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17 Apr 21:30

Funny 'Avengers' Manga Introduces Earth's Mightiest Heroes To Japan

by Chris Sims

'Marvel Avengers' Manga by Fujiminosuke Yorozuya

On the off chance that you thought there was anywhere you could go to escape the presence of The Avengers now that they were the stars of a series of films that have taken in roughly 48 trillion dollars, don’t fret: They are everywhere. Or, to be slightly more accurate, they’re now in Japan, thanks to a series of comics designed to introduce Japanese children to Marvel’s team of superheroes.

Created by Fujiminosuke Yorozuya as part of an effort to promote Marvel and Toie’s new Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers anime, Marvel Avengers ran as a twelve-page one-shot in Monthly Korokoro Comic for kids, introducing Captain America, the Wasp, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk and Spider-Man to younger readers in a lighthearted comedy.

Marvel Avengers by Fujiminosuke Yorozuya

One of the biggest gags in the story comes from the idea that the Avengers introduce themselves to kids, only to find out that the youth of Japan has no idea who they are. That’s not too surprising, given that “saving the world” in the Marvel Universe tends to mean “saving Manhattan and occasionally a small part of Queens,” but really, now. You’d think they’d at least remember Spider-Man, alias Takuya Yamashiro, from that time he defeated a truck.

Japanese Spider-Man/Supaidaman

Since the story was done as a 12-page one-shot, it’s doubtful that it’ll see an American reprint, which is a real shame, because I desperately want to read this, if only to see whether Captain America acquires a talking motorcycle.

Read Our 'Japanese Spider-Man' Episode Recaps

[Via Kotaku]

17 Apr 22:43

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17 Apr 23:00

No Romulans, just angry volunteers: One man’s journey to restore Star Trek’s bridge

by Cyrus Farivar
Cyrus Farivar

Star Trek may be the series that bred fandom as we know it, but even among the Trekkies, Huston Huddleston is standing out: he's about to unveil the chair from where no one has gone before. Sort of.

Huddleston is a working screenwriter who, back in 2011, started on a journey to restore the signature modern Star Trek set piece—the entire bridge of the NCC-1701-D. The bridge was home to Capt. Jean-Luc Picard and his crew on The Next Generation, but it was actually destroyed during the filming of Star Trek: Generations, where the Enterprise crash-lands onto the surface of Veridian III. Following the conclusion of the show and its related films, only four replicas were made for Star Trek: The Experience, a theme park in Las Vegas that closed in 2008 after a 10-year run.

It took three years and several thousand dollars, but Huddleston now has what he believes is the most accurate representation of Picard's throne in existence. And actually, it took four chairs to get there. The captain's chair that Huddleston originally rescued (a replica to begin with) was in such bad shape that it couldn't be restored. The seat had to be remade from scratch, but it later turned out that this design was wrong too. Remake 2.0 was sold off. Huddleston now hopes he has the definitive and final version.

Read 48 remaining paragraphs | Comments

17 Apr 23:15

Twitter parody account holder sought in police raid

by David Kravets
Don't mock the Mayor Jim Ardis of Peoria as you just might be jailed and fined.

Illinois police seized computers and mobile phones while raiding a house whose owner was suspected of parodying the town mayor on Twitter.

In all, five people following the Tuesday evening raid were taken to the Peoria Police Department station for questioning, local media report.

"They just asked me about the Twitter account, if I knew anything about it,” Michelle Pratt, 27, told the Journal Star.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

17 Apr 23:25

Wu-Tang Clan fans pooling $5 million to buy sole copy of the group's next album

by Josh Lowensohn

There's truly a Kickstarter project for just about everything. Case in point: a new fundraising effort to pool together $5 million to buy the upcoming Wu-Tang Clan album, which the group is planning make available to only one lucky person. Last month, Wu-Tang Clan member Robert "RZA" Digg described the album, called The Wu — Once Upon a Time In Shaolin, as a true collectors item, something equivalent to "having the scepter of an Egyptian king." The group's already been offered $5 million for it, putting it well out of the reach of normal humans. And that's not sitting well with two twenty-somethings from California and Utah, who have taken to Kickstarter to raise those funds collectively, then distribute the album to backers:


For all the fans who won't be able to pay 30-50 bucks to listen to a double album in one sitting, let's raise enough money to buy this album and then turn around and give it away for free. Wu members can still get their CREAM and the rest of us get to enjoy an epic album instead of some uber rich bastard keeping it to himself like a collector's item.

As the founder of this group I pledge to not keep a single penny of the money raised. Every cent will be bid to win the album. If we don't get it then everyone gets their money back.

So far that plea has brought in $593 from more than 115 backers, a very small chunk on the way to the $5 million goal. In an interview with DNA Info, project creators Russell Meyer and Calvin Okoth-Obbo say they "can't imagine" Digg getting upset about the effort, despite the potential legal issues that could come from redistributing the music.

Legal issues are an afterthought

The original plan for the album, which was announced last month, involved taking it on a world tour, similar to famous pieces of art. That included plans for a "listening event," the likes of a concert, but through headphones. It would then be turned over to the highest bidder, complete with its unique packaging, a silver and nickel box created by artist Yahya.

This isn't the only Kickstarter effort to make expensive music available to the masses. Last week electronic music artist Richard D. James (who goes by Aphex Twin) agreed to make a lossless digital rip of his $13,500 double album available to backers who pledged at least $16 to a related Kickstarter campaign. That's a far smaller mountain to climb than the $5 million the new Wu-Tang album might end up costing.

17 Apr 21:56

rashaka: gender-fucking: goldenheartedrose: neurowonderful: (...



rashaka:

gender-fucking:

goldenheartedrose:

neurowonderful:

(Image description: A partial screenshot of a blog post. The title reads “How I reduced screaming and verbal stimming in my child with autism”, and below that is a colour photograph of a hand holding a rectangular plastic “clicker” device.)

I think I may have mentioned this blog post, and the sadness and confusion I felt when I came across it, in one of my videos. This screenshot is from the blog of an “autism parent”. Yes, that is a clicker. Yes, she is encouraging the use of animal training methods on Autistic children. Yes, she considers any kind of vocal stimming, not just screaming, to be a “bad behaviour”. To top it all off, her blog banner reads, “Discovering SOLUTIONS to the Everyday Problems of Living with AUTISM”. Here is an excerpt from her tutorial on how to train your disabled child like a dog to have a “Quiet Mouth”:

Third, I sat back and watched my child. Since he was making bad noises, I decided to reinforce Quiet Mouth (i.e., lips together, no sound). Whenever he had a split second of Quiet Mouth, I immediately tagged (made a click-sound with the device) and handed over a treat. Every time his mouth was Quiet, I tagged (clicked) and treated. Soon there was much more Quiet Mouth behavior. When doing this it is important to ignore and pay no attention to vocal stims or screaming. Do not look at the child, do not speak to him/her or explain. Just say nothing, and immediately tag and treat as soon as there is even a split second of Quiet Mouth. You can also tag and treat a child for any appropriate vocalizations. If he/she says a nice word, or makes an appropriate comment, then tag and reinforce that. Your goal is to increase Quiet Mouth and appropriate vocalizations.

And sadly, as bad as this attitude and treatment of Autistic children is, this is a relatively tame example when compared to the other unethical treatments, therapies, and methods of discipline that Autistic children are being subjected to every day (all in the name of making them appear less obviously Autistic). This is why we need Autism Acceptance Month and not the fear-mongering, negative, misinformed “awareness” that Autism Speaks and its allies are pumping out this April.

We need acceptance because Autistic children should be loved and accepted wholly and completely for who they are, not hurt and mistreated in their parent’s frantic search for a “cure”. Because Autistic people deserve to be treated with respect and listened to, not silenced and forced or coerced to conform to an ableist, non-disabled ideal. Because Autistic children need accommodation and understanding to live healthy, happy lives, not sketchy “treatments” and intensive, soul-crushing “therapies” to try to make them appear more neurotypical and less Autistic.

For more information on ASAN’s Autism Acceptance Month, see the about page on the website here: http://www.autismacceptancemonth.com/about/

I want to cry. The aim of this is no better than the autistic kid who had their vocal cords cut. Like. Just NO.

