Angry Robot

alias web game

There appears to be an AI-style web game accompanying the new TV show Alias. It seems this fake bank site and this page about a Nostradamus-esque (Nostradamic? Nostradamian?) seer are starting points, although I haven’t investigated very far myself.

I’ve seen one episode of the show, and it was surprisingly good: well paced, well scored and not taking itself too seriously. Apparently the creator, JJ Abrams (who was behind Felicity) is taken with Run Lola Run. I found the show somewhat indebted to The Sopranos and True Lies, in that it examines the domestic life of a character type more frequently seen in action thrillers (in Alias’ case, a spy).

Be that as it may, I’m happy to see that the new phenomenon of the web game did not die with A.I.‘s box office still-birth.


Challenge to those who have yet to celebrate Hallowe’en, or failing that a note for next year: dress abstract. Dress as a concept, especially one that cannot easily be rendered via costume. Dress vague, dress ambiguous. Avoid “oh, you’re a cat.” Aim for “What the fuck are you?” Sigh, and say “I don’t know.”

Inspiration: two friends’ costumes last saturday. One went as a joint. He was understood to be many things, including a tooth and a KKK member, but rarely was he seen as a joint. (Imagine a costume so ambiguous that one person sees it as a tooth and another sees a Grand Wizard.) The other went as “Barry Anthrax,” an interpretive anthropomorphization of the topical germ weapon. He had a flowing mullet and wore his underwear outside his pants.

Afghan campaign premeditated

This is curious: US had plans to attack Afghanistan before 9.11. Now of course, I don’t doubt that the Pentagon has contingency plans on file for invasions of every country on the planet, but the claim in the article is that they were aiming to attack in October anyway. Then again, we need not trust what Pakistani officials have to say; they played a big part in getting the Taliban in power and many of them would love to make the US look stupid.

Oh damn, I was going to lay off the Current Situation stuff for a while. Blast.


Oh my, this makes me feel better: wiretapping as art.

No, really, it does!

Er, I think it does.

Well, at least it’s making me think.

Current Situation roundup

Is there any point in wringing one’s hands over the USA Act? It’s going through, whether or not you like police black-bagging your home and carnivoring your email without even thinking about getting a warrant. Similarly, here in Canada where we thought the liberals were in power, we get this thing, which US news media can only describe as “sweeping.”

It’s enough that we worry about fanatics distributing biochemical surprises – do we really have to worry about the RIAA terrorizing us as well? If that seems like an abuse of the term “terrorist,” that’s exactly the issue. What is being broadly referred to as computer hacking is now considered a terrorist act. However, the RIAA wants the ability to launch denial of service attacks on copyright-infringers. It didn’t work. Sweet baby Jesus, what a bunch of opportunists.

Similarly, in Canada there is some concern that anti-globalization activists may be considered terrorists under the new act, and thus could be treated to a bunch of exciting new law enforcement techniques. (Torture, anyone? Coming soon!) While the above-linked government page soothes:

The definition is carefully circumscribed to make it clear that disrupting an essential service is not a terrorist activity if it occurs during a lawful protest…

that bastion of leftist resistance, the Canadian Bar Association, complains heavily.


That’s enough of the Current Situation for a couple weeks, isn’t it? Without even bringing up the joy of patents or Gulf War Syndrome.

404 Zork

Play Zork, 404-style.

Beta Band live show

Beta Band, Tuesday Oct. 23, Opera House, Toronto

Damn. These cats are amazing. The setup on stage looked like they were a twelve-peice band, but there were only four of them – four musicians who each play at least three instruments. They’d play recordings of some tracks, so at some points there would be a recording of the guitar part playing, while the guitarist was in mid-drum solo. Musically they are borderline indescribable. It’s sort of an indie-rock / electronica hybrid, but not in the sense of throwing a dance beat under a rock song, or looping a few guitar sounds into a dance mix. Their song structures themselves are mutated and entirely unpredictable. They played for about two hours, and It Was Good. Check here to see if they’re playing in your North American Urban Center.

damn Apple

Of course, the preceding post is standard for Apple maniacs: sort of a rumour hangover.


