David Mamet and natural dialog
I've always thought it was interesting how Mamet's stuff reads awkwardly but performs naturally. Check out this transcript of an exchange between the White House spokesman and reporters. It's a real dialog, transcribed, but it reads like Mamet dialog, with interruptions, incomplete sentences, repetition, and all the other devices Mamet utilizes regularly.
(Yes, the subject matter is also timely and outrageous, but that's not the point here.)
QUESTION: Scott, what does the President think about Justice investigating this alleged leak of the identity of a CIA operative? And what instructions is the President giving the White House aides about cooperating with it?
McCLELLAN: One, the President believes if someone leaked classified information, particularly of this nature, that it is a serious matter and it should be looked into and pursued to the fullest extent possible. The Department of Justice would be the appropriate agency to do so.
What was the second part of your question, Mark?
QUESTION: What instructions is Mr. Bush giving to top aides about cooperating with the investigation?
McCLELLAN: Well, of course, in any matter like this, we would cooperate with the Department of Justice.
QUESTION: But the Department of Justice is --
McCLELLAN: There has been no information brought to us or that has come to our attention, beyond the media reports, to suggest that there was White House involvement.
QUESTION: Scott, The Washington Post is reporting that the President is not going to ask his top aides about it, who did the leak. Is that true? And, if not, why not?
McCLELLAN: Well, what did I just say? I think I just answered that question. I said that there has been nothing that has been brought to our attention, beyond what we've seen in the media reports, to suggest that there was White House involvement.
QUESTION: Is anyone going to, at least, you know, ask around? Say, what's the deal with --
McCLELLAN: And, secondly, the Department of Justice is the appropriate agency to look into matters like this.
QUESTION: If anybody did this, will they be fired?
McCLELLAN: Mark, if -- one, no one was authorized to do this. That is simply not the way this White House operates. And if someone leaked classified information, it is a very serious matter and it should be pursued to the fullest. You're jumping to a lot of assumptions now about the White House. We --
McCLELLAN: No, I mean, I think that's obvious -- it's obvious, that if someone leaked classified information of this nature, yes.
QUESTION: Scott, what about the questions over the credibility of the administration investigating itself -- i.e., Justice doing the investigation rather than, as some Democrats have called for, an outside investigation?
McCLELLAN: We believe the Department of Justice is the appropriate agency to look into matters like this, as they would in any other matter of this nature.
QUESTION: So you're rejecting the call --
QUESTION: Why is it not a conflict for a political appointee, the Attorney General, to be investigating --
McCLELLAN: Well, one, you're assuming certain things are happening. The Department of Justice, I believe, will tell you that there are procedures that they follow. You need to ask them, one, those questions: are they; who's involved. So you need to ask them those questions.
QUESTION: You're suggesting -- you're suggesting that somehow a political appointee, such as the Attorney General, will be --
McCLELLAN: Well, you're assuming that he is involved in some sort of probe or looking into this.
QUESTION: Are you saying that he was the --
McCLELLAN: Ask the Department of Justice. I don't know who would be involved and whether or not they -- where this stands, in terms of the Department of Justice looking into this. You're assuming certain things.
QUESTION: Let's try to quantify what kind of investigation is going on. Has --
McCLELLAN: If there is one.
QUESTION: Has the Department of Justice --
McCLELLAN: I mean, I saw the news reports where it said that the first step for the Department of Justice would be to look to see whether or not it warrants further looking into.
QUESTION: Has the Department of Justice contacted the Counsel's Office here, or anyone else in the White House --
QUESTION: -- to start asking questions?
QUESTION: No contact at all?
QUESTION: Zero? You checked today?
McCLELLAN: Yes. I mean, well, as of about an hour ago. So, no. But, obviously, we will cooperate in any way if there are requests.
QUESTION: Does the President want to know whether or not there was a leak?
McCLELLAN: The President -- I said at the beginning -- believes that leaking classified information is a serious matter and that it should be pursued to the fullest, and the Department of Justice is the appropriate agency to do so. There is a lot of speculation in the media reports --
QUESTION: -- inquiries?
McCLELLAN: -- let's let the appropriate agency look into it.
QUESTION: What about an independent counsel? There are some senators who are ready to call for that.
McCLELLAN: Yes, I think I answered that; someone asked that a minute ago. We believe the Department of Justice is the appropriate agency to look into this matter.
QUESTION: -- just flatly reject the idea --
McCLELLAN: I think the Department of Justice is the appropriate agency.
QUESTION: Ambassador Wilson has said that he has information that Karl Rove condoned this leaking, and I've seen your comment that that's absolutely false --
McCLELLAN: It is ridiculous. It's ridiculous.
QUESTION: What do you --
McCLELLAN: And keep in mind, I imagine that only a limited number of people would even have access to classified information of this nature.
QUESTION: So he doesn't have information?
QUESTION: Can I follow up?
McCLELLAN: Yes, go ahead. And, Helen, you may always follow up. Go ahead.
QUESTION: What, then, do you think the -- given that you say Rove condoning this is ridiculous, what do you think Ambassador Wilson's motivation is for leveling such a scurrilous charge?
