Thursday, October 07, 2010

Halloween Spirit Ramps Up Tonight

As this day-by-day graph of the Halloween spirit for 2010 demonstrates, tonight marks an inflection point after which the Halloween spirit will start rapidly accelerating.

This graph accounts for the following factors:
  • Time until Halloween
  • Time until the next full moon
  • Time until the midpoint between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice
  • Other secret factors

Friday, November 27, 2009

Getting The Fool's Errand to Work on an OS 10.5 Intel Mac

Co-authored with Eric Ivancich.

Cliff Johnson has made his old puzzle game The Fool's Errand available for free download, but to use it you have to get it to work on your modern computer. The following procedure worked for me on my Intel Mac Pro.

Get all the stuff you need:

Make a disk image containing The Fool's Errand:
  • Unzip the blank disk images file, and unzip the file in the resulting folder.
  • Rename the resulting file hfs1400k.DSK to hfs1400k.dmg.
  • Double-click hfs1400k.dmg to mount it.
  • From the folder "The Fool's Errand", drag "Fool's Puzzles", "Prologue & Finale", and "The Fool's Errand" onto the mounted disk image.
  • Unmount the disk image.
Run Mini vMac:
  • Launch the "Mini vMac" application.
  • Choose File -> Open Disk Image and choose "Disk608.dsk" from the "System 6.0.8 - Finder 6.1.8" folder.
  • This should make the question-mark disk go away and start up your emulated Mac Plus.
Run the game:
  • Choose File -> Open Disk Image and choose "hfs1400k.dmg" from the "blanks" folder. You should see a new disk called "Untitled" on the desktop.
  • Rename "Untitled" to "FoolsErrand" or some such, and open it.
  • Launch "The Fool's Errand"!
  • "One sunny day a light-hearted fool strolled along a hilly path..." Indeed!
  • To quit Mini vMac: hold down Control while typing 'q' and then 'y'.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Fictional Games on the Web

Links to fictional games on the web (games from works of fiction, fleshed out with rules):

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Fictional Games

Index (by game) of descriptions of games or gameplay in the 1997 Harper Prism edition of Iain M. Banks' Culture novel "The Player of Games" (parentheses contain page numbers for the Orbit edition):

Azad: 69-75, 96-98, 134-140, 157-161, 167-171, 180, 182-187, 200-203, 225-228, 233-240, 251-262, 269-276 (74-80, 102-105, 142-149, 167-171, 177-180, 190-192, 193-198, 212-215, 237-241, 246-254, 265-277, 284-291)

Four Colors: 7-9 (8-10)

Possession: 35-37 (37-40)

Sentient Glacier game: 27 (27)

Snowflake game: 27 (27)

Stricken: 42-49 (46-54)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Archipelago of Culture

Cultural preferences are given a geography in this visualization of the data for the Netflix Prize. The distance between two movies on the map represents the degree of similarity between their ratings by Netflix users. Note that the green Sci-Fi Island to the southeast is quite far away from the "Crocodile"/"Arachnid"/"Leprechaun 4: In Space" cluster, but rather close to the large blue Critically Acclaimed Island.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Superflat Vinyl

In the introduction to his designer toy art book I Am Plastic, Paul Budnitz tells the story of a customer in his Kidrobot store who found one of Pete Fowler's Monstrooper toys appealing:
"That's really very nice...what's it from?" I explained to her that the toy wasn't "from" anything at all. The big, red camouflage-clad monster with a Cyclops-eyeball mace is a character that Pete invented as a toy, nothing else and with no other purpose. ...The woman just couldn't understand that and said, "Well if it's not from something, why would I want it?"...After she stomped away one of my co-workers looked at me and said, "Thank God it's a limited edition." [9]
The irony here is that the Monstrooper figures are indeed "from" something. A visit to Fowler's Monsterism Island site will confirm that Fowler's creatures come from an elaborate world of his own creation, developed through toys, his website, and a comic serialized in Vice magazine. The world is idiosyncratic, and edgy enough to exclude children, and so it does distance itself from mass market toy and cartoon characters in the way Budnitz wants it to do. But it is a world. And the fact that Fowler's creatures are from this world makes them more interesting than most of the toys in Budnitz's book.

In making his self-conscious bid for the artistic legitimacy of designer toys, Budnitz is a follower on the trail blazed by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami with his superflat art. In his paintings, sculptures, and, yes, toys, Murakami establishes the visual conventions of characters like his Mr. DOB in order to explode them. The shapes by which we recognize this slightly threatening version of Mickey Mouse (and his emotions) become mere abstractions as Murakami melts all visual and character depth into a hallucinatory play of line and color across the flat surface of the canvas.

Murakami's work is striking and original, but the influence of Murakami on designer toys is so pervasive that they have assumed a certain sameness. The tension between shape and surface has become a standard gesture: in the be@rbrick toys or Kidrobot's own Kidrobot series, for example, different figures are created by taking the same teddy bear or hiphop-styled robot mold and painting it with different decorations, many of which (american flag, floral pattern) have no relation to the underlying shape. After seeing this visual joke on page after page of "I Am Plastic," superflatness starts to fall a little more flat than one would like.

A tip for Mr. Budnitz: if you find yourself explaining "this is art," you've already lost the cultural capital game. Better to stay closer to your pop-cultural sources of delight, as Mr. Fowler does. If this leads you to express nostalgia, for Peter Max and Sid and Marty Krofft productions in Fowler's case, so be it. If it leads you to fall in love with your characters and their world, even better.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Xculture Tumblelog

After seeing a link to tumblelog service Tumblr on 43 Folders, I tried it out for myself. A tumblelog is like a cross between a blog and a scrapbook: a place to quickly post random images, quotes, links, or whatever catches your fancy. My original intention was to use it as a place to quickly store (and publish) material that had some sort of resonance for me, partly in preparation for a specific creative project and partly just to spark general creativity. Tumblr definitely worked well for those purposes: the Tumblr bookmarklet can automatically turn selected text on a web page into an appropriately credited and linked quotation post, and if you are on a Flickr image page it will automatically grab and credit the image. But as I got addicted to tumblelogging stuff, it quickly became a slightly more structured kind of game. I started trying to maintain a chain of visual or conceptual links between the posts. Whether I'll keep this up or not I don't know, but you can view the game in progress here, or subscribe to this feed.