June 27, 2017

Hahaha, Trump Golf Clubs sport fake TIME magazine covers. So awesome that this blowhard has the same quality Fake News magazine covers that the rest of us plebs could only buy during amusement park visits. Seems like sucking up ("TRUMP IS HITTING ON ALL FRONTS...EVEN TV!" AND "The 'Apprentice' is a television smash!") is the way Trump likes to be dealt with.

June 26, 2017

Ugh, Ticks. Reminds me why I hate nature.
"Beanbender's beer was nothing like the stuff in cans that my father drinks. It had a nutty taste, and it was cold and good. The guy at the bar was Ben Beanbender, the owner of the beer garden. He didn't ask us for identification or anything. He just filled mugs from a big barrel and handed them to us. I also got a baked potato. Ben Beanbender poked a hole in one end with his thumb, slapped in a hunk of butter, salted and peppered the potato, wrapped it in a napkin, and handed it to me. It was great! The potato was almost too hot to hold, and the salty butter dribbled onto my sleeve. It tasted just fantastic with the beer. The beer and the baked potato cost fifty cents. It's the best deal in Baconburg."
--Daniel Pinkwater, from "The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death". For some reason this passage, (set in a venue inside Tintown, Baconburg's hidden underground city) has stuck with me. (I remember Mo being obsessed with this book, and delighted we managed to scrape up a copy in the late 90s. It's a great YA read.)
It used to be harder to scrape up books. This one is now a $3 Kindle book, but they must have lost the rights to the great cover art of the original...


June 25, 2017

I'm looking over
My dead dog Rover
Who I overran with the mower...
One leg is missing
The other one's gone
The third is in pieces
All across the front lawn-
No use explaining
The one remaining
It's stuck to the kitchen door!
I'm looking over
my dead dog Rover
Who I overran with the mower...
--Man, hadn't thought of that camp song for ages 'til I was at Cora's dance recital today and one of the groups used the more traditional "4 Leaf Clover" version.

June 24, 2017

Jim Coudal describes this as : "Poetry, in data":

"Do not, on a rainy day, ask your child what he feels like doing, because I assure you that what he feels like doing, you won't feel like watching."
--Fran Lebowitz

June 23, 2017videogames

Jeremy Penner has started a podcast about hyper-indie games, the art of the small, personal game project and the communities that support them... and I was his first interview, talking about my perennial mashup JoustPong, but ranging from programming home computers in the 1980s to online things like Processing now.

We talked a while back, and I was worried I would find my own voice unlistenable now, but it's not as awful as I had feared. It's kind of weird that I slip into the cadence that I can now recognize from some podcasts I listen to, even though I just started listening to them in general.

via I Want This 1923 Prediction For the American City of the Future To Be Real


June 22, 2017

Was hacking on Porchfest maps late at night when Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know"... great breakup song. But I was suddenly really struck by "felt so lonely in your company"... it's a feeling I'm sensitive about having provoked in relationships in the past and try to be on the watch for now... but just now it hits me that maybe 'cause I was an only child (whose family got moved every couple of years) it's something I can only be sympathetic to, not empathetic; only kids are often ok with just their own company, and while connecting deeply with someone is rewarding and important, there's a... not independence, but lack of dependence... self-sufficiency, I guess... that's hard to shake, and so reading loneliness in others, even people we're close to, requires a lot of focus, because it's not written in our native language.

(On facebook Johnny from Portugal commented " I'm an only child and l can spot it very fast, so maybe it's a mixture between being an only child and the way our own personality is structured?", I wrote her back " yeah, I hope it's a mix. Not just me looking for an excuse to say 'hey I'm not JUST self absorbed.' -- Also when I'm playing armchair self-analysist, it might have been synergized with the loss of my dad when I was young, the idea of not really counting on anyone else.)
The pet of the future?

June 21, 2017videogames

Wrote this on my devblog the other day, a tribute to the artists behind SimTunes and the core of Magic Pengel, reposting it here:

I've always liked software that let the user make something - from Bill Budge's Pinball Construction Set to the make-a-game fun without programming Klik N' Play, there have been some great examples of that over the years.

I want to write briefly about two creators, Toshio Iwai and Takeo Igarashi both of who made original UIs letting users exercise their creativity. Each creator's work was then used in separate commercial products in the 90s and 00s, products that deserve more recognition than they get.

Toshio Iwai is a multimedia artist. He may be best known for Electroplankton, a fairly early but very limited release for the Nintendo DS- his name appears on the packaging for it, an unusual-for-Nintendo recognition of singular artistic creation.

Electroplankton is not quite a game, not quite an instrument... it consists of ten different interfaces for making music and sounds of various types...

