Blog

VR Micro Online

I've got a new project in the works, VR Micro

A shared infosystem based on spatial reasoning,
a world of many interconnected maps,
with documents and services physically represented as objects.
Users have avatars and can see and interact with each other.

The short version is, this is a file share, as a memory palace by way of graphical adventure games. It is to "real" (but costs too much and makes you puke) VR, as HTML was to "real" (but never shipped) hypertext like Xanadu: It's small and simple enough to actually work. To be something a semi-normal person could run on a rented server and make some maps and share their thought world.

All I have so far is a spec, but I got the server stood up this morning, I expect to have a standalone client working soon™, and then can work on the server.

I plan to keep it all licensed BSD for code, CC-BY for content. You are of course encouraged to contribute feedback, source, content, and/or money.

Hey, you like this? Servers aren't free. You know I have a Patreon tip jar up there? <rattle> <rattle>

Fantasy Inspirations of My Youth

This is a good "why are you like this" challenge:

If I'd been called on to run a D&D campaign at age 10 or 12,
these are the images and plots I would have drawn on to
provide the inspiration for my game. […] What were your earliest
childhood fantasy inspirations? What did your fantasy world
look like back then?
DIY and Dragons

I think these are roughly in order of age of discovery, publication date's often very different. I was… the word schools liked was "precocious", which just means I was years and years ahead of the curriculum designed for morons and they had no idea how to educate me, any more than an ape could educate a mere Human. The Tarzan problem. So I read and watched whatever I liked, and grew up weird. Giving me D&D and then Gamma World was just giving a junkie an endless needle.

  • Godzilla (1954): This is what dragons are like. Any kind of giant, dinosaur, or kaiju is a catastrophe you run from, not a "monster" you fight from horseback, those are just wyverns. I saw basically every monster movie and some sentai on KSTW-11, which only had budget for old movies and reruns.

  • Star Wars (1977), Splinter of the Mind's Eye, by Alan Dean Foster (1978), Empire Strikes Back (1980): High-tech but just fantasy activity; as I learned later, Star Wars is The Hidden Fortress with spaceships, many scenes are shot-for-shot remakes.

    I'm trying to think what I learned from this, and I think it's that every alignment can be cool. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Leia are Chaos, and they're cool, tho if Leia wins she'll establish a tyrannical monarchy again which is no good. Han Solo is Neutral, and he's cooler than cool, and shoots first. Darth Vader is Order, choking out all dissension, and he's THE COOLEST. Luke and Grand Moff Tarkin suck, but you can't have everyone be cool or nobody is.

    Figure out your antagonists' motives, take their affectations and crank them up to 11, and you have an EPIC hero or villain. Pity they never made any more Star Wars movies, I might've liked to see Revenge of the Jedi. I will take no email or comments to the contrary.

  • Bullfinch's Mythology: While now it's "oh that old thing", Bullfinch did a fantastic job of covering Greek/Roman (more Greek, but with Roman names; Roman syncretism mapped names to their gods but their practices were different), Norse, and Arthurian mythos, including a lot of the poetry and literature that referenced them in the 2000 years since. Academic mythology books are too concerned with period beliefs and not how those ideas are used in later works, so they're less gameable. The art in Bullfinch's is also fantastic.

  • Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Carter of Mars, Tarzan of the Apes, Pellucidar: You know why everyone in fantasy worlds speaks Common? Because the Barsoomians have a common language by way of telepathy; Carter's telepathy's a little stronger than usual, so he can project it, but they all have it. The ruined cities, falling civilization, a hero trying to bring back glories, toppling false religions, it had it all. Tarzan's ruined cities and ancient civilizations hidden in the jungle were awesome, literally set much of my campaign style. Pellucidar was so weird and dream-like, I barely understood it, but a plausible way for dinosaurs, Humans, and evil Mahars to coexist was amazing, too. It's not a coincidence Eric J. Holmes, editor of Dungeons & Dragons Basic set, wrote a Pellucidar novel.

  • National Geographic: I had access to a big stack of old NatGeo from '40s to '70s. In particular, I devoured anything about Ancient Rome, Egypt, Greece, Mayans, & Aztecs. NatGeo of the time was astoundingly West-oriented and racist; I would've loved to know more about China, Japan, Korea, & India, but they were barely touched on. Africa was only ever presented as wilderness or savages, zero mention of modern cities. I have an eternal love of giant detailed maps from this time.