McCLELLAN: I can't speculate about why he would say such a thing. I mean, I saw some comments this morning, where he said he had no knowledge to that effect. But I can't speculate why he would say that.
QUESTION: Did Rove say, "ridiculous"?
McCLELLAN: I did, for him.
QUESTION: Did you speak with him about it?
McCLELLAN: Yes, I've spoken to him.
QUESTION: But he told you, "ridiculous"?
McCLELLAN: No, I said -- I told some of your colleagues that it was ridiculous. And, remember, I said this back -- what, July and September this issue came up, and said essentially what I've said now.
QUESTION: Can you characterize your conversation with him about this?
McCLELLAN: I talk to him all the time, so --
QUESTION: About this?
McCLELLAN: No, about a lot of issues.
QUESTION: But can you characterize your conversation about this subject with him?
McCLELLAN: I don't think there's anything to characterize. I mean, I think that what I said speaks clearly, that the accusations just simply are not true.
QUESTION: Scott, the President came into office promising public integrity would be restored to this office and accountability. Isn't that true, he expects that from all members of his staff?
McCLELLAN: Yes, the President expects everyone in his administration to adhere to the highest standards of conduct.
QUESTION: All right. If that's the case, then why does he even need an independent investigation? Why doesn't he simply call those who are responsible to come forward --
McCLELLAN: Do you have something to bring to our attention? I mean, let me make clear, if anyone has information about this leak of classified information, they need to report it to the Department of Justice -- anyone.
QUESTION: Why doesn't he simply ask those -- if, indeed, this is true -- to come forward and --
McCLELLAN: Ask who?
QUESTION: The President of the United States --
McCLELLAN: Ask who?
QUESTION: The limited number of people --
QUESTION: -- he can direct, he can send a memo out --
McCLELLAN: That's the Department of Justice, I just said, is the appropriate agency.
QUESTION: Why doesn't he ask them to come forward and hand in their resignations?
McCLELLAN: But who? I said that it's a serious matter, and anyone should be pursued to the fullest extent of the law.
QUESTION: -- why doesn't he use everything in his power to smoke them out?
McCLELLAN: The Department of Justice is looking into this. I've made it very clear the President believes the leaking of classified information of this nature is a very serious matter, and it should be pursued to the fullest.
QUESTION: By them. And he has no -- his hands are tied? He can't simply ask his staff --
McCLELLAN: Well, do you have any information to bring to our attention, Paula? Do you have any information to bring to our attention? If you have any information, that should be reported to the Department of Justice, and they need to pursue this to the fullest.
QUESTION: And he can't do anything on his own?
McCLELLAN: I think I've made it very clear what I -- we don't have any information beyond what we've seen in media reports that has come to our attention to suggest White House involvement. If I chased every anonymous source in the media, I'd spend all my time doing that.
QUESTION: Can you explain why the President wouldn't want to have an independent counsel? Because if you -- if you say --
McCLELLAN: I think I explained that we believe the Department of Justice is the appropriate agency to look into this.
QUESTION: So the point that I don't understand is --
McCLELLAN: The Justice Department is charged with looking into matters of this nature.
QUESTION: I appreciate this, but --
McCLELLAN: I think the CIA has spoken to that, that if they receive information, then they give it to the Department of Justice to look into. That's the --
QUESTION: But surely the President would want the White House to be cleared by an independent judge?
McCLELLAN: Well, you're making assumptions of certain things. Like I said there's --
QUESTION: -- not assumptions, the allegations --
McCLELLAN: -- nothing that's been brought to our attention or come to our attention to suggest White House involvement beyond what I've seen in the media reports.
QUESTION: Has the President either asked Karl Rove to assure him that he had nothing to do with this; or did Karl Rove go to the President to assure him that he --
McCLELLAN: I don't think he needs that. I think I've -- and I've spoken clearly to this publicly that -- but it's -- yes, I've just said it's -- there's no truth to it.
QUESTION: But I mean --
McCLELLAN: So I think it doesn't --
QUESTION: But is the President getting his information from you? Or did the President and Karl Rove talk, and were there assurances given that Rove was not involved?
McCLELLAN: I've already provided those assurances to you publicly.
QUESTION: Yes, but I'm just wondering if there was a conversation between Karl Rove and the President, or if he just talked to you, and you're here at this --
McCLELLAN: He wasn't involved. The President knows he wasn't involved.
QUESTION: How does he know that?
QUESTION: How does he know that?
McCLELLAN: The President knows.
QUESTION: What, is he clairvoyant? How does he know?
QUESTION: You spoke specifically -- you spoke to Rove specifically about this matter, correct?
McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
QUESTION: You spoke to Rove specifically about this matter? You asked him whether or not he was the leaker, or --
McCLELLAN: I don't know what the relevance of getting into every private conversation, John -- is, John. I've made it very clear that it's simply not true.
QUESTION: Based on what?
QUESTION: Based on what?
QUESTION: What are you basing -- what are you --
McCLELLAN: Someone asked me if I had spoken with him, and I said, yes.
QUESTION: And you spoke with him about this issue?
QUESTION: Did you ask him, directly?
McCLELLAN: I have spoken with him, yes.
