Free Lunch Studios

Tom Gordon

Tom Gordon's Blother

February 28, 2006

Skinny Tuesday of the Fruit Cult
(Man. That sounds like a terrible D&D module. But would Erol Otus still do the art for it? Probably.)

So. To sum it all up, we've got a media-tailored Intel Mac Mini, the afforementioned dumb ol' ghetto blaster (well, more or less), and some ludicrously overpriced leather iPod cases. Nelson Muntz, do you have anything to say?

Anyway, I'm wholly relieved. If Apple had introduced a tablet computer, it'd undoubtedly be utilizing Intel's processors. Which means with the rather small library of OS X software I've acquired in less than a year, I'd be living in a lame emulation world. And with my vastly larger library of 'legacy' OS 9 (and below) apps -- well, who the smeg knows? Can Rosetta run Classic? And can that version of Classic run the specific release of Power64 I feel most closely approximates the Commodore audio-visual experience? One emulator running inside another emulator running inside another emulator? Somehow, I doubt it.

Also, since there's no Hollywood aspect-ratio video iPod (yet), this means the time I've just urinated away tediously cropping down/encoding eight or nine widescreen movies wasn't wasted, after all! (Whoo-hoo! Go, disembodied ears, noses and limbs! Who cares if Short Round's in the foreground but we hear Indy's voice? 'Pan and scan' is for imagination-less wussies!)

February 26, 2006

Gimme that sweet, sweet Kool-Aid
Well! Isn't it high time corporate America acknowledge its higher social responsibilities, meekly appease progressive crusades-of-the-millisecond with lots of freely squandered public-relations moolah -- and finally rehabilitate the Horde? By Gruumsh, affirmative action for orcs NOW!

(Heh heh. I kinda dig how he's only capable of holding the attache case with his overly-plump index fingers. A contemptably pale shade of Dave Trampier's infinitely superior "Wormy" strip, there -- apparently they can't pick their noses either!)

Oh, Steve Jobs, you loathesome harlot. Once again, yours truly's made another pilgrimage to BestBuy, and wistfully fondled the video iPod that would've surely been his RIGHT NOW! TODAY! Were it not for yet another one of Turtleneck Boy's damnable near-monthly Apple tech announcements -- this latest burlesque revue taking place on February 28th!

"Fun new products." The mind boggles. Yahtzees, even. Will it finally be that neo-Newton PDA I've ached for since the Days of Flannel? A clipboard-sized tablet computer enabled with patented 15-point gestural sensitivity that not only retains the aspect ratio of film for wholly legit audio-visual playback, but also runs OS X (albeit Intel-flavored)? Or will it be, as many suspect, that afforementioned conventional 'Pod, fitted with a vanilla touchscreen in place of the click wheel?

Or will it just be a dumb ol' ghetto blaster?

Nobody knows. And nobody will know -- and so I can't buy a smegging thing -- until Fat Tuesday rolls around in all her lascivious, billowing-mammed glory! And WHY is that, you ask? Well, because this sorry cyber-linked world is STILL overflowing with lifeless dork-tards just as pathetic as me who get their gleeful libidinous jollies using Adobe Photoshop to mock up bogus "prototypes" for the Apple-centric websites! GOD, I HATE YOU ALL! HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE

(Hooray! Most gratuitously hyper-linked post EVAR! And -- since they cover the entire gamut between Regrettably Obscure Lavishly Illustrated RPG Nostalgia, Drool Inducing Futuretech and Even More Drool Inducing Cute Zaftig Wimmin -- a fairly decent summation of my demented web-browsing tastes, to boot!)
America under the Crescent? Nah
(Sorry, goofed the posting chronology -- blanking Blogger!)

One of the biggest problems, I think, with the present War on (Pretty Much Islamofascist) Terror is that the American public generally doesn't have a handle upon what the dire consequences of 'failure' would be. If after less than five years, the destruction of the World Trade Center has already been written off by over 50% of the populace as one of those regrettable comeuppances that just happens sometimes -- but detaining terrorists and illegally tapping their phone lines, now THERE'S something to get worked up over! -- somehow I don't think painting a scary picture of an besieged Northern Ireland-esque United States rife with arbitrary bombings, restrictive checkpoints and travel permits, or an ex-secular geriatric Europe making her violent transition towards sharia, is going to make a whit of difference, there.

