MonthMay 2012

Psychotherapist/Sex Game Designer Nicolau Chaud Talks About Next Game

Nicolau Chaud is a Brazilian psychotherapist and indie computer game developer responsible for such hits as Marvel Brothel, which is actually more of a business simulator than a sex game, and Beautiful Escape: Dungeoneer. Here’s Joel Goodwin’s description of the latter:

“The Dungeoneers” is a clandestine society of sociopaths who believe “pain to be the most intimate form of relationship one person can have with another”. They carry their mental disease with pride. They inflict it on their victims with impunity. A dungeoneer’s finest hour is when he or she tortures a victim to a sweet spot on the verge of madness and death called a “beautiful escape”. They also upload videos of these torture sessions for others to review, in an intentional nod to the experience of releasing games online for peers to high-five or tear down.

You are Verge, a dungeoneer of poor reputation with honed self-loathing skills. This is a game without heroes. Verge is not a likeable character.

Chaud is now using his RPG Maker skills to create a new game called Polymorphous Perversity. Not much has been revealed, but he’s given a few interviews on the game. Here’s an excerpt from Goodwin’s:

In May, Chaud’s mood was ebullient: “I had a very weird insight today: I treat my game like a girlfriend… Yeah, I know, weird. But the good thing is: it loves me back.”

But his posts were infrequent and in June he made a quick remark that this special relationship was fast becoming dysfunctional: “Making this game has been a very interesting and weird experience. Researching sexual preferences, googling for pictures, spriting 24×32 sex, reading and writing porn, getting e-mails with naked pictures from players… it’s all very weird. Fun, at first, but gets somewhat unpleasant after a while, and the feeling of numbness I’m getting towards the theme is disturbing.”

Electron Dance: Not Safe for Work

Nightmare Mode: Interview with Nicolau Chaud, Mind Behind Polymorphous Perversity

Kotaku: The Sex Game That Crossed Lines and Unnerved Its Creator

All three sites have screenshots that contain adult material (NSFW).

(links via Metafilter)

Polymorphous Perversity is currently open to its final round of testers. You can apply here.

Warren Ellis on Hunter S. Thompson’s Legacy

In a wide ranging interview with Disinfo’s Matt Staggs, Transmetropolitan writer Warren Ellis discussed the legacy of Hunter S. Thompson.

You can listen to or download the interview at Disinfo. Here are some of the points Ellis made:

  • In Transmet Ellis was more interested in the effects of celebrity on Thompson.
  • Celebrity had a corrosive effect on Thompson. Although he became more well known, he was portrayed as a cartoon character and that resulted in him being defanged and not taken seriously.
  • Because Thompson’s work is so seductively well written, it can actually be a bad influence on writers who try to imitate his style.
  • The point of drawing on 60s and 70s politics in Transmet was to show how little things had changed in the 90s and 00s when Ellis was writing it, and how unlikely it was that things would change substantially in the future.

I love Thompson’s work but think he can be a bad influence on writers and journalists who wind up writing crappy prose in an attempt to be edgy and play it fast and loose with the facts to be “gonzo.” And because of his image and style, his message was often lost. Too many people remember him as a character.

Fructose Fogs the Brain New Study on Rats Suggests

A high intake of fructose impairs the cognitive abilities of rats by interfering with insulin signaling, but omega-3 fatty acids (n-3) reduces those negative effects effects according to a study from the Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology UCLA published in Journal of Physiology.

Although headlines today, including my own, emphasize the study’s findings regarding the impairing effects of high levels of fructose, the study also highlights the importance of n-3 acids, specifically DHA, to cognitive function. The authors of the study conclude: “In terms of public health, these results support the encouraging possibility that healthy diets can attenuate the action of unhealthy diets such that the right combination of foods is crucial for a healthy brain.”

The study, conducted by Rahul Agrawal1 and Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, consisted of four groups of six rats:

  • one group ate an n-3 deficient diet with a fructose solution
  • one group ate an n-3 deficient diet without a fructose solution
  • one group ate an n-3 sufficient diet with a fructose solution
  • one group ate an n-3 sufficient diet without a fructose solution

Each group was tested on a Barnes maze, a standard measure of spatial learning and memory in rodents. Prior to beginning their special diets all of the rats had been trained in the maze for a five days were found to be of equal cognitive condition.

The study found that an n-3 deficient diet hampered the rats’ performance on the maze, and that adding high fructose intake to an n-3 deficient diet made things substantially worse. The rats with an n-3 sufficient diet but a high level of fructose did significantly better than those with a n-3 deficient diet and a high level of fructose, but still did worse than those with a deficient n-3 level but no fructose. Here’s an illustration of the latency in completing the maze (lower is better):

Comparison of latency times in Barnes maze test

The study notes: “Although there was a preference towards fructose drinking in comparison to the food intake, no differences were observed in body weight and total caloric intake, thus suggesting that obesity is not a major contributor to altered memory functions in this model.”

