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from jersey shore

January 6, 2004
Here are some pictures from Ocean Grove and Asbury Park New Jersey. I also put a larger photo gallery online.

The Asbury Park ruins are really amazing, the old casino now a total wasteland. For a while the carousel building had a small indoor skatepark, but I guess that's gone as well...

I found this page with more photos via Google, and this page of how it used to look along with some quotes and lyrics from Bruce Springsteen, who famously cut his teeth at Asbury Park's "Stone Pony".

Note of the Moment
The this ramble on the 1-year relationshipaversary for me and Mo. Criminy, I had forgotten that that had set a record for longest continuous romance in my life. I hope that doesn't bode too poorly for the future.

Site Feature of the Moment
For some reason when I made up my best of kisrael.com lists, I kept the entries that I strongly considered but then rejected embedded in the list I was making. I decided those entries deserved a "second best" set of links, and so the best of page is updated accordingly, and 2003 "best of" and "2nd best of" have both been finished off, with a sad poem and a reindeer's butt, respectively. Also, I added a note of explanation and apology to the front page, just because I'm not sure that "Kirk's Digital Arts and Crafts", which is what those pages are full of, are really the best of kisrael.com.

Hmm. I have probably just exceeded the "gives a damn" quotient for most of my audience. Excelsior!

from the light at the lynn shore

August 9, 2005

from interview with steve harter, creator of crossroads and crossroads ii

April 13, 2006
A while back ClassicGaming.com published my review of the obscure-ish C=64 classics Crossroads and Crossroads II... but somehow I neglected to mention the games author, Steve Harter. Recently I found a different tribute page by a gal named dessgeega... (her site is also the source of yesterday's Starfox 2 link)...in later correspondance she mentioned that Steve Harter had written her about her site. It turns out Steve was amenable to an e-mail conversation with me, and agreed to let me edit into the interview format below. (Anything that doesn't seem to flow, that's due to my faults as an interview editor...)
How old were you when you wrote Crossroads? Did you do anything else for the C=64, or any other of those systems?

I was 17 at the time when I developed CR1. I also did a couple more "magazine" games unrelated to Crossroads for the C64. They basically helped my pay for college (in computer science of course).

Really?? How well did those magazines pay?

I said "helped pay" ;) For CR2 it was like $5,000 including upfront and royalties but back in the 80s that went a long way...

I kick myself though for not trying to make Crossroads a bit better and getting a cartridge publisher -- I assume the royalties would have been much better.

Could be! Though I never thought of the C=64 as being much of a cartridge machine. And, in retrospect, I think Crossroads was retro even then or maybe... arcade-y, relative to that era's trend of longer games with bigger and more involved worlds.

I wonder if I worked on the cartridge version if I would have tried to do a big world too... something with a story line or an arena playoff theme perhaps with a real ending (not just a game over) --

How well was the game received?

I got a few fan letters forwarded from Compute -- for one kid I gave him a workaround so he could have more than 9 shields because he was upset that the other characters could have more than 9 (he was right).

As a gamer, I'm mostly interested in multiplayer games through the ages, and Crossroads has a fantastic Co-op or Compete factor. Plus I've noticed that most any game that does a good job of throwing a swarm of enemies at you tends to catch my attention. I've always said that Crossroads was special for making you feel like just one more monster type among other monsters....

I really enjoy playing games with other (human) players -- all of the four games I created for the C64 were two-player simultaneous that basically limited the game to an overhead view (before split screen became feasible)

I've always admired how skillfully Crossroads uses the C=64's character graphics, especially with having characters move in half-character steps, other character-based games weren't so fine-grained... Did your ideas about the possibilities of character-based graphics drive the design of the game, or vice-versa?

The idea of a lot of characters moving around the screen with AI interested me such as Robotron and Wizard of Wor. But making a Robotron-style game perform for the c64 would have been impossible due to all of the pixel blits and collision detection needed since there could only be 8 sprites. So I started tinkering with a Wizard of Wor style game that could use characters instead of pixel blits or sprites and thus thought of using one- and two-character transition animation.

Did you come up with all the monsters and names on your own?

I created all everything in the game on my own (characters, sounds, etc) but Compute named the characters and did the magazine artwork.

Do you recall how the monster allies/enemies rules worked? Were some especially bitter rivals? How did the AI work in general?

Well the yellow, red and blue were friends, light tan guy and horse thing were friends, two grey soldiers were friends, I think the rest were enemies. Nothing in the AI for being more bitter over one enemy vs. another

The core AI aspects of CR are based on how far he can see, if he runs or chases other enemies and who the friends are. I wish I could have done more here, such as worms that would take up more than one character block. I also wish I would have made one change to the game: for an "eating" character I wish I would have given him an extra shield every time he took one from someone. It would have completely changed the game.

That snake I idea sounds awesome... but those eating lemonsharks were tough already!

