Playpen

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 15:32 on 11-01-2016, Arthur B
Video for Lazarus suggests transcendental ascension from hospital bed misery to freedom to walk into the darkness on one's own terms.

Video for Blackstar is a Thomas Ligotti nightmare of twitching ritual, darkness, chaos, harvesting the shadow at the bottom of the world from the feet of spasming scarecrows.

Either works for me.
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at 14:08 on 11-01-2016, Janne Kirjasniemi
Ever review of the album mentioned his comebacks, reinventions and rebirths. I guess it was his last great redefinition. So very Bowie-like to leave with a goodbye like that. I hope he has a pleasant journey, wherever we all finally go.
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at 11:10 on 11-01-2016, Arthur B
I shit you not, when I heard the new album Friday evening I did wonder whether it was Bowie's way of telling us he was dying. In retrospect the lyrics (and the associated music videos) couldn't be clearer.
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at 10:52 on 11-01-2016, Arthur B
You can break this down two ways, depending on how trusted the child is by their parents.

If the child is not trusted to do online stuff without parental supervision, then this isn't really an issue; the kid shouldn't be on there in the first place without supervision, and whoever's supervising them will quickly get a handle on how long games take and say "Oh no you don't" if the child starts looking for a new game 15 minutes before bedtime. The issue of pulling the child out mid-game won't come up once the parent has learned how long games tend to take, so the open letter is irrelevant.

If the child is trusted to play online games unsupervised, but still has an enforced bedtime, then I don't think it's reasonable to expect the parent to take the context of those online games into account when enforcing bedtime; if they haven't been hovering over the kid's shoulder, they can't be expected to know how long games tend to take and so on, and it's unfair to expect them to keep such tabs on their kid's online activities if they've already decided that they can trust their child to do stuff online unsupervised. (That would kind of completely undercut the meaning of the term "unsupervised".) It's also entirely reasonable to expect a child who has reached that level of responsibility to keep track of time themselves and not start stuff they shouldn't finish. They might be subject to in-game backlash for dropping out, but if a kid is old enough to be allowed to go play with strangers unsupervised they're old enough to deal with a bit of social fallout when they screw those strangers over.

It's important to teach kids to see through their commitments, of course. But it's equally important to teach kids not to make promises that they can't actually keep.

From the perspective of other players, I think having partners leave you in the lurch is going to be the inevitable price you end up paying for choosing to play with utter randoms. If you don't want people to drop out on you mid-game, then only play with people that you (or people whose opinion you trust) have some confidence will not pull out midgame. You sacrifice the experience of playing with a wide variety of people but gain a more consistent game experience; for some people, that's a sensible choice, for others the balance of their preferences will go the other way and they'll accept the irritation as a reasonable price to pay for being a bit more gregarious.

Of course, it could be that LoL doesn't allow you to be choosy about who you play with but simply teams you up with utter randoms... in which case that strikes me as a major design flaw in LoL. I've discussed this on Facebook with people who are more into this than I am and at least one has pointed out that in DotA (which I understand is a similar sort of game) people who keep dropping out of games are likely to get flagged and shunted into the "you're gaming with the other flakes unless and until you get better" list, which seems to be a fair enough way to solve the problem.

The goal of promoting good habits in a game's player base is a good one, of course. But I don't think telling parents to suspend their house rules for the sake of a videogame is remotely appropriate, and that's really what I consider to be the objectionable part of a letter. Encouraging your kids not to start games they know they can't finish? Fine, onboard with that 100%. Letting your kids stay up past bedtime so as not to inconvenience some random strangers and cause a mild dip in their game statistics, however, kind of assumes that everyone else sets as high a priority on LoL stats as the hardcore players do, which is an opinion which doesn't survive exposure to reality.
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at 09:04 on 11-01-2016, Daniel F
League of Legends is not precisely an RTS... but it's close enough for the comparison to work. Comparing it to pulling out of a raid in an MMO is better, though it's not entirely the same. Most MMOs that I've played have ways to find new players so you can finish raids: you can call other friends, or use an automated tool, so subs are available. That's not possible in LoL. So while dropping out of a raid in, say, World of Warcraft mildly inconveniences people for a few minutes, dropping out of a LoL game can potentially ruin a 30-45 minute game for four other people. (Probably not the full nine: the opposing team might be pretty happy!)