Full Paper: The Journal of Physiology: ‘Metabolic syndrome’ in the brain: deficiency in omega-3 fatty acid exacerbates dysfunctions in insulin receptor signalling and cognition

This is a new study and has yet to be replicated, and so far its implications for human diets is unclear. “We’re not talking about naturally occurring fructose in fruits, which also contain important antioxidants,” Gomez-Pinilla said in a pres release. “We’re concerned about high-fructose corn syrup that is added to manufactured food products as a sweetener and preservative.”

Although studies have found positive benefits in taking DHA supplements (see Wikipedia for an overview), previous study by Nutritional Sciences Division at King’s College London on the DHA levels in vegans and vegetarians concluded that although those who don’t eat meat have significantly lower levels of DHA “There is no evidence of adverse effects on health or cognitive function with lower DHA intake in vegetarians.” However, there are now a number of algae based vegan DHA supplements.

Anonymous/Telecomix Hacktivist Peter Fein Speaks Out

peter fein

Anonymous member Peter Fein deanonymizes himself in a video interview with BBC:

Anonymous ‘hactivist’ goes public on cyber protests

See also: My video interview with Fein and The Doctor.

A New Theory of Everything

Technology Review covers Stuart Kauffman‘s work to find a mathematical model for autocatalytic sets, the process by which life may emerge from molecules:

What makes the approach so powerful is that the mathematics does not depend on the nature of chemistry–it is substrate independent. So the building blocks in an autocatalytic set need not be molecules at all but any units that can manipulate other units in the required way.

These units can be complex entities in themselves. “Perhaps it is not too far-fetched to think, for example, of the collection of bacterial species in your gut (several hundreds of them) as one big autocatalytic set,” say Kauffman and co.

And they go even further. They point out that the economy is essentially the process of transforming raw materials into products such as hammers and spades that themselves facilitate further transformation of raw materials and so on. “Perhaps we can also view the economy as an (emergent) autocatalytic set, exhibiting some sort of functional closure,” they speculate.

Could it be that the same idea–the general theory of autocatalytic sets–can help explain the origin of life, the nature of emergence and provide a mathematical foundation for organisation in economics?

Full Story: MIT Technology Review: The Single Theory That Could Explain Emergence, Organisation And The Origin of Life

(via Social Physicist)

I find this very interesting, but don’t get too excited. These sorts of grand unification theories are extremely elusive. I’m also skeptical of these sorts of models which try to find universal rules for all types of systems.

See also:

Social Physics with Kyle Findlay

Guest Post: Some resources for thinking about systems

Video: Psychetect Live at Rotture April 29, 2012

Sound: Psychetect
Video: Gadgetto
Art: Ian MacEwan

Last month I performed at Rotture in Portland, OR opening for The Steven Lasombras, along with Cult of Zir and Meta-Pinnacle. I had some technical difficulties in the beginning, so you might want to jump forward to about 3:00 minutes in. It’s hard to tell from the video, but what I’m doing is bowing a broken drum cymbal with a cello bow. I have a contact mic on the cymbal, and the signal is being routed into Ableton Live, where its’ be processed through multiple effects. I have some other noise sources running in Ableton as well.

You can download my most recent single here and my album here.

See also:

My interview with The Steven Lasombras

My interview with Cult of Zir and Ogo Eion

Cult of Zir Live at X-Day

Online Comics Cannibalizing Print Sales? One Creator Says “Nope”

A few months ago I linked to Brian Wood’s post on how comic creators were caught in the cross-fire between publishers and comic shops over digital publishing sales.

But here’s some more evidence of what Warren Ellis already found out with Freak Angels. Jim Zubkavich, creator of Skullkickers from Image Comics, started serializing his comic online for free. The results:

Good news: Serializing the issues hasn’t negatively affected our sales one bit. Our trade sales through comic and book stores are up, steadily climbing. Making more people aware of the series has made them want the current material more, not less. Quality and good word of mouth is helping build our readership in shops bit by bit.

Better news: At conventions I’m selling a lot more. I’m not twice the sales person I was last year, but I’m selling more than double the number of books since we started serializing online. 9 times out of 10, I’m selling it to people who read the series online. I asked almost every person who came to my table if they’d heard of Skullkickers before. No word of a lie, when they said “yes”, 90% of those folks also said they were reading it online. It shocked me.

Jim Zubkavich: Everybody Wins

(via Comics Worth Reading)

This doesn’t mean, though, that paid digital downloads through tablets wouldn’t cannibalize comic shop sales, but this is indeed good news for creators, publishers and retailers.

Genesis P-Orridge, Hakim Bey and John Perry Barlow in Conversation (1993)

Here’s an old Mondo 2000 interview from 1993 with both Genesis P-Orridge and Hakim Bey conducted by Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Perry Barlow:

JOHN: Right, Taoism has no truck with good and evil at all.

HAKIM: Taoism seems to be the one religion that doesn’t have the Gnostic trace.