How did you manage to keep the players moving at a constant speed, even as the monsters were slogged down?

For the constant speed of the two players and their bullets, I basically set a "heartbeat" variable in the interrupt loop (every 1\60th sec) that the main (infinite) loop checked after every non-player character was displayed. The player's bullets move at full speed so if you look at the player's bullets every 1\60th of a second they move one half of a character. There is also an algorithm used to speed up the other characters over time based upon another heartbeat variable.

Oh, so the speedup isn't just a byproduct of a fully loaded processor? I was thinking about Lore Sjoeberg's Book of Ratings quote about Space Invaders:
As you killed off the low-res interplanetary menace, the remaining would-be conquerors, fueled by revenge and freed-up CPU cycles, would steadily increase in speed, until one last Invader would be zipping across your screen like a Yorkie on crystal meth.
I always thought that applied to CR as well...

It does increase in speed if characters are killed too fast, but eventually will slow down if you don't keep killing more of them too fast. I don't remember the algorithm off the top of my head, but it adjusts a tiny bit faster\slower every few seconds to try to find the best fit for the current level and how long you have been playing the current level. The first level starts out painfully slow for the little players, and I think by level 16 or so it is running at full speed even with a few enemies.

Such attention to detail!

What about those cool explosions? Are those sprites, or direct pixel drawing, or what?

The explosions\implosions are sprites. I now wish I wouldn't have displayed the score at the end though -- too korny. To save magazine space, the sprites are randomly created during bootstrapping so are different every time you run the game. I think there are four sets of explosions generated so they also vary for a single game session too.

Did that mean there were only 8 explosions possible at once?

Yes, they just cycle through

Did you do line of site for monsters? I was thinking that limited vision, besides being more realistic, also would mean less computation.

Yes I think the blue fleas could only see like 4-5 spaces which definitely cut down on the computation

I remember trying to pick up assembly programming on the C=64 but it totally kicked my pre-adolescent butt... I finally manged to make my own game for the Atari 2600 in ASM, and even though it's known to be a tough platform, in some ways the stripped-down environment might be easier to get a handle on...

I would dread coding the 2600, I agree that it would be harder IMO to write a playable game on the 2600 than the C64. The C64's support for customizable character set, SID, sprites, smooth scrolling and memory size just made it an awesome game machine at the time. I learned ASM because BASIC was just too slow for anything. Two books I couldn't have lived without were "mapping the 64" and a 6510 assembly language reference (I still have these). I actually used Compute's crappy free LADS assembler because I was too poor to buy one (thus the reason why I got into cheap paper magazine games).

Other tidbits about the game:
1) In CR2 the dog at level 20 becoming stronger and aggressive
2) I put my initials in one of the mazes in CR2, as did Randy T. did for the sample maze in the Maze Editor he wrote for CR2
3) There is also a rare bug that causes a hidden wall to be added, but I didn't try too hard to fix that since I thought it was an interesting effect
4) CR1 doesn't have my name in the game because Compute blanked it out before publishing. The CR2 version I sent Compute did not have my name scroll by, but if someone typed in the program from the magazine or if the game detected the loader for those who bought the disk then my name was shown. The check for the typed-in program worked because Compute always put 0's in the last few fill bytes of the last line of program but they were normally 255's in memory. So I basically got my name there without them knowing about it.

That's really clever, I love it! About that loyal dog... would it ever turn on you if you shot it? (Or am I just thinking of Nethack?)

No it doesn't turn on you... It would have been funny though. It's been a while since I've gotten to level 20+ though...

What do you think of the Crossroads fansites, and the interest in retro gaming in general?

Just a couple years ago I installed a C64 emulator with the CR2 ROM and got teary eyed (it was probably 10 years prior to that the last time I fired up my C64 and played it). I also got teary eyed the first time I got MAME working and played some old classics. So I definitely understand this retro gaming thing. Today I enjoy playing CR2 via emulator with my 7-year old son -- it's funny but he can beat me at Mario Kart but doesn't have a chance against me in CR2.

Have you seen XRoads, a port of the game to X-Windows?

I never tried try the XRoads port but would like to. I gotta get started on the port to a modern console ;-) I think it would be cool though to create the retro port plus a newer, online version of the game where each character could be a real person.

Well, thanks very much for your time and insightful answers!

Thank you, it's been fun talking about this
Dessgeega's tribute page has a video of the gameplay, and my classicgaming.com review has the downloads...it's worth checking out, this game didn't receive nearly enough attention.

from groove is in lady miss kier

December 31, 2006

Lady Miss Kier in Groove is in the Heart

I spent a few too many hours making these, but it was fun, and "productive" in its way. Mostly I wanted to point out the slinky little move on the right... it's not quite the same without the slide whistle, but you get the general idea...

