Monthly Archives: October 2012

Glowy stuff


I have this weird obsession with glow-in-the-dark stuff.

Unlike most of my obsessions, it isn’t permanently active. However, whenever I do get something that glows, it inevitably makes its way to my bedside table. Plastic aliens with glowing eyes that I’ve owned for a decade and had nearly forgotten about? Table. LEGO kit with a glow-in-the-dark skeletal horse? Table. (As a side-note, I’m not sure why LEGO’s Monster Fighters range bothers to even have the eponymous Fighters – I’m pretty sure those kits are made and purchased entirely for the monsters.) I used to have a glowing Darth Maul sticker physically stuck to my bed.

It’s just got me wondering, why do I do this? What am I, five?

And after that I stop caring, because heeheehee glowy thing.

– OSM out

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What a Wonderful WTF


So recently I picked up season 2 of the Muppet Show. I was sitting there, watching Rowlf playing Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World, and I was struck by a realization:

This is the most recent thing I’ve seen which uses that song with sincerity.

Yes, most things in the Muppet Show are spoofed, but Rowlf is something of an exception – they’ll do interruptions, oddities, candelabras blasting off into orbit and other weird stuff, but usually his song is intended seriously, possibly because he was considered to be the Muppet closest to Jim Henson. (Or because he made an excellent straight, um, dog compared to Fozzie’s limited intelligence, Gonzo’s weirdness or Sam the Eagle’s smugness.)

I’m serious here. Tvtropes lists nearly twenty things which have used What a Wonderful World in an ironic or sarcastic manner. Even kid’s movies have done it. And it got me wondering, have we gotten too freaking cynical? We take this song intended to inspire hope (albeit “things look like crap, but look, it’s not all bad” hope), and we use it to emphasize bleak and hopeless moments – again and again and again? Come on! At least find new uplifting songs to abuse in this fashion! Don’t keep throwing the same song back in our teeth. It’s making the song lose its impact as an uplifting piece and as an ironic counterpoint.

Or, better yet, go back to using the song to point out the light in the darkness, like it was supposed to do. Not to wave a hand and say “hey look, it’s so freaking dark.”

– OSM out

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Snarky Fountainhead Comments That Anyone Can Use


The following are all phrases I’ve come up with to describe this terrible terrible book to friends and family who probably wish I would just shut up about it.

 

“I’m reasonably sure at this point that Rand is playing a practical joke. If she wanted to convert people to this philosophy, there would be a bit more convincing and a bit less berating.”

“I think it’s fair to compare it with the Iron Warriors omnibus. I mean, one is about a sociopath who despises everything worthwhile about humanity, and the other is about a Chaos Marine.”

“Howard Roark’s problem is that he’s too inhuman to be a good hero, too annoying to be a good villain, and too boring to be a good either of the above.”

“Dull and pathetic villains only really work when contrasted with awesome heroes. Sadly, neither of those words applies to Roark.”

“This sort of across-the-board boring isn’t what ‘banality of evil’ actually means, but it should be.”

“It could have been a great book. If the hero was more likeable than an ingrown toenail. Or the villains were a bit more dramatic and a bit less pathetic. Or if the plot was about something more interesting than architectural infighting from several decades before I was born. So basically it could have been great if it had nothing in common with The Fountainhead at all. Seems to fit.”

“I keep expecting a hard cut to some cops examining the scene of Roark’s latest murder, and then one of them can be the protagonist. Sadly, that seems a remote possibility by this point.”

“When Eridan Ampora from Homestuck is a more sympathetic character than the hero, something has gone badly wrong.”

“After the first 100 pages, Rand’s main achievement is to make me want to install Doric columns on every house in my street just to spite her.”

“And then Roark defeats the strawman in a spray of dried, um, straw and scales his echeladder to the dizzying heights of Smug Sociopath.”

“While I loathe Erebus of the Word Bearers and every aspect of his personal philosophy to a depth unplumbable by any line, I’ll credit him at least with not being Howard Roark.”

“To paraphrase Roger Ebert, you can’t have heroes and villains when neither side makes any sense. It’s like having Elan’s lawful and chaotic consciences discuss the results of a sport I don’t follow, only that would involve Rich Burlew and therefore be more interesting than this drivel.”

– OSM out

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Elements: The Game


(You just lost, by the way./obnoxiousmeme)

 

Elements: The Game is a free online card game, and unlike most free stuff you find online, this is actually free rather than . Gameplay resembles a cumulative version of Magic: the Gathering, with mana quanta and creature damage remaining between turns, except that creatures don’t block each other and attack automatically. There are twelve elements, and I can guarantee, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the one you pick will of course have the most severe weaknesses.

