Internet Killed the Newspaper Writer

24 11 2008

If the Bristol Press cannot find a buyer for their newspaper by January 1st then the paper will shut down. This leads me to my topic of local newspapers being shutdown by online newspapers which are read more widely now then ever. The focus on the digital age has lead to the downfall of both paper and ink. In this digital age people want their news streaming to them, and all customized as they see fit.

The online newspaper is in fact how I receive my news. I have two tabs which display two different forms of online news coverage, New York Times and CNN websites offer a variety of customizable news coverages ranging from from broad to specific beats. In my article Forms of the News, I already went over the significant differences so I won’t elaborate on them right now. But really why the change? Why the need for this streaming news? Maybe because it’s simple, it’s convenient, but really try explaining that to my grandfather.

It’s the simple things. It’s the local coverage of my small town. It’s the news on local skate parks fighting with the bikers. The local fundraisers and food-drives,the local highschool football coverage every Friday night. The texture, the smudges on your fingertips, the crisp smell of fine print just dripping from the pages. These are things which will be lost to my children’s children perhaps forever.

My grandfather worked at the Press. He said the parking lot would be filled with people. The place was  hive literaly bustling with writers and editors. But now there is at least half a dozen reporters. Even the people there now must understand that the thirst for local news is quenched, by a faster service provided by online news publications.

In the future we will all be are own journalists. We will cover the local stories and report on our local news blogs. Everyone can comment with first person  accounts of what they saw and be critiqued by their peers. Each comment can be edited,modified, and viewed by everyone who has logged in. News will be streaming at us spoon-fed. It will be not be rich, it will be sweet like nectar but it will be bittersweet. We will have lost the appeal of a physical presence of the paper. The nostalgia will be lost, but it will be a significant time before the presence of papers is wiped from our society. Children will access news via their console stations. Play a little Mario and check your stocks. The digital age of the future is upon us, repent the digital age is nigh.



21 11 2008

The program Second Life leads much to be desired in terms of contextualising a plausible virtual existence. Second life is an online community which plays out like a massive multiplayer experience, but actually leads itself into the realm of just plain bizarre at times. But I guess any large massive multiplayer realm which has little constraints and policing by it’s designers is at such risks. Risks you ask, what risks can be provided for in an unmonitored online realm?Let me just give you a quick rundown of my first time experience, which in fact leaves out the much more desirable aspects of this foundation of e-commerce.

The setup process was simple enough, choose a name or what-not and a generated last name will be produced. OK, Marten Wirefly time to enter your virtual existence which is second-life.First off I’m not even going to get into what sexuality Marten is, I believed I picked the Male grunge rocker look, but in fact I believe im Lola that feisty transvestite from that Kinks song by the same name.

So I entered the boring island of beginners walking and flying around getting used to the stupid orientation to this vast world. A handful of others have also been walking around aimlessly using there pointless gestures. “Hey come here” and such but the mechanics are fairly simple. So I struck up a conversation in this beginners hall . I found myself asking the others what their perceived first reactions of this game were. Many were from other countries Africa, or Venezuela so at least the international appeal was quite astounding, but more on that appeal later. They were funny beginnerswith no preconceived notions on where to go. I suggested to them the Sanbox, relatively simple zones with limitless building capabilities. But then one female offered to dance with me and I flew away. Again I have this Lola complex where your not entirely sure if you’re even dancing with a female on the other end. I could be dancing with a 45 year old Gacey-like clown over in Wisconsin. No thankyou, even a virtual avatar has its standards.

So where did I go first you ask? Well I was curious. What is the true epitome of demise and pure malice, perhaps a virtual replica of Hell but in a strip club fashion. “Sins of the flesh” was the first thought that came to my mind. A whole club I believe called the 9thCircle with loud techno trance music streaming through my speakers. With daemon succubus strippers grinding virtual poles. The loathing was overwhelming, this was in-fact virtual hell on virtual scale in second life.Abandon all faith ye in this virtual world. It’s exactly what I searched for, so I was aware of the repercussions. But the whole time this club would send me supposed fliers of full time sex at 9:00. But there is always a price, but what really perplexed me was that some sad-sadistic sap would pay real cash ($) to engage in virtual sex with succubus’s who could in fact steal his/her very soul through this sexual act. But the worst part was that those fiends gained my e-mail account and e-mail about these sex parties for furries. Damn I feel like I actually left with a Second Life HIV.

