A Quick Review of Duke Nukem Forever

Duke Nukem Forever is great if you want to experience what it feels like to be a gerbil on a treadmill, or a rat running a maze. It treats the player as a complete incompetent and has the the weakest gun play I have encountered in an FPS; it reminds me of the sort of action you’d expect from a Russian bargain bin game. The much lauded interactivity consists of a series of “quick time events” which add nothing to gameplay and clearly occupied the developer’s attention away from actually important tasks. You will have to manually pull up dozens, if not hundreds, of jammed doors. This is done by walking up to said door, pressing your use use key and then rapidly tapping space bar. While you can do pointless things like piss in a urinal – you cannot control the motion of the golden stream. This I refer to as the allegory of the golden stream. Like all things in Duke Nukem Forever, it creates the illusion of worthiness, when in fact it is merely a gimmick intended to distract us from gaping failures elsewhere.

Polish is non-existent. Some characters have no animations and just inhabit the game world like statues. The game developers clearly attempted to mask the laughable graphics engine with some shaders and post-processing effects which make the entire world look like its covered in a thick layer of bubble wrap. A clearly defined path is made for the player, and zero possibility presents itself to actually play something. Rather, the game is a series of scripted events designed to deliver stale punchlines. Much like a Seltzer and Friedberg  flick (and to a lesser degree Family Guy), Duke’s mere invocation of pop culture memory is intended to make us laugh. All it does is depress.

The artificial intelligence is reminiscent of pre-Half-Life days. Enemies clunkily run or walk up to you then shoot their weapons in  specific, consistent groupings much like in Doom. And as to the Duke feel? Well this feels like a pastiche, and a vulgar one at that. While the obsessive Duke worship you experience in the game was perhaps amusing at first, it quickly loses its flare, and persists throughout most of the game. Indeed, as I was playing I did not really reminisce or feel nostalgia for the Duke of yore; instead the game reminded me of Doom 3. A dark corridor shooter where enemies jump out in a claustrophobic environment. Yet Duke Nukem Forever is arguably more unbearable than Doom 3 (and that isn’t a compliment to the underwhelming Doom 3) – with its incredibly simple and insulting “gameplay” in which required interactions are highlighted with a radiant yellow glow. Duke Nukem Forever is one part corridor shooter, one part jumping puzzle and three parts Hollywood studio style marketing hype.

Don’t buy this and don’t play it.

New design for the site

Well, my website was recently exploited and hacked. I fixed it, but as part of the changes I made to locate and eliminate the exploit I switched to a new WordPress theme called 2010. Well, I know it’s a default theme, but it’s starting to grow on me. I’m considering switching to this theme permanently.

This is mainly a notice to let my paltry group of visitors know that I have not died (yet) and that the site is functioning properly. Any thoughts on the new design would be appreciated.

I also owe this slab new words. Soon.

The New Pugilist: Part 2

Do Work Son

With all the equipment in check, I attended to the task of doing work. Every day I followed a ritual which soon matured:

  1. As the sun begins to set I slide on my shoes (no socks), wrap my hands and put on a hoodie
  2. Drink 20 ounces of water, fill another 20 ounces and bring it outside
  3. Lay the gloves/water on a wheelbarrow filled with wood next to the bag
  4. Untie the tarp and throw it aside
  5. 10 minutes of fucking around/stretching/light punches without gloves
  6. Gloves on, headphones on, 1st track is for a warm-up of slow, basic cross jab combinations
  7. As the 2nd track starts start going at full force, doing complex combinations with precise footwork
  8. When i’m near to my “target heart rate” begin extremely rapid inside body shots to fully gas out, followed by immediate return to power punch combinations
  9. Drink when necessary, take short breaks in between “sets” of powerful combinations
  10. Work until I can no longer raise my arms (30-45 minutes) or until i’m out of water
  11. Cool down involving hugging the bag/light punching/headphones off and drinking
  12. Putting the tarp back on, wrapping it around and tying it tight

I found that after my first few sessions that I would become distracted while working out, and my motivation was wavering. So I decided to try to use music. In the past when I lifted weights I would always perform better when listening to good music, and figured it might also enhance boxing. I’m lucky to say it did, and I only work the bag with music now. I use music as a workout plan: when its a fill or a chorus I do combination work, and when there is a fast or riffing part I drop down and do rapid body shots or throw hooks off both legs as fast as I can.

