Angry Robot

The moment Karen Stintz knew she would take on Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

and win, thank Zeus. She’s not your typical “pinko”, but a Ford loyalist who dared to point out that his transit plan just didn’t make any sense. Rather than fix it, he made it clear he’d be getting rid of her as TTC chief, giving her all the motivation she needed to confront him. Question now is, will there be another motion from council to purge the TTC committee of Ford loyalists? In this article, Stintz sounds conciliatory, so it probably wouldn’t come from her.

With “Lilyhammer” Netflix Wants To Destroy Traditional TV, Get You “Hooked” On All-At-Once Watching

“If a show debuts without a premiere, will anyone watch it? That’s the multi-million-dollar koan Netflix is looking to answer. And fast.”

Analyzing Toronto’s Real Estate Market: How Can So Many Be So Wrong?

The Brain on Trial

another fascinating article that I just liberated from Instapaper, about the implications of modern brain science for the justice system. Don’t take as long as I did to read it.

Apple in talks with Rogers and Bell re: iTV?!

theoretically 2 different sources, but I’ll believe it when I see it

Stintz leads anti-Ford rebellion over future of transit

wow. So Transit City may still happen.

The Next Transitions in the Technium

food for thought for your next sci-fi novel

Minecraft 1.0


I wonder if some of Minecraft’s appeal will dissolve now that it’s a 1.0 product and will probably see less frequent updates.

I seem to play it once every few months and whenever I do, I see something new, not just because the human perceptive system is selective blah blah but because quite literally new things have been added to the game since I last played. I was roaming around and I saw a wolf. Wolf!

One’s natural reaction is to search on the Minecraft wiki to see what you can do with a wolf. If you feed it a bone, you can tame it. Then it will follow you around and attack your enemies. You can even tame a whole pack. God damn!

The preceding paragraph indicates the other arcane appeal of Minecraft that is rare in games: it’s almost a game about looking things up in a wiki. The game does a notoriously poor job of telling you what you can and should do, so you’re trained to consult out-of-game sources from your first in-game night, when you were probably eaten by zombies since you didn’t build shelter before nightfall (surprise!) because you didn’t run up to a tree and punch it to make wood blocks (surprise!) enabling you to make a craftbench enabling you to make tools etc etc…

That’s the risk, that what any rational game critic would call improvements to the early game will take away some essential charm. Similarly, the cessation of the perpetual beta, if it does in fact mean the game needs fewer updates, could take away some of those surprises, which were legion this last play: wolves. Breeding animals. Enchanting. Potions. Back to the wiki!

There’s so much good there though that one needn’t fear too much. Almost certainly that sense of wonder, exploration, and enterprise will remain. I watched a doc about early man whose thrust was that homo sapiens was unique because of his ability to imagine what wasn’t there. He could imagine the path of a herd of big hairy prehistoric elephant type things, and conceive of a trap to put there. He could imagine the path of a projectile.

He could see a near-infinite world of blocks and imagine building the USS Enterprise out of those blocks.

It’s not genius but it’s ingenuity, and that’s what makes Minecraft feel so human. I know as a downtown champagne-socialist elitist I should decry the path of human history which paved paradise with highways and clogged our seas with oil, but you can’t help sometimes being impressed.

Like if you ride on a jet, don’t you sometimes think, “Dude! We fuckin’ made this. What have monkeys built lately?”

The hero of Minecraft is born with nothing in his hands and then he punches a tree and soon his basic needs (hut, torches, pork chops) are taken care of and after a bunch of lifting he is riding a minecart out of the earth’s core up into his sky castle. It’s the ascent of man in a nutshell.

If games have real-life value inasmuch as they train us to deal with life in certain ways, Minecraft teaches us to see how much is possible in this world of ours, to learn more about it, and then go fucking build that.

BTW as of press time (ha! I love saying that) Minecraft is actually version 1.1, and the latest snapshot release added, amongst other things, the breeding of ocelots.

Final Cut Pro X Updated

For free, to add a few features:

The non-linear editing program was initially launched to protests by the pro-editing community, but Version 10.0.3 addresses nearly all of the remaining criticisms of the post-production tool, adding multicam support, external broadcast monitoring (still a beta feature), and detailed chroma-key controls. And perhaps the biggest criticism—the lack of an upgrade path for projects built into previous Final Cut versions—has now been addressed by a third-party plugin called 7toX, from Intelligent Assistance.

Happy now, internet?

The recent fear and loathing about Apple dropping the “pro” market was based on two things: the perceived dumbing-down of FCP, and the neglect of the Mac Pro. It never made sense to me though. Why would Apple bother with a huge, from-scratch rewrite of Final Cut if it planned to ditch it?

The speculation was that since it a) borrowed some interface from iMovie, b) contained some DSLR-friendly features, c) was drastically cheaper, and d) was missing a bunch of features, that Apple was targeting “prosumers” (shudder) and not “pros”.

a) If the same people who rethought iMovie a few years back were doing the same to FCP, it follows that some interface will be shared. If they’ve figured out better interfaces for editing, they’re going to want to use them. As I stated before, traditional editing software packages (NLEs) are based on a tape-to-tape interface metaphor which isn’t helping anyone anymore. We should be happy that Apple is trying to improve it.

b) DSLR workflow is a file-based workflow, which is obviously the future. Things like background transcoding and auto-sync are just plain handy for whichever files you are importing, whether prosumer like AVCHD or pro like Redcode.

c) FCP X is $300 to Final Cut Suite’s $1000. Suite contained extra software like Colour and Soundtrack that Apple no longer offers (it has folded some features of these apps into FCP itself). It also contained Motion and Compressor, which Apple is now selling separately for $50. Furthermore, there is no upgrade pricing on the App Store, so the next time Apple decides to charge for a new version of FCP X (XI?), we will all be paying another $300 + $50 + $50 – and if you want Logic to take the place of Soundtrack, add another $200. It’s not that much cheaper.

d) This latest update should allay concerns about dropped features. This is how Apple does it: they don’t include features they feel they haven’t gotten right yet. The original iPhone was missing a bunch of features we take for granted now (copy & paste, multitasking, third party apps).

I’m actually pleasantly surprised multicam support has been added already (especially since I have a project coming up that will need it). So the big question mark now is the Mac Pro. Informed opinions say that Apple is just following Intel’s rather slow-moving Xeon roadmap, which suggests a March update. Okay then!