Tina K. Russell

November 23, 2009

The Click and the Dead

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Tina Russell @ 11:29 am

David Sirlin is a familiar proponent of increased simplicity and usability in video game interfaces. It's a principle he put into practice rebalancing Street Fighter II for Super Street Fighter II HD Remix. At Montreal International Game Summit, he continued the theme with a polemic that used the famous writing handbook The Elements Of Style by Strunk and White to argue that a design must do its best to avoid needless effort on the player’s part.

Using one of William Strunk’s celebrated style rules, “omit needless words,” as a basis, Sirlin took the audience through an entertaining series of case studies demonstrating obvious pitfalls overlooked by many developers.

via MIGS: Every Click Counts | Edge Online.

Hotel Dusk, a game that is very dear to my heart, had one glaring problem that came close to ruining the entire experience (and makes me tepid about the sequel announcement): despite being the most text-heavy game I’ve ever played, you could not press A to finish displaying a block of text. You had to wait for the text to draw itself, letter by letter, onto the screen, at the end of which you completely forgot what you were reading. It was maddening.

Okami made a similar mistake, except only for scenes deemed important by the developers. The thing is, Okami also let you skip entire cutscenes. I never wanted to skip the unimportant cutscenes because I could rapidly advance through the text and read it quickly, but skipping the important cutscenes was always a wicked temptation. That is, a decision they probably made to ensure you paid attention to some cutscenes only made me want to skip those ones. (facepalm)

The moral of the story: little annoyances matter. They can add up to a serious blemish on your game (and one, sadly, that reviewers will generally fail to point out).


October 14, 2009

The defense

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:29 pm

The murder case of transsexual Melek K. who was killed in her home in Ankara was continued. The prosecutor claimed to try defendant T.P. under six different charges such as murder, plunder, theft and further allegations.

via English :: Prosecutor Claims 6 Different Charges against Melek K.’s Murder – Bianet.

I have a few things to say after reading the article:

  1. This Turkish news site was funded in part by the Swedish International Development Agency. Cool. (Hooray for Scandinavia!)
  2. It’s sad to see that even in Turkey murderers of transsexual women use the “tranny panic” defense, which is where you say the two of you were about to have sex when you saw her genitals, panicked, and killed her. In the States at least, it often works, as a means to get the jury on your side by playing to their prejudices. The thing is, not only is it bizarre and indefensible (you panicked and killed someone over their genitals?), it’s always a lie. Murderers of transsexuals can and do seek out their victims first.
  3. For the good news, the perp is dead to rights: evidence shows the victim still had her clothes on during the murder. For once, the tranny panic defense won’t work, and let’s hope it never does again.

October 3, 2009

The President’s safety

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:33 pm

Thomas Friedman: “I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from the right or left. But something very dangerous is happening. Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination… Even if you are not worried that someone might draw from these vitriolic attacks a license to try to hurt the president, you have to be worried about what is happening to American politics more broadly.”

via A Dangerous Environment — Political Wire.

My concern about the guy with the assault rifle at the Presidential rally has always been this: Though we’ve all feared for Barack Obama’s safety, given raw memories of the assassinations of the sixties and his immense symbolic power, I’ve always taken comfort in that no President today would ever ride, say, uncovered in a parade going past an abandoned book depository. I’ve always thought that, with advances in Secret Service practice and Presidential custom, Obama is not in the kind of danger that JFK (or RFK or MLK for that matter, or Lincoln) was.

All that changes when members of Congress defend Americans’ “right” to bring loaded assault weapons to Presidential town halls, when the Secret Service is brought under the wing of the dysfunctional Department of Homeland Security and is subsequently cut back, and mainstream voices shout louder and louder that Obama is hijacking the country for filling his electoral mandate.

Mock the President, ridicule the President, do whatever you need to do; it’s an American tradition and a cornerstone of democracy. But we, as Americans, all have a right not to have to fear for his life. The JFK’s assassination was traumatic for the country, and no one, on any side of the current debates, wants it repeated. Most of the reason I’m so bothered by the political climate, and its both implicit and explicit threats of violence, is that I do not want to worry about whether or not the President is safe.

