Wednesday, August 20, 2008

This Is Not Going To Be A Good Anime Season

Just was looking at the preview of the fall season in anime (special thanks to THAT Animeblog) and the term "drought" can easily be applied to this season.

Eight sequels.

Two remakes.

And the rest isn't too good, either.

Gundam 00 is going to have finally the Titans Oz FAITH Arrows, a "army independent from the formal Federation Army dedicated to defending the peace" and of course they get corrupt. And, of course, our Gundam pilots become heroes rather than the quasi-terrorists that they were in the first season. I actually liked the moral made the heros actually ask questions about what they were doing, why they were doing it, and the actual reason behind Celestial Being.

Of course, if this turned out to have been all as planned by Aeolis Schenberg, I'm not sure how annoyed I'm going to be. Worse...since 00 was purchased by Bandai for pro release in the United States...I'm going to have to buy the series to see what happens.


Other than that...Tytania looks reasonably tempting, but will have to see what the quality is.

Kemeko-DX has a kind of "silly zany" that might actually make for some neat story fodder...and, mmm, sexy rice cookers...

Kurogame no Linebarrel
looks kind of amusing, as long as the mecha aren't done as CGI. With very few exceptions, CGI mecha in anime have kind of sucked... The question is-since they have a not bad English page, are they trolling for distrubtors or do they already have one?

I'm going to keep an open mind, mind you...and see what happens next. But, it might not be that good a season for anime fans.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

At The Gym

As a part of my "making myself better" project, I recently got a gym membership and I've been going on a regular basis. Okay, for the last two weeks, but hang with me for the next few bits.

Anyways, I'm in the gym locker room, having exercised tonight, and I'm listening to the conversation across the other side of the row. And, it's scary scary to hear...grown men, talking about Obama in the same manner that girls talking about their first crush on a boy band. Oh, and how BushCheney is the root of all evil in the political system and he should be impeached immediately. Yes, I know it's Oakland, but still.

Just to be clear...

I'm supporting John McCain. I view that an Obama presidency would make us fond for the days of Jimmy Carter (yes, and I'm serious-Obama has all the wrong vibes to me, from people that he supports as a part of his friends, various issues that have come up that make me wonder what he believes, and there just seems to be nothing there...). The same Presidency that gave us the term "stagflation" and gas lines. Obama would nominate Supreme Court nominees that-if Congress does not change much-would be a court so far to the left that it would pretty much be outright socalist/communist.

And, this is not a time for somebody to be learning on the job how to handle foreign affairs. The next three to five years will see changes on the scale of the mid-1930s and if it is handled wrong, we could easily be seeing World War III. It would probably be in the Middle East, and it will be messy...

I mean, you hear the howls of outrage when the eight "yutes" that were caught dealing crack and were shielded by San Francisco's sanctuary law escape...but they view it as how we are Abusing Our Brown Brothers and If We Would All Sing Kumbaya...

It's like the inmates are running the loony bin. And they've gone off of their Haldol...

Worse, I keep seeing a definite "two Americas" starting to show up-the rich and the poor that they protect to assuage their consciences, and the rest of us.

I'm getting really pissed off by this. And annoyed. And frustrated. And angry...

There has to be a change. And Obama is not it.

Friday, June 27, 2008


I'm having some really random MMO thoughts, despite the fact that I hate the genre...

-One of the things I want to try with it is that the entire game is class-less. Which is to mean you don't build a fighter, cleric, wizard, etc, etc. Instead, it's all about stats, skills, and perks.

The base game engine is D100 based-stats plus skills, minus modifiers. PVP and PVC (Player Vs. Character) will include modifiers based upon how well the other guy rolled to resist. You can level stats up as high as you want, but they cost XP. Skills as well, but only up to 25%, then you have to find a tutor for your next qualification (journeyman), then at 50% you have to find a mentor (expert), then at 75% a sponsor (master), and finally at 100% and beyond a God (heh, Elite). Otherwise, no restrictions at all.

Then, we have perks and disadvantages. Perks and disadvantages "round out" a character, and are first purchased, then can be gained through gameplay. There's a reasonable number of "perk points" you can buy at the start of the game, but if you want more, you have to buy disadvantages.

