Cirsova is (Kind of) on Twitter

I created a Twitter page for Cirsova.  Apparently refusing to add suggested randos and not importing an email contacts list is just beyond the pale of reason, so within minutes of spot adding Cirsova contributors manually, I was locked out of my account for suspicious behavior.

I don’t have a cell phone, so I can’t unlock my account. Awesome.

Update: Woohoo! We’re back, baby!  Thanks to Twitter support for fixing this pdq.

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Some Not-So-Brief Thoughts On the Collapse of Myspace

There have been countless explanations given as to why Myspace experienced a rapid and catastrophic collapse in 2011, including things like “there was too much spam and phishing going on” and “Facebook was just more hip and trendy, so young folks flocked to it”.

From my own personal experience, it was a sudden disabling of tools and features which had made it valuable as a networking site that quickly turned it from a vibrant and active community to a barren and desolate digital wasteland.

Myspace was a big deal on the cusp of early web 2.0 for a number of reasons, but most importantly, it was an easily customizable free website with a built in address book and music player. Of course some folks would abuse this by embedding the most obnoxious stuff, cramming their page with glittering weed leaves and dancing babies, bringing mid-decade browsers to a crawl, but this versatility allowed a very important user-base an extensive set of tools that had not been available previously-independent musicians and promoters.

Suddenly, every band that had any recordings could have them online, on unique pages, their fans could put listen to and download new tracks, share them by putting them on their own pages, and musicians and fans could stay in touch.

More importantly, Myspace allowed bands to tag themselves by up to three genres. Fans, promoters and labels could do something really neat: they could search for and browse bands within specific genres in specific regions, listen to their music and quickly get in touch. If a promoter needed to fill a slot in a show, they could quickly search by the genre and location to find a band that would be a good fit, lived in the area, gauge their fanbase and get in touch to work out details.

Several of the albums I put out via Retro Virus Records were assembled in this way – Fuck Your Scene Vol.s 1 & 2, Mundus Patet and The Worst Music Dracula Ever Heard* were largely put together by browsing bands and saying “Hey, interested in being on a comp?” Shows, and music fests I organized were filled in a similar manner, as were shows and music fests put on by friends and fellow musicians. But all of this came to a screeching halt in 2011.

The brass and interface developers at Myspace were more concerned about the growing popularity of Facebook than the needs of their most active userbase. Ironically, when UI changes were made to make Myspace have more of a Facebook-like feel, rather than listen to the complaints of users who’d said they’d stayed with Myspace because they didn’t LIKE Facebook, they ran off in their own direction. Now, what I am absolutely certain killed Myspace was when they removed the ability to browse band pages by genre and state/country. One day, the most important networking feature for the most active users who’d been keeping Myspace anchored was gone. Musicians could no longer easily find out what bands were in their own area, and promoters could no longer use Myspace as a tool to find area talent and organize events. Some folks stuck around for awhile because of connections they’d already made, but making new connections had become difficult. Many of us would’ve gladly taken twice as many of those awful Selena Gomez ads on the login screen if you’d at least let us quickly search for punk bands in this or that state to ask if you could get on a show or crash at their place when you came into town, assuring them they had a floor to sleep on if they ever came your way. The next thing you knew, the only music that was easy to find was insipid big-name pop whose labels had shelled out money to have them shoved into our faces.

The community began to crumble at an alarming pace. Accounts became abandoned as Myspace ceased to have much to offer independent musicians and promoters. Worse, a message through Myspace was no longer a viable way to get in touch with musicians, promoters or venues, because people weren’t logging in anymore. Music collectives and digital scenes died, seemingly overnight. One of the most fascinating and exciting music projects I ever had the privilege of being involved with, which had taken the old Myspace platform and turned it into a comprehensive piece of audio-visual artwork, suddenly had the rug pulled out from under it – while Gl1tchg0r3* could survive an inimical split from their record label, it could not survive the total overhaul of the Myspace platform.

