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 23:56 on 22-07-2011, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Here's something you don't see everyday: a conjectural history of Western civilization from 1800 AD to 2600 AD, as inspired by the theories of Oswald Spengler.

I first read this back in university, and I still haven't got over it. It has its biases, sure (I mean, it was written by a conservative American Catholic who was inspired by a conservative monarchist who lived in late Wilhelmite Germany [who was, in turn, inspired by Hegel and Nietzsche]), but there's just something impressive about the whole thing. I don't know how to describe it, exactly; perhaps after seeing so many futures end in immediate barbarian chaos, it's refreshing, even inspiring, to see a future where the modern world ascends its final peak, creates a final state that acts as metaphorical culmination of all of the Western world's history and ushers in a final age of peace, then slowly prepares to die. (It also helps that the author just considers the whole project nothing more than a thought experiment. He even throws in a few jokes.)

I should probably note that the future sections have a definite retro-SF feel to them. I chalk it up to a combination of the author's personal preference and an acknowledgement of Spengler's influence on SF writers. I know James Blish and H. P. Lovecraft were fans, and I'd be willing argue that Olaf Stapledon sampled some of Spengler's work as well.

Oh, and a brief rundown of Spengler's thought, in case you're interested.
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at 20:14 on 22-07-2011, Arthur B
Apparently for the last few episodes they get Donaldson himself in to do the expert bit.

One wonders whether the whole thing was just an enormous trolling effort to get Donaldson to explain what the fuck he was thinking.
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at 19:30 on 22-07-2011, Orion
I really wanted to like Fantasy Bedtime when I stumbled on it some years back. There were some great songs and otherwise funny moments, but the episodes are just so long and full of boring stuff. Also, while I can understand why their "dumb girlz" act might have been a lot of fun for them, it made me really uncomfortable whenever they had a male guest expert on. He's forced by their self-casting into a patronizing role, but since he's actually there to share real knowledge you can't really play it as comedy.
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at 11:31 on 22-07-2011, Arthur B
That's the thing though, I don't think it's fair to pre-judge someone based on behaviour elsewhere. That's a precedence I just don't want to set because, let's face it, we've all been an idiot on the internet at some time or another.

Well, I'm pretty sure we'd have banned him for his antics on here had his behaviour elsewhere been absolutely exemplary. Goodness knows he gave us enough reason to do so.
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at 11:07 on 22-07-2011, Furare
A friend of mine said when we were discussing a similar issue that this sort of thing is what sells games. Yeah, I know, real original. But what I said to him in response was: "I seriously doubt that there are many gamers who would refuse to play a good game because it didn't have scantily clad sex-object female characters in it. I also don't think many of them would play an awful game because it had a load of virtual flesh on show. So if your game is good, it doesn't need that sort of fanservice, and if it's not, all the T&A in the world won't save it from being a flop."

Basically, I don't think the people who like seeing the virtual flesh and the objectified women would really mind if they weren't there - but the people who do mind seeing those things, who feel alienated by the games because of them, might actually like it if there were a game who didn't do that to its female characters. That's potentially increasing sales, right?

I still think that's true. A bunch of gamers I know don't want to play the Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO when it comes out - despite the intrinsic awesome involved in being in Star Wars! - because previews suggest it has a terrible combat system. I think the game itself probably counts for more than the eye candy that gets shoehorned in on top. And ME/ME2 are awesome games, so why'd they think they had to do that sort of thing to sell them?

The conversation in question, for the curious, was about the fact that the MMO my friend and I both play had recently released "armour kits" that you can buy to change the appearance of your armour. And, predictably, a lot of the cloth kits (robe/outfit) and some of the heavier armours as well, made female characters look like belly dancers. I know, I know, I don't have to buy them or anything, but the thing that got me was they didn't have to do that. People had wanted cosmetic options for years. If the ones on offer had been attractive but not revealing, the developers would still have got a positive response! Bah.
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at 10:34 on 22-07-2011, Wardog
Still, her background story was actually pretty interesting, so I'll give Bioware points on that. And I suppose I might as well admit that I kinda enjoyed the plethora of gratuitous body shots of Miranda, even if I did subconsciously recognize that it was essentially just a bunch of pixels on a computer screen.


That's kind of the problem though. I'm not going to lie and pretend I don't get some base physical reaction to hot babes with butt cleavage but the issue is that it's pretty much *the only* representation of women you get in computer games, and *the only* valid expression of attractiveness or sexuality, or whatever. I've been reading a lot of analysis of this sort of thing lately and I'm actually a private personal meltdown about it because I understand completely that it's a huge problem, and I get annoyed and impatient every time I see another unfeasibly proportioned woman wearing three pieces of ribbon and stilletto heels, but at the same time some terrible part of me does quite enjoy looking at unfeasibly proportioned women wearing wearing three pieces of ribbon and stilletto heels. Perhaps it'll be easier to reconcile when there's less market cleavage saturate.

