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By Samuel Stoddard


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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

It's been altogether too quiet in this journal, I guess, and maybe it seems too quiet on the site, September Blitz notwithstanding. Well, lots of things have been going on behind the scenes that are about to come to fruition. In the month of October, we'll see the debut of not one but two new features, the first opening October 3 and will mark a foray into new territory, both in terms of content and medium. Don't miss it. The second will be a much more traditional humor featurette and should show up later in the month.

In the meantime, I'm always glad for September Blitz to begin and always look forward for its end. It's a great way to motivate me to keep parts of the site updated that I don't always think of during the rest of the year, but I'm always exhausted by the end of it. Unfortunately, the bad news is that the response has been disappointing this year, much like it was last year, but in stark contrast to the first two years. Rather than run myself into the ground every September, I may have to come up with a new kind of game plan for next year. So, at this point, consider the future of September Blitz undecided.

By no means, however, will I stop investing in RinkWorks the same kind of time I've always put into it. I've got two major games well underway -- stalled temporarily in light of September Blitz and the forthcoming October 3 feature, but not shelved -- one of which is the third Role-Player's Vault game I've spoken of for quite some time now. It's still going strong, but it's big and takes an awful lot of time.

Changing the subject, I have a letter I've been sitting on since last December, when a Reader Poll question asked about people's favorite musical note. The reader "BCWildCat7" responded with this amusing tongue-in-cheek email:

I did some deep thinking on the latest poll, being a musician and a fan of the musical alphabet.

I wonder how many people who answered that poll actually knew anything about music. It seems to me that the majority of answerers have a very punitive knowledge of the musical structure. Over a quarter of those who answered, 130 to be exact at the time of this email, stated that their favorite note is C or G. While both of these notes are pleasant to the ears and would constitute good notes, I find it hardly worth stating that either of these vastly overused notes would be donned favorite by any well-informed, musically-ept sentient being.

Next, I believe that many who took part in this poll have about as much musical knowledge as Donny Most has lady skills. There are an equal amount of participants, 29, who stated that their favorite note was D as well as C#. Now, I am a huge fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber, and his ballad "All I Ask of You" brings tears to my eyes from time to time. But that being the only musical composition that immediately comes to mind when I think of C#, I find it daftly hard to believe that 8% of the entire polling audience would say that, of the entire musical alphabet, this black sheep would be just as popular as the chord of D, from which many famous pieces of artistic wonder were formed. (To add more to this argument, notice the difference of the vastly more popular F to it's lesser step-brother F#.)

Finally, I come to my choice. Placing runner up to last!!! was D#, or as more popularly known as Eb. I would like to point out that the majority of Acoustic Rock today is bombarded with E's. Now I am a big fan of E's, and they (rightly) placed higher than most on this poll. However, all musicians will point out that Eb simply has more substance than E by itself. It simply overflows with flavor and richness. Eb is a king among notes, a champion amongst its peers. I can think of no other note more deserving of popular favorite than Eb. With this said, I move that all other choices be removed from said poll and replaced with Eb.

Please take this essay into thoughtful consideration as the current poll comes to a close.

The tough part about reading poll results is you don't have any other information besides the breakdown of answers. There's no telling who is musically-inclined and who isn't. And this letter really made me curious to know how people answered that question. It comes from the perspective of the potential certain notes have in musical composition, which is certainly a natural, practical, and intuitive criterion, and probably the one most musically-inclined people will use.

But surely there are others. How nice a note sounds on its own, for example, as a single tone, or in wind chimes, or in the human voice. Another criterion might be how ergonomically pleasant the note is to play on a particular instrument. (I don't play anything, but I've fiddled with an antique banjo-ukulele enough to appreciate how compatible C is with the human hand, in stark contrast to Bb, which requires my fingers to bend in ways I'm not quite sure they are intended to.)


