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Shimmin on Ferretbrain Presents: Fighting Fantasy Podcastingness Part 1
at 00:53 on 02-10-2014 - link
Ah, the sympathy is much appreciated but undeserved. I decided to chuck in my job for further study, which is tough going but often fun. The interesting bit will, of course, be finding a new job come January.
The trouble with Fighting Fantasy and the like is finding the sweet spot. Trad FF is short and punchy, but a lot of them are so arbitrary that they won't be fun to play because you'll die every three minutes, so it'll get boringly repetitive. Some of them just aren't very good. The one we tried was very much designed for solo play because it's essentially a novel with a very specific main character, some choose-your-own-adventure stuff and unnecessarily complicated mechanics. We'd be reading out multiple paragraphs per choice, and also reading most of the book over the course of play, which is both hard work and seems rather cheeky.
I think we just got lucky with this one. Although it will probably turn out Arthur spent days agonising over a shortlist of structurally-strong contenders to bring.
- Robinson L on Ferretbrain Presents: Fighting Fantasy Podcastingness Part 1 at 00:36 on 02-10-2014 - link Sorry to hear your professional situation has taken a bad turn, that really sucks. And I can imagine how difficult it must be to pull one of these podcast events together - just wishful thinking, really.
Shimmin on Ferretbrain Presents: Fighting Fantasy Podcastingness Part 1
at 22:11 on 01-10-2014 - link
We did talk about doing some more, and had an unsatisfactory experiment with a book that turned out not to be suitable for the format.
There have also been some job-related upheavals; for example, I am now on the opposite side of the planet. Admittedly this is job-related in the sense that previously I had a job.
Robinson L on Ferretbrain Presents: Fighting Fantasy Podcastingness Part 1
at 20:30 on 01-10-2014 - link
Relistened to this episode recently in a fit of nostalgia and noticed this line from Kyra, which I missed the significance of on previous passes (well before I made it out to the UK for my my studies):
~11:30: This door is alarmed
... Which always cracked me up whenever I saw it on emergency exits and the like; I always wanted to say "Have you tried calming it down? Maybe give it a glass of water or talk soothingly?" (For the record, here in the US, doors equipped with alarms are advertised as such in various ways, but they are never labeled as "alarmed.")
I kinda think it's too bad you guys didn't do more of these; I like how this one takes the listener through an actual story, with great riffing along the way.
Melanie on Michael Bay Is America
at 06:25 on 01-10-2014 - link
You're in luck: some kind soul has compiled the whole thing, including the discussion of the first three movies as well as Steven Spielberg's Duel, into one handy PDF document.
Ooooo, thanks! I was just looking for those (pretty pleased to see there are more now, too!). It's fascinating stuff. Especially now that I've been watching Transformers Prime and holy shit there's a human faction that wants to vivisect Transformers for tech and it's so very creepy (and according to my friend who's more familiar with the continuities than I am, the Bay movie's the origin of this being a thing in Transformers, so it's just... interesting to sort of trace it backwards).
Robinson L on Timeo Daneos et Donar Ferentes
at 20:00 on 30-09-2014 - link
Some random scattered thoughts, not so much on the subject of the article - I was not previously aware of this whole kerfuffle, but I find your analysis all too plausible - more a couple tangential points.
this definition includes people like libertarian “sovereign citizens” who believe that their personal rejection of government means that they are not bound by the courts, and also includes people who legitimately resist unjust laws in despotic regimes. Whether this is a strength or a weakness of the definition depends on your point of view.
Not even just despotic regimes. By this definition, MLK would qualify as an extremist, as would the people who participated in civil disobedience in favor of universal suffrage, and against segregation and the Vietnam War in the US and other liberal democracies, to name just three.
Daniel F: I suppose the point I'm wavering towards is that there's probably no such thing as a religiously neutral or truly secular society.
I've heard it argued - including by my Postcolonial Theory professor - that secularism is, in fact, an inherently Christian institution; it could only arise in a Christian context (your point about it being hard to see Dawkins as an Anglican atheist is, I think, highly salient). So yeah, even a truly secular society might not actually be religiously neutral.
On the other hand, he also asserted that many non-Christian cultures have historically managed to balance multiple faith traditions comfortably enough. The example he gave were kingdoms in India which had majority Hindu populations with Muslim rulers for hundreds of years before colonization, but little or no religious oppression or repression. These were just two of the many points which came up during my studies that I did not get the chance to pursue further to reach a good understanding of the broader implications, sadly.