JOHN: In our culture, the problem arose with the Romans.

HAKIM: I think it goes further back. It’s Babylon. It’s just like the Rastas say, “It happened in Babylon.” It’s Marduk and Tiamat. It’s Mr. Hard-on God up against Sloppy Mom. In China, chaos is a benevolent property. Huntun is the gourd or the egg out of which everything comes. He’s a wonton. Huntun and wonton are the same words. He’s like this little dumpling and everything good comes out of him. In Babylon, chaos is the disgusting monster vagina that has to be ripped up by Marduk into myriad blobs of shit and slime. And we are those globs of slime. That’s how the human race came into being. What is the purpose of the human race? To serve Marduk, to serve the masculine principle, to store up grain in the granary for the priests, to pay for the priests for their sacrifice so they get the free hamburgers. That’s the whole Western myth. It’s St. George and the Dragon. St. George pins the dragon down.

In China, the dragon is the free expression of creativity. He’s the mixture of Yin and Yang, the principle of power. But here’s evil, plain and simple. This is why chaos has kicked off, for me, for Ralph Abraham, and others, an interest in making a critique of this Western mythology, and saying, “Let’s put Humpty Dumpty back together.”

JOHN: There’s been an interesting co-evolution lately of a lot of apparently disconnected things, like chaos mathematics and neo-tribalism, a sudden interest in Taoism and what I perceive to be a deep feminization of Western culture.

GEN: Some philosophers feel that there’s a risk in absolute unconditional surrender of that male-God power, even though it’s obviously failed miserably. Should we seek out every possible male trait and subordinate it to a female principle?

HAKIM: I didn’t like the rule of Dad, but I don’t think I’m going to like the rule of Mom either.

Pastbin: Zoning Out, Temporarily with Hakim Bey and Genesis P-Orridge

See also:

Douglass Rushkoff in Conversation with Genesis P. Orridge (2003 and 2007)

Hakim Bey dossier

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge dossier

The Four Types of Scoops

Jay Rosen recently presented his own theory of scoops:

Type One: The enterprise scoop. “Where the news would not have come out without the enterprising work of the reporter who dug it out.”

Type Two: The ego scoop. “This is where the news would have come out anyway–typically because it was announced or would have been announced–but some reporter managed to get ahead of the field and break it before anyone else.”

Type Three: The traders scoop. “This is the most ambiguous of my categories. It recognizes that there can be situations in which, for the general public, ‘who got it first?’ is next-to meaningless, but for a special category of user–the traders, investors, arbitrageurs–minutes and even seconds can count.”

Type Four: The thought scoop. “The most under-recognized type of scoop is the intellectual scoop: ‘stories with new insights’ that coin terms, define trends, or apprehend–name and frame–something that’s happening out there… before anyone else recognizes it.”

In my rant Getting Scoops Is Not (Necessarily) the Same as “Doing Journalism”., I’m basically talking about the difference between what Rosen calls “enterprise scoops” and “ego scoops.” The thing is, ego scoops do matter financially to tech publications – the first blog to get a story will generally be rewarded with more traffic. Because of that, I don’t judge my fellow tech reporters chasing these sorts of scoops, in fact I do it myself. The unfortunate thing though is that the tech journalism community seems to have lost track of the difference between enterprise and ego scoops (as have quit a few other journalistic communities, I take it).

There can be a degree of luck involved in getting enterprise scoops as well. Being the in the right place at the right time when someone mentions something. A lot of the dirty work is actually done by non-profit “wachdog” organizations. But it also means recognizing a real story, and doing the digging and fact checking to turn it into something substantial and not just a quick hit gossip piece. It means developing sources so that you’re the person that gets a tip.

Deadline Pressures Are Bad for Creativity

Ever think that deadlines pressures help you find creative solutions to problems? According to a Harvard Business School study, that’s not the case. From an interview with the researcher behind the study:

My research team and I investigated time pressure and creativity as part of a multi-year research program in which we had a large number of organizational employees—238 individuals on 26 project teams in 7 companies in 3 industries—fill out a brief electronic diary every day during the entire course of a creative project they were doing in their jobs. […]

As the HBR article points out, the results suggest that, overall, very high levels of time pressure should be avoided if you want to foster creativity on a consistent basis. However, if a time crunch is absolutely unavoidable, managers can try to preserve creativity by protecting people from fragmentation of their work and distractions; they should also give people a sense of being “on a mission,” doing something difficult but important. I don’t think, though, that most people can function effectively in that mode for long periods of time without getting burned out.

At the other end of the spectrum, very low time pressure might lull people into inaction; under those conditions, top-management encouragement to be creative—to do something radically new—might stimulate creativity. But, frankly, I don’t think there’s much danger of too little time pressure in most organizations I’ve studied.

Harvard Business School: Time Pressure and Creativity: Why Time is Not on Your Side

(via Alex Pang)

See also: Overtime Kills Productivity)

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