Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 19:32 on 21-07-2010, Viorica
at 18:23 on 21-07-2010, Bryn permalink
at 17:05 on 21-07-2010, Dan H
As a way of fiddling with pronouns, I can see the sense of it, although personally I'm not sold on genderless pronouns. I kind of think they only work because they feel unnatural, if you see what I mean.
at 00:15 on 21-07-2010, Jamie Johnston
If you look at what we did with the tool when we got hold of it, we basically played around with names we already knew and picked up on the errors.

Without wishing to outright disagree - you make a fair point - I should say for the record that actually what I've mostly been doing with it is trying to get my head around 'ey' and 'sie'. I just didn't mention that 'cause frankly who wants to hear about My Struggle With Pronouns?

I like the book-spine poems.
at 20:36 on 20-07-2010, Robinson L
I have to agree with Dan that the point is undermined by the propensity to change around gender-neutral terms such as Capital-A Art, and by missing a whole slew of gendered terms such as “chick,” “Sir,” “fangirl,” “misogynistic,” “bitch,” and several others which presently slip my memory, not to mention its complete failure to address anatomical terminology.

At the same time, I agree with Rami that the re-gender process does do its job, if not as well as it might. Jamie has shared how its gotten him thinking, and in my digging through the archives I've more than once caught myself thinking 'Gosh, that's really quite a lot of female authors/directors, oh, wait …' Also, I've found reading through articles which deal directly with gender dynamics not only lends to much mirth, but also gets me thinking in terms of switched genders and the implications thereof. It's all well and good to imagine gender-flipping a discussion as a mental exercise, but it's quite another to see and feel what a gender-swapped discussion would actually be like.

For instance, the other day I had a look back at Earth-Kevin Robinson's mini-rant on Vernon Mars and dear lady but the gender dynamics in that show are creepy as hell.

I would also argue that just because we've mostly just been having fun with the re-gender process seeing what silly results we get (“Arundhati Robert,” “Timothy Barry's Alberta,” “my sound system still being KIMBERLY,” the month of “Angela”) doesn't preclude the application working as its primarily intended. In other words, I'm saying the regender feature can work as a source of childish amusement and as thought-provoking social commentary at the same time. It may even work better as the latter because it also serves the former function.

On a different subject, I've also been having a go at the I Write Like feature. Of my three Ferretbrain articles so far, The Problem With the Iron Ring and the Oracle Renamed apparently follow the style of H. P. Lovecraft, whereas Race in Popular Culture is reminiscent of Dan Brown.

In my livejournal archive, my reviews of Doctor Who Series Three and Four most approximate Douglas Adams in style. My NaNo novel (intro and full) is a close cousin to the writings of one Mr. Stephen King. Well, I always knew it was terrible. Also, I have a short time-travel story which puts the feature in mind of Raymond Chandler, and a short-short comic horror piece which might've been penned by Arthur C Clarke.

It thought my reflection on the recent Sherlock Holmes movie most resembled Arthur Conan Doyle in style, which follows Dan's experience. It was at this point I began to suspect the author generator was playing silly buggers. In confirmation, my reflection on 1984 came out in the vein of George Orwell. (Interestingly, my thoughts on Homage to Catalonia, with much fewer Orwellian buzzwords, came out as written like Chuck Palahnuik.) Also, I fed Ptolemaues' epic smackdown of that one chapter from New Moon and Melissa's Twilight article into I Write Back and they both came back with Stephenie Meyer. (ouch)

Additionally, I'm convinced I Write Like has a randomized “12% of David Foster Wallace” application, as a lot of random articles (including my review of David Tennant's last five Doctor Who specials) of mine, one prose story and my one and only poem all came back with his name attached.

I've also been feeding some other authors into I Write Like. From his thoughts on Doctor Who, Terry Pratchett writes like Dan Brown. From his short stories available free online, he writes like either Edgar Allen Poe, *ug* J. K. Rowling, and yes, David Foster Wallace.

Melina Marchetta (from the first three paragraphs of On the Jellicoe Road, writes like P. G. Wodehouse. From a couple of short snippets from Saving Francesca (review still pending) I got Dan Brown for the longest, Mario Puzo for another, and *gag* Stephenie Meyer again.
at 17:42 on 20-07-2010, Rami
If you look at what we did with the tool when we got hold of it, we basically played around with names we already knew and picked up on the errors.
I think that may be not because of the flaws in the Regender site but because of our tendency here on FB to rip things to shreds...
at 11:55 on 20-07-2010, Dan H
It's striking, but it's striking in the wrong way.

It's striking because all the names get swapped around for poorly chosen equivalents, and because it makes mistakes. If you look at for example this rather amusing thing I found recently the effect of the regendering is far more subtle (and arguably more effective, since it actually catches the things it's supposed to be catching in the first place).

