Tag Archive: Geek Rage

There’s been a lot of jack-assery lately surrounding the geek world, both from some from the newcomers of the last decade or so as geek has gotten popular, and from some from the old salts. Without getting into the specifics (which you may or may not be abreast of), it’s fair to say that the geek world has become one that is mystifyingly hostile to the newcomer, the casual geek, and, horrifyingly, the female.

And I have no idea why. Honestly, why the idiocy here, people? I’m as hardcore a geek as you’re likely to meet, but that’s no reason to be a snob or jackass about it. True, I’ve long espoused my dislike of the newer generation of trendy gamers. But, my dislike there is not that they are new to gaming, but rather that in joining the gaming community they have become exclusionists. They hunt and peck through the gaming world to find games that meet their criteria of “hardcore” and write everything else off with derisions of being casual or too kiddy; and in so doing they miss the entire point of gaming. These tend to be the same ilk that mistake using sexist, racist, and homophobic slurs in online gaming with actual witty trash-talk (trash-talk does have it’s place in gaming, but it’s an art-form that has largely dissolved under the deluge of idiocy). As I’ve also mentioned, this group isn’t necessarily new to the club, just that they now are a larger and more vocal portion of it. And it isn’t just the gamers, the geek club in general seems to have this exclusionist vein running through it; and these ass-geeks are becoming increasingly caustic and obnoxious of late. I’ve mentioned once or twice how stupid it is to be exclusionistic, but I’m a small voice; a blogger with like 20 followers or so.

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Technology is MAGIC!

Close, Google, so very close.
I'm reasonably sure this is an XKCD, but couldn't find it in the giant archive.

I used to be constantly surprised at the gross misconceptions that people have about technology; that is, I was surprised until repeat exposure desensitized me.

Yesterday I was reminded of one of these moments that happened 5 years ago.  I was reading the weekly paper from my alma mater and I came across an article in the opinions section written by a girl who had left her flash drive plugged into one of the computers in the library when she left.  When she came back to get it, it had been stolen, along with the large term paper that was on it and not backed-up anywhere else.  In her article, she went on a huge diatribe at how flash drives were fundamentally flawed because they didn’t notify you that they were plugged in if you got up to leave.  And she blamed society for giving her the misconception that technology will wipe her ass and hold her hand at every turn.  She also blamed scientists for making technology that didn’t wipe her ass and hold her hand at every turn.  She blamed the manufacturers for not sponsoring technology that can do those things.  Really, she blamed everyone but the person who actually deserved the blame: the person who stole her flash drive.  He/she recieved zero blame. Continue reading

The advertising arms race

As many of you are probably aware, the revenue provided from online advertising is on a significant downturn, one that is unlikely to see a rebound. Across the board websites are having a harder and harder time making ends meet on advertising alone. This should hardly be a surprise to anyone given the continuing arms race that exists between online advertising agencies and the consumers they try to victimize and the websites that have helped advertisers do it by accepting their money.

That may sound fairly harsh, but lets step back and take a look at the situation as it has evolved. Originally the intent of advertising was to provide information about your products to consumers in the hope that this information would promote the sale of your products. Dressing up the presentation of the product generally produced better results, but it didn’t take long for advertisers to start outright lying about their products.

This naturally made a lot of people angry, which is understandable because nobody likes to find out that the product that they’ve been sold is really snake oil. Since companies could no longer be trusted to truthfully represent their products, various consumer protection agencies were formed to lay out and enforce the rules by which advertisers needed to operate. Specifically, advertisers can’t outright lie and misrepresent products to consumers. This leads to the issue that most advertisers utilize subjective measures and slogans to promote products, but that’s still better than making blatantly false claims about what the product does.

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The Tragedy of Tales of Legendia

For those uninterested in Video Games, you may want to just head over to Library of the Damned and hang out there today. Very video game intensive post ahead!

Recently (within the last 3 months) I pulled out an oldish PS2 game that TacoMa’am had picked up for me: Tales of Legendia. She’d snagged it for $4.95 from a video rental store that was clearing out all their PS2 inventory. I’ve long been a fan of the Tales series, so it was a lucky find for $5.

It turned out to be $5 extremely well spent, too. In the play-through of the game (and it was much longer than anticipated) I found that it stacked up pretty well with the other entries into the series. The gameplay was solid, the plot and characters were very well done, and the voice acting was spot on (drawing heavily upon the established troupe of voice talent that does dubbing for 90% of the Japanese imported Anime and video games).

Yarr, thar be spoilers ahead!