September 22, 2009

New art!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Tina Russell @ 4:38 pm

I drew something today! I think it’s cool. Click for full size and full majesty.


Find it here on Flickr. As usual, it’s Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0. So, if you want to use this for your Creative Commons project, credit me (Tina Russell) and place a link back here or to the Flickr page. Thank you!

September 20, 2009

I Wanna Start a Fight

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — Tina Russell @ 12:40 pm

How ought we to respond to fulminations against videogames by people who don’t play them? A great many, of course, may be safely ignored. But when an interesting writer decides to take a passing kick at games, it can be worth digging for the grain of truth in the stereotypical criticism. A case in point: recently, I was reading an article by the philosopher Zygmunt Bauman, published in the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza last spring, which after a meditative beginning about language and exile suddenly targets videogames, along with TV and cinema – they all purvey, he argues, a kind of Manichean pornography. I quote at length to give the flavour of Bauman’s rhetoric:

‘Surely, compared with the refined artistry of cinema, television, Nintendo or PlayStation, the everyday life in the barracks of the concentration camps or the communist bloc must seem like some abortive creations produced by provincial amateurs and manufacturers of cheap kitsch. These lucky beasts [the kids of today] have known almost from the day they were born that monstrous things are the creation of monsters and sordid things are created by scoundrels, and that monsters and scoundrels therefore have to be exterminated before they get a chance to exterminate us, and that, since those who are being exterminated are the spawn of the devil it must follow that those who subdue them are nothing but angels? So as they sit at their computers with their faces ablush, trying to defeat the electronic monsters at their own wicked game, to respond to their trickery with their own, even more refined, tricks and mow them down in their multitudes before they start mowing down ours, it does not in the least offend their own high opinion of themselves. After all, these electronic monsters ambushed them out of pure cruelty whereas they, on their part, were only trying to save themselves, and while they were at it the rest of the world, from the brutes. Humanity is divided into executioners and their victims, and once the latter finally exterminate the last of the former, we can safely store brutality in one of the deposits of memory (or forgetting) and slam the door behind it’.

via Survival Horror Syndrome | Edge Online.

It’s hard for me to admit, but much of my craving to play videogames is often a desire to pick up a controller and start beating up enemies. It’s so cathartic to flip from your normal life and play a fantasy where you’re a spry young warrior mashing through monster after monster, with no real consequence other than the gratitude and prestige brought by your heroics. “Enemies” (in the videogame sense of endless minion baddies) are such a useful trope that it’s hard to cast them off, even when you know that too many games use them as a crutch.

Of course, what I like most about Bauman’s argument is his reminder that good people can do bad things. Part of why videogames have mined World War II so relentlessly is that it seems like a time when good was good and evil was evil; in the same comforting vein of Pong’s famed instruction “avoid missing ball for high score,” a certain wartime nostalgia creeps into the implied instruction of “point gun at Nazi, shoot.” What do we do when our big enemies these days are decentralized and omnipresent, from Internet-enabled terrorists to flu seasons to killer-bee scares to online predators to Wall Street wheeler-dealers? In the real world, we’re slowly pulling out of Iraq and slowly pulling into Afghanistan, a war we entered with strong public consensus in favor but that now sparks a debate on whether or not we should stay, on whether or not doing good for Afghanistan by staying is even possible. It’s a long way from “if he’s a Nazi, shoot him.”

See also Raph Koster’s “The Evil We Pretend to Do.”

September 14, 2009

You First. No, You First.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 10:28 am

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam, the custodian of its two holy mosques, the world’s energy superpower and the de facto leader of the Arab and Muslim worlds — that is why our recognition is greatly prized by Israel. However, for all those same reasons, the kingdom holds itself to higher standards of justice and law. It must therefore refuse to engage Israel until it ends its illegal occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights as well as Shabaa Farms in Lebanon. For Saudis to take steps toward diplomatic normalization before this land is returned to its rightful owners would undermine international law and turn a blind eye to immorality.

via Op-Ed Contributor – Land First, Then Peace – NYTimes.com.