THAT IS LITERALLY A GOD DAMN DOG CLICKER. YOUR. CHILD. IS. NOT. A. DOG. YOU DON’T NEED TO FUCKING TRAIN THEM LIKE AN ANIMAL YOU FUCKING PEICE OF SHIT.

at first i thought the article was saying you should give the child the clicker so they have something to focus on, similar to pulling a rubber band on your wrist.

i didn’t realize until i read it that they meant TRAIN the child with word-association

17 Apr 17:13

(via Mondo: Info)



(via Mondo: Info)

17 Apr 13:11

The economic consequences of Lent

by R.L.W. and G.D.
firehose

via multitasksuicide

What believers save for their suffering

LENT ends today, Holy Thursday. After 40 days of fasting and reflecting, the world's 1.2 billion Catholics can prepare for Easter—and finally sink their teeth into a chocolate bar, light up a cigarette, quaff a coffee or pour themselves a well-deserved single malt. Though the faithful give up life's material luxuries for spiritual purposes, their wallets also benefit. Looking at the most common items that people eschew—like alcohol, cigarettes and fast food—Catholics living in Dublin will have saved the most, around $780 if they resisted all the vices in our index. Cutting out 20 cigarettes a day makes up the bulk of the savings, $468. Meanwhile in Lisbon, where the prices of similar goods are less, Catholics wouldn't even save that amount if they gave up all the daily treats. In Nigeria, where around 15% are Catholic, those in Lagos would save most by denying themselves fast food. Wine and beer save believers the most cash in São Paulo, Brazil, the country home to the most Catholics in the world.

16 Apr 18:00

Dwarf Fortress: The Detailed Roguelike That’s Easy To Play

by Graham Smith

By Graham Smith on April 16th, 2014 at 7:00 pm.

Dwarf Fortress is famous for producing anecdotes by the minute. The two-man, twelve-year, donation-funded indie project weaves together procedurally generated geography, civilizations and histories to create a rich fantasy world. It simulates its characters – standard fare like dwarves, elves, goblins, etc. – down to the most minute detail, and when all its systems combine, the results are often hilarious, occasionally tragic, and always surprising.

It’s also blissfully easy to play. The game is free to download and easy to install, the UI comes with a detailed and handy help system, and there’s a community wiki full of guides – not that you’ll need them. I started from scratch last night and was having fun immediately. Let me tell you about my experience.

First of all, you need to download and install it. Visit this thread for PeridexisErrant’s Dwarf Fortress Starter Pack and hit one of the download links at the top. It’s a zip file, so just extract the whole set wherever you want it and you’re ready to go.

When you boot the game up, you’ll get a straightforward GUI setup menu asking you what graphical tileset you want to use. Stick with the clean and clear defaults and press launch. Now you’re in game – simple.

No matter how many games you play of Dwarf Fortress, no matter how many times you die and restart, every adventure you embark upon can take place within a single world. If you leave a particularly noticeable mark on that world in one life, you can go find the remnants of it in the next. Your next step will be to generate that world.

Hit ‘Create New World’, and select whatever you want from the various options. I kept everything at the default “Medium”, but set the pre-generated history from 5 years to 550 years. This means that the process takes longer and my saved games are bigger, but the world is more rich with myths, legends and the ruins of forgotten civilizations. It’s fascinating to watch the game put the world together – mountains leap from the earth, rivers dribble across the landscape, and then some part of the process will reject that world, toss it away and start again. It’ll do this five or six times until some unknown criteria is met, and eventually civilizations will start to appear and the population and deceased counters will tick up into the tens and then hundreds of thousands. By this point, I’m already having fun.

When you’re done, select to start a new game from the main menu, and pick Legends mode. This is basically a browser for the lore the game has just generated. You can pore over maps, review familial histories, and see every dwarf who has lived and died in this world. It’s fascinating. I can spend hours just looking over it; all you’ve done is press a few quick buttons, and fifteen minutes later you have an encyclopedia for a fictional world that’s all yours. Here’s my map (click to make it bigger):

Every symbol is a considerable chunk of land, containing villages, towns, castles, caves, volcanoes, life.

If you can tear yourself away, it’s time to go for an adventure. Quit out of Legends mode and this time select Adventure mode. You’ll begin with character creation, and it’s much like any other fantasy adventure game you’ve ever played. Set your name, your gender, stuff a bunch of points in combat and physical skills and you’ll be ready to go in a couple of minutes. Don’t sweat what you pick too much; just make sure you’re ready for fights.

I created a female swordsman named Akan Seasonveiled. I’m a Hero – stronger than a Peasant, weaker than a Demigod – and I’m out to make a name for myself. I’ve begun on the islands in the north-west of the map above, which is large enough that it would take days to walk from one end to the other.

When you get in game, a message will tell you about the help system. Just press ? (i.e. Shift+/) at any point to bring up a menu with helpful starter advice (about 400 words long) and a page of key bindings. You don’t really need to look at any of it, as these are the only buttons you’ll need:

Arrow keys – move/attack
l – look at a thing
k – talk to a person/creature
g – pick something up
i – check your inventory
Q – check your quest log
T – fast travel

That’s it. Pretty much it’s just like Skyrim. There’s even a compass in the top left of the screen that tells you what is nearby. There were buildings to my north, so I headed in that direction till I came across a round building with a single room. I went inside and there was a small cluster of farmers, some craftsman, and a spearman in some armour. I started a conversation (k) with the spearman.

Hello bud! I was on the look out for a quest and selected the “Services” option in the menu (navigated with the + and – keys). What can I do for you, Kafek Lusterwash? I’m immediately charmed by his laconic response:

I decide to quiz him about the surrounding area and, on a whim, ask if he wants to come with me on my adventure.

Kafek, droll kook! I’ve been playing for less than two minutes and I now have a sidekick. He’s got some armour, a spear, and the text description that appears when I look (l) at him tells me his ears are funny lookin’. Maybe this is why he craves death so badly. Maybe people make fun of his ears a lot. Sorry Kafek, I won’t tease you about them.

I talk to some of the other people in the building, to see if they might have a quest for me. A farmer thinks I’m foolish for attempting to have an adventure, but he does have a job if I want it.

Laka Wordsblotted, your days are numbered. Our weapons are silver, but my shield is copper and I’m betting anything pointy will do the job well enough. It’s still early in the day, so Kafek and I continue north for a while, exploring what turns out to be a fairly large city full of buildings and people. Everyone else is a tradesman or a farmer, and none of them want to join Kafek and I on our adventure. I wonder idly if it’s because of Kafek’s ears, but don’t say anything. I decide instead that it’s time to track down Laka, the nightcrawler.

I press Q to bring up my quest log, and hit a button to zoom the map to the location of our target. They’re not far, to the southwest of the same region we’re in. Whenever you’re in friendly territory, you can press T to fast travel, and that’s what I do to arrive at the entrance of a small cave in the wilds. This is “The Ignorant Holes”, and Kafek is by my side as we descend.

As soon as we’re down a short slope, Laka appears and announces himself. “Prepare to die!” he yells, but my new friend Kafek proves himself vicious in a fight. He lunges forward and in two turns strikes Laka down before I’m able to land even a single blow. I’m not complaining. Kafek’s weird ears probably distracted Laka and we’ll both get the credit when we head back to town.

While on the fast travel map, bounding across hills and forests with Kafek at my side, an icon appears dead ahead of us. “You have discovered a camp,” a message reads. A camp! All of my experiences with the people in this region have been positive so far, and I imagine a travelling band of friendly tradesmen who might offer us new jobs or sell us tools. Also, every conversation has an “Accuse of being a night crawler” button, and I’m dying to try it out. Doing so in the wilds with a small group of people seems a better idea than pointing fingers in a heavily populated city.

As it turns out, conversation isn’t an option. The group of campers attack us on sight. First comes The Hammerman, who hits both Kafek and I with a series of bruising wollops. Dwarf Fortress describes combat scenarios in tremendous detail at the bottom of the screen, each turn painting a new picture in scrolling text. This means you infer your success or failure in a fight not via sets of falling numbers, but by evocative descriptions of grotesque injuries. As simple as your control over combat is, these bruises, lacerations and broken bones make every attacking step thrilling.

The Hammerman is joined by a Lasher, but Kafek and I eventually dispatch both enemies. We’re roughed up by the experience – Kafek especailly, who took the worst of the attacks – but it looks like we’ll be oka–

“Overlord” in red writing immediately makes me picture some terrible demon hell beast, but actually it’s just another human. A lady, this time, wearing a considerable amount of armour. Rafeb Greatesttargets, Overlord, is clearly the toughest of the group, but I figure Kafek and I have what it takes to win the fight.

The Overlord hits Kafek once, causing so much pain and injury that he immediately throws up. Her next blow grinds his skull into his brain. “Kafek Icgiltega, Spearman has been struck down.” Shit. When Kafek agreed to follow me, he did so on the condition that I bring him glory and death. Death is taken care of, but now I need to bring him glory.

I turn and run.

It doesn’t work. The Overlord charges, closes the distance between us in an instant, and knocks me on my butt. She then lands a series of blows while I’m stunned, which cause me to “give in to pain” and fall unconscious. While I’m asleep on the grass, she whips my skull to pieces, and I join Kafek in procedurally generated heaven.