The game also had an interesting feature where it was really broken into two games. There was the first ‘half’ of the game which followed a very complete plot and has an ending and credits. After the ending and credits you’re thrown right back into the game. As it turns out, you’re only about 1/3 of the way through the game. The second half of the game exists almost as its own entity, with a unifying plot separate from the first half that explores all the characters more completely. The director of the game called this an optional portion of the game, though nobody is sure why. In order to get a “game complete” credit on your game-save and open up New Game+ you HAVE to finish this second part. Further, a lot of the neater aspects of the game (such as the arena, synth-items, side-quests, ultimate-weapons, etc) aren’t available until this second half. And the second ‘half’ is nearly twice a long as the first half and is much deeper and fleshed out whereas the first half feels almost rushed at times (due to the fast pacing). People who have played the game through almost unanimously facepalm at the director’s assertion that the second part of the game is optional; since it clearly isn’t. In fact, if you don’t play the second half, you miss out on at least 3/4 of the game content since there is so much that isn’t unlocked until the second half.

This leads to one of the two tragedies of the game: The voice acting is only in the first half of the game and the second half is just “text bubbles.” It’s a real shame too, because the second half would have come alive if the voice acting had been extended to include it. I’m going to give the makers of the game the benefit of the doubt and assume that they ran out of space on the game disk and just couldn’t fit all the sound files that would be necessary for the second half. It could also have been budget concerns as there would have been several dozen hours of extra recording necessary to add voice to the second half.

The other tragedy of the game was the music. By and large I found myself unimpressed with the music from the game; there were a few very good tracks I liked as I played through, but mostly it didn’t seem well done. However, one of the tracks I really liked so I took the opportunity to get the soundtrack for the game and listen to it, and that’s when I discovered the real tragedy of the music: The music for the game was very well composed, and completely orchestrated (almost unheard of for a PS2 game, and even modern games are rarely fully orchestrated). What went wrong then? The recording studio they hired to record the music did a HORRIBLE job.

If you listen to an orchestral recording that has been done well you’ll notice that it sounds very clean. Individual instruments or instrumental sections have clear definitions, and the different levels of sound are distinct and balanced. This is achieved in a few ways. One way is to record all the instruments separately and then mix them; this used to be very popular, but with better sound systems and recording studios, is not as popular as it once was because such a recording style often sounds less dynamic. Instruments tend not to harmonize as well since they’re either playing alone, or while listening to a recording of other’s playing. In a setting where the instruments are actually playing together, the performers will (often without thinking) adapt to one-another and produce something that sounds more “whole” than when recorded separately and then mixed together.

Thus, productions that can afford to do so will opt for the second method: whole orchestra recording. Disney (and indeed all the big movie producers) have been doing this for decades. It’s technically a harder thing to do, but results in a much better, harmonic product. Often you have to put microphones in individual instruments (key instruments like soloists and first/second chairs), as well as setting up recording for individual sections and further record the orchestra as a whole. Sound directors (those clear plastic sheets you often see at concerts that are being recorded) are used to help isolate sections while still allowing for collaboration of the players. Unfortunately, this kind of recording is much more expensive, requires more equipment, and a larger more carefully designed recording room. Once you have all your recorded material, all the different tracks taken from a single piece of music are overlaid, and mixed back together aiming at producing a balanced and clean sounding recording of the orchestra. If the studio did their job correctly, the result will sound like you’ve got the best seat in the house when listening to the playback. This is why soundtracks of Disney movies sound so direct: they have one of the best recording studios in the business for doing whole orchestra recording.

And then there’s the way the music was recorded for Tales of Legendia. It sounds like they plopped the orchestra in an empty auditorium somewhere and put a single microphone out where the audience would be sitting. They put microphones in a few key instruments, but other than that just one recording of the orchestra from a distance. The sound is horrible. Lots of echo, the instruments blend together and are indistinct, the low (bass) end overpowers the high end in many places, and solos and voice work is far too overpowering because they are recorded directly. It’s like listening to musical chaos most of the time. And it’s worse because the music is actually very good if you listen past the horrible recording/mixing job. Such a tragedy that the game developers could not afford (or chose not to hire) a professional sound stage to do the recording. The whole thing sounds like some of the high school recordings we made of the orchestra I was in: very amateur. Even individual recording/remixing would have produced a far superior product to what was actually produced.