QUESTION: But the President hasn't spoken with him directly about this issue? You have and the President hasn't?
McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Keith.
QUESTION: Well, that was the question.
McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
QUESTION: You spoke directly with Rove about this?
McCLELLAN: I have spoken -- I speak to him all the time, on a lot of things.
QUESTION: He categorically denied to you --
McCLELLAN: I just told you, it's simply not true.
QUESTION: Yes, but you refuse to say whether or not it was Rove who told you it's untrue.
McCLELLAN: No, no, I spoke to Rove. I spoke to him about -- no, I spoke to him about these accusations, I've spoken to him.
QUESTION: And Rove told you that they were not true --
McCLELLAN: That's why I would be telling --
QUESTION: -- or is it just you --
McCLELLAN: That's why I would be telling you what I did.
QUESTION: -- or is it just you who is telling us?
McCLELLAN: No, I have spoken to him and been assured. And that's why I reported to you and reported to the media that it is simply not true. I like to check my sources, just like you do.
QUESTION: Scott, when you say "limited number of people," could you give us a ballpark? A dozen, a hundred? How many people have access to --
McCLELLAN: I don't know. Maybe you should direct those questions to the CIA or the Department of Justice. But I think common sense kind of tells you that if there's a covert CIA agent, then a limited number of people should have access to that information.
QUESTION: Was it a view within the White House that, in fact, Wilson was a non-objective source on this investigation? Was this something you all had discussed, that he might be compromised because of this?
McCLELLAN: Because of?
QUESTION: Because of his wife's position?
McCLELLAN: That he might be?
QUESTION: Did you all think that Wilson was a compromised source to investigate? Is that something you discussed?
McCLELLAN: We've seen the media reports. We've seen the media reports, we addressed that issue in the context of when it came up. And so, I mean, I'll leave it at that.
QUESTION: Do you know of any people on her staff or in the liaisons abroad that might have been injured by any of the revelations? I mean the identification of the --
McCLELLAN: No, I think you need to direct questions about her position or her status to the CIA. I don't --
QUESTION: But do you know of any damage that was done --
McCLELLAN: I've seen media reports where the CIA hasn't confirmed or denied whether or not she was a covert agent.
QUESTION: Scott, just to confirm, the President would rather the Department of Justice launch an investigation of this White House or the broader administration, rather that than him, you know, sort of broadly saying, anybody who works for me who was involved in this, you better 'fess up now, because we don't want to go down the road with the FBI. He'd rather the FBI do it, rather than him give the directive, himself?
McCLELLAN: I think I've made it very clear publicly that if anyone has information relating to this they need to report it to the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice is the one charged with looking into matters of this nature. It's a serious matter, and it should be looked into. And the Department of Justice should do that. Now you're jumping ahead with a lot of speculation about where it may be or what they may do. You need to direct those questions to the Department of Justice.
QUESTION: But is the White House not conducting any sort of internal investigation?
McCLELLAN: No, the Department of Justice is the agency charged with looking into this.
QUESTION: We've seen in the past when there's an investigation like this in Washington that oftentimes parties involved, even if they're innocent, will go and hire outside counsel. Do you know whether anyone within the White House --
McCLELLAN: I'm not aware of anything.
QUESTION: -- has hired outside counsel, including Mr. Rove?
QUESTION: No one has, or you --
McCLELLAN: I'm not aware of anybody.
QUESTION: Has anyone called Bob Novak?
QUESTION: Did Director Tenet inform the President before you --
McCLELLAN: Keep in mind, what we know is what we've seen in the media reports.
QUESTION: Sorry. Did Director Tenet inform the President, or the White House, before he informed the Department of Justice that he was requesting this investigation?
McCLELLAN: No, I don't believe so. I mean, I haven't asked, but I don't believe so.
QUESTION: So the first the White House learned of it was --
McCLELLAN: I mean, you're asking me -- that's a wide-open question. I'd have to go back and try to check and I'd be asking a lot of people.
QUESTION: Did the President receive the letter from Porter Goss and Jane Harman; does he welcome it and is he going to act on it?
McCLELLAN: I don't know that he's received the letter. I'd have to check on that one, Wendell. And what was the second part of it? I mean, I think the letter was --
QUESTION: Does he welcome their findings and is he going to act on them?
McCLELLAN: Was the letter addressed to Tenet, I believe? Or -- yes, the letter was addressed to George Tenet.
QUESTION: But, presumably, a copy was sent here. Does he welcome the findings and does he intend to act on them?
McCLELLAN: The findings? I mean, they said that they were still -- if you look at what they said in the letter, they said this was some preliminary assessment. The CIA put out a statement saying they stand -- "the intelligence community stands fully behind its findings and judgments as stated in the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs." Let's also keep in mind --
QUESTION: So the President has no concern, then, about the preliminary findings of the two -- the ranking members of the House Intelligence Committee?
McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
QUESTION: Consequently, the President has no concern --
McCLELLAN: No, the CIA has made it clear that they stand fully behind it and that was -- we look to that National Intelligence Estimate because that's the judgment of the intelligence community.
QUESTION: And so Mr. Bush is not troubled by the findings then, the preliminary findings of the --
McCLELLAN: I think you need to speak to the different leaders, because they had different interpretations of exactly what it said.