Here are two good disadvantage examples-
*Nemesis. At the level you buy it, every "real" hour in the game means that your nemesis shows up, on an increasing chance. Depending upon how powerful your nemesis is, he could be weaker, stronger, or equal. If he's stronger, it's good to have friends. And, sometimes, nemesis drop interesting stuff. If you want to get more points, buy a PC as a Nemesis. And, wait as he comes to kill you, steal your stuff, and skullfuck your corpse.
*Incompetent. This is a skill penalty (in the form of more XP to buy the skill), and can cover any one skill, set of skills (magery, for example, is a skill set. You buy a particular "branch" of spells, and if you have the skill for it, you can cast the spells you buy), and how much XP more you need to raise the skill.

This allows for some pretty interesting characters-and a wider variety of them.

-Most games control weapons and armor on the basis of levels, a sort of "you must be this tall to destroy the city" control. But, the game I'm thinking about has no levels-so, how do you prevent some total new guy from doing the whole "I paid a Chinese guy $3,000 and he gave me all the most awesome stuff!" aspect.

First of all, to use some items you have to have minimum stats and skills. Buying Divine Blizzard when your Ice Magic skill is only 30% is a waste of money and could get you killed if you tried to use it. Literally, as in "it rips your character's soul apart, generate a new character" thing. Second, some weapons and items require you to get Certified. This is a quest (or you can buy the basic certifications during character creation) and each certification gives bonuses besides the ability to use certian kinds of weapons and/or advanced weapons of each class and type.

And, let's not forget-if you want to use some of the really unique weapons, you have to go on some pretty hellacious quests...

-Having a reputation is very important. All the more so, in this game.

Reputation is something you can track, between the six major and twelve or so minor factions. Having a good reputation means that you can get deals at the various stores, buy cheaper drinks at the bars, and the City Guards will take your side-with a vengeance-in towns that your faction is in control of. If you're in a town that you have a bad reputation with...vendors won't sell to you, bar fights become more common, and the City Guard will beat you up, steal your stuff, and do other horrible things to you.

And, if the reputation of you in a town is really come with a whole bunch of friends, to conquer the town...

-One of the things I hate in MMORPGs is the power gamers that play huge numbers of hours per day, and build hugely buffed characters. And then take them to stomp on everybody else...

So, you have to include some way to fix this problem. Worlds of Warcraft has the answer in the form of multipliers to XP for the time you stay off of the game-and it has to be a real amount of time. It's a neat idea...but, I think it can be done better.

My idea? Your character, in-game, has a job. Doesn't matter what the job is-tho certain skill, reputation, and perk sets will mean that you can take certain jobs over others. What do these jobs do? You earn money, and some XP. Certain jobs let you work on player character-based will create an eidiolon, which interacts with thing as a NPC bot. The catch? You have to be off-line at least eight hours in a 24 hour period. Spend too much time on-line, and your character becomes a freelancer...which means you have to pay rent, bills, etc, etc...and you don't get the nice and nifty XP bit for doing nothing.

-One of the "fun" things in many MMORPGs is creating objects. Then, selling them. Then, repeating the process.

From my perspective, if I want to do that, I'll get a job making widgets. But, some people find this exciting, so....

Manufacturing items is a tricky thing-and, to produce more than the most basic thing, you need a workshop. Of course, some workshops come in a Portable format (with the cute graphics of you opening up a box...and a whole workshop appears right there...), so you can take them anywhere. This lets you make new stuff, if you have the materials. But, if you want to enchant need nothing more than the materials, the right spells, and time.

Of course, if you goof, you bust what you're trying to enchant, so be very careful....

In game terms, each non-expendable items has a number of "slots" in which you can insert enchantments and enhancements. Some enhancements are pretty simple-new gun sights, careful weights on swords to make recovery time easier, that sort of thing. Some are complicated...carefully shaving off enough metal to increase the rate of fire, adding enchantments so that your blade does elemental damages, adding a status-effect to a mace.

And, we haven't even gotten into Artifact Weapons yet...

Monday, June 09, 2008

More From Idea #2

I feel an urge to talk about our first giant robot, and how "he" fits into the game.

Unit One (they never quite came up with a better name/designation for it) comes in at about 30 ft (9 meters) and nearly forty tons. This puts it in the range of most Type A and Type B Beasts. Fully humanoid, it is covered in layered RHA armor (with later upgrades to a Chobham composite armor on the torso, head, upper arms and upper legs area), with a central cockpit in the rear chest area, mated to a zero/zero ejection seat. The cockpit and design gives the Unit One a distinct "humpback" look.

Unit One uses a combination of hydraulics and linear motors for control and movement. The A/O generator is located just below the cockpit and must be activated for Unit One to even stand up, let along move. Nuclear power was rejected for obvious reasons (Unit One engages enemies in close combat), but the battery power system has a limit of six minutes at full combat power, ten minutes at "standby" walking speed.

