Hi! Do you remember blogs? Well, this used to be one. Now it just serves as an archive for my multiple Twitter accounts.

1 December 2007

Wallpaper Clocks

Somehow I missed that (either the Mac version wasn’t available when I last heard about it, or I just didn’t find it): special wallpapers that are updated every minute to show the current date and time — not as a dumb overlay, but visually integrated into each wallpaper. Check out the gallery, and install it. There’s a 30-day trial for Windows, but the OS X program is completely freeware (and perfectly functional).

Perfect Creature

I like seeing steampunk blimps fly above a gritty city as much as anyone else (the setting is eerily reminiscent of TimeShift, by the way), but I don’t quite get the point of inventing a story about vampires being the result of genetic engineering and the cure to all human diseases, if it’s going to take place in an alternate future-past. Good vampire stories are all about what’s lurking in our shadow; who cares who they are and where they come from when the story isn’t taking place in our universe?

Anyway… pretty photography, boring direction and dull actors (oh, and laughable stunts). Too bad, I like original takes on vampires and demons.

Pushing Daisies 1.08

Meh. But then, a “Meh” episode of Pushing Daisies still gets 4 stars. And that’s not even counting the cliffhanger.

Damn, I don’t want to mate with her. But I killed the other girl, so what can I do?

2 December

Why do they always manage to cram zombies into sci-fi games? I hate zombies.

3 December

Kitty Wigs

I’m not sure whether they’re seriously selling those or not.

PlayStation Home beta

C’est peut-être parce que je sors de Mass Effect, où il n’y avait qu’une seule paire d’yeux qui ressemblait à quelque chose pour le modèle masculin, mais je trouve que les avatars, et leur personnalisation, sont devenus plutôt pas mal. Et même leur animation m’a l’air un peu moins foireuse qu’avant (mais ça, pour le coup, ça peut vraiment être parce que je reviens de trois jours de jogging avec le Commandant Shepard).

Reste que je ne suis toujours pas persuadé que ce genre d’environnement soit vraiment adapté à une console — les emotes animés, pour moi, ça colle plus à l’esprit d’une communication au clavier qu’à un système où tout le monde va être plus ou moins obligé d’utiliser un casque et un micro pour s’exprimer.

 

Est-ce que ce n’est pas un peu… particulier que la couleur de peau change selon les options qu’on choisit dans le menu “bone structure” ?

Mass Effect (360)

Whoa.

Bon, ce n’est pas la peine de ménager le suspense, puisque la note est affichée en haut de l’article, donc autant le (re)dire tout de suite :

Whoa.

C’était loin d’être gagné, pourtant : quand j’ai réservé le jeu je m’attendais à le détester — le RPG, à la base, ce n’est pas mon truc, et ce n’était pas franchement encouragent qu’ils aient ajouté un volet “action” parce que faut pas déconner on est sur Halo Box, pas sur DS, alors il faut séduire le public local. Mais je n’ai pas les moyens d’acheter des jeux, en ce moment, donc je fais avec ce qu’on me propose, et j’espérais bien pouvoir tromper mon ennui quelques heures avec un peu d’exploration spatiale.

Pour ça, on repassera : en dehors des quatre mondes dans lesquels l’histoire principale progresse, ça se résume à ouvrir la carte de la galaxie, cliquer sur une planète et, pour les cas où la planète existe sur le DVD, atterrir et se balader en Warthog dans un carré de désert (ou de montagnes) en butant deux-trois zombies. (Et le fait qu’ils aient piqué le mode de contrôle du véhicule à Halo est bien la seule chose positive dans cette histoire.)

L’idée de remplacer l’exploration des donjons annexes dans un RPG habituel par une flopée de planètes inconnues, ça fonctionne très bien en théorie, mais beaucoup moins quand ça se résume à cliquer sur une carte et se taper quatre longs chargements entre chaque donjon.

Se promener dans l’univers d’Oblivion a une dimension physique ; même si le résultat au final est le même (tuer des monstres mineurs pour augmenter son XP, ouvrir des coffres pour récupérer des armes), le fait de sauter de système en système et de planète en planète dans la salle de navigation d’un vaisseau spatial est aussi fun et immédiat que cliquer de page en page sur Wikipedia. Sur une liaison 14Kbps.