UPDATE: check the comments -- a while later Lady Miss Kier asked permission for using these! After I said yes of course she said
thanks - I just had my friend Heather add it to my myspace page! I love what you did with... ME ! and thanks for your sweet words!!! I'm going to add it to my other site also- thanks again- kier

from prelude to 2009

January 1, 2009
Hey Happy New Year!

Man, was it brutal out there last night! The cold, the snow, the bitter wind...

There were a small group of anti-Israel protesters at Copley Square in the afternoon:

After some other plans seemed a bit foolhardy, given the weather and traffic, JZ invited me along with him and his girlfriend up to her work, a penthouse office overlooking Boston Common to see the fireworks...

What a view! So odd being at about the same height as the action.

Finally, I just can't resist the allure of novelty glasses, especially since this is the last year they can use the general design (at least not 'til 3000 or so.)

Whatever happens to robot fighting and junkyard wars type shows?
I realized my day is better when I know what I want from it
Green Mountain Coffee Ad.
Such an anti-zen thought - enjoy what IS
At least the New Year snow is still light and fluffy, easy to shovel. Note to future self: seems like the left side of street has it easier.

from best ten books of the last decades

January 6, 2010
So, with a decade of recording what media I've been consuming under my belt, I'm in a position to make top ten lists!

Many of these books were written before 2000... this is just a subjective list based on me first encountering them at some point over the last decade. But I'd heartily recommend any of them to nearly anyone.
  1. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig. The way this book tries to reconcile the Engineer's View (detailed, analytic) and the Romantic View (general, emotional) and come up with a sense of Quality that is really the heart of Daoism is astounding. It's also a nice and very human and readable story.
  2. Consciousness Explained, Daniel Dennett. This book I cited again and again. It's a tough read, but I'm still amazed at the solid Western, academic structure it uses to get around to an idea that's fundamentally Buddhist; that there's not as much of a "there there" when it comes to consciousness as we think. (Jeff Hawkins' On Intelligence is similarly thought provoking, and it's idea that the core idea of the mind is "predict and test" is actually more relevant to AI than this, but hey, I can only put ten books on this list... while I'm cheating like this I'd point out that The Mind's I remains the best easy introduction to this kind of thinking.)
  3. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald. I admit that in high school I ducked reading this book and Cliff Noted my way through it. I came back to it, thanks in part to reading about Charles Schulz' love of it. Now I'm convinced that it might not make sense until you've had a big unrequited love.
  4. The Mezzanine, Nicholson Baker. One of my favorite books of the previous decade was Tom Robbins' Still Life with Woodpecker, which taught me to stop disrespecting objects just because they're inanimate. This book combines some of that feeling with the thoughtful analysis of Donald Norman's The Design of Everyday Things, and maybe just a hint of "Rainman". Famously it takes place entirely during one man's journey across a mezzanine and up an escalator, but mostly in flashback over the few days prior.
  5. Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About, Mil Millington. In some ways not quite as pointed as the website that started it all, this is still one of the funniest books I've ever read. Admittedly men seem to dig this book more than women (even though some of the joy is the male unreliable narrator) and it is that "comedy of embarrassment" that some people don't dig.
  6. Feet of Clay, Terry Pratchett. This book is a stand-in for all the Pratchett I discovered and devoured over this decade. In many ways Pratchett is a more thoughtful and emotionally in-tune Douglas Adams. And I think this book is one of the best of the "City Watch" novels; the scene of Vimes defending the Golem was heroism at its most beautiful.
  7. How Can I Get Through to You?, Terrence Real. Recommended by the couples therapist Mo and I went to after the die had already been cast. What I most took away from it is the pattern that happens over and over, where a woman is unhappy with the growth of a relationship but doesn't want to nag, so doesn't say much, and the man is blissfully unaware and satiated, and the woman's discontent build and builds until it explodes, leaving the man stunned and bewildered.
  8. The Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac. I guess a small theme on this list is Westerners discovering some of the ideas of the spirituality of the East; and this book has that in spades. It introduced me to the concept that "Comparisons are Odious" - a thought that sounds profoundly unsustainable until you think about it, and realize that it does represent a positive thought, and points to a different way of being in the world.
  9. Jar of Fools, Jason Lutes. I read a lot of Graphic Novels this past decade, and this is quite likely the finest; a very human and warm story, written with a compassionate eye and illustrated with a nicely restrained and clean, formal style.
  10. A Deepness in the Sky, Vernor Vinge. The lone sci-fi book to make the list... I actually prefer the same series' A Fire Upon the Deep and how it stretched my mind about possible idea for alien consciousness, but I guess I read that last decade. (Similarly Permutation City is a decent story that plays with the "what ifs" of putting consciousnesses into VR worlds, but I guess I read it farther back than I thought.)
Honorable Mentions: A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again shows what a master of the footnote David Foster Wallace was. D.B. Weiss' Lucky Wander Boy explored the mythology presented by video games. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was just some of the Haruki Murakami I met and enjoyed - I can't believe the author was at Tufts when I was an undergrad there, and I totally missed it. Finally, May I Kiss You On The Lips, Miss Sandra? shows that Sandra Bernhard is more than just a pretty face. Err.
someone should do Video Game Hero: you pretend to play games with no real skill in using a rubbish plastic joystick and set to cheesy music