All versions of Unit One were built by Tojo Heavy Industries in Japan, and were shipped to various locations along the Ring of Fire to defend against attacks, with the exception of (then) Soviet territory. Twenty-two Unit Ones were built, the first on March 11, 1968 and the last on June 19, 1968.

The Mod One version of Unit One added upgrades to the computers and added newer linear motor arrays to the hands in the mid-70s. The Mod Two version replaced the torso, head, upper arm, and upper leg armor with lighter but equivalent Chobham armor plates, and revamped the control and monitor system in the late-80s. No further modifications were to be made, and there was serious talk about retiring Unit One until the Second Great Monster War.

Unit One, initially, relies upon a 30mm "rifle" and it's reinforced fists for combat. To use the rifle or to engage in combat with Beasts, Unit One needs to "erode" the A/O field of an enemy Beast, enough to engage it in combat.

While old and somewhat would form the first line of defense when the Beasts came back. And, it can be upgraded and the basis of the design is one of future giant robots...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

It's Not Quite The End Of My Anime World...

...but, you can definitely see it from here.

Steve DenBeste has commented that he is nearly hitting the end of anime, and I'm starting to see the edge of the universe, myself. In my case, I'm not fitting in the demographic that seems to appeal these days to buying agents for American anime studios.

The only things coming out on DVD so far that appeal-
  • Gao-Gai-Gar Box Set One-After the last decade or so of high-angst Eva-derivative giant robot shows, a modern series of GUTS! and BRAVERY! just appeals in ways that make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
  • Gurren Lagann-After a long, torturous road, we have the latest from Gainax. What's really happy-making is that Bandai has their first release of 9 episodes in one pack. This is a Good Thing, to me-more episodes to a pack means I can have the whole series faster.
And...that's it. Macross Frontier may never make it to the United States due to licensing issues. There is no news on when/if Gundam 00 will come out. Reideen won't come out, either. No news on when Real Drive will come, either...

Mind you, this is a Good Thing (TM)-it saves me more money for sci-fi and computer stuff. But, I feel a touch sad. It's almost like the end of an era...

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Back To Idea #1...

I'm working again on Idea #1 (which, for future reference, will be graced with the title of-until further notice-of Our Worlds At War). There are three big concepts that I'm working on with it. These three concepts are tactical behaviors, experience control, and deformable battlefields.

Let's start with the first. Each unit has a type of tactical behavior, which is engaged by changing three sets of settings (or selecting a pre-defined "default" setting/macro). The first setting is Aggression-which can be set to one of three levels-aggressive (the unit will close to engage a target, getting as close as possible to use it's weapons), neutral (the unit will try to balance attack distance vs. range-trying to choose a range where it does as much damage as possible while at about half the unit's combat range), and cautious (the unit will try to keep a target at the maximum possible engagement range).

A second setting is vigor-how quickly a unit will engage a target. A unit can be hungry (where it will leap right off the bit and start following anything that it detects or targets), neutral (units will attack a target, or try to find a target within pre-determined norms-if it loses contact, it will try a short search, then stop), and full (units must be controlled to choose a target, and if they lose contact, they will stop and respond according to other rules).

The third and final rule is formation. We have a wide variety of formations, from lines to echelons to a circular formation. With these three choices, you have a wide variety of possible attack options. For example, a unit that is set for a neutral aggression, hungry vigor, and a circle formation will try to find a target, encircle it, and shoot it from every direction-with indirect fire units at various ranges with artillery and direct fire weapons trying to engage a target in a hull-down formation. Another set of units set for aggressive aggression, neutral vigor, and a echelon left formation will try to keep it's target on the left side, engaging them as close as humanly possible.

This set of rules will dictate a wide, wide range of reactions in units. And, it takes away a lot of the micro-management that quite a few games tend to indulge in.

A second factor, which relates to the first, is experience control. Call it "tactical intelligence" in games-if a unit encounters a unit that it has never seen before, it will engage in a sort of "poking" behavior, trying to make it do things such as attack, maneuver, escape, etc, etc. As it builds up a database of experience, it gets easier to engage and kill to hostile unit. Let's take an example-a group of human Strikers (tier 2 infantry) encounters a newly made Venusian Whisper (light, tier 1 recon vehicle). They will try to close with it, fire their weapons, and see how it responds. In game terms, the Strikers will not do as much damage, and will get closer than might be safe (Whispers have a secondary anti-infantry attack that only works at close range), etc, etc. However, as long as the fight continues, human units will learn how to engage the Whisper better-they won't get as close if they're infantry, armor will engage very well indeed...

