Archive for November, 2004

NOVEMBER IS THE WEAKEST MONTH

Wednesday, November 24th, 2004

I had to go out to Langley today. Driving back, through the rainy darkness with no headlights (broken), I was overcome by the urgent need to piss. (Too much coffee.)

Traffic was about 15kph on the highway, and I knew I wasn’t going to make it home in time, so I took an exit in New West and looked for a McDonalds or Tim Hortons or something. Nothing but car dealerships. The sense of imminent release, the jerking stagger of traffic, the poor visibility due to the rain and the afforementioned lack of headlights, it was all rising in a horrible pissy crescendo.

Finally I pulled into the parking lot of Ikea and urinated against a chain-link fence, standing in the rain, facing the highway.

It lasted about five minutes, and was so good that I moaned.

November: D-
Public urination: A+

COMMODIFY YOUR DISSENT

Thursday, November 18th, 2004

I saw this on craigslist. (The company name has been removed because I can’t justify giving them name recognition even with the four people who read this site):

xxxxx: The World’s First Body Billboard Advertising

Attention Shoppers! Want to make some big cash from some of your favorite Company brands and products? Consider getting tattooed with your favorite logo or product name.

Never mind newspapers magazines, internet, television or billboards, how about body branding?

xxxxx Inkorporated, a local Vancouver based company is the first of its kind to take the art of tattooing and take it to the next level; the corporate level.

Forget about the “Barbed Wire” that Pamela Anderson wears around her bicep, how about a Mercedes or Nike logo? Do you have what it takes to be branded by Prada, or Chanel or Armani? With its International database of registrants, xxxxx Inkorporated matches the Corporations with their database of members. It’s that simple.

Well sign me the right the fuck up for a motherfucking Prada logo right on my ballsack! Sir I assure you my scrotum has what it takes!!!

Part of me really wants to believe that it’s a prank, just because it seems so over the top. What with capitalizing the word “corporation” and the fact that they regard the “next level” of tattoo art to be the corporate level, this has to be a joke right? Are they maybe collecting names of people willing to get logos branded on their bodies, and then sending ninja assassins to liquidate these sad people? Because I could maybe get behind that.

Reminds me of this article about OK Soda, a cola which was brought to market solely to deliver a covert brand message of OK-ness.

I think I would be willing to get The Baffler‘s logo tattooed on my body. Then everyone would think my nickname was “The Baffler,” which is pretty cool.

DAY JOB

Monday, November 8th, 2004

I work at the bookmall downtown. The bookmall has three expansive, well-lit floors. These levels are broadly organized into Fiction, Non-fiction, and Consumer Goods, in homage to Plato’s tripartite division of the soul. I work on the second floor.

There’s an elaborate technological system in place to manage the staggering quantity and variety of books constantly impinging on the receiving bays of the store. Hand scanners communicate invisibly with a remote knowledge base, which relays back the properties of examined object: title, author, quantity, category.

My job is to assure that the physical location of books in the store accurately mirrors the central information system. This correspondence subsumes all other values, such as semantic coherence between a book’s apparent subject and it’s location on the shelf. The real subject is fully determined in Ontario, where a receiver eyeballs it and assigns the book its properties.

My second day there, I found a book about the four-colouring problem in the history section. (It has a picture of a map on it.) The act of physically moving it to the mathematics section, I knew, would create falsehood. The book’s properties would no longer reflect the structure of the central database, which contains all and only true statements. In this way the knowledge base tests our faith. While it’s possible to correct the knowledge base, I’ve been assured that it is practically infeasible.

GAMES, STORIES, THEORIES

Monday, November 1st, 2004

“The person who cannot lose himself in full earnest in a game or give himself over to the spirit of the game, but instead stands outside it, is a ‘spoil sport’, one who cannot play.” — David Linge, in the introduction to Gadamer’s Philosophical Hermeneutics

I found this great essay about the development of modern game theory, and the fight between different academic departments to claim this new field of study as their own. (By “game theory” I mean the study of games and game design, not the mathematical field of decision theory.)

Espen fears that game theory will be colonized by literary theorists, who try to understand games using the metaphors of storytelling and narrative and so on. He argues that the narrative aspect of games is basically just semiotic window-dressing, the real subject-matter is a sort of cognitive simulation device. I agree with him completely.

The reponse from Stuart Mouthrop completely misses the point. He wants the right to study chess by relating it to European feudalism, or to study Tomb Raider as a Western adolescent wank-fantasy, or whatever.

I hereby concede to him this right. It seems like one could say something interesting about how Go relates to Eastern philosophy, for example. So go ahead, write your thesis on the sociology of Dance Dance Revolution, or the racist/colonialist subtext in Pac-Man. Let a million flowers bloom, I say!

“No doubt one can play [chess] without connecting this logic to European history, but such an approach reduces chess to a series of abstract transactions, which may work well enough for mathematics but seems far too narrow for any serious cultural critique.”

The trouble is that this tells us nothing about the game as such. The fact that chess is a way of playing and not a way of singing or painting is irrelevant to this kind of analysis. For example, it does not seem to reveal any interesting insight about the difference in experience between Gary Kasparov and the observer watching his game. This distinction is immaterial to the game as cultural artifact, but any game theory worth the name had better be able to offer criticism from the intimate perspective of the player.

Gadamer wrote, “all playing is a being-played.” The very gameliness of games is in the act of giving oneself over to the system of rules and signs, allowing the game to play you. The rules of a game provide a kind of aesthetic framework, metaphorically comparable to dramatic structure. This aspect of a game is not knowable by reading the rules; it emerges from the performance of participants and has a structure all its own.

I personally feel that Go is somehow a slightly better, more elegant game than Chess. I also feel that Chess is a better game than Snakes-and-Ladders, and that Half-Life is a better game than System Shock 2. It seems off-topic to try and understand these comparisons by linking Chess to feudalism or Snakes-and-Ladders to phallocentrism. These may very well be interesting topics of cultural exploration in their own right, but their connection to game theory and criticism is trivial.

The literary theorists think that games would be improved if they better conformed to the conventions of narrative and dramatic structure already established in other forms of entertainment. I think this would make them either bad games or non-games, just movies with decision points or something.