Sunday, May 16, 2010

No Longer Behind The Times: Figure Five Finally Plays Portal

Today the First Mate and I celebrated the fact that we both had a Sunday off in much the same manner as two-toed sloths: We spent the day eating, sleeping, and playing Portal. (Okay, I'm assuming these two-toed sloths all have PCs and remarkably flexible claws.) I normally do my gaming with a bulging bag of many-sided dice and a binder full of stat sheets, so I was a little leery. I don't really have anything against electronic gaming, but I am really uncoordinated. As such, it tends to make me feel pretty terrible about myself when I spend fully 75% of play trying not to run into walls, and failing at it most of that time. Portal came very highly recommended to me, though, so I figured I would give it a shot.

I didn't get up until seven hours later. It was one of the more engrossing entertainment experiences I've ever had. The concept is ingenious, and it's really well implemented in the game. Andy and I traded off levels, and I conscripted him to go through some of the more fiddly bits of mine, but even so, gameplay was smooth and intuitive enough that even I could manage it. Most importantly to me, the writing shines. The whole thing was so clever I was practically clapping my hands with delight. (And yes, fine, I did place two portals immediately facing each other and then spend five minutes running an infinite loop and yelling "WEEEEE!" Shut up.) When we made it through the whole thing, we decided that celebration was in order.

 Pictured: Celebration. Not Pictured: Companion Cube tribute montage.

So the point is, I suppose, that now that I've finally decided to get into more technologically advanced geekery I'll have to pick up some of that damned hand-eye coordination I spent my childhood avoiding. The other point is that if you're one of the other people who was living under a rock when Portal came out, go download it now. It's even free until May 24th, so you really have no excuse.

Posted by Silent Five @ 8:37 PM :: (1) comments

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Unsurprisingly, My America Playlist Is Not Patriotic At All

Some of the best discoveries are accidents. Chocolate chip cookies, for example, and microwaves, and penicillin. My accidental discovery for the day is the random search term playlist. Looking for a particular track, I typed "america" into my media player and listened through whatever it gave me. This created a surprisingly listenable mix of tribal flute music, classics, punk, and indie pop, with the Allen Ginsberg poem I was looking for as a nice cap to it all. It also, perhaps, says a good deal about my political leanings that most of what turned up was at least vaguely protest-oriented. Here's the list, for your listening pleasure. Please post your own random search discoveries here-- I'm always on the lookout for new music.

  1. "Flightless Bird, American Mouth"-- Iron & Wine
  2. "We'll Meet Again" -- Johnny Cash
  3. "Dance of the Warrior" -- off a compilation CD of tribal music
  4. "Sick Boy" -- Kill Hannah
  5. "Franco Un-American" -- NOFX
  6. "Drug-Free America" -- NOFX
  7. "American Errorist (I Hate Hate Haters)" -- NOFX
  8. "Kiss Distinctly American" -- Q and not U
  9. "America" -- Simon & Garfunkel
  10. "Because" -- Elliott Smith
  11. "Miss America" -- That Handsome Devil
  12. "Winds of Life" -- off a compilation CD of tribal music
  13. "American Music" -- Violent Femmes
  14. "America (Closing Time)" -- Tom Waits & Allen Ginsberg

Posted by Silent Five @ 7:41 PM :: (0) comments

Friday, May 14, 2010

Figure Five Links Rodeo

I run across lots of amusing, outrageous, or thought-provoking articles that make me think "Wow, I really need to blog about this!" The ones which inspire some sort of personal commentary I do blog about (see this week's WTF Wednesday, for example). A good number of them, though, are things to which I have nothing to add other than "Seriously, go read this! It's funny/good/interesting/totally messed up!" I do want to share them, though, so they wind up perpetually open in tabs which clutter up my browser and make me feel like I've got lots of unfinished business. Hence Links Rodeo, a general purge of these things in list format with a brief summary. Go hog wild!

There may be more Links Rodeos to come; there are a lot of things I wish I could make people read. In the meantime, please do check these out. I very rarely read links that people send me unless they've passed my stringent vetting process, and I can vouch for all of these.


Posted by Silent Five @ 8:54 PM :: (0) comments

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What AREN'T I Reading?

Librarians have been looking askance at me from the time I was nine years old. To be fair, I imagine it must have been somewhat disconcerting to see a stack of Stephen King novels in the arms of this lisping moppet who could barely see over the front desk. Since then, I've always wondered if librarians form secret preconceptions about patrons' characters from the books they check out. My favorite assistant at the local library told me as much once. "Yeah," he said, "I'm judging you right now." I enjoyed watching the expression on his face as he scanned my armload of knitting patterns and treatises on the occult. "What is wrong with you?" he asked me.

What is wrong with me is, in this case, that I have eclectic and eccentric taste in literature. An average trip to the library usually results in my bringing home a mixed bag of subjects: politics, linguistics, neuroscience, poetry, psychology, religious studies, crafting, comic books, science fiction, sex, a documentary film or two, and at least one cookbook. Frequently I have hauled home one of all of these. I rarely make it through all of them in the allotted time, and I could practically finance a new wing of the building with all the fines I pay. So yesterday I attempted to cut down. I intended to pick out a movie and spend the evening vegging out. No new books. Well, maybe one cookbook.

Forty-five minutes later I walked out with the following:

Is it sadder that I have so little restraint, or that honestly, this is cutting down?