Mais peu importe, il faut croire que le point important du jeu est le combat : le joueur et ses deux alliés (qui ne sont pas des flèches, mais peuvent tout de même faire le gros du boulot si vous les gérez bien — le plus important étant justement de ne pas trop les gérer) se baladent dans une perspective à la Gears of War et shootent de l’alien ou de l’humain véreux. Avec un gros choix au début du jeu : vous pouvez être un soldat pour vous la jouer shooter, ou utiliser vos pouvoirs magiques biotiques pour faire plein d’effets très mignons, avec un gameplay qui revient peu ou prou à cliquer sur les ennemis dans World of Warcraft. (J’imagine que Hellgate London doit ressembler très très fort à Mass Effect.)

Et comment ça marche, un système capable de gérer deux gameplays aussi diamétralement opposés ? Bah, mal. L’aspect shooter n’est jamais aussi bien géré que dans un jeu spécialisé, parce que ce ne sera jamais la motivation première de ce jeu, mais les décors et les configurations d’ennemis sont pensés à la façon de Gears of War, de sorte que pour un joueur se concentrant sur un autre gameplay (j’ai tôt fait de passer les combats en facile et l’assistance à la visée au niveau maximal, de sorte qu’avec mon personnage de classe Sentinelle j’étais à fond dans le World of Warcraft… avec deux soldats à mes côtés) la progression dans les niveaux a tendance à être très chiante et répétitive — bref, ça fonctionnerait à dose plus faible, mais le public visé n’aurait pas supporté si le jeu contenait plus de 30% de dialogues. C’est publié par Microsoft, sur 360, il faut que ça cartonne, même si ce n’est qu’un alibi pour rendre le jeu de rôles plus attrayant.

Et puis il y a ces chargements interminables qui rendent l’exploration pénible ; les textures qui se chargent avec dix secondes de retard dans certaines cinématiques ; l’animation ridicule des personnages qui font leur jogging en scaphandre (et toujours de la même façon, même en zéro-G avec des semelles magnétiques) ; les dialogues pas très subtils, et en VF obligatoire (il va falloir s’y faire, les DVD débordent, il n’y a plus la place pour mettre plusieurs voix) ; le tutoriel qui s’arrête alors qu’on n’a pas appris grand chose de plus que le maniement du pistolet (pire que pas de tutoriel du tout, puisqu’on s’attend à ce qu’il revienne expliquer le reste quand on en aura besoin) ; les dialogues avec deux angles de caméra fixes, façon soap opera, alors que tout est in-engine donc on pourrait au strict minimum bouger la caméra soi-même quand on s’emmerde ; la gestion de l’inventaire super lourde, qui pourrait passer si on n’était pas obligé de la pratiquer régulièrement pour faire le ménage de ce dont on ne se sert pas ; ou le fait qu’il soit impossible de continuer l’exploration de l’univers une fois finie la quête principale, sans vraie bonne raison et alors que le réalisme pousse plutôt à avancer au plus vite pour rattraper son ennemi et sauver l’univers (sauf que, si on finit la quête au pas de course, le jeu est franchement court pour un RPG).

Et tout ça, on s’en fout.

On s’en fout, parce que pendant les quatre derniers jours je n’ai pas pu penser à autre chose que Mass Effect. Si ce jeu est bourré de petits défauts, c’est parce qu’il est ambitieux ; et si on lui passe volontiers ces défauts, c’est que ses ambitions sont très majoritairement réalisées. Voilà un jeu qui, sur les six premières heures (dont une moitié de combats sans intérêt), arrive à donner corps à un univers complet et crédible ainsi qu’à une dizaine de personnages — qui sont plus souvent énervants qu’attachants, mais ça fait aussi partie du réalisme (surtout quand on est misanthrope).

Peu importe que le scénario soit un mélange flagrant de Babylon 5 et Halo (avec des petits bouts de toutes les autres grandes séries de science-fiction, évidemment) ; c’est connu, tout a déjà été inventé, tout a déjà été raconté. On ressent très vite, dans Mass Effect, à quel point les développeurs se sont attachés à construire un univers cohérent, à établir le moindre détail de l’histoire des espèces représentées et des personnages rencontrés, et à planifier tout un enchevêtrement d’histoires qui se résoudra en grande pompe à la fin de la trilogie — c’est vraiment Babylon 5 en version jeu, des aspects politiques à la menace de la disparition de toute vie intelligente dans l’univers.

