Read all Big Mouth comics here.
As we move further into Fall I find myself flipping through my cocktail book looking for drinks that fit with the season. There are 1000s of cocktails but so many of them seem better suited for Spring and Summer. So I find myself flipping through my cocktail book again and again hoping to stumble upon a warm or hot cocktail, one that isn’t iced or chilled, or one that uses seasonal fruits. Mostly without any success. I do have one more cocktail recipe from a cookbook I’ve previously mentioned, Fresh from the Market. And that’s the cocktail we’re making this week! It’s also the perfect drink for Fall as it places apples center stage!
Combine the bourbon, apple juice, apple syrup and lemon juice in a shaker. Shake with ice and strain over fresh ice in a highball glass. Top with a splash of ginger ale and garnish with the apple slices.
This is a delicious cocktail! A perfect blend of sweet apple and bourbon! As soon as D had finished hers she wanted another one. Cool, crisp, and clean going down the cocktails warms its way down into your core. Bonus: turns out the sliced apples that garnish the drink taste delicious after soaking in your drink.
Want to waste time at work/home? Want to lose all balance in life? Try these!
For some of you, sites like this one are a welcome distraction from what you really should be doing or, more likely, what someone else thinks you really should be doing. So to go one recursive step further, here are five distractions from this distraction, a short list of fantastic free browser games, from Cookie Clicker to Kingdom of Loathing:
• A Dark Room lies somewhere between a classic text adventure and a Zen koan. It is considered a "passive browser game," which means there is a lot of waiting. But don't give up. You don't play the game as much as it plays you.
• Oodlegobs: Viruses, called Oodlehobs, are the heroes of this game by Nitrome, and cats are the enemies. You control the Oodlegobs as they wage war against the Mew Tube network by infecting cat videos. Exciting side-scrolling action is combined with smart planning as you coordinate the Oodlegobs to fight the felines. Play it everyday, but especially on Caturday.
• Candy Box is a trendsetter in the ASCII art, minimalist narrative genre of roll-playing browser games. It's deceptively simple. You receive candies. Approximately one per second. But then things get deeper. Much, much deeper. The sequel, Candy Box 2, was released in October.
• Kingdom of Loating: Be you a Seal Clubber, a Turtle Tamer, a Pastamancer or Sauceror, in Kingdom of Loathing adventure awaits! Quests, puzzles and insanely spicy enchanted bean burritos await in this excellent text-ish world brought to you by Jick. Discover how everything works on your own, or lean on the excellent Kol Wiki. The fun literally never ends.
I thought it was a pretty good piece of writing...
You know this guy…
In 1898 Mark Twain was vacationing in Europe, Austria specifically, and he wrote this:
I am living in the midst of world-history again. The Queen’s Jubilee last year, the invasion of the Reichsrath by the police, and now this murder, which will still be talked of and described and painted a thousand a thousand years from now.
Before you google that quote ask yourself “Do I know who Twain was talking about?” Have you read any histories of it? Have you seen paintings of it in any museums? This event, so pivotal, that Twain believed that it would be talked about and commemorated in the arts and culture for the next thousand years, is unknown to most people. So, who was he talking about?
But who is this?
He was talking about the Empress of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Elisabeth, who was assassinated on September 10, 1898 in Geneva by Luigi Lucheni. Who, according to his own words, was an anarchist and was in Geneva for the sole purpose of:
I came to Geneva to kill a sovereign, with object of giving an example to those who suffer and those who do nothing to improve their social position; it did not matter to me who the sovereign was whom I should kill…It was not a woman I struck, but an Empress; it was a crown that I had in view.
This is what Mark Twain had to say about Luigi:
He is at the bottom of the human ladder, as the accepted estimates of degree and value go: a soiled and patched young loafer, without gifts, without talents, without education, without morals, without character, without any born charm or any acquired one that wins or beguiles or attracts; without a single grace of mind or heart or hand that any tramp or prostitute could envy him; an unfaithful private in the ranks, an incompetent stone- cutter, an inefficient lackey; in a word, a mangy, offensive, empty, unwashed, vulgar, gross, mephitic, timid, sneaking, human polecat. And it was within the privileges and powers of this sarcasm upon the human race to reach up–up–up–and strike from its far summit in the social skies the world’s accepted ideal of Glory and Might and Splendor and Sacredness…
One of the commonest forms of madness is the desire to be noticed, the pleasure derived from being noticed. Perhaps it is not merely common, but universal. In its mildest form it doubtless is universal. Every child is pleased at being noticed; many intolerable children put in their whole time in distressing and idiotic effort to attract the attention of visitors; boys are always “showing off”; apparently all men and women are glad and grateful when they find that they have done a thing which has lifted them for a moment out of obscurity and caused wondering talk. This common madness can develop, by nurture, into a hunger for notoriety in one, for fame in another. It is this madness for being noticed and talked about which has invented kingship and the thousand other dignities, and tricked them out with pretty and showy fineries; it has made kings pick one another’s pockets, scramble for one another’s crowns and estates, slaughter one another’s subjects; it has raised up prize-fighters, and poets, and villages mayors, and little and big politicians, and big and little charity-founders, and bicycle champions, and banditti chiefs, and frontier desperadoes, and Napoleons. Anything to get notoriety; anything to set the village, or the township, or the city, or the State, or the nation, or the planet shouting, “Look–there he goes–that is the man!” And in five minutes’ time, at no cost of brain, or labor, or genius this mangy Italian tramp has beaten them all, transcended them all, outstripped them all, for in time their names will perish; but by the friendly help of the insane newspapers and courts and kings and historians, his is safe and live and thunder in the world all down the ages as long as human speech shall endure! Oh, if it were not so tragic how ludicrous it would be!
Except of course Twain was wrong. Luigi Lucheni and the Empress he killed are forgotten to all but historians, lovers of early modern Europe and collectors of trivia. An event that seemed so momentous at the time, one which as Twain correctly stated hadn’t been seen in Europe for over 2000 years, turns out to have been just a sign post on the way to much more tumultuous things. Events that would wash any significance that Empress Elisabeth’s murder might have had to those who witnessed it away. Events that would largely purge her memory from our collective consciousness…
Of course I’m sitting here just over 100 years later, my view of the assassination comes with the perfect clarity of hindsight and in light of all the events that followed it. Twain could not know that in the next 30 years much of the Europe he was familiar with would be washed away and in the next 70 much of the world he knew would also be remade. His comments serve as a reminder to us that we are all victims to the here and now. That our views on the importance of events is myopic and contingent on a future we cannot know until it is already past.
As far as I could find there are no works of art that portray the assassination of Empress Elisabeth.
Empress Elisabeth and Emperor Joseph’s son and heir, Rudolf, killed himself and his wife in January of 1889. The next in line was Joseph’s younger brother Archduke Carl Ludwig who renounced his succession rights days after Rudolf’s death. Ludwig’s son, Franz Ferdinand, became the heir presumptive to the thrones of Austria, Hungary, Croatia, and Bohemia. His assassination in 1914 precipitated the first World War.
|This article is kind of depressing, so here is a puppy hugging a kitten.|
"Just a few years ago, developers didn't need to worry so much about their relationship with the end users."Does this match the experience of anyone trying to keep a small software company alive in the last few decades? The ability to keep a good relationship with end users was our best tool for staying alive. But I digress.
|Not the right way to market your game.|
"Even being featured in a coveted place like the Steam Daily Deals doesn't mean as much as it used to."
|I can't get rich selling THIS anymore? NO FAIR!|
|Even if she was alive, she still wouldn't want to play your 2-D platformer.|
|Dear God, please let Polygon notice meeeeeee!|
If your game can't succeed based on word-of-mouth marketing, unless you get real lucky, you need to adjust your budget, your quality, or both.I know, I know. "Jeff Vogel is just being a crazy old coot again." Sure. Nobody wants to hear a whole business model being called into question.
