Tags: internet people


lfg meatspace / (+++10k/200 pots pm me+++)

I just stayed up all night watching the first two seasons of Felicia Day's World of Warcraft-inspired Internet sitcom The Guild. I will probably have more to say when I am more conscious, but there is one thing I must say while I am still delirious:

SOMEONE UNDERSTANDS US. ;_; Everything! Everything about massively multiplayer online gaming and its amazing, fucked up world! This is so way ahead of anything out there by non-gamer writers who think Internet gamer culture is "an interesting challenge" and want to do fucking fake-ass bullshit to it to show they're in touch with the young people or show off their artificial nerd cred. (I'm looking at you, Cory Fucking Doctorow, and your fake-ass frat boy dot com BoingBoing balloon, and your weak-ass, one-dimensional, Very Special Episode melodrama shorts about Quake/Ultima Online hybrids for Salon.com.) Everything from how these games bring together people of different ages and backgrounds who have nothing else in common in the real world, to the way real-life personalities influence character class selection and build choices, to the awkwardness of real-life meetups between Internet friends with no social skills, to the implications of gaming addiction as a coping mechanism for real life problems, to the odd cocktail of selfishness and insecurity that brings the outcasts of the world together in online communities--it's all there. The characters begin the series as contemptible, instantly recognizable ingame archetypes: there's the narcissistic griefer, the masculinity-obsessed n00b twink, the insecure acceptance-seeking healer/buffer player, the manipulative gold-digging bitch, the obsessive-compulsive guild leader--and that's all they are at first. But then you get a glimpse of the people behind the characters and why they chose those play styles, and they grow on you amazingly. There's guild drama, and server outages, and farming, and balance issues, and all the things real MMO players take far too seriously in their gaming lives, all presented with the same import as a missed anniversary or crazy visiting uncle in a traditional TV sitcom. All the archetypes are spot on, all the lingo is genuine, all the nerd culture is authentic. And it's not just a steady stream of pop culture references, like your typical cheap Internet satire. The drama is actually compelling! Way better than anything on television right now! This is neither the early '90s Fox News special report on MUD addiction or a recent update to The Hacker Manifesto. It neither sugar-coats nor demonizes the hardcore MMO player's lifestyle without context. It is endearing, it is disgusting, it is brutally honest and sweet and ugly and totally keeps it real--and it's hilarious.

And it does all this in three minutes per episode. Without a single frame of machinima or a single ingame scene.

That's what sets this show apart from any of the other gaming-related series on CollegeHumor or YouTube: It's not about games. It's about gamers. It's both a love letter to and a scathing indictment of the people on the uglier end of the screen. The music video I embedded in my previous post is actually kind of a lie. It portrays the characters of the show as their online personas--beautiful, glamorized, confident and heroic and daring. Their offline personas are startlingly different, and without the lights and the expensive makeup they are monstrously, freakishly human.

It's so good.

Bear in mind that my objectivity might be compromised. I could just be exceptionally wowed by this show because my sophomore year of college I had a huge crush on my best friend, who was a sweet redheaded female CS major with freckles and pale skin who read xkcd and loved all kinds of nerdy things and played the viola and was upset that boys didn't like her. (Who, in a weird example of life watching art imitating life, stayed up all night watching it tonight with me, providing running commentary on AIM, on the opposite end of the continent.) It's a comedy, and the characters are exaggerated, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't hit a little close to home.

As for the format, well, Joss Whedon cited this show as an inspiration for Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog and as his reason for casting Felicia Day as the female lead. I can totally see why. Intersect the two series in crossover with Felicia Day as the nexus and you basically have the San Diego Comic-Con.

This is the Internet culture tribute I've always wanted to write. My princess is in another castle. ;_;

dr. frankenstein's regret

Lomans, Not Shamans: This is the most beautiful anti-Web-2.0 war cry I've ever read. Not useful in terms of action or ideology, but beautiful nonetheless. (Can't we enjoy pretty rhetoric for its own sake?)