And, this gets to our third factor-deformable battlefields. One thing that armor and infantry will do (our terrain is 3D), if they have defensive behaviors set, is to try and find a "hull down" position-where as little of their vehicle is showing to a potential target. But, if a weapon is powerful can shoot through dirt. Or sandbags. And, if you hit the ground with a powerful enough weapon, you can create a crater. Or your engineering unit can dig trenches and revetments for your equipment. There is a absolute "floor", but you can pretty much carve yourself all the way down to the bottom with enough explosives. Oh, and water flows into holes, too.

More ideas as my brain works on them.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

What Are You Going To Do With 20 Pounds Of Flour?

Or twenty pounds of rice?

Let's face it, the latest "craze" in the form of the current popular mania is hording of rice and flour and other stuff, because "there's a shortage and if we don't collect and get our stuff now, we'll be all out!".

I remember the Cabbage Patch Kids riots, my friends. And, I knew a friend that paid her rent for about two months just on Furbies alone. Human frenzies are nothing new. Still, that leads to the whole issue of "what the frell am I going to do with twenty pounds of rice and flour? Oh, and twenty pounds of beans, too."

Well, eat it, of course.

Besides, you should be doing it anyways-the usual recommended storage time for bulk foods is about six to eight months, tho with some techniques you might be able to extend it out to sixteen to eighteen months. A rotation plan should be a part of any bulk storage plan-older stuff on the top, newer stuff on the bottom.

And, until the disaster hits, you really need to pick up some very useful items.
  • Food storage containers smaller than 20 pound sizes. It's easier to get to flour and rice when you don't have to heft and carry and toss twenty pound bags. And, the containers are air and vermin tight, so you can store them and use them for a good, long time.
  • Rice cookers and bread makers. A really good rice cooker also includes a steaming tray for things like vegetables and potatoes, so it's a multi-purpose item. And, let us not forget that in some ways, it's better to have homemade bread. And, I defy any family of four to go through a two pound loaf of bread in less than two days, three at the most.
  • Cookbooks. Let's face it, you'll have a lot of stuff...and learning how to do new things with it is never a bad idea. And, it never hurts to have a copy of Apocalypse Chow on your bookshelf-it has a lot of very good recipes that might come in handy one day.
And, at have plenty of stuff to make use of, one day.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Did I Not Threaten You With Idea #2?

I did, didn't I?

Idea #2 is another RTS idea, based around the idea of giant robots.

Once upon a time, actually around 1954 (the day after Godzilla is released in Japan, actually...), one of the first of the Beasts appears on the shore of Japan. Thirty feet tall, it takes just about everything the United States has to kill it, short of nuclear weapons.

Then, sometimes weekly, sometimes daily, more Beasts of the four big types come up from the water in the Pacific Ring of Fire...and a few of them take nuclear weapons to stop. Including one that surfaces between Seattle and Portland, and requires a nuke to stop. For nearly fifteen years, the Beasts attack. Humanity learns of the nature of what they call the Alpha/Omega (A/O) field, which serves both as a shield and as a way to "break the laws of physics" so that something like the Beast can actually exist. And, desperately, they build a mechanical generator (the Beasts are some kind of bio-mechanical organism) that can replicate the A/O effect. They build a prototype giant robot-Unit One-and place it in San Francisco to hopefully fend off the first attack (okay, there's a few more in Japan and up the rest of the West Coast, we are paying attention to the San Francisco one).

They wait for an attack...and it never, never happens. For forty years, the robots stand (okay, layed out on the ground to prevent stress to their frames) as almost black sheep in the fight against the Beasts. Some mild renovations of Unit One to make sure that it can actually function over the years. It becomes a joke, something to tell on the evening news about waste and such.

One day...a detector mounted near the Cliff House goes off...and the joke has to defend San Francisco against attack.

We're using San Francisco because it's a nice battlefield to use. Lots of nice, graphical property damage. It's also got a whole bunch of "in jokes" for various robot anime...and maybe some special guest stars (if we can get the licensing rights).

The game is based around two sections-a "base building" section, where you do research, build and improve your giant robots, train pilots, create the technology you need to make it easier to deploy your giant robots (early on, they have to be hauled to the battlefield location by truck-their batteries have a lifespan measured in minutes).

The second section is a tactical battlefield section, where you face off against a Beast with your giant robots, all commanded at your "command truck" (the game interface). Lots of explosions, lots of things happening that will make anybody go "oooh, ahhh".