November 5, 2006
Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:
I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don't make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.
What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what's inside you, to make your soul grow.
Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you're Count Dracula.
Here's an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don't do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don't tell anybody what you're doing. Don't show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?
Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what's inside you, and you have made your soul grow.
God bless you all!
My current city is essentially a company town. There is a bit more here than simply Caterpillar, but everything else lags far behind one of the fifty largest corporations on Earth with $100 billion in assets and operations in something like 100 countries. It is not an overstatement to say that Cat runs the show around here; all local governing is done with the company's blessing and most of the very small number of things to do here are funded directly or indirectly by the company coffers. As is the case with all company towns, the city has risen and fallen with the fortunes of its great patron.
At least it used to, that is. Now the company continues to rise and the city continues to fall, as it has followed the trend of closing up facilities here in its Midwestern home and shifting them to developing countries or, if they really feel like slumming it, the deep South. In fact, on the day I moved from Athens to Peoria, Cat announced the closure of a Peoria manufacturing facility to be replaced by a new facility in Athens complete with the usual Southern governments' buffet of free money, tax abatements, infrastructure investments, and promises of a docile $10/hr workforce. I can say without exaggeration that I was traded to Peoria for a major industry to be named later.
So while the city lives and dies by the company, there is less of the company here with each passing year. Part of the reason is the quest for cheaper labor and more obsequious state and local governments. Another part of the reason is that Peoria is a world-class dump. Think Flint, MI or Youngstown, OH with the headquarters of a major global corporation plopped in the center. I've said enough about it to fill volumes; suffice it to say here that Caterpillar does not relish bringing leaders in the business world to Peoria. It's pretty embarrassing.
This isn't idle speculation; I know a handful of white-collar Caterpillar folks, and they complain regularly about the condition of the city. They have berated the city government for lacking suitable hotels (now being built or remodeled downtown with plenty of "incentives"), restaurants, entertainment, or airport. The downtown looks neat from a distance but up close is an abandoned Scooby-Doo ghost town. They have legitimate complaints.
However, they also seem ignorant of their own role – arguably the leading role – in the city's decline from the post-War boom years to its present sorry state. Whenever Cat people, be they acquaintances or the top executives on TV and at city council meetings, complain about what a dump they inhabit I have to suppress the urge to say, "That's funny, because it looked a lot less like a dump when you had 30,000 factory workers here compared to the few hundred here now." And by "suppress the urge to say" I mean that is what I say.
This is not new; General Motors has been doing it to Detroit for years, as have General Electric, Kodak, Dow, and other companies that make up the crumbling cities of upstate New York. They openly pine for the neatly manicured office buildings, suburbs, and downtown chain restaurants of a Phoenix, Dallas, or anywhere-in-Florida. And they criticize their cities – cities and people that have bent over backwards to make them the enormous successes that they have been for a century or more – as though some exogenous force (alien invasions, perhaps) have destroyed everything. It never occurs to them that if they would like the city to be full of the kinds of things that sprout up wherever sizable populations with disposable income exist then perhaps they should stop cutting the workforce and perhaps even consider expanding it. Of course, that suggestion inevitably leads into the race to the bottom that is modern competitive federalism – why stay here when Alabama's politicians are willing to write blank checks and its people are willing to work for half as much because Freedom?
For people and institutions who hold the principles of capitalism so dear, they sure do seem to struggle with "You get what you pay for."
How shitty low paying jobs cost all of us! AKA how giant profitable companies make their money off of tax payer generosity
The report [PDF] from the National Employment Law Project looks at how much is paid out in social welfare benefits to non-management employees at the nation’s 10 largest fast food chains.
As you can see from the chart above, McDonald’s workers alone receive an estimated $1.2 billion in public assistance from taxpayers. This is followed by Yum! Brands — including Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, KFC — all of which total to around $648 million a year. Subway ($436 million), Burger King ($356 million), and Wendy’s ($278 million) round out the top five.
“[T]he overwhelming share of jobs in the fast-food industry pay low wages that force millions of workers to rely on public assistance in order to afford health care, food, and other basic necessities,” reads the report, which points out that many of these companies have the profits to pay workers enough that would equal their wages plus what they receive in subsidies.
NELP has been one of the organizations pushing for increases in both the national minimum wage and the wages paid to foodservice workers, so critics of the study say it is taking a simplified view of the situation.
“Taxpayers do have a choice,” the research director at the Employment Policies Institute said in a statement responding to the NELP report. “They can either provide partial support to less-skilled employees who have difficulty finding employment at higher wage rates, or they can provide a 100 percent subsidy when these employees lose their jobs due to an unrealistic wage mandate.”
Nothing is ours except time. As true today as the day he wrote it.
Seneca Lucilio suo salutem
Ita fac, mi Lucili: vindica te tibi, et tempus quod adhuc aut auferebatur aut subripiebatur aut excidebat collige et serva. Persuade tibi hoc sic esse ut scribo: quaedam tempora eripiuntur nobis, quaedam subducuntur, quaedam effluunt. Turpissima tamen est iactura quae per neglegentiam fit. Et si volueris attendere, magna pars vitae elabitur male agentibus, maxima nihil agentibus, tota vita aliud agentibus. Quem mihi dabis qui aliquod pretium tempori ponat, qui diem aestimet, qui intellegat se cotidie mori? In hoc enim fallimur, quod mortem prospicimus: magna pars eius iam praeterit; quidquid aetatis retro est mors tenet.
Fac ergo, mi Lucili, quod facere te scribis, omnes horas complectere; sic fiet ut minus ex crastino pendeas, si hodierno manum inieceris. Dum differtur vita transcurrit. Omnia, Lucili, aliena sunt, tempus tantum nostrum est; in huius rei unius fugacis ac lubricae possessionem natura nos misit, ex qua expellit quicumque vult. Et tanta stultitia mortalium est ut quae minima et vilissima sunt, certe reparabilia, imputari sibi cum impetravere patiantur, nemo se iudicet quicquam debere qui tempus accepit, cum interim hoc unum est quod ne gratus quidem potest reddere. Interrogabis fortasse quid ego faciam qui tibi ista praecipio. Fatebor ingenue: quod apud luxuriosum sed diligentem evenit, ratio mihi constat impensae. Non possum dicere nihil perdere, sed quid perdam et quare et quemadmodum dicam; causas paupertatis meae reddam. Sed evenit mihi quod plerisque non suo vitio ad inopiam redactis: omnes ignoscunt, nemo succurrit. Quid ergo est? non puto pauperem cui quantulumcumque superest sat est; tu tamen malo serves tua, et bono tempore incipies. Nam ut visum est maioribus nostris, 'sera parsimonia in fundo est'; non enim tantum minimum in imo sed pessimum remanet. Vale.
Greetings from Seneca to Lucilius
Continue to act thus, my dear Lucilius—set yourself free for your own sake; gather and save your time, which til lately has been forced from you, or filched away, or has merely slipped from your hands. Make yourself believe the truth of my words—that certain moments are torn from us, that some are gently removed, and that others glide beyond our reach. The most disgraceful kind of loss, however, is that due to carelessness. Furthermore, if you will pay close heed to the problem, you will find that the largest portion of our life passes while we are doing ill, a goodly share while we are doing nothing, and the whole while we are doing that which is not to the purpose. What man can you show me who places any value on his time, who reckons the worth of each day, who understands that he is dying daily? For we are mistaken when we look forward to death; the major portion of death has already passed. Whatever years lie behind us are in death's hands.