This is a very strange argument when Israel’s excuse for holding up the peace process is that they’re saving diplomatic negotiation as a sort of reward for good behavior, even when their citizens are dying in rocket attacks. Israel and the United States will not engage with Hamas until they renounce violence and recognize Israel, while Hamas is only willing to give Israel a grudging acceptance, and then only if they return the Occupied Territories. If Saudi Arabia joins in this game, it will ensure a kind of reverse Mexican standoff that will ensure nothing gets done, and that Israelis and Palestinians will keep dying in endless conflict merely for dreaming of a homeland of their own.

September 8, 2009

Transsexuality and sex work

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tina Russell @ 6:09 pm

Like many transsexuals in Malaysia, a conservative and mostly Muslim country, the clash between ID card and appearance means Tasha is shunned by employers, and forced to make her living as a sex worker.

“It’s a hard life, people don’t like us, they’re always making fun of us,” she says as she prepares for another night in the grimy alleyways of Chow Kit, the red light district of the capital Kuala Lumpur.

Tasha endures drunken clients, violent pimps, and aggressive competition from other transsexual prostitutes, but what really frightens her are the raids mounted by police and religious authorities.

via AFP: Twilight life of Malaysia’s Muslim transsexuals.

The stereotype of the transsexual prostitute is difficult because it is part true. Transsexuals in large numbers, all over the world, are forced into prostitution because of two factors: the sheer expense of physical transition, and the difficulty of finding regular work. The stereotype then becomes self-perpetuating, as people being to associate transsexuality with sex work and employers presume they are no good for anything else. (This is what makes words like “tranny” so hurtful and problematic: a word so tightly associated with prostitution cements an impression in people that makes it hard for trans women to find work as anything else.)

However, the problem of people’s overly close mental association of transsexuality and prostitution should never be a reason to cover up the original problem. This article does a good job of highlighting the original problem. Remember that transsexuals actually make much less in sex work than cissexuals; the reason we’re so prominent in the trade is that we lack the healthcare and the official and cultural respect that is due anybody in a civilized society. (And, the article averts transsexual profile cliché number one by not showing a picture of her putting on makeup—hooray!)

August 31, 2009

American nihilism

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 12:44 pm

David Brooks:

We in this country have a distinct sort of society. We Americans work longer hours than any other people on earth. We switch jobs much more frequently than Western Europeans or the Japanese. We have high marriage rates and high divorce rates. We move more, volunteer more and murder each other more.

Out of this dynamic but sometimes merciless culture, a distinct style of American capitalism has emerged. The American economy is flexible and productive. America’s G.D.P. per capita is nearly 50 percent higher than France’s. But the American system is also unforgiving. It produces its share of insecurity and misery.

This culture, this spirit, this system is not perfect, but it is our own. American voters welcome politicians who propose reforms that smooth the rough edges of the system. They do not welcome politicians and proposals that seek to contradict it. They do not welcome proposals that centralize power and substantially reduce individual choice. They resist proposals that put security above mobility and individual responsibility.

via Op-Ed Columnist – The Great Gradualist – NYTimes.com.

Unfortunately, this is the essence of America, and what I want people to know when they stereotype us. We’re not lazy; we work too hard. We put too much stock in numbers, be they GDP, net worth, or our personal account balances as measures of our self-worth. We’re a nation hopped up on epinephrine, jumping from place to place, never enough time for our friends and our families. In fact, we idealize the person who never has enough time to relax, the jet-setter, the fast-track executive, the determined career woman. We never stop to think about what would actually make us happy; by that time, we’re retired, and firmly in the grip of old age. (We’re also in nursing homes by then, because we don’t have a concept of extended families.)

I find Brooks right and wrong in a lot of ways. He’s right in that he’s nailed down our problems, but he seems to idealize them. He speaks of our GDP per capita being higher than France as though GDP was ever meant to be a measure of well-being, or that GDP per capita, as an average measure, can ever be used to make generalizations about individuals (it can’t). We’re obsessed with these lifetime numbers, these scores, believing them to assess, somehow, how well we’ve done in life. It’s not only untrue, it’s dangerous.