from best ten movies of the last decades

January 7, 2010
Hmm- I'm surprised at how much less involved I felt with this list than yesterday's list of books. Anyway, the best ten movies I discovered over the last decade...
  1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - this movie never fails to knock me over. Such a great fantasy/sci-fi exploration that poses some really important questions about loss and heartbreak.
  2. Vanilla Sky This movie plays with some of the same themes of broken romance and untrustworthy memory and alternate realities as does Eternal Sunshine... not quite as satisfying, and the Spanish original might be a tad better, but this is the one I saw first.
  3. Amélie - I might just be rewatching this tonight, or at least soon. Such a visually rich movie, and such a pretty idea...
  4. The Cell - another super-saturated, visually stunning work of art, and I'm not just talking J-Lo's backside in a weird muscle-y bodysuit.
  5. True Romance - I admit from here on in, my choices get more uncertain and arbitrary. This film had a lot of sweetness and swagger. My Blender review mentioned how "You're so cool" may just be the modern substitute for "I love you".
  6. Shaun of the Dead - jeez, how doesn't love a good zombie comedy?
  7. Secretary - another romantic film, albeit with some kink thrown in. There's a real tenderness here though.
  8. Voices of a Distant Star an amazing but little-known piece of anime, written, directed and produced entirely by one person. Full of that peculiary Japanese sense of empty space and desolation - despite, or because of, the giant robots.
  9. Juno - alright, I'm running out of truly great films here, but Juno was sweet, quirky, and a lot of fun, with the highschool girlfriend everyone wishes they had had.
  10. Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions - alright, I'm cheating and putting in two, but they were basically one movie, and not as crappy as everyone says. Once upon a time there was a great piece "Matrix: Resolutions" that pointed out how unworkable most of the fan boy preferred explanations were (like, "the Matrix is actually in another Matrix, and so on and so on") but all I can find is this site that takes it all too seriously.

Caffeine is the healthiest substance on Earth. Not only will it not kill you, it'll make ME not kill you.

Cool, hip editors (Notepad++, IntelliJ IDEA) prefer "ctrl-w" to "ctrl-f4" to close windows. Is it more a multiplatform or browser thing?
Hello, Samaritans ... I've had enough, I'm going to end it all ... I'm going to overdose on these homeopathic painkillers ... I'm going to take one fiftieth of the recommended dose.

from best ten video games of the last decades

January 8, 2010
The games I most enjoyed over the past decade...
  1. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City - the series is getting a little repetitive, but I think for sheer hours of enjoyment, these games top the list. GTA4 is in most ways a better game, but Vice City was my first, plus it had helicopters, and captured that 80s "Miami Vice" feel in spades. Man, I love any game with a helicopter. Anyway, the way this series put fun missions over something very like a "living breathing world" that was fun just to tool around in, playing with cars, cycles, and guns... it's hardly topped in all of game-dom. (Also neat how your character is basically the same at the end of the game- it's the player that knows where all the guns and cool things are.)
  2. Rogue Squadron 2: Rogue Leader - I've always been a huge Star Wars fan boy, and honestly it's mostly because of the space ship stuff. This game that came out with the GameCube put you inside an X-wing... and that's all it had to do. The "Battle for Endor" level finale was the first time I saw anything of that scale, with just swarms of TIEs - the classic "There's too many of them!" line came home for the first time.
  3. Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction HULK SMASH!!! Captured the crazy kinetic energy of being a superpowered being like nothing I've seen.
  4. Earth Defense Force 2017 - best B-movie game ever, and probably the one I've beaten the most often, usually pairing up with JZ to take on the vast hoards of supersized ants, giant leaping spiders, and walkers straight out of War of the Worlds. I don't know what was more awesome - taking on this absolutely vast AT-AT behemoth (you come to about its little tow) or just destroying one of the more "normal" humanoid (but huge) walkers, only to see its brother trudging through the fiery smoke, guns blazing.
  5. Bangai-O - one of the last hurrahs for the Dreamcast, a game I wrote a full Walkthrough FAQ for, and the pinnacle of what can be done with many, many, many tiny sprites. Plus the whole "wait 'til you're on the verge of lazery death, THEN bust out the massive devastating-offense-is-the-best-defense superweapon" mechanic is superb.
  6. Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts - the most recent game on this list. The format is pretty typical, Mario-64 hub world challenges, but the ability to build your own car, copter, boat, plane, hovercraft, jet, bulldozer... and have the mechanics of what you put together really matter, in a cartoon-physics-y kind of way... honestly, it kind of blows LEGO out of the water.
  7. Spybotics: The Nightfall Incident - an online LEGO tie-in, actually, by the sadly shut-down Gamelab. Lego seems to be dropping the game, but it still lives on, like at that link. Another one I made a Walkthrough for - (Junkbot is another great gamelab/LLEGOteamup, that arguably as a lot more to do with actual building, but it didn't grab me quite as much as the SNAFU-meets-turn based strategy of this one)
  8. Fantastic Contraption - another Flash game, this one with a great clever building and physics element. Challenging puzzles, plus the way they made it community based, allowing people to see how others took on the challenges, was great.
  9. WarioWare: Twisted! - the original game introduced the world to microgames, the tiniest bits of gameplay pleasure imaginable, wrapped into continuous trail of challenging fun. Twisted kept up the tradition, with a unique gyro-sensor used in all kinds of imaginative ways - plus the toys and minigames they gave you to unlock were a serious inspiration for my Java Advent Calendar
  10. Jet Set Radio Future - some people still prefer the ground-breaking Dreamcast that basically showed the gaming world what Cel-shading could be. The xbox version raised the bar, making it more kinetic, and (IMO) wisely dumped the fiddly graffiti minigame. The soundtrack was also fantastic, probably more songs from here made it into my iPod than even DDR.