  • ElfQuest (1978): Very pretty, cutesy comics about cuddly little Wood Elves and their Wolf pets… Ha ha no, I lie, they're vicious, backstabbing, eternally horny/drunk little bastards, the Trolls (more like Dwarfs) are venal scumbags, Preservers (Fairies) are insane pests, High Elves are supernatural psychopath villains, and Humans are the dumbest, meanest animals on 2 legs. Here's how to throw all your dumb Tolkien racist shit out and have murderous Keebler Elves.

  • Michael Moorcock: The silver Elric books and bronze Count Brass books, I grabbed as soon as each new one came out, devoured them. Elric's world is full of weird mystical secrets you can grab hold of, bargain with, steal, and use. Horrible monsters and demons are summoned up by fool wizards for lust or revenge, and spread Chaos in the world. Hooray, Chaos! We see in the decayed post-apocalypse of Count Brass that Order is just as poisonous, and can't be recovered from. I didn't encounter Moorcock's weirder stuff like Jerry Cornelius until much later, presumably the local hillbilly bookstores didn't order them.

  • Mervyn Peake, Titus Groan (1946), Gormenghast (1950): Literally my model of the megadungeon. The structure seems to go on forever, up and down, buried into the Earth. Strange structures poke out everywhere, mapping beyond the known halls is impossible. The inhabitants are mad. There's little/no magic or monsters in the books, but they feel like there's magic & monsters everywhere. Don't read past the 2nd book, I didn't as a yout' and much later I didn't like Titus Alone.

  • Katherine Kurtz, Deryni Rising (1970): Low fantasy proto-England with swordfights, witchcraft & ritual magic, treachery. The ongoing fetishization of monarchy and religion, and an "actual miracle", finally soured me on the series, but the early books made it clear these are Human (or Deryni) fabrications. The consistent, low-powered but useful "magic" (or psionics, or mutant powers) are a good way to model magic in games. The Deryni are High Elves who don't suck.

  • Gamma World (1978): The game that defined how I see role-playing games. Harsh, brutal, shockingly beautiful at times, erratic, full of impossible, anachronistic references. It's fun, it's not reality. Unspeakably deadly in most places, but two medieval dipshits having at each other with swords will take half an hour to whittle their HP down to nothing, and then the survivor will take months to heal; so you learn to cheat, to use poisons, artifacts, traps, tame monsters as pets, risk getting more mutations, so you can survive.

  • Robert Asprin & Lynn Abbey, Thieves World (1978): Absolutely should never have been given to an impressionable young Mark. Cruelty, treachery, black magic, and of course thievery in a corrupt hellhole end-of-the-Empire city called Sanctuary. Pretty much all my fantasy cities are a bit of Sanctuary.

    A very similar influence I encountered later was Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser. But I didn't read those until late '80s.

  • Thundarr the Barbarian (1980): The most formative thing possible. Every frame of even the opening title is inspirational. Jack Kirby designed this, and it shows. A mix of Gamma World, magic, Burroughs-type ruins, superhuman heroes.

    "In the year 1994, from outer space comes a runaway planet,
    hurtling between the Earth and the Moon, unleashing cosmic
    destruction! Man's civilization is cast in ruins! 2000 years
    later, Earth is reborn, a strange new world rises from the
    old, a world of savagery, super-science, and sorcery! But one
    man bursts his bonds to fight for justice! With his companions
    Ookla the Mok, and Princess Ariel, he pits his strength, his
    courage, and his fabulous Sun Sword against the forces of evil!"

  • Clash of the Titans (1981): Ray Harryhausen's masterpiece. The monsters are amazing, the gods are meddling jerks but not the center of attention, more amazing monsters, the dumb-ass hero and chick yada yada another amazing monster! The myths I'd read so much about were filmed. Pity that Perseus & Andromeda are so much more wooden than the monsters. The gods do indeed play games with the lives of mortals.