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The New Pugilist: Part 1

Beginnings

I recently got back into boxing and wanted to share some thoughts for people who are considering getting into the game. My interest in boxing stems from my recreational study of martial arts, which started when I was still in elementary school and turned into quite a hobby by the time I was in high school. During my earliest years karate had an explosion in the United States and it seemed like karate studios were opening everywhere. I was not interested in such nonsense, the styles seemed ineffectual and memorizing some katas to be given a belt without qualifying one’s fighting ability seemed ostentatious at best. Regardless, I became a huge fan of Sanda, Muay Thai and eventually Sambo, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo. I used to watch the K-1 tournaments all the time with my best friend, and from there eventually started watching PRIDE and Pancrase championships, which were the precursors of such giants such American inventions as UFC. I consider combat to be the greatest sport of all, and there is no greater test of an athlete’s character and ability. It was especially interesting to examine what was effective, and what was not. Karate and Tae Kwon Do were especially unsuitable for real combat, while it seemed the boxers (be they Thai or Western) dominated the field. Eventually I bought some gloves and Thai pads and from time to time would work them with my friend, but he soon had to move away to school or otherwise was physically distant and I fell out of practice for about three years.

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Review: Burzum “Fallen”

It was much to my pleasant surprise that I learned of Fallen from an acquaintance. I had followed the rebirth of Burzum closely and listened to and studied Belus but had fallen out of current developments in recent months. While I thought Belus was a good album, it just didn’t compare to the majesty and spiritual power of an album like Filosofem. That being said, Fallen is a return to more introspective, emotionally charged and philosophical works of yore, but still remains married to a deep concept of Indo-European mythological themes.  I think this is the perfect area for Burzum, as was shown in Filosofem, and where Varg Vikernes really excels creatively. While Belus was essentially a story telling album, a celebration in Nordic mythological concepts, it in some ways was lacking in pure emotional immediacy and technical experimentation, instead sounding like an imitation of the earliest Burzum forms. And who can blame Varg? Being restricted from his music for so long, I’m sure the psychic chorus of sound in his jailed mind naturally was an outgrowth of musics from fifteen years ago, and much like a debater finding a clear hole in an opponent’s argument, he could not wait to spit out the thing burning at his chest.

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The Bible, Meditations and the Soul (primary sources in history)

When working with translations of primary sources what steps can be taken to ensure that the translation is reliable/the most reliable/the scholarly standard?  Are there any issues to watch out for when using primary sources that are not in your native language or are in a secondary language?

Dealing with primary sources is a central issue in history writing. Sources must be considered in the context and language of their provenance, to not do so is often to inject contemporary or personal perceptions into the work.

Bible history is a treasure trove of improper study and erroneous translation. Take the hebrew word “nephesh” for instance. The Hebrews meant this to be “soul” as in “there are five souls on that ship” rather than the Platonic conception of immortal soul or pneuma. Literally nephesh means “breath” and is often synonymous with blood; it is equivalent to the Greek concept of anima. Due this misunderstanding in language contemporary critics now believe that there is a concept of immortal soul in the Old Testament, while in reality this belief comes from a lack of linguistic understanding and the Old Testament posits a materialistic cosmology. Another example is the word “abomination.” What the Hebrews meant by this is a ritual wrong, a technical wrong, and little more – essentially a taboo. Eating certain types of fish is abomination for instance. However due to our contemporary understanding of what an “abomination” is, contemporary apologists understand that homosexuality is the greatest of sins.  There are just two examples of hundreds which lead ancient writings such as the bible to being grossly mistranslated, misunderstood and woven into an incomplete and often erroneous history.

Not only must we consider the social context of words, but also must only accept translations which are done through a collaborative effort. First, renowned philologists must take part in the translation, for accuracy of translation is an essential facet of dealing with primary sources. Furthermore any historian worth his salt will at least provisionally attempt to understand the text in it’s original language. English translations of ancient texts are very troublesome, and translators often exercise license in their choice of words, not due to lack of professionalism but as this is the nature of their business. Therefore goodly attention must be paid by the historian to the source in its original language, even if it means independent study of the words and grammar. Etymology and philology were common allies to history up until the 1950s for this very reason, and became more obscure as colleges stopped requiring Latin and Greek instruction. Regardless, I would implore any good historian to at least have a basic understanding of the most influential and far reaching Indo-European languages.