But there is a real money exchange called lyndons and lyndons make the Second Life world go round. Everywhere you turn there are virtual shops with COUNTLESS pointless items which give a certain “flair” to your virtual avatar. Excuse me for the biased remarks but I must remember that these pointless items play into a large million dollar virtual commerce which these items rack in. Some people actually sit in there underwear all day designing shops or plaza’ for virtual shopping and will make there living off of that. What an interesting and perplexing concept.

I was in an acid-infused fantasy lalandscape with spiraling colors and whirling sunflowers when I ran into the third Reich vampires. When can someone really write a sentence like that in there life? But there I was, and this German vampire female/she-male was typing in German but there was an implemented translator carefully translating her requests to suck on my neck. She asked Marten why don’t you smoke this giant virtual bong, all the while this German third Reich fellow would scream the psychobabble of one Adolph Hitler all while saluting Nazism pouring out of my speakers. This is the 9th circle right here on the virtual plane. People are just plain strange and next time I won’t leave a PG rated area for fear of what I mentioned above.

The companies capitalize on the sheer marketability. The designers have a whole sandbox to design with concepts both revolutionary and surreal. The geeks have their PVP and their Star Wars ships and stories. To escape is necessary but for me the it’s the books that rip my life away, not the virtual Second Life. The escape is in literature and video-games for me thankyou. But you’ll have to excuse me there’s a virtual midget bondage session at the 9th Circle and I’ve been instructed to bring the whips!

WWRFD?: Moral Choices in the Digital Age

18 11 2008


The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

-Stephen King “The Gunslinger : The Dark Tower”

He is Marten Broadcloak,  Walter O’ Dim, Randall Flagg, but mostly he is the man in black. Stephen King’s key antagonist in several of his novels. He started as a villain trying to reshape the wastelands of Stephen King’s The Stand in his image. He is the underlying traitor to the king of Gilead in King’s Dark Tower series, and is often seen running from the gunslinger.

So why does this man,this fiend,this beast hold any significance? He is the epitome of all that is evil. He is the lasting villain in most of King’s novels re-spawning and taking a new form and name every time. But he also dictates my characters “moral choices” in the post-apocalyptic video game/immersive experience which is Fallout 3.

Very recently video games have implemented a sort of moral compass for their players. Pitting them with moral choices stretching beyond boundaries of good and evil. Really the choices made in certain video games  held great weight over the character. But to be honest I never cared much for moral compasses in video games(It’s always more fun to be bad). Usually you were always forced  to be the hero, be the savior, so I believe most players found out that switching sides would be more enjoyable, less conventional. I’ve never had a problem with these choices until this damn developers  pushed moral choices with outcomes that would stretch along the entire game-sphere.

Now sometimes things could be simple. I remember the original Fable had direct consequences of your alignment to good or evil. But these were exciting choices. Steal from the pauper and shopkeeper, they simply charge too much. Kick that helpless chicken and let’s test how far he flies now. Let’s lead a group of followers to the nearest pagan church to be sacrificed, decisions which pushed all conventional games(well not quite). But then things started to blur.

Welcome to the grey area, which is most recently BioShock, which is a greatly scripted, powerful, and quite riveting game. There are these character’s these “Sisters” who are really just little girls going around collecting the lifeforce  from dead bodies thrown about the underwater labyrinth. There are choices where you can choose to rid their bodies of virus that eats at them, or you can put them out of their misery and collect substantially more Adam to increase your abilities and magical capabilities. But when you find these little girls they beg for their life. The crawl away from you screaming, writhing in their child-like state. These developers have actually tapped into my moral compass to choose what is right or wrong with virtual characters who feel no pain, but she’s begging you for her life don’t you see?This is some serious development into the psyche of the gamer.

