November 2002 Archives

Creativity in the Sims


Following up on my previous post, The New York Times Magazine is running a story on the Sims Online by David Brooks. Although Brooks is of a conservative bent--his comments on the economic preoccupations of the Sims games reflects this--he is an original thinker and does a decent job of describing the Sims and the culture that surrounds it. Certainly, he has many more interesting and astute things to say about the game than the folks over at Newsweek, who put the Sims Online on this week's cover (In Sequence looks askance at supposed newsmagazines that find a product launch more important than an impending war.) In particular, Brooks keys in on the stories produced by the Sims games, which he describes as "a superstructure for fantasy":

But the other and more positive sensation you get in Sims world is that some mass creative process is going on, like the writing of a joint novel with millions of collaborative and competitive authors. We generally don't think that John Updike or Saul Bellow or Cynthia Ozick are pathetic because they escape from reality into richly populated fantasy worlds. We regard that process of creativity as something that enriches a life and yields deeper understandings about the real world. And the Sims players are doing something like that at their keyboards.

Meet the Snapes


Severus and Daredevil dancing in the kitchen.With the latest Harry Potter movie out, I thought now would be a good time to introduce my Sims couple, Severus Snape and Daredevil Snape. Sim Severus Snape is of course named for the quasi-villainous character of the Harry Potter books. He and his partner, Daredevil, live together in a backwoods-style house where they enjoy the sort of high drama relationship one often sees on daytime talk shows such as Ricky Lake.
A uniformed Severus gazes at a large pot of gold.When he is not pursuing his military career, Sim Severus likes to indulge in practical jokes and mess around with dangerous objects. He is particularly attracted to a certain magic lamp, through which he has received many delightful windfalls, including a large collection of pink flamingo lawn ornaments and the pot of gold shown here.
In contrast to Severus, Daredevil is a bit more hapless when it comes to creating mayhem. It is largely because of him that the Sims Fire Department has had to make several visits to the Snapes household. In the image shown here, you can see Daredevil urgently phoning the fire department just before the kitchen turns into an inferno.
Appliances burn while Daredevil calls in the firefighters.There are several sites devoted to Harry Potter Sims, but the one I like best is Sim Hogwarts. The skins there are of a very high quality and come in both PC and Mac formats. The Severus Snape skin I downloaded from Sim Hogwarts came with several outfits, including two wizard robes, cozy union suit pajamas, and an old-fashioned men's bathing suit.
The site also has Potter-themed icons and a set of links with Potter-related objects. The artist responsible for this charming site, Inkwolf, also does cartooning, which can be found here. I got the Daredevil skin from the Skindex.
There has been a lot of excitement lately about the Sims Online, but I'm a little bit put off by the whole McDonald's product placement issue. It's insidious. Still, I will be interested to hear first-person accounts of what the game is really like.

Illistrated Children's Library online


I was very excited to read about The International Children's Digital Library at Wired News the other day. I was particularly interested to see how the "comics viewer" worked--it's an online reader developed for the purpose of viewing illustrated books. I was then distressed to see that Mac users like me--using OS 9--aren't able to access the site. The whole OS 9 scene is getting to be a big drag!

Novel bloggers


I'm interested to see that a number of bloggers are taking part in NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. Just on the DykeWrite webrings alone, Time For Your Meds!, Vox Dream, Googlefish, Ariel: Pay It Forward, Kudzology, Demented Kitty, and are all participating.
As a result of NaNoWriMo, many bloggers are taking a vacation from their blogs or are blogging less frequently. I gather that keeping a weblog has helped various authors gain the confidence necessary to undertake writing a novel; from the in-progress postings on various sites, it seems as though many bloggers are taking the task very seriously and are managing to produce against the set deadlines.
I noticed in previous months that some writers were choosing to self-publish novels or stories on the web or to release printed works simultaneously on the web. Two projects that particularly caught my eye were Cory Doctorow's story 0wnz0red, which quickly flew to the top of the Blogdex, and Jason Lubyk's Class of 91, which is appearing serially. Since both Cory and Jason have a sizable Internet following, I wonder if their decision to make all or parts of their long-form works available on the web will have an impact on other authors?

Which Winona Are You?