Had the game voiced the second half, and hired a good recording studio to do the music, Tales of Legendia would have easily been a contender for my PS2 top 10, and potentially joined the list of my “Essential Plays.” As it stands though, the poor musical presentation combined with the lack of complete voice acting, plus a few smaller flaws, knocks the game out of the runnings. Top 25 perhaps, but even on the low-end of that.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

NOTE: I’ve mentioned my “Essential Plays” a few times on my blog. Starting soon™ I’ll be using my Monday’s Game spotlights to cover my “Essential Plays” lists.

Loving the Freaks

A few years ago I was at a gaming convention with my wife and one of our friends. While we were waiting in line for… something (badge collection maybe), we met a couple of guys who we took the opportunity to chew the fat with. They were nice enough guys and we had a nice chat in a line that was really, really long. It helped pass the time and we got to gab about gaming.

The next day we ran into them again and they invited us to lunch. So we headed out to a bar and grill, noted for embracing the geek/gaming culture during the convention (they were playing Lord of the Rings on their big-screen when we walked in and advertising their D&D hot-wing special, so we knew we had the right place). During our lunch and conversation with them one of the guys made a comment that stuck in my craw, and ultimately led to me “losing” their contact information:

“I really enjoy [convention], but I don’t know why they allow the furries in there. We don’t need those freaks running around. It’s as bad as when they started letting the Anime people use the small basement rooms to play their crap.”

This struck me as rather hypocritical to say the least. Here we were, a group of 5 twenty and thirty-somethings, going to a convention based around a style of game that is really just glorified make-believe. I didn’t break it to him at the time, but really the whole lot of us are freaks. I’m certainly a freak, my wife is a freak, my friends are all freaks, the only normal one among us is Tron… because he’s too young to really be a decent freak. It seems that if you’re a freak you might as well hang out with them, even if they’re a different brand of freak. As long as both parties are amicable, there’s no issue. There’s plenty of space at the convention to have a few devoted to playing anime, and seeing a guy walking around in bear costume doesn’t really bother me. I’ve been to Disneyland and there are tons of people running around in costumes there, and lines of people waiting to get pictures of it. Similarly, I like Anime, and cartoons in general. A lot of the geek/gaming people double dip into anime/cartoons, so it only makes sense to have it available at the convention. More revenue and more happy customers.

Let’s back up a bit though: Between the grades of 3 and 10, I was about as popular as a mouth ulcer. I played video games, D&D, and wore clothes based on comfort rather than how cool they were. Back in those days that made me unpopular kid number 2, right behind that one kid who always smelled like urine. I had few friends growing up because I bore, rather proudly, the geek label (the same label that is so popular right now… *sigh*). As such, I know very well that it’s difficult and rather lonely being the freak, and that freaks crave company of their same ilk, or at least those who can relate.

As such, the inclusion of the Furry, Anime, and Cosplay societies within the gaming convention always made sense to me. It’s a convention devoted to the freaks who loved make-believe so much that they had to create a massive collection of rule sets for it. We wear costumes, we make foam weapons, we create characters with more vibrant backgrounds than you’re like to see in even a novel, and we even have paintings made of our favored characters. We. Are. Freaks. Putting on an animal costume (for whatever reason) or loving to watch Japanese cartoons and dress up as the characters does not seem all that out of place; it never did. Some of the practices within those groups I find a little… yucky, but as long as they’re keeping that stuff private, they can do what they want. If everything is consensual and nobody is getting hurt, all the power to them; just don’t ask me to watch.

But the view has to be more than that. It’s all well and good to accept the groups that don’t really weird me out that much (and who do have redeeming crafts/interests that I like), but it’s another, harder thing to accept those groups that I find truly bizzar. Technosexuals, Smurfs, Emos, and Juggalos to name a few. If I’m really going to accept the freaks, I’ve got to go the whole way and accept those who I wouldn’t even be comfortable being seen with in public. I have to be better than that, and it’s hard.

It all comes down to understanding why these things make us so uncomfortable, and really, it’s a pretty easy thing to grasp: We are uncomfortable with that which we don’t understand. I can’t fathom why somebody would want to paint themselves blue or dress up like a crazy clown. Because I don’t understand it, and I can’t really relate to it, I naturally shy away from it. Many, like those I lunched with, instantly take the path of hateful exclusion because it’s easy and helps build a sense of worth in your own camp (whatever it may be). By excluding those who are weird, and denouncing them, you declare how normal you must be and how good you are. You get double duty by spacing yourself from that which makes you uncomfortable while at the same time feeding your own ego. It’s an, unfortunately, natural response to what is different. It is why change is so hard for humans, and why social progress takes so long. But, what if you want people to accept what you are? Can you really defend yourself from those hatefully distancing their camps from you if you’re doing the same thing to another?