Below is a picture of the final scene. The lower most body is one of our enemies. The one a little above and to the right of that is Kafek. Then, above and to the right of that, is me with the Overlord alongside. If you look to the top of the image, near the left, you’ll see there are two more people coming to investigate. Even if I had managed to flee from the Overlord, it seems unlikely I’d have been able to avoid everyone else who made up this camp.

This whole experience has taken around twenty minutes, and while it’s a shame Akan Seasonveiled didn’t get to see more of her homeland, the experience encapsulated much of what I love about Dwarf Fortress. I discovered a town, talked to people and formed a posse. I went on a dynamically generated fantasy adventure and slayed a grim beast. I discovered a camp of travellers out in the wilds, had a tense and hard-fought combat encounter, and finally met my own grisly end. It was exciting! It was just a tiny taste of this world, but I’m itching to go explore more.

Will I ever get back to that camp and find my revenge, or even stumble across my corpse? Shall I create my next character on the other side of the world? Earlier, in Legends mode, I output a heatmap showing locations of “evil”. There’s a particularly strong spot in the south that I’m dying to learn more about.

Dwarf Fortress has been in development for twelve years, available to download for over eight, and has maybe twenty years of development left if the current roadmap remains accurate. It’s an amazing and important game. It ought to be played by more people, and you can get a little taste of why while having fun from the very first click. It’s easy. Go play. I haven’t even mentioned the ‘object testing’ Arena mode where you can pit dragons against elephants in who-would-win scientific battle royales*.

*dragons always win and the burning elephant corpses produce smoke that blinds all future combatants.

16 Apr 23:48

GoPro Project Claims Technology Is Making People Lose Empathy For Homeless

by samzenpus
EwanPalmer (2536690) writes "A project involving GoPro cameras and people living on the streets of San Francisco has suggests technology is making people feel less compassionate towards the homeless. Started by Kevin F Adler, the Homeless GoPro project aims to 'build empathy through a first-hand perspective' by strapping one of the cameras onto homeless volunteers to document their lives and daily interactions. One of the volunteers, Adam Reichart, said he believes it is technology which is stopping people from feeling sympathy towards people living on the street as it's easier to have 'less feelings when you're typing something' than looking at them in the eye"

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16 Apr 14:20

The First Instagram From Space Is Of An Astronaut In A Firefly T-Shirt

by Robert T. Gonzalez

The First Instagram From Space Is Of An Astronaut In A Firefly T-Shirt

Last week, NASA astronaut Steve Swanson sent the first Instagram from space. It was a selfie, naturally, taken before the ISS cupola. But what caught our eye wasn't Swanson's handsome mug or the view of Earth. It was Swanson's shirt, which features a familiar spacecraft and the words: "Shipping & Logistics: Everything's Shiny."

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17 Apr 13:51

This Amazing Technicolor Castle has been Abandoned for more than 20 Years

by MessyNessy
firehose

via rnas

castellosam1

Here on this corner of the internet, we see a lot of abandoned places. For some of them, we can even understand how circumstances might have led their abandonment. This however, is a head-in-hands kind of moment.

The Castello di Sammezzano is a show-stopper, a jaw-dropper. Hidden away in the Tuscan hills of Northern Italy, this electrifyingly beautiful Moorish castle was built a whopping 400+ years ago in 1605, but more than two decades, it’s been sitting empty, neglected, vulnerable to  pillaging and to the elements.

listri

(c) Massimo Listri

There are 365 rooms in the Castello di Sammazzano, one for every day of the year. The Moroccan-style palatial villa is a labyrinthe of exquisitely tiled rooms, each one intricately unique. Originally built by a Spanish noble, Ximenes of Aragon in the 17th century, it wasn’t until the 19th century that the castle would find its arabian identity and be transformed into the etherial palace it resembles today.

castellouraven

(c) Dan Raven

castellosam2

castellosam3

(c) Martino Zegwaard

Non plus ultra-3

(c) Darmé

This is all owed to the its inheritor, Marquis Ferdinando Panciatichi Ximenes, a largely forgotten but key cultural, social and political figure in Florence when the city was the capital of Italy. Ferdinando, who lived and died at the property, spent 40 years planning, financing and realizing this exotic castle that would become the most important example of orientalist architecture in the country– only to be left to ruin at the hands of modern-day investors.

Non plus ultra-74

After the Marquis’ death at the end of the 19th century, there was a period of uncertainty for the property and historical records appear to be rather patchy. During the war, the Germans came looting, stealing mainly from the castle’s surrounding park that had once been considered the largest and most exotic in Tuscany. They took many important statues and fountains of Moorish style, as well as an entire bridge and a grotto featuring a statue of Venus. When the war ended, the castle became a luxury hotel, restaurant and bar.

castellosam4

Unfortunately there appears to be no photographs of the villa during this period, I couldn’t even get the name of the hotel, which reportedly closed its doors in 1990. For a decade, it stood without a master of the house until in 1999, a British company ceremoniously bought the Castello di Sammezzano at auction. But the castello would remain lifeless.

Non plus ultra-75

The plan for Sammezzano called for an 18-hole championship golf course and a large sports facility and clubhouse. But construction hadn’t yet begun when the investment company ran into “economic issues” and the castle was forgotten, left to fall into disrepair. The exterior damage by vandals and the weather is fairly evident. On the inside, many windows were broken, railings cut, chandeliers and rosettes stolen.

Non plus ultra-55

It wasn’t until 2013 that a local non-profit committee was founded to help raise awareness of the increasingly decaying castle. They have no ownership of Sammezzano but they help to arrange and promote public openings. And while the Comitato FPXA (after the initials of Ferdinando Panciatichi Ximenes of Aragon) has been doing their part, the property has been quietly sold to the global developer, Palmerston Hotel & Resorts.

Non plus ultra-57

On their website, their to-do list includes several worldwide projects, including the Castello Sammezzano, which they intend to develop into a luxurious sporting resort, incorporating a boutique hotel, apartments, spa and country club with golf, tennis and various sporting amenities. They have obtained all necessary planning approvals and claim redevelopment is scheduled to commence in 2014.

 

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Another luxury hotel development might not be the fairytale ending we were necessarily waiting for, but here’s hoping this arabian castle will finally be restored to its former glory– and maybe they’ll let us come round for a mint tea under those otherworldly ceilings.

Non plus ultra-67

Stay tuned for updates on the Comitato FPXA facebook page

Images by urban exploration photographers Dan Raven / Darmé / Martino Zegwaard

The post This Amazing Technicolor Castle has been Abandoned for more than 20 Years appeared first on Messy Nessy Chic.

17 Apr 17:28

angryampersand: angryampersand: I’m really glad people are...



angryampersand:

angryampersand:

I’m really glad people are opening up and talking now, because the degree to which people think shit like this is acceptable is ridiculous. Industry professionals need to make huge changes, but so do consumers and fans. We just all need to be better than this. Jesus Christ. 

Adding these last tweets too because it illustrates perfectly how this stuff goes even beyond “internet harassment” to creating a culture where women don’t feel safe doing their day to day lives because of  the way that men get away with this shit ( and without being challenged or silenced!). 

My biggest hope from all these conversations is that they will not just go away, like so many previous ones, and that things will start to change, because. I mean how many other ways are there to say this? Unacceptable and abhorrent in every way. 

17 Apr 15:12

Skepchick | GoDaddy Released My Personal Information to a Spammer Troll

by djempirical
firehose

TW: harassment
in case you were STILL wondering whether you should divest of GoDaddy

GoDaddy Logo

Yesterday, I learned that GoDaddy released personally identifiable information about me to a spammer troll. You see, it all started way back in August of 2011 2012 (edit: I was mistaken on the date of the original incident) when I got a dodgy-looking email from someone I didn’t recognize that said only “Transcendental Argument for the existence of God (17:36)” and a link to a website that I did not click on for fear it would download all sorts of creepy crawlies on my computer. The email went to me and a bunch of other people I do not know whose names also start with “J.” In other words, it was quintessential spam.

I noticed that the email address it came from as well as the link went to a GoDaddy registered domain. I figured I should report it, so I forwarded the email along with headers to GoDaddy’s abuse department. I then immediately forgot about it because I can only worry about a piece of spam for so long.

Yesterday, over 2 years after the original spam incident, I began to get emails from friends of mine forwarding a piece of creepy-looking spam they received that contained my name. All emails said the following:

if you go to:

<website redacted>

4/14/14

 

you can read a 1-page word.doc

featuring Jamie Bernstein of Skepchick.

