The purpose of art is to delight us; certain men and women (no smarter than you or I) whose art can delight us have been given dispensation from going out and fetching water and carrying wood. It's no more elaborate than that. — David Mamet

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.

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 8 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.

by Erin Morgenstern

Oh, how I wanted this to be another Night Circus! It’s a fine book, a weird book. It will make a lovely stablemate with Sussana Clarke’s Piranesi. Morgenstern creates a vast, dark hidden word, but for my money it’s just too big and too dark and too much. I can’t wait for her next book.

I like to watch (American) professional football, but I don’t know enough to watch it as intelligently as I’d like. Modern television announcers don’t help: they’re talking to people who know even less than I.

I used to say I was looking for the Roger Angell of football, but that doesn’t work. You can do baseball in words, but for football, you need film.

So, what I’d really like is a smart expert talking to me about how they see the game. It could be specialized: an offensive line coach, just explaining in the moment what Miami is trying and how the Patriots are responding. I can follow the outlines, I don’t need to be told that the Dolphins just ran a screen for a first down. I need to be told that the key to the screen was the right guard chipping the rusher and sliding to the linebacker.

Where do I find this? Could be in-game via Discord, Twitch, or something. Could be commentary produced the following week. I’m sure it must exist, and whoever does it probably has a hundred thousand followers and a Patreon. So, tell me the secret password.

Aug 21 26 2021

Too Many Links?

An interesting point came up at last week’s Tinderbox Meetup. I was showing a fairly large and complicated Tinderbox map that I’ve been using to think about some of the intellectual roots of Tinderbox — the ideas on which Tinderbox is based. The map has about 250 notes and 150 links. Here’s a piece.

Too Many Links?

The question arose: these links are a terrible tangle! What are they good for?

Here’s an inadequate answer.

In this neighborhood of the map, I’m looking at the long social discussion of authenticity, directness and sincerity. This was expressed directly and emphatically in the early Web in dozens of important ways ranging from Jennicam and live-streaming to the golden age of weblogs, but also to the development of preprint servers and Open Science that originally motivated Berners-Lee and Caillau. Authenticity is a primary concern of Nelson’s Computer Lib, and the architecture of Xanadu was dominated by the desire to ensure that links and quotations would always be authentic and verifiable. This also connects to questions of authorship and the growing sense that everyone might be an author.

Conversely, mistrust of deceitful American capitalism led many mid-century philosophers to examine new media with deep skepticism. Baudrillard, for example, wrote of Disneyland having too much of everything, everywhere — except in its parking lot, which was a literal concentration camp. The soixante-huitard and the Beats agreed that you couldn’t trust simulated experience and you couldn’t rely on what people told you was good: you might not know what was art, but you knew how you felt. That, in turn, ties into Ken Kesey’s acid tests, experiences with the loudest and densest music every performed, experienced with dancers and light shows and plenty of experimental hallucinogens.

Stuart Moulthrop gave an important paper to Hypertext ’89, trying to bring that Baudrillard work to the attention of the computer science world. It would take a decade for the message to get through. At a program committee meeting a few months earlier, I had my first conversation with Catherine C. Marshall, whose work (NoteCards, Aquanet, VIKI) is the most direct inspiration for Tinderbox. Among the topics of that conversation was an account of doing acid in the Disneyland Parking Lot.

In summary: there are lots of topics here, and lots of connections. I could extract one isolated line of influence and turn it into a neat story, but that would be a very incomplete view of the matter. I could tell you the tale that everyone tells: Vannevar Bush, Engelbart and Nelson, and then the Web. It’s a good story, but it leaves a lot out.

I’ve drawn these links in a light gray for a reason: they’re sketches and hints at connection. Someday, I may understand this material well enough to simplify and clarify. Now, it’s enough to represent at least some of the complexity.

Lola’s Fine Hot Sauces

Not long ago, my niece the game designer was visiting for brunch. She asked for some hot sauce with her scrambled eggs. Hot sauce has fallen out of my vocabulary, so all I could offer was one of those bottles with a label that boasts that it’s even more authentically 19th-century than the old label.

So, while I don’t often accept PR pitches for prepared foods, I welcomed the chance to sample Lola’s Fine Hot Sauces. As a rule, hot sauces are engaged in an arms race with everyone trying to be hotter and more authentic than their neighbors, and that’s not very interesting. Lola’s approach is to keep a reasonable level of heat but to concentrate on flavor.

The big win here was the Carolina Reaper, which I tried as a condiment for my own Carolina smoked bbq ribs. Sure, it adds heat, but it also adds a really nice fruity note with some real spice depth. It wasn’t numbingly hot, so all the work on basting the ribs wasn't buried under the condiment, but the condiment added some useful notes. (I seldom like “Carolina yellow” bbq sauces, preferring Brian Polcyn’s sauce of brown sugar, tons of vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard and veal stock. The veal stock helps, but chicken stock is fine and it's what I typically have on hand. )

I tried the Original sauce a with a few things — notably with some scrambled eggs. Its flavor profile is nice, though I’m not sure I know exactly how it’s done: there’s reasonable mid-palate heat, quite a bit of acid, and some tomato. It’s not a spicy ketchup, which I know is exactly what I just described. Or maybe it is, in a more concentrated form. It turns out that scrambled eggs aren’t the right foil for this, but I fancy a touch might enliven a hearty beef stew. Again, the point is to dial down the heat and allow interesting spice to shine.

Also on the Tinderbox Forum, Gernot Weise shares a framework for developing stories and screenplays.

Attributes I have defined for Players are derived from the Enneagram.

I use the Enneagram to develop my cast for my stories.

  • $MyNumber in $Container(/Player/) stands for the Enneagram Type like 1=Rule, 2=Lover…
  • $MyRole in Player defines an Archetype like Protagonist, Antagonist … as defined in Dramatica.

In Dramatica every archetype has a special set of qualities (methods, motivations …)

The protagonist pursues the goal. The antagonist avoids the goal. The emotion sees the bigger picture. The sidekick is smarter than the hero …

This Saturday will mark one year since I got back into the Tinderbox community, thanks to @Sylvaticus and the meetups he kicked off (I’ve only missed one since then). I will forever look at this date as an inflection point in my life, let’s call the time before BTBX (before Tinderbox) and ATBX (after Tinderbox), or my 10+. I played with Tinderbox for nearly a decade before this date and simply could not wrap my head around it, no matter how much I tried. Since then, my life has changed, and fast. I was compelled to get back into Tinderbox out of necessity. I could not stomach doing one more thing in “puppy mill software,” aka Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Pages, Google Docs, etc. I was tired of being constrained by app-centric thinking (I did not have this term before, @mwra taught me two weeks ago) and had faith the Tinderbox and community could open the world to me (and get me out of my funk).

Fascinating essay. Since then, Becker has crafted 50 Tinderbox video9s, with 20,000 views and 337 subscribers. It’s an interesting world!

And, just today, on this very forum, we were exchanging ideas on Buddhism and cartesian thinking. WOW, what a rich community. I feel so fortunate and grateful to be a member of this tribe.