QUESTION: Why did they have different interpretations?
McCLELLAN: Chairman Goss had different views on what exactly it said --
QUESTION: But he gave them the same material --
McCLELLAN: And, you know, look at the whole letter. And the CIA said that -- they went on to say that: David Kaye has for two-and-a-half months been attempting to unravel Iraq's WMD programs. His effort, which has only just begun, will be important in that process of continuing self-evaluation.
But the CIA made it very clear in their statement that they stand fully behind the judgments.
QUESTION: Scott, what does the President think should be done to any officials who might have leaked this? Would he -- how would he want them dealt with?
McCLELLAN: They should be pursued to the fullest extent by the Department of Justice. That's what he believes.
QUESTION: Would he want them working on his staff?
McCLELLAN: I think I answered that question earlier, I said, no. The President expects his administration, everyone in his administration to adhere to the higher standards of conduct. And that would not be.
QUESTION: Scott, the allegation is being made that by virtue --
McCLELLAN: But you're speculating about a lot of things at this point.
QUESTION: The allegation is being made that by virtue of her position, Joe Wilson's wife was able to send him on a plum trip to Niger to investigate these allegations of Ira
QUESTION: buying uranium. Does the White House consider an unpaid 10 day trip to Niger a boondoggle?
McCLELLAN: John, I think that this issue was addressed back in July when Mr. Wilson was speaking about it.
QUESTION: But would you characterize a 10 day trip --
McCLELLAN: No, I would characterize it the way we characterized it back in July.
QUESTION: Scott, would the President cooperate with a congressional investigation into this Wilson matter?
McCLELLAN: I'm sorry, I'm not aware of any --
QUESTION: Does he think that --
McCLELLAN: I'm not -- I think I've said that he believes the Department of Justice is the appropriate agency to look into it. They are the ones charged with it.
Grand Theft Auto 3 vs Vice City
Been meaning to do this for a while, but I finally wrote up my comparative lists of GTA3 and GTAVC. Why? Because I enjoyed GTA3 more, and it took me a long time to figure out why.
These are lists of the "pros". Cons are implied by their existence on one list and absence from the other.
What was great about GTA3
* Liberty City was more like cities that I've lived in.
* 3 islands were a strength of the game, and made replaying more rewarding.
* Nostalgia - GTA3 came first, and I'm sure there's a certain amount of positive short-term nostalgia when I play now.
* Original music.
* More TLC in the environment, more individual attention to buildings and neighborhoods, less copy-and-paste.
* Speechless protagonist.
* The 80s sucked. (Okay, not a "pro", but it was a serious drag to my appreciation of VC.)
What was great about GTAVC
* Many small feature additions - cycles, shooting out tires, specular highlights, etc.
* Property ownership and property-based missions.
* More stats were tracked.
When all's said and done, I think it's the atmosphere and variety in Liberty City that keeps me coming back. Something about the place feels more real. I wish I could pin this abstraction down more precisely.
From Voice of America, in Bush's own words:
"This dictator will not be allowed to intimidate and blackmail the civilized world, or to supply his terrible weapons to terrorist groups, who would not hesitate to use them against us," Mr. Bush said. "The safety of the American people depends on ending this threat."
Okay. Let me take this one bit at a time.
"This dictator will not be allowed to intimidate and blackmail the civilized world..."
Saddam isn't even trying to intimidate or blackmail anyone beyond his own citizens. Hell, he can't even intimidate the Kurds in Northern Iraq or the Sunnis in Southern Iraq because U.S. and British war planes have been patrolling those areas for the last 12 years. (Although I'll concede the point that Saddam Hussein is a dictator.)
"...or to supply his terrible weapons to terrorist groups, who would not hesitate to use them against us..."
There's no evidence he'd ever do this. Hussein's regime is not terrorist-friendly, because he considers them unstable and untrustworthy. The only intelligence the Bush administration has been able to conjure is that there's an Ansar Al-Islam camp in Northern Iraq; however, they consistently omit the fact that this group is hostile to Saddam Hussein.
"The safety of the American people depends on ending this threat."
No it doesn't. Saddam Hussein and his government, again, aren't a threat to anyone but the citizens of central Iraq. The safety of the American people depends on continued tracking of al-Qaida, not invading Iraq.
I feel like I'm living in bizarro world. I can't believe they've pulled this off. 53% of Americans polled in August 2002 believe Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks on the U.S., in spite of the fact that there has never been any evidence to suggest a connection. Hell, if there were a connection, the Bush administration would have been using it as a non-stop mantra to support their argument for war.
It's unfathomable. It really is. We've gone mad. I have to believe that America, as a collective unconscious, was so hurt by the events of 9/11/2001 that we feel we need to unleash an additional act of aggression on the Middle East. That lingering pain, plus the realization that we're the only remaining superpower, has given rise to a bitter, spiteful hubris. I hear it every day on talk radio. It's gotten to the point where we don't really care whether Saddam Hussein has anything to do with terrorism.
