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20091205

Z for Zeitoun

Entry 1618 posted in: 1. General Mish Mash


Fair use, people! It was freezing cold this morning and exactly this week clothing manufacturer H&M decided to adorn the railway stations with some lingerie publicity that made me even shudder harder when I passed the semi-naked fleshy skeletons that pretended to have a good time. In the name of science I had a good look at them and decided that two models glued together would make a normal looking woman with the necessary accessories to put some lingerie around (and then, as I am – but – a man, take it back off).

Although there is an anti-skinny movement going on for a couple of decades now the haute-couture and fashion world doesn't seem to be interested and carries on promoting an anorexic lifestyle. When Photoshop Disasters published a promotional picture of a model whose picture had been so maltreated that her hips actually were smaller than her head Ralph Lauren immediately attacked the blog for copyright infringement and its internet provider removed the post without even asking if Ralph Lauren had made a valid point or not (it wasn’t but the image still hasn’t reappeared nearly 3 months later). The new censorship dictators no longer carry the title prince, king or emperor they are now called CEO and lawyers throwing crap from sad green mountains have become their licensed fools.

Later on Photoshop Disasters published a second Ralph Lauren publicity, but this time the company didn’t respond anymore as their previous reaction had backfired, mainly because other blogs, especially Boing Boing, newspapers and television stations had jumped in to the rescue thus creating a so-called Streisand effect. If you have a couple of hours to spend just do a Google search and enjoy. It is also rather dubious that Ralph Lauren never found it necessary to apologize to Photoshop Disasters, nor Boing Boing, but prefers to send silly press statements to the world about how misunderstood they are.

Thank god, dog or blog we have democracy and freedom of speech. So we think, I was a big believer of the nivellement par le bas theory in my progressive twenties (suddenly the name Habermas flashes through the mist in my brain) but when the first fat rolls started to grow on my body that had a reverse proportional effect on my ideological beliefs as well. Now that I have turned 50 I’m back full of anger and angst and the future looks as gloomy as when I was 18.

I used to ironically quip how (Bush ruled) United States of America slid more and more towards the direction of that big fat, but nevertheless undernourished, ancient enemy of theirs the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It isn’t irony anymore.

Both countries basically had a rigid one party system with an infallible but often slightly demented leader at the top. Both countries used a ‘common enemy’ to enhance nationalistic feelings, anyone opposing or even debating that issue was considered unpatriotic and measures where then taken to remove the unpatriotic elements from society. In the USSR you disappeared in a mental institute or a Gulag archipelago, in the USA – being a capitalistic driven society – it was mostly enough to sack the person from his/her job, although there are enough examples of American citizens that have been imprisoned for ‘unpatriotic’ behavior. I recently came across Dave Eggers’s non-fiction book Zeitoun and it enraged me at a point that I had to take physical distance from the novel from time to time.

The book meticulously describes how Abdulrahman Zeitoun, an American citizen, stays behind after the hurricane Katrina disaster, peddling with his canoe through the inundated streets and helping citizens who didn’t or couldn’t flee the city and who were eagerly waiting for official help organizations that would never arrive, as if the USA was one of those third-world countries who can’t look after their people after a tragedy.

As a devout Muslim Abdulrahman finds it his task to help wherever he can, but one day he gets arrested, in true Mad Max style by self-appointed police officers, and deported to a nearby prison camp.

Zeitoun is put in an iron cage (!) that ASPCA would find unsatisfactory for animal transport and is accused of terrorist activities. How on Earth an Al Qaeda terrorist would plot satanic plans, peddling in a canoe, by helping old ladies from the roofs of their inundated houses, remains a mystery, but from then on the story, although it is not a story - but hallucinatory fact, gets Kafkaesque proportions. Zeitoun literally disappears from Earth, is refused a lawyer, his family is not informed of his imprisonment and they are led to believe he has drowned trying to protect his property. If this had happened in the USSR we’d call it Stalinist and rightly so.

Zeitoun, falsely accused, repeatedly insulted, (verbally) abused, emotionally and physically tortured, was not the only citizen doing Katrina time says Dave Eggers, and all-in-all Abdulrahman was still quite lucky:

There were hundreds of people that did months in jail, and I'm sure there are dozens of cases of prisoners who did over a year in various jails and prisons around Louisiana, where no one even knew where they were. It's unprecedented in American history, (…) I think there was a dark age, right in the middle there, from 2003 to 2006 especially, when anything seemed possible and nothing was surprising. (Taken from: Salon)

Zeitoun’s unnecessary persecution didn’t turn him onto a Muslim terrorist; quite the contrary. He seems to see the whole episode as a weird test and has forgiven his persecutors. He tries to persuade himself and his entourage that the whole process has strengthened him as a religious individual and as an American citizen who, as everybody else, watches Pride and Prejudice with his family. While a droopy dog-eyed George Bush was firing one-liners to television cameras around the world Abdulrahman Zeitoun saved over two-hundred New Orleans citizens trapped by the water. The American government rewarded him by putting him in a dog cage and by refusing him the most elementary human rights, including medicial treatment for his wounds.

