Archive for February, 2006
Yesterday I promised something HUGE, and here it is:
mikeschramm.com has a podcast.
Today I am totally proud to introduce “Happy Time,” a podcast from the people who bring you mikeschramm.com.
Actually, that’s me, and my friend Luke Lindberg. For a long time, we’ve had very interesting conversations, and since I started out in radio, we always thought it would be fun to have a radio show. But nobody on radio would actually give us airtime, of course. And so earlier this year, we decided to try and put together a podcast. After a few weeks of debate about a name, a theme song, and what color the site should be (you know, the important stuff), we have cobbled together a system that will let us broadcast– err, podcast a half hour show every week.
So click on over to mikeschramm.com/happytime, and check it out. This week’s show is our first, so we’re still messing with the technical side of it (and the writing side– I don’t think I’ll ever be doing any more impressions again), but we still think it’s a good time, and there’s lots more where it came from. If you like the show, or hate the show, or have ideas for the show, we’ve set up firstname.lastname@example.org to get all of your input.
And even if you don’t have any ideas, don’t worry, because we have plenty. Next week on the show, we’ll have our very first contest ever, so we’ll get a little audience participation going. We’re planning to have guest stars and interviews. I’d like to put my radio production skills back to work and get a little drama in the mix. And above all, we’ll try to make it at least a little funny. I’m not guaranteeing, you know, Green Acres levels of hilarity, but we’ll do what we can.
So enjoy. And, even though I just realized I completely forgot to say it on the show this week, be happy.
Tomorrow, mikeschramm.com will premiere SOMETHING HUGE. Be there.
Things That I See Every Day In Chicago But Never See in St. Louis
A bustling public transit system
The Sears Tower
Local tabloid newspapers
Billboards of national ad campaigns
People riding bikes
Things I See All the Time in St. Louis, But Never in Chicago
Free parking lots
Schnucks and Dierbergs
Grass (the green kind)
Gas stations with prices below $2.50
Dead end roads
This has been all over the blogosphere but I decided I wouldn’t post it until someone sent it to me. Yesterday someone did, so before I head to St. Louis this weekend, here you go.
Four jobs I’ve had:
1. Packer/shipper at Mailboxes, Etc.
2. Weekend DJ on WINK 106
3. Gamestop Assistant Supervisor
4. Assistant Producer (a.k.a. Intern) for “Leeza Gibbons’ Hollywood Confidential”
Four movies I can watch over and over:
2. Batman Returns
4. The Usual Suspects
Four places I’ve lived:
1. Creve Coeur, MO
2. Ithaca, NY
3. Los Angeles, CA
4. Chicago, IL
Four TV shows I love:
2. The Critic
4. Arrested Development
Four places I’ve vacationed:
1. Houston, TX
2. Orlando, FL
3. Seattle, WA
4. Toronto, Canada
Four of my favorite foods:
1. Pad Thai
2. A good cheeseburger (In ‘n’ Out springs to mind)
3. Barbeque Chicken Pizza (specifically from Pizza Aroma in Ithaca, NY)
4. Mike’s ‘Mazin’ Meatballs (a self-made recipe)
Four sites I visit daily:
Four places I would rather be right now:
1. Playing World of Warcraft
3. Christmas morning
4. In the company of old friends and family
The other day I heard this joke about “President” (shudder) Bush:
Donald Rumsfeld is giving the president his daily briefing.
He concludes by saying: “Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed.”
“OH NO!” the President exclaims. “That’s terrible!”
His staff sits stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching as the President sits, head in hands.
Finally, the President looks up and asks, “How many is a brazillion?”
Then, yesterday, Bush said the Arabian company that might take over a bunch of ports should be held to no different standards than a “Great British company.” Although it’s been used before, that’s quite the adjectival phrase. I wonder if Dubya has a problem with the whole “names of countries” thing.
(this is a lot funnier if you pronounce everything with that smirky Texas accent)
State of the Union 2007
Good evening, my fellow Americans.
As some of yall may have noticed, ever since Iran for office so many years ago, I seem to be having Laos of trouble understandin’ all these foreign countries we got.
Now at first I couldn’t Fiji exactly why I had Togo and learn myself all of these names. America is the country with the most freedom in the world, and with freedom comes power, and with power comes no responsibility at all, right?
But Condi told me I had to learn ‘em all. I admit, I Haiti’d doin’ it. But when she gave me a list of all these countries’ names, it worked like a kick in Dijbouti, and I learned ‘em quick. I don’t know if ya’ll have noticed yet, but I’ve been Russian to use some of them already! Thanks, Condi! I Libya, girl!
Now, my fellow Americans, I’m Ghana talk to ya about the state of the nation. How much time I got to do this? Is that clock set to Central Time or East Timor? Ha!
Ok, thanks, Dick. I know I’ve got to e-Vatican the premises out of here before you get Hungary!
But if I can be Suriname for a moment, ladies and gentlemen of Congress, I want to make education a priority for every single Chile in this country. We’ve got to make sure our kids Congo to college. We’ve got to make sure they’re Guinea get the educations they need! I’m tellin’ ya, kids, we’re going to Armenia with the power of knowledge, and make a clear path for you to walk on! Ain’t nobody going to get in Norway!
