Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Also Overheard at PAX: Rated-MA Edition

If you're under 13, it's past your bedtime.

Seriously, kid, get outta here.

"My name is Wil Wheaton, and Jack Thompson can suck my balls."
- from the start of his keynote speech (download MP3)

"Any corporate lawyers here can suck it."
- a non-profit lawyer, before asking her question

"How firm do you like your tip?"
- Tycho, sleazing up Gabe's answer to an innocent Photoshop question

"Well, there's no barrier to entry..."
- Gabe, sleazing up his own answer to an innocent art student question

- Tycho & Gabe, having a Kevin Smith moment with the sign language interpreter

One of my favorite things about Penny Arcade is that they don't just use profanity; they are gleefully profane. They celebrate the myriad ways in which language can be made more colorful through the use of metaphor, analogy, or nearly musical sequences of primal vocalizations.

It's not cursing just for the sake of cursing--Tycho, the writer, uses all sorts of words to achieve his desired effect, and the juxtaposition of ten dollar words with drunken-sailor-speak only emphasizes the importance of his choices.

Is a game bad?
Is it shit (but not "the shit")?
Is it shitty?
Is it so godawful that it ruptures the very fabric of space and time with the sheer overpowering force of its mediocrity?

These, dear reader, are important distinctions.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Overheard at PAX

"This is the new E3."
- an attendee coming out of the exhibition hall

"Have you had breakfast? You look hungry!"
- the barker at the "Win Your Weight in Ramen" merchant booth

"They think they're going to be playing Karaoke Revolution. That's certainly what we told them."
- Gabe & Tycho, introducing Round 4 of the Omegathon

- Jonathan Coulton, ad-libbing at a crucial narrative juncture during his performance of "Creepy Doll"

"There are a lot of DSes here, huh?"
- Jonathan Coulton, after witnessing a swaying sea of glowing cell-phone and handheld console screens during "Baby Got Back"

"See, now you're just a johnny-come-lately."
- Tycho & Gabe, denying the second request for photos on stage during a Q&A panel

"You can't say Bioshock."
- a questioner, making an amendment to "What's your favorite game?"

"It's gonna look real pretty."
- Greg Rucka on the upcoming Whiteout movie

Today was the last day of Penny Arcade Expo 2007, the first I've attended, and it was quite awesome. I'll post a more detailed account later, but Wil Wheaton rocked the house with his "we are gamers" keynote speech; Jonathan Coulton soft-rocked the crowd while opening the Saturday night concert; and Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik (a.k.a. Tycho and Gabe, respectively) killed whenever they were on stage, whether it was answering questions, considering strange requests, or drawing a Penny Arcade strip live.

In many ways, the event combined the best of both worlds: the glitz and professionalism of an industry trade show with the scrappiness and flexibility of a fan-run convention. This is a show created by gamers for gamers, and I expect it to get bigger and better, without compromise, for many years to come.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Opening this weekend at the Lumiere in SF and Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley: A most excellent documentary about two gamers competing for the world record high score on Donkey Kong!

I saw a screening of the film today, and it's more gripping than you might expect. Most impressively, even though it features some real nutters, it never pokes fun at them or the video gaming community or makes anyone into a caricature. A couple of people do come off as real jerks, but they dig their own graves.

The filmmakers are now working on a fictionalized version of the story for New Line Cinema, but here's your chance to see the real story, on the big screen, before it gets tarted up by Hollywood.*

Official site
Interview with Steve Wiebe

* That said, my dream cast includes Tom Cruise as defending champion Billy Mitchell and Alan Tudyk as challenger Steve Wiebe. Alan would need to put on a few pounds, Raging Bull-style, and get a dye job; Tom could pretty much just reprise his character from Magnolia. With a beard.

Izzard and Hitchens: Separated At Birth?

Comedian Eddie Izzard on religion, from his 1999 show Dress to Kill:

And Christopher Hitchens, author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, at Google last week:

All things being equal, I'd rather pay to see Izzard than to read Hitchens' book--and I have. I don't much need to hear more about how Religion Is Bad (I've known that since high school), but I can always stand to be entertained.

Monday, August 20, 2007

If Business Meetings Were Like Internet Comments

Thanks to Bryan for the link. As he says: "I love the attempts at spam that are stopped by captchas."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Dyson's Fear

From my friend Jeff:

"The next word, but not the last word, in our little ongoing feud about climate change comes from Freeman Dyson: http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge219.html#dysonf"

I don't agree with all his points, but he does set a good example by asking all scientists to remain skeptical and avoid politics. Unfortunately, he doesn't do himself any favors by repeatedly calling himself a "heretic," which makes it sound like he's looking to be a martyr.

With apologies to Sir Donald Wolfit: Dying is easy. Science is hard.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Fight For The Future

Reflect, for a minute, on who America's grandparents are being taught to hate: Americans who do what Americans are supposed to do, what our founders implored us to do: debate vigorously and in the open, the meaning of the public good. They used to call these people citizens.
- Rick Perlstein, "FOX: time to fight back"

This has been covered in The Simpsons, but it's both appalling and totally unsurprising that FOX programs pander to both ends of the political spectrum. They're a corporation, established for the express purpose of making a profit. They're not supposed to care about anything but making a buck, the faster the better.

The good news is that capitalism encourages competition and innovation and all that good stuff. The bad news is that capitalism often gives people tunnel vision, making them focus on making or saving a little more of it to the exclusion of other principles.

Don't forget, money is just something we made up to make trading easier. Those colorful slips of paper are meaningless unless we all agree on their value. And the question of actual value is a much longer and more difficult conversation.