Thursday, October 30, 2008

To live is to hurt others, and through others, to hurt oneself. Cruel earth! How can we manage not to touch anything? To find what ultimate exile?

I cut off part of my finger today on the table-saw. It didn't hurt, it was so quick and clean. I thought it was just a nick but then I saw the blood.
After the doctor and the stitches I knew that it was true.
That metal had taken a part of me. I had sold my labour and it had cost me part of my body.
There was no blame to place but upon my own shoulders. I did it in a hurried moment, trying to be fast and correct.
It ended up as neither. It was bloody and crooked and even slow. Especially slow as we drove to the hospital and it throbbed and bled.
I passed out in the Ford F-350, bleeding and starting to shiver. I just felt cold and wanted to go home.
I suddenly missed my father and understood everything.
It wasn't as though I had lost my finger but it was enough.
I didn't cry. I kind of wanted to but I giggled instead, the way I do when I am injured. I laugh like a fool; bones broken or spirit crushed, laughing.
I lost a part of my body today and I guess I feel a little sad now about it. I miss it, it was mine and I didn't take care of it well enough.
I'll be more careful in the future, I guess.
For now, I am wounded and I feel badly.
I miss you, finger-tip. I'll think of you often and even hide my hand in my pocket, feeling shame for neglecting to care for you.
I bled today and I lost my finger-tip.
I thought of you and how I felt when I left.
I bled then, too, when I got drunk and drove and sped through those red lights in the Japanese country side, praying for a crash.
I am sorry for everything and I am sorry like I am for my finger.
It was once a part of me but through carelessness I lost it.
I miss it and it hurts.
I have 9 more, though, so fuck it.
Tomorrow is tomorrow and judge me not as I am just a man.
I will learn to respect that which is stronger than flesh, someday.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Hot document: the Dead Space memo

Dead Space
Publisher: Electronic Arts


So, you've discovered your ship has been overrun by alien mutant space zombies. As a horror-game victim, it is your responsibility to ensure that your final hours are spent making the environment as creepy and spine-tingling as possible for those sent to investigate the carnage. To that end, a few simple rules should be followed.

First, as soon as it's clear that you're all going die and/or be space-zombified, begin covering every available surface with spooky and/or deranged graffiti. Lament your fate, give dire warnings of doom, rail against the absent, pervert God who would allow such horrors in His universe... just have fun with it! If, too late, you happen to discover the secret to destroying the space zombies, be sure to use your dying breath to scrawl this handy tip onto a wall, in your own blood if at all possible.

Second (the so-called “BioShock rule”), as the enormity of your fate, the fate of your shipmates, and the fate of all Humanity should this horror be allowed to spread begins to dawn on you, take the time to record a few audio-visual log entries. If the Internet has taught us anything, it's that no-one – not even a lone adventurer surrounded on all sides by bloodthirsty mockeries of nature -- is too busy they can't take time to catch up on other people's diaries. Sure, it might not seem to make sense to shout your final cry for help into an audio recorder, as if the tape is some kind of message in a bottle that might magically find its way to the Space Marines in time for military assistance to be dispatched, but a hysterical plea abruptly cut off by static goes a long way toward creating all-important atmosphere.

Speaking of atmosphere, remember: you're not just setting the scene for a horror-shooter, you're setting the scene for a survival-horror-shooter. As you scramble in panicked terror through the blood-drenched abattoir your ship has become, do what you can to help our hero survive! Leave your locker stocked with oxygen tanks and medical packs; strew ammunition in your path like bread crumbs as you flee the clutches of the Tentacle Thing. And, if you're called upon to go crazy and disable the ship, make sure you sabotage the systems in such a way that a single individual can bring things back on line with a few critical key-presses. Above all, leave all your cash money in plain view! Space-zombie infestation is no excuse to jam up the wheels of commerce, and a man with a zombie at his throat is the very definition of a “motivated buyer”.

Finally, the Corporation would like to thank you in advance for your hard work in turning the USG Ishimura into a first-rate madhouse of unspeakable atrocity. The decision to create a horrific mix of corporate greed, blind scientific zeal and lunatic religious fervor was not taken lightly. As you know, the Meddling With Forbidden Secrets industry is highly competitive; we're confident that the can-do spirit and attention to detail you brought to your work as a space miner will propel us to success in this grisly and lucrative new market.