  • Heavy Metal (1981): I'd seen maybe one issue of the magazine at this time, it was definitely not sold to minors. But somehow I got into the movie, and when it came out on tape I got it and rewatched endlessly. The Lock-Nar itself is irrelevant, the framing story is silly. But "Den of Neverwhere", "Taarna", and to some extent "Captain Stern" and "So Beautiful So Dangerous" ("wanna do some nyborg?") are all peak young Mark. "Harry Canyon" (ha) is great but I don't really do urban SF. I've never found any real use for "B-17".

  • Neil Hancock, Greyfax Grimwald (1982): What looks like a cute talking-animals and Dwarf book becomes something much deeper, as it turns into a sort of Buddhist Journey to the West-ish fantasy adventure. Collides fairy-world with real-world and actually made me think about what these worlds are. Not as gonzo as everything else here, probably the only thing with any philosophical merit.

  • Steve Jackson & Ian Livingstone, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (1982): Surreal, dream-like, horrifying imagery, a true Mythic Underworld dungeon, a crazy Warlock, a nigh-invincible Dragon. And then there's the game system, which was a perfect little marvel of design, Skill, Stamina, Luck, 2d6, that's all you need (for fighter/rogues in a dungeon crawl), one of the biggest influences on how I make my own games.

  • The Day After (1983): … 14 years later, there's a scene in The Fifth Element where Leeloo types "WAR" into the encyclopedia, and just breaks down screaming & crying on seeing what Humans do to each other. That was me.

    "WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU ALL?!" I asked, and keep asking, and they had no answers. And this is, like, an unreasonably optimistic scenario of nuclear war, because anyone gets to live long enough to wrap their dead family in plastic bags and worry about cancer, or looters eating fallout-poisoned food. So, growing up I had zero expectation that I'd live to see 2000, let alone another score of years after. Maybe we didn't, and this is a final dream.

If I'd known about Ralph Baksi's Wizards, it would fit right in, but I didn't see that until mid-to-late '80s.

I was already reading H. Beam Piper's books by '82, but I definitely didn't read Space Viking or Empire until late '80s, which are the ones that fit my ethos.

Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith (discovered thru X2 Castle Amber) were late '80s for sure. I know precisely that I read "At the Mountains of Madness" in 1986.

Raaka'tu, Zork, Ultima, Wizardry, and more computer games certainly influenced how I do videogames, but they didn't teach me much world-building.

The D&D and GW games I ran early on were very formulaic retreads of B1 In Search of the Unknown, B4 Lost City, or GW1 Legion of Gold modules. Later I learned to make more creative worlds, but they're still much the same framework & generated world madness.

I've probably never run a game which wasn't: A) Post-apocalypse, often centuries, millennia later; or B) Just pre-apocalypse, and there's nothing you can do about it but your actions are probably futile. Vast military horrors lurking on the edge of your vision.

I've rarely run anything with legitimate authorities above town headman who aren't dead, completely corrupted, or too distant to care. Instead the adventurers, usually venal thieves and bastards, are the only force strong enough to fight the worse guy "villains". I suppose some Call of Cthulhu, but I usually outfit the group for an expedition into weird lands, or they're trapped in some Old One or Fungi from Yuggoth laboratory or whatever. I had a "king" and court in a Dungeons & Zombies game, but the entire power structure was like 20 knights including our new recruit PCs, and the necromancers and alien gods raising millions of ravenous dead, and the chittering spidery goblins in the dark, had other ideas.

Usually my games start out looking like medieval, ancient, stone age, or sorta spacey fantasy, and you rapidly learn the world was once very different from that. You get into other lands, or old bases full of artifacts from the time before. You go into space, sometimes, and find the colony worlds have their own problems. But you still keep looting tombs/bases and building power, because you live in the world you've been left, not the peaceful one you want.

What I'm Watching: Godzilla vs Kong

Focuses much more on King Kong than King of the Monsters. I don't, I guess, object to that, but I'm a Gojira fan, not a "giant monkey whose story gets rebooted every 30 years like Spider-Man" fan.

I'll try to keep this general, but I can't talk about a few things without SPOILERS.

Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry) the Titan Truth podcaster is great, one of nature's true kooks like Dan Aykroyd, but in a world full of monsters he should be a multi-billionaire star, not sneaking around alone. "Tap or no tap?" is my new introductory question. Just adorable. For once, the best character in a kaiju movie is a person.

