Martens are a grouping of small, fuzzy predatory animals that populate most of the continents in the northern hemisphere. They’re in that category of animals that are uncommon enough that our major point of comparison in European culture is to compare them to things they’re not like, so the comparisons tend to be ‘like a cat, but.’
It’s possible that you’re aware enough of animals to know about ferrets or skunks, and those are the better starting place to talk about martens. They are mustelids, the category of carnivorous mammals that includes otters, badgers, wolverines, and weasels. If you’re curious about how we tell ‘mustelidity’ in things, well, these days we do it with cladistics, rather than just squinting at the animal’s bits, but there are some common traits. Mustelids tend to have elongated bodies, short legs, round ears, and thick fur, which is also why probably the most high profile mustelid is famous for being separated from its fur – the mink.
Martens are forest-dwelling predators that seem to thrive well enough in spaces where there may be territory but not necessarily a lot of space. If you go to a Russian taiga, you’ll find martens there – unable to make large, elaborate burrows in the cold ground like a Badger’s set, they instead run around along tree branches, jumping and bouncing and holing up in small hollows in trees, using the way their bodies are flexible and bendy to make comfortable resting places in ridiculous positions.
We once kept ferrets, and they had this same trait – you’d sometimes find one, curled up in a loop, feet in the air, nose to butt, able to make themselves into a sort of fanged donut any time you left them with something to nestle into. Martens live in these environments by predating on smaller mammals like mice and shrews, hunting birds – which they can even do by springing into the air from branches – and stealing eggs from nests and honey from hives.
Martens are currently ‘least concern’ level of endangered, and they are very cute. They are not domesticated and it is not advised you approach them if you see one in the wild.
Ever feel deeply embarrassed because you misplaced your notes and wound up committing an act of self importance in a way that nobody but you is likely to care about? Yeah, me neither. Anyway, in 1997, Janet Murray wrote a book called Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative In Cyberspace, and that book is a wild ride.
Now this isn’t going to be an Academic Blog Post (I mean I should save those for my Academic blog, smash cut to a bleached white skeleton gathering dust), but the book (which received an update in 2016) is a long form examination of the way that computers and communication technology was going to change our capacity for storytelling, with whole new theatres of technology opened up to the audience who could simultaneously engage with the work presented to them and create feedback loops that meant that the audience could shape the story that they best wanted.
This is kind of how things worked out, and kind of not, and you can look at the way that the internet has deformed the production of shows like Game of Thrones and Westworld for examples. Mixed in this book (which again, I’m only glancing through here) is an idea of the cyberbard. See, Murray was interested not just in how future stories in an online space were going to be created, but interested in how the tools for making those future stories would be created. She conceived of some truly dizzying stories being made at the level of, well, theatrical productions, and largely, the things she predicted did not happen.
Except the things she predicted, then arranged to have made, those are cool.
The notion of the cyberbard roots itself under the bard; the idea that there is a storyteller who can gauge reactions and give proper responses, fed by and feeding the audience in the loop of the communal storyteller. The bard did not just tell you a story they knew, they told you the story you were asking for, and the cyberbard is that same idea, expanded out into the realm of technological constructions.
There are a lot of things to cover in this book (it’s a good book, I liked it), but the idea of the cyberbard as an extension of technology and as an expression of the tools made to make those technologies is one of those ways that sometimes in academia we use small words to look through a mirror at an enormous conceptual space. The cyberbard is a storyteller conceived of and managed by a computer and it’s the way we build the tools that allow a non-cyberbard to make these stories and it’s the way that the rules of a cyberspace create the opportunities for these stories to be made. It’s dizzying!
But, in amongst all of this there are two specific examples I want to bring people’s attention to, because Murray was not writing about videogames, but about communication technology. She talked as much about things we’d identify now as blogs and web serials as she talked about the control interface of Janeway playing in the holodeck.
The first idea is that she suggests that any system of play in which you engage with a narrative, layered upon it, that changes the way you interface with the story, could be seen as a cyberbard. In videogames, this isn’t just the game itself, but rather, a system that lays atop the game, and encourages you to engage with the story in a way you might not otherwise, for a piece of specific feedback.
In this case, the Let’s Play’s need for content is a cyberbard; the twitch streamer engaging their audience is a cyberbard; and so to is the achievement system, directing the player to do things they wouldn’t do simply to be marked as having done it.