More details as I keep thinking of them.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Back, and More RTS Concepts...

I've been incredibly busy, not the least of which has been doing the con writing for SiliCon 2008. Look for your Progress Reports in the mail, and the program book if you make it there.

Anyways, wanted to thank tabuxfix for letting me onto his website and various ideas, which are very nifty. Added him to my blog roll and wanted to say "Hi!".

So, more ideas on my RTS game idea#1 (#2 is coming soon...)-


One of the big things about humans is that we tend to build stuff and we like a roof over our heads. And, that's where humans start. When the game starts, the first things that come through the teleport portal is a base core, and a Commander. Human equipment is hexagonal in it's design-and facilities are "docked" to each other and to the base core. One of our game conceits is that you have to have a side that is accessible to the "outside" to let vehicles deploy. But, you can move the bigger factory blocks around-you can undock them from where they are, they sprout tracks (or legs, maybe), and move....very slowly, but faster than building a new factory bit. The only exception is the air factory-all of our aircraft are VTOL-capable.

The base module and some of the secondary modules will mount weapons (that you can upgrade), and the game has four level of weapon upgrades for each unit. A specific turret module can be built independently, as well as a sensor module. These can be mounted and attached to a resource pool location (which lets these weapons fire a bit faster and repair their own damage a bit faster), or placed where you want them.

Oh, and Human units have a specific "scavenging" unit that dismantles enemy units to take the parts back home-to build things that work better than their enemies.


Martians are like crabs. They bring their homes (their walkers) with them, everywhere they go. And, they really don't have a base...more like a "place to work". Transport vehicles haul materials to a central point, and a specific builder...pretty much dances and creates a unit. This central location can be destroyed if either side pretty much runs their ground units across the central glyph/location.

Resources are also hauled to the walkers, which uses the resources to grow, build modules to increase capabilities, and build secondary systems and modules. They can even build turrets that move very slowly, then settle in and engage hostile targets, both in the air and the ground.


Venusian forces really only build three (four?) kinds of units-troopers (basic soldiers), builders (basic building units), and a Scaffold. By combining the three, you can build base facilities and larger units and vehicles. Of course, you can build a finished unit rather than build the basic three and then collect them into a single unit...but, when it's destroyed, then units break up into their component troopers and builders.

Venusians tend to be sneaky and stealthy and fast. They are not going to be the fastest unit in the game (this is when the Mercurian units show up), but they have speed.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Think China Has A Problem? No, It's Worse.

Steve Den Beste has been commenting about the problems China has been having with it's preparation for the Olympics. Problems from Tibetian independence, food contamination, etc, etc...and it will only get worse.

Let's start out with the fact that China is being pressured to lower it's digital wall of censorship, since major sponsors such as various corporations and similar agencies are demanding more access to the Internet during the Olympics. And, there will be thousands and thousands of people out there with digital cameras. And access to the Internet...and cheap access to blogging software and Livejournal and YouTube...

A major whoopsie (a term of art meaning anything from "we got caught beating some Tibetian monks on tape" to "Tianamen Square Part 2") will probably be on the Internet in all forms and ways within a day or two.

China is getting very paranoid about access, especially by "foreign" guests. Lately, the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco is only giving one month visas for non-US nationals applying for a visa. And, for only a single entry and if you've been there before. Oh, and you have to have permanent residency in the United States to get a visa. If you haven't been to China have to go back to your home country to get a visa.

I think that China is really worried that they are going to have thousands of people that going to be there, with easy access to communications to the outside. Especially with all the trouble going on with China. The first major incident...will be messy. Every time something goes wrong, it will get out of the country fast. And, you can bet that everybody that has a bone to pick with China is going to be picking away (I'm almost surprised that Taiwan isn't pushing "we have higher quality stuff and it's cleaner" in the media-or that's more for the trade magazines.)

This year's Olympics is going to be interesting. A big enough scandal might make the upcoming recession worse (honestly, it should have started by now, or when the major lending problems happened with people buying houses that are Way Too Much), with people moving away from China products because of a general sort of "we don't like China" movement.

I'm watching this news, it will be interesting...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Solution To The Fansub Problem (Maybe...)

One of the things that has really, really been bugging me lately has been the screaming lament of various people in the American anime industry about the fact that "fansubs are killing the industry! Nobody wants to buy anime if they can download it from the Internet via BitTorrent!" Fansubbing has been blamed for everything from haltosis to the end of Geneon Animation US (which, AFAIK, had the lovely trait of trying to sell anime in America in many of the same ways they sold it in Japan).