On the one hand it seems reasonable to say that, in most cases, when someone starts a game they should finish it. On the other hand, the needs of real life should override video games. I've left LoL games to drive family around or the like. "Finishing a LoL game" is very low on my list of priorities. Moreover, if you're a child, it seems like you should learn the responsibility to judge when your bedtime is and whether you can get a game in, or to ask your parents "Hey, when's dinner going to be? I'd like to play a game."

Surely that's just a basic life skill? It's important to learn to manage time. Interpreted charitably, that's what I think the post is saying: parents, if your children play lots of LoL, try to get them to manage their gaming time.
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at 22:37 on 10-01-2016, Arthur B
OK, I looked it up and it's a multiplayer RTS. I'm not sure what about that format necessarily makes the rant more reasonable than if it had been about a MMORPG, though. (Someone crucial dropping out in the middle of a raid is disruptive in a comparable way to someone important on your team dropping out in the middle of an RTS match.)
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at 21:31 on 10-01-2016, Orion
League is not an MMO by any conventional definition, which is pretty much the main point of the post.
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at 23:20 on 09-01-2016, Craverguy
I guess it gets better treatment in the UK. Over here, it only gets shown on TV on Turner Classic Movies, and then only every two or three years when the stars are aligned.

If I had to name a single weakness to the film, it's that it treats
Inspector Doppler being Milo in disguise
as a shocking revelation. That probably works on stage, where even the best seats in the house are 50 feet away from the actors, but in a movie with the cameras right on top of them at all times, it's immediately obvious to anyone who isn't seriously vision impaired.
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at 17:48 on 09-01-2016, Jamie Johnston
Gosh it's been years since I saw that film but I remember it being very good. Surprised to know it's so hard to get hold of! They certainly used to show it on UK television fairly often.
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at 03:00 on 09-01-2016, Craverguy
Since the real reviews by Arthur and the gang are down for the time being, here's a Craverguy Capsule Review to tide you over:

I finally got my hands on a copy of the 1972 version of Sleuth, after almost 10 years of questing. If you get a chance to see it (and I wouldn't judge you for downloading it illegally, given the extortionate prices being asked for used DVD copies here in America), I highly recommend it.

Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine are brilliant and would have each been a strong contender for the Best Actor Oscar in any other year; the script is great: very tense, witty, and surprisingly funny (you can see why Anthony Shaffer won a Tony and two Edgar Awards for it, and I'm a bit surprised he wasn't also Oscar-nominated); and the direction by Joseph Mankiewicz is really quite dynamic considering the whole business takes place in three rooms and a hallway.

Five stars, would watch again (and can now, thanks to the magic of region-free Korean imports).
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at 02:18 on 06-01-2016, Ichneumon
That "Christ Haters" bit just had me going "...what?!" over and over again until I forced myself to look away. Like, I know bigots who use religion as a cudgel exist in numbers—we have Ted Cruz to show for it on this side of the pond, among others—but normally they're at least housetrained. I mean, wow. Thanks for reading this so I don't have to, Scott. I don't think I could make it that far without the full MST3K treatment.

Also, I pretty much agree with what everyone said about the Burroughs thing. I get that the piece was meant to satirise the tone and content of that very stupid list, but it still ticked me off for all those reasons, and I'm glad there was some truly interesting conversation about it. (As for the semantics: Accidentally shooting someone during a drunken William Tell act is manslaughter, and generally subject to criminal culpability, but it's still an accident—and in this case, one that personally haunted Burroughs for the rest of his life in a way that few of his other poor decisions did.)

