This week I finished Neuromancer by William Gibson. I’d seen it referenced as a great work of science fiction, predicting the rise of the Internet, and being an integral part of Cyberpunk. Reading it felt like a chore. I couldn’t cut through the slang and imagery surrounding a hard to follow plot. I see how it contributed to the foundation of later works (The Matrix, Inception, Dues Ex), but ultimately found it surpassed by them.
I picked up Fez because it reminded me of Braid. However, the shifting mechanic was not nearly as neat as I expected, and the game seemed very simplistic. The world was cobbled together with lots of disparate concepts and boring collectibles. After playing for a while I kept finding elements that seemed significant and a foreboding and gloomy tone that masked some crafty puzzles. I found these puzzles to be more engrossing than the mediocre platforming. It started off like Mario and ended up like Myst.
A recent Idea Channel episode asked the question of how someone can enjoy a show like Breaking Bad. The appeal doesn’t come from the show being uplifting, but from creating tension, introducing mysteries and then resolving them. It points to why spoilers can be so troublesome. If you spoil a story for someone, you have robbed them of the chance to experience the tension and uncertainty for themselves. I used to think spoilers were silly because it didn’t matter how you find out a piece of information. However, he true cost of spoilers are that they present the information without the context of a rich narrative.
I listened to Digital Gonzo’s podcast called “Fan Reaction” over the course of the last week and a half. The discussion of how fans react to casting decisions, character changes, or endings they don’t like is fascinating, especially instances where the fans succeed in effecting change. This quickly morphed into a conversation about how rude, vile, and cruel people can be to each other online, especially to those that create media. Communities need to shun such bad behavior. I’m going to be standing against cruelty online, so that the abusers know their behavior is unacceptable and so that those who are attacked know that there are people who do support them.
I finally finished Another World (AKA Out of This World) after twenty years. I had a copy of it when I was very young and could not figure out what I was supposed to do. Nearly everything killed me. Turns out the game emphasizes trial and error. I still died a lot, but every time I would clear a section of the game I felt very accomplished.
I watched the PBS documentary on super heroes. I don’t really know who the intended audience for this was, because comic book fans probably knew all these stories. Perhaps it’s for the general public who simply want to know what comic books are all about. It was interesting to juxtapose American history with comic books. I didn’t know that Stan Lee was just a pen name. The story of Spiderman doing an anti-drug issue was hilarious. The Comic Book Code office wouldn’t approve the issue, since it mentioned drugs, so Marvel went ahead and published without the seal of approval. And the public didn’t notice or care! In fact, parents and teachers loved the Spiderman was presenting an anti-drug message to kids!
General Game Playing
I’m taking a Coursera course on general game playing. This is the art of creating a computer program that can play any game, and have it come up with good strategies. The point is that it is straightforward to create a program to play only tic-tac-toe, only checkers, or only chess, but more difficult to write a program that is good at any game you throw at it. One funny story from the class is that in one year of the competition a finalist used a strategy of making sure his opponent had as few legal moves as possible. The problem was that the game played was a version of checkers. His program sacrificed pieces to his opponent in order to ensure that his opponent only had one possible move.
President Uchtdorf’s Talk
President Uchtdorf’s talk “You Can Do it Now!” was the talk that most convicted me during this month’s conference of the LDS church. He said, “We want to spend time with our children, but we also want to engage in our favorite manly hobbies. We want to lose weight, but we also want to enjoy the foods we crave. We want to become Christlike, but we also want to give the guy who cuts us off in traffic a piece of our mind.” I feel like I’m still not achieving my goals or living up to my potential, because I really do want to be a good husband and father, and I really do want to be healthy, and I really do want to be charitable and kind. But I’m not there yet. His message is that we should remember that these goals are things that we want to do, not just things others expect of us. And that we should focus on these goals to keep from getting distracted.