The woman scientist, the child, the asshole & daughter from the last movie, are all annoying and should go. New scientist (Alexander Skarsgård) is fine, but so dull I forget who he is most scenes. Creepy Hans Gruber looking Apex exec and yet another damned Dr Serizawa, they can stay. And the Apex woman (Eiza González Reyna) is pretty, snarky, but suspicious, she'll make a fine sequel villainess.

They've outdone themselves with the child this time. She's "native", deaf, and carries around a shitty handmade Kong doll. "Aww", says any moron with no brain, only a limbic system. But she's snide in sign language, always underfoot and distracting people with work to do. There's no way she should be on an adult mission. Everything you hate about children in kaiju movies wrapped up in one. And you know they won't kill her as she deserved from scene one. Ugh. Every time I see the brat I mutter "GET THE CHILD OFF THE SCREEN".

Kong's soft and cuddly and domesticated, very much a giant gorilla suit with a slightly pudgy wrestler inside. Ludicrously they transport him at one point with choppers. Kong doesn't like choppers much, but here he's placid as a sleepy puppy, instead of screaming and throwing things at them. He does eventually toughen up.

Gojira looks great in this. The Legendary CGI will never be as alive as the Toho suits, but his face is super expressive and yet alien, non-mammalian. He swims well, and looks most natural there. He looks like a dinosaur's god. The sparklers on his spine and his fire breath have been made too white and clean, they're more nasty nuclear fire in older ones where it's just painted onto the film cels.

The hollow world is gorgeous. Maybe too small? It's a cavern layer around the core of the Earth, or something, it's not entirely clear how it relates to reality. They could easily have spent another 30 minutes here and made something great of it. Maybe next movie.

With the Ancient/Titan artifacts and place… are the Titans descendants of the Ancients? Everything's on their scale, he acts like he's come home. But Kong picking up a tool is a long way from him being descended from giant people.

The main fight is good, bouncing around a neon-lit Hong Kong, a cheaty weapon gives Kong an even chance he shouldn't have. It's much more physical of a fight than some others in the series.

The final act is really unnecessary, should've been saved as a teaser for the next film. Or maybe they'll just make a much better one next time.

★★★★½ — lost half a point for the child.

Paranoid but Probably Correct Thoughts on Go

You know how Rob Pike made Go as a weapon for controlling junior devs who can't be trusted with sharp objects?

The key point here is our programmers are Googlers, they’re not researchers.
They’re typically, fairly young, fresh out of school, probably learned Java,
maybe learned C or C++, probably learned Python. They’re not capable of
understanding a brilliant language but we want to use them to build good software.
So, the language that we give them has to be easy for them to understand
and easy to adopt.
Rob Pike, saying the quiet part of a supervillain's monologue out loud

Then USGOV in Snow Crash, trying to use Asherah as a weapon. YT's mom's utterly pointless job. If they can control what's in a programmer's brain, they don't have to worry about intellectual property, because there's no intellect!

In Wild Palms (partly filmed by Kathryn Bigelow, and the WP Reader includes Pat Cadigan, Bruce Sterling, & Thomas Disch! So it's all true!), the mind-eating/immortality computer virus/drug is named Go! "Everything must Go!"

DON'T YOU SEE? IT'S ALL CONNECTED?!

charlie day-conspiracy board

Whew. So glad I finally connected those dots. It's been bugging me all week.

Raspberry Pi 400 Setup

I got my RasPi400 after weeks of delay. WEEKS! What is this, 1980? (I wish)

Keyboard is almost precisely the size & layout of the Apple Magic Keyboard, which is fine with me. The key travel's bad, like the lawsuit butterfly keyboard. I'm moderately unpleased with the keyboard touch, but it's definitely usable. I switch over here to my Magic Keyboard, and it's night and day in quality. Mouse is nice enough; it's not a hi-DPI gaming mouse, but it's a good workstation mouse. Aesthetics are fine, I'd prefer black to white, but the raspberry red highlights are pleasing.

It is so nice to have a really usable little computer in a keyboard again. Literally the best thing since the Atari 800 (and that cost $899 in 1980, $2,869.53 in 2021's inflated currency; this is 28x cheaper!).

I've grown accustomed to Raspberry Pi OS (née raspbian). It's still a lame linux, but they've mostly got pulseaudio working(!) after 20 years of it being not functional, wifi mostly stays up, the desktop environment isn't awful. It's no Mac OS X Tiger, but nothing is anymore. There's less complaining from me using it, than hours of playing sysadmin would cause.