Honorable Mentions:
Two categories of honorable mentoins: also-rans, and multiplayer...

Multiplayer games provide me with many hours of bonding fun with my buds and family - Dr. Mario has risen to prominence, though it's pretty old at this point- but in terms of play this weekend, it plus "Puzzle League" were the go-to games.. Super Monkey Ball 2's Monkey Target is brilliant, the Dogfight is fantastic, Monkey Punch is just pure mayhem, and even the race was a good holdover 'til Mario Kart came out. (Mario Kart being another series not to be sneezed at.) Finally Super Smash Bros Melee took the brilliant middle-school "What if X fought Y" of the orignal and made it kinetic.

Also-Rans: Mercenaries 2 may be the only game to really let me enjoy driving a tank around this generation - lots of little tactical "figure out how to get through this" options with lots of weapons, vehicles, and huge explosions. Crimson Skies was a good prelude to Rogue Squadron, flying an old combat fighter around in an stylish alternate history, where the time between the World Wars was quite different... Super Mario Galaxies was just plain cool Gears of War and Halo both get props for their Co-op modes, one of my favorite forms of gaming.

Finally, how can I forget my own labor of love , JoustPong for the Atari 2600???
All joking - and fears that it cost me my marriage (though that might be mixing cause and effect) aside - this is a great little head-to-head game, as we demonstrated at the New England Classic Gamers tourney we had.
Off to see Monster Trucks in New Hampshire... for real.
Man, monster trucks are LOUD. I like when they use 'em like bulldozers to adjust the rows of car before they roll over them.

from this is why i don't guess

May 7, 2011

For under $300 I got a 5 yr old refurb Thinkpad X41 from Microcenter... weird to see 4:3 screen again! No "windows" key, but kinda awesome pen on screen tablet. Man, I'm such a sucker for touchscreens.

from takin' care of business

November 23, 2011
--Amber helped me lay out what are clearly my best personal business cards ever.

My goal was to make a card people might actually enjoy looking at, and I think the Alien Bill art by Harvey James helped me to reach that goal. (Even if it holds a crease...)

Interesting comparing this one to the designs Dylan, Ranjit, and I came up with almost a decade ago. (Also there was Sarah's take and one I did 5 years before that. And the haiku ones from 2007.)

Don't hate the Plato, hate the Cave.

"Happy to see the debug buttons survived your code change."
"Oh, really, sorry about that? ...Wait you were being sincere?"
"Well duh! Don't you think irony and sarcasm are getting kinda old and- ...crap, now I don't know if I'm being sincere or not."
Ben and Me

Cookie Monster explains Occupy. Giant wage inequality and zero value add capitalism are the problems.
No hyperbole to rename Pepper Spray "Chemical Pain Spray" or better: "Torture in a Can". No excuse for use on passive folk.
Does Yiddish have a term for a day when you can't seem to do anything quite right? it seems like it should. ("Yes, for you Kirk, we're calling it 'Wednesday'")

from amor fati

February 23, 2016
"Apes don't read PHILOSOPHY!"
"Yes they do Otto, they just don't UNDERSTAND it!"
A Fish Called Wanda
For a few weeks I've been rolling the concept of "Amor Fati" -- a love of ones fate, the good and the bad -- around in my head, and been finding it comforting and energizing.

The thing is, I find its meaning a little difficult to describe to others, to put into words - and Melissa pointed out that's not a comfortable feeling for me. (Also, it's a little weird that its popularization comes in part of Nietzsche...)

