You only have to look at the comments on the Guardian site to see how the ownership of an internet connection has turned us into a nation of preening know-alls dispensing redundant advice at the scene of traffic accidents.
I think of non-GUI programs in the same way as I do about going camping. Some people love sleeping in a tent and getting up in the night to walk in the rain to poo in a hole they’ve dug behind a tree. Not me. I spend a considerable portion of my income on a house with a central heating system and three flushing toilets, so there’s no bloody way I’m going camping. You may think it a badge of honour that you can do “sudo dpkg -i –force-all cupswrapperHL2270DW-2.0.4-2a.i386.deb” from memory. I think you’re burying your turds with a trowel in a thunderstorm.
His central point is that there’s no ‘natural’ way to communicate with computers – despite the current bravado around that sort of thing, the cold blink of the command line is just as much of an abstraction from the zeroes and ones as a mouse gliding over gradient-shaded windows. And it’s also more difficult to use.
I’m kinda proud that I used to know my way around DOS and in the early 90s wrote a fantastic .bat file that would swap in different autoexec.bat and config.sys files depending on the game I wanted to play. But I never want to go back to it.
It takes a airline with Japanese social sensitivities to turn the externality of knee reclines (you recline, the person sitting behind you has less leg-room) into an internality. Don’t shit where you sleep.
Jan Chipchase on the Japanese airliner with seats that don’t recline back onto the passenger behind you. Rather, reclining your seat reduces your own legroom. This is a far more civilised seating design indeed.
Seems Vernal, Utah, is something of a centre for indeterminate saurians on highways, as this photo series by excellent dino-blog Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs shows.
Like most sauropods you see on the side of the road, the sculptor likely had no specific taxon in mind. Just a long neck, long tail, and some pillar legs, and you’ve got what springs to 90% of folks’ minds when they hear the word “dinosaur.”
But not all are generic dino shapes, as the fight between what’s apparently a ceratosaurus, stegosaurus and camarasaurus, shows. STEGO-STAB.
Tayler and Green, two architects who uprooted themselves from the demi-monde of the Architectural Association and London in the late 1940′s and settled in Lowestoft of all places. From here, their practice developed an impressively consistent body of work, some 700 houses for a single client – Loddon District Council. These houses, unremarkable in some ways, still stand as an exemplary way to build sensitively and well in the countryside. What’s more they represent an itinerant strain of modernism that embraced decoration and ornamentation as well as an interest in everyday life. Built largely in the 1950′s and 1960′s you could call them an architectural equivalent of the kitchen sink realism prevalent at the time in British films and literature.
It’s a case of architecture for the good – humanistic, accommodating and yet also characterful and speaking of its time. Lovely.
Yesterday I picked up my boy on his last day of school before the summer holidays. He caught my eye has he exited his building and his face lit up. Seven years old, eight weeks of summer ahead of him. As we walked home together, my bag filled with a year of exercise books of steadily improving handwriting, I caught him humming snatches of something familiar. Something, in fact, I had stuck in my head, too.
“What’s that you’re singing?” I asked.
“A song from Spelunky,” he said.
We’d played together on the weekend. Well, I played and he watched, giving advice and support when another spike trap killed me. He’s scared of playing himself, particularly of the ghost that comes after you when you take too long to finish a level.
The tune was stuck in my head because I’d played it during lunchtime with some colleagues. We didn’t do very well, but that, I’m pretty sure, is the point of its multiplayer mode.
“Did you get killed by the ghost, Dad?”
“No, but we got killed by everything else.”
“Did you get killed by the robot spider?”
“You mean the big spider?”
“Yeah, it waits in its web and jumps down on you when you walk underneath it.”
“Yeah. And snakes and wasps and jumping spiders.”
“Did you get killed by any skeletons?”
Come to think of it, we didn’t see a single skeleton. “No, but we got killed by shopkeepers.”
“Shopkeepers? Why did they kill you?”
“I had died and was a ghost, and I thought I’d see what happened if I blew one of things a shopkeeper was selling out of his door. He thought we were stealing it and he attacked us. Then they all attacked us.”
His eyes drew wide in excitement. “Why did they all attack you?”
“They put a wanted poster up of us in their shops so they knew to attack us. They even post a shopkeeper by the level exit because they’re so upset.”
“Do they still have the wanted poster up the next time you play it?”
Luckily not. My boy seemed relieved when I explained. We walked on, both humming.
Spelunky is a little clockwork world in which items and enemies behave in defined ways, but when mixed together cause a delicious feedback loops that you can, with experience, predict. My boy loves systemic games like this, games that are built on coherent systems that you can play in an open-ended way. Toy boxes like Minecraft and Plants Vs Zombies, Animal Crossing and (we play this together) Civilization – where he can tinker and learn cause and effect.
He spends hours playing them, or would if we let him. And these are the kind of games that, though they were much cruder back then, I liked when I was a boy too, especially Elite. Where anything seemed possible.
But the big games today, in which play comes fixed to immutable stories, aren’t like that. So I asked him: “Do you like games that tell stories that you follow as you play them, or do you like games that let you do what you want?”
“The second one.” My heart burst with pride.
Spelunky came out on Xbox 360 a couple of weeks ago, but has been available for free on PC for several years.
For a brief moment in the early ‘80s, it looked as if the brave new world of Alien studies was going to splinter irreconcilably on the issue of Officer Ripley’s panties — the anti-panty camp accusing the pro-panty wing of uncritical phallocentrism, the pro-panty caucus accusing the anti-panty wing of repressive and self-defeating assumptions about what constitutes sexism.
This is a fine literature review of studies on Alien, even if most of these works are over 20 years old. One hell of a series, considering three of the Aliens films are, let’s face it, pretty terrible. Grantland might have attempted to suggest that Prometheus is “better than good”, a radical position. But at least it gets it right when it says Aliens is the weirdest blockbuster series in history.
Guilin: Through the Lens Sharply, by Jan Chipchase
It’s easy to sentimentalize the mind of a child. We like to picture them as boundless imagineers who can pick up a stick and build a world around it. But kids, like us, need something to work from – a character, an archetype, a story, a weapon – and something to play with in their hands and in their heads.
Here, chum and esteemed occasional (as often as I can get him) colleague Chris Dahlen is so right about something that so many others are so often wrong. Read his piece – it’s about Plants Vs Zombies and child obsession, one that my own seven-year-old is also going through.