I wonder if the chairman of the next Republican Party convention will have the courage to openly repudiate George Bush and his politics. If Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev had the guts why not Michael Stephen Steele?

I urgently need a drink. Now.

(Profits of the Zeitoun book by Dave Eggers go to the Zeitoun Foundation.)


If you liked this post - you might be interested in these as well: Saint Cecilia 

20091213

Desiderata

Entry 1619 posted in: a. ArianeB, e. Adult Oriented Games


ArianeB 6.1 ArianeB 6.1

Since a couple of weeks the dating simulator ArianeB, also known as Ariane Barnes or Virtually Date Ariane and even Ariane Brodie (sorry, just adding these synonyms to get a higher Google ranking), has been upgraded to version 6.1.

The changes have been applied to the html pages alone and as far as I could check no images have been tampered with. Apart from some bug fixes the story is identical to that of version 6.0. The main difference is that Ariane’s responses, which - up till now - were only visible as tooltips on the images by moving the mouse over the appropriate area, are now reflected as well in the bottom text area.

For the original overview of the changes you can always check the Life in the Metaverse blog.

I will not end this post by saying that the walkthrough of version 6.1 will come any day now, as I still didn’t find the time to investigate the different new scenario’s of version 6.0 (nor 6.1). But I did play version 6.0 a few times and I immediately came home with a toaster!

Let me say that my wild friendship with ArianeB has temporarily tempered a bit, and the arrival of several new characters at Shark’s Lagoon will certainly not help remediate that.

Florian & Alancy Desire and Submission

Shark, from Shark’s Lagoon, has once done it again and leaves us with a nice Christmas bonus. He has teamed up with a few people from the Shark’s Lagoon forum and together they came with a new flash game called Desire and Submission, an adult sim exploring the boundaries of BDSM, but always staying within the limits of Shark’s universe, meaning that the adventure is rather witty than offensive or vulgar.

Shark’s games are a mixture of point and click simulation adventures, graphic novels and/or interactive movies. The story develops in the usual way, with people talking to each other through text balloons and a next button to proceed to the following scene. It is advised not to skip the texts as some contain hints for later on, but you can scroll rapidly through the different panels by clicking on the space where the ‘next’ button arrives, even if it is not visible.

Once in a while the story is halted, the mouse pointer changes into a circle and it is up to the player to trigger the following events. As such the game resembles those classic point and click adventures like Day of the Tentacle, but of course Shark’s latest asset is not about a bunch of teenagers careening through space and time, deep-freezing and microwaving hamsters en passant. Desire and Submission contains adult topics, adult topics we adults like so much that we can’t have enough of them. Well, some of us do.

In Shark’s earlier creations a single click would start a next scene, but in this game there are quite a few puzzles where so-called combo-clicks, in the right order and inside a limited time frame, have to take place. There are also some interesting sidesteps, if the player takes the wrong decision for instance, the story will continue for a while and will only reveal a dead end after some further developing situations have taken place. Personally I liked one alternative ending so much that I would like to see it develop into a parallel universe, so to speak.

People who are not used to Shark’s games (and the way they work) may have some problems initially; I have ‘grown up’ with Shark’s earlier incantations and know how they have been evolving, from release to release, always towards the better. This last effort is, undoubtedly, his best creation ever. Lagoon games have that certain cartoonish 3D style that makes me wonder if this is the kind of thing the Thunderbirds were doing after hours.

As usual the Shark’s Lagoon forum has dedicated a thread to the game were subtle hints are dispersed over its 25 pages or so, members have been informed not to give too much away as this will take away the fun of the game, so asking for the password to get to the second episode of the game will simply be ignored, if you are lucky (if you are unlucky you will get a spank for help).

spank spank spank spank lovely spank! Shark’s last has evolved into a real interactive story and has been separated in two different episodes (with hopefully more to come). Part 1, Alancy, shows how the fresh wife of a nobleman is introduced in the strange ways of French nobility, including whips and dungeons. When the first episode has been ended to the satisfaction of all parties a password is revealed that can be used to start the second episode, Florian, but if no password is revealed the game has switched over to an alternative ending, that is also fun to play, but will not lead to success.