"Amor Fati" is a complementary fit to other part of classical stoicism, with that philosophy's encouragement to divide events into those that you have control over and those that you don't. That's a good start for me, with my deeply embedded need to not let a situation go pear-shaped if I can be a martyr and "save" it. "Amor Fati" somehow completes that; not only can I recognize things are out of my control, but I can learn to embrace the circumstance in its entirety. (Embrace this circumstance, 'cause it's the only one you're gonna get!)

There's the obvious objection to loving the bad as well as the good... if you were really good at that, could you greet a stubbed toe or traffic jam or lost job with as much enthusiasm as a great movie or a raise? And so, without that general motivation to make things ("objectively") better for you or those around you, wouldn't you let things ("objectively") slip and get worse? I don't have a great counter to that, just an intuition that A. yeah, I don't think I'm likely to reach that kind of zen equanimity and B. accepting and loving that there will be more pleasant and less pleasant outcomes breaks through fears and anxieties about the latter, and those fears tend to be more stifling of positive action than tranquil, passive acceptance .

As with most of my attempts to find comforting philosophy, there can be a "first world problem" aspect to it, and I don't know how well it extends to truly trying circumstances. I do enjoy finding some parallels in other places though. At one point I learned the trick of recasting anxiety as excitement - physiologically their pretty similar - and "Amor Fati" helps with that, because you will love even the bad outcome you're nervous about. In the military, they talk about "embracing the suck" and even get a perverse pride in what they've muddled through. Finally, I guess "Amor Fati" is kind of a secular version of believers who find consolation in sad things as being part of "God's Will" - those believers tend to count on a divine plan that's ultimately for good in a way I can't, but I'm guessing it's a similar feeling in the meanwhile.

Anyway, I commisioned the designer Bnomio to recast this work on "Tempus Fugit" as "Amor Fati", and it's currently my iPhone wallpaper... (it will be my phone case when it's time for a new one.) Having this reminder literally at hand (combined with things I already like about the iPhone's PDA/organizing part of my life) is great, the phone becomes a worry stone... a non-worry stone. The ship may be foundering, our ultimate end has always been visible in the distance, time can tick away - but I love it.

heh, two years ago I posted the perfect complement quote to today's essay:
There may be more beautiful times, but this one is ours.
Jean-Paul Sartre

People might know that 222 is my lucky number. So I was pretty psyched yesterday at 2:22, it being 2/22 and all. Obviously I'm looking forward to 2/22/22 ... especially because it's a *Tuesday*.
I hearby proclaim it PENULTIMATE TWOSDAY and plan to have a big party. (sadly, ULTIMATE TWOSDAY, 2/22/2222 will be a Friday.)

from Favorite Books Kirk Read, 2010-2019

January 6, 2020
My favorite reads on 2010-2019... I feel like this batch wasn't quite as memorable as last decade's list but still some great stuff. Roughly grouped by genre, but also "level of impact".
Other good reads
(in roughly chronological order)
First Half of Decade:
Julian Barnes' Nothing to Be Frightened Of might have snuck in between decades almost - really thoughtful musings on mortality. The Last Policeman - awesome classic noir in a just-per-apocalyptic setting. 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10 was covering a tiny computer program from very many angles. Art Spiegelman's MetaMaus is great for anyone who wants an inside look in the craft of comics. David Byrne's How Music Work introduced me to many ideas including how musical forms tend to be shaped by their acoustic environments, the dance hall vs the drawing room. The Advanced Genius Theory gave such a good reason to enjoy things Advancedly not scorn them Overtly... The Spell of the Sensuous explores what we lost when we took on the phonetic alphabet, and how indigenous people weave their environment into their stories. I loved the multitude of styles in the scoff book Cloud Atlas - the movie was decent too, if a bit weirdly "yellowface".

Second Half of the Decade:
Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls was a fascinating psychological study - won't give away spoilers here. Axiomaticwas more sci-fi short stories: I've loved Egan's work ever since "Permutation City", explorations and extrapolations on quantum physics and consciousness and biotech. Bull Was a great sympathetic retelling of the story of the minotaur. Priestdaddy - I could resonate with the tale of being a preacher's kid, albeit not a catholic (!) one, by poet Patricia Lockwood. The Orange Girl - this book has an odd number of parallels with my life, from the late-revealed name of the titular character ("Veronika"), to a boy coping with the early death of his father, to a tendency to write letters for future reading of young people... Time's Arrow was a homonculus who rides along witnessing a Nazi doctor's life but played in reverse.... Love and Limerence taught me a lot about "infatuated love" and maybe not to sweat not feeling it so often, that it might just be a personality-based likelihood...
According to reports assassinating Soleimani was presented as the obviously too extreme throw-away option to make the other options look reasonable. Note to Pentagon officials: do NOT put in a "throw-away option" of using nukes, please.