Kenya can say an “Amen” for me?
Nobody? What are you all, Estonia? I haven’t done that since college!
But Syria, folks, our Army needs all the funding it can get to Dominica our enemies around the world. And you countries out there, if you oppose us, Albania from the face of the earth. If Uganda behave yourselves, we’ll Burundi you in the sand. Don’t arouse my Ireland.
Oman, I’m almost out of time. Let me just Czech my watch. Rove promised that I’d have enough time, but looks like Egypt me.
In Columbia, ladies and gentlemen, I’d like Jamaica understand what I’m speaking to you about. These are times of great Peru that we live in. But fortunately, freedom isn’t just an idea. or a fake. It Israel. That thought will be, as the Spainish say, our “El Salvador.” And that’s not just something I sit on the France about– I firmly Bolivia it.
Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. May God Bless Australia.
Every Time I Think I’m Out…
I don’t know how this happened. I really thought that, finally, I was completely done with World of Warcraft.
You’ll notice that I haven’t written about it for a long time. That’s because I haven’t played it in a long time. After a particularly rough couple of trips through an instance, I was surprised to find (this was maybe a month and a half ago) that I just didn’t care much anymore. Sure, getting armor was cool, but it was just another picture on the screen, to be replaced with yet another depending on whatever drops I happened to come across. And, as any WoW player knows, in the mid 50s, which is where my main character is, things slow down. A lot. It’s not like you get a level a day anymore– you’re lucky to get a level a week.
So I really thought I was done. I did have a goal to actually get to 60 (which, admittedly, I’m still planning to do at some point), since I figure I at least have to somewhat beat the game. But every time I played it, I found myself more and more turned off by the inocuousness of it all. WoW, for some reason, just seemed… kind of… boring.
I played a few times this past weekend to try to get back into it. After all, I’m still playing the monthly fee– I should at least get some of my money’s worth. But I only played a few hours, and even then didn’t really get into it.
And then, last night, I decided to switch over and play my priest.
My main character is a warrior, which is the exact opposite of a priest. Warriors can sit there and take damage– priests can’t. Priests sit back and cast spells– warriors don’t have a spell to speak of. Priests heal, warriors hurt.
And so at first I discovered why I’d quit playing my priest in the first place– I sucked at it. I couldn’t seem to get the spells right. Even the lowest of enemies could rock me. It wasn’t as fun as the warrior, where I could just go into battle, and hit everything repeatedly until only I was the last one standing. In fact, as a warrior I could kill things, and that wasn’t fun anymore. As a priest, I couldn’t, so it wasn’t fun at all.
Until I made what might have been my fatal mistake. I read a priest guide. All over the internet, you can find guides on how to play classes in WoW. And I read one.
And I discovered I’d been playing the thing all wrong. I was shielding when I should have been using Renew. I was Mind Blasting when I should have been Power Wording.
So with my newfound knowledge I went back to the game. And I rocked it.
Completely rocked it. I was killing two, three things at a time, with plenty of health and mana left. I was wiping out whole quests in minutes, getting all kinds of drops I’d never thought I’d get. And the weirdest thing is that, maybe because I was doing so well, the World of Warcraft became real to me again.
And I mean real. I could see the grass move in the wind. I heard wolves bark in the distance. The music seemed mysterious to me again. I found a new item to wear, and thought my character looked pretty darn cool.
No– I thought I looked pretty darn cool.
I didn’t turn the game off until two in the morning, long past my bedtime. I haven’t stayed up that late playing this game in months.
So now I’m back in. Curse you, Blizzard, but you made me find a little bit of gameplay, a little niche of experience in this gigantic game that I hadn’t found before. And now, my life is wrecked for another week.
So if you’ll excuse me, I have to go. My priest is calling, and, even though I can’t believe it, I have to answer.
I’ve been playing Advance Wars DS a lot lately. It’s a strategy game where you fight turn-based wars with little men and tanks.
Before the Battle
Listen up, men.
It’s going to be tough out there. I’m not going to lie to you. You’re all little red men and tanks, and there’s some black men and tanks out there, and they can’t wait to kill you. They’re going to be coming at you, one turn at a time, and when they reach you, there’s going to be some bloodshed.
Some of you won’t be coming back alive. Some of you won’t be coming back… at all.
Now, I’ve trained. I’ve gone through all the training levels, and learned each of your strengths and weaknesses. I know infantry is good against mechs, and that tanks are strong against ground forces, and only anti-aircraft guns will take down choppers. I’ve practiced with those bombs, and I’ll get you in position as quickly as possible to capture cities. We’ve got a hell of a chance, guys.
But you have to admit, in these later levels, this is a tough game. A really tough game. And things might happen out there. Bad things.
We might be on the bus, and I might be looking up, trying to see if my stop is coming up, and I just might forget that artillery is very weak and needs to be at least one space away from the things it’s attacking. I just might forget that APCs do more that resupply– they allow very fast troop transport. And I might even forget that I’ve got a SuperPower I can put in effect– you never know, I might reach the end of my turn, and realize I should have tagged out my COs.