 

neither her name, nor your organization’s name

appear anywhere in the story … only Jamie’s picture

Clicking the link brought me to the same late-90s-geocities-reminiscent Skeptic website that almost 3 years ago I thought was going to give my computer a bunch of sketchy viruses. There at the top of the page was a photo of me with the following:

Screenshot of harassing site

Cute, huh?

 

(click the picture to read a 1-page word.doc)

 

For anyone considering dating this person

I would recommend that you first google the mating habits of …

 

The praying mantis

 

If someone is already married to this person, the only advice I can offer is …

Drink heavily and smoke constantly … it can’t last forever.

Clicking the photo downloads a word document, the title of which contains my full first and last name.

The document then says that in 2011 he sent an email to “hundreds of atheists” with a link to his website and that I had reported him for violating GoDaddy’s policies against spam. He was supposed to pay a $200 fine or risk the suspension of his domain. Instead, he argued with GoDaddy’s customer service until they agreed to waive the fine as long as he promised never to send spam again.

He ended the document with the following:

When I was threatened on my talk show by neo-Nazis (“I’m going to kill you and your family”), I didn’t “run to mommy” and try to get them in trouble – I handled it myself, like a grownup. Compare my response to physical threats to the complainer’s response to merely watching a video about science/religion.

 

This person needs to grow up. But more importantly, this person needs to make some serious adjustments to their moral code.

 

(an anger management class wouldn’t be such a bad idea either)

In other words, he sent out a spam email that clearly violated the rules of his server. Then, he turned around and retaliated against the person who reported him.

Except, there is a missing step here. You see, he would never have been able to retaliate had he not known who had reported him. The email in question went to a lot of people and there was no way for him to have known that I was the one who reported the email if GoDaddy had not released personally identifiable information about me to my spammer.

Now, I have an angry spammer who blames me for receiving a $200 fine and is retaliating by posting my name and photo on his website with gendered insults and then (ironically) sending out spam emails with the link to friends of mine that he has tracked down and who knows who else.

GoDaddy has put my personal privacy and safety at risk. And, in case you think this could have been a mistake, GoDaddy’s policy for dealing with abuse complaints contains the following:

We review all complaints for validity and will take appropriate action, and as part of our investigation it may also be necessary for us to corroborate your complaint with our customer.

Apparently “corroborate your complaint with our customer” means that GoDaddy provide their customer personally identifiable information that will allow him to stalk you on the Internet and harass you for having the gall to report him.

If you think I can now report to GoDaddy that someone on their servers is using their website for harassment, think again. Here’s what GoDaddy has under their sections of reporting harassment.

godaddy abuse/harassment screenshot

Go Daddy.com does not allow illegal content on our customer’s websites. However, as a hosting provider, it is not our place to determine if the site you have mentioned is actually engaging in illegal activities. If you suspect any of our customers are using their website to engage in any illegal activities, please help us by contacting your local law enforcement agency, and request them to investigate this situation. Please refer to our Universal Terms of Service Agreement for specifics on our policies.

So thank you GoDaddy. I helped you out by reporting someone who was using your servers in an illegal fashion. You responded by telling him that I was the one who reported him. Now he is harassing me, posting my photo and name online with sexist insults, and tracking down my friends in order to send them spam linking to his post about me. And, according to your own policy I can’t even report the harassment because it’s “not your place” to deal with customers who are using your services to harass and abuse.

GoDaddy gave my personally identifiable information to a spammer troll, violating my personal privacy and safety and resulting in me joining the the ever-growing group of women that are subject to online abuse.

Note: I am not linking to the spammer’s website because I don’t want to give him more attention. If you’re really curious, I’m sure you can find it yourself using some creative googling.

UPDATE: GoDaddy responded to my post in the comments with the following statement:

We understand a situation like this is very frustrating. While this may not resolve the issues of the past, we hope some context will help explain how we manage spam complaints and address allegations of defamatory content.

We have a “zero tolerance” spam policy and investigate all accusations of potential spamming on our network. We notify the complainant that it may be necessary for us to corroborate their claim with the person accused of spamming. A critical point in corroborating a spam complaint is confirming whether there was an “opt-in” email consent from the person who says they are being spammed. This is why we ask for an email address from the person filing the complaint. Without it, unfortunately there’s no way to determine if the accused spammer had “opt-in” consent. When proof of “opt-in” isn’t provided, we consider the activity a violation and take appropriate actions to prevent further spamming.

As for the website created after the spamming complaint was handled, we do not make determinations about whether content is defamatory. As citizens of the Internet, we recommend you contact law enforcement to register a complaint about any website material you deem defamatory. We do not remove content without a court order.

Again, we understand this doesn’t erase the issues you’ve experienced, we just wanted to provide some perspective on our policies and the issues we have to balance as an Internet provider. If you would like to discuss this in more depth, please shoot me an email and I’d be happy to speak with you directly.

Pam Bunn
Abuse@GoDaddy.com
Domain Services
GoDaddy

Original Source

16 Apr 19:11

Maps show musical preferences of each region of the United States [17 pictures]

by Joey White
firehose

portland jazz, what

Using data from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Movoto calculated the musical preferences of each region of the United States and arranged them in heat maps, showing which musical genres are most popular in each area of the lower 48 states.

Most people don’t think of Minneapolis or Seattle as having a rap scene or Las Vegas as a place that puts out country music. But they do.

There are sure to be other surprises as you peruse all 17 genres…

Alternative

Regional Music Preferences 17

Bluegrass

Regional Music Preferences 09

Blues

Regional Music Preferences 02

Country

Regional Music Preferences 03

EDM/Electronica

Regional Music Preferences 04

Folk

Regional Music Preferences 10

Gospel

Regional Music Preferences 11

Indie

Regional Music Preferences 14

Jazz

Regional Music Preferences 07

Latin

Regional Music Preferences 08

Metal

Regional Music Preferences 06

Pop

Regional Music Preferences 15

Punk

Regional Music Preferences 13

Rap & Hip-Hop

Regional Music Preferences 05

Rhythm & Blues

Regional Music Preferences 16

Rock & Oldies

Regional Music Preferences 01

Soul

Regional Music Preferences 12

(via io9)

16 Apr 12:12

Student Records Kids Who Bully Him, Then Gets Threatened With Wiretapping Charges

by Soulskill
An anonymous reader tips news of an incident in a Pennsylvania high school in which a student, Christian Stanfield, was being bullied on a regular basis. He used a tablet to make an audio recording of the bullies for the purpose of showing his mother how bad it was. She was shocked, and she called school officials to tell them what was going on. The officials brought in a police lieutenant — but not to deal with the bullies. Instead, the officer interrogated Stanfield and made him delete the recording. The officer then threatened to charge him with felony wiretapping. The charges were later reduced to disorderly conduct, and Stanfield was forced to testify before a magistrate, who found him guilty. Stanfield's mother said, "Christian's willingness to advocate in a non-violent manner should be championed as a turning point. If Mr. Milburn and the South Fayette school district really want to do the right thing, they would recognized that their zero-tolerance policies and overemphasis on academics and athletics have practically eliminated social and emotional functioning from school culture."

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17 Apr 16:02

Ubuntu 14.04 will power “first commercially available Ubuntu tablets”

by Jon Brodkin
firehose

pretty strongly considering moving my server from 12.04 to CentOS

From May 2013, a tablet running an early version of Ubuntu Touch.
Andrew Cunningham

Canonical today is releasing Ubuntu 14.04, a Long Term Support (LTS) edition for desktops and servers and an update to the versions of Ubuntu for phones and tablets.

LTS editions are released once every two years and receive five years of support from Canonical and thus gain wider adoption in businesses than the less stable server and desktop editions that come out every six months.

Canonical eventually wants to create a single operating system that can be installed across desktops, phones, and tablets, with a different interface presented on each device. That convergence hasn't been completed yet, so with 14.04 (codenamed "Trusty Tahr") there will be separate downloads for the mobile editions. "Full convergence means that the same code for operating systems and applications will be running on all types of devices, from phones to tablets to desktops, and even both smaller and larger devices," Ubuntu Engineering VP Rick Spencer told Ars in an e-mail. "Convergence is still a work in progress, and we will continue to move the code to the desktop as it is ready in each release."

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17 Apr 17:01

Snowden Queries Putin On Live TV Regarding Russian Internet Surveillance

by timothy
firehose

great

Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "Edward Snowden appeared on a Russian television call-in show to ask Russian President Vladimir Putin about policies of mass surveillance. The exchange has a canned quality which will likely lead to questions regarding the integrity of Snowden's actions, in the query of his host in asylum."