Therefore, Lucilius, do as you write me that you are doing: hold every hour in your grasp. Lay hold of today's task, and you will not need to depend so much upon tomorrow's. While we are postponing, life speeds by. Nothing, Lucilius, is ours, except time. We were entrusted by nature with the ownership of this single thing, so fleeting and slippery that anyone who will can oust us from possession. What fools these mortals be! They allow the cheapest and most useless things, which can easily be replaced, to be charged in the reckoning, after they have acquired them; but they never regard themselves as in debt when they have received some of that precious commodity—time! And yet time is the one loan which even a grateful recipient cannot repay.
You may desire to know how I, who preach to you so freely, am practising. I confess frankly: my expense account balances, as you would expect from one who is free-handed but careful. I cannot boast that I waste nothing, but I can at least tell you what I am wasting, and the cause and manner of the loss; I can give you the reasons why I am a poor man. My situation, however, is the same as that of many who are reduced to slender means through no fault of their own: every one forgives them, but no one comes to their rescue.
What is the state of things, then? It is this: I do not regard a man as poor, if the little which remains is enough for him. I advise you, however, to keep what is really yours; and cannot begin too early. For, as our ancestors believed, it is too late to spare when you reach the dregs of the cask. Of that which remains at the bottom, the amount is slight, and the quality is vile. Farewell.
Chemical warfare is as old as warfare itself...
The insidious tactic of poisoning one’s enemy—noncombatants and soldiers alike—is nothing new, only the technologies have changed. Choking clouds of dust with the effect of tear gas and rains of red-hot burning sand with the effect of phosphorus bombs are two examples of chemical weapons and biological strategies actually employed in antiquity (see for example, “Alexander the Great and the Rain of Burning Sand,” and “Before Pepper Spray,” among my other posts, in Wonders and Marvels archives).
Several instances of poisoning water and food supplies in North Africa by the Romans and their enemies the Carthaginians were reported by historians in antiquity. Such practices raised ethical issues even then but that did not stop some commanders from using biological and chemical strategies to destroy entire populations. Some Romans, for example, bristled at the very notion of resorting to toxic weapons because they contradicted the traditional ideals of Roman courage and honor. When several cities in the Near East revolted against Roman rule in 129-131 BC, however, the general sent to quell the rebellion turned to poison. Manius Aquillius was known as a cold-blooded commander notorious for his harsh military discipline and his ruthless suppression of the uprising in Rome’s new Province of Asia Minor (Turkey and Syria) led to disturbing rumors in Rome. The Roman historian Florus reported what occurred in his military history written in about AD 140.
The insurrection against Rome was led by Aristonicus of Pergamum (Turkey) succeeded in mobilizing ordinary people, rich and poor as well as slaves. Several cities joined the revolt and Aquillius’s Roman army was unable to gain control. “Aquillius finally ended the Asian War,” wrote Florus, “but his victory was clouded. For Aquillius had used the wicked expedient of poisoning the cities’ springs to force their surrender.” Florus was very clear about the immorality of such measures. “Though it hastened the Roman victory, it brought shame because he disgraced Roman arms and battle skills which until now had been unsullied by the use of foul drugs.” Aquillius’s poisoning of the entire populace of several cities, declared Florus, “violated the laws of heaven and the practices of our forefathers.”
About the author: Adrienne Mayor is a Research Scholar in Classics and History of Science, Stanford University. She is the author of “Greek Fire, Poison Arrows & Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World” (2009) and “The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy,” a nonfiction finalist for the 2009 National Book Award.
I really want to eat these...
One of my best friends and I have a saying we use all the time: “You don’t need to worry, I’ve already over thought it.” No doubt this is one reason she and I get along so well – we think the same way, and we both over analyze nearly everything. Really, everything. Sometimes this can be a bit of a burden, but when I’m experimenting with recipes in the kitchen it can be pretty useful. We’re in the midst of birthday season at work and when a coworker chose samoa cupcakes, my mind immediately went into overdrive. ”How do I ensure that the chocolate cake doesn’t overpower the flavor of the topping? Should I even use chocolate cake? How do I incorporate the shortbread cookie component? What kind of frosting should I make? Does frosting even belong on these cupcakes?” These are just a few of the questions I pondered out loud and poor Ben did his best to humor me with a response.
As for my final answers to those questions, here’s where we ended up: I made small shortbread cookies for the base of the cupcakes (though you can use store bought, I won’t tell.) The cupcake itself is my favorite chocolate cupcake, and it turns out that no, it didn’t overpower the other flavors. I decided frosting had no place on these cupcakes but that a caramel coconut ganache would do much better, and it did. Oh yes, it did. Finally, the cupcakes are topped with the classic coconut-caramel concoction that we all know and love, and I decided to poke a little indentation in it to mimic the cookie shape. Drizzle with a little bit of extra ganache and there you have it. Though I have no scientific evidence, I believe this is the most popular treat I have brought into work ever. Truly. The only disappointing thing about these is that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to top them. But I’m kind of okay with that.
As a former Daisy-Brownie-Girl Scout (whose favorite cookie is Caramel DeLites/Samoas), I approve these cupcakes.
If youve got one you should read this!
Well just FUCK
Back in 2012, the major US banks settled a federal mortgage-fraud lawsuit for $1B. The suit was filed by Lynn Szymoniak, a white-collar fraud specialist, whose own house had been fraudulently foreclosed-upon. When the feds settled with the banks, the evidence detailing the scope of their fraud was sealed, but as of last week, those docs are unsealed, and Szymoniak is shouting them from the hills. The banks precipitated the subprime crash by "securitizing" mortgages -- turning mortgages into bonds that could be sold to people looking for investment income -- and the securitization process involved transferring title for homes several times over. This title-transfer has a formal legal procedure, and in the absence of that procedure, no sale had taken place. See where this is going?
The banks screwed up the title transfers. A lot. They sold bonds backed by houses they didn't own. When it came time to foreclose on those homes, they realized that they didn't actually own them, and so they committed felony after felony, forging the necessary documentation. They stole houses, by the neighborhood-load, and got away with it. The $1B settlement sounded like a big deal, back when the evidence was sealed. Now that Szymoniak's gotten it into the public eye, it's clear that $1B was a tiny slap on the wrist: the banks stole trillions of dollars' worth of houses from you and people like you, paid less than one percent in fines, and got to keep the homes.
Now that it’s unsealed, Szymoniak, as the named plaintiff, can go forward and prove the case. Along with her legal team (which includes the law firm of Grant & Eisenhoffer, which has recovered more money under the False Claims Act than any firm in the country), Szymoniak can pursue discovery and go to trial against the rest of the named defendants, including HSBC, the Bank of New York Mellon, Deutsche Bank and US Bank.
The expenses of the case, previously borne by the government, now are borne by Szymoniak and her team, but the percentages of recovery funds are also higher. “I’m really glad I was part of collecting this money for the government, and I’m looking forward to going through discovery and collecting the rest of it,” Szymoniak told Salon.
It’s good that the case remains active, because the $1 billion settlement was a pittance compared to the enormity of the crime. By the end of 2009, private mortgage-backed securities trusts held one-third of all residential mortgages in the U.S. That means that tens of millions of home mortgages worth trillions of dollars have no legitimate underlying owner that can establish the right to foreclose. This hasn’t stopped banks from foreclosing anyway with false documents, and they are often successful, a testament to the breakdown of law in the judicial system. But to this day, the resulting chaos in disentangling ownership harms homeowners trying to sell these properties, as well as those trying to purchase them. And it renders some properties impossible to sell.