Not RasPi's problem, but I got a new, overly large portable LCD for use with this, FANGOR 15.6"; it's basically impossible to find any LCD >7" but <15" which has a decent rez (1920x1080) and color reproduction; the random-Chinese-fake-company plastic 10" on my RasPi4 is just awful, the worst screen I've ever used. RasPi4 is now on my bookshelf, waiting to be moved into a closet where it will live forever as a headless server that I don't have to hear the fan whine.

Checklist

  • "Recommended software"
    • Keep: Geany, Mathematica, WolframAlpha, VNC Viewer
    • Currently errors when I try to remove LibreOffice, which is bullshit!
    • I don't use Claws Mail, I use webmail on the pi. I should install mutt or alpine. But if you like graphical mail, leave it.
    • Minecraft Pi is ridiculous, tiny world, creative mode only, tiny window you can't resize. Don't bother.
    • Remove everything else.
  • Remove the unremovable crap and like half an SD card of dependencies!
    % sudo apt-get purge "libreoffice*"
    % sudo apt-get purge "scratch*"
    % sudo apt-get clean
    % sudo apt-get autoremove
    
  • Add/Remove Software: zsh, gauche, vim. Put zsh in the correct place:
    % cd /bin
    % sudo ln -s /usr/bin/zsh
    % chsh /bin/zsh
    
  • Fix mouse scroll direction!
    % sudo vi /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d
    
    Section "InputClass"
        Identifier "libinput pointer catchall"
        MatchIsPointer "on"
        MatchDevicePath "/dev/input/event*"
        Driver "libinput"
        # add this:
        Option "NaturalScrolling" "true"
    EndSection
    
  • Fix capslock to be ctrl:
    % sudo vi /etc/default/keyboard
    XKBOPTIONS="ctrl:swapcaps"
    

    Or ctrl:nocaps if you don't want any capslock, but I find it somewhat useful.

  • Create local user, not pi:

    % sudo adduser mdh
    % sudo usermod -aG sudo mdh
    
  • login as mdh
    % chsh /bin/zsh
    % mkdir bin
    % mkdir tmp
    
  • vi .profile:
    export EDITOR=vim
    export TMP="$HOME/tmp"
    export LESS="-C -i -M -g -e -y4"
    export PATH="$HOME/bin:$PATH"
    
  • vi .zshrc:
    umask 022
    
    unsetopt NOMATCH
    setopt APPEND_HISTORY
    setopt COMBINING_CHARS
    setopt EXTENDED_HISTORY
    setopt HIST_IGNORE_DUPS
    setopt HIST_REDUCE_BLANKS
    setopt INC_APPEND_HISTORY
    setopt INTERACTIVE_COMMENTS
    setopt NO_BANG_HIST
    setopt PROMPT_SUBST
    
    bindkey -e
    
    export HISTFILE=~/.zhistory
    export HISTSIZE=10000
    export SAVEHIST=$HISTSIZE
    
    autoload -U zmv
    autoload -U colors && colors
    export PS1="%{$fg[red]%}%n@%m:%~%#%{$reset_color%} "
    
    zmodload zsh/mathfunc
    zmodload zsh/regex
    
    function mcd() {
        mkdir -p "$1"
        cd "$1"
    }
    
    function cdcd() {
        while [ $# -gt 0 ]; do
            cd "$1"
            shift
        done
    }
    
    function hd() {
        hexdump -C "$1"|less
    }
    
    alias ..='cdcd ..'
    alias ...='cdcd ../..'
    alias ....='cdcd ../../..'
    alias .....='cdcd ../../../..'
    alias c='clear'
    alias grep='egrep'
    alias l='ls -FsCk'
    alias la='ls -FsCka'
    alias ll='ls -al'
    alias md='mkdir'
    alias rd='rmdir'
    alias sd='screen -d -r'
    alias v='vim'
    alias x='exit'
    
  • Reboot, should be nice now.

Outstanding Issues

  • No multimedia keys
  • xscreensaver auto-locking; I have a hacky manual way but I don't like it.
  • Hook into (see fediverse)

What I'm Watching: Super-Duper-Man 1: Man of Steel

So my plan is to watch the Snyder Trilogy. Man of Steel (2013), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), then Justice League (Snyder Cut, 2021). I am totally catching up on my film backlog.