I guess my sense would be that perfect religious neutrality is probably impossible, but religious harmony (including for the a-religious) may still be on the cards, given the right circumstances.
Dan H: I'm also pretty sure that most people in the UK believe the Civil War was primarily a disagreement about haircuts.
What, as in whose was most extreme? 'Cause I'm pretty sure the king won that one, didn't he? *rimshot*
Cheriola: I'm curious, how would one push atheist extremism on kids?
Dan: You'd take the Richard Dawkins approach. Ban fairytales because they aren't true. Teach that religion, by its nature, is essentially harmful. Actively and deliberately deride the beliefs of your religious pupils. Teach that the Catholic Church is full of paedophiles, that Muslims are all terrorists, that Buddhism is perfectly okay because ... I mean ... it isn't really a religion anyway is it? Quietly ignore the Jews because you don't want to look antisemitic.
Routinely indoctrinate your students in the idea that God provably does not exist, that anybody who claims to believe in God is deluded or, more probably, lying. Blame religion for all of the world's problems. Job done.
Yep, pretty much this.
Arthur B on The Man Whose Dicks Weren't All Exactly Alike
at 18:19 on 24-09-2014 - link
Um, I thought I'd heard somewhere that Hitler actually did have syphilis or some similar disease?
There's lots of theorising one way or the other and the syphilis theory does come out to play every few years or so, but his chosen method of suicide would tend to make any diagnosis tenuous unless some medical notes turn up in a wartime stash somewhere.
It's particularly difficult because, of course, there were plenty of propagandists during the war era who had good reason to present Hitler as the deranged, sickly victim of a socially disapproved-of disease, and a lot of propaganda about the Nazis has stuck around in the wider myth surrounding them. (See, for instance, the constant conspiracy theories about Hitler being into Nazi occultism, when in fact whilst there were occultist Nazis, Hitler wasn't actually one of them - for instance, he specifically ordered Aktion Hess, a crackdown on astrologers and esotericists, because Rudolf Hess had been big on astrology and Hitler thought that contributed to his flight to Scotland.)
Robinson L on The Man Whose Dicks Weren't All Exactly Alike
at 18:00 on 24-09-2014 - link
Ah, I see I have missed this for several months, as per usual. Anyway, I was thinking it was high time Mr. Dick had his own theme handle.
I have actually read The Man in the High Castle - which is to say, I listened to it on audiobook two or three years ago, and I didn't get it - furthermore, while it kept my interest, it didn't make me sufficiently invested to try very hard to get it. I realize Dick was doing some very clever and interesting things with the story, but I just wasn't drawn in by the characters, plot, or even ideas enough to engage with it.
(It's suggested that he had full-blown neurosyphils, which I initially thought was a slightly trite way to explain away Hitler's ideology, but on further consideration that's only presented as a rumour - and it's precisely the sort of rumour that you might expect would be spread to justify an internal coup.)
Um, I thought I'd heard somewhere that Hitler actually did have syphilis or some similar disease? Not that it explains away his ideology at all, but the impression I've gotten from no active research whatsoever was that he was a man who happened to be very sick in a medical sense as well as a moral one. (I also feel like he may have gotten sicker after he took power, and, well, leading a country must be a stressful job under the best of circumstances, and I imagine it's even worse for the leader of a brutal dictatorship. Some level of deterioration wouldn't exactly surprise me.)
Sonia Mitchell on A Rowling In the Nest
at 15:18 on 22-09-2014 - link
Ok, that makes it more tempting to try the next one, particularly combined with your very positive review.
Re The Cuckoo's Calling title, I presume that the cuckoowas originally meant to be John Bristow, who pushes his adoptive siblings to their deaths. However, then a lot of other cuckoo imagery was crowbarred in, which is kind of necessary to avoid pointing at the murderer. That imagery is, as you say, distasteful and in some cases just silly (the only reason for Guy to call Landry 'Cuckoo' is meta-textual).
Cheriola on I Could Care Fewer
at 14:52 on 12-09-2014 - link
I have tried to read this article and follow the conversation in the comments, but have found myself unable to. All you've achieved is to confuse me and make me more insecure about my use of English language, because I'm in exactly the same boat as Tamara.
I've always thought "I couldn't care less" was an idiom specifically used to express dismissiveness and slight insult, not any literal quantification of levels of caring. I.e. "I don't care about football" just means it doesn't interest me. It's not a value statement, though, just my personal taste. While "I couldn't care less about the opinions of this bigot" means that I don't think his opinions are worth listening to or could ever hypothetically be worth anything, so no-one should take an interest in them and I know I should strive not to let them bother me. But of course I care, since they piss me off. I've always used the expression to indicate a negative value judgement, to be intentionally dismissive of some topic.