And when that happens, men, you’re going to die. Your little figures are going to explode, right there on the field. Sure, you won’t bleed, and it won’t be as bad as war really is, but who knows where you go when you get blown off that little screen? I don’t. Maybe it’s heaven.
Or maybe it’s hell.
So before you head off to an eternity undefined, make your stand here! I’ll send you to your positions– go to them proudly! Because you, you men and tanks, are members of my army! And we all fight together for rank points, and upgrades for our COs, and money that can be used each turn to build more of you!
And beyond that, we fight for the joy of strategy! And if the worst should happen, don’t fret, men. If the worse should happen out there on that battlefield, and our HQ get assaulted, or all of our units die, don’t worry. Don’t despair! Fight on!
Because, if necessary, I can always just reload the game.
Check that out! Money, baby.
Sorry I didn’t post anything yesterday. I wrote a story about love, but I deemed it too depressing to actually post on Valentine’s Day. Maybe you’ll see it some other time.
If you’re in Chicago, grab an issue of Newcity, because my story is on the cover this week.
The You Channel
David Hume, Host: Hello, and welcome to MediaStuff. Today we’re speaking with the founders of the You Channel, the new television channel that has captured the public’s imagination, so to speak. Marcia Roberts and Brent Anderson are the creators of one of cable television’s hottest channels, and what they’re doing may change the face of media as we know it. Marcia, Brent, thanks for coming.
Marcia: Thanks, David.
Brent: Good to be here.
David: To begin with, why don’t you go ahead and explain to us what this “You Channel” is all about.
Marcia: Well, it’s fairly simple, David. The You Channel– that’s channel 539 on most networks– is a entire television channel dedicated to showing nothing but the people who watch it. You flip it on, and, anytime, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, you’ll see an image of someone watching the same channel you’re watching. That is, you see an image of a person watching television.
Brent: Actually, to be clearer, they’re watching themselves watch television. And you’re watching them do it. Well, sometimes it’s you watching.
Marcia: Yes, those are the most interesting times. Sometimes, you’ll turn it on, and its you watching– you. Hence, You Channel, of course. (laughter)
David: That’s definitely an interesting concept. Tell me, how exactly is this possible?
Brent: Well, you see, David, when you sign up for You Channel– there’s a small monthly fee of $14.95– you get two things in the mail with it. First, you get a small camera that connects into your cable box, and transmits your image back to You Channel headquarters. There’s diagrams of where and how to hook it up, but you just plug it in, aim it at whereever you’ll be watching television from, and you’re all set.
Marcia: And of course the second thing is a rights form. We’re broadcasting your image, after all, and so we do need your signature. The rights, if you will, of broadcasting your image on our channel.
Brent: And we might make this clear as well: When you sign that, you’re only signing rights to us. It doesn’t release the video to anywhere else, only to You Channel. So you don’t need to worry about getting stolen!
David: I would guess that might be a concern!
Brent: Yes, well, you’re taken care of. And then, you know, the camera just flips on whenever you’re turned to You Channel, and flips off when you’re not.
David: It sounds very exciting! And I’m to understand that this idea is doing pretty well, isn’t it?
Marcia: Oh, yes, David. It’s doing terrific. We’ve got more people on You Channel than ever, and we’re getting more all the time. Which means the ratings, of course, are just doing terrific.
Brent: Oh they really are. People love the You Channel.
David: Now, where did this idea come from, exactly?
Brent: Well, it’s funny, David. Marcia and I were asked to come up with a new channel of programming, and we sat back and tried to figure out what people really loved, what people really wanted to watch. And, of course, you know, the hottest thing on TV right now is that reality stuff, so that was a factor. But the thing that really interested us was the relationship between the viewer and the subject– the person on television, if you will.
Marcia: You see, David, we figured out that people really liked to watch shows that they related to. Teens are, as you might know–
Brent: We have three kids–
Marcia: Exactly! Handful! Teens are loud and fast, and they like to watch things that are loud and fast. Moms are tender and emotional, and so they watch Oprah. Guys like playing sports, and they watch that. Geeks like shows with geeks, affluent audiences like to watch characters on TV who are affluent, and so on. We discovered that people really like to watch people who are like them on television.
Brent: And so we said, David, who could we get that was like everybody? I mean who could we find that everyone, of all ages, classes, races, sexes would relate to? Who could we put on TV that everyone would be exactly like?
Marcia: And we decided: Everyone else! And people love it, they really do. The other day, we even did better than that Trading Spaces show!
David: Pretty soon, you’ll probably be doing better than PBS!
Marcia: Don’t be silly, David, nobody watches PBS.
David: Well. But how do you determine who’s on when? I mean if I turn on You Channel today, who will I see?
Marcia: Well, there’s always the possibility that you’ll see yourself. That’s happened, and we’ve gotten a few letters from people about it. They love it– usually they’ll just jump around for a while, you know, wave their hands in front of the TV to make sure it’s them. Like when you show up on the Jumbotron at the game.
Brent: What’s funny is we studied monkeys in front of cameras and they did the same thing!