Hobomax has redesigned their site, the stupid profile select now takes 10 seconds to be clickable, and I only have one profile so it's utterly pointless. And now the video player "full screen" maxes out at 1900x800, which is 2/3 of my monitor. WTF. I can't watch it on my TV, because Hobomax doesn't have a PS3 app, and I'm not buying another console for a while. Anyway, personal watching woes aside.

Why is Krypton all black and medieval? It's a gleaming forest of crystal spires in ALL the comic art and the Bottle City of Kandor. They're effete but civilized. Why is Jor-El riding a World of Warcraft Windrider™? Why are babies in pods? The "Codex" is a magic skull? I hate this design. It's like they watched Kenneth Brannagh's Thor (2011) and said "We don't want to be sleek and Kirby-esque like Asgard! Make it all shitty and ugly!" Really that's the theme for all the DCU movies.

Why is General Zod chasing Jor-El instead of securing their rebellion? Why are they frozen into little flying penises, instead of sent to the Phantom Zone? Much later they call the prison ship the PZ but it's very poor setting exposition.

Ridiculously bad cyan/orange tinting.

"People are afraid of what they don't understand", says Pa Kent to whiny baby Clark. People are afraid of a guy who can punch you into a fine red mist, laser-fry your brain, give you cancer with X-ray vision, demolish your truck with his bare hands. One second of drunkenness or anger or lust, and everyone dies. Clark's a damned nuclear weapon with a dick, and we all know it. And occasionally Snyder manages to show that.

Jor-El's program/ghost takes over a random abandoned scoutship, and gives Kal-El the suit. Which looks nothing like Earth or Kryptonian fashion. The comics made sense: Kryptonians wore skin-tight spandex and capes in bright colors. That's why Supergirl looks like she does, cheerleader outfit with giant boob window is demure Krypton fashion.

At least in flight the film quality gets better, but as soon as it's on the ground again it's back to even darker cyan/orange. I'm having a hard time looking at this. I want to pluck out the eyes of every film editor who does this.

The "Clark bums around like The Incredible Hulk TV show" parts would be a good movie by themselves, or a long TV series with the saddest ending music ever.

Lois (Amy Adams) is adequate. We don't see her do anything except Superman, so there's no great love story, no hyper-competent reporter thing. She does her own photos instead of having a Jimmy Olsen, which is weird; and her camera gets busted, but she doesn't retrieve the flash card which would give her actual evidence. She's certainly no Margot Kidder.

So, main plot finally starts.

Kal-El gets weak when he breathes Kryptonian air, not Kryptonite. Apparently he can fly in space without Earth air. The Kryptonians who haven't adapted are the reverse? It makes no sense. Yellow sunlight is what makes Superman and Supergirl so powerful, and people of Kandor when they come out of the bottle.

Fight scenes finally start at 90 minutes or so. And it's exactly like the Batman Arkham games, lotta fast swooshing between targets, hit them in ways that should break anything material, and it just flops a ragdoll around and they stand back up.

Forget all the little SimCity people running from the terraforming of Earth, think of the financial losses from bombing New York! If there's one thing I've learned from The Avengers and this movie, it's that aliens love giant robot tentacles coming from nowhere. Those are the greatest weapons ever. Fuck missiles, nukes, lasers, get some robot tentacles.

Also the message of these films is always that Humans can't solve their own problems, even disaster recovery, without a local demigod to save us. Perry White (Laurence Fishburne!) & intern Jenny have a moment, just waiting to die is all they can do.

Zod has a speech near the end which is actually kind of poignant, and if any of that was portrayed in the previous 2 hours, he'd be a good villain, instead of a mook. He's no Terence Stamp, of "KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!" fame. The cute alien chick (Antje Traue, last seen in Dark) claims they have no morality, which contradicts Zod.

Every fight they find more tissue-paper buildings to go thru, even ludicrously going up into space to smash thru a satellite. Just silly.

The ending's so weird. Kal-El's sent all his fellow Kryptonians to a fate worse than death, but killing one is just traumatic.