Management, Concordance Extraction Corporation

Big Buck Huntin'

Cold dawns in the foothills, morning mist laying over stubble and pasture, pooling thick in the low places. Bare-bone trees and leaves on the ground... I'm thinking of ear-flap caps, bright vests over camo, pickup trucks and thermoses of black coffee... the grey chill split by a crack of gunfire. Hunting season.

I've never hunted, myself, though I figure I'd have a den's worth of trophies by now if all the idle (and kind of ominous) offers to “take me out sometime” I've had over the years had been realized. Still, out here in the rural/semirural places, you can feel the excitement in the air as brief autumn winds down to early winter – here come the pleasant buddy-days afield; here comes some damned delicious eatin'. And just as the excitement of hockey season spills over into street hockey, table hockey, fantasy hockey and hockey video games, so does the excitement of hunting season spill over into gaming: in the taverns and saloons, loonies by the roll disappear ever faster into the coinslots of Big Buck Hunter cabinets.

The most present thing about Big Buck Hunter is the sound. Not the in-game audio of gunfire, running deer and flapping wings – that's usually well drowned by the jukebox, the band, or the general high-decibel rhubarb of barroom bullshitting – but the relentless plasticky clattering of the game's candy-colored shotgun controllers being pumped rapidly and relentlessly. Chakka-chakka-chakka-chakka-chakka-chakka! This virtual sportsman's paradise also offers the fantasy of hunting with unlimited Hollywood-style rapid—fire reloads.

So there's your answer to the question of why a real hunter would be into a hunting video game, especially when the season's open and the real thing is just a sick day away: because it's so fake it's awesome. It's the same reason why a musician would play Rock Band or a skateboarder would play Tony Hawk. Video games are their own thing, their priorities and prerogatives utterly unlike those of the activities whose names they appropriate. You're not “hunting” in Big Buck Hunter any more than you're “killing hookers and taking their money” in Grand Theft Auto; you're playing Big Buck Hunter.

If anything, the fantasy forests and fields here presented are even more outlandish in comparison to hunting's reality than even Guitar Hero's version of rock stardom is in comparison to the life and times of an actual touring musician. Just stand back and look at what's happening on that screen: nearly every square inch of screen space is taken up by tawny digital deerflesh, ungulates streaming through the field of vision in endless gamboling cascades, an environment so rich in targets the key challenge isn't so much to bag your bucks but to somehow avoid hitting one of the harem of does prancing around like Secret Service agents, desperate to take a bullet for their mates. Big Buck Hunter is the Big Rock Candy Mountain of hunting, all that's missing is a Bacon Tree and a creek running with hot coffee and Crown Royal.

But every Garden has its Serpent, right? Paradisaical as the glades and trails of Big Buck Hunter may be – and they are little paradises; you should see the Promised-Land look on a hunter's face as he pauses to gaze at the peaceful scene before the virtual twig snaps and the deer break and run – it wouldn't be a game if there weren't challenges. Now, I know that at the higher echelons of Big Buck Hunter play – like Golden Tee, the Grand Old Man of the boozecan arcade, Big Buck Hunter offers online tournaments and global leaderboards – there are some serious skill elements in the pursuit of perfection, but for most casual players the greatest challenge to overcome is the goddamn guns themselves. I have yet to play a single session where one or both of the players doesn't curse the shit-ass, broad-side-of-a-barn targeting of his chosen weapon. As a hopeless nerd, I compensate by retreating farther into fantasy, pretending I'm playing Stormtrooper Safari, TK-421 and his nearsighted buddies on a little leave from Death Star duty...

You can eventually figure out how badly fucked your aim is, of course, and adjust to compensate, but that takes time... and time costs loonies. Precious, precious loonies that might otherwise be beefing up the anemic tips you've been giving the barmaid. Better to forget precision, and revel in the manic, scattershot, let-God-sort-em-out fusillade Big Buck Hunter allows you: chakka-chakka-chakka-chakka-chakka-chakka-chakka-chakka...

Friday, October 17, 2008

"Ask the river about it, my friend! Listen to it, laugh about it!"

I am alive.

I am grateful to you all for this gift.