Avec, en plus, des graphismes impressionnants (je ne le sentais pas trop en voyant les vidéos, mais au final c’est franchement beau, et les effets de lumière, de profondeur de champ, et le grain de pellicule donne une personnalité très affirmée aux visuels — même si l’absence de mouvements de caméra dans les cinématiques se fait d’autant plus cruellement sentir), une musique surprenante mais au final très appropriée et contribuant bien à l’ambiance, des voix correctes, et une partie action qui n’est quand même pas si loin d’être jouissive par moments (en particulier quand la progression des talents permet de ne faire qu’une bouchée d’ennemis qui paraissaient insurmontables six heures plus tôt).

Je me demande si ce ne serait pas même un peu plus fun de regarder quelqu’un jouer que d’y jouer soi-même — le soap opera ultime, dont on peut contrôler certains développements si on crie assez fort pour influencer les décisions de celui qui tient le pad.

Bref, à acheter sans faute (à moins d’être allergique à la science-fiction, auquel cas vous y perdez, aussi bien pour Mass Effect que Babylon 5 et Farscape) en prévoyant quelques jours de congé.

Et vivement la suite.

4 December

Xbox 360 Dashboard ugprade

The two-dimensional interface (à la Zune or PS3, your choice) is more convenient, as expected, but:

  • I thought we’d be able to remove Live Arcade demos from the achievements list? if the option is there, I can’t find it

  • they forgot the right-hand-stick scrolling functionality for long descriptions

  • it’s a little stupid launching the VOD service in Europe seven days after the Dashboard upgrade, rather than just at the time when Xbox users will be exploring every bit of the revamped interface

Depuis quand les manifs passent en bas de chez moi ?

Each icon in my Dock is a slightly different shade of blue. Yeesh.

I want to make a graphical choose-your-own-adventure web game. This, too, shall pass.

5 December

Heroes 2.11

God. Awful.

Is Maya’s accent real or faked, by the way? It’s been so annoying from the start.

Le Sprite 7up fait doubler mon ventre de volume, il faut que je boive autre chose.

Lumines on PC

Free, ad-supported. If it worked correctly in my old Parallels, I’d regret buying the Xbox Live version — unsurprisingly enough, the game is a million times more playable on the keyboard than with a pad. (You can also use the mouse, but I didn’t try that; I’m an old-school Tetris player.)

Kiss your productivity good-bye.

Fucking Adium won’t ungroup contacts that I grouped by accident.

Est-ce qu’il y a des gens que je connais qui vont à Paris Carnet? Parce que pour une fois… euh… non, en fait.

Forza 2 DLC

I’m interested in the old BMW M3 and the Audi Quattro, but I don’t really have any urge to get back to Forza 2. I’ll just wait until there are downloadables for PGR4 instead.

6 December

New Twitter Settings

Default: @ replies to the people I’m following

I receive @replies from people I follow under the condition that I also follow the person they are replying to. This setting is ideal for those who seeking the happy medium in Twitter interaction, as @replies are still visible, but restricted to mutual followers.

Excellent. You might be losing 0.1% of the stuff you could have found interesting (and it does reduce the chances of randomly discovering other Twitter users), but mostly this makes it possible to follow the Scobles of this world. If you wanted to. Which I have no idea why you would.

I’m afraid it’s not going to work with Twitterific, though.

7 December

Ratatouille

I never really share everyone’s enthusiasm for Pixar movies — there’s always something missing or something too much that screams of design by committee.

In this case, the rats are amazing and there are some excellent scenes, but it’s all wasted by way too much of the irritating humans. Plus those stupid morals about how stealing is wrong. They’re rats, for crying out loud.

 

And I wish I hadn’t watched the English version. Listening to actors fake diverse levels of outlandish French accents for a hundred minutes is really painful.

Looking at the big date numbers on my blog scare me. It’s all going way too fast.

Lifehacker interviews the creator of Quicksilver

I’m inclined to encourage users to move over to the more stable and well supported alternatives like LaunchBar.

Wait, what?

I actually do not understand what this interview really means. Clearly a case of answering too much while wanting to keep something secret.

The Simpsons Movie

It’s hard to justify making a movie from a show that’s still going — a canceled show, like Futurama, can afford to release so-so episodes bundled together as a DVD, but when it comes to the Simpsons (which has to be the most popular comedy show currently on air, as low as it’s sunk) it’s much harder to provide something worth your time and money.

Oh my god her first word!