To the studios, I have a question for you. Serious question, too. If it isn't for fansubs, how in the hell am I supposed to get a English version of Legend of The Galactic Heroes? Or another series that has all the popular appeal of curling to the general audience? Or any of the really high-end, non-ecchi mecha series (like Gundam 00), which doesn't have an American audience, really?

Yet, the question does remain-how does the animation studios combat the problem of fansubs on the Internet? Especially since anime fansubs are reaching the point of becoming like the BitTorrent of Global Frequency-awesome, but killing any possibility of the show ever being "legit".

Answer-beat them to the punch.

This would require studios to coordinate their activities with American and British distributors, but quite frankly they should have done so years ago. Anime studio in Japan produces a new series-let's say it's a harem/mecha show (where the harem girls are the giant robots...). Twenty-four hours after the episode comes out, the American distributor (say, ADV Films) puts up a un-encrypted, digitally open, subtitled version of the episode. Accurately subtitled too (mostly because they have access to the scripts), and perfectly done. Probably a high-end AVI formatted file with stereo sound and all that.

The catch? There are commericals-for both anime that the distributor produces and anime the studio makes (even if it's via another distributor, they can put ads for their shows on there. Deal With It). Each of the ads has a code...which is shut off 24 hours later for special bonus items (like a web-only interview of the staff, a free download of the soundtrack off of iTunes, etc, etc).

This makes the episode about the same length it is in Japan. Yes, people can click over the ads and such...but that's not the point. The point is that the ads are there, and in theory are watched. And, there are reasons why people want to watch the ad, the WHOLE ad... (yes, those letters on the girl's bouncing breasts means something important...)

Which is a traceable demographic.

Which can be sold to other studios ("It looks like American fandom is really, really into series with characters of questionable sexuality and gender. Oh, and openly are doing each other, despite probably being siblings.").

Or used to improve your own internal anime development ("Moon Cow Elisa got twice as many hits as Bloody Opera Marie. More moe!").

Then, when the series comes out...heh, heh, heh...downloadable content. But you have to have entered and collected the codes from the entire Internet run of the series to get it...

I must contemplate this idea more.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Getting Off The Planet, Version 2.0

One of the biggest pushes that NASA has been up to has been building the whole Aries (aka the Shuttle-Derived Launch Vehicle) system. Of course, to build it means funding and supporting and supplying the whole space launch and industry system. Including all new contracts to do research and development and produce all new space 2012 or so.

Of course, a much cheaper system and proposal is outlined here, in the form of the Jupiter I-V system. This setup would mean man would be back on the five years or less. Maybe six. I would love to work on this the very least, work on writing up all the neat and interesting paperwork and documentation needed. As long as I got a chance to play in the simulators every once in a while.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Social Networking Thoughts...

Sadly, I'm on several social networking systems (namely Tribe, Facebook, MySpace, and Livejournal), and all of them seem to lack features that I keep thinking would be perfect for these networks. In no particular order, here are my thoughts-

1)Let's be fair. There are some parts of our lives that we would want to very much keep a secret from other people in our lives. Our employer doesn't need to know that we are a fan of Green Acres, nor do our parents need to know that we like women dipped in honey and chocolate. Nor do our friends need to read about the frustration we have with them (I have a friend that I love deeply, but hell is she bad on my ego when I play world-saver for her). The concept that I have is what I call the "hive"-six levels of control positive and negative over people you know.

You organize the people on the social network by one of three types-friends, family, and business. Postings can then be segregated on the various groups by type (a dating board, for example, would only let people that are posted as friends and not business). In addition, if you were to post a blog on the social networking site, you could restrict it by type...and by levels of friendship.

Remember I said about six levels of control? You could set the levels on each person that is a friend on your list by 1 ("kinda know them") to 6 ("best friends forever/lovers"). Photos would be controled by levels-from open to the public (0) to the photos you only want some people to see (3) to photos you maybe want one or two people to see (6). Your blog postings would be controlled like this-"only friends 3 and above", "only business three and five", etc, etc. On your friend's profile, you could see friends of your friends...and how they know them, and how their levels are in comparison to yours-a good tool to sort out people you know and don't know.

Of course, we have the reverse controls-the ability to list somebody from -1 (not a fan of them) to -6 (don't want them to know ANYTHING of what I do here). If somebody has a lot of -1s and belows, maybe you shouldn't know them...or let them find things out.