The second, and perhaps larger idea is the notion of a transcendental, collective artwork, an example of theatre, where people could gather and discuss and express their wants for the story going forwards, and the author could, in the mean time of the making of the narrative, enact and express that multimedia story. The book seems to think this would be being made like a television series, a soap opera with shooting and actors (even virtualised ones). What she didn’t anticipate was a massively democratised production apparatus, which meant that these dramas were being made not by people with access to enormous budgets, but people who could harness the right kind of focused attention and engagement.
In 1997, I feel, Janet Murray predicted Homestuck, though she never would have said so.
I’ve had this in the drafts folders for two years, get out of here, you curse’d blog post.
I mean, I make fun of the Confederate flag waving assholes, and it’s worth remembering that that’s good, because they’re losers, and they should always be forced to confront that they’re losers, and they lost because they were bad at winning, and this is just a long aside to dunk on the Confederacy. But not all losers are that kind of loser. Sometimes you lose not because you were wrong, or because you were on the wrong side, or because you’re bad, but you lose because the bad people had more stuff. They had more money and more people and they didn’t even realise they were the bad people, because they were removed from the bad things they did.
I think about the people that lose against empires.
I think about Carthage.
I think about Carthage, and the story of Hannibal, a general who tried audacious things and succeeded. I think about bloody battles in the desert by mercenary armies. I think about the strangeness of a country whose big sin was not really doing enough for military infrastructure and how it was the victim of an empire next door that was. I think about how you can win a dozen fights in a row, but if your enemy can handle losing, and you can’t, then it doesn’t matter.
Carthage is on my mind because while history tells us that Carthage lost, there were a lot of times and places in Hannibal’s campaign that he won. There’s a lot of people who were living their lives and having what they thought of as important conversations about the future of Rome and their campaigns for political office and governorship or whatever, and then Hannibal happened to their territory, and they’re just gone.
This is what I’m thinking about, when I’m thinking about this card game I’m making. The different things nobles can do, these little festivals and parties and politics and territorial disputes and fights over who has the best land or best marketplaces, all while quietly aware that you can’t change the future.
That Hannibal is going to happen.
The idea for this game, the idea that I’m working with, is that of a stacked deck. At the start of the game, players get their cards, then the deck gets loaded; you shuffle up and deal out stacks of cards. Into each stack, you shuffle one of a number of cards, then you put those stacks on top of each other. Now you have a deck of events that everyone draws from, to play their cards and live their lives, and then one point, near the end…
One of those things that happens when you develop some expertise (ha ha ha) in a field, you’re going to see your own expertise as an element in the works around you. You’ll see someone doing something and think oh, if only you knew what I did, and then the next thought, oh you should listen to me inform you of what you’re missing. That is, to say, learning can make you into a meddlesome tit.
But despite that warning, this whole thing about Christmas Presents is an interesting discussion of perceptions of values, of what we can value, but my immediate reaction upon hearing the premise, should you give Christmas Presents, and a question that viewed as a way of making people happy is that it’s a game.
Giving people Christmas presents – or any present really – is a game. It’s a game where I am trying to show you you. Now there are constraints – I can’t spend too much, or too little, and I can’t ask you (I mean, I can, but it deflates the game a little). There could be all sorts of mindsets for this game. I could view it as cooperative, where we both win if I get you something that satisfies you and vice versa. It can be competitive – you might be wanting more than you give, you might be wanting to use this to demonstrate power or competence over me, and you might even view it as a game with minimal participation. You want to get out of the game as fast as possible. That leaves all sorts of different attitudes towards the play of the game, but the time spent within this game is play. It’s creative. You test ideas out, you consider options, and then, crucially, with the thing that makes this game really interesting, you make your choice, make it obscured, and reveal that choice at the end of the game.
This is why giving money is gauche. It says I don’t know you. It also doesn’t have any interesting tension associated with it. We disguise gifts in funny boxes or with suspicious wrapping. We even tease one another with the decision.
Now I am studying play and the making of games, so obviously I’m going to see this. I could be fulla nonsense.
Back in the day you did a lot of odd work around the infrastructure of Australia. Power poles and telephone poles were still being put in. It’s funny that now we don’t need them that telephone poles are so comparatively new. Anyway, at the time, my grandfather was sitting, hanging by a strap, to do work on a juncture box – one of the old hard metal boxes full of fuses that were used for determining throughput, fixing fuses, that kind of thing.