Someone using that or any other idiom "wrong" always ticked me off a little, because if I as a foreigner can put in the hard work of memorising idioms and their colloquial connotations and non-obvious and non-grammatical meanings, then a native speaker not bothering to get it right just seems lazy at best, or at worst intentionally mean to people like me. Like you're moving the goal posts to make it harder for me to understand. But rationally I know that, at this point, "I could care less" is used widely enough that it's becoming an idiom in its own right. So whatever.
Also, if I'm using the world "literally", I usually mean to indicate that what I'm saying is NOT meant figuratively or (much of) a hyperbole, especially if I think it would be interpreted figuratively without the indicator. Like when I use the phrase "I literally spent the latter half of this book shouting X at it every few pages." That maybe doesn't mean I was really shouting out loud all the time (though I probably did that a few times), but it does mean that the content pissed me off so much that I couldn't get it out of my head and that I was angered anew by something on average every half-dozen pages or so.
But now after reading your discussion (or trying to - I gave up half-way through), I worry that no-one else is using "literally" that way, and that my meaning is constantly being misinterpreted. :\
Also, I agree with Arthur, Standard English really is necessary for foreigners to have at least one generally agreed-upon way to communicate. Not just with native speakers, but more importantly with each other. Don't forget that English is the current lingua franca for international tourism and the natural sciences. The reason English class is mandatory in all German schools from 5th grade all the way to the local equivalent of A Levels (you can't drop the subject out of your schedule like you can your second foreign language before starting your A Level classes), is that no matter if you study in the humanities or natural sciences or whatever, you will need at least semi-fluent English to communicate with your peers around the world. There were even special "English for X" courses offered in my university, to refresh grammer, teach some specialised vocabulary (but really not much of that), and increase fluency to the point of being able to hold a presentation in English. All the papers we had to read for seminars were in English, too, and that was most of what we read after the first 2 years of basic courses, because the textbooks just couldn't keep up with the pace of new discovery in the field, nevermind the translated German editions of the textbooks. Of course the English used in these papers was a somewhat simplified version of Standard English, because of the need for clear sentence structures not prone to vague or multiple interpretations, and because they would normally not have been written by native speakers. I was even taught that it is good form in that context to keep it to just one comma per sentence (which would indicate that you think your readers are undereducated or slow, if you did it in my native German, hence my tendency to write run-on sentences even in English - sorry) and to avoid colloquialisms and idioms at all costs. Because it wouldn't be fair to make your paper harder to understand than it needs to be, on the language level, especially since there are a lot of countries that can't afford to give out free English lessons to every kid for 8-9 years.
Arthur B on Kickstopper: The Point and Click Cycle
at 18:17 on 09-09-2014 - link
A little update: Pinkerton Road just put out their final edition of their monthly update for backers of the original Kickstarter, since the GK1 remake is releasing soon.
The main point of interest coming out of the process is that Jane and Richard have come to the conclusion that their core strengths are as creatives, rather than running the business side of things. They do not rule out doing another Kickstarter, but I suspect a lot will depend on whether they can get someone in to handle the business side of things. They are quite encouraged by the recent resurrection of the Sierra brand in Activision as a home for independently produced games, and I suspect they might investigate the possibility of getting funding from that avenue to get subsequent projects done.
- Arthur B on J.K. Rowling's Naked Lunch at 15:58 on 06-09-2014 - link That's a good way to put it.
Andy G on J.K. Rowling's Naked Lunch
at 15:41 on 06-09-2014 - link
I also read this recently - I really enjoyed it and found the resolution in particular very satisfying and elegant.
Picking up the point about the trans character: I found both here and in The Cuckoo's Calling (with respect to black characters), the issue was a well-intentioned but slightly clunky portrayal that was very clearly from a cis/white perspective for cis/white readers. The way the minority characters describe their own minority is slightly strained and formal.
Arthur B on A Rowling In the Nest
at 11:12 on 21-08-2014 - link
I get that the point is for her to come into this as a blank slate who ends up being an integral piece, but it was all too 1950s for me. Her special abilities include finding coffee and getting women to open up to her in girly chats.
