Missing Beings (late)

A crappy comic so I don’t find myself driven to post. Only two panels, though more could result in more ridicule. Mostly, just so bad I can’t bring myself to spend more time on it.


There are also two terrible images that make it look like the secret to being a gun slinging action hero is DANCE!




Word Nerd

Intentional bits of my vocabulary:


  • jeepers!
    This Shaggy-ism made its way into my vocabulary after Buffy muttered it one episode.
  • Jimminy Cricket!
    My own personal blasphemy; I’m not sure when it appeared, but was definitely recently–within the last year. I can’t bring myself to say JESUS CHRIST!
  • Jeez-o-Petes!
    My father in law says this and I think it’s so awesome, I started saying it.
  • Ahhhhh… mercy.
    Because we all need a bit of Skinner.

Used to figure prominently:

  • Zang!
    An expression of positive agreement roughly translated as “Excellent.” I haven’t used it in a couple years.
  • Three-note Hawkeye whistle(wav)
    Every time I watch M*A*S*H, this comes back into my vocabulary for a couple weeks.

I mention all these because I’ve found a new word I want to assimilate. Watching A&E’s brilliant Nero Wolfe series, I’m enamored of his use of Fooey! It’s a term of exasperation that’s startling and awesome–both angry and quaint at the same time. The biggest challenge is that I’m rarely exasperated enough to shout “FOOEY!”

White Bread

Found via Pharyngula, the Simpsonmaker:

Brendan Simpson

How do you know when you’re white bread? When nearly every choice for changing your Simpson character is more interesting than the one you can most honestly assign yourself. To be fair, though, they didn’t have one with a bit more sympathy weight around the middle.

When Slogans Overlap (OR) The Misdiagnosed Viral Marketing

One of my favorite comics of the last few years is Warren Ellis’ Global Frequency. I’d heard rumors (that have since proved to be true) that the comic had been optioned for television. Awesome. Then, I saw what I could only think was a bit of viral marketing: a sign that said “Are you on the frequency?”

A bit of investigation yielded confusing results:

Me (to one of my students who reads comics): Does the phrase “Are you on the frequency?” mean anything to you?

Hip student: Global Frequency?


Me (to a trendy member of the office staff): Does the phrase “Are you on the frequency?” mean anything to you?

Trendy staff member: Doesn’t that have something to do with Columbia?

Another quick search reveals that Columbia’s on-campus TV station is called Frequency Tv.

So I’m curious about viral marketing. If the goal is to spread a meme, how important is it that the meme be unique? One could suggest that the “Are you on the Frequency?” sign fired both synapses for me. Does this make Frequency TV cooler? Does it make Global Frequency cooler? Could the connection be accidental, or is there someone in the Frequency TV marketing group who also checks both Columbia College and Warren Ellis Fan boxes? More importantly, if the “Are you on the Frequency?” poster was meant to lead people to Frequency TV, it’s a bad thing for them that the top hit on Google is about Warren Ellis.

On Cheating and my personal shame

The students for my Game Culture course are required to write a game journal each week, exploring and documenting the experience of playing their assigned game over the semester (an assignment I stole from Laurie). As motivation to get myself to play a game occasionally, I decided to play along, and keep a game journal too. The rub of it is that I tend to be a bit impatient for RPGs. When I sit down to play, I usually have an hour or so, and I generally don’t like roaming around trying to figure out what to do. So I cheat.

I don’t download cheat codes. I use walkthroughs. If I’m feeling stuck (or just bored), I’ll pop open a walkthrough and see what I’ve missed. My interest here lies in the funny space walkthroughs occupy. If there are multitudinous pleasures in gaming, one must be the puzzle-solving pleasure–one I readily yield for the narrative-in-motion pleasure. But when I do, I feel guilty.

Perhaps I’ve internalized the processes of game playing. Manovich suggests that the goal of any computer game (or other games for that matter) is to learn the algorithm. By learning to navigate Pac-Man around his little maze, I can win the game. Similarly, learning to manage my radiation-prone avatar in Fallout becomes the goal of the game. The narrative becomes secondary. So perhaps I feel guilty about the walkthrough because I know the algorithm is the goal, and I’ve executed an end-run on it in exchange for cheap story.

Snarky comments about my system tray

From left to right:


  • Safely Remove Hardware; my cousins had a mac that used to say “You may now turn off your Macintosh safely.” I couldn’t resist saying, “I thought it was a Macintosh SE, not a Macintosh Safely.” I was a regular Oscar Wilde.
  • iTunes: I don’t even want to know what the title of the current STP song playing means: Meatplow. Next up, a song by the 1-Drop, a reggae band fronted by Mike Opitz of CSB/SJU faculty fame. A man so dedicated to teaching he once taught class with a concussion. That was a wild day.
  • Steam: Do you think Valve spies on me?
  • OpenOffice: I let OO hang out in my tray, ready to go. MS Office has to start up from scratch. HA.
  • Palm: HotSync This.
  • ZoneAlarm: I love the ‘internet monitor’ bars on my ZoneAlarm helper. Makes visual my computer’s chitchat with the web. The firewall has blocked 554 access attempts. Ping that!
  • AIM: I signed up for AIM so students could contact me more easily. I don’t have any buddies yet.
  • Dell E support: The Dell support program (which seems to use Enron’s E) makes a wicked loud VROOM sound when it alerts you to impending computer doom. It makes an equally loud MOORV sound when it goes away.
  • HP Photosmart Printer: My photo printer sits dormant, unplugged, unloved.
  • MSN Messenger: Go away, I’m busy blogging.
  • Dell A940: That next grey box is the icon for our printer/scanner center thing. Jenny was skeptical about its size at first, but has come to enjoy having a photocopier and fax machine in the house.
  • HP Photosmart Printer: Photo printer’s still not hooked up.
  • Pentax DeviceDetector: Neither is my digital camera.
  • Creative SoundBlaster Sound Control: My soundcard has its own cool volume slider. No lame-o Windows XP slider for me. No sir.
  • Time this work break ended: 12:47am. Time I get to go to bed: Avery’s next feeding (could be any minute or another hour and a half).