In rare moments of honesty and insight, you'll occasionally hear war supporters break down: "So what if it's just about oil? So what if it's about expanding American influence in the Middle East? Why shouldn't we have their oil? We're in the midst of a cultural war here! It's us or them! They wouldn't hesitate to take our resources if they had the power!" These are the real reasons we're doing this. These are the arguments the Bush administration has been using internally, but that they're only now starting to speak in public.
Ironically, it's in these moments that I come closest to questioning my own opposition to war with Iraq. It's the same sort of self-doubt that comes over me when I read Ayn Rand or Rand-inspired work. Yes. That's possible. It's possible that I, and the groups that encompass me, have a natural responsibility to actively defend, protect, and, indeed, promote our interests at all times.
Then I think about what that world would be like, where selfishness is the only law; where fairness and compassion are signs of weakness; where anything you want is yours if you're strong enough to take it. That's not a world I'd like to live in.
And yet, here we are, about to invade and occupy Iraq just because we're strong enough to do so. I don't know what more to say.
Song #2 found... I think
I think I found the second of my Three Mystery Songs. "One and One" by Trish Thuy Trang. Here are the complicating factors:
1. The artist is Vietnamese, and her work doesn't appear to be available on Amazon.
2. The one sample I was able to find doesn't *sound* like the version I'm looking for, although the lyrics still suggest I've got the right song... so I think there might be multiple versions (or "remixes", as the kids say.)
We shall see.
Trish Thuy Trang's version was a cover. The song was written by Robert Miles. So... the plot thicks.
Looks like Robert Miles, and the album is "Dreamland". Looks like. Haven't verified yet...
State of the Internet, worm's-eye view
In the mid-90s, I worked at a store that piped in Muzak. While I worked there, there were 3 songs, 3 specific, beautiful songs, that I only ever heard there on the Muzak station. I did everything I could think of to find out what these songs were, to no avail. This included trying to get the Muzak playlist, asking random people in the store if they knew anything about the song while it was playing, and, of course, searching on the Internet.
Now... in 1996, of course, searching the Internet was a very different experience than it is now (2003). There was no Google, and if I recall correctly, Altavista had *just* appeared, and didn't rock yet. One of the songs was clearly my priority, and luckily, I'd managed to actually catch a few words of it. Knew. True. Can not deny. Try. These 6 words, I knew, would eventually be all the clues I needed to find the most prized of these mystery songs. So I search the Internet. "Knew true can not deny try lyrics". Nothing. Or, rather, nothing with those words in the right sequence.
So I committed the melodies of these 3 songs to memory. I've sung each one, what I can remember, probably once a month for the last 7 years, just to make sure that I never, ever forget.
Here's the trick -- here's the beauty and faith -- I knew that eventually, the technology and the Internet would have advanced enough for me to use these minimal bits of information to find my songs. I searched about twice a year, just to see if anything new might turn up.
Tonight I celebrate. "Knew true can not deny try lyrics". Google returns... lots, but not what I'm looking for. But it also quietly suggests that I might have better luck if I merge "can not" into the colloquial "cannot". Sure, Mr. Google. Let's try that. And there it was.
"Give Me A Little More Time"
The first step of my personal technological gauge had been reached. This means two important things:
1. There's now enough information on the Internet for me to have found this. There are enough sites serving up lyrics, and those sites are comprehensive enough, for this information to exist.
2. The search tools are good enough... "smart" enough, if you will... to take the crumbs of information I give it, apply them to its vast database, and successfully return results. That the phrase "can not" would prove the final puzzle piece is a testament to both Google's excellence and to the intense fragility of semantics.
So I'm celebrating, and at the same time, looking ahead. That was a huge step, but it was just one step. What's next?
Once I know the name of the artist and the song, I should be able to pay money and download it. Immediately. Boom. 4.99 credits. This isn't ready yet. The record industry is dragging its feet and trying to hold onto an outdated business model. In fact, not only is this not ready yet, I even had trouble with this idea's little brother: Amazon.com lists this CD as available, but "special order", and warns that manufacturers sometimes stop producing product without warning.
"Manufacturers"? Man that shit is old-school. Any art that can be decomposed into information should be available. Every piece of art that's ever been made. Every novel written, song recorded, painting painted, photo taken, etcetera. That's a huge effort! Take digital photos of every painting? OCR-scan in every book? That's right, it's a huge effort. That's why I'm happy to pay for it.
Luckily, where the system fails, the people pick up the slack. I search on Ebay for "Gabrielle give me time" and what do you know? CD single, right there. $2.00 starting bid, $4.00 to "Buy It Now". You'd better believe I Bought It Now.
Okay, so that'll be a tremendous step -- the Net as complete repository of man's creative endeavors. The other part is the perfect search. Sure, I was able to find my first song because I knew those precious 6 words, but what of the other two songs? All I have of them are the melodies. You can't search very effectively on "daaaa-da da da da da da da...".
Some day you'll be able to hum a melody into a microphone and have the melody database tell you the name of the song. Likewise, some day you'll be able to write a description of a painting... "4 naked women pulling a satyr into a pond"... and the painting database will give you a list of likely candidates.
There are already embryonic examples of both of these -- there's a service that allows you to play a song into a cell phone and get the name of the song. Google Image Search at least *tries* to give you pictures based on a description. I'm certain it will happen, assuming we (as a species) stick around long enough.