No, you really can’t. And that’s where loving the freak comes into play. If I really, really want to defend my obsession with games, then I must defend the freak as well. I have to point at the Juggalo and the Emo and say “I don’t like or understand that, but there’s nothing wrong with them wanting to do it.” In the end, all the freaks are in it together; even if we don’t understand each other.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

NOTE: By the same token this is why groups entirely DEVOTED to hateful separation don’t have a leg to stand on. For instance: the KKK is about the biggest group of hypocrites I can think of. They hate those who are different but they are shocked, confused, and angry when people hate them. Seems that they aren’t fond of getting dished out exactly what they are serving. Loving the freak is all well and good, but when the “freaks” in question are hate-mongering douchebags, they’re on their own.

The Downfall of Modern Television

I’m here today to tell you how I know that Television is doomed to failure. It’s not what you’re all thinking either. It isn’t the derivative programming, the repetitive themes, or even the unimaginative shows succeeding while the truly groundbreaking ones are canceled. No, sir. It’s the dwindling number of 90’s style infomercials on late-night TV.

Back in the day (Wednesday, February 17, 1993) the late-night infomercial was a glorious thing. Really you would see one of three things: 1) Ron Popeil from Ronco spazing out about his company’s latest kitchen invention, guaranteed to gather dust in the most expensive way possible; 2) Exercise equipment; 3) People wanting you to get rich being a slum lord of the realestate world.

Just four easy payments of $49.99. And if you order now, we'll throw in Ron absolutely free.

These days, however, informercials have degraded into something base. It started with the Shamwow and Oxyclean informercials, I think. No longer was it about demonstrating the product, but rather shouting at the customer until they gave up and bought the product. From there we slid even further into informercial failure with the Girls Gone Wild advertisemens replacing nearly half of existing late-night informercials. From there, the number of get-rich-quick and realestate informercals rose and the number of wholesome Ronco and other kitchen gadget ads slumped off significantly.

We are living in an age of uninteresting, cut-and-paste infomercials. We are all lesser for it.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?


My computer has been slowly having more and more issues over the past year, mostly to do with the OS getting old and grumpy. This is to be expected since I haven’t formatted and reinstalled the OS in about 4-5 years; it’s way overdue.

Well, last night the harddrive decided to get in on that action. I punched my computer on, waited for Grub to load up… and waited… and waited… error 25… WTF?! I tried a few more times before figuring that maybe I was having trouble with the master boot record. I reloaded Grub, fixed a corrupted boot file, and started it up again. And waited… and waaaaaaaiiiited… READ ERROR?!

So, I decided to try a different boot loader. That failed. So, getting nervous about all the data that I kept meaning to back up but hadn’t, I pulled the drive and walked it over to the media pc and hooked it up with my USB converter. Luckily I was able to pull almost all of my data off the drive, so I felt better.

Back to the drawing board I decided to try another master boot loader. This time boot up got a little further before crapping out; at least the boot loader came up. A few more tries and I actually got the OS to load… but it was corrupted and I had to refresh the base files back to install in order to get it working.

A quick check of the harddrive with some diagnostic software shows that there is a flakey cluster dead centered in the boot sector; the hard drive will never be a reliable system boot again. So today I get to go shopping for a new hard-drive, and this weekend I get to rebuild my OS. Wonderful.

-Confustion is a state of mind, or is it?

Bullshit Historical “Facts”

A few years back I was reading a little blurb somewhere that cataloged a set of historical “facts.” Among the facts was one that has always made my gorge rise:

“On July 4th, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress. That day, King George III of England wrote in his personal journal ‘Noting of importance happened.'”

Something immediately struck me as not quite right about that little factoid the first time I saw it… and it took me a few minutes of considering to figure out exactly why this “fact” was utter bullshit. I’ll tackle the less obvious reason it’s crap first: It’s pretty contrived and obviously meant to appeal to one’s sense of nationalism. One is supposed to think “That ass! No wonder we won; they totally underestimated our forefathers!” Generally if something is being rather obvious about making you feel good about yourself in a nationalistic way, it’s a lie. And this is a lie, oh baby is it a lie.

Even IF the “fact” was true, it would still be bullshit. The Declaration was signed at the beginning of July in 1776. Remember, 1776. That is important right there and I’m hoping most of you have picked out the problem with the “fact” by now. In 1776 the only way that King George III could get word that the colonies had declared independence was by messenger. A messenger that would have to travel across the Atlantic Ocean by ship. A trip that would take, with prevailing winds and an immediate departure, at least 3 weeks. So even if the “fact” is true, it would be a coincidence and nothing more. There is no way that King George III would know what had happened in the American Colony that day. He couldn’t just check a text message from any of his agents to get the low down of the situation. It was likely a month or more before he was informed of this rebellion.