Likewise, any attempt to clumsily retrofit old Cold War-era nightmare 'occupation' scenarios. One of the things that made hella grim speculative novels such as "Warday" or a television specatacle like "Amerika" so compelling/traumatizing circa 1987 was their plausibility. While it's easy to laugh about such things now, the Soviet Union nevertheless was an 800-ton elephantine threat back then, with its own most formidable military, gigatons of nuclear warheads at the Politburo's disposal, and -- most importantly -- a coherent framing ideology, being exported abroad. Oh, everybody, even Gorbachev, still knew the USSR was on its last legs economically -- thanks Marxism! But NOBODY knew in what form the eventual 'death' might take. A mutual nuke swap meet, or a desperate ploy to cripple the US with an EMP and seize her rich farmland was just as believable a prospect as the (mostly) peaceful disintegration that eventually occured.

The suicide cult of modern fundamentalist Islam, however, is nothing BUT ideology. (At least for now, and I have little doubt America and Israel intend it to stay that way, by any means necessary.) Oh, its killbot followers can (and do) have the capacity to blow up buildings, slaughter scores of innocent civilians, and regularly parrot Democratic Party talking points on television like a enturbaned Cobra Commander. But in America at least, such psychotic tactics have only compelled us to take off the kid gloves, and begin laying the smackdown in earnest.

And while our weak-kneed lamestream media entities may regularly capitulate to such intimidation tactics under the all-encompassing cloak of 'tolerance,' outside the hermetically sealed inner sanctums of newsrooms and college campuses, such twaddle is meaningless. The Idea is everything. And if you approached the average Joe Blow on the streets of Anytown, USA and calmly explained to him the terms of his dhimmitude, even if he owned a Prius and subscribed to The Nation, he'd still growl "oh yeah, buddy? Up yours."

No. American culture and her people are consistently saturated with the tropes of irreverence and defiant individualism. We're deeply suspicious of authority -- especially religious authority -- and alternatively revel in/bar-brawl over our wide specturm of differences. This affectation is a nation's curse (in that we can't be of a single laser-focussed mind when confronting an obvious malevolence like Islamofascism). But it also means we won't readily kneel to any Man With A Plan.

So. In 2040, what banner will the Land of the Free slouch under?

If you said 'A' (and recognize that's intended to be the Milky Way galaxy's several billion stars), you're both an insane optimist and somebody I'd probably like to know. Oh, I'll gladly admit it's a possibility, especially if we do build that Big Cyber Brain and bootstrap ourselves into space-faring transcendence. But why would a godlike posthuman care about the colors of ants?

'B' is safe, boring and the most likely of the bunch. Heck, at this ever-stagnant point, I can't even make provisions for a minor change in the number of states anymore. Absorbing Canada (for instance) would not significantly alter circumstances for either nation -- but you'd have half the planet screaming bloody murder over Arrogant Yankee Imperialism anyhoo.

And while I don't like 'D,' unless Bruce Willis gets his overly colorful/lame drill jocks hustling towards civilization-killing Apophis ASAP, it's far more probable than The United Planets of America.

But that remaining design? Forget it. I have. (Besides, Malaysia would complain.)

February 24, 2006

No God Button for you, Evil Empire!
Honest to Lolth, I just don't get this whole Drow-equates-to-hotness thing. While one of my previous entries attests to the inherent appeal of blueberry-colored elves, surely this additional penchant of theirs -- worshiping hideous spiders with gruesome human sacrifice beneath the darkest, foulest bowels of the earth -- has to make even the biggest drool-chinned fanboy hesitate? Right? RIGHT?!

Oh lord, and I just observed "Real Genius" on cable, for the first time since the Great Pog Ascendency. Yes chillun, cue up the relevant synthy Tears For Fears soundtrack entry, and let your mind drift back to those hazy, halcyon daze when every Hollywood geeky intellectual was required by Congressional law to either pass through an Oppenheimer/Einstein Pacifism Generator™, or else be summarily endowed with the social acumen of your typical caged ejaculate-flinging simian.

Oh, you naive, traitorous FOOLS.

Hey, remember the film's incarnation of "Operation Crossbow?" Ain't it just OH so interesting to note what was considered obviously self-evident back in 1985? "By gum, Laszlo -- you mean the eeeevil Pentagon's planning to put our six-megawatt laser into lower Earth orbit? Which'll then be used to transform assorted anti-American black hats into harmless smoldering piles of ash, on a precision, individual basis?"

For shame! Let's stop 'em! And make the world safe for 'collateral damage' and accidential civilian death once again! Go team!

Ah yes. One is also tempted to visualize an alternative timeline where Mitch and Chris' feebly mustachioed attempt to infiltrate the Air Force base fails, and their vigilant death-dealing Eye in the Sky is left free to endlessly circle the globe, vaping baddies with impunity. Somehow, I believe such noteworthy folks as Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden probably wouldn't be major players in that particular universe...