Incidental note: I have really enjoyed what I've read of Bukowski's poetry, but I've never bothered with his prose for whatever reason. I suppose because his sad, dingy view of the world works best in measured doses.
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at 23:06 on 05-01-2016, Jamie Johnston
... the article editor itself only recognises the years from 2006 to 2015...

The Decennium Bug strikes!
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at 18:29 on 03-01-2016, Janne Kirjasniemi
he was becoming a Catholic because it was the religion a Vulcan would practice.


That's highly illogical.
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at 16:45 on 03-01-2016, Arthur B
The Chronicles of Dino Tour, an insider account of an amazingly inept dinosaur play.

I have no idea whether or not it's true, but if it isn't it's a good story anyway.
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at 17:40 on 02-01-2016, Craverguy
The first warning sign was probably when he said he was becoming a Catholic because it was the religion a Vulcan would practice.
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at 13:01 on 02-01-2016, Arthur B
That's the thing he wrote before he got the whole zeal-of-the-convert thing going on, isn't it?

Re: the Scott Lynch rant, whilst shooting fish in a barrel is kind of trite and uninteresting, tossing a grenade in the barrel and blowing the fish sky-high never gets old and that essay's a good example of it, though a bit free and easy on the mental health digs.
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at 11:30 on 02-01-2016, Craverguy
I really enjoyed Wright's Golden Age Trilogy.

Too bad the guy who wrote it is such a shit.
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at 06:26 on 01-01-2016, James D
I feel the same way about Bukowski - did he have some misogynist views? Sure, plenty. But most of his stuff (that I've read, at least) was heavily autobiographical, and not put forward with an authoritative narrative voice. If that isn't enough for some people to enjoy his work, that's fine, but for me the difference between "this is the way I see things" and "this is the way things are" is enough to let me enjoy his viewpoint without the negative aspects ruining the experience.
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at 01:01 on 01-01-2016, Arthur B
But I would think Burroughs is worth a read from the human experience point of view, and that horrible shooting did loom over that work in a big way. But to consider that his work offers some simple views on manliness or something is of course ludicrous.

I think this the bit which is key. Whatever Burroughs was doing with his writing, he certainly wasn't trying to put himself forward as some sort of role model and he would have probably been aghast at anyone suggesting that he was one. You can think what you like about Burroughs shooting Joan Vollmer, and you can hold him as criminally responsible as you like, but it doesn't really make much difference one way or the other to his writing because, at least in my reading, he never asks you to endorse the shooting - or, for that matter, any of the other autobiographical bits he works in.
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at 22:18 on 31-12-2015, Janne Kirjasniemi
Yeah, I think the article's point was to lampoon what could be construed to be the Esquire article's approach to the subject. That is, that being a man is some sort of moral stance and the literature listed gives guidelines to what that manliness is. Of course some literature offers some strong (and very often very wrongheaded) views on morality or virtue, but approaching literature and valuing it through its prescriptive or didactic qualities is a very narrow-minded approach and misses the point of great literature. That is that it is not about what being a good human is about, but rather how large, varied and pretty absurd the whole human experience is what ever way you approach it.

And from that point of view, the spectrum of human experience through the artists words and the readers construction of meaning from them, you could compile lists of works worth a read for any human, which from the point of view of a men's magazine's sales department would come through as books for men to read, but whether that was the point of the Esquire list, I do not know and am really not arguing for.

But I would think Burroughs is worth a read from the human experience point of view, and that horrible shooting did loom over that work in a big way. But to consider that his work offers some simple views on manliness or something is of course ludicrous.

The greatest problem of that Esquire list is that it is so heavily lopsided, that simply saying it is biased and subjective is not really enough. I mean, that is someone's list of best books, but it is offered as Esquire's list and not just some random guys list.
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at 21:16 on 31-12-2015, James D
Well the article was clearly sensationalized to get attention - not saying that that necessarily invalidates any of its points, mind you, but the details also probably shouldn't be taken literally.
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