I for one can't wait.
Trent Lott and accountability
This seems really, really silly to me. I'm a pretty left-leaning guy, as you know if you ever read this little page. However, the controversy surrounding Trent Lott's comments at Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party has gotten way out of hand.
First of all, I don't think Lott was actually saying, "I wish the country had remained segregated." I think he was trying to make an old man feel good about his long career in politics and his failed run for the presidency. However. Even if Lott were saying that, so be it! If that's how he feels, that's how he feels.
To me, it's about how accountability functions. The way I see it, accountability works like the free market: You do or say a thing, and people judge you accordingly. Just that simple. If people are offended, they make their judgement and that's that. If you're a politician, you may lose the next time you're up for re-election. If you're an appointed judge, the public will hold your elected appointer accountable in their next election.
This game of public outcry, this game of demands for apology followed by the refusal to accept this apology, well, that's just a load of crap. This is just the sort of immature hyper-sensitivity that I find intolerable.
Even if Lott does wish the United States were more segregated, how is that actually going to harm us? He'd never be able to pass legislation toward that goal. Can you imagine the public response? People would be in the streets demanding his head!
I'm far more concerned about this administration's eagerness to expend American and Iraqi lives in an unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation.
e. e. cummings
In my more romantic days, I actively read and studied the work of e. e. cummings. Even today, I still enjoy the occasional dip into his poetry. Here is one of my favorites, which also happens to be one of his more conventional and accessible pieces:
anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did.
Women and men (both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain
children guessed (but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more
when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her
someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then) they
said their nevers they slept their dream
stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)
one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was
all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.
Women and men (both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain
Intel prepares to fuck you
These [new technologies] include our old favorite CPRM - incorporated into DVD-Audio players from Panasonic (DMR-E20) and Pioneer (DVR-3000) - along with DTCP (Digital Transmission Content Protection, which encrypts air to ground, or cable transmissions over FireWire) and HDCP (High Bandwith Digital Content Protection), which encrypts the display transmissions from your computer to your monitor.
Encrypts transmissions from your computer to your monitor?!?
Intel is involved, we learn, to ensure an "expanded customary use of content by consumers".
But of course, this isn't the case at all. The customary use of content we know under existing fair use laws includes recording TV shows on video for subsequent consumption, playing music we've bought back to our friends on their hardware - and Ripley's endeavors are designed to thwart such "customary use".
Do you like to tape TV shows? Watch them later? More than once?
Do you like to rip your cds to MP3s so you can archive them efficiently and build your own playlists?
Do you like to read books at your own pace? Do you ever go back and re-read a book?
We're watching those fair-use rights dwindle away. In The Future, if things continue like this, all media will be rental. It will be limited per-use. Or it will time out and erase itself after 48 hours. Or it will automatically charge your credit card every time you watch/listen/read. Grim stuff.
Look, I'm a content creator. I'm not some \/\/4R3Z kid who's out to steal music and movies. I make video and computer games for a living; my industry has been plagued by piracy for its entire 20-year lifetime. I'm all for protecting copyrighted material. HOWEVER. I also believe in fair use rights. I believe that when you buy a thing, you should OWN that thing and be able to use it as you see fit.
I'm back onto Linux for most (>51%) of my home-computing tasks. It took about a week of experimenting with distros, hardware configs, etc. Linux gets a little bit easier to install every six months or so. It's certainly come a long way from my first Red Hat installation in 1996.
I settled on Mandrake 8.2. I had to buy a more common sound card, but otherwise everything worked perfectly. I'm hoping that this is the installation that I can continue using for a while.
Some things that have made a big difference this time:
*ReiserFS: Journaling file system. Even if the system crashes, you don't get any corrupted data on your hard drive. Superb!
*DirecTV DSL. DSL couldn't be any easier to configure under Linux. Much easier than installing for Windows.
Well, I start my new job at DoubleFine tomorrow. Over the last 1.5 months, I've watched a lot of CNN. A little Fox, a little MSNBC, but mostly CNN. So, for the sheer hell of it, I'm going to offer my assessment of CNN's daily line-up:
General: I like CNN. I think they're at their worst when there's breaking news and they haven't had a chance to prepare. Inversely, they're at their best when they've had a chance to consider and reflect on the issue at hand.
Morning (on the West coast): Kyra Phillips is a decent anchor. Occasionally, when she has to think on her feet, she stumbles and asks a silly question or two. The "Live From" segment is just Kyra standing up instead of sitting at a desk.
Talkback Live: Utterly useless, no matter who's hosting it. The signal to noise ratio prevents any insights from getting through.
(Afternoon: The afternoon is basically a series of anchors reporting on the day's events and offering their take on them.)
Inside Politics: Judy Woodruff is solid. Not much more to say.
Wolf Blitzer Reports: Wolf Blitzer leaves me ambivalent. He's not bad, but I don't get much from it.