But don't you know, everybody wants to rule the world! And surely there can be NOTHING worse than a space-based Pax Americana, right? Right?


February 23, 2006

Of course, I've known this for at least three years now, but just in case all y'all haven't gotten the message yet...


(Oh, and avoid having any liquid in your mouth when you click the link, BTW. Unless you're one of those dhimmi apologists who've recently come to the oh-so-enlightened conclusion that free speech and artistic freedom should be restricted (and Western culture altered) to accommodate the fascistic demands of violent Islamic scum inhalers.)

February 17, 2006

Joining Dem Pod People
Most strange. After uncounted years of scrawling plain ol' vanilla line art (as mandated by the colorization demands of Adobe Bloatoshop), you'd think one's innate crosshatching ability would've eventually degraded to the abyssal level of one Jim "Garfield" Davis -- or even Aaron "Unfunny Lefttard Drivel" McGruder:

El wrongo!

In other (horribly mundane) news, I believe at long last I've finally discovered the solution to all my gastrotoobula intesticle guts woes. It involves not eating anything, ever again! Y'see, without food, there's no process of digestion! And without digestion, there's no possibility of indigestion! Case closed!

(Of course, there's admittedly a few minor side effects to my ingenious remedy -- like malnutrition, and, er, um, uh... eventual death. But I'll make sure the marketing department puts that on a warning label somewhere. Really!)

Oh yeah -- regrettably, after a recent visit to BestBuy (where yours truly covered over the Apple products table with drool) it also appears I'll be heartily guzzling the Jobsian Kool-Aid and purchasing an iPod very, very soon. Oh, it was bad enough, knowing I could carry my entire musical collection and any number of photos inside an oh-so-stylish tiny obsidian LCD-fitted widget. But dammit, having the thing being able to play back video content too was the final straw that broke the camel jockey's back out on a limb (or something). Modern codecs being what they are, even if I opted for the cheaper 30-gigabyte version and filled it up with the 1600+ songs in my laughably unsophisticated collection, it still means there's plenty of room left over for at least a dozen feature-length films ripped with HandBrake and/or iSquint, and Ghu knows how many porno flicks Ken Burns documentaries.

And yet... and yet... I just know if I just hold out for a few more months, the crazy Fruit Cult will surely introduce something at least 40% niftier for the same frickin' price. Most likely a revised design that turns the entire front of the device into a baby-PDA letterboxed touchscreen display - clearly the logical next step for the product.

Curse these aging flakey Silicon Valley wunderkinds, and their turtleneck sweaters!

In any event, I'm hella glad I'm a shameless free market-loving capitalist running dog/sentence type. Because even that tiresome person who proudly wears Che Guevara t-shirts, toddles around in a Priusian fauxmobile festooned with I-hate-Bush stickers and regularly shrieks in womanly hysteria about soi-disant 'consumerist excess' over the latest batch of non-animal tested, organically-grown and utterly indigestable soy shite would have most considerable difficulty resisting such an all-in-one media item as this.

(Or at least, I hope so. For the sake of continued humanity.)

February 14, 2006

Pontificating Upon A Sketchbook Entry #1
One of the big science-fictional genres that came to prominence during the Cold War (besides the chillingly implausible scenarios of Commie America) were post-apocalyptic yarns. Of course, this dates waaaay back when 'stopping nuclear proliferation' was the paramount concern of The Left. Mass destruction, they'd proclaim in their usual cannabis-induced state of enlightenment, was just around the corner for all of us, so long as a handful of relatively sane nations had access to Da Bomb. Thankfully, since the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of Unhinged Towelheaded Mass Murdering Theocrats, these toking Cassandrae came to (what little remains of) their senses, and now wisely regard such hyped-up we'll-all-be-nuked-unless-we-do-something terrorporn rhetoric as little more than a manipulative tool wielded by evil imperialist neoconservatives, eager to keep America foisting McDonald's hamburgers upon the innocently innocent people of the Middle East. (Noam Chomsky said so!)


Anyway, after the US and USSR'nt theoretically emptied their silos at each other, what would remain would be small packets of survivors, living in a Hobbesian (not the tiger) state of neo-medievalist anarchy. Some of these lucky radiation-proof folks would give themselves goofy mohawks, don S&M gear and become psychopathic bandits, while others would resourcefully rebuild some semblance of civilization with artifacts left over from the previous age. And foremost among this indispensible hardware would be... the automobile!