Anyway, it seemed that something went wrong in the box, or maybe he messed up – and there was a huge, nasty spark, a belch of lightning that threw him back, off the pole, and kicked him meters away, burned all over. Medical care rushed to help him, kept his eyes covered, and bandaged him up.
Months of healing. Nervousness. Uncertainty. Learning to live in the darkness. Fears he’d lose his sight.
Then, when the time came, when the doctors were as sure that his eyes would be as okay as they could be, they unwound the wrappings from his head, slowly, one by one, letting his burn-healed skill adjust. Slowly, slowly, until finally, they were removed… and he could open his eyes, to see how much damage had been done to his eyes in that moment of lightning.
… and then, he looked around and realised his eyes were fine.
In the flash between the explosion and the impact, his eyes had slammed close, his eyelids had protected him. And this story, we were then told, was proof of how miraculously well-tund our bodies are. Praise Jesus, etcetera.
I heard this story, first, as it was told as something that happened to my grandfather. Then years later I heard someone else, who wasn’t related to me, saying it’d happened to their grandfather. Then some fishing around and it turned out to just be one of those stories, even if it described a phenomenon that could actually happen. It’s a bit like the Bricklayer’s Story.
The thing about this story, the thing that really does nag at me as I go about my day, as I clean my glasses because I know my eyes are getting worse, as I sniff milk to make sure it’s okay, as I run my finger along a surface to detect imperfections in a print, is that sensitivity is so obviously and stupidly important.
Why wouldn’t you want to be sensitive? Your entire body is made up of systems designed to preserve your sensitivity. You check for smells and tastes and touch. You blink to keep your eyes sensitive. You feel pain to keep you from damaging your sense of touch.
In the end, the only person who wants my eyes to be less sensitive is going to sell me glasses or steal from me where I can’t see.
The nicknames podcasts from TTC, a casual magic podcast that seems mostly to not actually be about casual magic so much but is still a good bit of Magic Content that rarely (Iconic Masters aside) spends its time making people feel bad. This episode – and the other ones like it are really cool to me because the Nickname podcasts are sort of an unintentional deep-dive into the details of what cards are doing in their art and mechanics to construct the nicknames. Sometimes it’s making references that don’t connect – like the Metal Gear Solid jokes? But often it’s otherwise examining the art in depth, or examining mechanics in the greater context of MTG history.
I’ve been watching these videos mostly as I do other work, something where if I miss a detail I’m not missing much, but the main thing they show me is interesting ways people applied small, interesting ideas of how toys work, or of what people thought were worth making into toys.
These videos are weirdly comforting to me because so far the philosophy of the channel as I see it, tends to regard these toys as toys. There’s a note about when the toys are played with, when they are appreciated, when they are loved, and a noncompetitive spirit talking about other collectors. Dan is willing to use his own personal preferences, his tastes as a guide, and his talk about these are things he regards as cool rather than things he regards as expensive.
This is something that makes me happy.
Also, weirdly, looking at the silly things we used to make toys out of? Gives me ideas for games. Like that Mighty Max playset shark!
Originally this was just going to be a short note about this curious term I’ve become used to using and relating the anecdote of when I remembered hearing it, and therefore, where I learned it, because it’s a good word. I like it.
The notion of Hyperirrigation is the idea that it’s something that encourages something that doesn’t need it. It’s like watering kudzu, or fertilising bamboo in the hopes it’ll grow even faster, plants that themselves do not need that sort of encouragement (in the environments I’m familiar with them). It’s a word I thought I learned from Christopher Hitchens, describing his view on American Objectivism – that it was a hyperirrigation of the cultural attitude towards selfishness.
I went to find the quote so I could put it in a neat little sconce and share it and appreciate just the word and its contributary nature as an idea while I was sharing it. You know, removing from the totality of Christopher Hitchens, a man who was pro-Iraq invasion and thought Margaret Thatcher was hot, and instead just showing the interesting word he played with and the idea he used it to express. Because even jerks can use words well (and indeed, understanding the wholeness of the jerks who do is a useful tool for understanding people).
And then I went looking for the quote.
And I couldn’t find it.
I did find something similar, but it lacks the word.
“I have always found it quaint and rather touching that there is a movement [Libertarians] in the US that thinks Americans are not yet selfish enough.”
