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 22:15 on 03-04-2014, Bookwyrm
I attempted to read Snow Crash a while ago but I lost interest about half way through. I think it was around the point where Hiro and the computer had that long, long conversation about the connection between Mesopotamian religion and the computer virus. For a sizable chunk of the story Hiro is essentially standing around, doing nothing but relaying a ton of exposition. By the way, was anyone able to decipher that bit about religion,languages, and viruses all being the same thing? The book lost me there.
at 16:49 on 03-04-2014, Tamara
Oh man! I had managed to completely forget about the language-brain-hacking stuff and the awful...can you call them sex scenes?
at 11:27 on 03-04-2014, Arthur B
I found the microstates thing fun in Snow Crash and the earlier parts of the book were a neat exercise in taking cyberpunk trends and seeing what happens if you extrapolate forward from them to an absurd extent. But the second half is a huge mess, the sub-Origin of Consciousness In the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind conspiracy theory is risible, the bit where the protagonist has a long and boring infodumpy conversation about said theory online whilst he's in the middle of sneaking through the villain's Sea Org offshore city is even sillier, and the less said about stuff like the dentata the better.
at 10:31 on 03-04-2014, Tamara
I loved Snow Crash when I was a teen, but I'm worried the suck-fairy has been at it. Every Stephenson book i've read since has been a little more Libertarianism-is-cool and Geeks-are-better-than-those-boring-ordinary-people, and I don't want to find that in Snow Crash. :-(

(The Libertarian Police Department did crack me up because I served in an infantry company consisting almost entirely of various brands of Marxists, Socialists, Anarchists and a few gently mocked Social-Democrat-Liberal types...and I did once agitate for a strike in a military kitchen when we were in boot camp.)
at 09:35 on 03-04-2014, James D
Hah that was pretty good. Funny to read the comments as well, featuring a bunch of libertarians trying their hardest not to sound butthurt.

Did you ever read Snow Crash? Its setting is basically a libertarian "paradise" taken to a ludicrous extreme, complete with competing private police organizations and private prisons that are franchised out like (and sometimes in) fast food joints.
at 02:02 on 03-04-2014, Arthur B
Speaking of the free market, I hope it gives us a TV show of Libertarian Police Department.
at 22:11 on 02-04-2014, Arthur B
is actually a good thing because it's an example of the free market correcting itself.
at 21:55 on 02-04-2014, Melanie
...I found the endgame(?) and I'm not sure if my favorite part is the bitcoin that someone just left in the kiosk (apparently because they withdrew it and then decided they didn't want it), or the
at 21:15 on 02-04-2014, Arthur B
This is hilarious.

My favourite part: "Their reasoning is that an exchange that shuts down without warning is bad. Since that's what tacoX did that means it was a bad exchange. Since tacoX is now closed, it means that the free market got rid of a bad business. This means the free market works and that's good for bitcoin."
at 19:56 on 02-04-2014, Melanie
I just realized that probably looked sarcastic. It wasn't, though. This is hilarious.
at 19:54 on 02-04-2014, Melanie
but it has something to do with encryption. That means it's secure

Brilliant indeed!
at 17:59 on 02-04-2014, Arthur B
A brilliant way to learn about Bitcoin. Keep mining and experimenting and keeping up with the BitCoin forums and glorious things happen.
at 11:32 on 02-04-2014, Arthur B
I'm not up on the roleplaying scene, so how ugly would this campaign get if it was discovered that Mr. Rash, say, preferred nWOD to cWOD?

Given that Onyx Path are now actively supporting both lines, it'd probably be less controversial than it might have been a few years ago because you don't have cWOD fans sore at not getting any love.

On the other hand, if he firmly came down on one side or the other about some specific storm-in-a-teacup controversy that only fans of a specific game care about then wow, watch the sparks fly.
at 02:16 on 02-04-2014, Alasdair Czyrnyj
I'm not up on the roleplaying scene, so how ugly would this campaign get if it was discovered that Mr. Rash, say, preferred nWOD to cWOD?

(Also, judging from his comments, it seems like Chazz Darling was the vampire equivalent of Jordan Belfort, so it looks like he should be a great fit with the party.)

Still, I am grateful for this news, for it is a sign we are entering a golden age; an age where public figures are judged by the crap they put on the Internet when they were teenagers. In fact, I imagine that sometime before 2030 you will be able to turn on CNN and watch two grown men seriously discuss the presidential frontrunner's archive of Supernatural knotfic. What wonders the future will bring!