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17 Apr 20:25

World Reacts to Death of Gabriel Garcia Marquez - ABC News

firehose

Gabriel Garcia Márquez dies aged 87


IBNLive

World Reacts to Death of Gabriel Garcia Marquez
ABC News
Reaction to death of writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez: ———. "A thousand years of loneliness and sadness for the death of the greatest Colombian of all time!" — Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos. ———. "With the passing of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the ...
Gabriel Garcia Marquez: 87 years of magicIndian Express
Death of Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Colombian writer and Nobel laureate dies ...The Independent
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel Prize-winning author, dies at 87Irish Times
Telegraph.co.uk -Sydney Morning Herald
all 884 news articles »
16 Apr 22:37

Confirmed: Nasty Heartbleed bug exposes OpenVPN private keys, too

by Dan Goodin
firehose

great

Private encryption keys have been successfully extracted multiple times from a virtual private network server running the widely used OpenVPN application with a vulnerable version of OpenSSL, adding yet more urgency to the call for operators to fully protect their systems against the catastrophic Heartbleed bug.

Developers who maintain the open source OpenVPN package previously warned that private keys underpinning VPN sessions were vulnerable to Heartbleed. But until Wednesday, there was no public confirmation such a devastating theft was feasible in real-world settings, said Fredrik Strömberg, the operator of a Sweden-based VPN service who carried out the attacks on a test server. An attacker carrying out a malicious attack could use the same exploit to impersonate a target's VPN server and, in some cases, decrypt traffic passing between an end user and the real VPN server.

Wednesday's confirmation means any OpenVPN server—and likely servers using any other VPN application that may rely on OpenSSL—should follow the multistep path for recovering from Heartbleed, which is among the most serious bugs ever to hit the Internet. The first step is to update the OpenSSL library to the latest version. That step is crucial but by no means sufficient. Because Heartbleed may have leaked the private key that undergirds all VPN sessions, updated users may still be susceptible to attacks by anyone who may have exploited the vulnerability and made off with the key. To fully recover from Heartbleed, administrators should also revoke their old key certificates, ensure all end user applications are updated with a current certificate revocation list, and reissue new keys.

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17 Apr 14:54

Apache OpenOffice Reaches 100 Million Downloads. Now What?

by timothy
firehose

mind that there are still critical bugs, especially with saving large docs and change tracking, that haven't been fixed

We're thankfully long past the days when an emailed Word document was useless without a copy of Microsoft Word, and that's in large part thanks to the success of the OpenOffice family of word processors. "Family," because the OpenOffice name has been attached to several branches of a codebase that's gone through some serious evolution over the years, starting from its roots in closed-source StarOffice, acquired and open-sourced by Sun to become OpenOffice.org. The same software has led (via some hamfisted moves by Oracle after its acquisition of Sun) to the also-excellent LibreOffice. OpenOffice.org's direct descendant is Apache OpenOffice, and an anonymous reader writes with this excellent news from that project: "The Apache Software Foundation (ASF), the all-volunteer developers, stewards, and incubators of more than 170 Open Source projects and initiatives, announced today that Apache OpenOffice has been downloaded 100 million times. Over 100 million downloads, over 750 extensions, over 2,800 templates. But what does the community at Apache need to do to get the next 100 million?" If you want to play along, you can get the latest version of OpenOffice from SourceForge (Slashdot's corporate cousin). I wonder how many government offices -- the U.S. Federal government has long been Microsoft's biggest customer -- couldn't get along just fine with an open source word processor, even considering all the proprietary-format documents they're stuck with for now.

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16 Apr 12:00

R2-Detailed: X-Wing Alliance Resurrected

by Alec Meer
firehose

god stop making me want to do this RPS
STOP IT RPS PLEASE STOP

By Alec Meer on April 16th, 2014 at 1:00 pm.

Now that I’ve got a massive and over-complicated joystick, the only games I’m interested in playing are games which are best-suited to a massive and over-complicated joystick. Yes, yes, I’ll get to Freespace and its total conversions, but first I had some unfinished business to take care of. TIE Fighter was my last substantial experience with Totally Games and Lucasarts’ revered series of Star Wars-themed space combat sims, and I had only a dim sense of how the flighty-fighty games had progressed afterwards. I elected to skip X-Wing vs TIE Fighter and go straight to the end, 1999′s full 3D X-Wing Alliance.

Pre-dating the dread age of the prequel movies by a whisker, it’s one of the last artifacts of a Star Wars universe centred purely around the original trilogy. As a result, flashing back to X-Wing Alliance hits the appropriate nostalgia buttons not just in terms of relatively rudimentary 3D games, but also in terms of recapturing a degree of the nerdly naviety and excitement so many of us were going through in 1999. A prequel movie! A new hope! Childhood revisited! How wrong we were. I wonder how those who still tie themselves to a Lucasian mast will be feeling come next Christmas: I myself am almost completely unthered from it now, so it is bittersweet to return to a time when I cared so deeply.

Ah, let’s move on from my own personal long time ago and far, far away. Point is that X-Wing Alliance was the last great Star Wars space combat game, and a morning’s tinkering reveals it holds up fairly well today. It supports my X52 Pro, analogue throttle and all, and there are assorted fan projects to make look it a little better and play nice with our fancy modern PCs and their messy modern operating systems.

Let’s do this step-by-step before I chat more about the game itself.

1) Hurdle the first: installing the thing, especially if you’re running 64-bit Windows. Follow this guide, basically. It’s a lot quicker and less involved than it looks like, promise.
2) Run the game’s launcher from its icon – you should be presented with a launcher. Dive into Hardware settings to set your control method (in my case, the X52 pro) and then create a new Pilot (which is your game profile). It’s very important to do this at this stage because you probably won’t be able to get the launcher to load at the end of this process. Play, grumble at olden graphics and possible display issues.
3) Go to this site, click downloads, grab the XWAU Craft Pack. Install it, see it grumble that you don’t have the 2.02 patch install, agree to let it install it for you, then run the XWAU Craft Pack installer again.
4) Now the slightly more complicated and risk-strewn bit. First, make a backup of XWINGALLIANCE.EXE and keep it somewhere safe.

Then you’ll be after the widescreen hack (which also sorts out a couple of other issues). Extract its contents somewhere, then make another copy of XWINGALLIANCE.EXE and drop it into the same folder as the widescreen hack files. Run 32bitmode.bat first, though please be aware that these will make in-flight menu and briefing screens all but unreadable. Not much of an issue in practice, though. Then run fixedclear.bat, which sorts out some display issues. Then the fiddlier one, changeres.bat. Pick one of the listed resolutions to change to your desired resolution – I found that changing the 640×480 entry to 2560×1440 or 1920×1080 didn’t work, but all was fine and dandy when I replaced 1600×1200.

Copy the now-altered XWINGALLIANCE.EXE back into the game’s install directory, overwriting the old one (which you remembered to take a backup of, right?) Then give ‘er a whirl by running XWINGALLIANCE.EXE – you might want to create a desktop shortcut for it too, as the official ones may not work now.

All good? No? Well, try different resolutions. There are also undo BATs for the other stuff, so try a process of elimination. For further issues I can only point you at wise old Mr Google, I’m afraid.

Finally, if you’re playing on an NVIDIA card you’re probably going to want this font patch too.

Oh, and to make it look even nicer you’ll need to manually fiddle with anisotropic and antialiasing in your graphics card driver settings. For the record Vsync and triple buffering stopped the game from working for me.

An additional step for me and my ridiculous flight stick was to create a profile that had its assorted buttons emulate most of XWA’s keyboard commands. A few did work straight out of the box, as it were, but my poor hands had to stray back to the keyboard constantly and rebinding with the in-game menu still left the majority of buttons unrecognised and unused. So using the original keyboard layouts here for reference, I got everything programmed and running just dandy, though it was a long-winded process with Saitek’s not-great profile editing program. If your joystick/gamepad/HOTAS/whatever doesn’t have a profile too, I believe joy2key is the way to go, though I haven’t used it myself.

There you go. It looks… okay. Certainly a lot better than it did, but it’s not exactly a glorious modern rebirth. I also found that a lot of the ships’ cockpits occluded far too much of the screen, but as Alice pointed out to me, you can’t screw with Lucas lore if want to make a Star Wars game, and Lucas lore is that you can’t see shit when you’re sat in A TIE Fighter.