2)At the end, the purpose of social networking sites is user-created content. Groups for things you didn't think there was a need for (kinky knitters of making toys out of yarn, I swear to God they exist), organizing events of all types, finding things to buy and parties to go to. Group control should let you be able to set up everything from parties to sales....of course there will be open, CL-type boards, but the ability to put add-on modules such as event calenders and photo galleries and similar types of hardware.

3)For handling adult content....I'm thinking of a three-tier system. The first tier is the "free" tier-kids and such can reach this level. This keeps them out of content specially designated as "adult" (and, conversely, there are two tier levels, 18+ Adult and 21+ Adult). I'm still trying to figure out a way to keep kids away from annoying people...but the idea hasn't hit me yet.

Second tier is "adult"-and if you want to get to the adult boards, you have to pay...$1 a year. You have to have a credit card that is linked to your name and your address (to prevent fraud), and that gives you access to the Adult boards.

Third tier is "patron"-for a monthly or yearly fee, you don't get any ads, any postings get put on the top of the screen and any friend listings when you're online, etc, etc...

There are other ideas, but they're all being worked through my brain...very, painfully slowly.

Friday, February 01, 2008

I'm Feeling...Ah, Creative...

Read the news today, and saw that Al Qaeda used two women with Downs Syndrome as suicide bombers. Probably promised the fruits of Paradise (which, according to Islam, women don't get) and they were detonated by remote control, which suggests that they weren't exactly volunteers. Or might have been told that they were to leave the bombs then get out of the area. Which means they were used as human cruise missiles, and that Al Qaeda used to their ends.

This is a good sign in some ways-that Iraq is stable enough that the usual "kid with a Semtex overcoat" strategy isn't working and they have to delve into a deeper and different pool of "recruits" to carry out their suicidal attacks. But, of course, the leadership won't be the ones doing it...they need to "lead" and let others go on to Paradise.

When they're captured, sad to say, they will probably just be put up against the nearest wall and shot once we confirm they don't have info we need, or will spend time in Gitmo while they fling fecal matter and stage riots with the guards, all the time lying about being tortured. Which is sad, really, because I have some better ideas of what to do with them...

My idea? We get the cells in order-newest to oldest prisoners. Then, in order of arrival, we start turning them into women. We use hormones, implants, sexual reassignment surgery, plastic surgery, etc, etc...the ones that talk and start talking quickly, we'll make sure they get therapy, training and help so that they can be released out into the world as women. The ones that are a problem? We make sure they know they're going to the worst brothels in Turkey and the Balkans...where the customers know exactly what they were.

Make sure the cells are done in a Panopticon style, so all the prisoners can see what's going on. Hell, I might even have photos taken of their "progress", and quietly distributed in the Islamic world...

Yes, I know it won't happen.
It's wrong on so many levels.
But, damn it, I'm feeling so creative with the idea...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Torture Porn vs. Horror Films

Kim du Toit-one of the best bloggers out there-has been commenting about Torture Porn films such as the Saw or Hostel series. And, I fully agree with him-and the sad thing is that short of another serious act of censorship or blacklisting, torture porn is here to stay.

Okay, let's last convention was SilCon 2007, where the theme was horror films. And, I do mean "horror". Some of the films shown in the hallways were films that were hideously not PG-13 trailer material. And, there was a deep love of "let's see how much blood and guts we can generate, just to see what we can generate."

Why do people make torture porn films? First of all, it's cheap-Hostel was made for about $5 million dollars and made $81 million in return-about a sixteen times return on the investment. Saw is an even better example-$1.5 million to make, $100 million in return, about ninety times as much. I'm willing to bet that at the convention, I could go onto the floor and offer to about eight or ten people there a contract for a small amount of money now and a portion of the profits for the next iteration of the series-and get them, easy.

Second, it's like watching a car wreck-some people actually like watching this. Does anybody remember that lovely comment "if it bleeds, it leads"? There are people out there that like watching crush porn-and torture porn can make most people think they're the guy doing the cutting or the building of the horrible gadgets of torture. They are the ones that will be the ones that watch as somebody is slowly, slowly killed-and they get to kill the next one.

Please, everybody's had at least one fantasy of taking apart somebody we really didn't like.

Third, and finally, it's empowering all your little monsters. There's no plot to worry about (mostly), there's no morality message involved (classic '70s and '80s horror film-premarital sex, yuppies, and being an idiot, bad!), there's no need to make the guy that's doing all the torture into a bad guy. There are no good or bad guys after all, just points of view (lovely post-modernist concept...). Oh, and you get to have such fun torturing people...