To this day, banks foreclose on borrowers using fraudulent mortgage assignments, a legacy of failing to prosecute this conduct and instead letting banks pay a fine to settle it. This disappoints Szymoniak, who told Salon the owner of these loans is now essentially “whoever lies the most convincingly and whoever gets the benefit of doubt from the judge.” Szymoniak used her share of the settlement to start the Housing Justice Foundation, a non-profit that attempts to raise awareness of the continuing corruption of the nation’s courts and land title system.
Your mortgage documents are fake! [David Dayen/Salon]
by Adrienne Mayor (Wonders & Marvels contributor)
Today’s unwanted gang tattoos, names of ex-lovers, outgrown cartoons, misspelled mottoes, and other mistakes on skin are printed over with complex designs or erased by long sessions with a laser. Painful — but not as painful or risky as the procedures invented by ancient Roman doctors for removing demeaning tattoos.
Your visit would go like this: Clean the tattoo with natron and terebinth (turpentine). Bandage for five days. Day six: Return to the doctor, who pricks out the tattoo design with a sharp pin. He sponges up the blood and covers the mess with a layer of stinging salt. Now you run a strenuous mile or two to work up a lather and return to the doctor, who applies a caustic poultice of lye or powdered quicklime. Your tattoo will disappear in about 20 days. In its place, you’ll sport an ulcerated chemical burn that obliterates the old tattoo.
“I will tattoo you with images of hideous punishments suffered by the most horrid criminals in Hades!” This violent verse threatens revenge by tattoo, probably written by the poetess Moiro of Byzantium in about 300 BC. Around the same time, a woman named Bitinna summons a professional tattooer of criminals and slaves to bring his needles and ink to punish her unfaithful lover, in a Greek play by Herodas called “The Jealous Woman.” Tattoos today are decorative and voluntary, even if sometimes recklessly selected and deeply regretted later. But in ancient Greek and Rome tattoos were punitive, forcibly inflicted on slaves, prisoners of war, and wrong-doers. Tattooing captives was common in wartime. For example, in the fifth century BC Athens defeated the island of Samos and tattooed their Samian prisoners’ foreheads with Athens’ mascot the owl. Later, the Samians crushed the Athenians and tattooed their captives with the Samos emblem, a warship. In 413 BC, after Athens’ disastrous defeat at Syacuse, 7,000 Athenian soldiers were captured. Their foreheads were tattooed with the symbol of Syracuse, a horse, and they were sent as slave to work the quarries. Slaves were routinely tattooed and runaway slaves had sentences such as “Stop me, I’m a runaway” crudely gouged and inked into their faces.
These dehumanizing tattoos were not artistic or carefully applied: ink was simply poured into grooves carved in flesh with three iron needles bound together, with no thought of hygiene. There was copious bleeding; infection could be ugly. The indelible marks turned one’s body into a text recording forever one’s captivity, enslavement, or guilt. Naturally, there was a market for hiding or removing shameful tattoos, should one be lucky enough to escape a master or prison. Some opted for a painless approach: Grow long bangs to cover forehead tattoos. During the Roman era, pirates’ crews offered a haven for many criminals and runaway slaves. The dashing pirate scarf trick—tying a bandana around their foreheads—was invented to mask the tattoos of one’s old life.
About the author: Adrienne Mayor is a Research Scholar in Classics and History of Science, Stanford University. She is the author of “Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, & Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World” (2009); and “The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy,” nonfiction finalist for the 2009 National Book Award.
It's sooo cute!
From Arther Anker’s Photostream we have this photograph of a cuddly moth, which is becoming about as Internet-viral as an arthropod can get.
Don’t you just want to kiss it? It’s labeled:
“Poodle moth (Artace sp., perhaps A cribaria), Venezuela”
And its caterpillar, equally adorable:
There’s a video, too, though it doesn’t show much more than the above:
At least she is keeping the conversation alive. I doubt we'll see any action though...
To make no bones about the nature of the bill, Sen. Warren has titled it the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act [PDF], and states clearly in the introduction that the legislation is intended “To reduce risks to the financial system by limiting banks’ ability to engage in certain risky activities and limiting conflicts of interest, to reinstate certain Glass-Steagall Act protections that were repealed by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, and for other purposes.”
The bill already has a bipartisan group of co-sponsors in Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Sen.Angus King, an independent legislator from Maine.
In simple terms, the new Glass-Steagall Act would separate banks with FDIC-insured savings and checking accounts from “riskier financial institutions” like investment banks, insurers, hedge funds, and private equity firms.
The bill also specifies what activities are considered the “business of banking” to prevent national banks from engaging in risky activities, and bars non-banking activities from being treated as “closely related” to banking. In the decades leading up to the end of Glass-Steagall, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency had allowed the divide between traditional banking and investment banking to be blurred by institutions who claimed that things like credit default swaps were simply part of the business of banking and not securities.
“Since core provisions of the Glass-Steagall Act were repealed in 1999, shattering the wall dividing commercial banks and investment banks, a culture of dangerous greed and excessive risk-taking has taken root in the banking world,” said Sen. McCain in a statement. “Big Wall Street institutions should be free to engage in transactions with significant risk, but not with federally insured deposits. If enacted, the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act would not end Too-Big-to-Fail. But, it would rebuild the wall between commercial and investment banking that was in place for over 60 years, restore confidence in the system, and reduce risk for the American taxpayer.”
Sen. Warren concedes that recent efforts to rein in banks’ risky actions have been fruitful, but she contends that the nation’s largest banks still present a hazard to the economy.
“The four biggest banks are now 30% larger than they were just five years ago,” says the Senator, “and they have continued to engage in dangerous, high-risk practices that could once again put our economy at risk. The 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act will reestablish a wall between commercial and investment banking, make our financial system more stable and secure, and protect American families.”
Get free books from me!
The selection won’t be quite as vast as this picture suggests…
It’s that time of year when the sun doesn’t set until eight, children are out playing in yards, the air is filled with the sounds and smells of BBQ, and I give books away! If the book giveaway had corresponded with Fall the selection this year would have been massive. Alas, it didn’t and all the books D and I gave away in the two moves between this give away and the last are being enjoyed by strangers and the kinds of people who get their books from thrift stores.
What False(B)logic lacks in quantity we make up for in quality! This year I’m giving away, out of my personal collection, the following:
How does it work?
Simple! For the each post in the month of July a book will be given away. To enter your name in to the raffle for that book simply comment on the post! You may comment on multiple posts and win multiple books!
When does it start?
Right now! Just enter a comment below for a chance to win!
Don't give Orson Scott Card your money
I'm strongly considering giving Orson Scott Card the benefit of the doubt and assuming that he doesn't want me to be killed, and therefore I might go see Ender's Game, the movie they've made out of one of his books.
Now, I'm not certain that Orson Scott Card doesn't want me killed.10 I mean, after all, I think same-sex American couples should be able to get married. I've voted and advocated for that position when I've had the opportunity. I strongly supported the decriminalization of "sodomy,"11 and generally oppose the use of government power to enforce personal and religious opposition to homosexuality. Orson Scott Card thinks that any government that agrees with me and fails to prevent gay marriage should be overthrown by any means "possible or necessary":
Because when government is the enemy of marriage, then the people who are actually creating successful marriages have no choice but to change governments, by whatever means is made possible or necessary.
. . .
How long before married people answer the dictators thus: Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.
Biological imperatives trump laws. American government cannot fight against marriage and hope to endure. If the Constitution is defined in such a way as to destroy the privileged position of marriage, it is that insane Constitution, not marriage, that will die.
Orson Scott Card has also called for private sexual contact between consenting adults to remain criminalized, though to be fair as far as I know he has not specifically advocated violent overthrow of any government that fails to imprison sexually active gays. Nuance alert!
