The Null Device
A want-ad seen recently (on a piece of paper on a notice board):
Computer Hacker Wanted
This is not a joke. Email ---@hotmail.com
Hmmm... I wonder what the story behind that one is.
Meg has been rereading her teenage journals; an act that normally makes one cringe to think about. I remember my teenage journals (back in the mists of time). Because of bad experiences with my crazy parents (didn't everybody have two of those?), I was rather paranoid about baring any approximation of my soul in anything anyone could read, and so wrote in code. I actually wrote a journal program (named Abulafia, after the computer in an Umberto Eco novel; I was a pretentious git even back then) which utilised a form of encryption (nothing the NSA couldn't break quite simply, though the one time I tried brute-forcing it a few years ago I failed). Even with that, I wrote in code (lest my mother walk in and demand to inspect what's on the screen, or someone get a TEMPEST rig), and most of my teenage journals consist of bland reportage interspersed with cryptic sentences. The actual subjects of the sentences went unrecorded and would now be lost forever in the mists of time. Only when I was in my early 20s did I start confiding intimately in the journal, in plain text, though I still used Abulafia (or rather a Linux/XView version named, unimaginatively, "xvabu"), out of habit, though stopped putting passwords on the journals one year.
At the start of last year, though, I retired the Abulafia system, a relic of Windows 3.1 limitations and adolescent paranoia, and started writing my journal in plain text files with vi. I still write in it on most nights (usually just what happened), though not as much as before I started maintaining this blog. These days, it makes more sense to put some things where an interested, sympathetic audience can read them.
I want one of these.
Stumbling towards Gilead (cont.): In the U.S., the Telecommunications Act of 1996 makes sending information about abortion on the Internet a crime punishable by five years in prison; it is based on the Comstock Law, which was used to prosecute family-planning pioneers earlier this century. This law has not been enforced, as Clinton's bleeding-heart-feminist attorney general Janet Reno gave her word that it would not be enforced -- but now that a religious zealot is Attorney-General, all this may change. Maybe it's time for Planned Parenthood and other such un-American subversive groups to move their servers to Sealand?
Researchers at Stanford University have found that pessimists' and optimists' brains work differently. Optimists' brains showed stronger reactions to images of rainbows and puppies, whereas pessimists' brains showed no reaction there, but a reacton to images of angry people, cemeteries and spiders (albeit not as much in the emotional centres of the brain).
A Dogme 95 for computer game designers (via RobotWisdom):
5. The following types of games are prohibited: first-person shooters, side-scrollers, any action game with "special attacks." Also prohibited are: simulations of 20th-century or current military vehicles, simulations of sports which are routinely broadcast live on television, real-time strategy games focussing solely on warfare and weapons production, lock-and-key adventure games, numbers-heavy role-playing games, and any card game found in Hoyle's Rules of Card Games.
9. If a game is representational rather than abstract, it may contain no conceptual non sequiturs, e.g. medical kits may not be hidden inside oil tanks.
10. If a game is representational rather than abstract, the color black may not be used to depict any manmade object except ink, nor any dangerous fictitious nonhuman creatures. Black may be used to depict rooms in which the lights are not switched on.
It will be interesting to see what a DOGMA 2001 game would be like. It probably won't come from any large game house, who are more concerned with fighting games and gothic-first-person-shooters and other stuff that teenaged boys will buy. Retrospectively, Tetris would meet the criteria, and that was quite a conceptual leap (not to mention a catchy meme).