Where Brooks is wrong is in assuming that Americans, by and large, are happy with this. I think most of us would be willing to let the government share some of our many burdens, so as long as they don’t start telling us what to do. I think the growth of the New Age movement, disgusting as I find it, shows a willingness to find meaning and wholeness beyond our boardrooms and bank accounts (though I don’t think squeezing an hour of yoga into all our other commitments really counts as enlightenment). I really do love America’s rambunctious, somewhat obnoxious culture; otherwise, I might not still be here. We just never seem to reflect on what we do well, our brilliant engineers and high-yield cultural exports, what we do poorly, such as our crumbling infrastructure or the miserable public educations we give our children, or what we need most, such as a sense of meaning independent of GDP or performance bonuses.

I love America, but we’re fundamentally broken, and instead of celebrating it we ought to get around to fixing it.

July 31, 2009

Beck-ing the question

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 10:47 am

The White House doesn’t want to give Glenn Beck a bigger platform or extra oxygen — especially regarding his remark yesterday that the president has “a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture” — so they won’t comment, even off record. Beck, after all, is a radio DJ who somehow ended up getting a national platform to give his opinion on politics. What’s most amazing about this episode is that what Beck said isn’t a fireable or even a SUSPENDABLE offense by his bosses. There was a time when outrageous rants like this would actually cost the ranters their jobs. But not anymore; if anything, it’s now encouraged. And all of this could turn ACTUAL journalists into the next Howard Beales.

via First thoughts: Losing the message war? – First Read – msnbc.com.

I know that Glenn Beck is an idiot, but what he said really bothers me because I’ve seen it before. Barack Obama is someone who grew up in Hawaii, was raised by a while family, and read Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comics as a kid. Yet, somehow he gets pigeonholed as hating whitey. It just doesn’t make sense.

I remember reading something a long time ago where a black woman who was a science-fiction fan called for more people of color in science fiction and fantasy works, and commenters screeched “Why can’t you identify with white people?” The truth is that she wouldn’t ever be a science-fiction fan if she couldn’t identify with white people, because she’d completely out of luck given the dearth of black protagonists in the genre. In fact, as should be obvious, she loved the strong characters and stories that made her a fan in the first place; all she wanted was to see her people represented there, too.

Too often, though, that nuance gets lost whenever race comes into the discussion, making it difficult simply to be proud of who you are. Someday, we’ll take it for granted that a proud black man isn’t automatically out to “get” whites or somesuch, and I wish it were today.

July 19, 2009

Amazon.com’s memory hole

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 5:05 pm

In a move that angered customers and generated waves of online pique, Amazon remotely deleted some digital editions of the books from the Kindle devices of readers who had bought them.

An Amazon spokesman, Drew Herdener, said in an e-mail message that the books were added to the Kindle store by a company that did not have rights to them, using a self-service function. “When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers’ devices, and refunded customers,” he said.

Amazon effectively acknowledged that the deletions were a bad idea. “We are changing our systems so that in the future we will not remove books from customers’ devices in these circumstances,” Mr. Herdener said.

via Amazon Erases Orwell Books From Kindle Devices – NYTimes.com.

Two thoughts:

  1. I had no idea that my skepticism of the Kindle would be vindicated so soon. I never liked the idea, in theory, that Amazon.com can remove, remotely, any feature or purchase from your device without your knowledge or consent. I didn’t like the theory, and now it’s in the realm of practice. (Yes, they won’t do it again, they say… sure. Let’s see how they hold up the next time they’re assaulted by a gaggle of lawyers carrying pitchforks and legal briefs.)
  2. Wait… the bogus publisher placed pirate versions of Orwell’s books onto the Kindle store using a self-service feature? Amazon.com allows you to add books to the store on the honor system? That’s insane. And, incidentally, be on the lookout for the ultra-bestseller Twilight, now from Tina Russell Publishing, LLC, available on the Kindle Store in about fifteen minutes.
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