Straight up, I don’t know where I learned this word. What’s worse, is that looking for it, it seems more of a medical term as it relates to nasal irrigation, which is interesting but you don’t want to do an unfiltered google image search for it, trust you me. This puts me in a strange quandrary – because if I didn’t learn this quote from Hitchens as I thought I did, did I invent it? Surely not.
And thus, I share this thought with you. I’m sure as soon as this goes up, someone will happily tell me where they heard it, and it’ll all be solved.
There’s a bit of a thing about ‘fan theories’ being extremely annoying and stupid (looking at you, Game Theorists), and there being a bit of a … backlash? Sidelash? from other fan commentators dismissing them as fanfiction, and therefore, not worth paying attention to. Me, I think that fanfiction needs to be taken seriously, and this video is a great example of ways it can enrich media.
In this work, we have advanced, forward knowledge of how things work since the original story came out, and some meaningless plotholes and a few character details, extra media from other movies – basically, this theory explains something that was never really intended to be there. On the other hand, this creates an interesting version of the reality presented in the story, and what you wind up with is a richer story with a little shift of characters, a little difference in how we perceive the movie from 20 years ago and now.
This is also a practice I learned in Bible Study: It’s called a harmonisation, when two things contradict one another. You construct a new diegesis with fictive information that justifies the conflict.
Some notes about writing and notebooking in the body of a book as it pertains to fluid thinking once you get into the habit of thinking of ‘who told me that,’ you’ll start verifying ideas, of ‘to me, this makes sense,’ becoming less common. The problem with much of us these days, with the world, is a feeling of emotional certainty about what is not necessarily true or even scrutinised. I’m gunna admit my own habit of accepting ideas that roll with how I already think, ideas that tell me, ‘you are doing okay’ and to be honest I don’t think that’s necessarily an evil. You ain’t going to stop your brain doing it, so the next best thing is to refine your responses to the sharpest point possible to look at reflection as a tool for critical self-engagement to make it in an otherwise unexamind and uncritical world. The next thing to do is examine the first word on each shed.
this was originally written at MOAB, hand on paper
Comparisons between Frozen and Moana are sort of a sign that right now, because they’re only one of a small number of films with the similar premise (woman-centered narrative).
The riff in both Jungle Book and Aladdin feel kinda like the Oriental Riff, aka Aladdin’s Cave that opens a lot of other things like Turning Japanese. Like, the iconic ‘Oriental Sounding’ music isn’t from anywhere in the Orient anywhere.
Cultural Appropriation is a big topic and it’s hard to talk about it in Youtube spaces, and it’s even harder to talk about on Twitter.
The Bulgarian choir music thing is just straight up super interesting.
Is this fusional, using Bulgarian choir style with the Inupiat lyrics?
The thing about Librettists and Operatic Composers amuse me juxtaposed with a Gilbert and Sullivan quote because they hated each other so much by the end, because they couldn’t see it as a synthesis of their work.
English is a fixed-stress language; words have a proper emphasis in them, but words don’t have a proper emphasis in a sentence, or rather, the emphasis tends to indicate the subject.
Vocables! There’s like, a language for singing, in a language? That’s super cool! I wonder if it’s also part of transmission/commonality between cultures, so they can all sing the same songs even if their languages change over time and space.
I really do want to see Moana. It looks really great.
God, Lilo and Stitch was also great.
The question of cultural appropriation between Hawai’i and France and Polynesian narrative.
I really, really love the detail that the characters are singing the song in its original language, and then they stop singing it when the language shifts to English. It becomes nondiegetic, which is really cool.
This form of video isn’t actually so demanding of production values. I can do this. I can do this even with Microsoft Movie Editor.
Today, a healthy chunk of video watching people talk about their experiences playing games, found via Youtube random suggestion:
Most of these complaints about games are about what this player experiences and how they prefer to experience games.
Sam Healy’s complaints about Codenames point to one of Codenames’ strengths as a weakness: The game is largely intense, engaging, and quiet. It’s a communication game.
The complaints about Citadels suggest that games can have truly terrible failure states, failure states so deep players can be left without any way to play at all.
Even if the overreaction is comical, the frustration these things speak to is very real.
Consider that Zee complains about Bloodborne having a very grim theme.
Reiner Knizier’s huge library makes it possible he can have his weaknesses shown up. Iterate more you’ll see the problems you have as a designer.
Seafall is such an elaborate experience people are really resistant to call it bad first-up, but with enough time to percolate, all the good memories of the game fade away.