So what would Randall Flagg do in the wastelands of Fallout 3? That has been the key question I ask myself every time I come to a moral decision in Fallout 3. The Fallout series was incredible, they actually had an early model of moral decisions which led to certain characters allying with you, or that you could only compete in certain quests with your alignment. Fallout 3 goes above and beyond with the moral choices that resonate in the virtual world. I started off simple enough a pubescent simpleton roaming around the wasteland with my tail between my legs. But in this harsh environment I had to be bad, and be bad fast or my very bones would be but crushed to sand, a sand lost in the wasteland of the post-apocalyptic nightmare.

I killed, I stole, I pick pocketed( and dropped a few grenades in their pants for good measure) , I drank, I did drugs. I was living this raucous truly evil life of Randall Flagg, one of my favorite everlasting villains in King’s books. All culminating with the entire destruction of a village called Megaton(One of my favorite video game moments). See it was I, on top of Tenpenny Tower. I pulled the detonator in the suitcase on the top of the tower. Tenpenny was there laughing and drinking and I saw the mushroom cloud in when the sun began to break over the horizon. I felt the pulse of the wind brushing past my cheeks as an entire town was wiped out. Woman and children and all. Just a heap now, a smoking crag of radiation.

But there was a change, there has to be a redemption even for virtual characters. The news of the destruction of the town spread. All over the radio my escapades were broadcasting to everyone outside in the wasteland. People survived the fallout and actually became these zombie-like ghouls. They really never forgave me for that. I traveled to a town one day and they asked me if I remembered certain people from Megaton. The news had spread and everyone knew now. Even the children being the best moral indicators could see my evil from afar. I had become an outcast in a world of scattered with outcast just trying to survive day-to-day.

I started giving beggars fresh water, I helped and completed missions for positive people. I freed slaves from Super Mutants, I helped those in need even if it costs serious caps. There was a serious turn around and I stopped asking WWRFD, but what the hell will the future bring for moral choices in video games. Do evil people perhaps have an inclination to be a positive character in video games, perhaps they don’t play, they’re just too damn evil. Does the bloodthirsty Ork in the heat of battle go to his computer to play on his account on Second life. Does he abandon his ax and armor for his tie and briefcase. For he sells insurance in his virtual world in a far off fantasy land of Utah. He doest kill or destroy he mows his virtual lawn.

I Watch the Watchmen

14 11 2008


The Hugo award winning graphic novel. One of TIME Magazine’s 100 best novels. The future full length movie. The evolution of Watchmen transcends comic books. What can be said about one of greatest graphic novels of our time? Alan Moore has either woken his dormant schizophrenia comic writing daemon from his acid consumption, and distributing in London or is a complete comic book genius inspiring countless comic writers and a whole slew of comic creators. I believe it’s a bit of both. But the book itself re-awoken the whole idea that the graphic novel  can transcend a literary form, surpassing those idle ‘toons in the backs of newspaper, which can also carry their own morals.

 1987 was the year this bad boy was made. No I’m not talking about me, but was it really 21 years ago I came screaming into this world. It was also the year the second batch of Watchmen comics came out. Man if I could of only started collecting before I began teething those comics are worth a fortune now. But that’s besides the point, I figure that comics haven’t really evolved or broke the barriers that Watchmen broke nearly 20 years ago. And like Obama says it’s time for a change. But it’s not up to the Frank Miller’s or the Alan Moore’s any (pardon the pun) more. It’s up to the future writers and designers of comics, that’s what Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics eludes to towards the end. The future is in the heart and pen of the creators.

To Think Outside the Tinderbox

13 11 2008

I was fortunate enough to see some profoundly great hypertext writers displaying their visual pieces. I was relatively new to the hypertext world but I was intrigued.  Discovering broad forms of new media to display your literary work is quite an exciting endeavor. With intricate webbing of lexia, you can throw out the conventional static texts and page turning; welcome to the non-linear pathways of hypertexual writing.