So yes, coincidental facts are fun… but ultimately bullshit. And after all that, it’s a pretty trivial thing that King George III never actually kept a journal. Yup, you guessed it: the “Fact” is a bald faced lie anyway. It seems that this “fact” first appeared on the show X-Files during the finale episode of the 8th season as a fictional plot device. It has since been regurgitated as fact by people without enough brains to actually do some research of their own. Fun, yes?

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

Major League Sports are… fun?

I’m a self admitted geek and dork.  Take that as read.  Many in the geek world don’t understand Major League Sports, which makes sense given that during my era those who were most interested in sports were also those dumping us into garbage cans and stealing our He-Man lunch pails. Sophomore year in college was rough.

Anyway, I don’t like Major League or really any organized spectator sports.  I like playing the games because many of them are fun and they are games – and I’m all about games.  However, watching others play games has never really been something I found terribly fun; and sports are no exception.  Watching two teams play a game with players who make more in a week than I do in a year just doesn’t hold any appeal to me.  It’s not that I don’t understand sports, I do, but that understanding adds to my disdain of organized professional sports.

It all comes down to human instinct and tribalism.  As a species who tend to view our own worth based on the perceived worth of the groups (tribes) we belong to, it’s only natural that we would form our own champions that we can use to compete with other tribes as a way of determining dominance.  If our sports team is doing better than yours, then we are obviously better than you are in some very important way.

Problem is, for me, there is a disconnect between myself and the champions of my tribe.  I find I can take no pride or satisfaction in any victory my champions acquire because it has utterly nothing to do with me.  I don’t train any of the players, help them practice, decide when they should join or leave the team, set up the games, etc.  I don’t even pay to see the games, so I don’t even contribute monetarily to their existence.  I’m sure my tax dollars go to them in some form or another, but truth be told, I generally vote against giving money to sports teams – so my contributions are at gun point.  I’m a jerk like that.  So when people around me talk about how good “our” team is doing, I twitch a bit, make vague statements that seem to suggest I’ve been following the sports and can carry on a conversation, all the while looking for an excuse to leave the room.

Those who follow sports are free to it, but for my part I take no joy in the competition of “our” overpaid, iconic champions.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

This Monday’s game is the very first feature of a game I didn’t really like, Angry Birds.

Angry Birds is a wildly popular iPhone game released in December of 2009 produced by Rovio. It is, unfortunately, a conceptual rip-off of a flash game made by Armor Games called Crush the Castle which was released 8 months before Angry Birds and sports a suspiciously similar game mechanic of lobbing stuff at structures to kill the things inside.

The basic gameplay of Angry Birds is pretty simple: You have a collection of varying birds which must be used to break through or knock down structures in order to kill the pigs inside the structures. Each variety of Angry Bird behaves differently, some you just lob and hope you hit something, others you click while they’re in the air to activate their secondary abilities (such as splitting into 3 birds, or charging the structure with a high speed ram).

Die Piggy!

As I mentioned before, I’m not really a fan of this game. And I’m not entirely sure how it ever became as popular as it did. It’s possible that my dislike of the game stems mostly from the fact that I’d played both the Crush The Castle games first and found Angry Birds to be very similar yet lacking in fine control. So far as its popularity is concerned, I contribute that mostly to being the first half-way decent phone game to be made. Most phone games before Angry birds were little more than puzzle games that had been ported to the phone as kleaky clones of much better puzzle games (Pipe dream, Tetris, Bust-a-Move, and Bejeweled being popular games to knock-off for phone clones). Angry Birds was one of the very first games made specifically for smartphones with any kind of reasonable production.

As I didn’t, until recently, have a smart phone, I didn’t really know what all the hype was about. Recently, Angry Birds was ported to Google Chrome and I finally had the opportunity to play it; I still don’t know what all the hype is about. But I will say, the one good part of the game is listening to the birds make their weird noises. The birds going “YEAAAAHHHHHHHH EHHAHAHAHA!” is, unfortunately, the best part of the game for me.

Many people like this game, some like it a lot, and others are obsessed. They are entirely allowed, as I’m sure I love games that they loathe. Play what you like to play, and damn the world if they don’t like it. For my part, though, I’ll be playing something else.

-Confusion is a state of mind, YEAAAAAAHHH EHAHAHAHAAHA!