Talking about success, Shark’s games are not only getting better from release to release but are also gaining in popularity. The downside of this all is that since "desire and submission" is on-line, the website is very slow. The visitors are increasingly numerous in the lagoon and the server cannot respond all the requests.”

The website has increased from about 2000 visitors a day during the Sweet Alison days to its tenfold. So Shark has now got to think about the possibility to move his site to a bigger server that will obviously cost more money. Shark's games have always been freeware, but he did accept donations through PayPal, but this account has recently been closed, due to PayPal's shady politics of ‘diffusing of sexual contents’.

Bad luck never comes alone.

Desire and Submission can be found at Shark’s Lagoon. The games can also be downloaded and these downloads have better graphics than the on-line versions. Unfortunately these files are hosted on Rapidshare, a website that has the most misleading name ever. Getting the files tempt to be a rather quirky business and are very very very slow. Episode 1: Alancy takes about 33 MB and episode 2: Florian around 41 MB.


Shark’s Lagoon games that have been discussed here before:
Horny Afternoon: Cyberhugging
Sensual Experiment: Sense And Sensibility
An afternoon at the swimming pool: Autumn Blues
First Time: (insert title here)
Secret Fantasy Dreams: Secret Fantasy Dreams 
and the ArianeB section can be found at: ArianeB 

20091225

And Another Thing... or two...

Entry 1620 posted in: 3. Gamebits, c. The Sandbox Of God


a letter from the manager I am not very fond of the end of the year, partly because everybody wants you to be happy, which I am, by definition, not. Another recurring nightmare are the end of the year lists that are published everywhere and the New Year’s resolutions for the coming year.

So I had decided not to publish such a list, but then…

OpenTTD 1.00

OpenTTD, probably the best game in the world, has put a first beta for version 1.0.0 on their website. With this version you can run OpenTTD without the original Transport Tycoon Deluxe data files, although you can still use them.

OpenTTD entries on this blog:
2008
Tycooning 
2009
Rock around the block 
Horses and heroes 

CorsixTH (Open Theme Hospital) - demo 1

Another gem from the past (1997) is Theme Hospital by Bullfrog Productions. The game has been imitated a couple of times but these attempts were always worse than the original. For a couple of years several projects have attempted to create an Open Source version of the game and (some of) these different projects have been described on this blog before. Most of these projects have died a lonely death for the simple reason that a man (or woman) alone can’t cope with the ten thousands lines of coding such a huge project needs.

For the moment I am aware of three simultaneous Open Theme Hospital projects that share the same blog and forum: OpenTH, Java Hospital and CorsixTH. (Finally people have understood that it is better to bundle forces and start coding instead of making nice and flashy websites that promise things that will never come.)

CorsixTH has now released a playable beta 1, making it the first open source Theme Hospital clone to reach playable status. Representing five months of development since the project launched, CorsixTH Playable Beta 1 implements many of the features of the original game, and runs natively on Windows, Linux, and OS X. The intent of this release is to increase awareness of CorsixTH, and to encourage more developers to assist in the project.

Similar to how OpenTTD started, years ago, CorsixTH requires some of the original game data files to provide graphics and sounds and some tweaking needs to be done in configuration files, just like in the good old TTDpatch days, although in my case it was just enough to add the line C:\Program Files\Bullfrog\Hospital\ in the config.txt file.

Since the project went public on July 24th 2009 the core development team grow from one person to four people. Despite this, the project is looking for more developers to report bugs and submit code. Artists interested in creating a new set of graphics, and hence removing the dependency on the original game data, are also welcomed. (This last phrase is perhaps wishful thinking, it took OpenTTD five (5!) years to accomplish this and, according to Wikipedia, it is the 8th most active Sourceforge project on this planet.)

Open Theme Hospital entries on this blog:
2006
Open Source Theme Hospital Clone Announced (project abandoned, website unavailable)
2007
Theme Hospital Tycoon (project abandoned, website unavailable)
Donuts and doctors (project abandoned, website unavailabel)
2008
open Theme Hospital - 3 different ones (this developed in OpenTH)

Now that I am busy with this silly list, why don’t I go on with it…

Widelands - build 14

Widelands is an open source (GPLed) real-time strategy game. It is built upon the SDL and other open source libraries and is still under heavy development. Basically Widelands is a Settlers II remake rather than a clone carrying its own graphics, sounds and music. It is a project that is very alive and kicking.

Widelands entries on this blog:
2008 Widelands 

UFO: Alien Invasion 2.2.1

Also UFO: AI is not a clone but a remake from the popular X-COM games from the Nineties. The community is very active and new versions appear on a nearly monthly basis.