And drones, man. Remember that Mirror, Mirror episode of Star Trek, where the evil universe Captain Kirk had a viewscreen in his quarters that could just make anyone it displayed stop existing? Drones are kind of like that, a tool that Obama started using (most infamously to kill a 16 year old US Citizen) and now it's in the hands of Trump.

from Favorite Movies Kirk Saw, 2010-2019

January 7, 2020
(For comparison, my list from 2010...)
  1. Her - really great, low-key Scifi about the future of Siri, with a semi-serious attempt to think about what it might be like for a virtual person. Also I love the speculation on what future fashion might be, how Joaquin Phoenix isn't a nerd-y dweeb, he's a hot dude of his era!
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road - the intense spectacle of it all, and the bad-ass heroine who always holds her own. Plus a great blend of mostly practical effects with just a dab of CGI.
  3. I ♥ Huckabees - from the previous decade but new to me, I just love the patter of competing philosophies. "How am I not myself?"
  4. Inception - the decade kicked off amazingly, the surreal image of the earth being folded into itself - overall this movie really represents an excellent maturation of directors being able to do whatever the hell they want with CGI.
  5. Doctor Strange - I think the "Inception"-like alternate reality vision of this film made it my favorite Marvel film (just edging out that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse cartoon)
  6. Gravity - between this film in IMAX and treating myself to one of those zero-G "vomit-comet" flights, I don't feel so bad about not making it up to orbit.
  7. Black Mirror: Bandersnatch - a beautiful sci-fi musing on free-will, along with some amazing experimentation with letting the audience make choices about the narrative. Technically not even my favorite episode of Black Mirror (The "Eternal Sunshine"-like "Hang the DJ") but still, great, and with a weird attention to UK 80s home computer detail!
  8. Speed Racer - another from the previous decade, but I rented a small cinema and played it at my 40th Birthday - it's just so vibrant and kinetic
  9. Perfect Sense - sad and scary and melancholy romantic epidemic horror, I'm sort of afraid to ever watch it again.
  10. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - I'm going to say this is my most favorite of the post-Lucas Star Wars films; doomed but beautiful.

Things are so much smaller and bigger than we can really grasp...

Ooh, and this came up as a recommendation:

the title is a little misleading, it's more a deep dive into the practical FX of Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back (and some RotJ)

Isis is a fascist death cult that sought to genocide Shias. The group was an existential threat to the region. Soleimani is viewed as a superhero for leading the fight against the Middle East version of Nazis. That's who Trump assassinated. https://t.co/AEy2lsvj7z

— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) January 5, 2020

from Favorite Games Kirk Played, 2010-2019

January 8, 2020
  1. Just Cause Series - especially 3, and especially the "Sky Fortress" DLC that turns you into early, clumsy Iron Man attacking the Helicarrier, except instead of armor you have Wolverine's ridiculous healing ability. But overall, this series has such a beautiful sense of motion and physics - the whole gliding with your "flying squirrel" wingsuit, starting to lose steam, reaching out with a grappling hook then yanking yourself along to get an extra boost... so kinetically poetic.
  2. Saints Row - especially 4, where they use a Matrix-y world to excuse giving the player crazy superhero abilities, but also 3 that was just a fantastic over-the-top parody of GTA but with better music.
  3. Grand Theft Auto V - the scale of this game is just amazing, no other game I know does such a good facisimile of a living breathing city but is still fun to drive at break neck speeds or fly a plane around... the 3 protagonist story was hip as well.
  4. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild I'm less a fan of fantasy or of games that are about gradual levling up, the whole from chump to champ path, but what a compelling world they made here.
  5. Super Mario Odyssey Great return to form, and a heavy dose of what I'm into games for - experience new methods of movement and control, which Mario gains with that (kind of creepy if you think about it as posession) hat mechanic...
  6. Earth Defense Force 2025 - limited and grind-y, but still some of the coolest B-movie material to make it into games, and an awesome buddy game. "Insect Armegeddon" was a fun westernized version as well.
  7. Blaster Master Zero - such a lovely return to my NES childhood. using your weheeld tank's leap to deftly get to a platform, then switching the other way to cut momentum is a lovely bit of classic game physics.
  8. Portal 2 - smart and funny puzzle - so well written - and with a great two player mode.
  9. Redder - really thoughtful indie retro-style exploration game, with just a hint of growing menace.
  10. iOS games in general: Desert Golfing / I'm Ping Pong King / Archero / ENDI Tank Battle / Tron / Picross / Scribblenauts have all had me spending a bit too much time staring at a tiny screen....
Honorable mention: Far Cry series. Not too much that GTA/Saints Row/Just Cause doesn't offer, but still pretty decent.
Thinking a little about taboos and sometimes violent reactions to protect that what's considered sacred - pictures of the prophet Mohammed for example, or the N-word from the mouth of anyone not African-American themselves.