(Oh, and if anyone reading this doesn't know what I'm talking about...please don't find out for yourself. Trust me; the knowledge will not make you a happier person.)
at 19:27 on 29-03-2014, Tamara
Hmmmm. Having actually read the essay (the pro-Moffat one) I'm not sure. The call at the end there to separate Moffat from the work itself ("but he's clearly trying") strikes me as besides the point. The question is the text. I don't see DW - Moffat's or anyone's - as directly engaging deliberately with feminist questions the way Buffy or Sarah Connor Chronicles or Mad Men (etc, etc) do, but I do see the point that it doesn't mean that it doesn't actually actively speak to them anyway. (I say this as the person with a fierce and increasingly strange love for the Big Bang Theory as a viciously subversive criticism of capitalist individualism. I see the sentiment that article is coming from, even if I don't quite get the underlying ideas.)

If anything, in a way, DW is more interesting in some ways than Buffy. We can agree or disagree with Buffy's feminism, but actually analyzing it's attitude to gender is harder in some ways, because we have to get under that layer of what it's shouting from the rooftops first. I see the argument that Rory is a very interestingly feminist character, for example, and about the companions having lives outside the doctor...does that let us credit him as a feminist? I dunno. Are those deliberate subversions? Dialectical attempts to solve contradictions? An organic search for variety? Do they outweigh the problematic stuff?

I mean, I guess we could argue that had Moffat gotten a shiny fresh new blank piece of paper, he might create a Buffy, but since he has an established mythology to work with, he's subverting what he's got instead. But Buffy itself comes from a mythology, a set of tropes and tradition. Buffy IS a subversion, a very deliberate one. Arguably, her story is still all about how women have to relate to men and men's power and aggression, but I'm with the article here that utopian art is the less interesting kind of critical storytelling, opposed to the kind that makes you shift uncomfortably and think deep down "it's not really like it?"

But then what hits that point and what just makes us uncomfortable because it's just nasty is just so idiosyncratic that I'm not even sure how to have a conversation about it. Maybe the key (I've been reading Roland Barth) is emotion? Buffy made me happy and sad and generally gave me pleasure. When it also made me uncomfortable, I was forced to consider that discomfort, to examine it and try to understand it's roots. DW, on the other hand, mostly bores me. It engenders no particular emotion, and it's attempts to create an examined discomfort therefore also fall flat. I have no loyalty to the story, so to speak. (I literally could not get through the new Sherlock either.) Which kind of takes it out of the hands of the authors intent. It doesn't matter if Moffat or whoever is trying to be feminist, it just matters whether his storytelling is skillful enough to succeed with a particular viewer.
at 18:30 on 29-03-2014, Robinson L
Excellent point, Tamara. Now that you mention it, that's always how Doctor Who (including under Moffat) has come across to me, as well - it's not even trying to be part of the conversation. Which is what surprised me so much about the post on Moffat and feminism I linked below - it isn't even just that I find Moffat's feminist credentials dubious (to put it charitably), it just seems so incongruous.
at 15:43 on 29-03-2014, Tamara
I'm also kind of reminded of how some people, at least, were making really positive, thoughtful feminist analyses of the first season of Dollhouse, whereas many of us on the site ... were not. (Which is to say, we found the show's feminist credentials somewhat lacking.)

You know, I don't recall being impressed with the feminism of Dollhouse either, (granted, it's been a while) but I kind of give some credit for ambition. It wasn't good - possibly it was actively bad...but it was trying to say something, in its fumbling way. There was something to be in a dialogue with there, in a sense that you can't really be in with things without ambition, I think. I can castigate, I dunno, Friends from a feminist perspective until the cows come home and possibly turn up something interesting even, but I'm not really in any kind of conversation with it. It's doing one thing, I'm doing another (and that's fine.)

With's kind of participating in the conversation. You can judge it as succeeding or failing. My point being, that that's not a sense I've ever had with Doctor Who. It's Friends, not Dollhouse. I can pick it apart plenty, or even praise it here and there, but its feminism (or sexism) always seems by the by to me, never anything deliberate.
at 15:02 on 29-03-2014, Robinson L
Janne: It is ridiculous that someone, even supposedly a smart some one can actually believe something like this.

Well, if Tom Scocca (the article author) is to be believed, he may not actually believe that, he just wants other people too. (That may be too harsh, or it may not, I don't know.)

maybe dissertations and such count too?

I expect a 80-90 page thesis is roughly equivalent to a short nonfiction book, so sure, why not?
at 12:12 on 29-03-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
Barbarossa is set in a fictional Second World War setting in which cute German military girls rush against Moscow to defeat the evil magician Stalin.