So let’s cut them some slack and say this long episode had the best jokes the Simpsons had in a decade. Which isn’t saying that much, but still. I wouldn’t be pissed if I’d been to a theater to see it, and it’s more than certainly worth buying the DVD. Even though there’s a definite lack of fresh ideas (and jokes, for that matter) in the second half of the show.

No but how do people manage to earn a living?

8 December

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

As if the eternal victim shtick wasn’t unpleasant enough to watch episode after episode, the Harry Potter series needed a creepy fascist-regime plot now. And here I thought those things were called entertainment.

9 December

“load average: 0,00, 0,00, 0,00” what an emotional moment

Would you mind noticing that your hand-posted spam comments are removed within five minutes, asshole?

Stardust

Oh, imagine that — a Neil Gaiman story about a gateway to a magical parallel universe. But, even if it’s not very original, and the twists are too predictable, and the ending is a little too easy (you’d better have an insanely clever reply if one of your characters is going to end up asking “Why didn’t you do that earlier?”), and the director was rather uninspired… a Gaiman story still makes for a very sweet movie.

I think I preferred ‘Mother.’

Did Claire Danes butcher her poor eyebrows by herself, or was it for the movie?

 

P.S. Disclaimer: I watched this movie at 10am. (For some reason I couldn’t sleep anymore.)

Is there a Perez Hilton equivalent (what, I’m curious) that doesn’t publish two dozen different posts I’d have to skip through each day?

I’m always amazed after an apparently successful webserver migration.

10 December

The Bourne Ultimatum

Well done, and not particularly interesting. It doesn’t really work to have a whole trilogy dedicated to shooting chase sequence after chase sequence, and only deliver such a lame payoff at the end. (Although I guess it makes sense to downplay the plot itself considering that it’s based on ancient novels that have already been adapted before.)

 

I’d heard conflicting opinions about the big Tangiers fight, but I thought it was very efficient — while it’s insanely frustrating in a Transformers fight scene to have the camera struggling to keep up with the action and show anything significant on screen, it’s actually quite a good way to express the intensity of a bare-handed fight between two trained assassins, both acutely aware that only one will come out alive.

Although it may quite possibly work better on the small screen than in a theater.

Would someone kindly explain to me again why they hired this Meredith Grey?

11 December

Creative Workplaces

When I grow up I wanna be Google.

Uhhh. Somehow my DNS has been jumping back and forth between my blog’s old and new servers.

I should rm -rf my previous server before it expires at 7pm, but I can’t quite get around to it. Scawwwy.

12 December

Why the hell is my Mac ignoring the /etc/hosts file?

Facebook doesn’t seem to be learning much about what I don’t want to read in my news feed.

The Casino Royale intro song sounds like J-pop.

Winter is so demotivating. Just like summer. And fall. Can’t remember what spring is like, though.

13 December

“Last Move: CHIEURS [128]” Oh yeah.

Am I trying to grow out my hair or not?

Oh, I borked by BLOG table (disk full). Fun. Good thing I didn’t post since my last valid backup 36 hours ago.

Compasses and bears

I’ve heard everyone, friends and strangers alike, rave about the Harry Potter books for years; I’ve watched all the movies so far, and clearly appreciated that there has to be a much more interesting, detailed universe to be discovered by reading the books. And yet I’ve never ever felt like opening one of them. Not curious in the least.

Now it’s been two days since I found out what The Golden Compass is about, and the book joined the Mass Effect novel at the top of my private Amazon wishlist (which I might make public for Christmas just in case, because that paperback costs as much as six ramen meals! outlandish!).

I used to wonder if I was more prejudiced that I thought about kids’ books, but that proves I’m not. For some reason I just don’t seem to care about a school for magic, and a goddamn persecuted orphan out to save the world with his friends; whereas a parallel universe where you have talking animals for soulmates… now that’s fucking awesome. Even if the story seems to be centered around another dickensian orphan — I can feel in my bones that she’s not going to be as much of a pathetic whiny victim as that annoying egomaniac wuss.

 

So I’m gonna have to avoid the movie. Which is a shame, considering: talking animal soulmates.

Burnout Paradise (360 demo)

The demo is online, and it doesn’t disappoint: the graphics are flawless (except for rubber smoke looking much more old-gen than in the screenshots), the free-roaming aspect and the instantaneous races are well done, and the rest is faithful to the Burnout franchise. Unfortunately for me.