When selecting a translation for research of any significant manner, checking peer-reviewed reviews of the translations is always a good idea, especially if the researcher is completely unfamiliar with the language or subjects in question.

Yet we must also consider the culture of the translator. For instance, it was common up until recent decades to translate ancient Greek in a formal, archaic English. This is all well and good, but rather arbitrary. Take the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius for instance, penned in common (Koine) Greek. The Meditations were written by Marcus Aurelius, for himself, and in private. There is no evidence to suggest the Meditations were ever meant for public viewing. Essentially Aurelius’ writing is a classic form known as hypomnema, a philosophical work journal or series of reminders and notes. Accordingly it is preposterous that the authoritative translations of Marcus until recently had a formal and Victorian tone, as with George Long. I personally feel that something like Gregory Hays’ contemporary translation which uses a more intimate and common tone is better suiting to the source material. The point is – the custom of translation must be considered when selecting works for research.

Internship at the Dubai Women’s College

My internship was negotiated back starting in September, during which time I was not even signed up or intending to sign up for an internship class. When I was informed that it was required for me to be officially enrolled in an internship class at SLIS by the administration of my site, I found myself to this class. My internship is at Dubai Women’s College in the United Arab Emirates. It is a distance internship, done online. My chief task is to completely develop the college library’s history and education collections on a $5000 and $1000 budget respectively. I have been given complete freedom to develop an annotated list of records to be added and removed from the collection and my immediate supervision is Karla Castle. The scope of both collections is to be appropriate for both ESL Arabs and converting the mostly textbook collection into a proper academic research collection. I am very excited by the amount of freedom and creative leeway which has been afforded to me thus far.

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Bill Maher, civilization and the arts

Pardon the incoherence of what is to follow because I wrote this at 5 AM after a spurt of inspiration.

“I have heard you say that you think the arts are important as…”

“…highways and hospitals?”

“But they’re not really, are they? I mean highways and hospitals save people’s lives, and art is a diversion.”

* * *

The aforementioned lines constitute a segment of dialogue from the Bill Maher show. Maher takes the position that art, by which he means all arts including the liberal arts, should not be supported by public funds. Why are the arts essential if they are “going to happen anyway” muses Maher. The replier makes an argument that this is an assumption we take for granted and that the merits of the arts are in their ability to develop abstract thinking in those who study them. The replier goes on to claim that artists tend to gentrify poor, struggling communities, and thus art serves an economic stimulus. A sophist goes on to make an emotional appeal: imploring the viewer to support the arts with individual and voluntary patronage if one is compelled by the virtues of the domain. The sophist does not make note on the national impacts or viability of a public imperative, and the line of thought passes to dust.

An interesting exchange, but the reply is feeble. It is true that the arts do aid in the development of a sound mental faculty, and that artists may nourish struggling communities with their works and efforts – however, these reasons alone are not sufficient to mandate public funds to the arts. Yet do not be mislead into thinking I am of a contrary mind, instead I believe the reply does not go far enough.

First a definition of art. When I refer to art I am chiefly concerned with the liberal arts, not visual or symbolic arts. Like Maher I would contend that visual and symbolic arts, at least for private production, are a diversion. I will return to the appropriate use of visual arts in the public domain later on, but for now, I focus on the liberal arts. Namely: philosophy, literature, history and language; words which ennoble the human spirit and inspire virtue and a heroic character. The Iliad, the Aeneid, Epictetus, Beowulf, Shakespeare come to mind yet the list goes on. I do not mean for this to be an authoritative definition of the liberal arts (for that see Martianus Capella), but know this is the sort of thing I refer to. Works which once absorbed leave one in a state of awe and thrilled invigoration.

What is a society without art? Just as unhealthy as a society without hospitals, for art is the nourishment of the mind. Philosophers have been called doctors of the soul, philosophy a science of virtue and mental rigor. Without art, there is no civilization; there is no reason for the existence of hospitals and highways. What is a citizen without grammar, logic and rhetoric? A citizen unable to reason properly, to comprehend words and the world, manacled by exterior forces, and thus a citizen unable to take part in a greater community. A citizen without philosophy is a citizen without a knowledge of the good, or at the least a mastery and love of the good; a citizen without an examined life is vicious and inhumane, he does not consider the greater context of human action within a cosmopolis. What is a citizen without a world of allegory, history and literature to consider? A person who does not benefit from an exploration of the world of thought, and so defaults to popular whims and unruly impulse. To engage in Socratic dialogue is to be truly alive, and to never exit from the cave means a life filled with vicious folly and thus misery.