I now strongly resent my earlier Apple-anticipatory post. The iPod ain’t all that – cool, yes; innovative, no; affordable, fuck no.

dialogue scrap

Homemade dialogue that is caught in my head:

Woman: What’s wrong, Smokey?
Smokey: I quit.

Waking Life

F;s@“”>Waking Life and found it to be dope, fly, and rad. It’s not so much a non-narrative film as it is a narrative of ideas. It’s also great anytime you see a film where the form is motivated by the content, and is not simply either a grab bag of stylistic assumptions or an assortment of pointless technical experiments. First hand-held animated film I’ve ever seen! Anyway, if you need a film recommendation, go see it, and as a posible follow-up to a film concerned primarily with the mind, see Iron Monkey, a film of the body if there ever was one.

crypto-blogging, Apple device, RIAA

Okay, the crypto-blogging will stop.

Have been very excited by the news that Apple plans to introduce a “breakthrough digital device.” “Hint – it’s not a Mac.” The informed rumour-mongerer would speculate that it will either be a portable device or a component piece. Whatever it is, it’s obvious Apple considers it a Big Deal: not only did they refresh half their product line (iBook and TiBook) with very little fanfare last week, they also have aggressively timed this new announcement to snatch thunder from Microsoft’s pending Windows XP launch.

If it is to be a component piece, I would imagine it to be a sort of home media server. It would network with Macs (PCs?), connect to the stereo (obviously), and maybe contain a HD and/or burner. Apple would presumably slap an Airport card in it. What I would like: the machine should function as the AirPort base station – it would remain constantly connected; Apple could then bring iTools into the equation and allow one to access one’s media, stored on the device or on a connected Mac, from any computer.

We assume it will use AirPort (WiFi). Most people take this to mean it will be a music-oriented device, as AirPort can’t handle the bandwidth required for real time DVD or DV. Two points. One, it wouldn’t necessarily need to be real time. Two, there were rumours a while ago that Apple was involved with Domino technology. The cool thing about the Domino chip was that it could transcode MPEG-2 (DVD) to MPEG-4 in real time, meaning that video could be sent over AirPort. Imagine if the beast could hold onto those cute little MPEG-4 files on its hard drive: then you could access your DVD collection from wherever. Also, it would be insane to go all that way without having TiVo-style recording of TV. Handy, that.

But, of course, there are a number of problems with the preceding flight of fancy. Domino chips would have to be in the Macs, which they are not; the thing would be hopelessly expensive; and the MPAA would take out a contract on Steve Jobs. In general, though, it is time for consumer electronics companies to stand up to the RIAA/MPAA thugs. They are a much, much bigger industry, and they are all slitting each others’ throats releasing progressively less profitable clones of each others’ toys. They need to innovate, give the copyright-hating consumer what s/he wants, and so forth.

Things were better now.

Things were better now.

Happy birthday.

Happy birthday.

tolkien, luddites, shift

Rereading Tolkien‘s stuff. Tolkien was a luddite of sorts. I like many parts of the books, but some parts make me suspicious – not the environmentalism, but the fear of technology. Things were different, I suppose, when the atom bomb was the latest hot offering from science. But there’s something in the way magic is treated in the book… I am beginning to suspect that magic is in fact an idealized stand-in for technology. (Not sure how this would fit with the Benjamin.)

There is a distinct anti-tech sentiment mounting over at shift magazine. A recent issue contained Chris Turner’s excellent why technology is failing us (and how we can fix it). The latest one (not online yet) features a piece about going a week without technology. Curiously, the term ‘technology’ morphs into the phrase ‘digital culture’ by the time we get to the subheader. Sure enough, during the week of supposed tech celibacy, the author reads books, drives cars, talks on the phone – just not the cellphone, thank you very much.

And here’s the failure of all Luddite philosophies: all they do is arbitrarily pick a date to separate the old technology, which is good, from the new technology, which is bad. Books are a technology. Buildings too. What do you think of cooked food? Agriculture? Language itself, many would argue, is a technology. Presumably you’re going to want to use those technologies. Why get all xenophobic about the new ones? By all means be critical, but come on. Don’t be afraid.

I mean, a luddite with a weblog? Shouldn’t he be carving things in stone tablets or something?