Now I can only wait until Project Gotham Racing gets into this big-city meme, after the Test Drive and Burnout franchises. And if there’s a name that warrants that kind of game, it’s “Project Gotham Racing,” isn’t it?

 

In any case, at least the demo is a must-download, and I’m confident that it will sell a lot of copies.

Frontlines Fuel of War (360 demo)

After Blacksite delivering messages about the war in Iraq or whatever (I’ve only played the demos, and didn’t pay that much attention to the reviews), now Frontlines shows its cards right from its title, exploring the consequences of the industrialized world’s dependency on oil.

True that the FPS is a well-known, well-mastered genre now, and you need to bring something different to the table; the main originality of Frontlines, besides the gameplay making you “capture” zone like in an online shooter (which isn’t too bad an idea), is the inclusion of drones, mini-tanks or mini-choppers that you control to accomplish some objectives. What could go wrong with remote-controlled gadgets?

Well, that was assuming that the FPS genre is well-mastered in the first place. Which, obviously, it isn’t: while the guns’ feel seems rather realistic (by which I mean you play as a pussy with no arms, who can’t lodge more than two bullets in a target with a machine gun), the controls are very unpleasant (you have to click the right stick to switch to the scope, and click again to toggle it off, which takes a couple of seconds each time — for a game that’ll come out in 2008, that’s just not possible) and become downright unusable when you’re controlling vehicles: I hated driving the tank, and I still can’t figure out how the wheeled drone is actually supposed to work. Which is a little of a bummer, considering that’s the whole point of the game.

But they don’t really intend to sell this anyway, do they? Especially if they’re releasing the demo two months before the game, while everyone’s playing Call of Duty 4.

Gmail has gotten real sluggish on Safari, hasn’t it?

14 December

Les rues de Paris sont pleines de gens qui touchent un salaire tous les mois.

J’ai oublié de remercier le responsable des sodas à Monoprix qui a restocké du Sprite Zero pour moi.

Look at the world around you. The internet isn’t going to remain free and uncensored (if it is now). It’s a losing battle.

15 December

Domain names should cost $10,000. It would be easier to find available ones.

16 December

Uh-huh. Vous avez combien de visiteurs, vous, sur Google Analytics ? Parce qu’en venant de Webalizer (pas encore réinstallé) ça fait un choc.

It doesn’t really feel like winter. Weird. Oh wait, it’s because I’m out by daytime.

Carla Bruni ?!???!!!!!!?????!!!!!??

17 December

I’m in a mood to shave my hair. Thankfully the weather is talking me out of it.

Pensionbook

Faith Ogden wrote on That nice young man from the shop’s wall.

Idea: Tetris one brick at a time

Much more clever than the title sounds.

18 December

Gran Turismo Prologue

First video of a city track: even though the building models look accurate, and the cars are still photo-realistic, I find the result much less attractive than Project Gotham Racing 4. And there’s still that unbearable screeching.

Guess that still isn’t the game that’ll make me regret not having a PS3.

Homosexuality is nature’s way of getting rid of the most screwed-up bloodlines. Who dares tamper with that?

Les DNS de Free déconnent ou c’est juste moi ?

“Venti” est épithète antéposé ou postposé ?

It’s true (and sad) that tear ducts dry up with age. It’s frustrating not being able to let the water pumps loose anymore.

My anti-powers of not-earning-money have to be insanely, desperately, hopelessly strong for me to be so miserable while having done so much.

19 December

Facebook: “Friend Lists are here.” Fi. Nal. Ly.

Somehow I waited until I didn’t have a laptop anymore to finally get into a Starbucks.

Pushing Daisies 1.09

Most poorly structured episode so far (which is weird, considering that there wasn’t much happening of interest). But saved by the ending.

20 December

Peggle

Peggle, PopCap’s hybrid of pachinko and Arkanoid, is finally available for Mac (and it was evidently a complicated port, judging by the occasional frame drops), and I suddenly have a much better understanding of why some gaming podcasts dedicated hours and hours of programming to this game. It’s impossible to explain; you just have to try it for yourself.

I can’t in good conscience advise that you download Peggle. But, if you do, be prepared not to let go of it until the 60-minute demo has expired, and to whip out your credit card as soon as it’s over. I think I’ll just delete the demo and dmg to make sure I don’t end up buying it — I’ve resolved to cut down on those kinds of endless time sinks for 2008.

10.5.2 fixes Stacks

Wow, how humble of Apple.

iunewind.com

Pretty wallpapers. Too bad the older images are not available in modern sizes.