Moneyline: Lou Dobbs is fantastic. He's one of the best things about CNN. His world-view is probably most in line with where I'm at at this point in my life -- more conservative than I used to be, but still left of center. Yes, he's pro-business and left of center! *gasp*
Crossfire: The "New Crossfire" alternates its hosts -- (James Carville or Paul Begala) vs. (Robert Novak or Tucker Carlson). Usually a lot of fun. The only host combo that doesn't work is Carville vs. Carlson... the chemistry isn't there, and the tone is a little too caustic.
Connie Chung Tonight: This is only about a month old, and good god it's awful. Connie Chung is awkward, spacey, and usually has a paper-thin grasp of whatever she's talking about. She accused that "Under God Athiest" guy of being unpatriotic. Even the folks over on Fox knew better than that.
Larry King: I just don't watch it.
NewsNight: I like Aaron Brown, for many of the same reasons that I like Lou Dobbs.
People of note:
Financial: The financial crew is very strong. Rhonda Schaffler, Christine Romans, and Joya Dass report from the floor of the NYSE, and they're all good. Romans especially -- I can't get enough of Christine Romans!
Politics: Bill Schneider is inconsistent. Jeff Greenfield is awesome, and particularly impressed me in that month following the 2000 presidential election.
Some thoughts on the other networks: Fox ranges from pretty good (general day-to-day news coverage) to unbearable (Bill O'Reilly). MSNBC is usually good for news, but I don't care for their prime-time stuff. Ashleigh Banfield is alright, though.
I can't stop playing Grand Theft Auto 3. Really, I'm not even playing it anymore, in the narrative sense -- I finished the main plotline long ago. However, I keep going back to Liberty City.
All entertainment can potentially serve as escapism in varying degrees. GTA3, for me, manages to accomplish this with remarkable effectiveness. And... the thing is... it's so simple, it makes me want to cry.
It's a place. The whole city is there. People wander the streets, talk to each other, and get into fights. The weather changes. The city is full of unique, recognizable locations. You know how, in real cities, each intersection along Street X all have a similar "look and feel", and yet each intersection also has its own distinguishable characteristics? DMA managed to mimic this in Liberty City... I'll be damned if I know how.
I like Liberty City. I like going there, where I'm someone else, free of responsibilities, free of worldly ties. It's not the (potential) brutality of the game -- it's not like I'm in there to shoot people or run them over. I usually just drive around. If I see something interesting, I'll stop, get out, and start exploring on foot. And that's how well-constructed their world is -- I keep finding new and interesting details. It boggles my mind.
I understand now, Owen. I understand why your game can't be 2d. The word "immersive" has been dragged through enough garbage that I don't even consider it anymore, but you're right. When it's a 3d world, when you can look around in every direction, when you can see miles into the distance... it really is closer to "real" in a tangible, visceral sense.
The game I want to play (and ONE of the games I want to make) is this -- a city simulator. Like GTA3, but with fully detailed interiors for every building. I want a city full of characters, each with their own life, lovingly hand-created by a writer. The lives of the city's inhabitants are carefully woven together.
Which brings me to this: Why demand all of this from a game, when it already exists in life? I don't think I have an answer to this question yet. There's a difference, I'm certain, but I can't quite articulate it. It's not really about being someone different, or about living outside the context of real-world rules. I think it has something to do with authorship. I think I want to trust that there's meaning at the core of it all... and I don't have that sort of confidence in reality. If I trust the creator of an artwork, I know that I'm guaranteed to get an idea, a worldview, a well-formed question, or a hypothesis for my investment in said artwork.
Life? I don't trust life to deliver much more than a sequence of events and a set of unanswerable questions.
I can see a scenario looming on the horizon, in which the "game industry" is trying hard to break free of its legacy moniker. Games will eventually evolve to the point where they're more aptly described as "interactive fiction", but that terminology is just as clumsy and clunky as "graphic novel", and I suspect popular adoption will be just as lacking. (Yes, I know the term "interactive fiction" has been unofficially claimed by the text-adventure community, but I refuse to acknowledge their monopoly on it. Needless to say, I'm not talking about text adventures.)
Looking at the big picture, I'm really happy that The Sims came along. It recently overtook Myst as the best-selling computer game ever. We could have a long discussion about why it's been so successful, but I'll tell you this: It's not because it targeted males age 13-25, because it didn't. Adults play The Sims. Women play The Sims. And the upcoming Sims Online is going to be just as huge.
Some "hardcore gamers" have equated The Sims with Deer Hunter, a successful low-budget hunting game from a couple back, because it managed to reach a "casual gamer" market. They're completely different. The Sims is a good, solid game (toy?), based on years of diligent (and risky) R&D. I say "risky" because nobody had really done anything like this before, and if they had, it didn't sell well. However, Will Wright was able to get the whole thing funded. That's where it helps to be Will Wright :)
I look forward to a day when new storytellers are chosing the medium of "interactive fiction" over, say, film or prose.
I look forward to "games" in which the main mechanic involves talking with people and interacting with things, rather than killing people and smashing things.
I don't expect these things to happen soon, but I certainly hope to see them in my lifetime.