Thank you, my friends.

May you find it.

I love you.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I am opposed to millionaires, but it would be dangerous to offer me the position.

I offered this poster to a dear friend of mine, this poster makes me think of her. Strong and dreamy. I love you, C.H.

I bought a lotto ticket today. I don't think I will win but I like the fantasy. For $2 I can have 3 days of thinking about what I would do with $10,000,000.
That's a good deal.

The first fucking thing I would do is buy a Land Rover. Then I would drive to Mexico while wearing no pants and laughing like a monkey.

That's it. I don't know what else I would do or not do.
No idea.
At all.

"The mind has to be empty to see clearly."

I felt bad about myself for a while today. I felt as if I had made a mistake somewhere, and I couldn't see exactly where. I was trying to trace the route like a road map, except I couldn't even find the road I was on, nevermind the one I had deviated from.
I couldn't understand it and I felt badly. I felt like I had cheated myself of something but couldn't recall what it was.

I had the diamond saw this morning and was going through 1/8 inch corrugated steel. The sparks were incredible but I couldn't see and was constantly cutting wide. I rolled a cigarette and waited while the sun climbed over the mountains in the East.
Mt. Baker is imposing, even from that distance.
I was happy when the sun rose and I could see where I was cutting.
When the Fraser Valley had filled with mist and the deep chill began to lift I could see the chalk lines and paint markers for where the glue lam beams were.
I cut well and felt good. I forgot about feeling lost and the sun warmed my back there on the roof of the Hollyburn Country Club.

I worked with Lee after that and we built box-frames for concrete pads that would house air units, etc., on the roof.
Lee showed me how to build a chased-frame today, where the nailed end of each 2x4 overlapped the following 2x4; 'chasing' it.
Lee has been sober from meth and heroin and booze for two years and lives in a recovery house with 13 other men. Lee is a carpenter and the handle of his hammer is wrapped in white electrical tape. He laughs a lot.
Lee called frame-chasing "chasing the dragon". "Get to work, fuck. Chase the dragon". He would yell that with the flash of white from his hammer coming down on the 3 inch common nails he used and swore by.
"Chasing the dragon is fine, fuck, but if a big gust of wind comes along you are fucked" he said, "You wanna get the job done you use a fucking 100cc rig. You don't miss when you go for vein, fuck".
I liked that Lee told me about his fall, his bottoming-out as a man. There was no apology in his stories or his voice. He knew what had happened and he spoke freely as the judgements of others meant nothing to him. He already knew.
Lee reminded me that I felt strongest when I was picking myself up.

I liked working with Lee and he was a good teacher for me today. His words would switch between work and addiction, heroin and 2x4's, life and carpentry.
There was warmth in his voice when he told me about building frames or smoking meth; there were warnings and suggestions for both.

I forgot about feeling bad today when Lee showed me that I hadn't missed anything, I hadn't lost anything. I was where I wanted to be and I was there through pure will on my part.

“What if a demon were to creep after you one night, in your loneliest loneliness, and say, 'This life which you live must be lived by you once again and innumerable times more; and every pain and joy and thought and sigh must come again to you, all in the same sequence. The eternal hourglass will again and again be turned and you with it, dust of the dust!' Would you throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse that demon? Or would you answer, 'Never have I heard anything more divine'?”

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Election time tunnel

I was playing Manhunter: New York when this shit went down. Because you know what's coming, the raised-eyebrow glance over the glasses is thrilling. But because you know what's coming after what's coming, and then what came after all that, it ends up pretty depressing.

Monday, October 06, 2008

LittleBigPlanet: crazy shit toolkit

A quick look at my search history (only slightly redacted) over a day of fooling around with Sony's snugglestyle platform-playbox LittleBigPlanet shows a rapid arc from eager curiosity to wholly bought-in obsession: “littlebigplanet levels” -- looking for videos to while away the beta demo download time; “littlebigplanet tutorial” -- that's when I was hoping to learn the secrets of how dudes were coming up with some of the crazy shit I was seeing; “how to knit” -- when my love of woolen mascot Sackboy bubbled out into desire to snuggle him/it for real, for ever.