On the one hand, there's the obvious free speech issue - how should people whose group doesn't see something as forbidden be compelled to respect the limits laid out by some other group? But I don't think it's too convoluted to view the free speech issue the other way: shouldn't groups have limited authority to declare some taboos that are universally respected, especially ones in the wheelhouse of that group and its history?

The most correct answer is probably not at the absolutes. And this isn't meant to justify, say, the killings at Charlie Hebdo after the Mohammed comics were published - I'm not going down the Onion's "ACLU Defends Nazis' Right To Burn Down ACLU Headquarters" rabbithole, nor expressing a willingness to live in de-secularized society where the restrictions all abide by have an overt Theocratic justification. But the fact remains, even when you steer clear of the taboos, the remaining possibility-space of conversation and thought remains vast.

from favorite music of the 2010s: energy

January 9, 2020
Decide to post my favorite music that I discovered over the last decade, and realized I would be better served by dividing it into "energy" (generally, more verb movement) and "vibe" (generally, more mellowness in a noun kind of way, if that makes any sense to anyone but me)

2010: F**k You - Cee Lo Green:

(I love the lyric video that I first saw more than the one they finally got to)

Runner-up: Back To Me - Kathleen Edwards

2011: Might Like You Better - Amanda Blank:

Runner-up: Satellite - Lena Meyer-Landrut

2012: Golddust - DJ Fresh

Man, this is one of my favorite videos of all time.

2012 All The Rowboats - Regina Spektor
2012 1 Thing - Amerie

2013: So Fast, So Maybe - K. Flay

Runner-up: Werkin' Girls - Angel Haze

2014: Safe and Sound - Capital Cities

Graciously - Chandler Travis Philharmonic
Tightrope (Wondamix) - Janelle Monáe

2015: Feel Right - Mark Ronson

Runner-up: Trouble - Iggy Azalea

2016: Black or White - Dick Brave and the Backbeats

2017 Immigrants (We Get The Job Done) - The Hamilton Mixtape

2018: All This Money - Injury Reserve

Love You So - Bleu
Touch It- Busta Rhymes
Faith - Ariana Grande / Stevie Wonder

2019: Think (About It) - Lyn Collins

Do you remember the movie "Space Balls" when Mel Brooks' character denies selling the planet's atmosphere, then takes a big huff from a can labeled "Perri-air Salt Free Air"? Supposedly $700 Air Filters "raise a class's test scores by as much as cutting class size by a third." Add that to the idea that maybe Rising CO2 levels might (or might not) be linked to rising obesity levels- even in lab animals on controlled diets... and I really wonder if I should be thinking about better air filters at home. (And then my dentist expressing concern that a relative small sinus cavity might make be prone to snoring, and then how that means my body would is less oxygenated than it should be...) .

Hmmm! None of the science is super-definite on this but it is really getting me thinking.

from favorite music of the 2010s: vibe

January 10, 2020
Decide to post my favorite music that I discovered over the last decade, and realized I would be better served by dividing it into "energy" (generally, more verb movement) and "vibe" - softer.

Most of the songs here have had a moment of moving me greatly - they catch something in my wistful, melancholy self, a lovely ache that I cherish in life.

2010: Sea of Love - Cat Power

Runner-up: The Girl You Lost to Cocaine - Sia

2011: As It Comes - The Exploding Voids

Addicted to Love - Florence + The Machine
Knockin - Carolina Chocolate Drops and the Luminescent Orchestrii

(Small shout out to my friend Kjersten who made a mix "Tilkirke" (to church, in Norwegian - Knockin and a bunch of other great songs came from there, and I'm a tough person to make a mix for...)

2012: The District Sleeps Tonight - The Postal Service

Socrates - The Lisps
Concrete Wall - Zee Avi

2013: Valentine - Fiona Apple

Needing/Getting - OK Go
Something About You - Cary Brothers (feat. Laura Jansen)
I Need My Girl - The National

2014: Coffee - Sylva Esso

Runner-up: The Writing's on the Wall - OK GO

2015: My Favorite Picture of You - Guy Clarke

Runner-up: How Naked Are We Gonna Get - The Blow

2016: A Cimma - Fanfare Invisible

2017: Make Out - Julia Nunes:

Runner-up: Los Ageless - St. Vincent

2018: Til It's Over - Anderson .Paak

Runner-up: Take on Me (MTV Unplugged) - a-ha

2019: To Turn You On - Nataly Dawn + Ryan Lerman

Runner-up: Curse of the I-5 Corridor - Neko Case
Who cares if the horse is blind? Just keep loading the wagon.

The Boy Who Wears Shorts All Winter. For a very very brief moment way back when, I thought about becoming that, and I don't have a clear idea as to why. (Besides some snip of it being "an attention thing")