Marcia: And then there’s the much larger possibility that you’ll see someone else doing the exact same thing. So that’s fun, too.
David: But how do you determine who’s there, or for how long?
Marcia: Well, we tend to mix things up a little bit. It’s mostly random– sometimes someone will be on for five minutes, sometimes an hour or so. We like to keep people guessing.
Brent: And we definitely made sure to randomize who actually shows up.
David: So there’s no choice of a person who’s more entertaining, or an interesting person.
Brent: Oh, no, that’s kind of against the idea, don’t you think? I mean, if we choose an interesting person, then it’s not everybody. Besides, people don’t want to see that.
David: People don’t want to see someone interesting on TV?
Marcia: Well, here’s the thing, David. We did the research, and that’s just not what people want. You’ve seen reality shows– people don’t watch those for the characters. They want to see real people, and they want to see only the shallowest ideas of them. That’s what the You Channel gives them– real people, with no backgrounds, twenty four hours a day.
David: But that seems like it’s fairly absent of imagination. It’s absent of everything that gets the mind flowing and advances the culture– story, plot, interesting characters. There’s no imagination there at all– it’s basically a mirror.
Brent: Well, that’s not true. There is some imagination put into the show. There was that guy who pretended like he was on an episode of American Idol, or that family with the cat that jumped upside down, where they kept saying, “AFV”…
David: So you’re saying the most imaginative your channel gets is when people watching themselves on television pretend to be people they’ve watched on television?
Marcia: Yes. But to go back to your point about imagination, David, we determined that’s just not what America wants. They don’t want story, they don’t want to be challenged, and they don’t want things they don’t know or can’t understand. We researched it, and what they really want to watch– what they really love– is, well, themselves.
David: Wow. Does that seem strange to you at all? I mean, a channel with a lack of imagination is the most popular thing on television? What does that say about our society and its ills?
Brent: Our society? Its ills? David, we’re in cable television. That’s none of our concern.
David: Well, thank you Marcia and Brent for coming today. That’s the You Channel, on right now via subscription. We’ll be right back.
Well, this is unprecendented. I know that I usually never post twice in one day, but I had news so big that I had to share it with you.
I have cracked the Pherotones puzzle!
First, a little bit of background. A few weeks back, I posted a review of a few ringtones on the Pherotones site, ringtones that supposedly attracted people of the opposite sex. The site’s run by a “Dr. Myra Vanderhood,” who just as quickly emailed me to let me know she thought my research was great, and asked to post it. Which is what she did.
Before I say anything else, I have to say that she was very nice to me. No matter what she was roleplaying, she was extremely kind to me in emails.
The only question, then, is who exactly is Pherotones a viral ad for?
This evening, I decided to check back on the Pherotones blog and see if they’d revealed anything. They haven’t. Not anything about who the ad is for, anyway. So I Googled around a bit and read up on it.
Then I found this post on the MAKE blog. A commenter named darrylsmith (I couldn’t find his blog, though he says he has one) posted this:
It would appear that the company doing this MIGHT be McKinney Silver. Strangely I posted a link in my blog about this and got a number of hits almost immediately from them.
The Auditory Institute does not seem to exist – apart from doing auditing in Iran. And this company is saving Web Sites to their HDD for some unknown purpose. Such as to…
If you look at the Pherotones.COM domain information you will notice it is registered to North Carolina which is where McKinney Silver is located too.
McKinney-Silver is the company behind the ads. I don’t know how “darrylsmith” got that file listing, but check it out. “Clients\\OASYS.” OASYS, eh? Somebody call Google!
Who’s behind the Pherotones ads? Oasys Mobile.
Now, I’m not naive. I know that repeating their name gets them the press they need. And I don’t know where “darrylsmith” got his information, or how he got ahold of what looks like a file listing on one of their network drives– for all I know, he himself is a McKinney-Silver plant, just another cog in the wheel.
But then you look at Oasys’ story, and they’re a fairly new cell company with a lot of financial backing. And they’re based out of NC, the same place “darryl” says McKinney-Silver is from. And Oasys’ website just screams that they’re ready to spend plenty of money on marketing to the Internet.
So maybe I’m wrong. But I doubt it.
Update II: As of 2/15, Pherotones is declaring that they’ve set up an “exclusive distribution deal” with Oasys Mobile to sell pherotones, and Oasys is declaring the same thing on their site. Which means I was exactly right. Booyah!
Although I would love to say something about Cheney shooting a hunting buddy, I am planning something big for tomorrow, and I have some non-mikeschramm.com related work to do, so I’m going to have to pass.
Instead, I’ll just point out that I was able to attend the Chicago Auto Show this weekend. I took my brand spanking new digital camera (a Canon Powershot A520, if you care), and so I’ve posted a bunch of pics from the event up on Flickr. Go check out my outing!
It still kind of blows my mind that FOX news actually showed an Independence Day clip (like, the Will Smith movie) when talking about this supposed terrorist threat that Bush protected us from. I couldn’t believe it. But then I found this transcript.
FOX News Report: Terror Averted in LA!