Without spoilering, I can say that Silkworm does do some work to turn this around in three important ways:
- Her engagement ends up in crisis and she has to deal with that, so she no longer comes across as sleepwalking into a marriage which clearly isn't going to work for her and in general seems to be actually thinking about her relationship with Matthew a bit more critically. (I actually think Rowling manages to finesse it here so that the engagement ends up not being a fairytale fantasy but also not being an obvious trap, but a realistic relationship that has to be worked on and may or may not be worth working on.)
- There's more references to her past and Something Mysterious which prompted her to drop out of university (though it isn't revealed yet - I suspect it's going to be fodder for a subsequent novel).
- Most importantly, she reveals a side of her skill set which radically goes against the grain of what's been revealed so far. Whilst to an extent we're meant to be shocked and surprised precisely because she, of all people, is able to do the stuff she does, at the same time it does mean she can engage with the dangerous side of detective-ing a bit more directly.
Also, though the working relationship is still a bit paternal, it shifts from boss/secretary to detective/apprentice, so there's scope for them to evolve into business partners as well as romantic partners.
Sonia Mitchell on A Rowling In the Nest
at 23:28 on 20-08-2014 - link
This was on sale in the Kindle store for £1.99 so I've finally read it, and I agree with most of this review. Despite the various flaws it was an entertaining read.
One thing that bugged me that hasn't been mentioned is that the book slips between different points of view quite loosely, and without warning. I think this is a particularly problematic habit in a mystery story - if characters are concealing information or generally being unreliable, the reader needs to be absolutely certain whose POV is being used.
I also felt that the red herring of thewater drops on the landingwas clumsy. Obviously we're supposed to think that it'smelted snow, but the actual explanation makes no sense.Why was Strike expecting something to be there? Who would really be expected to slip on a few drops of water?
And to be a bit of a Captain Killjoy - and this is just my own reaction, not one I'm suggesting others should have - I didn't like the depiction of Robin. I get that the point is for her to come into this as a blank slate who ends up being an integral piece, but it was all too 1950s for me. Her special abilities include finding coffee and getting women to open up to her in girly chats. She's introduced in post-engagement elation, gloating over how her ring sparkles. She's needy for praise and gives Strike the cold shoulder when he forgets to give it. There's nothing wrong with any of that in real life (well, except the neediness, but it's a very human trait), but as a character type she rubbed me up the wrong way.
I think you're probably right about an extended romance plot but I also find that quite problematic given the paternal tones of the working relationship. Again, personal preference only.
- Jamie Johnston on I Could Care Fewer at 12:20 on 17-08-2014 - link On the subject of attempts to verbalize the extent to which one does or does not care, I've just heard someone out in the street shouting, 'I don't give two monkeys'.
- Sonia Mitchell on Matthew Reilly Hits the Exclamation Mark. Bam! at 21:49 on 14-08-2014 - link Hmm, could be something in that. Maybe there's some kind of Axe Cop arrangement.
- Angmar Bucket on Matthew Reilly Hits the Exclamation Mark. Bam! at 01:50 on 14-08-2014 - link Is it possible he's a 12-year-old boy? Has anyone ever seen this "Matthew Reilly"? And if they have seen him and confirm he's a grown man, has anyone considered the possibility he's a stand-in for some young boy somewhere with deep pockets?! And then his bodyguards show up and use their guns to shoot whoever finds out?!
Sonia Mitchell on Matthew Reilly Hits the Exclamation Mark. Bam!
at 22:15 on 13-08-2014 - link
Re Temple, it's been while since I read it but that main issue I remember was what the hell the rapas (big cats) were eating. There is no way human sacrificealone could account for a whole pack of them.
- Angmar Bucket on Matthew Reilly Hits the Exclamation Mark. Bam! at 03:16 on 09-08-2014 - link I know this is my first post with my shiny new user name but all I can say to the above comment's explanation of this research style and the fruit thereof is this: ?!
Ashimbabbar on The Worlds Dick Made
at 11:50 on 08-08-2014 - link
re The World Jones Made: Cussick's disgust with the gender-shifting mutants has always struck me as part of his characterization - a shallow and ineffectual man who embraces Relativism because it's the only thing that gives him a sense of identity: a toy made to order for Jones. Nina is as shallow ad pathetic as he is in her 'rebellion' that leads her to join Jones' fascistic movement…
Jones is clearly expected to dominate the novel and to have no serious human foils, which is logical enough considering his power - and to bring his end by his own errors as by the requirements of tragedy…
Arthur B on Matthew Reilly Hits the Exclamation Mark. Bam!
at 20:57 on 07-08-2014 - link
Just read Temple and it really drives home his amazingly inconsistent approach to research. For instance, he'll look up the names of all the guns and aircraft he utilises and he'll read up on the genocide of the Incas, but at the same time he has absolutely no qualms about making shit up that on the one hand requires a certain baseline level of understanding of the subject matter he's dealing with to think up in the first place, but at the same time utterly flies in the face of reality.