Card has called, in short, for the government to be the tool of his personal religious preferences, and for it to be overthrown by (implicitly) force if it fails to satisfy those preferences. In addition to being an opponent of criminalization of sodomy and a supporter of gay marriage I am a vocal opponent of the use of government to promote individual religious dogma, which further puts me at odds with Mr. Card.
Now, Mr. Card only speaks of bringing down by any means necessary the government if it fails to ban gay marriage to satisfy his religious views. He doesn't specifically threaten supporters and fellow-travelers and thus and such. However, violent revolutions often result in violence towards those who have supported the ancien régime. Mr. Card rails against the term "homophobia," against decreasing acceptance of his views, and against social mores with which he disagrees; it is certainly not outside the realm of possibility that he will consider me, a promoter of that which he hates and a supporter of government policies he views as destructive of his family, to be bloodworthy.
But I've decided to give Orson Scott Card the benefit of the doubt and assume he doesn't want me dead!
I was moved to this assumption by his moving plea for tolerance in the wake of calls for a boycott of his movie:
Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984.
With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.
Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.
Orson Scott Card
Here Orson Scott Card has shamed me.
First he's shamed me by correcting my ignorant and mistaken impression that the equality and humanity of gays was a political issue prior to 1984. Next he shamed my meager grasp of the law, which had led me to believe that the impact of the Windsor decision striking down DOMA on states that currently ban gay marriage is unsettled and will likely require years of litigation to sort out. I'm sure that when gay couples married in, say, California seek legal recognition in his state of North Carolina, Mr. Card will file an amicus brief asserting that the matter is now settled and that North Carolina must recognize the marriage. I believe in Orson Scott Card's consistency and good faith!
Most of all Card has shamed me in my grievous misunderstanding of tolerance. I had assumed that tolerance meant that it was a good thing for a free people to let consenting adults engage in private sexual conduct without government interference, or allowing loving consenting adult couples to marry even if some religious traditions oppose it. I assumed that tolerance meant that unpopular views — at one time the view that homosexuals should not be jailed, and now the view that they should be — ought to be addressed by the marketplace of ideas rather than by government force. But I was wrong! Tolerance means that people must be able to revile gays and gay marriage without any social consequence. Tolerance means that I should go see a movie by someone who makes me want to vomit — who wants to overthrow the government by force for doing something I agree with, who might or might not think I deserve to die so that his social policies can trump mine — because botcotting his works would be oppressive to him. Tolerance means that if he calls me a barbarian, and suggests that my friends have dark desires to seduce his children into homosexuality through the machinery of the state, then I should smile and go see his movie, because otherwise his speech might be chilled and he won't be as free to call me a barbarian and my friends child-craving tyrants.
I've already learned so much from Orson Scott Card just from this brief plea. Imagine how much I can learn from a whole movie based on his book! I just can't wait. I thought that I held Card in contempt and that I would express that contempt like a civilized man, by eschewing his society, directly or indirectly, in an exercise of my freedom of expression and association responding to his. But it all right, everything was all right, my struggle is finished. Mr. Card has helped me win a victory over my intolerant self.
I've Decided To Give Orson Scott Card The Benefit of the Doubt! © 2007-2013 by the authors of Popehat. This feed is for personal, non-commercial use only. Using this feed on any other site is a copyright violation. No scraping.
I dont have anything to hide but I don't really want my stuff being read by government nerds...
Law enforcement agencies like the FBI have long complained about what they call the "going dark" problem — the assertion that encrypted communications hamstring their efforts to catch criminals and terrorists. But US officials are only now reporting, for the first time, that encryption has managed to stop government wiretaps dead in their tracks.
Of the 3,395 wiretaps authorized by federal and state judges in 2012, investigators were only unable to circumvent encryption in 4 of the 15 cases where they encountered it. The figures come from a new annual report to Congress from the US Administrative Office of the Courts, which has been tracking the use of encryption since 2000.
In 109 cases between 2000 and 2011, encryption had not...
A poem I wrote. You might like it.
Copyright to whoever took it. Lifted from astrochat.co.uk
It is late.
The horned moon declines
As I lay my head
Into soft down
Like soft skin.
And I dream
That in your arms
I am held.
You are gone
Under a sun that
Is never veiled
A light, heat
I could not sustain
And, so I lie,
Bathed in the cold
And I wish I could wake up
Wake up to new life,
New love, new you.
Both The President and Vice President should answer to Senator Biden!
Watch then-Senator Joe Biden from 2006 directly refute each point made by his now-boss, President Barack Obama, about the NSA surveillance program at a news conference last week.
After a leaked FISA court document revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) is vacuuming up private data on millions of innocent Americans by collecting all the phone records of Verizon customers, President Obama responded by saying "let's have a debate" about the scope of US surveillance powers.
At EFF, we couldn't agree more. It turns out, President Obama's most formative debate partner over the invasiveness of NSA domestic surveillance could his Vice President Joe Biden. Back in 2006, when the NSA surveillance program was first revealed by the New York Times, then-Senator Biden was one of the program's most articulate critics. As the FISA court order shows, the scope of NSA surveillance program has not changed much since 2006, except for the occupant in the White House.
Watch this video, as Senator Biden from 2006 directly refutes each point President Obama made about the NSA surveillance program at his news conference last week.
Now we just need this everywhere for every job!
True facts! Reagan was a bastard!
Since Ronald Reagan died nine years ago, I’ve watched him transmogrified into something of a saint. Even Democrats like Obama don’t dare say a bad word about this bigoted right-wing, demagogue. All he had going for him was a faux affability, which was a thin veneer on deeply dangerous ideas.
Two weeks ago Bob Dole, in a critique of the Republican Party on Fox News Sunday, argued that the GOP had moved so far right that Reagan couldn’t even make it as a Republican candidate were he to run today.
While it’s good that Dole points out how crazily conservative the GOP has become, I didn’t buy for a second his view that Reagan wouldn’t be a comfortable fit with today’s Republicans. Reagan was a right wing-nut, and his beatification is mystifying.
I see that Bill Maher agrees with me. Here’s a clip from a recent show in which he disassembles the Reagan myth, and does so in an extraordinarily serious way for Maher.
I can't believe we lost this word!
My own discovery of this word’s history happened two years ago with an innocent question. A friend called me up and asked me about the etymology of the word sizzle. (Yes, my friends really do call me up with these kinds of questions.) The answer to my friend’s question is not all that interesting: according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the verb sizzle is probably imitative (of a hissing sound). But the OED’s etymology of sizzle cross-references the verbs sizz and fizzle—and I figured as long as I was in the OED, I might as well look up fizzle.
An etymological jackpot. When I saw the earliest meaning of fizzle in English, I thought, “How did I not know this before? Why isn’t this gem in every history of English textbook?”
The verb fizzle is first cited in 1601, in Philemon Holland’s translation of Pliny’s Natural History. It meant, in the wonderfully prim, Victorian wording of the OED (the entry was published in 1896), “to break wind without noise.” The quotation: “ … they say if Asses eat thereof, they will fall a fizling and farting.” The noun fizzle could be used to describe the action of breaking wind without noise, and a fizzler is one who partakes in said action.
How wonderful that we had a verb for that! And why in the world did we let that meaning become obsolete? (We now have the noun SBD—”silent but deadly”—but not a verb that I know of.)
By 1859, the OED has records of the verb fizzle meaning “to make a hissing sound,” with reference to oil and “unambitious rockets.”
It is 19th-century U.S. college slang that gives us the meaning we have today, where fizzle means “to come to a weak conclusion, to fail.” It shows up first in a record of slang words at Yale University (1847) in reference to failing exams: “My dignity is outraged at beholding those who fizzle and flunk in my presence tower above me.” Slang thrives on play with the taboo, and if you’re now thinking about the slangy phrasal verb fart around (“waste time”), I was too.