Understanding how to be good, to function within a civic community, to be wise, to think with a keen and skilled mind, and to ultimately become civilized is the goal of the liberal arts. To understand the world in a wise and prudent fashion is the goal of the arts. And is someone who has not dedicated the time to studying the concepts behind these arts a safe, healthy citizen? No. He is a wolf, a rabid dog, who lives a dangerous life where nothing is sacred and everything is allowed. A civilization cannot function in good health unless founded on some bastion of truth, beauty and wisdom – great works which inspire us and help mold our natural dispositions to wholesome ends.

Ultimately: what is the good of technical arts and sciences without a knowledge of how to use them wisely?

* * *

Another topic on my mind is this notion of a bloated economy in ruins, that might only be fixed by cutting teacher’s salaries, paltry aid to the poor and educational funding. Again and again this repulses me and also infuriates me. I am repulsed in that other human beings would think to cut funding to such critical human services with good knowledge of the misery that act would take, and infuriated by a lack of understanding of our economy. Referring to a previous topic, it seems that most citizens nowadays lack both a clear faculty of reason and a knowledge of the good.

Need I mention the proverbial elephant in the room? Must I say what should be extremely obvious? A state which is in a condition of constant war cannot sustain itself. The United States has developed a massive military industrial complex which behaves as if the Soviet Union is still in existence, and has not shrunk but grown since the collapse of that empire. Projecting our national power over hundreds of massive oversea bases and sustaining two colonial wars with the help of bloated mercenary contracts has worn the economy thin.

The sophists in Washington propose cutting programs which constitute a minuscule amount of the budget while the greatest expenses are completely and utterly ignored. Glance not on defense spending, the smallest reduction in which would assuage if not eliminate a collapsing social fabric, and instead hunt after what minuscule social services the state provides in remainder.  The country continues to be a land where the weak are devoured and the streets are filled with homeless children, the starving, drug addicts and the suicidal all for the exploitation of foreign lands and the prestige of empire.

And instead of reducing defense funding the sophists invoke the fallacy of Reaganomics as salve to our economic and social woes. The myth informs us that if only we cut more taxes toward the rich, they would somehow save us. This fallacy endures, despoiling our republic.

* * *

Back to the topic of public sponsoring of the arts, in particular the visual arts.  Tired, will write later.

Poor Pliny

“I generally give no guarantee of the truth of what I say, preferring to leave that responsibility with the authors whom I quote”

- Pliny the Elder

I hesitate to smite wise Pliny – but his assertion is irresponsible for a historian. A historian is entirely responsible for the quality of his sources, in that if they appear dubious in any regard they should not be used. This speaks to the importance of the historian’s rigorous method, analtyical reasoning skills and integrity as a scholar. Sources should be evaluated for authenticity, historical context, provenance, bias of the author, linguistic context and logical coherence within a chain of reasoning. To not consider these factors is to create a groundless history, based merely on accidents of knowledge.

What comes to mind are the great deal of World War II histories. Many German generals, writing in their memoirs, would have us believe that Hitler was solely responsible for the downfall of their empire, and that *only* the generals had been to left to their own devices, the Third Reich would have endured. This is a fallacy which is perpetuated by the layman and by many naiive historians alike. This mistaken judgment was soundly debunked by Geoffrey P. Megargee in Inside Hitler’s High Command. The author compared records and mutually corroborating independent sources to demonstrate that the popular history we have come to mistakenly take for granted is based on the deceptions of the memoir writing survivors. Almost to a man, these generals lied about their involvement in the war, attempting to distance themselves from their National Socialist sympathies, personal loyalties to Hitler and ardent belief in the operational soundness of such blunders as Operation Barbassoa. It was the General Staff who urged Hitler to declare war on the Russians and without notable resistance drew up unrealistic operational and maneuver plans, and the Kriegsmarine who urged for an extension of hostilities to the United States. The General Staff, while a powerful operational tool, had little strategic skill and generally believed that strategic threats (such as Russia) could be defeated with a daring operational plan. Ultimately the high command in Germany had just as much to do with the country’s downfall as did Hitler. This is an altogether different portrait of events than have come to be popularly known, and that have been portrayed by many histories until recently. Historians seemed eager to accept memoirs without considering the integrity of their sources.