And Myspace could’ve survived without the camgirls, the survey girls, grandma and grampa, would-be poets and authors, and folks with the weed leaves and dancing babies as a top notch site catering to and connecting professionals and amateurs in the music industry, but it could not survive as a viable networking platform that lacked the feature of competitors (and was structurally unable to support them) while they ripped out the existing tools and features that had been necessary for its power-users. By the time News Corp sold in mid 2011, the site had been run into ground, selling for less than a tenth of what they had paid for it six years earlier. Though Myspace has somehow trudged on like a hungry ghost, with a small fraction of its userbase and acting as a ‘plug-in’ music service, it is definitely not the Myspace that was. And sadly I don’t know that there will ever be anything quite like it again. That’s my take, based on what I observed as a highly active user of the platform, on why Myspace turned into a zombie site.

*Though the Dracula comp came out in Fall 2011, it was put together the prior year. I can’t say for certain, but I’m pretty sure that by early spring of 2011, I’d migrated fully to Facebook with only a token presence on Myspace, partly out of nostalgia and things like Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tuti leaving comments on my page from back when a comment on social media was a bit less of a casual thing.

**I’ve been meaning to talk about Gl1tchg0r3 in a full post for some time. Maybe later this week or next.

Music – Mit Gott ohne Angst, Durch Heer und Kraft

When I first started playing industrial music back in late 07, I ended up with a lot of eastern European neo-folk fans & friends, including these guys (or at least the main guy from back when it was still just a solo project).  Lost touch with just about all of them after the great Myspace exodus of 2011.  Looks like Adam is still making music on his own, though.

God, I need to pull my guitar out and make some noise again…

Also, bizarrely enough, someone bought not one but TWO copies of the old-ass 4 way split CD that was the last official release from my first band, The Death Sound.

Minor addendum:

I used to consider myself anti-fascist until I realized that capital A Anti-fa were, by and large, a bunch of jack-booted thugs. Plus, I found myself with a lot of friends and fans who were Crypto-fascists. I’m not comfortable enough with the imagery myself, even though for many its purpose is iconoclastic, so was never Crypto-fa and have kept my own projects away from it, but most of the ones I’ve known seemed like really nice people. Given the choice between letting two* of my punk friends stay at my house or half a dozen Crypto-fascists I’d just met, I’d probably opt for the latter and be in significantly less fear for my property.

*Punks are really only dangerous in pairs; it’s only then that they feel they have to prove who’s more punk.

“Prepare to Face my Final Form! RAY OF FROST!”

Fighting the big evil lich midboss in Chapter 2 of Neverwinter Nights got me thinking about some of the differences in magic/super/whatever-powered heroes and villain in eastern and western media.

In many eastern fiction and game properties, a villainous big bad is going to start with his cheap tricks and low energy attacks to deal with whatever threat is facing him. I’m reminded of one of the minor good-guys from Fist of the North Star’s shocked exclamation after facing Raoh for the first time: “He’s killed me with a single punch!” It’s only when those initial one-hit kills don’t do the job that the bad-guy will bring out the heavier guns. Whether it’s calling forth the powers of darkness, going bankai, releasing control art restrictions, or undergoing some other lengthy transformation, these guys incrementally step their game up to whatever level it needs to be to meet the immediate threat.

In D&D derived games, however, most fights are going to start with the biggest guns blazing first – you typically can’t afford the slow build-up of testing this or that weakness and saying “ho-ho, you’ve resisted my cantrips? Well, see how you like this incrementally more powerful attack!” Once the buffs have gone up, you typically start at the top of the spell list, knowing the other guy is gonna do the same, in hopes that you kill him with your big damage effects, working your from your high-level instant kills, to your beefed up AOEs, to spamming mid-level direct damage. If someone is able to survive that? Well, there’s always Magic Missile, but what next?