As for how it plays, how it feels, it’s a completely different animal from the seat of the pants space japes of Elite Dangerous. Not that I’m claiming the two should be compared, but the dividing line between the space fantasies of the past and those of the near future is very plain to see. The starkness and emptiness of the skies is part of it for sure, but it’s the incidental stuff that keeps it feeling overtly like a simulation rather than reality – not much ambient noise, no sense of shaking and rumbling, complete reliance on meters rather than any other visual clues to show damage or danger…

Not that it’s sterile – not by a long shot. Familiar theme tunes play, familiar ships streak across the screen, cockpit controls look familiarly retro, lasers familiarly, reassuring, go pew-pew, and hyperspace contains all the iconic, elongating white lines it needs to. There’s a cleanness to the visual design too, none of the fussiness which blighted later space games. It’s Star Wars, y’know? As abused a brand as it is, those familiar elements still mean something, still reach something, even to one as jaded by it all as I am. Consider it an itch scratched, satisfyingly.

Next up, that Battlestar mod for Freespace, I think.

16 Apr 16:00

Toys for Bob and the story behind Skylanders

by Colin Campbell
firehose

wherein I learned that Star Control and Skylanders are by the same damn people

Beasts are peeking out of every nook and cranny in the office, a crazy infestation of plastic chaos.

The figurines sit on shelves, hang on walls, tumble on desks in states of unpainted nakedness, dismantled and incoherent. They gurn, snarl and claw in an infinity of static poses.

This is the place where the little plastic creatures of Activision's breakout monster hit Skylanders are conceived and birthed, the headquarters of Toys for Bob, a tiki-pirate-ship-themed ex-aircraft hanger in Marin County, California.

Since its introduction back in 2011, the Skylanders video game and toy series has generated upwards of $2 billion in lifetime sales. It is one of the top 20 game franchises of all time, with 175 million toy sales. The Skylanders monsters have captured the imaginations of millions of children, by creating a magical illusion.

Spyro-on-portal-of-power-450x253


Players place monsters on a plastic tray that is connected to a console, (called a Portal of Power). The same monster appears on-screen, in game. The toys "remember" their in-game achievements and modifications. These dragons, imps, elves and griffins are portable and playable both with, and without the game.

Skylanders bridged the gap between video games and toys. It caught the snoozing toy industry completely by surprise. It vindicated publisher Activision's expansion plans. It also saved Toys for Bob, which is currently celebrating its 25th year in business.

"Really all the stars lined up for us," says co-founder Fred Ford. "Activision had the appetite to take a risk. They had the money to make toys. They let us do a skunkworks development. We took the opportunity."

If you had been asked, say, ten years ago, to pick the most successful extant game developers of the future, it is doubtful that you'd have chosen Toys for Bob. Back in the 1990s the development house had chugged along and created a decent and eclectic portfolio of games published by so-so entities like Accolade.

In order to pay its bills, the firm became a dependable little house churning out children's licensed action adventures for Activision. When the licensed business went to hell around 2008, at the same time as the global economy bombed, Toys for Bob was faced with the problem of creating a hit new franchise, deep into a console generation, a time when "new IP" faces the steepest of uphill battles.

Tfb_paul_reiche_and_fred_ford

Ford (right) and fellow co-founder Paul Rouse (left) are that rare thing, a business partnership that has lasted. A quarter of a century after they met, while as students at U.C. Berkeley, they still share an office.

Interviewed together, they return again and again, almost with a sense of wonder, at the kismet of Skylanders, the way everything came together. They make the conventional obeisances to their creative staff members, and they accept their own part in the success. But they love to talk about how good fortune also played its part. "Skylanders is a game we have been teaching ourselves to make for over 25 years," says Rouse.

It is the culmination of things that happened in their lives, and events over which they had no control. It would be too much to pin this success on luck or fate, but those two skallywags played their part.

This is the story of how an unfancied development house made one of the biggest gaming hits of all time, and the list of weird stuff that helped to make it all happen. Beginning with...

Paul Rouse is the game design part of the founding duo, while Ford is the programming guy. Rouse was always a fan of games, but as a bright student, he had other ambitions. He wanted to be a geologist, he wanted to dig around in the dirt.

Poisonoakleaves


"I love geology and geography," he says. "To be able to see a piece of rock or a waterfall and see a story. It's like when you're a kid, standing on a hillside, and being told that it was all once under thousands of feet of ice."

But his aspirations were thwarted by toxicodendron diversilobum, aka poison oak. "Field geology is best done near faults, where there are lots of ravines," he says. "Poison oak loves ravines. I was rolling around in this stuff. I am deathly allergic to poison oak. I mean hospital-visit-allergic. I puffed up like a giant bright red marshmallow. I had to do something else, so I started making games."

Both of the founders are of that pre-videogame generation that grew up playing Gary Gygax's tabletop fantasy D&D. But their interest in the world went way beyond a teenage phase. Rouse created richly detailed fantasy books about D&D, lovingly dwelling on the powers and mythos of individual creatures.

Dd-basic-set


"I like wizards and humans, but monsters are so passionate," says Rouse. "They have a lot more excitement, enthusiasm and energy. The variation that you get in size and scale and material ... I really like complicated set-ups that are rich, heterogeneous things. I like the sense of stuff that is almost out of control."

He and Ford connected through a shared passion for gaming and fantasy. They were both nuts about monsters. "With monsters, kids can use their imaginations," says Ford.

"Having a group of soldiers who will do exactly what I say is way less interesting to me than having this crazy band of monsters who can't be contained," adds Rouse. "That madness and variation is appealing. We found a way to make a profession out of that."

Rouse worked on writing some games in the early 1980s, including the still-admired Archon, an early hit for a then fresh-faced start-up called Electronic Arts. Ford worked for a variety of games companies through the 1980s.

Sc1_1


When they reconnected and decided to launch Toys for Bob (the name has nothing to do with toys; it was chosen so it would stand out from the many other new development houses of the time) the company's first game was a space-shooter Star Control for the Commodore Amiga and MS-DOS PC.

The game is stuffed with back-story and fantastical narratives, very much of its time. But it also featured a combat complexity that was unusually layered, especially in its melee mode, which introduced deep strategical elements. The units had balanced strengths and weaknesses. "We were really learning about combat," says Ford. "From the beginning our fighting games had a more rock-paper-scissors feel about them. Your choice about who is in your team starts to really matter. Skylanders has that same thing. It's all asymmetric combat."

For the next decade Toys For Bob worked on a variety of genres including a 3D fighter (The Unholy War), a platformer (Pandemonium) and an action strategy hybrid with FMV elements (The Horde). They were all received with moderate enthusiasm, though none were major hits. The company was dabbling and learning, but it wasn't making a great deal of money.

"As we got bigger we needed to have solid work," recalls Rouse. "The success of licensed games was just undeniable. They were making tons of money. We needed to participate with what was going on. There was a predictable thing about licensed games."

He picked up contracts to work on licensed games, beginning with Eidos' 102 Dalmations in 2000. Activision gave the firm Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure in 2003. Flush with licensed games booty, Activision bought Toys for Bob in 2005, and had the company work on key property Madagascar.

Madagascarwallpaper1024

Toys for Bob, it turned out, was pretty good at making these fairly formulaic kids' games. They scored solid numbers in reviews and they sold very well. "There is actually a real joy about the craft of coming into work and making something that makes kids happy," says Rouse.

"Those games were training grounds for us. Before then, we were largely ignorant of how to make roaming 3D platform games. Madagascar also taught us the most about how kids relate to these worlds. For example, you can't give kids a branching path. They stop. They get frustrated. They don't know what is being asked of them."

But there were a lot of games like Madagascar at the time, and kids grew tired of the formula. The market deflated. "Even the best licenses were making a half or a third of what they had made," adds Rouse. "It didn't make sense for Activision to have an expensive studio doing that. So there was a conversation along the lines of 'so, guys, why don't you figure out an idea and really make it good and get it done soon'. There was an underlying 'or else' because studios are born and then they live and then they go away. It's like life."

After a comfortable few years making licensed games, the Toys for Bob team needed to come up with an entirely fresh, new idea. They had to magic up something they hadn't really produced in 20 years; a big, self-generated hit.

Bosses will always say nice things about their staff, especially when they have been working together for a long time. And Toys for Bob has a lot of talented people. But there were some who had exactly the right skills to create something as outside-the-box as Skylanders.

The team gathered together and began brainstorming. Inevitably, ideas graduated towards the skills and interests of the leading players. A lot of bad notions were entertained and then rejected.


But they kept coming back to monsters, strategy, kids. Lead animator I-Wei Huang was tossing out images of creatures and monsters. Everyone liked them. He had a side-interest creating physical toys and robots. He knew how to take his pictures and turn them into models. When the idea first came up, of selling the game with attendant 3D toys, he was able to make the models.

The team could see how these characters might appeal to children. He was diligent about making the models exactly right, endlessly perfecting pose and facial expressions. "In the beginning I was just drawing characters and modeling," says Huang. "We were constantly hacking the toys and tinkering. The whole Skylanders thing came out of tinkering.