BRIGITTE QUINN (Anchor): And again, back to what the president was saying a little while ago, this morning, in his speech on the “war on terror.” He talked about the U.S. Bank Tower — otherwise known as the Library Tower. We’ve been showing you pictures of that throughout the morning. A little background on that building that was apparently the target of a second wave of attacks that was to have been perpetrated by Al Qaeda. There are some pictures; and that’s one from the movie — the 1996 movie Independence Day.
SHOW VIDEO: Independence Day
You might remember that. It was the — I guess the first building to be destroyed by the alien invaders in that movie, so, certainly a landmark. A couple of other factoids about it. The building was designed to withstand an earthquake; unclear how it would’ve withstood an attack by an airplane.
Now, this of course is just a movie. These events are not real. Not real, that is, thanks to President Bush’s wiretapping plan. He was able to avert an attack just like this one you’re seeing on your screen now.
We’re also being told that Bush had a backup plan, just in case the terrorists attacked us with giant space saucers, as you’re seeing in the movie there. Apparently, he planned to send a scientist, played by character actor Jeff Goldblum, up to their mothership, and then infect it with some sort of computer virus. That’s an ingenious plan, and it could only be carried out by a President like ours.
SHOW VIDEO: Day After Tomorrow
Oh– now, what you’re seeing on screen is what would happen to Los Angeles if the terrorists were somehow able to control tornados. Yes, those are tornadoes destroying Los Angeles, but fortunately, nothing like that has come about, thanks to these NSA wiretaps.
Has anyone seen the movie Black Sunday?
SHOW VIDEO: Black Sunday
You can see there, it’s a blimp attacking the Super Bowl, and this, we’re being told by the White House, is a situation that could very well have happened at last week’s Super Bowl event, but fortunately didn’t, thanks to those wiretaps. These are some close situations that you’re seeing on your screen, and fortunately they were avoided.
Also, we’re told that President Bush also was able to avoid an attack by a giant robotic spider, just like the movie the Wild West, another family friendly Will Smith special effects movie.
SHOW VIDEO: The Wild West
Yes, that spider looks very destructive. Good thing it’s not attacking us! Thanks again to our President’s actions. Also, the White House is reporting at this hour that the President, through his wiretap program, was able to avoid what they’re calling some kind of Poltergeist. And apparently he was able to capture a Godfather, and some Goodfellas, and he even helped a little alien dial his way home.
SHOW VIDEO: E.T.
Yes, that’s the cute little alien there. Now, of course he’s not real, but this is just an example, you see, of what we’re being told by the White House at this hour. Apparently our President, who the alien calls “El-e-ott”, was able to hook that little guy back up with his home planet, and now everything, according to the White House, is a-ok.
Well, that’s a heartwarming story, and it’s all thanks to those great illegal wiretaps that our President put into place.
Whoops! Did we say illegal? We meant heartwarming. Good ol’ heartwarming, American wiretaps!
You’re watching FOX News. “Bill O’Reilly Saying Whatever Loony Extremist Crap He Can Make Up” is next. Thanks for watching!
There was some good snow coming down in Chicago today. Nice big flakes. Made the air thick, cold, and cozy.
I read this extremely long and interesting article about the last pre-neolithic civilization left on Earth. And then I decided to write this:
The Last Planet of the Savages
How do you get to the last isolated settlement in the Galaxy?
You jump a Spreader at the Ixnoic Station. In Behix, you transfer to a Lightshot across the meteor flats of Rutheron. You step a few jumps– Polutrul, Awivn, and the desolate outpost at Marui II, where the red light of the the Four Suns burns your face and the icy ground soothes your feet. You take a small Lightcraft a few jumps into the Black Desert of Space to Vixon. And then you charter an old Discship out into a little void near a star the locals call Sol. All the way to a place called Earth.
When my editor first thought me about this assignment, I almost couldn’t believe him. I couldn’t believe that in our day and age, a civilization existed like the one he described on Earth.
“They’re backwards,” he said. “Haven’t had any contact with anyone. Anytime anyone goes near the place, they get shot at. It’s in the middle of nowhere, but you’ll love it.”
The idea did kind of fascinate me. I consider myself a bit of a galaxy traveler. I’ve been to the Edge many times. I’ve seen the giant energy rings built ages ago around Safron. I’ve eaten in the best resturants in Yxei, thought shop with the geek millionaires churning out the latest technology from Qqet Valley. And, having seen all this stuff, I couldn’t believe a place yet existed without a single energector. A place that had never considered the concept of hardskin.
Frankly, that’s exactly what it was: unbelievable.
So I set out to find it. The guide of my Discship was a bulky Zoen oldster named Vorn. I could tell that he’s answered all the questions I asked him before, but he didn’t hesitate to answer me anyway. On the way to Sol’s orbit, I tried to wrap my head, with Vorn’s help, around the possibility of a planet that was still completely isolated.
“Surely someone has been there before,” I said incredulously to Vorn.
“Sure, a few people have been there.” he told me. “Someone buzzes it every once in a while, but they usually rebuke or ignore any form of contact.”
“They think, don’t they?”