Not only has the verb fizzle lost its taboo meaning, it’s not even all that slangy anymore. It remains more colloquial than formal, but according to the Corpus of Contemporary American English it shows up describing politics as well as sports in newspapers and even appears sometimes in academic prose.
I sincerely doubt that, in everyday language, fizzle is going to regain its ability to pair with fart in the memorably alliterative and slangy “fizzle and fart.” But you can now join me in using the word fizzle with secret irreverence.
Up in the northern reaches of the Canadian Arctic, researchers have discovered that a category of plants buried by the Teardrop glacier hundreds of years ago is alive and well, despite having been frozen for centuries. Scientists from the University of Alberta found samples of 400-year-old plants known as bryophytes (plants like moss and liverworts that lack vascular tissue for transporting liquids), and thanks to the rapid recession of the glacier, which is uncovering land that had previously been frozen. "We ended up walking along the edge of the glacier margin and we saw these huge populations coming out from underneath the glacier that seemed to have a greenish tint," said Catherine La Farge, lead author of the study, to the BBC News....
Fascinating look on the formalist views of aspect of indy art games and the struggle for "legitimacy"
"Videogames have been one of the most exclusive communities i've ever encountered," she said to me via email, "some dudes, like Raph Koster, insist that when he says dys4ia 'isn't a game,' that's not a value judgement. That's bullshit. the attempt to label games like dys4ia as 'non-games,' as 'interactive experiences,' is just an attempt by the status quo to keep the discussion of games centered around the kind of games it's comfortable with—cus if there's one thing existing videogame culture is good at, it's making a certain kind of dude very, very comfortable."
I've noticed a recent uptick in this "certain kind of dude" argument. On the one hand it's about the acceptance and treatment of women, minorities and other groups within the game industry - and rightly so. On the other it's about the perception of patriarchy. It's saying that a "certain kind of dude" oppresses creative people with his view of an industry organised around keeping him happy, and he uses the definition of "game" as an exercise of power.
This assertion is far more contentious because it conflates three different discussions. The first is political and asserts that passivity or apathy are actually forms of complicity. The second is to do with market preference, asking why is it that the white-dude market buys certain kinds of game endlessly while ignoring greater diversity. This point lays the blame at the feet of the industry, whereas the industry maintains that market dynamics are evolutionary and so the industry chases the market rather than dictating to it.
The third discussion is about critique. To many formalists (myself included) many new kinds of interactive art are either not games, or not very good when thought of as games. Many are gamelikes, gamified systems, limited, persuasive, personal interactive stories. Some are virtual worlds. Some are more conceptually interesting than playable. Many are reliant on knowing the author's intent.
In creating a "game" not meant to be played or won, its creator is saying something. To then call that work something other than "game" can seem like an attack directed at its creator. Particularly for the group that could loosely be termed "zinesters", "game" has become a highly charged art-politik battleground that has to be won. Increasingly zinesters have taken to folding formalism into the patriarchy, complicity and "certain kind of dude" debates to paint all with the same broad brush.
Not only is that yet another attempt to win the debate over games through equivocation, it has the effect of dissuading some otherwise-interesting voices from engaging. Some, like Raph, continue to try such as with this open letter in which he discusses the debate and its personal side (an indie developer he respects crossed the street to avoid him at GDC) only to find himself yelled-at once more on Twitter. The question for zinesters is this: Is yellers and name-callers essentially all you are?
Because if so, zines will inevitably flame out.
Zinesters consider themselves to be an emerging class of interactive artist. Their work covers everything from their life stories to observations about the universe and purely aesthetic experiments, and that work takes thousands of forms. In her book, Rise of the Videogame Zinesters, Anna Anthropy paints the movement as akin to Youtube uploaders or other aggregate-media makers, free of the shackles of commercialism or elitism, and able to make whatever they want. Quite right too.
And yet unlike Youtube uploaders, zinesterism also has a combative side. Provocateurs like Anna appear at GDC and read poems about their struggles, fights, victories and defeats in the battle for true equality. Sometimes zinesterism goes beyond even that. For some the struggle is less about validation of self and more about the invalidation of others. It's about the opportunity to yell "I'm as mad as hell at you, token white dude". It's to say you just want an enemy.
We may be formalists, but writers like Raph or I are the wrong kind of enemy if your intent is to defend the right of game makers to make statements with games because we agree with you. Among our ranks you'll find some of your strongest supporters, passionate advocates and earnest evangelists. You'll find fierce debate and considered responses as we try to come to a point where our critical framework is both as inclusive and as clear as possible. But you'll find few people who fault your works on quality for those reasons (As an aside, in the rush-to-judgement in recent weeks over this whole issue, where many are content to maintain that value judgements and the like are at the heart of what-is-a-game, none of its proponents have yet cited a credible example of this.)
What you will also find, however, is people who have been around the gaming block a few times. People who have seen this struggle over "what is a game" happen before. People for whom the idea of a game that uses permadeath to make a point is not startlingly original. People for whom the cleverness of character reversal and the notion of play as self-loathing, or games that demand to not be played, are ideas that they've seen before. People for whom the debate has little or nothing to do with their own sense of power and everything to do with trying to get to a better understanding. People to whom zinesters seem intent on repeating a very old mistake.
Toward the end of the 80s a desire grew among young tabletop roleplaying gamers (myself included) to push beyond the limits of numbers. We started talking about roleplaying games as storytelling games. We regarded many old guard gamers who talked of campaigns, classes and hit points as quaint. We were convinced that one day "game" would have room for stories, epics and themes. We talked endlessly about non-plot narrative, non-rule games and moving beyond fun.
The early energy surrounding this movement led to lots of creative output. The sorts of game we created were concept pieces. We worked on games that were intended to explore themes of mythology, identity and sexuality. At first we used traditional backgrounds, plots or mechanics, but over time moved into stylistic territory, the roleplaying equivalents of Pirandello's Six Characters In Search of an Author. We were essentially the proto-form of today's zinesters.
For us this was fascinating stuff, but it gained no traction beyond our ranks. So over time we descended into an increasingly introverted conversation. While the rest of gamerdom didn't care so much, we became factional and obsessed over minutiae, slights and perceived insults. We went from being a passionate tribe to a collection of niches who bitched about one another, and over time we shrank. "Game" remained much as it was, despite all of our bluster, and by the late-90s it had pivoted back to its roots through Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition.
This, largely, is the pattern that zinesterism seems to be following.
For storytelling roleplaying games the premise that, by changing the meaning of "game", the rest of the world would follow along and validate the revolution was self-deception. "Game" did not change for those outside the scene, and instead it was swallowed up by its larger, older parent. In a digital form, I fear that zinesters are making exactly the same mistake.
As an oft-uncertain white dude who happens to write a fair bit about games, I have recently encountered a lot of defensiveness surrounding the idea of what games are. Those arguments tend to boil down to "you don't like it", "it's not meant for you", "it sold X copies" or even "you secretly hate games". I suppose I should expect that kind of reaction given that I am pretty forthright. I often say that the most effective ways of conveying the artistry of games (thauma) needs to come from a place that is game-native, and that that enables and restricts the game's maker in some ways. I tend to advocate for the player, for the need for games to be dynamic in order to build up to a convincing world.
I have also been known to say that some interactive artworks are not games. I don't, for example, consider Dear Esther a game, nor Proteus. I don't think The Passage is a game, nor The Stanley Parable nor most Tale of Tales' work. I consider them to essentially be gamelike performance art.
Taken on its own terms, art can be very powerful. However, taken on the terms of something else, art can invite unfortunate comparison. Depending on how you regard it, Marcel Duchamp's Fountain is either a classic work of modern art or an example of conman craft. Similarly, taking some interactive art on the terms of games devalues it enormously. Proteus might be interesting, one might say, but it's not much fun. Interactive art like Proteus struggles for traction outside of academia, certain sections of Steam, highbrow publications or conferences like GDC, because to label it as "game" invites comparison with the usual understanding of game that involves doing to overcome.