If you look at what we did with the tool when we got hold of it, we basically played around with names we already knew and picked up on the errors.
at 01:09 on 20-07-2010, Arthur B
Also, for some reason, the regender-device has no problem with the term "chick".

I put in the wikipedia article for "rooster", and you know what? "Cock" isn't recognised as a gendered term either...
at 00:21 on 20-07-2010, Rami
The immediate impression made by looking at a Regendered site, though, is still quite striking -- and I think that's a sufficiently useful point in itself.

Perhaps I'm inclined to give the guy a break because I can see the engineering trade-off at work here. A relatively unsophisticated search-and-replace is the work of an afternoon, while a real language-level rewriter is the work of a computer science thesis.
at 23:57 on 19-07-2010, Dan H
Except, as Jamie points out, it's not really trying to be fun so much as to make a serious point about gendered language, the problem being that the point is undermined if it incorrectly diagnoses entirely neutral terms as gendered. Ironically it winds up doing exactly what people *claim* that people who object to gendered language want to do - replace everything that even sounds gendered with something clearly silly.

It's not using gendered language to say that rabbits live in a Warren, or eat a Dunkin' Donuts or to sing Away in a Manger.

Also, for some reason, the regender-device has no problem with the term "chick".
at 23:46 on 19-07-2010, Rami
There are a few clbuttic errors, sure. It's probably just a big search-and-replace. Who needs to be sophisticated to be fun ;-)?
at 23:44 on 19-07-2010, Dan H
... also, it has trouble distinguishing the possessive "her" from the pronoun "her".
at 23:23 on 19-07-2010, Dan H
I can't help but think that the point would be better made if their algorithm was just a *little* bit more sophisticated.

While "man" might be gendered language "don't" most certainly isn't.
at 22:41 on 19-07-2010, Jamie Johnston
Shani has helpfully pointed me at the probable origin of the 'ble' / 'whe' thing, which is a very clever bit of Swift-like satire from the 1980s. And in fact that essay illuminates not only the 'ble' / 'whe' thing but also the usefulness (apart from being entertaining) of the gender-swap option, namely to make one notice gendered language that one might not have noticed before. I feel really stupid now for never before consciously registering 'man!' as a gendered exclamation.

In other news, here's Elif Shafak saying interesting things about how fiction interacts with identity-politics.
at 22:00 on 19-07-2010, Robinson L
(Late as usual and long as usual …)

Jamie: Just playing with regender

Good goddess, that is fantastic! Easily one of the five coolest things this month. Best of all is its rendering of this very playpen discussion. Hence:

Arlene B: Arlen? The best male equivalent of "Arlene" out there is Arlen? Woman, what?

Kyle: I am Kylee :( I am the unfunny one from South Park.

Bryn: I've never read anything by David Foster Walter, and little by Edward Allen Poe. I admit I quite enjoy the works of Nelson Gaiman, even though they're not so popular around these parts. I also haven't read Daniel Brown, but I hear his works are really bad.

Shimmin: As far as I can see, the only changes to my articles are fun: I like "4th Edition rulebooks, whose rule-filled allure beat my William defence", though "Donald’t get clever with me, mortal. I’ll smite you with divine fire" is a bit odd …

Unfortunately, it can't seem to find anything to do with “Wilkie Collins” but in this gender-flipped parallel universe Jamie has caught a glimpse into, “The God of Small Things” was written by Arundhati Rose (a man, we presume), and, going from one of our most recent articles, one of the biggest stars of bad action movies in the 80s and 90s was apparently Stephanie Seagal. To quote Arlene B:

Why can’t I stop watching Stevel Seagal movies? Is it because of the poise and elegance she displays when waving her arms at people and throwing them through walls? Is it because of the pretty explosions? Is it because of the wit and wisdom on display in the woman’s pithy quips and zen observations?

(You'll notice the typo “Stevel,” which re-gender didn't know how to deal with either.)

It is not omnipotent, as Viorica's profile, while still using the male pronoun, alludes to him spending time (among other things) “fangirling various dead people.” (“Tina Barbara's Albert is a stupid, shoddy movie.”) It really is a strange parallel universe. I think I shall call it “Kevin” (as in “_ knows where it'll all end up”). I further note that a certain comic fantasy author is Sir Terri Pratchett, rather than “Dame,” which offers up a host of interesting questions.

As with Rami, Alasdair, Bryn, Viorica, Shimmin, and Lexa, my name remains the same, “Robinson L,” no matter which way it goes through the re-gender processor. (One wonders, though, what it would do with “Lee.” Or “Leslie.”)

However, my own contributor page does provide ample gender-bending fun, such as these gems from the tagline of my second and third articles:

Robinson L hops halfheartedly aboard the Carl Fisher bandwagon.