“Well, no,” he said. “Not in the sense that you or I do. We’ve tried to recieve thoughts from off the planet, but it’s all just a big gob of nonsense. We suspect it’s all still private to them.”
“Private!? How do they communicate?”
“They don’t think like we do. It’s all physical, you see. They still speak in sounds, move muscles. I once read a report from many years ago whose writer was astounded they still spoke and lived in meat.” He laughed. “But we’ve researched it, and it’s all true.”
“They speak with sound! But that would mean they don’t communicate thoughts at all!”
“As near as we can tell, that’s exactly what happens there,” he said before turning to check our trajectory. I tried to fathom the concept of being alone in my head, of being trapped inside my thoughts without a connection to the outside world.
I couldn’t do it. They must be miserable.
“And my editor said they haven’t heard of hardskin yet,” I told Vorn when he was done.
“Hardskin, my friend, is the least of their worries,” he said. “But yes, it’s true. From what we’ve seen, their skin is still underevolved. They often go outside with parts of it uncovered. We can’t imagine how they deal with the germa but they must get along somehow. Some of them do have covering, but it’s all makeshift rags they’ve scrounged up from somewhere on their planet.”
“What do you mean hardskin is the least of their worries?”
“You haven’t heard?” he asked darkly. I hadn’t. “The people on Earth,” he told me, “are savages. A few units back, one of our expeditions landed there to offer gifts and try to convert them. The last we heard of them, they’d been captured by one of the tribes down there.” He paused a moment. “We’re not sure, but there were reports that they had flayed our man alive. Some say they did it on their air-based communications network.”
I was stunned. I said nothing.
“But that’s not the worst,” he said, and sighed. “We’ve reason to believe that some of them still… well, they still kill each other.”
I tried to register what he said, but couldn’t. A place like that just couldn’t exist in the universe anymore. “Haven’t they heard of The Good? Can they really have never experienced a place like the Edge?”
He shook his head and half-laughed. “These people have no concept of what a place like the Edge even means. None of them could have even imagined what we’ve found and done at the Edge in their wildest dreams.”
“No concept of The Good,” I said out loud to myself, as if to make it real. “But they must believe something!”
“They believe something,” he said. “Pale imitations of The Good. They must have some concept of the empathy that comes with it, or else they’d already have made themselves extinct. But with no way into each other’s heads, and no proof of The Good, who knows what they believe? They probably think each other insane for any number of various reasons.”
I agreed it was quite incredible.
By this time, we had reached the system of Sol. Looking out into the inky blackness, I wondered what it would be like to look out into the pinpoints of light and not realize they led to Yexi, to Koni IIX, to the Edge. I wondered what it would be like to look out on this starscape and not realize how teeming it was with life, how much universe there was out there to find. I shuddered.
The planet itself was minute, round, and blue. We fired in from about .01 microunits out, and skimmed the surface from megaorbit. Lots of the place was covered in watra, which I saw from the monitors was almost as filled with life as the black starsea I’d looked at moments earlier.
But the land was the really interesting part. Our savages were bipedal, half-sized, and pink. I saw a few settlements, but noticed something strange about their structures.
“Where are the sources?” I asked Vorn. “Don’t they have machina?”
He laughed again. I could tell he enjoyed skimming the surface of Earth. “They do have machina, albeit extremely primitive. Most of it is as clunky as you’ll find. They’ve haven’t discovered etherpower yet. They have no idea how sources work.”
“But how do they power the machina?”
“They use things from ground, mostly. We’re not sure if they’ve figured out how limited it is or not. Surely you can’t do the types of things they’re doing and not know they’re using a limited supply, but for some reason they never made the jump to using the Star, or corralling the etherpower around them. What they’ve done would be pretty impressive, actually, if it wasn’t so primitive. Impressive, but fairly stupid.”
No etherpower. No Starpower! I tried, again, to imagine living in a world and knowing the resources were finite. It was implausible to me to put faith in such a supply when you knew very well it would be gone in a short amount of time.
Then again, these were savages we were dealing with.
I noticed something else in the monitor. We would fly over sectors on the planet and find large numbers of lifesign in gigantic blobs, and then fly over others and find them spread out. There seemed to be whole areas of the place with beings clumped together, and then others spread out comfortably. Again, I turned to my guide with questions.
“I told you they didn’t know The Good,” he said solemnly. “On Earth, there are still those who take more space than is necessary. There are those who spread and waste, forcing others to squeeze and save. They have no empathy, remember. Or as good as none, anyway. They’re quite savage bastards.”
“Don’t they realize that they take at the cost of others? Don’t they understand that for every unnecessary luxury, there is unnecessary suffering?”
“Again,” he said, “almost no one has been there. They’ve shunned all outside contact. But as near as we can estimate, that’s exactly what’s happening.”
I stared at the little blue drop on the edges of the Black Sea. I wondered what life was like there, and how long it would take before they made the first steps off of their island. What was the first thing they’d experience in the real world? What would they think of our sources, our gigantic energectors, our modern machina?
My Good. What would they think when they saw the Edge?