RU Sirius

RU Sirius sure can write. It’s been ages since I experienced the feeling of someone speaking for me.

Note to self: what the hell has he been up to lately?


Idea for a wager, perfect for those with fat stacks and slim concern for their image: the loser must spend a year wearing only clothes purchased from the Beer Store. Molson Canadian sweatsuits, Bud hats, etc.

I’m toying around with movable type and it looks fantastic. It’ll take me a while to put it into effect, but it’ll happen fairly soon. If you do a blog you should take it for a spin.


If the site comes and goes today, it’s because I’m messing around with the proverbial back end.

link pimpin'

If some people are link whores, can other people be link pimps?

And on an unrelated note, a new, incredible word, apparently invented by the author of this article: superadequatastic.

party disaster

I went to a party last night. It was hideously overcrowded; it took forever to perform simple tasks (go the the bathroom, get a beer). There were two balconies, one above the other, both stuffed full of people. Then the upper balcony collapsed. A couple of my friends were on it at the time. They were leaning on the railing, which remained intact, and after the floor had vanished from beneath them they grasped it and shimmied to safety, realizing only then that they were still holding onto their beers and cigarettes.

Sadly, the ridiculous party continued. Initial reports indicated that no one had been hurt, but later rumours of injury and hospitalization began to circulate. (Rumour – yeah, I guess I won’t believe anything until I see it in the New York Times.) Minutes after the collapse, there were just as many people trying to get onto the remaining balcony as were trying to get off. I left, though, with some other right-thinking individuals. In all honesty, not for rational reasons: I kept thinking the entire building was going to crumble to the ground.

I hesitate to metaphoricize this petty disaster.

evil Bert

Possibly I’m a little behind on this, in weblog terms, but it’s too weird a story not to blog. (Too… not to… to not blog?) Bert, of Ernie & Bert fame, may or may not be evil. He appears to have some involvement with bin Laden: read this for the details.


So I hear that “camel” is the new black. Sure it is. I could argue that black is the new black, but instead I’ll get with that particular spirit and declare: R&B is the new classical. Walnut cake is the new doughnut. War is the new peace. And videogames are the new film. But more on that later.

Runaway phone company grief may lead to a disruption in this blogging service. (Excuse me as I manhandle the term “service.”) I hope not, but only time will tell.

I accidentally typed “only tim will tell.” I wish he would.


What the Hell? This is a government Anthrax vaccination site that uses Flash and hep music to “sell” vaccine to soldiers. Eerie and confusing. (via MeFi)

3D, usability

Via camworld: this site is devoted to the search for a “post-PC interface.” I find this stuff intriguing, although I know very little about it. Personally I can only assume that the next big interface development will be abandoning the 2D ‘desktop’ in favour of a 3D environment. As evidence, all I can cite is the example of videogames; as soon as 3D environments were technically possible, the shift away from 2D games happened almost as fast as the film industry’s shift from silent to sound. I would assume this is because 3D worlds seem most like that “reality” thing I keep hearing so much about, and if an interface can appear more real, it enjoys a big jump in usability, given that there is that much less to teach people before they can use the interface. Sound films, to follow the metaphor, being a better user interface than silent ones, inasmuch as they are “more like real life.” (Sorry about the nonstop quotes, but I have a real aversion to the term “reality” and/or “real life.”)

Traffic signs, warning signs, and the like – obviously they are iconic, and in a way they spell out a user interface for architecture. In fact, usability in a 3D context will be almost like personal architecture.

intelligence porn

My latest way of dealing with the Current Situation is a wannabe-rational fixation on the intelligence community. Part of the reason is that I traditionally loathe the CIA, since doing a report on Nicaragua in highschool… but that’s another story. With the recent attacks, it has become obvious that US intelligence failed massively, and to me this makes the CIA, NSA, etc. … well, more human.

So rather than follow traditional news sources obsessively, I scour sites like Janes and Stratfor, and have just discovered (via MeFi), an Israeli intelligence report. These sites are a touch frustrating, as they keep trying to convince you to buy their subscription service – they’re like intelligence porn. But you often find amazing stuff. At the very least, tales of the intelligence community will convince you that this isn’t a battle of good and evil. There’s plenty of evil for everyone, thank you very much.