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By Samuel Stoddard


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Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Thank heaven. This past month has been brutal on me; at the same time, it's been more manageable than I anticipated. I haven't updated RinkWorks so furiously since...well, basically never. Back in the early days, I tried to get a new Computer Stupidities update every two weeks, and also a new update on each of the Book-A-Minute pages every two weeks. I had to drop it down to once a month before long, or I'd have gone crazy and never done anything else for RinkWorks. And then new features started appearing anyway that would require periodic updates.

At any rate, it was nice to get a lot of neglected features updated. Originally, that was the whole point of September Blitz. I didn't add the pledge drive part until I was already sitting down to set things up. It was a profitable afterthought; enough people donated to RinkWorks to encourage me to do it again next year, which was not a foregone conclusion. Although the primary reason I do RinkWorks is for personal satisfaction, it's important both for practical reasons and for reasons of personal morale that it both sustain itself and prove pleasing to its readers. Your donations go a long way on both counts and help motivate me to work on the site.

One of the interesting things about the work I've done on RinkWorks in the past month is that, as is usually the case, most of it has been on upcoming new features, rather than updates to the old ones. Even managing an update a day, most of the work I did was on two brand new features. I hope to release one of them, a game totally unlike the Site Market Game but structured similarly, before the end of the year. This was an idea I had as a result of thinking I needed more competitive features on RinkWorks, and more reasons to check up on the site every day.

A word about FNN: I think this feature ranks with the funniest things on RinkWorks. It was written by C. Patrick, long-time reader and author of the Adventure Games Live game, The Mystery of Brackly Hall. The first article she wrote, so she says, is the one on the Indian. That one "practically wrote itself," and then the rest fell out of the momentum she had built up. Alas, I have to confess that I sat on it for a year (well, since last spring, maybe; it's kind of a long and uninteresting story) before finally getting around to packaging it up for release. But better late than never, right?

Meanwhile, you may have noticed, some odd advertising banners showing up on RinkWorks until the middle of the month, namely those promoting (or disparaging) Darien is a regular participant of RinkWorks, cropping up on the Message Forum and RinkChat periodically. I had some unsold advertising space available, and I like his site, so somehow it came about that I'd sell him some advertising space dirt cheap. This conversation took place in the presence of Stephen, another regular here since before RinkWorks had its own domain name. Stephen raised Darien's offer by exactly one dollar if I ran anti-Darien ads, and by still more if I'd mention Johnny Cash in one of the banners. Well Darien was fine with that, so, what the hey, I made up some derogatory ad banners and ran both pro- and anti-Darien campaigns simultaneously. If you haven't already, go check out his site. It's like RinkWorks, only more twisted, geeky, cynical, edgy, demented, and bitter. And gray. With unreadable logos.

But back to RinkWorks. Keep your eyes peeled, folks. September Blitz is over, but things are still happening.

Friday, August 1, 2003

I normally don't explain the jokes I make here, no matter how obscure. At least, not publicly. But this was a joke I didn't realize I was making until it was made, and not getting it could make RinkWorks look bad. I am talking about my buddy Snook Draddots' new web journal that he started a few days ago. Snook, of course, is a fictional character whose web site is a parody of far too many other web sites out there. I'm not a snob about these things, but web sites that do not have any sort of discernible content are irritating, and web sites that have content they should not (such as ridiculously personal information that most people can't bring themselves to tell their own friends in person but have no qualms about broadcasting to the entire world online) are concerning, to say the least. But I don't want to get too serious on the soapbox here.

If anybody's wondering where Snook's updates are, there won't be any. I'm sure Snook means to get around to adding more entries, but you know how it goes. But my original intention was to update it sporadically and include whole story arcs involving his friends and his job and so forth. I had some pretty good material in mind, but nothing was funnier, or more in keeping with the spirit of Slapdash City, than having a daily web journal with only one entry in it. I'll even leave the "New!" notice on the main page for the years to come.

The thing is, I hate wasting creative ideas. I think I could probably do a fake web journal pretty well, and it would provide more regular content for RinkWorks while the big stuff is still in the making. I said earlier that misunderstanding the joke of Snook's journal would make RinkWorks look bad, because it is promising updates that will never appear. Normally I wouldn't worry so much about it, but the truth is that I'm already frustrated that this past summer has been a slow one. Part of it is that I am busy with other things in life, but a lot of it is that the things in development are big huge things, so you don't see the results of the work I put into RinkWorks until whenever these projects finally get completed. Here's an idea of what's been going on all these months with very few updates: I'm still working on a follow-up game to Murkon's Refuge. Andrew Walters, better known by some of you as gremlinn, is still working on a new Adventure Games Live game, which has been in production for three years now and will probably require at least one year more. (The game is larger than all the other Adventure Games Live games put together.) I'm also working on polishing off the rewrite to RinkChat and getting it to the point where I can release the first real version of it. If you don't know, the engine that drives RinkChat will soon be released as an open source project that you can download and install on your own web servers, assuming you have a UNIX-based web server with Python 2.1+ installed on the machine. I'm pretty close; expect this to happen later this month.