"The most important thing is thinking like a child," he adds. "It could be a certain kind of dragon or a sword or even a look. If it makes you chuckle when you see it, then we got you. They had a heroic likeability as well as power and humor. A lot of it is instinct."

Huang shares a section of the office with Robert Leyland, a programmer who, like Huang, had a side-hobby that turned out to be fortuitous for the team. Leyland's passion is fiddling around with electronics junk, taking stuff apart and putting it back together.

When the team started talking about pulling toys and games together, they needed a conduit between the two, a portal that connected the real world and the virtual world. Leyland went to work.

"They were looking for new ways to interact with the consoles, alternate ways to connect with the device," explains Leyland. "I said, I can do that. I dug up cables and wires and electronics stuff from my basement."

Shutterstock_151107941


He had already been interested in finding new ways to interact with Nintendo's motion-control Wii. That machine's universal input systems and its massive popularity with kids made it an ideal test platform. He created a portal, using RFID [radio frequency identification) technology that would allow the toys to interact with the game.

"We got some RFID stuff and glued it to the bottom of toys," he says. "It worked. They told me to keep going. It was all a hodgepodge but it worked, and next thing, we were presenting it to Activision."

"No-one knew that he had this little bit of genius in him, this touch of Nicola Tesla," says Rouse. "People don't really acknowledge how amazing it is to put these toys on the portal and have them glow, and have them remember the adventures they have been in."

There was a wild card in Toys for Bob's planning. Following Activision's merger with Vivendi in 2008, the new company had acquired a hatful of old gaming franchises. Nervous about the prospect of launching an entirely new IP, Activision invited Toys for Bob to take its pick of any of the properties that were available.

With the Skylanders concept vaguely in mind, they chose Spyro, a purple dragon who had been the star of some well-regarded Insomniac actions adventures in the 1990s, followed by sequels and spin-offs in the following decade that attracted mixed reviews.

Spyro_005666


Certainly, by the time Ford and Rouse selected Spyro, the dragon was well past its prime, and there wasn't much in the way of online demand for a return. But the team saw the creature's potential. "A cute little fire breathing dragon was pretty awesome for us," says Rouse. "He is a solid character. He had a good name."

The choice was based on commercial and presentation calculations. Toys for Bob and Activision were worried that retail and media wouldn't really get their new idea. A hook was required, something familiar. The first game was called Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure. Today, Rouse credits Spyro with a lot of the franchise's subsequent success.

"It was a foot in the door for the press and for consumers because it was something that they could relate to," he says. "Spyro's world also defined a level of humor and silliness that was part of what Skylanders stands for. Spyro gave us that."

Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure was branded as a reboot for the dragon. But the magic was in the toys.

When Activision CEO Bobby Kotick hosted Toys for Bob's internal pitch for the game's release, he only made one suggestion. It was not a popular one with executive underlings seated around the conference table. He wondered if the developers could use another year to polish their idea.

Bobby_kotick_in_nyc_photographed_by_jordan_matter


"He said, 'this game is okay now, but I think it could be amazing in another year'," recalls Rouse. "Every single person underneath him said, 'we disagree, it should go out this year,' because all their plans was based on the money that it was going to bring in and the teams it would free up. He just went [bangs table] 'nope'."

It was an unusual move in a business that moves fast, when new ideas are rarely unattended by at least one competitor, innovating along similar lines. Everyone in the meeting understood that entering the toy business would be extremely risky. Timing was key.

"It takes a lot of guts to say, yeah, we can handle making millions of toys. Safe, economical, fun toys," says Rouse. "We were terrified that one day all these millions of unsold toys would come back and fill our offices. It would have been the last thing we would have done."

"At that point our electronics didn't allow write-back to the toy so you wouldn't have been able to store your character on your toy. We had a really screwy way of emulating it," adds Ford, who believes the extra year made a huge difference.

"We got the price down and the toys looked better," adds Rouse. "Whatever people say about Bobby, he made a big difference with that decision. It cost a lot of money and it made a lot of people nervous but he made a good call there."

Activision was pursuing a strategy of 'less is more", focusing on a small number of franchises. At the time, Call of Duty was bringing in billions of dollars in revenue. Bobby had a lot of money to invest. He had also acquired a taste for the toy business.

Activision had recently accrued a new expertise in the manufacture and distribution of plastic artifacts due to the success of one particular franchise, Guitar Hero.

800px-guitar_hero_series_controllers


At the time of Skylanders' development, the pretend-guitar games were at the peak of their popularity. Plastic guitars added valuable profits. Guitar Hero taught Activision a great deal about sourcing and manufacturing in China, and about securing retail space in toy stores, outside the standard box-sized video game sections.

"Activision had learned all about manufacturing plastic toys in bulk as well as all the problems of importing, warehousing etc," says Rouse. "We could not have done Skylanders on our own. As much as we might sit here and say, wow, two billion dollars, if that was all ours that would be great ... but we didn't have the know-how on the plastics and manufacturing side to say, yeah, we can make millions of toys. Not many companies in gaming know how to do that."

The toy business is a harsh tutor. Lucky for Toys for Bob, the sharp decline in music gaming's popularity had yet to come.

Despite Leyland's best efforts, early prototypes of Skylanders had technical problems. There were delays between the toy being placed on the portal and actions on-screen. Because the tech was still developing, there were different options to choose from. RFID chips were expensive, adding to the cost of the toys. They were struggling to get the price down to a level that would work for cash-strapped parents.

Beckmap1


Worst of all, the most expensive aspect of the project were RFID chips that could be written to, so that the toys could remember what modifications and achievements they had unlocked in-game. Rouse and Ford agreed that without this element, the toys might be seen as irrelevant, getting in the way of the game experience.

But RFID chips prices were coming down, rapidly, and the tech was improving fast. This was due to metro systems like the London Underground moving away from cash and tickets and towards RFID-based Oyster cards. "So there were billions of these cards being made and there was this race down in price," says Rouse. "Bless the London Underground because I think that was what did it for us."

The RFID reader is in the turnstiles. For every turnstile there are thousands of cards. But with Skylanders it's about three RFIDs to every reader. Skylanders has returned the favor. Activision is now the biggest distributor of RFID reader units in the world, with over 10 million portals sold "Now the RFID people come and talk to us when they have advances they want to make," says Ford.

Despite its confidence and its cash, Activision was looking for a partner to help spread the risks of the new venture.

Nintendo, flush with the success of Wii, also with experience of the toy business, and with a reputation for "blue sky thinking," seemed like the perfect choice. Toys for Bob journeyed to Nintendo of America's offices to present the idea, very early in its development cycle.

"We had been directed towards thinking about something that would play well with Nintendo," says Ford. "I think there was some co-marketing money and the Wii was doing well. They had some success with peripherals."

Nintendo_wii


"They spent a long time looking and looking," says Rouse. "They were just like 'we have never seen anything like this before.' I've always wondered about the full meaning of that comment [laughs]." Although there was a limited co-marketing deal, Nintendo did not want to make a full commitment to Skylanders. "We have no idea why," says Rouse. "Clearly, they have got properties well suited to this world. Why it is that they didn't rush in here will probably haunt them for the rest of their days."

A Nintendo-exclusive would have changed the shape of the project considerably, as well as adding the complexity of a business partner with a reputation for desiring granular control. It was a disappointment, at the time. Now, it looks like a fortunate escape.

Rouse is still surprised that the entertainment giant which reacted most quickly was Disney, which launched Disney Infinity in 2013 and is looking to expand the franchise. "Nintendo could have kicked Disney's ass," says Rouse. "If I was running Nintendo I would have jumped on this."

As the project neared completion, the big fear was that the Skylanders world, the concept of the portal, and the design of the monsters, would somehow fail to connect with children. The kids market is notoriously capricious. Worse, the toy business was sewn up between a small number of manufacturers with immense power at retail level. There would be no second-chances. Skylanders would need to be a hit, from day one.

Skyinsert4


Activision's executives were looking at all the data to justify the money being spent on manufacturing and on marketing. But, in the end, their own kids had the final say. "Most of the executives had kids in this age range," says Rouse. "So the execs took these handmade toys that we had made out of sculpting clay and had hand painted and had their kids play with them. We never got one back. Not one. They flowed into the kids and they were gone.

"We were like, that's a good sign. These were tough guys [the execs] but because their kids loved the experience, that opened them up in a way that I don't think we could have done otherwise. So besides losing all our prototypes, it was amazing."

Those children, and the consumers who bought the first game and its sequels, saw the same thing that Ford and Rouse had seen, that Kotick had seen, and that parents of kids who play Skylanders also see. The figure sitting on the portal isn't just some hunk of plastic that gets between the player and the experience. It is alive. The toy inhabits the game, and is somehow imbued with the game, even when it is detached.