Posted by Silent Five @ 11:13 AM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

WTF Wednesday: No Words

I am speechless with rage at this news, and thus I am grateful that Mary Alice Carr has spoken more eloquently on the subject than I can. There's a new law in Oklahoma which states, as Carr writes, "that a doctor is protected from being sued if he or she chooses not to tell a woman that the baby she is carrying has a birth defect... Under this new law, a doctor may withhold information, mislead or even blatantly lie to a pregnant woman and her partner about the health of their baby if the doctor so much as thinks that fetal test results would cause a woman to consider abortion."

 I cannot fathom what doctor would consider this. Beyond the damage it does to the doctor-patient relationship, beyond all consideration of medical ethics, imagine what it would be like to be those parents. Say, a woman whose doctor told her to expect a healthy child and who finds out when he is born that he will only live a few days. Or a young couple given no time to research how to care for a son or daughter with special needs. Imagine finding out that your doctor willfully denied you the chance to prepare yourself and your family for the difficulties you and your baby would face. How would you feel? How could anyone sworn to care for and heal people justify putting someone in that situation?

On the heels of this article I was sent another one, this one detailing a Missouri bill that is supposed to "promote 'heterosexual marriage' by making divorce more difficult." The article describes the consequences this bill has for victims of domestic abuse; namely, that by prohibiting divorce except by mutual agreement or in cases of narrowly defined "marital irresponsibility," it opens a frightening number of loopholes for domestic abusers. The article sets out several examples wherein a spouse who is clearly in danger would have no grounds for divorce, and may even have their custody taken away for alleging that abuse is occurring.

Individually, these stories are outrageous and sad. Together, they fill me with fear for what they might represent. Both laws are designed to protect "family values," but deceit, self-righteousness, cruelty, and tacit acceptance of violence are not values my family shares. I shudder to think that I live in a country where these things are considered an acceptable price for the illusion of wholesomeness.


Posted by Silent Five @ 9:28 PM :: (2) comments

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Trip Report Tuesday: New Things

Two weeks ago, my posted projects were thus: Find an interview outfit and lead an elementary school needlework club. I am pleased to report a rousing success on both counts. The elementary schoolers love knitting, crocheting, and making lanyards and bracelets. I also looked adorable at my interview, which went tolerably well and from which I am still waiting on results.

In the intervening time I have had the following new experiences:

My goal for next week? More new experiences. What new things have you experienced recently?

Posted by Silent Five @ 10:20 PM :: (1) comments

Monday, May 10, 2010

Etymology Monday: A Quotidian, Intimate Discipline.

I spend the last few hours catching up on my aunt's Flickr photostream. She's a talented photographer, and she's documenting the year she turns 50 by taking a self-portrait every day. In her blog post on the project, she describes how each day's photo is one of dozens of outtakes with slight differences, and also how as the days go by themes and patterns emerge serendipitously. It made me think about the discipline of doing something every day, about how it can be both tedious and profound. When I began this project I blogged every day for a month, which occasionally felt tedious, but the response I received was, in fact, profound. The friend who inspired this blog told me that he felt it was one of the great things he'd done that year, and being that he volunteers with Food not Bombs, pickets the School of the Americas, and hacks his way through Alaska punching bears in the face, this is high and heady praise.

I want to reaccustom myself to this kind of discipline, if I ever was accustomed to it, and this brings me to my word today. Quotidian comes to us from Anglo-Norman, which took it from the classical Latin quotidianus, meaning "occurring every day." I have always felt the word in English to have a connotation of dullness. OED defines "the quotidian" as "mundane or everyday things as a class," but one of the example sentences for this entry, from the Times in 1902, refers to "that which for want of a better term we agree to call the natural and by which we really mean the quotidian, the familiar, the intimate."

The intimate.  Being a restless creature, I tend to think of having to do the same thing every day as stifling and humdrum. Looking at my aunt's portraits, though, I begin to see it differently. Far from being stifled, my aunt is unfolding and blooming in each day's photograph. The depth of perception gained in following the same subject also allows for surprising variety, and even in shots which are similar there is always some new warmth or humor or wisdom. Intimate is the word-- Latin, "pressed into, inmost, deepest," that which is within being brought to the surface.

Can I do that with my blogging, I wonder? I tend to be irreverent and glib rather than intimate, and I worry that this will become tedious to the reader, if not to me. Daily practice changes you, though. It makes you wiser, more capable. It's a discipline, and discipline is that which is taught to a disciple, which comes from the Latin word discere, "to learn." So bear with me as I learn how to be a writer, and in so doing learn to put what is within on the surface.


Posted by Silent Five @ 9:02 PM :: (0) comments

Word of the Week

gymnosophy [jim-NAH-so-fee]

n. Philosophical, amusing, or nonsensical insights realized when naked, as in the shower or in bed. (recent coinage: att. S. Galasso, 2010)

Victoria and Albert enjoyed a spot of postprandial concupiscence culminating in a night of gymnosophy and coffee and crumpets at dawn.

The Silent Top Five: Bacon-Flavored Desserts

1) Bacon cheesecake.
2) Bacon gumballs.
3) Bacon ice cream.
4) Bacon-orange bars.
5) Bacon apple pie.

Standard Disclaimer

This is all in no way meant to incur copyright-infringement-related wrath. I'm harmless. I promise. Oh, and if you're offended by anything I may post herein, I guarantee I didn't mean to do so (unless, of course, you are a humorless prig. In which case, go right on and be offended, with my blessings.)