Random Announcements

So exams are over, although my work at the institute is not, and I’m finally doing something interesting with Google Wave: Playing RPGs. Specifically, Eclipse Phase, which is a CC-licensed RPG that deals with transhumanist themes:

Eclipse Phase is a pen & paper roleplaying game of post-apocalyptic transhuman conspiracy and horror.

An “eclipse phase” is the period between when a cell is infected by a virus and when the virus appears within the cell and transforms it. During this period, the cell does not appear to be infected, but it is.

Players take part in a cross-faction secret network dubbed Firewall that is dedicated to counteracting “existential risks” — threats to the existence of transhumanity, whether they be biowar plagues, self-replicating nanoswarms, nuclear proliferation, terrorists with WMDs, net-breaking computer attacks, rogue AIs, alien encounters, or anything else that could drive an already decimated transhumanity to extinction.

I’m just getting started playing a one shot scenario, but if I like it, I’m definitely hoping I could continue playing with someone that I already know. (Or not, random commenter, if you are interested!) Do comment if interested. 

Second- and I’ve been wondering about this one for a while, and I’m not really sure how to go about it- I was thinking of writing a post on preference modification and “preference choice”, which is a rather oxymoronic term that I quickly need to find a substitute for. Essentially, it was sparked off my my rather religious friend telling me that I would be much happier if I picked things other than my current preferences to be happy about. This struck me as both obviously true and completely pointless, but I am coming to realize that I may have been wrong about the latter. Of course, this is hardly a revolutionary idea: it’s already preached by any number of religious and spiritual groups, and any number of best-selling self-help authors as well. I am interested in:

a) seeing how far this is actually possible, with what is currently known about human psychology and perhaps any technological assistance. This post seems to imply that it is not.(“One of my Secrets of Adulthood is “You can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you like to do.” “)

b) Postulating that at some point of time, any amount of self-modification is possible, how far would one want to take it? This is an ontological issue, obviously, relating to how far your preferences dictate your identity- there’s a wonderful quote from High Fidelity* that fits in well here- and you can expect some amount of philosophy to be thrown about. The whole “so why don’t you wire up implants to pleasure centres in your brain and just stick yourself into a socket” issue will also hopefully be discussed here.

The problem is, I can’t seem to get very far on this alone, so I was wondering if anyone had some sort of pointers/links/ comments.

*”I agreed that what really matters is what you like, not what you are like… Books, records, films – these things matter. Call me shallow but it’s the fuckin’ truth, and by this measure I was having one of the best dates of my life.”
–Rob Gordon, High Fidelity. 

Advertisements

Tsukihime

I missed a lot of stuff here because I went home for the weekend, but (aside from all the food and the seeing everyone again bit, of course) one thing makes up for it: being able to download and play Tsukihime*. (The OTHER tangible thing was the new, totally cool, gorgeous looking 500 GB USB hard disk that I brought it back in.)

“Play” is not quite the right word, because you do very little except make choices every now and then and read the narration-it’s a visual novel, not an arcade game. But that suits me just fine, when the writing is this good.I wasn’t really planning on reviewing it here considering that, well, it’s supposed to be porn and this might be setting a dangerous precedent, but the fact is that it’s so much more than that, and even after being only halfway(or less; I hope less) through playing it, I can’t remember being this excited about anything in a while.

What is it? You could call it a paranormal romance- there’s a boy with a dangerous ability, and a girl that he thinks he loves who just happens to be a vampire princess. Of course, she’s an utterly unbelievably devastatingly beautiful vampire princess, but the adjectives are all mine: Kinoko Nasu and/or the good translators at Mirror Moon know how to describe someone without vomiting out a thesaurus, unlike some people who shall remain unnamed. She’s also 600 years old(at least) and stronger and faster than pretty much everyone else, and she behaves like a kid most of the time-this is brought out more in the anime(yes, there’s an anime) than in the visual novel. You could call it a psychological thriller, about a boy with partial amnesia who loses his mind and blacks out and who has killed at least one person with no idea why, even though [tiny SPOILER] she can’t exactly die.[end SPOILER]. You could call it a philosophical treatise on the nature of death and immortality, good and evil, and love and lust and attraction.You could call it just another Dracula variant, with members of the Church hunting down the vampires that are terrorising small towns, except that this time they’re in japan, not Transylvania. Or, of course, you could call it porn, although there’s not nearly enough of it.