I told Vorn that I’d seen enough. He nodded, and changed trajectory, back to Vixon and Marui II and home. I watched the blue planet shrink and then disappear into the inky blackness of space. All my thoughts on the way back were filled with what life must be like there. Life, if you could call it that, on the last planet of the savages.
As promised (kind of) yesterday, here’s my
Annual Super Bowl Ad Countdown
For the third year in a row, here’s the good and the bad of the best part of the Super Bowl (except for that fleaflicker pass by Randle El– that thing was cool). If you want to watch them, Google has a bunch here, and AOL has more here.
Dishonorable Mentions: Burger King’s Dance Number (some loved it, some hated it, I hated it), Leonard Nimoy’s Aleve, Gillette Fusion (I can just imagine some ad exec thinking that was cool. It wasn’t.), Taco Bell (good to… oh man I can’t even say it it was so lame)
5. Careerbuilder.com and GoDaddy. Last year, they were both good because they were original. This year, there was nothing original about what they did. No originality = no good. If careerbuilder is so great, why is that guy still working with monkeys a year later?
4. Cadillac Runway: What was the point of the supermodel coming out of the sludge before the car did? Slow and boring.
3. Bud Light Office and Roof Grill: Thought they were funny. Were not funny.
2. Pizza Hut Jessica Simpson/Miss Piggy: Everyone knows Jessica Simpson is wasted all the time, but why would you waste the rights to the Muppets with such a bad ad? (see how I said that Jessica Simpson thing? that’s because I’m witty)
1. Brown and Bubbly: But there is no greater waste of a Super Bowl cameo than Jackie Chan– the man has better things to do. Also, I don’t remember which blog I read it on (Gawker, maybe?) but the best comment I heard about this was that the blogger had to get home quick after eating all the nachos, sausages, and cheese dip. Why? “Brown and bubbly.”
Honorable Mentions: ESPN Mobile Sports Heaven, Full Throttle Energy (the full, long version was good), Mastercard McGuyver (only because I think it’s about time for a movie. Where are you on that one, Hollywood??), Fedex Caveman
5. Sierra Mist: Who knew Kathy Griffin was still funny? Oh, wait, she was just getting a lot of funny interference from Michael Ian Black.
4. Degree Stunt City: I had to watch this like five times online to take in everything that was happening, and it was all really insightful, which is surprising for a commercial about deodorant. Great stuff.
3. Sprint Phone Security and Ringtones: Whoever Sprint hired to start making their commercials, should be kept, because I can’t turn down a Benny Hill reference.
2. Disney NFL: Yes, they played it way too much. But this was the new “Tomorrow,” since the NFL Network’s ad wasn’t nearly as good as the past two years.
1. Michelob Touch Football: I don’t know why inappropriate violence is so funny. But it is.
Random Conclusion: Where was the tech stuff? Careerbuilder and GoDaddy sucked. I want another commercial like the Intel Linux one a few years back. Why didn’t Microsoft advertise the Xbox360? Or Sony the PS3, or Nintendo the new DS? More Super Bowl commercials for geeks, please.
I was on Boing Boing today. Which makes me a good 3.26 times cooler than, say, you.
I’m really tired, and I just finished a big freelance article, so I’m not really interested in writing anything big today, even though I really want to write about the Super Bowl commercials. Let’s do a link roundup!
Link Roundup! Pre-Valentine’s Day Edition
Woot.com – I think this is the best business model I’ve ever seen. These guys only sell one item per day, and they sell ‘em cheap. Sometimes they’re junk, but a surprisingly high percentage of the time they sell great stuff. Also, they must have a lit major on staff or something, because they do a great job of blogging about what they sell and keeping up with their community. Very impressed so far with the way they run things.
Toothpaste for Dinner – I’m visiting so many webcomics nowadays that I’ve got a whole bookmarks folder set off just for them. This one was shown to me by my co-worker, and while it’s definitely not the most colorful of the bunch (ha– because all of them are B&W), it’s one of the most consistently interesting ones. Watch it for a few days, and you’ll see what I mean.
DS Fanboy – Although I don’t really like the Weblogs, Inc. galaxy of blogs (because I applied for a job with them and they didn’t even get back to me), DS Fanboy is creeping back into my daily browser views, simply because they’re the only place on the Internet that really focuses on how neat the DS has become. I was an early scoffer at Nintendo’s bulky little toy (although, at $240, I’m hardly going to get a PSP), but since I got convinced it was cool by a friend, I’m totally into it. I admit. I’m a DS Fanboy, so this blog is perfect for me.
Digg – You know what this is. Why am I even including it here? Oh yeah, because I’m checking it like every five minutes while browsing. Even though people digg the most idiotic stuff.
Curt’s Comments – I found out about Curt Hibbs during my (very) short stay on the Ruby mailing list when I was trying to learn that beautiful language. He’s not just a great Ruby programmer, though, he’s actually an insightful and practical guy, and for some reason, his blog (mostly about Ruby and Rails and why they’re so neat– which I have to agree with) has snuck up into my blogs bookmarks, right next to all the old standbys (Defamer, McSweeney’s, Tiger Be– I mean CNN). Anyway, nice blog. And he’s from St. Louis! Represent the MO!