Mathy games are hard to love.
Werewolf as a game requires everyone to be bought into it, to work; yet the game sells itself as inclusive to large groups with a player count sometimes into the sixties.
This suggests there’s a base assumption the game has that lots of people want to play a game where they inherently can’t trust
It also suggests an assumption that lots of people want to play a game with knockouts as solutions
Almost all these complaints are exaggerated and gently so, but can be sorted into individual subjective preferences (such as the Bloodborne theme) and exacerbations of the game (such as Citadels being capable of leaving a player without a turn).
Here’s a thing I’m going to try and do more often. I watch educational programming or advertisements or reviews on Youtube from time to time and I take notes, and then I try to make sure I remember those notes. With that in mind, here’s a little talk about Procrastination I watched today and the notes I took on it.
Shout out to SJA for putting this video in my path.
Emotional intelligence helps you with resisting procrastination
Economic models are very cold and require rational actors
Delays are not procrastination, but procrastination are delay
There are actual developmental barriers here, and you can’t expect everyone to handle this the same way
Negative reinforcement is about avoiding negative things, not about being punished
‘People who are procrastinating,’ not ‘procastinators’
Working Under Pressure is a persistent myth
Procrastination can be connected to more optimistic thought patterns, which I imagine makes it difficult with mental patterns like depression
Goal intentions vs Implementation intentions not ‘I’ll work on the assignment tonight’ but ‘I will do the structural outline of section 2, after dinner.’
Having definitive plans makes tasks seem more handleable.
We’re all familiar with randos – uninvited assholes brigading into our conversations in shared communal spaces. Randos exist in a whole range of contexts. They are sometimes in real spaces, but more often than not, randos are enabled by online spaces, places where they can be independent of their actions, and those consequences. Randos can often be harmless, but they do represent a drain on your time and resources. Try to bear this in mind if you ever go out of your way to identify and define the randos in your environment.
For the purpose of this discussion I will be using the word ‘he’ to describe all Randos. Note this is not an absolute gender thing, I am sure there are people who do not use ‘he’ who could be randos. But every rando I’ve dealt with has been a he. Which is I’m sure, just coincidence.
Ayn Rando:Well, he says, I don’t see why I should have to do things for other people. What’s courtesy and kindness do for me? Marlon Rando: Insists on offering you his time, which you, of course, do not want. This does not seem to perturb him. This is an offer you can’t refuse. Rando Calrissian: Seems to be your friend. May even have some signals to indicate camaraderie. Then he’ll tag the conversation into some complete dickhead and suddenly you’re off to the races. Rando Lee: Starts a conversation and is quite obnoxious, only to disappear around the fifth or sixth response. The account is deleted. They are never seen again. Rando Munroe: Doesn’t seem to have any opinions of his own, but really likes quoting XKCD comics that tangentially relate to what you’re talking about. Ha ha, yes, someone is wrong on the internet, yes. Rando Newman: You can tell there’s a cohesion there to their thoughts and arguments, but they’re just stating them in this pointless, stilted way that just doesn’t have any useful or meaningful connection to what you’re saying. Rando Paul: Like the Ayn Rando, but thinks the real reason you don’t agree with him is because you haven’t heard all the evidence. Rando Savage (Macho Man variety): Doesn’t seem to have anything to say except Oh Yeaaahh. Harmless and in its own way, kinda charming. Rando Savage (DC variety): Jesus christ, where did this asshole come from? Believes in neanderthal population dynamics, and ‘it’s just biology,’ he’s convinced he’s the superior human because he’s embracing ideas that haven’t been useful since the development of agriculture. Rando von Winkle: What year is it? Where are we? What’s ‘third wave’ feminism, even? Somehow this Rando wants to talk about current events or recent history without having an awareness of anything that’s happened at all in easily either of your lifetimes. William Rando Hearst: Convinced he is the real source of news, wishes to inform you about current events as he understands them. Especially in speciality fields like science or videogame journalism where you may, in fact, be quite confident and familiar. Still, without his valuable insight, how would you ever know that Videogame A is better than Videogame B even though you weren’t talking about either of them?
These are not all the kind of Randos you might encounter! There are quite a lot of randos out there in the world. Be sure to document any that you spot, and maybe you’ll find a totally brand new type of rando*! * You won’t, these tired chore behaviours are representative of a very limited set of social parameters.