For instance, the super-isotope that the Incan idol is made out of and can be used to make a superweapon that can blow up the Earth is exponentially more powerful than Uranium or Plutonium and about twice as heavy as either because it was formed in a binary star system, and everything in binary star systems is doubled apparently.
Dan H on I Could Care Fewer
at 11:02 on 05-08-2014 - link
There are dialects where "I forgot it at home" is unacceptable? Hey, I learned something new!
I'm *pretty sure* based on a small straw poll of my colleagues, that it's incorrect/non-standard in British English (everybody I've tried it on sounds really confused). Of course there's always a possibility that I'm just unfamiliar with the phrase and am projecting that onto my students (I semi-seriously suspect that a lot of language "rules" start exactly this way - some teacher has an idiosyncratic understanding of correct usage, and this propagates throughout the population over a decade or so as their students go around "correcting" other people).
For what it's worth, in my experience people do mis-hear some things, like "could of" for "could've"
That's very true, but again the ngram data for the two looks very different.
I also think there's quite a big difference between "could of", "tow the line" and "could care less" because I think the non-standard/deprecated usages come from very different places (although I am, of course, not really basing this on much evidence).
I suspect that "tow the line" comes from the fact that, as you observe, a lot of British idioms don't make much sense anyway and so people who hear the phrase spoken basically have to pick a homophone at random (indeed you could reasonably argue that "tow the line" makes a lot *more* sense and even - if you are averse to using nouns as verbs - constitutes "better" English). There is basically no way you can correct this yourself because the whole idiom is a set phrase and its conventions have to be learned arbitrarily. You could almost see it as a pure spelling issue, since somebody who says "to(e/w) the line" means "to(e/w) the line" not "drag the line behind you" or "poke the line with your feet."
"Could of" is slightly more complicated. I don't think this one *is* a spelling error, in that I think people who use it definitely intend to write "could of" and not "could have" (they are, in my experience, usually perfectly capable of writing the word "have" in other contexts, and nobody I know ever says or writes "I of got a lovely bunch of coconuts"). So I think these people have, in essence, internalized a rule which says that the correct way to express possibility or counterfactual obligation is with the construction "could of" or "should of".
I would agree that this variant almost certainly comes from the fact that "could've" and "should've" sound almost identical to "could of" and "should of" in many accents, but I think it is different from the "tow the line" example in that it seems to represent a genuine divergent grammar.
Finally, I think "could care less" is different again. Unlike "tow/toe" the line "couldn't care less" isn't an arbitrary set phrase with a meaning wholly unique unto itself, and unlike "could of" people who say "could care less" don't exhibit a consistent pattern of saying "could" instead of "couldn't". The most plausible explanation of "could care less" (for me) is simply that "could care less" and "couldn't care less" come from two sets of related phrases, one hyperbolic and one understated.
So "couldn't care less" is related to "couldn't eat another bite", "couldn't agree more", "couldn't have liked it more" and "couldn't be happier". All of which, I would argue, roughly mean "my feelings incline strongly in the direction indicated" but none of which, I would also argue, constitute literal claims about your absolute capacity or your capacity relative to other people.
Conversely "could care less" is related to "could have been worse", "could be better", "could take another cup of coffee" "could be persuaded", and so on. There is less commonality between these phrases, and their meanings sometimes vary depending on tone and emphasis ("it could have been worse", for example, could be used to mean that something was very bad but you are trying to make light of it, or that something was pretty good but you are trying to underplay it).
- Sunnyskywalker on I Could Care Fewer at 23:39 on 04-08-2014 - link Oh, and there's also the "learning by imitating" factor. If you see your smart friends saying "could care less" and writing "could of" or "tow the line," even if you do think, "huh, that seems odd," "...but I guess it's one of those idiomatic things that doesn't make sense which they picked up on before I did" is a perfectly reasonable corollary. Because it's not like English has any shortage of things that just plain don't make sense anymore after centuries of lost context and mashing about. If you're not the kind of language geek who likes to know where odd phrases come from, writing it off as "one of those things" and never worrying about it again seems like a logical enough decision to me.