I also have a humor featurette that I have been lax on finalizing but which should be ready for release soon. As for updates to Computer Stupidities and Things People Said and Book-A-Minute and so forth, well, I've been doing updates to these features for five years now, and it's tougher and tougher for me to be motivated enough to plug away at these now mundane updates when I've got so much other stuff in the pipeline that captures my interest more. I am appreciative to the innumerable people who have written me offering to help process submissions for these features. But the truth of it is that I am such a perfectionist and require things to be just so, that I'd rather do it myself or not at all. Unfortunately, that means you folks miss out when I drag my feet. Kind of, that is, because all the time I spend not doing a Computer Stupidities goes into something else that will appear on RinkWorks sooner or later.

Anyway, watch for the release of RookChat (the name of the generic, downloadable RinkChat), join the Site Market Game, and go easy on Snook, because it's a tough thing to keep up with a web site.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Since well before the Oscar nominations were announced, the moment when Chicago's victory in Best Picture seemed least sure was in the moments just prior to the opening of the envelope. By the end of the Academy Awards telecast, The Pianist had swiped, against all odds, Director, Actor, and Adapted Screenplay. I was stunned at all three. And if three of the most powerful Oscars won against all odds, well, Chicago's "inevitable" victory was looking doubtful for once. But it pulled it off.

Director and Actor are just mind-boggling. Martin Scorsese was the early front-runner. He's a great director, passed over many times before, and had the huge Oscar marketing machine that is Miramax behind him. Rob Marshall, however, directed Chicago, so besides having that movie's sweep behind him, he won the Director's Guild Award, which predicts the Best Director winner about 90% of the time. It seemed like absolute folly to bet on anyone other than Scorsese or Marshall. But no, Roman Polanski, exiled from the country, both unable and unwilling to campaign for himself, snuck in and took it.

For Best Actor, the story is similar: Jack Nicholson had the early lock, and Daniel Day Lewis seemed to be edging him out later on. Adrien Brody snuck in and took it. It was surreal.

Whether these awards are justified or no, it's an interesting turn of events for the Academy. Despite Chicago's win in Best Picture and five other awards, deserved and undeserved (what boneheads picked it for Art Direction and Sound over The Two Towers?), wins for The Pianist and Miyazaki's Spirited Away in the Best Animated Feature category seem to indicate that the Academy is less manipulated by the Miramax Oscar machine than it once was.

Miyazaki's Spirited Away win impresses me. Another year, a domestic release probably would have taken it, but this year, although I liked Spirit, Lilo & Stitch, and Ice Age very much, there were no truly classic American animated features, as there have been in every year for a number of years. Nonetheless, I did not credit the Academy with the cultural openmindedness that surged Spirited Away to victory.

For me, the interesting surprises were dampened by disappointing Oscar speeches. Adrien Brody's first move after he hopped on the stage was to smother presenter Halle Berry with a very long back-bending kiss. She looked insulted and embarrassed and had every right to be. It was a tacky thing to do, and I was not impressed with his acceptance speech either, in which he took a lot of time to say very little. He should have taken a cue from Chris Cooper, from earlier in the evening, who, in his acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor, thanked his colleagues, family, and expressed his hopes for swift peace with dignity.

But dignity was even more lacking in Michael Moore, winner of Best Documentary for Bowling For Columbine. He ushered his fellow documentarians on the stage and led a temper tantrum protest against not just the war with Iraq but Bush's election. No matter what your political views, the Oscar telecast is an inappropriate time and place for political tirades. If you're on the stage, it's because you were recognized by your peers for accomplishments in art and craft in the medium of film. Not because people want to hear a political sermon, because they can't make up their minds about politics without the help of Hollywood stars. But the Oscar telecast gets an audience larger by orders of magnitude than most of the movies -- including Michael Moore's -- it awards. It's unfortunate when winners succumb to the temptation to hijack the opportunity to speak to such an audience instead of paying them, and the occasion that put them there, due respect.

Honorary Oscar recipient Peter O'Toole was pretty much the exact opposite: the soul of class. The man is an amazing talent; it's baffling to me that he has not been honored by the Academy long before now.

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