It's good that they emphasized the fictionality of the setting. For a while, I was doing a spit take, before calming down to just plain confusion.
at 11:59 on 29-03-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
This strikes me as a rather weaselly move on Eggers' part - putting forward two utterly barmy injunctions, but then immediately linking them to a semi-reasonable one

And it's such an outrageously untrue thing to say! It is ridiculous that someone, even supposedly a smart some one can actually believe something like this. Like it would take a carpenter to see that a table is crooked. I guess we should all write a novel just to be able to say things, although maybe dissertations and such count too? My master's thesis, which I'm just about to return in a few weeks time will be just about 80-90 pages, can I then say that something is bad?
at 00:36 on 29-03-2014, Robinson L
Daniel F: If I don't on some level like to think about it... well, as you say, I default to vitriol. That's not pleasant reading.

Personally, I think even when I am writing vitriol, I can still make it engaging, but it's not as fun to write nor (I assume) as entertaining to read as when I'm just taking a playful poke at something.

Having now finished the article, I think the stuff about snark is entertaining but not particularly memorable. The analysis of smarm, on the other hand, I think is just brilliant - it aptly describes the attitude taken by ineffectual/and or corrupt authority figures and their apologists that I've encountered.

Janne: I think the writer deliberately does this to defend even the more negative ways of doing criticism just to make a point that the false and naive positivity is still more damaging to a discussion than that. I did not get the feeling that he was defending trolling or anything like that, merely the attempt to stifle discussion by dismissing everything that is not nice and shiny.

Oh, I didn't get that impression either. But assuming the book by David Denby is a real thing, then it would seem snarkiness does indeed have a reputation as being primarily a tool of negative criticism which I guess I hadn't been previously aware of.

I also want to spotlight this plea by Eggers quoted in the article:

Do not dismiss a book until you have written one, and do not dismiss a movie until you have made one, and do not dismiss a person until you have met them.

This strikes me as a rather weaselly move on Eggers' part - putting forward two utterly barmy injunctions, but then immediately linking them to a semi-reasonable one ("do not dismiss a person until you have met them"; I have a pretty low opinion of David Cameron, but if I were ever to meet him in person, I think I'd try to be open-minded), thereby inviting the reader to take the three as a package.

The thing is, the three are not equivalent - reading a book or watching a movie is comparable to meeting a person, writing a book or making a movie is several rungs higher (about on par with being said person you are supposed not to dismiss).

Then, of course, there's the whole elitism angle with the article's author also covers, but just WOW - no matter how obviously bad the book or movie, you're not allowed to say it's bad until you've made one yourself? No matter how bored or annoyed you were with it, and no matter how obviously pointless it was, I guess you're just not allowed to call 90 minutes or a dozen chapters of Epic Camping bad flimmaking/writing unless you can show your list of credentials in the field. Silly me, thinking entertainment was in the eye of the viewer, rather than the expert. (And oops, there I go with the snark, because I'm just a big hater.)

Come to think, I have written a novel - a couple, in fact, counting NaNoWriMo - and of all the qualities about me which speak to my competence as a critic/reviewer, that bit of trivia is somewhere at the very bottom of the list. (The novels in question are all crap, have never been published and with any luck never will be in anything vaguely approaching their current status - but if we go that direction, Eggers' criteria falls apart even sooner: where's the cutoff? Self-publication? Professional publication? Best seller list? None of those necessarily tell you anything about the caliber of either the book or the writer, so what do you do then?)

Arthur: For the Doctor Who gripers: this essay is a really nice summation of everything that's wrong with the Moffat era.

That's a fantastic piece, Arthur. As is this essay defending Moffat from a feminist position, to which the one you posted is something of a response.

I more incline towards many (though not all) of the criticisms of Moffat in the former article, but I find the arguments in the second pretty interesting. I'm also kind of reminded of how some people, at least, were making really positive, thoughtful feminist analyses of the first season of Dollhouse, whereas many of us on the site ... were not. (Which is to say, we found the show's feminist credentials somewhat lacking.)

Mind you, I still quite enjoy Moffat's stuff, because the writing's so good. On the other hand, neither one of them really addresses the biggest problem I have with the Moffat era, which is that the writing's so bad. (And no, that's not a contradiction, as far as I'm concerned, Moffat is prone to extremes, as well as mediocrity, and even recent Moffat has produced some gems as well as dross.)
at 23:39 on 28-03-2014, Arthur B
I know Michal, I know.