★★★☆☆ — lost a star for the fucking awful color, half a star for how dull and fighty the end is, after the first half was OK. Nothing fun, just a slugfest.

Cyberpunk Manga

Most all of these are out of print, or so obscure that apparently I'm the only person I know who's ever read them.

  • Blame!: Nihei Tsutomu, Blame! anime previously reviewed.
  • Blame! Academy And So On: Nihei Tsutomu's art book, weird school side-story to Blame!
  • Noise: Nihei Tsutomu, prequel to Blame!
  • Digimortal: Nihei Tsutomu. Bleak and awesome.
  • AD Police: The serious part of Bubblegum Crisis. The anime is OK but not as good as BGC, the manga are the other way around.
  • Black Magic: Shirow Masamune's original epic of an Athena/Typhon bioroid sorceress fighting to free Venusians from an evil AI god Zeus 66 million years ago. The anime takes one minor element, the M-66 combat robots, and turns that into a well-drawn but vapid present-day (1990s) Terminator ripoff.
  • Appleseed: Shirow Masamune. "The Promethean X" are the four volumes of a girl and her cyborg boyfriend from a post-WWIII wasteland trying to "adapt" to a city created by and for bioroids, where Human people go crazy. Is civilization even possible for Humans?
  • Dominion Tank Police: Shirow Masamune. Bleaker than the very silly anime, but both are kinda light-hearted with absolute doom for humanity.
  • Orion: Shirow Masamune. Very weird Buddhist-fantasy-tech. Like steampunk but with mandalas and priests instead of Victorian aristocrats fucking you over. Main character is very much Typhon 2.0.
  • Ghost in the Shell 1.5 Human Error Processor: Shirow Masamune, the volume you certainly missed between GitS 1 & 2, which you can find new copies so I won't link to. Here Motoko/Puppetmaster hybrid learns to redesign user interfaces and jump between bodies (mostly taut young female cyborgs, because Shirow's a perv, and who isn't?)
  • Lazarus Churchyard: Warren Ellis, an immortal plastic-spiky-boy in a ruined England (post Brexit, ha!) trying to die and failing. Generally possible to get in print?

In all cases, I suggest grabbing the torrent and then just keeping all the cbz, read with your comic reader of choice.

What I'm Watching: The Head

An English-language (mostly), Spanish-made mini-series on hobomax. Remarkably good actors, cinematography, for the most part… though indoors scenes are heavily tinted cyan/orange. The disease of monochromism is spreading. I assume everything outdoors was shot in Norway, because it only shows Antarctic panoramas from stock footage, anything with characters is in a generic white void.

Science team goes to Antarctica. We see them goofing off, last day before winter. They watch John Carpenter's "The Thing", firmly lampshading what kind of show this is: Creepy drama, but with a few laughs. Team leader Johan (Alexandre Willaume) gets to go home for a break, his wife Aniika (Laura Bach) stays behind to work with pompous scientist Arthur Wilde (John Lynch, the poor man's John Lithgow).

Contact with the base is cut off. When they get back, almost everyone is dead. A survivor starts telling a story, and then more and more facts don't match up, and contrary stories are told.

So, the science in this: Arthur claims he's invented a bacteria that's 153x better than photosynthesis at scrubbing CO2 from the air, so he's solved global warming. If they'd said "10%", or even "100%", OK, maybe; 153x is so far past what's physically possible it's pure fantasy. Plants use sunlight to get energy to crack CO2 for carbon and oxygen; what's this bacteria using, nuclear fission? And even if you had it, you couldn't release it, it'd run away and convert the entire atmosphere to oxygen, deadly to most current life.

Each episode, Maggie remembers more of her story, tells Johan, he runs around looking for evidence, mostly doesn't find any.

★★★½☆ - watch, don't expect miracles

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The problem is, the "mystery" doesn't hold up, it's out of character for at least 2 people directly involved, and 2 covering it up. The original crime is petty, and doesn't need a giant base-destroying coverup. The murders in the new base are just deranged and over the top, completely out of anyone's league who's accused of them.

I'd been wondering since the survivor story started if they'd do a Keyser Soze flip at the end, and sure enough the girl is who I thought she was, and even does a "this physical disorder is all an act" scene. But I don't find her "true" story plausible either, especially Nils' death is just impossible, and there's no way for her collaborator to not realize what's happening.