1. Chicago recently passed an indoor smoking ban for all public places (even restaraunts and bars). Columbia kept their smoking lounges for a week until they were informed that being a private college doesn’t exempt them from the indoor smoking ban–the lounges are gone now, and so are the ashcans outside the doors. Where the ashcans used to be, there are now signs advising smokers that the new ordinance requires they be fifteen feet or more away from the entrance to the building. There are also a lot more cigarette butts.

2. Jenny and I started watching Scrubs on DVD, and episode two deals with a smoker who keeps smoking despite his doctor’s advice. Zach Braff is sad about it, and John McGinty tells him “We can’t save people from themselves.” Of course, being the tall nerdy white guy I am, I identify with Braff’s character. When I see people smoking, a part of me wants to remind them that they’re killing themselves by inches. Of course, I eat at McDonald’s occasionally, so I’m screwed in a different way. I’m not really sure how to respond to the student whose essay describes smoking as a defining characteristic of her persona.

3. My grandfather died from COPD, a smoking-related lung disease that’s basically a cocktail of emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The bitch of it is that he stopped smoking a long time before he developed the disease. I generally avoid addictive substances (excepting caffine), both out of my need for self-control and my knowledge that my other grandfather was an alcoholic (and my father said he occasionally heard the siren-song that might herald alcoholism).

4. The new smoking ordinance doesn’t seem to be stopping anyone from smoking, it just makes them look a bit more sad. On my way to work today, I saw an Iggy-Pop-lookalike Tower Records employee huddled under the El stairway, sucking on his cigarette and shivering. I still see little clumps of students outside all our campus buildings (being an art school, we have a higher ratio of smokers than any college I’ve been at before), they just huddle fifteen feet away from the door.

5. Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan features a hard-smoking Hunter Thompson of the future who requires that his ‘filthy assistants’ take up smoking when in his employ. Of course, he gets them prescriptions for ‘anti-cancer drugs’ too.

Fallout: week 1

I just started playing Fallout, the “post-nuclear role playing game” in the vein of Balder’s Gate—though I don’t know if I’ll pick up any group-mates. I haven’t played much of it so far, but I’d like to comment a bit on the interface and the opening sequence.

The game opens with a sequence meant to evoke a sort-of nostalgic future. A television in a blasted-out building displays an advertisement for “Vault 13”, an under-mountain refuge from atomic war. Then it shows an add for a new car, a “Cryslus.” Both ads look like they’re straight from the fifties. They use stylized drawings of Dennis-the-Menace-like figures and the car has fins like a classic automobile. At the same time, they evoke the ‘prosperous future’ the fifties imagined, by adding to the mix an advertisement for a robot and by charging 199,999 for the car.

Fallout's analog-machine interface

The interface for the game, similarly, has the look of an old-school science fiction film. Rather than using a digital display like we might expect today, Fallout builds its futuristic machinery from buttons and dials. These clanking, clicking buttons mimic the fifties sci-fi feel, but they also give a tangibility to the game’s experience. I’ve long thought that buttons, levers, and dials make machines feel more ‘real’ because their very nature (as analog devices) links them physically to the objects they’re measuring, or at least it seems to.

These stylistic choices give Fallout the curious effect of being a science-fiction game about the future as conceived by the past. The 1950s-era looks give the game an air of whimsey that offsets the disturbing storyline. I’m keen to see whether these whimsical elements will continue to pop-up throughout the game, or if the dark tone set by the narrative (The future of Earth is a wasteland in the wake of a worldwide atomic war.) will override. The best outcome, I think, would be a mix of the two.

Smashing Zombies

So I downloaded the demo for a game from skasoftware called “Zombie Smashers.” It’s essentially Double Dragon with zombie enemies. I’m probably not going to buy the full version ($20!) but I’m intrigued enough to play the demo a couple times.

Zombie Smashers

There are two threads that interest me about the game. One is the nostalgia thread–in these days of complex games that demand long time commitments, a game where you can just spend a couple minutes smashing zombies in an old-school style is just nice. The second aspect of the game that interests me is the time element–if I bought this game, I’d have no problem playing it for just 10 minutes or so. Gentle readers, do you have 10-minute games hanging around on your computer for those moments when you can’t look at another student paper?

The responsible man

Burden of the Responsible ManAs I neared the El station this morning, I saw a woman struggling under an awkward burden. She wore a knee-length black raincoat open in the front with a hood up over her head. In front was a forward-facing baby carrier, shrouded by a multicolored day-glo blanket. Her hands were full trying to manage her umbrella, her cigarette, and her handbag; her messenger-bag briefcase, slung over one shoulder, thumped against her left thigh as she walked. I thought perhaps she was grumbling to herself or talking to her baby; then I decided she must have a hands-free cellphone, since her expression looked more like she was a-phonin’. As we passed, I realized that she had jury-rigged her own hands-free cell phone by wedging her handset into the space between her cheek and her hood.

I was reminded of one of my favorite paintings, “The Burden of the Responsible Man” by James Christensen (which you can buy me a print of for $3K). I like the blend of fantasy and poignancy that the image evokes for me, but I decided my hedgehog briefcase could hardly compare to this woman’s morning walk in the rain.