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Goodbye, friend. My thoughts are with you and with your family, and with anyone else privileged enough to recognize your passing as a great loss.                LJ     Forum

Monday, March 6, 2006

It's funny. The Oscars were shaping up to be one of the most predictable in years, with the biggest surprise being Best Cinematography going to Memoirs of a Geisha instead of Brokeback Mountain -- pretty weak, as surprises go -- and then the night tops off with Jack Nicholson saying "Crash" to announce Best Picture and then mouthing something like "Wow!" in disbelief. Let's face it, Crash winning Best Picture was a surprise even to those who had predicted it. Brokeback Mountain had more precursor support than any film since 1993's Schindler's List. It won the Producer's Guild Award, the Director's Guild Award, the BAFTA, the BFCA, the Golden Globe (for drama; the comedy counterpart is not usually a predictor of Oscars), and a huge array of critics' awards, including the New York and Los Angeles critics groups, which usually split. It even took the Independent Spirit Award, which is not usually an Oscar prognosticator but was this year, when independent and small studio films dominated the Oscar line-up. Crash won the Screen Actors' Guild's Best Ensemble award, a shaky Oscar predictor at best, and not much else. This is Oscar history and certainly calls into question the predictive power of the precursors.

As David Poland, of Movie City News pointed out, this has also been an unusually bitter Oscar season. Probably more controversial than Crash's content is its artistic quality. People are already crying out that Crash will go down in history as one of the worst Oscar winners of all time. My own opinion, however, is that it is only the second film of the 2000s worthy of the industry's highest honor.

The problems people have with Crash seem to come about by taking it too literally. We live in literal times, and, to be fair, Crash does feel more like it's supposed to be a realistic street drama than a fable. But a fable is exactly what Crash is. It's a distillation of principles and ideas. The coincidences in the story are not weaknesses but a part of its narrative form. If you want to study a phenomenon, you isolate it. You remove the clutter of real life, extract its essence, and showcase it. That's what Crash does, with brutal effectiveness. Remarkably, it does so while still painting complex character portraits and scenes of astonishing emotional power. Remarkably, it draws characters designed as components in a larger illustration, and yet they still feel like individuals. If you're hung up on literalism, it's not going to work. If you take the movie on its own terms, it weaves a powerful spell that resonates long after it's over.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

I've been meaning to post in here an interesting email I received about a now long gone Reader Poll question ("What is your favorite musical note?"), but if it's waited this long, it can wait a while longer. It's been a while since I supplied an update on the state of things.

Escape From St. Mary's was a laborious task for me, and I didn't even write the game. But it was so very worth the effort. It's complex, richly detailed, a fun challenge, and a wonderful addition to the site. Its release flared up interest in RinkWorks as a whole, triggering an acceleration in the growth of the site that shall hopefully not wane before I can get another big thing ready to release. Toward that end, it may interest some that I'm done with the prolonged break I took from the next Role-Player's Vault game. I'm back on track in developing it, as of several days ago, and it's coming along nicely. Right now I'm wrestling with the combat portion of the game, which is the last fundamental component of the game left to go in. There is still a lot of detail work to do across the board, and I am still dreading the meticulous number balancing process that I'm dabbling with now but which won't kick in in earnest until the game is playable to the point where characters can advance and progress.

In other news, I've been doing a lot of work with the advertising that appears on the site. I've signed up with other ad companies, which has enabled me to fill more inventory. The downside to that is that the RinkWorks ads, which people seem to enjoy, are scarcer than they were. The upside is that I've been able to be more selective about what ads I run. Regular readers may have noticed the increase in amount of Google AdSense ads, which are subdued text ads, and fewer flashing "Warning!" ads. And the pop-under ads have been gone entirely for a while now. I'm still gradually shifting ad campaigns around, but I'm pleased to be able to reduce the invasiveness of the ads in an affordable way. Of course, this does not affect subscribers to RinkWorks, who do not see any ads at all, except in the chat room. But subscribers do still experience much faster page loads (particularly important for some of the games), and I have a couple ideas for more subscriber-only bonus materials that I'd like to roll out in the coming months. Time, as ever, is the limiting factor.

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