The fight with Brother Toras, even at level 15, was incredibly tough, but, unlike what one might expect from a boss fight in a JRPG, it got progressively easier as it went along. I didn’t have to beat him quickly, I just had to outlast him. It took a few teleports out, and I lost my henchman a couple of times, but I beat him without having to respawn. Though he did waste a bit of time on debuffs, Tomas went all out from the very start with some really nasty stuff, a lot of it big-damage and AOE (and I’ll admit, I did have to reload a few times once I figured out it was Evards Black Tentacles that kept one-hit killing me), but after the initial big explosions and masses of writhing tentacles coming up from the floor of the tombs, he just started spamming fireballs. When these hit, they hit freaking hard, but I spent a lot of time running in circles around the tomb and with my stupid high dex bonus, was able to soak most of the hit. Then something funny happened: the lich started using things like Flame and Acid Arrow, most of which just sort of bounced off me. His last true hurrahs were a couple of magic missiles which, as a level 19 wizard, did come dangerously close to putting me in real peril.

By the time Tomas was down to casting Negative Energy Ray and Ray of Frost, I was actually feeling kind of bad for him. At that point, I was able to more or less stand my ground, shooting him with acid arrows, slowly burning my way through his hundreds of points of damage reduction. Eventually he was reduced to trying to poke me with a stick to very little effect (29 Dex, yo).

This is something I’ve seen happen in tabletop to a degree, as well. It was probably worst in Exalted, in which everyone is constantly operating at 11 and it’s a contest to see who runs out of need stuff first (hint: it’s always the person who’s not a Solar). In my own most recent game, the boss-fight involving a magic user was beyond a disappointment, since his one spell got interrupted and he was promptly hacked to pieces. The boss fights that were tough and the players seemed to enjoy the most were ones in the royal tombs and the Rug-Bear(Polymar)-the wight had potential long-term negative effects (level drain), the Banshee was a puzzle that did damage, and the Rug-Bear was a huge damage-dealing machine firing on all cylinders until the very end.

Probably my best-paced boss-fight involving a magic user was awhile back with the 4th level elf; then again, he didn’t use any attack spells – he just mage-armored then mirror imaged before proceding to go to work with his long-sword.

I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to run a game again, but with the players expressing a desire for some mid-to-upper-level play, I might get the opportunity to experiment with some set-piece battles with magic users in an attempt to avert the diminishing battle intensity typical to wizards.

B4: The Lost City – Pt 9 (Conclusion)

I managed to finish off B4 last friday, which is good, because I was beginning to feel at the end of my DM rope. I don’t really know if my players enjoyed it or not, but the various issues I was having with the module’s design had turned running it into a chore. Even if they were having fun, there were plenty of times I wasn’t. I’d say that any and all of the stuff I ran as part of my Shadow Over Alfheim game (particularly Maze of Nuromen) was easier and more enjoyable to DM overall than the Lost City.

They party headed to the gambling den to clear out the rest of the take. The “weird” cynidicean encounters are a bit frustrating, because so many of them are just weird for weirdness sake, have little bearing on things, and often just create distractions. Ones like the room of people staring off into space and screaming randomly but not reacting to the players and the room where people are having a party and dancing with themselves may provide a pittance of XP bonus for murderhobos, but very little actual roleplaying opportunities; in fact, I generally gave the Cynidiceans a bit more cognizance of their surroundings and the actions of the players to make them more interactive than how they were written. At this point, though, I was glad they didn’t insist on finding out the mysteries of these two rooms and, after stabbing a guy in the leg to see what would happen (nothing) and talking to a fiddler in the party room who wanted to know why they stole the masks off the guys who were high on drugs in the foyer, they went to the gambling den and took the part of the loot that Darius had left behind.

And they took the 30′ x 30′ wall to wall flying carpet I’d placed there as a means to leave Cynidicea.

The factions loaded them up with some previsions and off they flew. I had kinda half-ass tried to throw a cool set-piece encounter at them as a “final boss fight”, but I don’t really know how well it went off. Part of the idea was to give them a chance to be set-up for a future game if we ever wanted to run Isle of Dread, but it didn’t quite work out. The flying carpet took them about a mile off the coast of the Isle on the way to wherever the hell it was they were going when they were attacked by three Pteranodons. The idea was that the Pteranodons would knock them off the carpet and they’d have to swim to shore. The problem was that they immediately tried to avoid them by flying higher, so by the time they encountered them, they were 500 feet above the water to where a fall would mean certain death.