Contraste

Un blog, c’est comme un très très gros mégaphone, pour dire n’importe quoi, mais à plein de gens d’un coup.
– Pénélope Jolicoeur.

Un blog est un lieu où le personnel va chercher l’universel. Concrètement, on fait semblant de parler de soi pour mieux toucher les autres.
– Maïa Mazaurette.

Voilà voilà voilà.

J’avoue qu’en lisant l’article j’ai regardé les noms avant les citations, mais je crois bien que ça aurait été flagrant quand même.

I could never understand what’s the point of having a nose if it’s always going to fail when you need it most — in winter.

Dexter 2.10–2.12

That was shaping up to be an intense season finale if only it had focused on the confrontation with Doakes. Dexter has way too many guardian angels in this show — didn’t something comparably fortuitous and silly happen in season one?

Obviously there was a very cathartic scene for the audience somewhere in there, though.

I don’t know what it is about old women crying into the camera.

21 December

There are tumbleweeds in my AdSense reports.

22 December

Rez HD

GameVideos offers several videos showing the Xbox 360 remake of Rez, making me instantly realize why this game has been so fixed in everyone’s memory, and also how it’s connected to Lumines. Even more importantly, I now understand how it’s played; I’d had a little trouble making sense of the screenshots I’d seen before.

Trippy. I think I should hire someone to play it while I watch — it looks so cool I don’t feel like spoiling it with the frustration of dying every five minutes. Because my gut tells me I’m gonna suck at it.

I can’t believe I never downl… uh, watched a Top Gear episode before.

23 December

None of this is for real. Right? RIGHT?

24 December

Merry Xmassive to you all. (Dunno how you can be merry with all the people dying and hurting around you but, hey, I don’t judge. Assholes.)

Regretting very much right now that I sold my MacBook.

Damn, what the hell is my Facebook password.

AppleVNCserver taking 80% of my iMac’s CPU. I can hear the fans blow from here.

25 December

Did I have a bad night or am I just too old to be sitting on the floor in a crowded train car for three hours?

First time ever I experience coming back to Paris as a return to negative energies. Weird.

26 December

CGSphere

A nice CG artist showcase: how original can you be when you’re asked to produce a sphere in the center of a tiled background?

Le responsable des podcasts chez itélé est en vacances ? Ca fait pas très sérieux.

Nora

I miss so much by not spending more time browsing YouTube.

28 December

Logo trends for 2007

As unoriginal as the topic is, this writeup is intelligent. I suck at designing logos, so I avoid them altogether, but if I had to do one during the course of 2008 I’d come back to this article for inspiration.

(I’d be happy enough to produce a logo that doesn’t look like crap — I couldn’t care less if it was outdated by one year. Those things are supposed to stand the test of time somewhat, aren’t they?)

I keep finding unopened mail everywere in my room.

Actually, it’s worse than that: every time I look at the coffee table that’s under my desk, there’s new unopened mail there from my bank.

Optimus Tactus

Looks like Art Lebedev is learning from his mistakes: after going to Hell and back in the process of turning the Optimus Maximus concept into something functional, and remotely reminiscent of the original design (nevermind switching from black to white body, or making an odd keyboard layout to avoid having too many key shapes; the real limitation is that every screen is a tiny square that only occupies a portion of some keys’ surface), he presents the Tactus, which is just one big touch-screen.

Sure, it’s going to be hard finding a screen with this aspect ratio; sure, that means entering a patent minefield; sure, a tactile keyboard is a usability nightmare; sure… uh… yeah, so much for praticality and learning from your mistakes. That’s not gonna fly either.

I’m still waiting for the release — and pricing — of the one concept that’s actually worth something.

Piggybank

Clever — but, really, how long could you resist breaking your piggy bank if you knew it’s filled with cute plastic guts?

29 December

It’s awfully convenient how New Year’s Day drifted from Christmas so the year ends with a big holiday week. We have to be in the Matrix.

“You’ve got to search for the hero inside yourself until you find the key to your life.”

Philip Pullman: His Dark Materials

So… I burned through the three books (Northern Lights / The Golden Compass; The Subtle Knife; The Amber Spyglass) in the course of 72 hours, and two days later I’m still not sure what I want to write about them.

As soon as I found out about the subject — some kind of alternate universe where you don’t wear your soul inside you but outside, embodied in a companion animal — I was hooked, and I wanted to see how the story was really developed and not limit myself to whatever could fit in a two-hour Hollywood movie.