This was not Iwai's first multi-part collaboration with Nintendo - that would be the 4-part Sound Fantasy. One of those parts was based on his earlier work Musical Insects. This concept, 4 musical bugs, each one playing a different instrument that sounded at various pitches as the bug waddled over different colored tiles laid out on a blank canvas, got parlayed by Maxis into a nifty package called SimTunes. I guess this trailer gives you the overview about as well as anything:

This program was a terrific and playful mini-sequencer and paint program. Kids and Adults could focus on the sound, the look, or both. Just out of college, I remember setting it up with versions of Groove is in the Heart and "Alphabetter", a replacement for the alphabet song that I hope catches on but I'm sure never will. I appreciated that it had different palettes - for example, limiting the painted notes to a specific scale or modality, such as my favorite "Blues Scale" and an aspiring kid or adult could easily apply music theory they had or learn something new.

More recently Iwai collaborated with Yamaha to make the Tenori-On, a sequencer grid of lights. (I was almost ashamed at using a ThinkGeek knock off called the Bliptronic 5000, 'til I realized it was about 1/10 the price... and about 1/10 the functionality, but still.) I also found this overview of his art installations.

Takeo Igarashi seems to be more of a computer scientist than an artist, but his UI implementations are at least as impressive.  His academic homepage is of the ancient variety, and sadly most of his demos are a serious pain to get running in this day and age where Java on the desktop is all but forgotten. Still, his Smooth Teddy interface is remarkable; the user draws basic 2D shapes that then get rendered into 3D shapes.

The most straight forward descendent of the "Smooth Teddy" family is MagicalSketch 3D for iOS, a somewhat pricey (by app standards) tool, but one that promises to be an easy path to modeling for 3D print. (I haven't played much with Microsoft's "Paint 3D" but I think they would be well-served licensing out the core model.)

The finest rendition of this concept, however, is Magic Pengel: The Quest for Color for the Playstation 2. I feel it's a shame it didn't go by a more direct translation of its Japanese name, "Doodle Kingdom", because this project (a joint production with some collaboration from Studio Ghibli (of "My Neighbor Tortoro" and "Spirited Away" fame) deserves more attention than it ever got. (A "Pengel" is a Pen-Angel, I think a little helper sprite in the game. I'm not sure to whom they were trying to market with a name like that.)

Because not only can you doodle in 3D - your creations come to surprisingly charming life. Here's a Let's Play of it:

The editor works by letting you indicate what you're drawing (body, arm, wing, etc) - this knowledge is then incorporated to inform various animations (Walk, Tackle, Jump, Dance, etc) and the effect can be stunning- here's what a talented artist can make with its editor:

It's so delightful to sketch something out and then have it frolic around the "practice field".

Unfortunately, the game is horribly marred by ... well, too much game-ness. In some ways the body you construct doesn't do much to determine how your creation interacts with its virtual physical universe, it's just raw numeric material for a probability based monster battler ala Pokemon, with Rock-Paper-Scissors type strengths and weaknesses. Also, they limit the amount of "ink" you have to draw lines with, and then make the game about fighting monsters so you can get more ink to make your own creations that much more powerful, rather than creative.

There was a semi-sequel for the Game Cube called Amazing Island and one for the PS2 called Graffiti Kingdom. I remember getting absolutely stuck early on in Amazing Island and some utterly crap minigame, and if memory serves, Graffiti Kingdom tried to codify its editor too much, and lost much of the organic charm of the original.

Finally, I'd like to make one honorable mention for a game with a kind of brilliant editor built-in (though I don't believe there's a singular artistic vision behind it) - Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts + Bolts:

 This is by far the best "game" of everything I've talked about here - it starts with a gorgeous Mario 64-esque hub (looking like someone said "what if we ran all those pretty colors of the N64 into the kind of engine we can make today?)  with all these delightful themed subworlds, but each as if you can see the gears behind the walls work. Each subworld has multiple challenges that you build various vehicles to beat: cars, of course, but also boats and planes and flying balloons and sumo-karts etc. At first I thought all the creations were ugly and orthogonal-looking (VERY reminiscent of the old Capsela toys) but then the delight of making a car where the design really matters in a cartoon-physics kind of way takes over (and you can put on enough bolt-y bits to improve the look quite a lot.) And as you get more parts (there's that game-ness) you can go back and try for higher "medals", but the challenge level is generally well done, and the level of backtracking needed is negligible.

(And a small group of super-hard-core fans have really stretched the editor system to the limit, making these absurdly heavy jet-powered walking mechs in a game that was never meant to have any such thing...a joy to behold.)

Anyway, I love stuff like this, making a easy enough for a beginner but rich and engrossing enough to reward continued play (rather than a quick doodle and a "meh") is a tremendous feat. (Though I did once get a few people digging my own online Jack-O-Lantern maker) Both of these people and their works (and Banjo-Kazooie) deserve much admiration.