You can argue that there is a market, and if they don't fill the void, somebody else will. But...should it be filled? Should films like this be made, with people going home with those little monsters of their psyche fed? That films like this are just mainstream enough that people don't look too askew when they take their kids to the film (any parent that takes a kid under 12 to one of these films should be shot). The ones engaging in the torture have enough moral ambiguity that you can see being the one with the chainsaw.

This is not like horror films. Say what you will of it, Grindhouse was a perfect send-up of the Z-grade, cheap-ass budget film that go hideously towards the late-late-late-shouldn't you be asleep TV movies or on Showtime during the 3 am hours. I can't see a sendup of torture films like Army of Darkness did to horror films. Some horror films actually make a lot of sense and are sometimes so overdone that they're just hokey. And, the guys that torture in horror films tend to be the bad guys. The ones cutting up people with the chiansaws? You shoot them, please. The shooters aren't the guys that cut up girls for fun.

Horror films are intended to scare you and shock you. Torture porn are best watched with one hand on the popcorn...and one on your joystick. If you can't get any play with your joystick...well, enjoy watching a beautiful girl (that, in real life, somebody like her shot you down) get eaten alive by mutant cannibals. Get some good revenge in, for the boss that drove you mad, the girl that teased you in bed, the doctor that treated you like an idiot and a fool...all of them have to suffer.

This is a bad way to go. Add to that the fact that most kids would be better parented by wolves and there's validation to being a successful torturing asshole pervert (Hostel has a club of very rich people that get to torture and torment people for fun, there are people that consider Jigsaw in Saw to be a folk hero) is expressed here. Add to that music media that most kids listen to tends to view women as objects at best, tissue paper at worse...I'm scared to see what the next school killing spree will be.

My advice? Don't watch it, don't spend money on people that sponsor it, make it known that you don't tolerate this kind of mess...I don't.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

My Official Endorsement

I used to be a huge political junkie. Couldn't get enough of politics, fun to read and almost always hilarious if you just ignored how much money was being spent to have all of that fun.

I started getting tired of it about 2006-2007 or so, just burnout in the form of getting tired of the morons on parade (on both sides of the political aisle) and just was content to watching the monkeys throw poo at each other.

But, the old political urges get pulled back up, especially looking at the clowns showing up on stage these days. Let's see...
  • Hillary Clinton- We had one Clinton and that was one too many. And she is much more...driven than her husband. And he was a statist Tranzi bastard.
  • Barack Obama- Does not impress me at all, and I'm convinced that he would be the Jimmy Carter candidate of this election. And I mean that in all of the bad ways possible...
  • John Edwards- At best, an ambulance chaser. At worse, a fool. And, a scary one, too.
  • Rudy Giuliani- If he would just come out of the (proverbial) closet and run as a Democrat, I wouldn't feel like I would have to hold my nose when I looked at the Democratic party. Probably a great law&order president, but not very good otherwise.
  • Ron Paul- This guy is probably drinking too much of the very special Kool-Aid, and he is the sort of candidate that gives "fringe" a bad name. His supporters are notorious for spamming polls to make Ron Paul look like he has actual appeal and a groundswell of support. At the very least, we now know where all of the Black Helicopter/ZOG/UN Conspiracy nuts are hanging out...
  • Mike Huckabee- He has this kind of swarmy/messy sort of look to him that reminds me oddly of either Mister Saxon or Tony Blair, in which he's very very much the consummate politician. Hideously greasy, and is using his Mormonism as a defense against criticism.
  • John McCain- Another long time, annoying politician that was the author of the damn near unconstituional McCain/Feingold Act and he just seems too...polished, as well.
So, now that we've reduced all the candidates down, and who's left?

I personally think that Fred Thompson is the best possible candidate for 2008. So far, nobody has been able to show me otherwise. On the big core issues-defense (a bigger and better military, more capable and more able to fight small and big wars), economic policy (keeping taxes low and encouraging people to invest and put money away), immigration (his full paper and proposal don't include things that I'd like to see-but, then again, what I'd like to see is "big catapult on the border to fling convicted criminals over to the other side of the Rio Grande"-and dealing the problem on both sides, coyotes and the people that hire illegal laborers), and other factors.

Not the perfect candidate, mind you...but he is a good choice, has a record of saying what he means, and is not a scrubbed, polished, shaped, and otherwise tweaked candidate that looks like he'd do anything to win and is waiting for the best price for his Mom.

So, Vote Fred 2008!