Developed by Media Molecule, whose founders were responsible for the indie Rag Doll Kung Fu, LittleBigPlanet's prototype working title was “Craftworld”, a name that bombs from a marketing perspective – sounds like something you'd leaf through out of boredom while your Mom shops for scrapbooking supplies – but actually describes the game well. LittleBigPlanet takes the aesthetics of DIY handcrafts and grade-school dioramas, all chunky fabrics, corrugated boxboard, rubber stamps and glitter, and puts them in front of an almost unspeakably robust toolkit and engine for the creation of physics-based platform-game worlds.

Level editors are nothing new; as far back as Lode Runner in 1983 games were shipping with construction sets that let users design their own playspaces and/or use game elements to draw cocks and spell out swear words. It's much less common for the toolkit to be the game, to have creating and sharing content as the whole point of the experience, to have exploring content created by others comprise the overwhelming bulk of gameplay. Sure, LBP comes with plenty of pre-made material, but the only meaningful reason to play through “story” mode is to earn more tools for your kit and to get a glimpse of what those materials might make possible.

Did I say “overwhelming bulk”? That's an understatement, if anything. The game's still a couple of weeks from its official retail release, but the handful of people playing this preview beta – a few tens of thousands worldwide, a relative drop in the bucket – have cranked out enormous quantities of content, powering through the curve of learning and accomplishment from tentative first steps to near-masterpieces in maybe ten days of activity. One short afternoon's power-drive through this cloud of creativity, and you'll see some crazy shit you won't believe, constantly pushing LBP's engine to, through, and beyond the limits of what you might have thought it capable of.

Gamers being gamers, our culture of old-school reference, homage and parody is exceedingly well represented. The first thing you might notice as you orbit around LBP's planetoid menus are dozens of attempts at recreating favorite Super Mario Bros. levels, with various levels of success. From straight re-creation – Sonic's in there, too, and Mega Man, all done up in virtual burlap, paper and felt -- you go on to the adaptations: Grand Theft LittleBigPlanet, LBP Miami Vice, Indiana Jones and the LittleBigTemple of Doom, LittleBigSilent Hill, a Shadow of the Colossus riff that has to be seen to be believed...

Speaking of Silent Hill, by the way, there's another exciting thread of LBP creation, a vector that's inevitable whenever toolkits are opened and an open commons established: subversion. A mathematically trivial quantum of time elapsed between the launch of the beta and the posting of the first levels actively subverting the game/tool's wholesome wuzzy-snuggle style, deploying shapes, textures, sounds and physics to create dark places, horrible dungeons, bloodbathed abbatoirs and weird German-expressionist noir spaces where Paper Mario meets The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari by way of Godzilla.

Then, subversion beyond aesthetics – subversion of mechanics. Limits-testing geeks putting the dazzling flexibility of LBP's Rube Goldberg mechanisms to work tricking what is basically a run-and-jump platform-game engine into becoming, for example, a vertical shooter a la Space Invaders. Or a trivia game. Or an excruciatingly difficult Lunar Lander riff. Or a machine that uses LBP's sound-trigger elements to play the intro, first verse and chorus of Sweet Child o' Mine. Or – most subversive of all – a side-scrolling shooter: the pace of technical development aimed at giving sweet, pacific little Sackboy a big motherfuckin' gun to tote is dizzying.

This pace of innovation is powered in large part by a degree of sharing that goes one step beyond merely making levels available. Creators can choose to present their lovingly crafted gimmicks and gewgaws as rewards for completing their levels: play through some guy's military-themed level, for example, and you might come away with a functional model tank you can then add to your own creations, take apart to study its workings, modify as you see fit. Inasmuch as comparisons of games to film may or may not be valid, imagine: watching Touch of Evil rewards you with all the technical details and resources necessary to realize a four-minute continuous tracking shot; sitting through The Ten Commandments gives you a complete Pharaoh's Throne Room set to use in your next student film.

Sony's hoping to make Sackboy the face of the PlayStation 3, a mass-friendly mascot to soften the console's steely hard-core image heading into the midgame of this generation's battle for market share. It might work; the little bastard's adorable as all hell. But beyond the cuddliness and the frolicsome jingle-jangle of a soundtrack from The Go! Team, LittleBigPlanet is a populist game-making tool of almost terrifying power, and it just might change the medium for good.

Thursday, October 02, 2008