The author, Wonderchicken, is more interesting than your typical smug, grandiloquent blogger for the following reasons:

  • His web persona is a raging alcoholic. (Emptybottle.org...duh.) An eloquent raging alcoholic. The best kind of raging alcoholic to listen to.
  • A dear friend of his, who was partially responsible for giving him his screen name, died in the Bali nightclub bombings of 2002 and he has been writing about it since. (Start from the bottom of that page and scroll up.)
  • The guy himself is apparently a Web 2.0 developer, and like many Web 2.0 developers he has created a plethora of useful websites for both work and personal amusement. The difference between him and your typical Silicon Valley web monkey is that he refuses to get excited about the industry. In fact, he loathes it. Note this furious screed against Digg founder Kevin Rose's new Twitter-stalking site WeFollow.
  • Not A Howl, A Twitter. Allen Ginsberg, folks! And he actually does it right, unlike everyone else. This may be because, I suspect, he actually is Allen Ginsberg. (Or his late '00s successor, anyway.)

I wonder if, given that Wonderchicken has been around long enough to have had a part in making the Web what it is today, this is his way of looking at the Internet, laughing, danging his empty bottle upside down into the heavens, eyes red, screaming with bitter mirth, "What have I done? Dear God, what the fuck have I done?"

attack of the sound robots

Those of you who have done recording before may be familiar with Auto-Tune, known more generically as automatic pitch correction. Auto-Tune is not a recording tool, it is a crime against music.

That may sound hypocritical coming from someone who loves mashups and is an avid fan of the Vocaloid synth-vocal software, but bear with me here.

The issue I have with Auto-Tune is not the technology itself but how the recording industry uses it. While it can be used for artistic effect, as any Daft Punk fan is well aware, in the record industry it is overwhelmingly used to give perfect pitch to professional musicians who cannot sing. With this technology, anyone--you, me, a drunken hobo with laryngitis--can hit any note, follow any beat, and match any tune. Applied poorly, it produces a cringeworthy vocoder-like effect and makes you sound more like a synthesizer than a human--which lots of hip-hop producers pretend to do on purpose; it's the old lazy artist's trick of applying a quick, ugly fix and claiming it was intentional. (I wonder if anyone would actually recognize T-Pain's normal speaking voice?) Applied well, it actually sounds convincingly human, with one minor caveat--to hide the effects of the pitch shift, every last bit of nuance, soul, or personality in the singer's voice must be drowned out or polished away. (Not that that's a problem in East Asia and much of Europe, especially among producers who see music as little more than a series of frequencies for waveforms to hit, like colored bars in a Rock Band game.)

Now I don't mind this technology being applied where it's appropriate--I mean, so much of techno music is synthesized anyway that vocals actually work better when there's some kind of vocoder involved. In the hard-rock sound of some of Britney's more recent hits I admit it kind of works; given the trainwreck her personal life has been recently I can understand the decision to edit some of the humanity out of her music. But in folk music? Soft, gentle, "unplugged"-sounding acoustic guitar music? Absolutely unforgivable. In that genre, the texture of the singer's voice is the music! Take that out, and what you are left with is mere karaoke. Auto-Tuning a skilled screamer, rasper, or crooner is like dumping half a bottle of ketchup on a porterhouse steak because it's not salty enough.