Zinesters are asking for their work to be taken in the same breath as casual and hardcore videogames, puzzles, crosswords, sports, the Olympics, the World Cup, the casinos of Las Vegas and so on. Furthermore their work's lack of fun leads to some negative reactions (such as this satirised review of Super PSTW), which in turn leads to creators equating incomprehension or apathy to a "certain kind of dude" who deliberately shuts them out. And so it seems that "game" won't change to include them because the patriarchy is afraid/unsure/resistant.
And this is true of many gamelike art works. Many of them are challenging, observant or interesting but they ultimately sideline themselves by wanting to be spoken of in the same breath as games. Their gameplay tends to be thin. They tend to be either unidirectional ("this is my message") or directionless ("just walk around"). They tend to sound interesting as high concepts for GDC talks. Yet they're not games.
The fact that The Color Purple exists means as much for the novel as the content within it. To some designers it's basically the same with games. Rise of the Videogame Zinesters lays out the argument that because games are mostly made by geeky white dudes for geeky white dudes, they tend to be mono-cultural. Muscular men shooting other muscular men in the face is the order of the day, and women tend to either be swapped out for men in that scenario, or relegated. There are very few gay women avatars in games.
I mostly agree. Big blockbuster games do tend to be mono-cultural and involve a lot of shooting dudes in the face. Yet at the same time bridging those issues with "what is a game" - and demanding that anything interactive and artistically expressive be considered a game - is unsound.
"Novel" is a format of story, not a token of legitimacy. Alice Walker's novel is as much a novel as Jane Austen's because they are two instances of the same general format (a long-form arced tale with internal and external writing etc). The argument over the acceptance of one kind of novel over another what that means for society is usually separate from the argument of whether or not it is a novel (although, granted, some modernist and postmodernist works have deliberately tried to play with the format).
Howl is a poem. A poem has a different format, kind of structure and voice than a novel. We can comfortably understand and accept that poetry and novels are two kinds of writing, and in order to maintain attention and interest from the reader they each operate according to their own rules. Similarly we can see that the short story, screenplay, comic, theatrical play or song also have their own special requirements. None of those formats are any more or less valid than any other. Novelists don't spend all of their time wishing poets would include them.
What the angrier zinesters seem to want is the equivalent of Ginsberg demanding that Howl be recognised as a novel. For some reason they believe that "game" means "valid, legitimate, in-the-club", something to be won back from the hands of the white dudes.
What fascinates me is how much that in itself is a tacit acknowledgement that (despite all arguments to the contrary) apparently labels do matter to the zinesters. If zinesterism really was just about self-expression, it wouldn't matter what formalists thought. Despite it being something of an ideal to exist in an aggregate everyone-can-publish universe of making whatever you want, a world beyond labels and types, zinesterism is obsessed with owning a particular label. It seems to revolve around wanting to have legitimacy granted to it by hook or by crook, which I find undoes it somewhat.
The label issue is also one that only exists in the zinester space. Outside of it, nobody gives a good god damn. In the everyday world, "game" is a noun that describes a mode of play. "Game" means sport, puzzle, task, problem and test. Games can be won or lost. Games can be practiced. Games may open a door to understanding and emotional enlightenment, generate heroes and cultural lodestones, but they do so through creative constants. They must operate under the joy of winning while mastering fair game dynamics.
Otherwise, as games, they don't really work. And the judgement criteria for why this is so comes not from patriarchy or shadowy cliques, but from players. If a game is not fun it is simply not played for long, regardless of its intent. Games are meant to be played. However none of that is true of interactive performance art if the player knows that it is not meant to be a game.
But how to convey that intent?
I think there's a solution to this conundrum, a formalist solution no less. I also think that many zinesters are not going to like it. Maybe in time.
In her book, Anna describes a class of maker analogous to the newsletter-zine-makers of years past. Such people are generally considered outside the mainstream, working away on personal projects and finding fans the hard way. Zinesters are typically not programmers (whom she categorises as white middle class dudes, etc.) and they have tools like GameMaker or Twine to make their art.
Rather than call that art "game", "gamelike", "notgame" or get into arguments over just how much game is game or not, or getting stuck in the quagmire that is "interactive entertainment", Anna (perhaps inadvertently) supplies us with a great term. "Zine" strikes me as a very neat term to describe a political and critical intent, a description of how a thing is meant to be approached rather than a classification of what it is.
Some zines may be games, for example. Some zines may be gamelike, but not games. Some zines may be toys. Some zines may be worlds to be wandered for no particular purpose. Some may be digital promenades. Some may tell stories. Some may deliberately not. Some zines may be none of the above, or incorporate aspects of all. Some zines may be digital. Some zines may be analogue.
"Zine" is a label that demands a work be regarded on its own terms, much as "modern art" does, rather than describing a format, as "statue" does. Zine allows the discussion to get past issues of who gets to be in what club. dys4ia and Warioware, for example, could be considered as contrasting examples of zine vs not-zine, irrespective of whether they are games. The main differences between them are:
Warioware tests player skills and ramps up those tests. It is meant to be replayed, often for long periods of time. It is meant to be mastered. Failure is possible, as are emergent effects. Every time a group gathers to play the party version on a Wii, funny and unexpected things happen. This all makes Warioware a game, but not a zine. Warioware is ultimately a commercial product intended to delight or entertain, and any sense of personal expression within the game is likely to only be found around its edges, if at all.
dys4ia tests player preconceptions. Its tests do not become more difficult (in terms of skill) but they do become more emotionally illustrative. It is meant to be replayed a couple of times, but not many. It is not meant to be mastered, but participated-with, so the player comes to understand the depth of its author's situation. Failure is not really possible, only delays of success. Emergent effects likewise - dys4ia is deliberately experient. It is personal, authored, intended to paint a picture and conjure a feeling that its creator experiences (which is the definition of art according to Tolstoy) every day.
Viewed in the context of "game", on games' terms, dys4ia does not have much in common with Warioware, Chess, the 100m hurdles, Darts, Tetris, Backgammon, Halo, Poker, Ridiculous Fishing, Snake, Go, Arkham Horror, Tag, Diablo, kiss chasing or slot machines. It's not much fun, nor mechanically fascinating. You don't really win or get better at it. Those are the sorts of qualities that generally describe games.
Viewed in the context of "zine", however, the question of whether dys4ia is a game, or how much, or what parts might be, is irrelevant. So is the question of whether it is fun. As a zine, as a piece of performance art that illuminates the player about what it is to be transgender, dys4ia is amazing. By thinking of it as a zine, I find I can get past its gameyness or lack thereof.
It makes sense in my mind, but my instinct tells me that my "zine" label notion won't fly. Perhaps we'll end up in a place where, like the gameplay vs story debate, everyone eventually concludes that the whole thing was predicated on straw man arguments. Perhaps we'll end up with a "Game" and "game" distinction (like "Art" and "art") or a convention like "performance game" or "gamezine" that fudges definitions of game specifically to accomodate zinesters.
However at this point I am inclined to say it is up to zinesters to decide who they want to be. As a formalist I'm personally growing bored of hearing a lazy argument that clumps all white dudes together and proclaims that any opinion a white dude may have is suspect and equates to non-specific-complicit-apathetic oppression. In part I was motivated to write this article to explain why, for all its virtues, I tire of listening to certain ranters rant the same rant over and over, how the novelty of that rant will fade away, and how it seems to me that zines are currently just a bit of history repeating.