The description on Wikipedia fails to do justice to the game because the true beauty lies in the writing, especially the Shiki’s long stream-of-consciousness monologues. Sometimes it degenerates to the entire screen filling up with “kill kill kill” to the backdrop of dripping blood, but even that has its purpose, namely, telling you that you’re going insane. The visuals are beautiful, but probably nothing beyond what we’re used to in most games or anime. They usually go well with the text, although more backgrounds and more sprites would have been better. Still, given that it’s a fan-produced(doujin) game, it’s all of very decent quality.

Of course, since it’s a Japanese game, we have to deal with the general pokemon-like names for all the attacks( “Mystic Eyes of Death perception”? “Reality Marble”?) but for anyone who regularly reads/views fantasy, it shouldn’t be much of a problem. What MIGHT be a problem for some people is that at least in the “Near Moon” routes, this is one of the darkest stories I’ve ever seen, although there are the occasional patches of humour. Overall, something no fantasy enthusiast should miss.

*For whatever reason, my download manager kept cutting off at exactly 20.0 MB every time I tried to download the file from megaupload here in the institute.

Tentative Plans for December

The key word being tentative.

“Constructive” Stuff:

Where constructive is defined fairly loosely.

  1. Do my own version of NaNoWriMo, in December*. Wish I could have done it in November with everyone else, but endsems are a pain.
  2. “Prepare” for next semester. Yeah, really. All my courses depend to a very large extent on prior knowledge which I’m supposed to have gained sometime during the last 2 and a half years, but almost certainly haven’t.
  3. Find something to do for the summer. This deserves a bullet point, for reasons that shall be explained later.
  4. This may not really fit, but: get both computers working the way they’re supposed to. Which includes mailing the Dell service center guys and asking them if they can come to Kottayam instead of Chennai to fix the display for the laptop, fixing whatever the reason is for me not being able to play practically any games at all on the laptop, and getting a whole new keyboard,mouse and possibly speaker system for the desktop. All dependent on what my father’s willing to pay for, of course.

*I DO plan to do this, but it’s more of an exercise to see if I CAN still write any longish(and this will be longer by far than anything else I’ve tried) story, rather than actually trying to write The Novel. I have no intention of putting it up for review by anyone else, at least not under my own name, which means not on this blog. I haven’t really decided the plot -which is bad, because as of an hour back this is officially December- but this will almost certainly be SF/F (by which I mean, it’ll be far-future SF, but whether I make it sound scientifically plausible is a whole other question), very likely some sort of a cliche, and almost certainly bad.

Reading List:

Fiction:

Any recommendations? I have a whole bunch of pulpy stuff that I plan to read if there aren’t, but I was hoping for something solid which is still fun. And preferably easily available. Classic SF/Fantasy would be good, because there’s a chance that any reasonably famous book is somewhere within my 4 GB collection, or can be found on the net. Although, looking to expand, so try me anyway.  Meanwhile, will try and finish Snow and The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Non-fiction:

  1. The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, by John Maynard Keynes. By all indications, something I should be reading at this time. Should be particularly helpful if Tyler does in fact go ahead with the Book Club. Also have Capitalism and Freedom to browse through, however. 🙂
  2. The Road to Reality, by Roger Penrose. I’ve had this for a VERY long time now, and still haven’t got past the first few chapters, partly because it felt a little too much like a textbook. More specifically, because I peeked ahead and read from in between and those chapters feel exactly like a textbook. But since I’m quite determinedly and shamefully jobless, I guess I’ll try harder.
  3. Guns,Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond. Ditto. Although I didn’t really try very hard on this one.

