Oct 21 3 2021



As a prelude to Fall, I’ve been watching the series Friday Night Lights (Peter Berg, 2006-2011), of which I’d heard some good things. It’s interesting.

  • I wrote somewhere that the 19th-century school story ends in graduation, while the 20th-century school story ends in the dissolution of the school. This is a 21st-century school story: it ends with both, and m0re.
  • Some good, smart writing with cumulative power. They get tears from the answer to an It’s Academic! Quiz: “Look Homeward Angel” and “You Can’t Go Home Again.”
  • The book was good, but it's a book. To get five years of material, you need tons of subplots and plenty of renewal. Berg handles this with exceptional skill.
  • Texas is another country.
  • The football is better-looking that I’d have thought; that must have been hard. Too many story tale endings, but it’s that kind of movie.

What really intrigues me here is that this construction of interlocking stories in intersecting arcs ought to work for literary hypertext. This is close to using storylets but it’s not quite the same thing. A storylet is over when it's over, and while this storylet is happening it has the stage. In this genre, you never know when a storylet is over. And because we frequently shift storylets, you seldom know whether the action is finished or simply suspended.

Abstractly, you’d think this wouldn’t work, that the reader would never care about anything because something else was coming, and because nothing is ever permanently settled. But of course high school is like that.

Sep 21 29 2021

A Future

Dave Rogers writes that he is “kind of excited because it seems we are undergoing another renaissance in software development in the category of "tools for thought," or as Douglas Engelbart might have said ‘augmenting the mind.’ ”

Tinderbox, the application I'm using right now, is one of them as well; and I'm pretty familiar with it. Tinderbox being something of an outlier, appearing at the tail end of the last renaissance, but benefiting from a committed developer and a large enough user base to ensure a certain level economic viability, allowing it to endure to the current resurgence of interest.

He speculates on the current shift from social media back toward blogging — or perhaps something better than blogging.

If we want a better world, we've got to get about the serious business of inventing it. Right fucking now.

Is blogging a part of that? I think so.

And I know that Tinderbox is a tool for invention.

Another record turnout this Saturday for our free online course on using Tinderbox for weblogs. Not just page construction and mechanics, but the hard work of crafting a writing space and planning posts you haven’t begun to imagine. Saturdays, noon Eastern time, and now we’re adding a second class Fridays, 6PM Eastern time which is 8am in Sydney. The new time is not set in stone: if you have suggestions, Email me.

I wrote a paper on “Art, Kitsch, and the Totalitarian Gamer”. The referees hated it. I’m pretty sure I sent it to the wrong conference.

Perhaps, the correct conference does not exist. Perhaps this really is of no interest to anyone. If you have ideas, though, Email me.

The 2014 alt-right uprising against women in the game industry known as Gamergate [8; 42] foreshadowed the style and the substance of Trumpism. Notable features of Gamergate — its fondness for shadowy conspiracy mediated through online fora, its rhetoric of grievance, its propensity for interminable arguments, its recrudescence of anti-semitism and misogyny, its iconography — seem accidental and arbitrary, unrelated to anything we find in games or in game studies. To scholars of digital storytelling, Gamergate appeared to be an arbitrary anticipation of misfortune. Someone was bound to be first, and it has seemed that game developers simply had bad luck.

A careful look at 20th-century art history and criticism, and at the history of the formation of mobs and totalitarian movements, shows how these facets of Gamergate are not stylistic quirks, but that they are rooted in the totalitarian aesthetics and in long-standing intellectual movements. We shall see why Roger Ebert said that “video games can never be art,” why this was in fact a remarkable claim for Ebert to have made, and why the claim was not bigoted, essentialist, or daft. We shall see why the Gamergate mascot is a thick-lipped frog. I believe, further, that this can satisfactorily be understood through established ideological and critical concepts, and without adducing any novel terminology.

This is part 1 of a series on Art, Kitsch, and the Totalitarian Gamer.

Tinderbox Meetup Project

This Saturday, the Tinderbox Meetups are starting a 4-week project. We’re going to build a weblog system — a tool for writing on a topic that matters, for gathering and curating information, and for using that information to build a dynamic web site.

It’s free, and beginners are very welcome. Noon, Eastern time, on zoom. Here’s the details.

Sep 21 11 2021


UnneighborlyFellow DemocratsNutsCrime and Punishment

I’m a member of the Malden Democratic City Committee. Malden is a post-industrial satellite city near Boston, with about 60,000 residents. I was elected by Democrats voting in the the 2016 presidential primary and reelected in 2020.

Local leadership has launched a Disciplinary Committee against me. As far as I can discern, their charges against me are these:

  • Demanding an urgent response
  • Threatening others
  • Making requests that require excessive amounts of others’ time
  • Seeing your perspective as the only right way
  • Misrepresenting activities and actions of others
  • Being unwilling to examine your impact on both individuals and the whole group

I think I might have threatened someone in second grade, though I’m not sure even that rises to the formal definition.

Of course, none of these are causes for discipline in an American political party. American parties are loose coalitions, and in this they are not similar to (say) the Labour Party or to the PCF. American parties never expel people for character flaw or for beliefs; this tends to make them incoherent and unmanageable but avoid fission.

A significant component of this sad affair, alas, is my Jewishness: in the course of political discussions, my critics apparently believe that I’ve behaved Jewishly. I wasn’t born in Malden, I didn’t attend Malden schools. I’m often opinionated, sometimes loud. I interrupt, and I gesticulate. I talk funny, and I use strange words. Our current political situation makes me angry, and I sometimes show it. An outsider like me ought to be respectful of Leadership and should cringe on command.

I refuse.

by Susie Steiner

This intriguing British police procedural uses lots of points of view to examine a fascinatingly complex crime. Manon Bradshaw wants a relationship and she wants a solution to the sudden disappearance of a Cambridge postgraduate student. No one really seems to care what she wants.