Thus, the post-apoc variant I was most enthralled with was that represented by the "Mad Max" films and a couple of role-playing games -- where the miraculously traffic-free highways became battlefields, and "the right-of-way belonged to the biggest guns." Mostly because I just loved this idea of mundane cars receiving a lethal Swiss Army knife treatment -- witness autocentric franchises like "M.A.S.K." and "The Transformers" as the purest of crack cocaine. And while at the time, there was no disputing my peacenik Baby Boomer elders predicting Real Soon Now that warmongering senile dolt Reagan was going to reach down to pick up a pen he'd dropped like a typical dumb Republican and accidentally push The Button under his desk and so cover the planet's surface in radioactive fire unless we signed some meaningless arms-limitation treaty ASAP -- there was still a secret hope that somehow, some way, yours truly would survive through that atomic holocaust, and before long find himself making antibiotics deliveries behind the wheel of a battle-scarred Chevrolet outfitted with flamethrowers and machine guns. Such was my woefully misspent youth...

Eh wot? Valentine's Day? Who gives a shit about Valentine's Day? Not me not me not me! There REALLY needs to be a 'bah, humbug' equivalent for this accursed holiday which we depressed/lovelorn/cynical types can use to bring everybody else down from their Happy Magic Love Rainbow™, maaaaan.

Feh, bunkum!

February 13, 2006

Moping In A Winter Wonderland
Manual labor is teh suxX0r.

So. Should I gripe over the fact that -- here and now, in two thousand six A.D. -- there isn't a handy fusion-powered Black & Decker widebeam laser on hand to quickly vaporize away heavy strataform layers of snow currently piled high onto the driveway? Or perhaps a bit of whining about the outrage of even having a 'driveway' at all -- we're still barbarically crawling along the ground, like motorized, wheeled worms? Hello: freakin' stratomobiles, people! Oh, wait a minute -- I know. Hey! Where's that planet-wrapping weather-control network those science fiction snake-oil salesmen promised me? By gum, this snowstorm certainly wasn't on this week's Meteorological Itinerary! Wahhh! I'll sue!

Meh. Must be the only person alive who complains about the future in the past tense. IAE, I wonder at what cynical turning-point in my wretched life the prospect of such a historic blizzard stopped being a cause for dancing-in-the-streets celebration and started becoming something vaguely resembling 'a nuisance.' Why, once upon a time I'd utilize the temporary liberty from school-mandated stupidity to recreate epic Hoth scenes, indulge my inner prepubescent Michelangelo upon the tabula rasa of the front yard, and otherwise commence construction of the Mother of All Ice Fortresses in preparation for the neighborhood-wide slushball war ahead! And now all I think about is all the necessary pain-in-the-patookus shoveling to be done, and how dangerous the roads may be.

Deep sigh. Adulthood can be hella lame, sometimes.

February 12, 2006

Fishing The Memory Hole
Gah. Since New York is presently being transformed into a snow-encased wasteland, I've been forced to drudge through several non-essential compu-tasks, until that significant risk of power outages has passed. So instead of his daily suds-filled Photoshop bath, your truly's robotically pulling music off of a warbly eighteen-year-old audio cassette, and encoding its component tunes as MP3s. Oh, a most tedious job to say the least, but it's cheaper than the alternative: plunking down fifty to a hundred dollars for the apparently uber-rare compact disc. Yup, for some reason, Michael Kamen's transcendent soundtrack to "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" is nearly impossible to locate in that digital format. As a result, you probably won't see any of its tracks amidst the file-sharing, uh, 'services.' Heck, even the increasingly nifty iTunes Music Store doesn't host the album -- a shame, as it's without a doubt one the finest movie scores ever written. Go for baroque!

Sigh. Such translation difficulties make me wonder what other wondrous creative gems aren't being scanned into the Great Database, there. For instance, fully half of the tomes sitting on my bookshelf are obscure, out-of-print novels and non-fictional works -- stuff that in all likelihood won't ever be printed again. Likewise, many are also mass-marketed (read low quality) paperbacks that're three, four decades old -- in some cases, the pages are actually beginning to yellow over, fall out and crumble. So nothing would give me greater pleasure than being able to wave some lasery optical character-recognizing widget over these deteriorating kilopages, transmogrify the entire lot into hypertext and pipe 'em all into a readily-accessible 21st Century electronic medium for all freakin' eternity. But ye gods --even if I could convert my entire library in such a user-friendly fashion (as opposed to off-the-shelf OCR gimcrackery available today whose monotonous workflow/performance makes the prospect of encoding audio cassettes look like an amphetemine-fueled sexual marathon), well, so what? That's still just a microscopic millionth of a percent, zealously preserved by a single pathetic loser enthusiast of questionable literary tastes. What about the rest of us?