There are two versions of the Plain White T's "Hey There Delilah" out there. The first is a lo-fi recording, and is admittedly not that great. The second was done in a real recording studio, and is absolutely beautiful--it would be one of my favorite recordings, ever, if not for one tiny bit where Tom Higgenson is straining to reach one note, the one that he gets to just before singing "planes and cars," and suddenly it sounds like he's being eaten by robots. This aggravates me, I admit, only because I've heard the first recording, in which that part was the most emotionally resonant of the song. In the first recording, Higgenson strains to reach that note, and just barely falls short--and the effect is powerful and resonant and deeply, deeply sad. You know Higgenson's narrator is making promises he doesn't know he can keep--you can tell that just from Higgenson's too-anxious-to-be-reassuring delivery--but that tiny moment of imperfection, that part where he soars ambitiously to hit that one point and just narrowly misses, and his voice cracks, is when he really drives the uncertainty of his message home. That one moment carries so much of the emotional resonance of the song, all that love and anxiety and hope and concern from a young man who has nothing promising everything to his beloved; everything else in the song builds up to that one point. I'm not going to lie--it moved me almost to tears the first time I heard it. It struck too much of a chord with me.

In the second recording of "Hey There Delilah," after a spellbinding two minutes of leaf-crisp guitar notes and rich, impassioned singing (I am not opposed to audio editing when it brings out the best qualities of the original performance), Higgenson hits the note. And that wouldn't be such a big deal, if not for the fact that you can hear the telltale synthesized warble of Auto-Tune while he's hitting the note. This one little change dramatically changes the meaning of the song. The first recording says, "Girl, I'm going to make this work. Somehow. I don't know how, but I will. Someday I'll give you the world, but right now all I've got is my guitar, this shitty microphone, and a heart full of dreams." The second recording says, "Skynet has seized control of the music industry! RUN AWAY!!"

I sometimes wonder if pop stars even bother singing anymore. They'd achieve the same effect by speaking in a monotone and letting the pitch algorithms do the singing for them. Producers think we're stupid enough to not notice that Kanye's voice only does that weird warble when he would have to hit a note too high or too low outside his range. Sadly, we do notice--we just don't care anymore. Auto-Tune is singlehandedly responsible for bringing us the Backstreet Boys, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Ashlee Simpson, Hannah Montana, and twenty years of lip-syncing marionettes who anyone who's sat close enough to the stage during a live concert knows can't actually sing. I sometimes wonder why people were so appalled when that terrible Microsoft Songsmith commercial came out, because, frankly, that's the way it's done in the big leagues these days. So much of mainstream music is done in production that I wonder why the mainstream record industry even bothers having vocalists anymore. Or instrumentalists, for that matter. Lower cost, higher profit margin!

You know who couldn't hit a note to save his life? Jimmy Scott. And yet, he had one of the most amazingly, heartrendingly expressive voices in American music. Not in spite of, but because of it. Given a choice between perfect pitch and that kind of soul...I'd go with soul, any day.

I have to admit, however, that Auto-Tune does have its redeeming qualities. Like its ability to make news broadcasts more entertaining!

And even I will admit that this Auto-Tuned treatment of the Slap Chop infomercial is fantastic:

Your'e gonna love his nuts!

Speaking of...back in 2007, stand-up comedian and former Black Flag frontman Henry Rollins raised a small stir when he denigrated the entire techno genre's credibility in his act:

Two years later, DJ Steve Porter, the guy who did the Rap Chop mix, Auto-Tuned Rollins's sarcastic drum machine beatbox, mixed in some choreography from Internet darling the Techno Viking, and made this:

Oooh, burn. Reverse satire!

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm only okay with Auto-Tune when it's completely fucking ridiculous. :D

you've been kurtrolled

Works surprisingly well.

Speaking of mashups, someone in Spain noticed that the video to Beyonce's "Single Ladies" matches up perfectly with Encarnita Polo's "Paco Paco":

This has unfortunately spawned a Spanish youtube meme. AGH WAY TOO MANY MIDDLE-AGED MEN IN LEOTARDS

Also, if you've never seen a turtle having an orgasm, here's your chance.

otakon 2009: convention of otaku generation

Otakon. Oh man, where do I even begin.

For the sake of appropriateness, I'm going to do this the same way Japanese bloggers review otaku events: obsessive-compuslively, with excessive categorization!

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started at 9pm, ended at 8:23 am, literally spent all night writing this...am going to enter coma now kthxbye.