Robinson L encounters a critical lack of narrative inertia in Linda Alexandra's 1997 children's fantasy.

Reaching back a bit, I see that on this Earth-Kevin, the most-read horror novelist is a middle-aged woman by the name of Stephanie Queen. Meanwhile, Kyle Smith desperately wants to marry Kristopher Cashore, too bad the cover image kinda spoils the joke. (Spell-check assures me “Kristopher” is indeed a word, but it doesn't trust “Cashore” at all.)

It even does all-caps, so my long-ago comment about my computer's sound being K(illed) I(n) A(ction) has become “my sound system still being KIRK”.

Ferretbrain's resident Japanese translator, aspiring author and sparkly emo vampire-hater is Melvin G. Intriguingly enough, in this world the main character of a certain badly-written, rapetastic paranormal “romance” series is Melvin Gentry. Coincidence? You decide.

(It does appear that Mr. Gentry's nickname is still Merry, though. This is either a flaw in the dimension-viewer, or a subtle clue that a certain well-known Hobbit, famous for his part in defeating the Chief Nazgul was not really named Merriadoc after all. I always thought there was something fishy about that name.) (Also, I have to wonder if the Anthony Blanche series is any good. Probably not.) (Oh look, now my tangent tangents are having tangents.)

Likewise, I'm informed On the Jellicoe Road and Finnikin of the Rock were written by Melvin Marchetta. (“Melvin” must be a very popular name on Earth-Kevin.)

Yet another sign that Earth-Kevin is in some ways very much unlike our own: the fourth month in the Christian calender is apparently “Anthony” on Earth-Kevin. One wonders what they call the month of May.

And look, in this dimension, apparently one of the most famous love stories of all time is Wilhemina Shakespeare's immortal tragedy: Rose and Julio. (From this comment, I also learn that on Earth-Kevin, one well-known European country with an iconic history of both revolution and colonialism, originating one of the commonest languages in the world, is the nation of Frank.)

Also, get this gals: the capital form of the word “art” is “Arlene.” (Also, also, “Harriet Potter,” *snarf*)

For maximum hilarity though, check out features such as Danielle Hemmens exploring the dangerous implications of “Nice Gal Syndrome” or discussing (Man)-Boobs With Superpowers. Woman, but all of the Minority Warrior entries regarding feminism must be a hoot. Fantasy Rape Watch ditto.

I've also tried out the other options, including the “wh” and “bl,” but they just produce pronouns like “wher” and “ble,” which doesn't seem to be making a point about racism. Truth be told, without the gender-bending names it isn't nearly as fun, though the “ey,” “they” and “sie” options may be fun when reading an article dealing heavily with gender.

On the positive side, I've discovered the re-gender process remains even when you navigate away to other websites. Have fun!

Also, @Lexa: Good luck!
at 11:46 on 19-07-2010, Lexa
Just a shameless plug, having seen the team mention that there will be an Edinburgh coverage podcast!
If anyone is at the Fringe Festival from the 6th-16th August, try and get a look at 'Hotel Nowhere'. It's going to be a great show.
(It's never too early to start advertising - or at least, that's what I tell myself!)
at 00:46 on 19-07-2010, Arthur B
How can anyone explain in a satisfactory way the means by which magnetic articles perform their various functions? (I do not wish to discuss this issue with a physicist since they are prone to mislead and upset me.)
at 00:45 on 19-07-2010, Alasdair Czyrnyj
@Arthur: I assume the magnets are responsible for that. I don't know how, but I'm sure it's them.
at 00:13 on 19-07-2010, Arthur B
Speaking of films: I suspect this is one of those things where the trailer is better than the end result. But the trailer is something to see.
at 00:02 on 19-07-2010, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Oh, hey guys, I've just found out they're making a God of War movie. Judging by the trailer, they've done some retooling of the concept, but I think the changes have been all for the better.
at 23:03 on 18-07-2010, Wardog
That looks amazing!!!
at 16:58 on 18-07-2010, Bryn
Valve are releasing a new game on Steam for free tomorrow. It looks like this. Anyone want to play it?
at 12:31 on 18-07-2010, Shim
Shimmin retains its ambiguity. As far as I can see, the only changes to my articles are fun: I like "4th Edition rulebooks, whose rule-filled allure beat my Wilma defence", though "Donna’t get clever with me, mortal. I’ll smite you with divine fire" is a bit odd...
at 03:21 on 18-07-2010, Viorica
The regender machine doesn't seem to recognize me, so I remain Viorica. On the other hand, my Star Trek article is now about "Kimberly's niece Peggy and her girlfriend Alexandra." Also, it was written by Davida Gerrold.