I was right to want to read the novels: the story is so dense I can’t imagine how you could reduce each book to a single movie script (I know that’s also true of Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings, for instance, but the bottomline is I don’t care about whiny orphan sorcerers and whiny dim-witted hobbitses and OMG I just figured out a trend here) and, while the author’s style is not spectacular, it’s efficient and straight to the point — quite cinematographic, one could say, if one could imagine that word not being an insult.

The big disappointment, though, was the lack of what I really hoped to find in the book that couldn’t possibly translate well into the movie: a coherent explanation, a real theory, of why those people have their souls outside of them and how that works. To be sure, the daemon thing is not a gadget — it’s really central to the first volume, and quite nicely exploited in the other two — but I could never really get over the fact that it makes no sense and, more importantly, that there’s no clear definition of what part of the characters’ personality lies in their heart/brain, and what lies in their soul/daemon. One of the books actually separates some characters from their daemons, and yet they don’t appear to act or think differently; if the soul is neither your emotions nor your conscience or, I don’t know, the center of your rational thought, then what’s your daemon really more than a talking plush toy with an uncanny gift for empathy (and an additional pair of eyes so you can watch behind your back)?

But that’s not so bad; the story is strong enough to make you want to go on, despite the kind of nitpicking I can’t really ever let go of. What is bad, however, and more distracting from the story, is the author’s anticlericalism — if you thought that Christian associations protesting the adaptation on movie screens were out of line, well… consider this: I’m an agnostic, raised an atheist, and the author’s attack on the Christian religion is so violent that I would think twice before stocking those books in a school library. It’s one thing to depict an alternate-reality Vatican as a worldwide dictatorship (they’ve kinda been there and done that); but what Pullman establishes in the third book is heinous, and properly insulting to anyone who believes in one God, and that’s a lot of people. I don’t mean that it’s a bad story or it shouldn’t be told, just that it’s quite impolite, in a way, and that it shocked me out of solidarity with my believer friends (and I’m not sure I have any). Or maybe it’s less the story than the way it’s being told.

Which brings me to the part where I’m glad I read the books but didn’t buy them (Thanks, rhino75): I don’t think I like this Pullman person very much. Nevermind writing a whole trilogy against religion (and making it all about destiny and religion, only pagan and new age-y); what really stopped me in my tracks was reading that dull people have dull daemons, and all manservants’ daemons are dogs and all maids’ are hens (if I remember correctly — the dogs are mentioned at least twice, but I’m not so sure about the hens). Erm… I’m sorry, that’s not something I’d much like to write, or read — and particularly not in a novel that’s purported to be for “children and young adults.” Yeesh.

And yet, like I said, I really am glad I read the books. Because the story is interesting, the universe is original, and the plot twists are… well, let’s say you really should read the trilogy before they start promoting the third movie, because you’ll want to save yourself the surprise of what’s going on there — by the way, I can’t wait to see how they handle the adaptation, if they removed any reference to religion from the first movie. (And the trilogy would make a very nice two- or three-season TV miniseries, if it were at all possible to produce a TV show with such a subject matter.)

Recommended, then, not because it’s a masterpiece, but because it’s an original perspective, and a break from those whiny orphan sorcerers.

 

Illustration: AeroMartin.

Did Leopard fix this?

  • When you minimized Safari windows (for instance), then closed the last open window, I’m pretty sure the system would unminimize a window for you (which I found annoying, because if I minimize a window I want it to stay that way); I noticed yesterday that it didn’t happen anymore. Did Leopard fix this?

  • When I typed too fast and my browser was too sluggish (it was usually the browser, but it could be something else), the circumflex would stick if I pressed it so that OS X would try to apply it to every letter that had been typed afterwards until the sluggishness had subsided (so I often ended up with something like “je vais ê^t^rê^ê^n^retard”); I just noticed it didn’t seem to happen anymore. Did Leopard fix this?

La crise inexpliquée d’acné devrait être calmée juste à temps pour le Nouvel An, mais côté gastro on dirait que c’est mal barré.

30 December

“in the bleak light of full adulthood, which is to one’s early twenties as Sunday morning is to Saturday night” (Neal Stephenson)

Hmm, who was it that dragged me into a museum exhibition of old cuneiform slates and whatnot? Feels like lifetimes ago. Back when I lived.

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