And (for that matter) what about old magazines? Or short-lived comic books and one-season television sitcoms? This is ultimately the chief drawback with an imminent permaculture; somebody still has to actually say "I think this is worth saving," take active steps to archive the work and then upload it to the Overmind Whatever. Or else it is -- save that occasional cross-referenced Usenet discussion or three -- gone forever. And... well, being a few steps removed from Complete Obscurity meself -- I just don't like the thought of that. Dagnabbit, who's to say a nondescript episode of a nearly-forgotten game show won't contain something of value for future generations? Maybe they'll all be artificially immortal, and thus starved for any entertainment (however inane) that temporarily distracts them from contemplating the boredom-filled millennia ahead. Or perhaps aliens'll need it to better acclimatize themselves to human culture.

You just don't know!

February 10, 2006

Tis a silly place

"...Tango Charlie, I repeat: forget securing the power stations and public utilities! Station your troops around museums instead! Dammit, the populace can go without heat and food and clean water for months -- but Lord knows, without Culture, they'll surely die a slow, horrible death!"


La de dah. Watched "King Arthur" last night, one of this apparently newfangled genre of historical film epics that aspire to "tell the real story behind the mythology" without needing to introduce supernatural elements such as gods, monsters, or metallic beeping owls. It's a great, entertaining and unusually philosophical flick -- though in the future, perhaps somebody should inform the studio's marketing department that "From The Producer of Pearl Harbor" may not be the gold-seal-of-approval, deal-clinching ringing endorsement they think it is.

Besides, if there's any of the film's creative team who should really be plugged, it's clearly David Franzoni, the screenwriter. As evidenced in his previous work, he's one of those rare birds currently scribing in Hollywood who've somehow retained a Classical eye for history, and a clear admiration of the greatness-potentiality rife throughout Western civilization. Haven't checked the database as to whether Franzoni was also involved with the recent (equally mind-blowing) HBO series "Rome," but the themes running through that Milius-helmed teledrama seem to parallel his own somewhat wistful celluloid depictions of Decadenceville. Maybe they'll sign him on for next season, when teenaged Octavian/Augustus is handed the imperial reins of power (a far more fascinating personage than Caesar, in my opine).

IAE, the rationalization in "King Arthur" is carefully built upon a skeleton of historically-recorded events. Arthur and his knights are duly re-casted as nomadic Eastern European mercenaries ('Sarmatians' to be precise) bonded to Rome and serving the waning empire's outpost on the British isle, while Merlin and Guinevere're wild native Picts who've been waging guerrilla war against the Romans for centuries. With that curious framing in mind, some people will immediately carry away with them a revised vision of Camelot as an interesting synthesis forged between three juxtaposing cultures. Others of a less intellectual bent will only take a vision of a divinely azure-hued Keira Knightley, gleefully beating down Saxon scum:

C'est la vie!

February 9, 2006

Moose Drool, Incorporated
Whelp, I think I've finally got the blog template markup about where I want it now -- IE, consistent with the rest of Free Lunch site and its horribly antiquated web design paradigm, circa 1999 or so. As tempting as it is to go the CSS route and whimsically redress the entire kit n'caboodle as easily as a Winamp skin, I nevertheless remain a member of the Lowest Common Denominator school when it comes to HTML jockeying. Darn it, I like the the fact that the site looks exactly the same in a ten-year-old copy of Netscape 2.0 as it does in the version of Safari which shipped with OS X Tiger. For a number of reasons, but mostly because yours truly's a backward retard.

So the only bit I'm cringing about now is the fact that a third party -- Blogger -- is ultimately the engine driving the thing. I would've much rather have installed MovableType or WordPress, and got that working on an entirely independent basis -- DIY, maaaaan. But Earthlink won't relinquish that level of control to me, and I'm just not enthusiastic enough this issue where switching ISPs is a consideration. Ah well...

Speaking of OS X, nothing would give me greater pleasure presently than locating the repeating 'brushed metal' PNG texture that the Finder utilizes for its menus, dialog boxes, what have you -- and replacing that accursed graphic with something, ANYTHING else. It just reminds me of the stainless steel furnishings you'd find in your typical morgue or surgeon's hangout. Mark my words, in twenty years we'll all be chuckling over that particular ghastly GUI selection the same way we presently giggle over ubiquitous faux-wood grain surfaces used during the 1970's:

Yup, my favorite was the pseudo-oaken trim on the Atari 2600. While I can (sort of) understand the manufacturer's choice -- they clearly wanted to make the unit's appearance 'compatible' with the conservative interior design of your typical household living room, and so not alienate a large section of their potential market share -- there was also that little matter of two rubbery joysticks with the bright flourescent red buttons, snaking out and (quite literally) tripping up pipe-smoking, "Saturday Evening Post"-reading Dad with their undomesticated space-agey future shocking. To say nothing of the new bleeps and fart noises regularly blaring from the television's speaker. By gum, what kind of warped music is this? Is THIS all what we can expect from the 'world of tomorrow'?