32755873_01_0054_20110915-6l3b1

"It's a magician's trick," says Rouse. "You just have to make that trick really, really good for people to believe it, to feel like you are going in there together."

Skylanders has been through two further iterations since launch. In Skylanders: Giants, larger toys were introduced. In Skylanders: Swap Force, the toys came with interchangeable parts. Later this month, Toys for Bob will unveil the new generation.

The basic ethos will not change. "It is about having a companion in the world of imagination," says Rouse. "When you are a kid it's not an object, it's a character. This isn't just a toy."

16 Apr 17:00

Tales from inside the Diversity Lounge: PAX's half-baked experiment

by Royel Edwards
firehose

'Mike Krahulik and a bunch of his fans stopped by to play Thornwatch, Penny Arcade’s tabletop card game. It was the most bizarre thing seeing him there after saying hurtful words towards transgender people. Maybe it was his chance to show up before PAX was done to say that he was actually in the room. I found it extremely awkward, but his being there filled the room to the point where your shoulders were rubbing against those next to you.

Soon the game was finished, he left and the people went with him.'

I figured volunteering at a booth for PAX's first Diversity Lounge would give me the opportunity to see what it was about from the inside. I knew what people were saying, but the reality might be very different.

The lounge had already become controversial when documents describing the initiative were leaked onto the internet. I didn’t know if I was horrified, proud or somewhere in the middle. Why does PAX need this? Wasn’t the whole show supposed to be safe? There weren’t any actual diversity specialists involved to my knowledge; it was made up of volunteers, who had booths of their own inside the lounge. A bit misleading, but the intent was still commendable.

PAX should be a safe place where people can be themselves and enjoy the things that make them happy, to meet new people or show off their games to the public. No matter your interests or how you identify yourself, no one deserves to be treated differently or be given the impression that the convention was anything but secure.

Why does PAX need this? Wasn’t the whole show supposed to be safe?

I am a gay man. I’ve had my share of harassment and, if I’m going to be at PAX, I want to make sure that I don’t have to put up with harassment from attendees or to put up a front to conceal my identity.

I'm comfortable and proud of who I am; giving my time at the Queer Geek booth inside the Diversity Lounge was no complication. I’m accepting of all people and the idea of shunning anyone who identified as LGBTTIQQ2SA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, 2-Spirited and Allies) or anyone with any sort of mental or physical disability has and will never cross my mind. I wanted to show people who visited the lounge that it was a place for you and I to be comfortable.

The reality

The first day of PAX was a bit of a rough experience. I wanted the room to be flowing with people who wanted to network, communicate and discuss topics that plague cons and communities, but it didn’t seem like any of that was happening.

The foot traffic was scarce throughout the room most of the day. My time was well spent twiddling my thumbs. The only buzz was from people from booths talking to each other rather than people who were interested in what the booths had to offer. I was scared.

Is the Diversity Lounge always going to be this quiet?

It would pick up, but not much. Some of the con-goers who stopped by were friendly, curious and seemed to be in good spirits. I felt that somehow it was too good to be true, that soon someone would burst through the doors shouting hate speech. I was afraid that someone would come in and ask sarcastic questions. I'm happy that no such thing happened.

I’m not sure what kind of special training the PAX Enforcers achieved in preparation of the lounge’s debut, but they too were extremely approachable for help if you need it. Hell, they came to me more often asking if I needed anything. It was encouraging and that was something that I really needed to feed off of during the lounge’s dry spell.

Being from Toronto, it was nice to walk into the lounge and see a giant banner that said Toronto Gaymers on the wall. Seeing familiar faces from my city was great. I was buoyant and thrilled at the idea that people from my own city would come this far to promote community in Boston. But not just Toronto — all the people who took the time to travel to tell others about building inclusive relationships and communities with like-minded people made me happy.

Do people even know that we’re here?

Upon arriving at the Boston Convention Center bright and early Friday morning, I did a double take by the restrooms on my way to the lounge. This year’s PAX East boasted a gender-neutral restroom. Yes, finally! I considered it as a step forward for inclusiveness.

Having gender neutral washrooms is crucial because it allows people who identify as queer, trans or anyone else from being subject to physical or different kinds of emotional harassment because of their decision on which gender-segregated restroom they choose to use. No one wants to hear people talking about you or judging you because of which you choose and you sure as hell don’t want to be a victim of people who become violent because of it.

While I walked around, I also noticed that there seemed to be more male restrooms than women’s. The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority reportedly ordered Robert Khoo to change six women’s restrooms into men’s restrooms.

The venue has 40 restrooms: 20 women’s and 20 men’s. There were only 14 women’s restrooms available to the crowd, and only one gender neutral bathroom.

I would have preferred the collection of booths to be on the show floor itself to benefit from the foot traffic and to introduce attendees to the volunteers and individuals who represented such a broad range of human experiences. On the other hand, many people in the lounge loved the location. They said it was away from the noise and frenzy of the show below them.

The traffic was great, the interest was piqued and collaboration was everywhere

I could understand where they’re coming from. They wanted a relaxing environment of solitude, but I feel as the lounge was excluded from the show itself. If PAX is supposed to be about inclusion, you shouldn’t have to search for a place to belong.

My only hope is that one day PAX itself will be its own Diversity Lounge or get to a point where one is not needed. There were many people who visited the booth talking about how they had no safe space to go to in their home. It’s unfortunate to not have a safe outlet to turn to in order to talk about things you’re going through or to play games with other individuals with similar interests without being judged, and it's heartening that people who didn't have that place in their "normal" lives find one at a show like PAX.

A larger crowd

Saturday was a different world entirely. The room was packed and buzzing with laughter, music and the sound of weary attendees plopping into bean bag cushions trying to catch a quick nap before taking on more of the frenzy that was the show floor. I couldn’t believe it. The traffic was great, the interest was piqued and collaboration was seen everywhere.

Mike Krahulik and a bunch of his fans stopped by to play Thornwatch, Penny Arcade’s tabletop card game. It was the most bizarre thing seeing him there after saying hurtful words towards transgender people. Maybe it was his chance to show up before PAX was done to say that he was actually in the room. I found it extremely awkward, but his being there filled the room to the point where your shoulders were rubbing against those next to you.

Soon the game was finished, he left and the people went with him.

I don’t want the public to think that the Diversity Lounge is the haven PAX has always been looking for and I don’t want to say that the whole idea is worthless. The fact that people who had no idea that the lounge was a thing and thought it was a "neat idea for a start" shows that not only does it need more room to grow, but also that PAX needs to be more vocal about its existence.

This is just the beginning.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Polygon as an organization.

17 Apr 18:57

If you and Frank Miller *did* get into a fight, who would win?

firehose

daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn

He is afraid of women. I win in a landslide.

17 Apr 17:01

Despite Early Sales Slump, Comics Retailers Remain Upbeat

firehose

'Chip Mosher, Comixology’s v-p, communications and marketing, confirmed that 20% of its new customers in the third quarter of 2013 were females ages 17–26.'

Despite Early Sales Slump, Comics Retailers Remain Upbeat:

project-blackbird:

Retailers are also seeing a need to adjust their ordering to accommodate some of the new groups they see coming into their stores. While many stores report that their children’s comics sections continue to grow, the demographic that seems to be growing the fastest is young women, aged 17–33. Image titles like The Walking DeadSaga, and Pretty Deadly have gotten their attention, but Wayne Wise reports that at Phantom of the Attic there are “a lot of young women who are really invested in Marvel and DC titles, as well as the Indies. New titles aimed at this group are an important part of this. Books like Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, and Young Avengers have been particularly successful.” Data from a reader survey by digital comics vendor Comixology supports what retailers are seeing. Chip Mosher, Comixology’s v-p, communications and marketing, confirmed that 20% of its new customers in the third quarter of 2013 were females ages 17–26.

It’s so nice to see vindication of WHAT WE’VE BEEN SAYING FOR YEARS.

17 Apr 18:30

Instagram Photo by billtron

by hodad
firehose

OH SHIT RAMPS

17 Apr 21:21

Knife and Fork? Check!

firehose

GET IN MY FUCKING MOUTH

17 Apr 21:06

Photo

firehose

fuck off you weak-ass customer we don't want you anyway

















17 Apr 19:25

FSU Response to NY Times Article

by gguillotte
firehose

tl;dr: fuck you

State and federal privacy laws govern the university's ability to comment on a particular student or disciplinary matter. This is particularly crucial in cases of sexual assault, where victims may request privacy to heal. To interpret the university's silence as a lack of interest or an insufficient "level of energy" is utterly wrong.