There are a few odd decisions they’ve made which do detract from the overall product, however. First and foremost, death magic isn’t actually very good at killing things – it can poison them, sure, but actually one-shotting stuff before it can dish out too much damage is a job for other elements. Likewise, there are a few obnoxious AI decks such as the Firefly Frell*-Over and the even more unpleasant scarab-swarm that really need to die. Finally, intangibility is too ridiculously good. Shroud in Magic: the Gathering was tolerable because there are lots of buff spells in each colour and there were ways to get around it. Most of those ways don’t work in Elements, meaning that once a Phase Dragon comes out to play it becomes a grim race against time to finish your opponent before the dragon

But that said, it’s quite fun and worth a try, unless you have something important you want to do today, in which case you should probably save it until after you’ve done that.

Next week: I don’t know, and then, next Friday, more of the Fountainhead. I would have read more this week but a friend got back from university and loaned me some Horus Heresy books, so I’ve been reading those instead.

– OSM out.

 

* Not actually the word I keep using.

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Is atheism a religion?


WARNING: SOAPBOXY, OKAY TO SKIP

Short version: no.

Long version: noooooooooo.

 

Long version with elaboration:

The Oxford Dictionaries definition of religion is “the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods”.

Given that atheism is the explicit rejection of that exact hypothesis…I probably don’t need to elaborate on that.

But even without a dictionary, atheism is not a religion unless your definition of “religion” is too broad to be of any use whatsoever.

Atheism is, by and large, devoid of the ritual that characterises faith. Atheists might attend speeches, but most of us don’t attend weekly sermons. There are no atheist hymns, although John Lennon’s Imagine and the Galaxy Song from Monty Python come close. Atheism doesn’t do feast days or prayers. Confession is between you and the cops. And so on.

(Okay, if you define religion as “an opinion on the nature of the universe” atheism probably qualifies, but by that definition, physics, agnosticism, and I-don’t-care-and-will-you-all-shut-up-entology are also religions, hence my point about “too broad to be of any use”.)

– OSM out

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Fountainhead, Part 1: It’s Fountainhorrible!


Well it is.

The fundamental problem I’ve noticed is that Ayn Rand was psychologically unable to view other people’s perspectives as being worthy of respect. If you don’t agree with her, that made you A Parasite, and therefore Wrong. (The part where she proved you Wrong rather than simply asserting it was apparently cut in editing. Either that or she never bothered to write it. Actually my money’s on the second one.) This is bad enough when it comes to philosophy, but when architectural styles are being described within the novel as “weeds” and “crimes” and “mistakes”, it starts to look a bit stupid. (That’s not even a character talking – that’s the narrator describing classical architecture, which, OK, was apparently a bit overused at the time, but seriously, she goes from “not my cup of tea” to “it’s Bad and Wrong and you should feel Bad and Wrong if you like it”?)

Also, it’s very hard to find the main character sympathetic in any way, in much the same way and for much the same reasons as Warsmith Honsou of the Iron Warriors. Honsou, however, at least has the advantage that we’re not supposed to respect him or agree with him, just to find something operatically cool in his villainy. Howard Roark, however, is not operatically awesome, and we are clearly supposed to agree with him.

The proponents of any philosophy or art style that Rand doesn’t like are inevitably crashingly obvious strawmen whose arguments make no sense whatsoever and boil down to dumb assertions made just so Howard Roark looks good. If I’m being honest, making Roark look like anything other than a sociopath takes a lot more work than just having idiots mouth bad arguments no-one could ever take seriously, but since Ayn Rand couldn’t be bothered making this book not-awful, this doesn’t surprise me.

Based on the first hundred or so pages, not only does it not work as literature, it also doesn’t work as tract. Tracts are supposed to convince people to agree with you. Beating them over the head with how they are Wrong and Stupid and Parasitic to disagree with you is not a productive means of doing so. All it managed to do for me was get my dander up.

I’m still going to finish it. But all five of you owe me big-time for doing this thing you never asked me to do.

– OSM out.

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Nobilis 3rd edition: the lifepath system


It’s good.

Seriously. This is a very cool system.

I started trying to stat up the Power of Silence as an experiment without having a clue what he or she should be like. I even randomly determined a pair of keys: Gorse, Key of Something in Thrall, representing someone struggling against some form of servitude, and Acacia, Key of Something Hidden, representing a dangerous secret.

By the end of the process, I had created a spy working for Lord Entropy, who resented him because the necessity of spying set her apart from her Familia, yet at the same time had a kind of grim respect for him because the first being to show her anything resembling acceptance was the Bloody Imperator.

This is why it’s good for a tabletop RPG: because you can start with only a vague idea and a couple of random numbers and by the end of it have an actual three-dimensional character.

 

(Yes, yes, I know I said I’d be addressing The Fountainhead at some point. That’s scheduled for Friday, when I can do something other than print “OH GODS THE STRAWMEN” fifty times. Although there are a lot of strawmen.)

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