Naturally, beauty is in the eye of the Beholder. (Or perhaps it was just a disintegration spell.)

February 7, 2006

Dare To Be Gutless
Whoops! Back to the horribly mundane realm of mind-numbingly boring kvetching once again!

Ugh... my marglefargin' stomach. Every day I wake up and it's writhing like a cobra on meth. The censored unprintable thing's been giving me nothing but great unwanted heaps o'trouble ever since Dad died. Oh, I've already consulted superspecialized gastro-wrangling medicos, who've gleefully run me through with all sorts of expensive state-of-the-art equipment (though I missed out on gargling the swallowable camera -- drat) and they ultimately came up with a Big Fat Zero. Deep sigh. More likely than not it's probably all psychysoma... psychasoom... uh, in my head. But for Cthulhu's overly tentacled sake, I've been through FAR more stressful periods in my life, while devouring the worst food humanly imaginable -- you got ramen in my Hot Pockets! -- and agonizing nonsense like this never occured before.

Or maybe -- just maybe -- I'm just getting old. (Blasphemy!)

One thing's for sure. When the Singularity hits (it has to, it JUST has to! the fool proclaimed in blind, religious fervor), I'll gladly upload the choicier parts of my worthless brainpan to the hungry eschaton, in exchange for some good food-processing nanobots to replace the faulty gullet inflicted upon me by that syphilitic whore, Mother Nature.

And then maybe I'll tear out the toilet from the bathroom, and extend the bathtub into a vague photo-developing trough! While grossly belching away like a Burping Construction Set! Yay, futuretech!
There goes my hero...
Ye gods. When I grow up, I SO want to be Coop. It'll probably never happen though, as I'm clearly far too bashful/lame to paint the ludicrously oversized artistic equivalent of a lapdance smothering, without passing out from the sheer embarassment of it all. (Kinda wish he hadn't cropped her face though.)

Incidentially, don't you wonder what gallery patrons say, whenever they see such (quite literally) in-your-face work as this? I mean, do they pontificate haughtily about the surface texture of the paint strokes, the cultural subtext inherent in early-80's commercial artifacts, and their subsequent impact on race, class and gender?

Or do they simply stick out their tongue, make the Devil's sign with their fingers, and shout "WHOA! WHATTA FREAKIN' SET!!!"

February 6, 2006

Pining for Nerd-dom
Me figure a good recurring schtick for the Blother ("the Blother?" What am I, Lileks?) is to include a JPEG-destroyed sketch with each entry, whenever possible. (Like the Drawing of the Week feature, Tom? Shut up! Shut up!) So rather than making a fool of myself by vomiting about subjects where it's clear my ignorance is nearly matched by my incoherence, I can occasionally fall back to Pretentious Artist mode instead. Or at least until my reserve of non-underclothed mega-jugged Frazettan-rumped wimmin scratchings is spent. Anyhoo, this time around, it's a preliminary doodle for my "Fafhrd & Grey Mouser" illustrot, dashed off using one of them infectious black-and-white MacPaint wannabes:

(Neologism Alert #2! 'Illustrot' -- an illustration marked by the telltale putrid stench of creative decay)

Gahh. Sometimes I wish there was a mechanism in place whereby a person could immediately 'reformat' one's knowledge of any given subject, and restart the entire educational process again from scratch without requiring a blinkered process of 'unlearning.' (Okay okay, I suppose pickling your brain in alcohol or some other mind-altering substance might do the trick -- but I'd much rather take my chances with a bit o'rigorous technological know-how.)

The reason: programming. My erudition in this subject has been chaotic, to say the least. I started writing digibrain instructions circa 1982, after devouring an introduction to BASIC (yum!) Of course, it sort of helps if you actually fargin' OWN a computer when you're writing computer programs. Instead of, say, scrawling them out beforehand on stacks of looseleaf paper, signing up to use a TRS-80 whose librarian overlords have decreed a contemptible prole patron can only use for ONE STINKIN' HOUR, spending 90% of that same generous allotment frantically entering in the commands on the looseleaf, and then squandering the remainder of that time pulling your preadolescent hair out because the damned prog doesn't run and you don't know what the freakin' problem is and nobody around here can help you because they're all either playing "Zork" or else they're uber-smart suprageekz who don't consort with such lowly rabble as yourself. Eventually though, my hardworking parents plunked down the money to indulge their idiotic son's newest obsession.