I was encouraged to start writing in the hypertext format for a project, alas the program Tinderbox only comes in mac flavor. But the idea was one that was cultivating like that creature in the Twilight Zone who would crawl inside your head to plant it’s eggs. It was an idea I had while reading a great book on psychology called Madness And Civilization by Michel Foucault. It was the an idea from that very book by a Renaissance writer Sebastian Brant. He wrote a fictional book, The Narrenshiff or “Ship of Fools” literally the drunken boat. During the first half of the 15th century social misfits ranging from criminals to the “deranged minds” were put on a ship and entrusted to mariners. This ship of drunken madmen crisscrossed seas and canals of Europe until they would reach a port and then be entrusted to the local pilgrims or sent back to sea. Now these prisoners of passage were actually on a spiritual journey also. And the water that carried their boat; purified them.

The innovation that is hypterxtuality allows for a new experience each time you read the same story. A different variable is added, changing the way someone reads a link or lexia. A cycle described as a Joycean cycle can be achieved by creating a loop of the lexia, thus allowing for different lexia being viewed each time a new loop is activating changing not only the contextual meaning but the overall correlation of the text which has now been changed or altered. The reader personalizes the text, making it his/her own experience every time they click on a different link.

My ship of fools has been replaced by the large underground asylum in the Labyrinth. The vagabonds, criminals, and the psychotics are all the social misfits embarking on a great symbolic voyage in search of their own destiny and truths. But the boat has been replaced by the asylum or madhouse.

A post-apocalyptic descent into madness. Only in hypertext could these ideas be vividly displayed. The hypertext format allowed a certain word or phrase to link to another lexia allowing for a passage which literally created a “flow” or transfer of thoughts and ideas. The relationships between the words is crafted by the author who controls each link and when they are present and the duration they are presented to the reader, allowing for complete control.

This is my personal experience with hypertext using Tinderbox.

To Inform You “Din”

5 11 2008

The Din started as an idea my uncle had thought of while we were discussing writing in proper sentence structure. See, at least 2-3 times a week I discuss concepts of writing and rules with my uncle using the classic literary instruction guide The Elements of Style by Strunk/White/ and Kalman. My uncle had the concept of a simple story of this place called Din’s 1. A raucous bar which housed a group of thieves. So that’s where my Inform 7 story originally came from.

I usually draw inspiration from my uncle, he is truly a creative man. The  Din was a good starting point for me. The best feeling perhaps, is showing him the conceptional outcome of this text based adventure game. I believe it all needed to start from a great opening sentence like a beloved novel. There was a meshing of ideas and concepts with fantasy which had been my first experience with interactive fiction on a simple windows program. The game was text based but it actually had simple graphics. It was called Kings Quest and it was very enthralling to a 5 year old who had a basic knowledge of the English language. I’ll never forget this one scene in the beginning where you walk into a room in your house and you see your cat. And of course I kicked that puss right across the room! It has to be one of my fondest game memories, which has to be up there with saving princess Peach and nuking an entire town of Megaton in Fallout 3.

So after the mesh-up of these ideas and concepts of the DIn and the thieves I added a little fantasy with the objects and the halfling-orc barmaid. And I sprinkledome s religious concepts with the main character starting off on a gurney or slab in a morgue. The surrounding setting is actually Purgatory. As you descend I wanted to add a Dante-esque theme to the realms of this bar. I remember this classic Super Nintendo game Shadowrun in which you start off in a morgue I thought that was a great beginning. So you can see this mixing and mashing of plots and themes I never forgot about in my gaming career.

After that I started constructing various rooms which contained at times, sad and sadistic figures but no real objectives which will be corrected in time. So with a points based system being set into place I need meaningful items which can bring humerus results at times.

I’m starting to see a connection with ideas and concepts. I mean hey, we all draw from the same pool of ideas. But these ideas seem to be morphing. Evolving perhaps.

Also this month is write a novel month. Although I refuse to scribble down a beloved idea in a matter of a month. This time frame of one month, releases the constraints of methodical planning. Just go out and write something, I know I will start. I just need to see the Arrigoni.