I've owned the domain publicfiction.org for 2 years now. I originally registered it because of a project I wanted to undertake, which involved a fake website for a fake company, and a mystery story told through this medium. Something like EA's now-defunct Majestic, but more passive and static. (Basically, the elements of the story were all there, but required sleuthing to find and put together.) It would never be clear that this company was fake or that its various dramas were fabricated. Publicfiction.org wasn't to be the website of this fictional company, but rather a resource for tracking the project, as well as other like-minded works on and off the web.
Needless to say, that project never really got off the ground. I'm not saying it will never happen, but it's difficult to find the time. This sort of thing is the logical evolution of my work in grad school, and still fascinates me. For this reason, I'm moving ahead with my plans for publicfiction.org. Here's what I hope to achieve:
*Document public fiction projects
*Track groups who create public fiction works
*Host groups who don't have an internet presence
*Foster on-topic discussion
Now's the part where someone says, "Public fiction? What kind of pretentious crap is this?"
I haven't found a better term for it. Hoaxes. Lies. Storytelling. Theater. Performance art. Satire. Simulation. These words surround it, and help to define its shape, but don't really finish the job.
It would be foolish, so early on, to expect publicfiction.org to become a "community", but it will at least be a repository for links and an ongoing tracker for public fiction projects.
The search for the perfect mind-mapper
I'm engaged in an ongoing search for the perfect mind-mapping utility. I've tried lots of them, and the best so far is Personal Brain. I used it for the first 6 months of Shifters' production, and I'm not sure I could have done what I needed to do without it.
It's not perfect, though. It's a closed format, and they won't license the SDK out to individuals (I tried). There's no good way to export your work in a format that others can view (txt, html, etc.) I consider these things to be application faults.
There's something else that's missing, though, that isn't really a "fault" -- it's more a problem that mind-mappers just haven't gotten there yet.
What I really need is something like a Personal Brain-like GUI front-end to a real database. This perfect mind-mapper would have the following qualities:
1. An interface like Personal Brain. That's all good.
2. Something like a "reference" system. PB doesn't have this. Here's what I mean:
Set Top:Attributes:Food:(Texture, Color, Weight, Flavor)
...so that's a set that lets me keep track of all my food attributes.
Then we have:
...what I want to do here is insert the first set beneath "Apple" in such a way that the first set's parent doesn't change, but I've essentially referenced it within the "Apple" set.
Set Top:Fridge:Contents:Apple:[reference]:(Texture, Color, Weight, Flavor)
...and I can then say:
...so the element "Smooth" basically becomes a piece of data belonging to the "Texture" (reference) element of "Apple", but not of the original "Top:Attributes:Food:Texture" element.
The idea is to avoid ever having reduntant information. Sometimes I want to think of "Texture" as a member of a set of food attributes; sometimes I want to think of "Texture" as an attribute of a specific kind of food, and I want to assign child elements to it only in the latter context.
Phew. Yes, all that was #2.
3. There will be times when I want arbitrary sets. This is where it behaves more like a database. If I do a search on "Texture", I want a list of all instances of that element. I can then perform operations on that entire set.
If there are child elements shared by all instances of "Texture" -- for instance, "Texture:Shininess" -- I want to be able to change the name of the "Shininess" element. I want to be able to add an element to all instances of "Shininess". Or find all instances of "Texture" that contain the element "Bumpiness" and add the element "Super-Bumpy", because everything that I've already given the "Bumpiness" attribute is super-bumpy.
Also, if I anticipate working with this arbitrary set later, I can bookmark the set. This is mainly to save the time of searching and gathering elements each time I need them.
4. A simple API for hyperlinks to link from a mind map element to an element of an HTML page, and vice-versa. Personal Brain has this for entire documents, but not for arbitrary elements within documents.
Here's the final goal: Everything is a potential parent, child, and member of an arbitrary set. Another, possibly less clear way of saying it is that every element is both data and a container for data.
I think we have a problem with the word "art". I don't know if it's like this elsewhere in the world, but I've definitely observed it here in the U.S.
The word "art" seems to carry too much weight for us. It seems stained by pretension. We load it up with pre-judgements and assumptions about value, quality, audience, and function. Whether our personal reactions to the word are positive or negative, we will still generally stack more meaning onto the word than it can be reasonably expected to support.
Play it out.
You should go see X. It's art.
Oh, it is, is it? Says you. Don't tell me what is or isn't art. Now Y, that's art.
A isn't art, it's shmaltz. B isn't art, my 4-year-old could have done that. C isn't art, it's entertainment. D isn't art, it's illustration.
This becomes a bizarre sort of conceptual landmine when discussing creative endeavors, mainly because the word can mean such dramatically different things to different people. Nothing frustrates me more than when someone asks a question like, "Can comics be art?", and "Are video games art?"
It's not a useful question. We're not likely to resolve anything that way. "Art" is not some exclusive club, whose membership is up for debate at every turn; it's the result of a creative endeavor.
If there's any blurry line about what qualifies as art, it's in disciplines that involve both creativity and utility. In such cases, it's not that a discipline is or isn't art, but that it's both art and something else. Art and science. Or art and craft. Architecture is a good example of this. Buckminster Fuller once said, "When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only of how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong."
We're much better off disassociating the word "art" from any implicit value judgements. Then we can proceed to talk about whether something is interesting art, or innovative art, or gutsy art, etc. And those are worthwhile questions.