The first entry was a Timex-Sinclair 1000, a low-budget deal sporting a bubble-membrane keyboard, memory approximately the size of a gnat's turd, the complete inability to store programs on audio cassettes (despite what the manual vainly professed) and a curious electrical glitch which caused the unit to completely lose power (and that program you'd spent the past 30 minutes on) if it wasn't precisely oriented with the center of the Earth, Orion in the sky, or quite possibly a Californian starlet's menstruation cycle.

But a few agonized years later came the Mother of All Compu-Upgrades -- the Commie 64 -- and at long last I was in business! Quite literally!

Or not. Electronic Arts had little to fear, there. Oh, the C-64 was a GREAT programming platform -- particularly when you've spent the previous 3+ years attempting to mold a BASIC masterpiece on unreliable/unavailable machines with NO storage capacity to speak of. Just the fact that I didn't have to write everything from scratch anymore came as a great shock -- no, I could run out, buy a "floppy disk" and "save" whatever I wanted on 'em! Regardless of whether they were finished or not!

Of course, there were other things you could store on a Commodore 64 floppy disk, too -- as I found out elbowing through the seedy Darwinian corridors of junior high, where a brisk trade in pirated vidgames had transmogrified it into something akin to a kiddie pork-bellies trading pit. Before long, that masochistic enthusiasm once cradled for pecking in badly-parsed Sysiphian subroutines was quickly replaced by a frenzied motion of manic hustling, disk-hoarding and gameplaying. This is not to say my compu-creative fires were completely doused, however; instead they found alternative avenues through such user-friendly utilities as GameMaker, Flexidraw, Movie Maker and Adventure Construction Set -- those few commercially-purchased exceptions amidst my great heaps of illicit IntProp-violating ferro-magnetic loot. (Coincidence? Don't think so...)

Yet such stuff, however convenient, just wasn't PROGRAMMING any longer. No more wreaking havoc POKEing and PEEKing eldritch registers, no more arranging charset pictures on graph paper, and no more complicated mathematical dancing to make pretty music pipe from the speaker. From that point on, yours truly's always worked with proxies and scripts and object-oriented thutunthp. HyperTalk. AppleScript. Lingo. C with prefabricated graphics-manipulating libraries. VisualBasic. Et cet. Feel those neurons atrophying yet, l4merd3wd?

Ah well. I suppose it's for the best. Life is certainly short enough... and while brandishing the most fundamental tools can offer one unprecendented levels of power/control, ultimately in the end they ALSO consume that most precious of commodities: time.

(The only exception to this may be nauseatingly long-winded blogs.)

February 5, 2006

Somewhere in the 21st Century
And so I pull back from the terrifying panorama of Geopolitick -- with all its grim implications for the future -- to my own safe little world of not-quite-blasphemous picture-making again. Just a tiny bit from my sketchbook:

Gah. If I had a nickel for every time I've drawn somebody wearing futuristic armor and toting some MagLev flechette/handheld minigun variant... I'd... uh, have a whole stinkin' lot of nickels. And since Blogger's image embedding doesn't work on my geriatric web-browsing computer of choice, I'm also forced to relegate myself to HTML image tags and Old Skool uploading. We hates this, my precious! We hates it for ever!

More PopCult detritus: just watched "The Battle of Brazil" today, encoded somewhere amidst the production-end making-of DVD for that particular two-decade-old dystopian flick. It's funny: my first exposure was the Eeeeevil Diluted Corporate Sid Sheinberg "Love Conquers All" edit, which aired on television -- and nevertheless I loved it to pieces, inexplicable chronological gaps and all.

But when I witnessed the True Uncommercial Artistic Vision™ a few months later, at I-CON VIII, I found Terry Gilliam's version both inferior and horribly repellent -- 'omg WTF' as the monosyllabic instant messaging Gen Z'ers would have it. If The Bureaucratic State ultimately wins in the end (as the conclusion clearly indicates), then what's the frickin' point of the film at all -- "keep your nose down, and be a good citizen-unit"? Great.

In any eventuality, the documentary goes into Gilliam's well-publicized tangle with the American distributor of the film -- and the deck is VERY clearly stacked beforehand in the director's favor, most notably by never even showing the face of the video-game 'boss' villain of the entire fracas, Sheinberg. Instead, tape recordings of an old interview are played back against a black screen with white lettering -- Sid's the voice of Faceless Corporate America, don'tcha know -- while Gilliam recieves flattering lighting and intimate closeups, where he can make the most asinine proclamations and still look like some kind of Randian heroic figure.