Graphic Novels/Comics:

  1. The Preacher (only because it was there. I have no idea how good it’ll be.)
  2. Marvel 1602
  3. JLA Elseworlds
  4. Batman (specifically, re-read Arkham Asylum, Year One,The Dark Knight Returns, TDK Strikes Again, and the Killing Joke)
  5. The Dreaming*
  6. Fables*
  7. Lucifer*

*Found a great website through a hacked google search that has the entire collectionof all these, plus a lot more. Actual reading will depend on how much I can download. Thankfully, net at home is between 5 and 20 times faster than the connection here, depending on the time of day, so this SHOULD work.

Movies I Downloaded:

Not picked or ranked in any way, just a random assortment of movies that I’d like to see, or see again.

  1. Tortilla Heaven
  2. The Jesus of Montreal
  3. The Breakfast Club
  4. Burn After Reading
  5. Broken English
  6. A Cinderella Story(Yeah, I know. But I NEED something like it sometimes.)
  7. Trainspotting
  8. Fast Times at Ridgemont High
  9. Love Actually (Hey, it’s SWEET! I need something I can watch when I badly need to get the warm fuzzies. Summer of 2007 I went with “You’ve Got Mail.” Hopefully, this’ll work,too. )
  10. Return of The Jedi 😀
  11. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 😀

Games I’m taking in the faint hope that they’ll work on the desktop back home:

  1. SPORE!!! (Oh, please,please,please work!)
  2. Caesar 4 (Only because I remember Caesar 3, besides being the very first game I ever bought for myself, as the only computer game my father ever liked playing, a long,long time ago… back when I was actually into playing games while others offered helpful comments from the sidelines.)
  3. The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind
  4. Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri: This, and the next 2, mostly because they actually work on my laptop.
  5. Monopoly -just the board game, nothing special, but good when you just want to waste time.
  6. N! Best flash game ever! Tough, and addictive. Mostly good when your fingers start to itch. Also has the advantage of being something to do when you want to listen to music, but not “just”.

Also have a bunch of TV shows/anime that I don’t really want to bother listing. And I’d like to go somewhere for the hols, even if that doesn’t seem very likely right now, especially alone. Also hope they’ll finally let me take the car out on my own. Wish me luck!

Superman vs Sub-Zero!!!

This just in, from Technorati:

Midway Gamer’s Day: Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe First Characters Announced

Yes, everything you’ve already heard is absolutely true. The next Mortal Kombat game is going to feature characters from DC comics including Batman and Superman. The only other two characters announced were Scorpion and Sub Zero but it was enough to whip the gathered crowd at Midway’s Gamer’s Day in Vegas into a frenzy of hoots and hollers. Later in the evening however, an ugly story started to circulate. According to several sources, Ed Boon stated that the game would have no fatalities. No fatalities? Seriously? Fatalities are what the franchise is best known for but apparently DC will not have their beloved characters torn limb from limb in fountains of blood. Can’t say I blame them, but I’m curious to see how such a move will affect sales of the game. Will Mortal Kombat fans be willing to accept the trade off? Superman vs Fatalities: who is going to win out?

Although personally, as someone who loves the game but has only managed to put one single fatality in all my years(I think it was something wrong with the cracked version(s) that I normally played…I can’t be THAT bad!!!) I throw in my chips for Superman. It would be interesting to see how they fit it in,though. Will he still be able to fly? Have the eye rays? Because that is obviously a pretty big advantage over our more conventional combatants. Old Bats makes a lot more sense: he might be your worst nightmare, but even with that impressive little belt and toned muscles he will only just stand firm against men who turn into dragons. Not that anyone has confirmed that Liu Kang is in, but come on! He has to be!