your hopes away from this inimical fray, but their day long ago strayed out of histories. Million by million wasted years, each a clear, light-filled otherwhen for a lycanthrope somewhere, watching the empty light-epochs toward earth's pretty blue-green promise of a world beyond empty canals, rust dust and chokingly thin twin-moon breezes.

Sometime far away, a world-weary Martian is/has/will be rhapsodizing humanity's last gasp on his death-bed.

(And even he thinks your costume was stupid.)