Right now zinesters are not giving much of a reason for people who don't already agree with their general viewpoint to care. They seem more content to yell and be acknowledged by their own tribe, but that energy will eventually peter out if it does not engage with others. The passions of zinesterism are not to be trifled with or denied, but the risk of it marginalising itself is strong. Rants are important, but after a while there needs to be more.
I can't help but feel that the zine movement's fight with straw men will ultimately relegate it to a kind of angry-to-be-angry nub. I can't help but think that the movement will eventually fracture, as the storytelling-game movement did. In the hunt to find enemies, I can't help thinking that zinesterism will ultimately start to find enemies in its own ranks and become cannibalistic. All it takes for zinesterism to fail is for people to ignore it, to conclude that all it is just fringe folk being fringe folk. Personally I think if zines end up in that box, it will be tragic.
by Marianne McCune
Chuck used to sell marijuana in California. But the legalization of medical marijuana in the state meant he was suddenly competing against hundreds of marijuana dispensaries. So he moved to New York, where marijuana is still 100 percent illegal. Since making the move, he says, he's quadrupled his income. (For the record: His name isn't really Chuck.)
He spends pretty much every day dealing what he calls "farm-to-table" marijuana. On a recent afternoon in his dimly lit New York apartment, he was just about to complete a daily ritual: loading about 50 baggies of marijuana, worth a total of about $3,000 into his backpack, before heading out to make deliveries. "We're helping keep people stoned on a Friday night in New York City," he said.
Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have now legalized marijuana, either for medical use or for fun. And, it turns out, when one state brings an underground market into the mainstream and another doesn't, there are economic consequences in both places.
Dealers aren't the only ones with an incentive to move marijuana out of California. The legalization of medical marijuana led to a rush of pot farmers with permits to grow marijuana legally. That in turn led to a supply glut — and plummeting wholesale prices. Some growers haven't been able to unload all their crops at the price they want on the local, legal market. So they break the law and send it out of state.
Special Agent Roy Giorgi with the California Department of Justice is supposed to stop the illegal flow of marijuana in California. That can mean crouching in the brush in some remote part of the mountains, or it can mean heading to a FedEx or UPS in California's pot country to take a look at all the outgoing parcels and try to detect marijuana inside.
He estimates that 1 in 15 packages he examines has marijuana in it. "Right now, Northern California bud, that trademark, that stamp, is really some of the best in the world," he says.
Of course, all of Giorgi's efforts to catch marijuana growers and dealers tend to drive people out of the illegal marijuana business. That, in turn, means Chuck has less competition — and can charge higher prices.
Chuck sells marijuana for about $60 for an eighth of an ounce; in California, it would be anywhere from $30 to $45. With his New York customers, Chuck talks about marijuana like it's a rare California wine. When he pours out the contents of his backpack to reveal strains with names like Girl Scout Cookies and AK47, his clients are wowed.
Because Chuck is working in an illegal market, his customers have a hard time finding other marijuana retailers. "There's plenty of weed in New York; there's just an illusion of scarcity, which is part of what I'm capitalizing on," he says. "This is a black market business. There's insufficient information for customers."
This is what economists call information asymmetry: Chuck knows more about the market than his customers do. If weed were legal, his customers could comparison shop — they could look at menus and price lists and choose their dealer. As it is, once they find Chuck, they're likely to stick with him.
Note: A version of this story originally aired as part of the WNYC series The Weed Next Door. The headline on this post was inspired by @MichaelMontCW
I'm not surprised that India is the first nation to move in this direction
You should probably know if and what on-line service providers are doing with your data.
When it comes to online privacy, many consumers assume that their service provider, or the websites they are browsing, have the users’ best interest in mind and that these companies won’t simply hand over your information to authorities. These people are mistaken, as are those who believe that no online companies make user privacy a priority. The truth, as usual, is a bit from column A and a bit from column B.
The privacy-loving folks at the Electronic Frontier Foundation recently released their third annual Who’s Got Your Back? report covering online service providers’ transparency and privacy practices regarding government access to data.
As you can see from the image above, each of the companies was rated on the following six categories:
1. Require a warrant for content of communications
A star is awarded in this category for companies with policies that specifically state that authorities must provide a warrant in order to look at the content of a users’ communications. The EFF lauds Facebook’s policy in particular for not just requiring a warrant but also saying that the warrant is needed for things that some might consider to be semi-public, like Wall posts and location data.
Just because a company does not receive a star in this category doesn’t mean that it will necessarily hand over user content without a warrant; it just means that an un-starred company does not have a policy explicitly stating it requires a warrant.
Some companies maintain that a 2010 U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in U.S. v Warshak sets the precedent that government authorities must have a warrant to obtain access to user e-mails. However, as the EFF points out — and as we mentioned in this story about the IRS’s policy on reading consumers’ e-mails — this is not a Supreme Court precedent, and is really only binding in the region covered by the Sixth Circuit.
2. Tell users about government data requests
Even when a warrant is obtained for users’ information, the company may not have a policy of actually telling the user about it. The seven companies receiving a star from the EFF in this category each have a public policy to tell users when the government seeks their data, except in cases where that disclosure is prohibited by law.
“Promising to give notice should be an easy commitment to make,” writes the EFF, “the company doesn’t have to take a side, it merely has to pass on important information to the user.”
The EFF took away a previously earned half-star for Google because its language on this topic no only states [italics for emphasis] “We notify users about legal demands when appropriate.”
Meanwhile, LinkedIn’s policy is commended for its policy, which is clear for the user and also contains the following information for law enforcement:
Law enforcement officials who believe that notification would jeopardize an investigation should obtain an appropriate court order or other process that specifically precludes member notification, such as an order issued pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §2705(b).
3. Publish transparency reports
The category in which the fewest stars were given by the EFF, with only 6 of the 18 companies publishing reports on how frequently they provide user data to government authorities. On the up side, this is up from only 4 companies the previous year, so here’s hoping the trend continues.
Microsoft, one of the two companies to get its first star in this category, published its first transparency report in March, detailing not just the number of requests it received from authorities around the world, but how many were honored.
4. Publish law enforcement guidelines
To earn this star, a company must have a public statement on how it responds to data demands from the government.
The EFF believes that a proper set of law enforcement guidelines would include details on the following:
• Whether a company requires a warrant for content
• What types of data a company retains, and what kind of legal process the company requires for law enforcement to obtain various kinds of information
• How long data is generally held by the company, and how long will it be held in response to a retention request
• Whether the company has an exception for emergency or other kinds of disclosures
• Whether the company asks for reimbursement for the costs incurred in complying with a request for data
5. Fight for users’ privacy rights in courts
This one is a little trickier, as not all companies on the list have been compelled to fight for their users’ privacy rights in courts.
“The lack of a star in this category should not be interpreted as a statement that the company failed to stand up for users when it had the chance,” writes the EFF. “Instead, this category serves as special recognition for companies that were faced with a decision to defend user privacy in court, took action to defend that privacy, and could to publicly disclose their efforts.”
Oddly enough, this is the only of the six categories in which Yahoo earned a star — for successfully getting the Justice Dept. to back down on a request to view a user’s e-mail without probable cause.
It will be interesting to see if Yahoo’s purchase of Tumblr, which has stars in 3 categories this year, will result in that company’s policies being weakened or the bolstering of both businesses’ guidelines.
6. Fight for users’ privacy in Congress
Given that many privacy laws predate the creation of the wheel, most companies in the EFF survey have advocated — either directly to lawmakers or by joining the Digital Due Process Coalition — for the modernization of these laws.
Only Yahoo, Comcast, Verizon (and MySpace, but honestly… it’s not 2005 anymore so no one really cares) failed to earn stars in this category.
You can read the entire EFF report here.