Yet even as The Deep Artiste's slinging the usual revolutionary blather about Sticking It To The Man, Mannnn and Creative Freedom Running Free On The Streets Of Hollywood, for me what ultimately sticks in the end is Sheinberg's well-reasoned (if badly presented) assessment of the original product. He sounds for all the world like a well-versed 'fanboy' anxious to make a more accessible film, and most certainly not a soulless beancounting suit at all. Witness his response to Gilliam's mechanizations with a Los Angeles critic's guild (who openly proclaim "making a difference" as their primary motivation towards supporting the original edit, not its artistic merit), and how keenly he discerns "Brazil" being a story of an oppressive State, NOT what Gilliam's public-relations mythologists would have written, afterward.

Ah well, One blasphemy deserves another. I'd venture Monty Python afficionados will be a right jolly murderous bunch in a few hundred years or so. Oh -- one other thing I'd gleaned from the DVD -- according the original script and its Prime Minister character, the 'terrorists' in the world of "Brazil" had actually been completely destroyed decades ago by the government -- and that the current rash of bombings were simply being kept up in-house in order to 'keep the economy going'. I merely cite this to contradict Gilliam's recent idiocy to the effect that post-September 11th America is equivalent to the society portrayed in "Brazil." If there's something the world isn't short of right now, it's homicidal whackjobs anxious to deliberately expend their explosives on unarmed civilians, dammit.
Cower On Your Knees, Men of the West!
A couple years ago, a friend and I were driving about town, talking up a storm. He'd come out from California to attend some familial ceremony, and had a couple extra days to kick around and squander upon the usual needless leisure activities. Anyway, at one point we'd passed a movie theater showing "The Passion of the Christ," which had just premiered a few days earlier. Almost immediately this galling sight set my buddy off into a tiresome anti-Christian ranting mode -- where he invoked everyone from the Spanish Inquisitors to Jerry Falwell as proof of the religion's illegitimacy, and broadly proclaimed anyone who actually believed the events described in the movie as rudderless sheep, too stupid to live. So to speak.

I said nothing, as I hadn't seen the film, wasn't particularly in a mood to argue with someone whose convictions were so clearly fixed and reinforced with concrete, and had assorted counterexamples -- from a brilliant Mennonite suitemate at Pratt to friendly-yet-devout relatives -- on the brain. Besides, there's a somewhat masturbatory air one affects when railing against them evil 'n vicious fundie Jesusland types. Their hyperbolic pronouncements to the contrary notwithstanding, such a Brave Voice of Rational Reason secretly knows a platoon of stone-brandishing jackbooted thugs with becrucifixed helmets won't be showing up to drag them out of their houses for their oh-so-irreverent blandishments anytime soon. Hell, in US culture, mocking them ign'rant Christers is practically a national pastime -- the fact that there've been at least three consecutive December 25ths now where public debate about the holiday's legitimacy have been called into question without mass death says FAR more about the tolerance levels of Christians than any of Bill Maher's self-aggrandizing fantasies.

But of course, mocking ANOTHER religion -- one whose similarly fundamental believers actually took it upon themselves to slaughter several thousand Americans not so long ago -- requires a bit more intestinal fortitude, there.

So when my companion started in on his desire to make a "Passion"-inverting movie, where every 'brave' and 'independent-minded' idea stolen from the pages of Garth Ennis' "Preacher" was explored in loving cinematic detail -- Jesus slept with whores! Ha! Choke on that, narrowminded Biblethumpers! -- I chimed in. "Hey, how about making a movie about the life of Mohammed, too? There's lots of saucy scandalous material to be found there, as well."

Then, he turned to look at me, with a contortion of disbelief on his countenance, and replied, "What do you think I am -- suicidal?"


And so here we are today, faced with the curious spectacle of a Transnationally Multicultural Secular Europe, wondering what the hell to do about the bloodthirsty hordes of frothing Islamofascist Orcs from England to Indonesia, now openly calling for genocidal war... over a few cartoons. Will their leaders 'suicidally' stand for the Western traditions of free speech and artistic freedom in the face of such a murderous theocratic mob? Or will they meekly penalize the offending voices of defiance fomenters of religious hatred, and take another capitulatory step down the death spiral that can only lead to Eurabia -- and a second Dark Age?

And if my friend's cowardice is any indication -- are WE here in America very far behind them?

February 2, 2006

Neologisms R suxX0r!!!!1111
Yes, I do believe I've just created one with my very first File Transfer Protocol-based post! Blog + blather = blother! (Also 'bother' as well -- as posting anything via FTP will certainly be a considerable 'blother' to me! While practically nobody will 'blother' reading this 'blother.'

Oh, blother!
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