Also I find the statement infuriating on so many levels, it's untrue. It's not that I have a problem per se with a highly sexualised character (or, see above, virtual babes) it's the utter lack of awareness of what they're doing. They don't seem to realise that being defined by their attractiveness is kind of a pretty major problem for women - and although Miranda could have been an interesting exploration of that, they've just wandered off into arbitrarily trying to claim her camel-toe catsuit is empowering because she's a sexual character. Also there seems to be no recognition that sexuality is not "sexiness as defined by straight men." JUST GAH GAH GAH GAH.

I don't even know why I'm acting surprised here :/
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at 10:25 on 22-07-2011, Wardog
I understand that Steve is mildly infamous for his internet discussion exploits, and we're not the first place to turn him away. I find his conduct there... unsurprising.


That's the thing though, I don't think it's fair to pre-judge someone based on behaviour elsewhere. That's a precedence I just don't want to set because, let's face it, we've all been an idiot on the internet at some time or another. And he could have turned out to be be courteous, interesting and non-racist... gosh is that a pig overhead?
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at 05:20 on 22-07-2011, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Given how the space shuttle has passed into history, it seems like this old Ian R. MacLeod short story is timely once again.
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at 23:05 on 21-07-2011, Arthur B
I understand that Steve is mildly infamous for his internet discussion exploits, and we're not the first place to turn him away. I find his conduct there... unsurprising.

That said, I do derive some amusement from Silver Goggles citing William Burroughs as a colonial-era author of pulpy adventure fiction. I think Edgar Rice is the Burroughs intended. Though the idea of The Man Who Would Be the Soft Machine does amuse me...
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at 22:50 on 21-07-2011, Jamie Johnston
This week I've been catching up a bit on recent happenings at various websites I've been too busy to read. So having passed a number of tooth-grinding minutes reading the exploits of one S M Stirling in our very own comments section, imagine my lack of surprise when I discovered that mere days before arriving at Ferretbrain he had been amusing himself by telling Jaymee Goh that she doesn't know colonialism when she sees it (in one of his books).
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at 11:53 on 21-07-2011, Vermisvere
OH BIOWARE WHAT ARE YOU SAYING AND DOING?!!


To be honest, I'm not all that surprised by this statement. It was pretty obvious from the get-go that Miranda was just the poster-girl for Mass Effect 2, and the fact that she was genetically engineered to be intellectually and biotically perfect as well as being hot didn't mean jack-shit compared to her physical attractiveness.

Still, her background story was actually pretty interesting, so I'll give Bioware points on that. And I suppose I might as well admit that I kinda enjoyed the plethora of gratuitous body shots of Miranda, even if I did subconsciously recognize that it was essentially just a bunch of pixels on a computer screen.

Doesn't change the fact that it's still quite a cringe-worthy statement.

Women's Arses: Telling Stories since 804AD.

And let's not forget Women's Boobs: A Winning Distraction Strategy since 452BC.
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at 11:15 on 21-07-2011, Arthur B
Holy shit my ass can write?

And here I've been using the keyboard with my hands all this time.

Pretty sure even CGI butts don't quite have the dexterity to operate a keyboard.

But if you had a word processor that you could operate with a Wii Fitness board, you'd be on your way.
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at 11:14 on 21-07-2011, Arthur B
What do I win?

Honour, glory, more subscriptions to your RSS feed... you know, standard Internet currency.
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at 11:12 on 21-07-2011, valse de la lune
Holy shit my ass can write?

And here I've been using the keyboard with my hands all this time.
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at 11:04 on 21-07-2011, Wardog
Women's Arses: Telling Stories since 804AD.
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at 11:02 on 21-07-2011, valse de la lune
That's... special. I'm surprised it wasn't Casey Hudson who said it, though, but maybe I'm biased. "Camera angles help tell the story" indeed.

Well, now she's calling you a man-hating lesbian so I think you can just tick off all the boxes and take the jackpot.


What do I win? Or is this one of those things where everyone loses? :(
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at 10:42 on 21-07-2011, Wardog permalink
at 10:24 on 21-07-2011, Arthur B
I was thinking some kind of banana split, symbolising the shattering of patriarchy and its symbols of power and all that.
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at 10:21 on 21-07-2011, Wardog
Lightly warmed feminazi served on a bed of rocket leaves and watercress, accompanied by a drizzle of olive oil...

(not suitable for vegetarians, may contain nuts).
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at 10:17 on 21-07-2011, Arthur B
Somehow I feel "frigid feminazi" should automatically be worth, like, an entire row instead of just one or two squares.

Well, now she's calling you a man-hating lesbian so I think you can just tick off all the boxes and take the jackpot.

Frigid Feminazi sounds like some sort of delicious ice cream creation.
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at 09:59 on 21-07-2011, Wardog
I would love to be in a band called Frigid Feminazis.

Next time I play Guitar Hero... oh yes.
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at 08:01 on 21-07-2011, Janne Kirjasniemi
Although in the original link's context, its usage might be more insidious.
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at 08:00 on 21-07-2011, Janne Kirjasniemi
My latin dictionary says that 'mas' is the nominative singular form for male, manly and masculine. So a masogyne would be a manly woman? Masogynistic would be manly womanly? Masogynistic style of writing would be... I don't know. Perhaps at this point it would be important to differentiate the term from androgynous and simply appreciate its free form attack on the easy demarcations of heteronormativity.
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