Urban Dead – I like this game a lot. Even though I stopped playing it a while ago for no specific reason. But that in no way depletes my opinion of it. Nor should it yours. Play it! Be a zombie! Be a human! But if you are a human, make sure you’re the soldier class. The game’s kind of unbalanced still. But good! I swear!
I didn’t mention this yesterday, but as of 2/1 my car is now fully paid off! No more car payments! I am now the proud, full owner of a 1996 Ford Explorer.
My mother emailed me and said she liked the “sad chair photos” on my website. What was she talking about?
Happy Groundhog Day! I’m watching Bill Murray’s best movie as I write this.
Punxsutawney Phil Forecasts Everything
Well, folks, Punxsutawney Phil took a look outside today, and he reports that he has seen his shadow! That’s right, according to him, there’ll be six more weeks of winter.
Also, he reports that his tea was cold, not hot, this morning, so we’re going to be expecting rain for the rest of the weekend.
In local news, he says that because his door’s top lock was locked when he woke up, police will catch the cat burglar that’s been terrorizing the community.
And because a coin he flipped landed heads up, we’re reporting that the Mayor will approve the new school funding budget next week.
On the international front, Phil is reporting that because he woke up facing the left side of his bed, relations between the Israelis and Palestinians will continue to escalate, and violence will continue in that region of the country.
The foreign minister of Iran recently announced that his country is not pursuing a nuclear weapons program, but because Punxsutawney Phil saw a robin outside his window, it appears he is lying.
And because Phil accidentally burnt his eggs this morning, he says we only have about three years before Earth is invaded by aliens, and we’re all enslaved to do their nefarious bidding. However, he says not to worry, because since Phil found his shoelaces untied, he says we have about five years until a meteor hits Earth, and wipes out all live on it, both human and alien.
And finally tonight, I’ve just been passed a note that says since Punxsutawney Phil accidentally slipped on his stairs this morning, he’d like me to know that my wife is sleeping with me.
Oh my. Go read this advice column by Lynn Harris, and then come back here. I’ve got a rant to go on.
I am tired, so tired of hearing this crap about “guy is playing too many videogames, so girl should break up with him.”
1. Girls play videogames, too, you advice column morons. Guess what the hottest videogame in Japan is right now. Think it’s a first person shooter with blood flowing? Or maybe a massively multiplayer role-playing game, where finely drawn characters head off to find princesses and phat lewts? Nope. It’s a game called Train Your Brain, a “game” that gives you little intelligence and spelling quizzes to play with every day. And what else is in this game? A version of Sudoku. That’s right, the very math quiz that’s taking over crosswords (in what is largely a female audience) is coming to the videogame screen. And that’s not all– when I went to that videogame tournament a month or so ago, a good 40% of those in attendance were female. Girls are playing games, so stop pretending that videogames are something only “those stupid boys” do.
2. Videogames aren’t zombie factories. Oh, and the “first person shooter with blood flowing” that you think girls aren’t interested in? The truth is that some of them are, because they’ve realized that playing a videogame doesn’t equal staring at a blank screen for hours. With the best modern games, videogames are world-building experiences. They’re logical, creative endeavors that not only show off the talent of their designers, but bring out the talent in the players. They’re a new form of media– they’re storytelling on an interactive (and often epic) level. Lynn Harris mentions that she was a “Space Invaders” fan, which puts her in about the late Stone Age of videogames. If she hasn’t played a videogame since then, she doesn’t know what she’s missing. And she should shut up about it.
3. It’s not a choice of “videogames” versus “everything else.” Here’s what she literally said in her answer:
Then tell him what you need. Such as: “Can the two of us agree on some sort of flexible yet binding schedule, as in, you’ve got your game on Monday and Wednesday, but your girlfriend — or hello, your friends, family, other hobbies? — on the other days?”
That’s where she’s wrong. It’s not a choice of “a life” or “videogames.” Would the girlfriend ask the guy to choose between “cooking” and “a life”? Videogames are a hobby. A time filler, for sure, but they’re just part of a productive life. According to the latest studies, the average American watches three hours and forty-six minutes of television every day, and television is even less active for the imagination than videogames. Why aren’t we getting letters to this columnist like “my girlfriend watches Sex and the City for four hours a day, should I break up with her?” Because “Sex and the City” is simply considered entertainment, while videogames are considered a replacement for life. Idiots. Videogames don’t replace your life, they help fill it. Of course, you can have a life without videogames, but who would want it?
Conclusion? Lynn Harris says this chick should break up with this guy because he plays too much videogames. She’s exactly right that they should break up, but not for that reason. The guy should break up with the girl for subscribing to this stupid “videogames are turning boys into zombies idea.” He should then find someone cool who’s willing to roll a priest with him in World of Warcraft, who’s willing to take him on in a few online matches of Mario Kart DS, and who understands that videogames aren’t just really fun– they’re the future of media. Someone who won’t subscribe to idiotic sexual stereotypes, who wants to get involved in her boyfriend’s hobbies instead of complaining about them to some loony advice columnist.
Oh, and Lynn Harris should cut out writing her opinions about videogames, and get back to writing crappy sexist novels.
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