UFO: AI entries on this blog:
2008 Illegal Aliens  

Open Tower / High Rise Developer alpha 0.0.3

In July I wrote about on Open Sim Tower project and how it suffered from the same disease as a lot of other game clones or remakes. The leader of the project, most of the time a student, is very enthusiast, but fails to produce a downloadable game, because real-life catches up with him: exams, girlfriend, work, a home and a dog. This is no criticism, mainly an observation, but hours after I had blogged about it I received a reply from the Open Tower community with the clear message that I had exaggerated and that the project was still very active.

Last week I checked again and found that the main website of Open Tower had disappeared (it now leads to an OpenTower wiki) and the forum has been closed down due to lack of interest in development. It is not the time of the season to joke about this all, simply an observation.

However, on top of the Open Tower wiki is a banner saying that their project has got nothing to do with High Rise Developer. My attention was grabbed and it appears to be - yet another – attempt to create a Sim Tower style game. They have an 0.03 alpha which means that the project is still in a very early stage, but at least some work has been done.

Open Tower entries on this blog:
2009 Lost Yoot 

Sandbox of Gods: 1.5 & Remastered

Sandbox Of Gods was one of the freeware indie hits from 2004, the game looked absolutely vintage, with tacky graphics and sounds, and that was probably why it went in that well.

Basically you are a god (as in the man with the beard) and you can choose if you will give humans or rabbits the chance to evolve into an intelligent species. You can try to develop both species as well and the final result will either end in a global nuclear war or in a peaceful world where humans (probably all vegetarian) and rabbits are peacefully living next to each other.

The walkthroughs for this game can be found on this blog and in only 5 runs you will have discovered all possibilities of this point’n click sim. Of course playing by these walkthroughs takes most of the fun away, as you should find out yourself, by trial and error, how an early decision will develop thousands year later.

For years there were plans for a sequel, but these were never concrete until this year when, out of the blue, a SOG remaster was promised.

Basically there will be two SOG 1.5 versions:

An updated freeware version containing the following changes
- support for Windows 7 and Windows Vista
- upgraded resolution
-new music and sound effects
-a new save engine which allows for updates and patches
-a new options menu

A Remastered version, containing the freeware game and some extra games, inspired by the original (this version will be given away, as a bonus game, to existing Vertigo Games customers)
-SOG boardgame: a boardgame version of the Sandbox of God simulation using light gels, clay figures, blocks and cards…
-SOG warfare: where rabbits plot to take over the world and attack the humans in a 20 level turnbased strategic extravaganza

If all goes well SOG:R will be released on the last day of this year: the 31st of December… suddenly the future does look bright…

The Sandbox of Gods walkthroughs can be found at:
Walking Through The Valley Of Eden (Sandbox of God Walkthrough Part 1) 
Bad Moon Rising (Sandbox Of God Walkthrough Part 2) 
Under The Vulcano (Sandbox Of God Walkthrough Part 3) 
I Want To Be A Little Fishy (Sandbox Of God Walkthrough Part 4) 
It's the Final Countdown (Sandbox Of God Walkthrough Part 5) 

20091231

iPod Random Generator December 2009

Entry 1621 posted in: 9. I, Pod


Sometimes I think that my iPod has a mind of its own, telepathically connected to my own. I have literally made hundreds of radio programs in my angry young days, but the daring combinations the iPod randomizer presents me are quite spectacular and always always awe-inspiring.

Did it know it was the end of the year? The five last songs it presented to me were:
Mr. Tambourine Man, The Byrds followed by
The Beatles’s All You Need Is Love.

Then came a suiting intermezzo with If I Could Change Your Mind from The Alan Parsons Project (from their rather disappointing album Eve).

The last songs of the year, and damned if I do, were both from the same artist, a bloke named Syd Barrett whose Baby Lemonade was followed by Terrapin. Thus ended the year for my iPod.

The underneath graph gives the songs that were played the most this year (or last year, if you will), and apart from the quite hideous Vega-Tables from Brian Wilson’s Smile, I’m still not sure if I have to praise or to hate that album, it’s a pretty fair bunch.

And because I have now reliable statistics from the last two years (and obviously because I am a geek) I present you hereafter with an overview of that. It is the combined top 20 from the top tens of 2008 and 2009. The result is far from spectacular and up till now there is no deductible pattern, but it cost me quite some time to make it, so I’ll present it here anyway.

Next year all my iPod statistics will be reset to zero and a new set of greatest hits will be randomly chosen. Welcome to the machine.

As always the playlist of the month will appear on my MySpace blog and the overview of the year will be glued on my MySpace entrance page. And for those who still want to know the how and what and where and when I give you this old link: Random Blueß aka sucking for statistics 


If you want to know how the graph looked like last month: iPod Random Generator November 2009