I divided the Carpet up into 5 sections – 4 corners and the center. As the Pteranodons made their approach, I let them get a couple missile attacks in before they hit. From then out, the Pteranodons would randomly hit one area of the carpet, forcing dex saves and saves vs. paralysis to see if they got knocked back or off the carpet completely. Each Pteranodon would remain for 2 initiative segments (so melee characters could get swings in) before flying off to make another pass. In a few cases, folks got knocked off, but things like rolling ridiculously well to grab thrown ropes or use floating disc saved lives. The cleric proved his salt blinding the largest of the three and then, when it was able to find them by sound, by casting silence on the carpet.

It was a fairly kinetic, rough and tumble fight, but party killed two and drove off the blinded one, surviving the fight. I was a bit aggravated that one player seemed genuinely mad that I wasn’t rolling for the werefoxes, who’d gone with them; thank god no one pointed out to him that technically all of the characters whose players hadn’t made it were with them too and I wasn’t rolling for them either. By the time it was all over, I was glad to be done with it and proud that I hadn’t rage quit my own game (last week was a really lousy week, and while I wasn’t going to take it out on my players, I really didn’t have the patience for being nitpicked). They got back to whatever the hell city they were from/had been going to before they got separated, got the hero’s welcome, etc. etc., the end.

My game wrapped pretty early in the evening, so we spent another three and a half hours playing Index Card D&D, and I think most of us had more fun with that. I know I did.

Starting this friday, my friend will be resuming his regular DMing duties trying out a homebrew system built off Warhammer Fantasy RPG (don’t ask me which edition, I’m liable to say a random number and shrug) to implement in his urban adventure setting.

Pokemon Go!: A Death Sentence for Black Men or a Bad Idea in General?

Over at Medium, Omari Akil expresses his fears upon the realization that wandering around looking for Pokemon through a cell phone is conspicuous as hell and probably really weird looking to anyone who doesn’t know what that person is doing.

His conclusion is that, with the current climate, black men will face disproportionate threat of being shot while playing Pokemon Go because white folks and cops will be weirded the hell out by black men wandering through residential neighborhoods and loitering about as they look for Pikachu.

So, what is Pokemon Go?  It is apparently the new hotness that combines geocaching with Pokemon.  What does this mean?  It means that weirdos will be wandering around your town with their cell phones out trying to find wild pokemon that have appeared on their google map or something.

There has been a lot of speculation on how and where these pokemon show up and why, but depending on where they’re showing up, the threat it poses is manifold and goes beyond race.

Regardless of your skin color, folks are gonna be creeped the hell out by folks who show up looking for Pokemon at playgrounds and parks (Why the hell is that guy pointing his phone at kids!?) and wandering around residential areas looking like you’re casing housing.

Pokemon are gonna show up in well-to-do white neighborhoods to the terror of black nerds; Pokemon are gonna show up in poor and dangerous black neighborhoods to the terror of white nerds; Pokemon are gonna show up on playgrounds to the terror of parents that are going to assume that they are mysteriously being swarmed by pedo-hipsters.

It’s one of those aspects of augmented reality that someone probably should’ve spent more time thinking about.  While I think Akil is being hyperbolic, and I can totally see now the crying mother saying “he was just tryin’ to find his pokemans!” after some kid gets shot having broken into somebody’s house, far more likely scenarios are kids and young women getting attacked and/or abducted after having headed down to skid row in search of rare candy.

Frankly, I don’t care what your skin color is, and I don’t  care what Professor Oak thinks may be on my lawn – kindly stay the hell off it.  I’m not going to shoot you, but if I see you with your phone out walking around my house at any time of the day, I’m calling the cops.

If you’re one of the millions of people who downloaded this app, think before you go off looking for Pokemon in places where normal folks don’t expect you to be poking around with cell phones and will think you’re up to something if you are.  Parents, if you’re letting your kids play this game, don’t be dumb and don’t let them do dumb things like look for Pokemon alone, look for them in strange neighborhoods, or look for them in places where they might get hurt (“There’s geodude down in old gravel pit!”).

Update: Holy crap!  This game literally has pokemon bait you can use to harass entire neighborhoods of people or, as in some cases that have already been reported on in the Daily Mail, lure distracted hipsters to a location where you can mug them!