Corrected address

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I am filled with embarrassment. Due to a coding/spelling mistake on my part, my web site has listed the wrong email address for me for several weeks now. I was alerted to this by the true owner of the address, who appears to have been receiving my email. If you have sent me a message in the last few weeks using my insequence address, chances are I never received it. Please resend any emails to me at That is the right address. Really.
Now, like the character Dobby in the second Harry Potter book, I feel a pressing need to punish myself by banging my head against a wall. Excuse me now while I self-flagellate.

Are mosaics sequential art?


Are mosaics sequential art? I think the answer is yes. The tiny tiles of a mosaic resemble the panels of a comic strip or book, fragments that contribute to a larger whole. In this example from the Joy of Shards, the assemblage of tiles is intended to form a single image, yet the eye is only partially tricked into seeing the whole. We recognize each tile as a single unit even as its contribution to the picture appears to stem from sharing color, or texture, or orientation with other tiles.
Joint profile of Mrs. Danvers and her young mistress.The image I've reproduced here is from a remarkable series of mosaics representing Alfred Hitchcock's films that decorate the stations of the London tube. I choose this one--from Rebecca--in honor of Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper with a fetish for her mistress's panty drawer (as noted by Susie Bright in the movie The Celluloid Closet).
I found Joy of Shards through Boing-Boing, and I recommend taking a look through the whole site. Besides being an appreciation site for mosaics, it's also got a how-to section.

Trek series highlights


From an audience perspective, one of the negative aspects of sequential narratives is that one may, from time to time, have to wait out a lull or otherwise bad patch in the storyline before the plot picks up again. Such is the case with Enterprise, which I continue to watch in the hopes that it will one day soon find its feet.
Last week's show was quite awful from a story perspective, so for the most part I kept my mind trained on T'Pol's new light gray cat suit, which I hope will be upgraded to be her default uniform. There were also a few minutes where T'Pol switched into a G.I. Jane-style outfit and engaged in some entertaining hand-to-hand combat--a nice, Xena-esque bit of action that I hope will be repeated in the future. However, it wasn't much of a payoff considering I sat there watching for an hour, and pathetic compared to the thrills on offer over at Firefly.
Profile of T'Pol's faceStill, tonight's Enterprise focuses on T'Pol, so I will hope for the best. One can always turn to Star Trek books if the TV series lags too much--although they, too, sometimes suffer from the serial format. Take, for example, the Trek book series Dark Passions. From reading the first two books in the series, it is clear to me that further books were intended to be published, but the narrative ends abruptly at the end of book two and no more Dark Passions books have appeared.
This is too bad, because the first two Dark Passion books are real doozies, and I recommend them highly to fellow Star Trek fans, and most especially to readers of dark or "alt" fan fiction. The Dark Passions books take place in an alternate or reversed universe, which is here just a clever device that allows the author to make the charcters' sexuality more prominent. In these books, which cut across the Next Generation, Voyager, and Deep Space Nine timelines, all the Star Trek characters resemble, yet are different from, their familiar personalities: they are darker, damaged, sensual.
In particular, Kira from Deep Space Nine has a starring role as a bisexual dominatrix, and another Star Trek gal--whose name I will not reveal here, lest I spoil things--has a prominent role as her lesbian lover. Not to be outdone, another Star Trek femme fatale joins in the sapphic festivities near the end of book two, and there are plenty of female red shirt-types (though their shirts are often not on) who are at Kira's service in one way or another throughout the book. Did I mention there is a science fiction plot in the middle of all this? There is.
I was completely riveted to the pages of this series, short and incomplete though it was.

Updated and Expanded About Page


I've updated the About This Weblog page with some new information, including a list of the topics discussed on the site and production notes.

Terrifica takes to the streets


My friend Joe sends me a link--which he received from our mutual friend (and comic book artist) Joe Fludd--to an amazing story running at regarding a real-life superheroine roaming the streets of New York. Her name is Terrifica, and she dons a leotard and cape in order to police the singles bars of Brooklyn with the purpose of protecting women from male predators. As Terrifica describes it: "My inspiration is the need people have in the city to be protected from themselves." She carries a ultility belt equipped with pepper spray and Smarties and can be found sitting at the bar drinking a Shirley Temple. She even has a nemesis, named "Fantastico"!

Day of the Dead pics

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My buddy and fellow L.A. blogger Joel has a great series of posts and pictures up about the Day of the Dead festivities in Los Angeles and elsewhere.

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