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I’m posting this here instead of on Twitter so I can limit any potential spoiler fallout that might happen from what I’m about to say below. If you’re reading past this paragraph, then you know what you’re getting into. That being said, I’m going to try – *try*, mind you – to avoid any sort of spoilers.

First thing to be spoken of is the opening. At this point in time, the pre-credit introduction to the game is possibly the highest artistic and emotional achievement in video game history. I cried before it was over. Out of disbelief, out of anger, out of pain, out of fear at what the rest of the game was going to do to me. It was maybe 10 to 15 minutes long, and I was already completely invested before it was over. From there, we take a bit of a jump and the story starts in earnest, with each scene revealing a new aspect of this decaying world and its complex characters.

The game plays like the Uncharted series. Everything is third person, and you know when you’re about to enter a fight because there are lots of waist-high crates and barricades strewn around the area. You crouch, you shoot, you punch, you climb up things. But, everything is more brutal. Much more brutal. Bullets aren’t shrugged off – direct hits stagger you and obscure your vision, and the bad guys take advantage of this and shoot you more. If you aren’t careful, you’ll get swarmed in melee combat and dropped to the ground as the beating continues mercilessly. Then there are the “zombies”. They aren’t slow. They aren’t easily killed. They are the things of nightmares and they will kill you in a heartbeat if you get sloppy around them. I’ll freely admit that I had to turn the game down from Normal to Easy because I was dying with more regularity than I wanted.

Visually, the game is absolutely gorgeous and does a great job of showcasing just what the Playstation 3 is capable of, even now in the twilight of its life cycle. The near photorealistic characters bypass the Uncanny Valley in the same way that Red Dead Redemption’s characters did: via the deft hand of an artist. The characters look real but feel like they’ve been hand drawn and animated. Which is something to be thankful for, since the voice actors and writers do an amazing job of bringing those characters to life. These are real people with real problems, problems they are oftentimes unwilling or unable to discuss.

A key departure from the Uncharted series is the focus on exploration and upgrading your gear. Scavenged goods can be applied to your weapons, rubbing alcohol and loose cloth can be made into medical packs, scissors and duck tape into a shiv, and so on. The raw materials are hidden in side rooms and buildings, opening up the world in a way that Naughty Dog hasn’t done before. These changes make The Last of Us feel more like a Fallout experience than an Uncharted experience. Which is both good and bad. Good because it matches the setting and genre, bad because it slows down the story – possibly too much.

After seven hours, I can’t be sure that I would be one of those perfect score critics. Partially because both my wife and I agree that we’d rather die than live in the game’s rotting, empty, violent world. And partially because the story isn’t being driven forward in that masterful Uncharted way Naughty Dog is known for. The Last of Us is slow and aggravating in places, confusing and obtuse in others. It lurches spasmodically forward out of nowhere, the ambles around aimlessly after.

Maybe that just means The Last of Us is doing exactly what it set out to do.

Maybe that just means that I wasn’t ready for what it was going to do to me.

Maybe that just means I still need to see where the second half of the game takes me.

Maybe then I’ll know for sure.

Told you.

Now this was obviously a publicity stunt for Dominos and something the FAA is preventing. But it shows a proof of concept, and something that I think will slowly be introduced as tech advances and legislation loosens.

Just remember what comes next.

As part of a new high-tech initiative, DC is going to be trying out a pair of new techniques with some of their future digital books.

First is DC2, which appears to be a new take at motion comics for tablet and mobile devices. It looks to be the next evolution from Marvel’s Infinite test during Avengers vs X-Men combined with some of the more interesting panel transitioning that some of the web comics are playing with. Basically, it turns comics into something more akin to an animatic with a sound track instead of static graphics on a page.

I’m skeptical about this one, mainly because I don’t know how they plan on delivering it and I’m still not sold on motion comics as a thing that needs to exist. Sort of like how dessert is great, and pizza is great, but dessert pizza is a thing that should never have been created.

The other part of it is DC Multiverse, which is essentially a Choose Your Own Adventure book in comic form. At some point in the story, you get to make a choice about what happens, and then the story unfolds from there. See the gif below for a basic idea of how it will work.

DC Choose Your Own Adventure

I loved Choose Your Own Adventure stories as a kid, and I think that comics can get a lot of mileage out of adopting that schema. Sure, it’ll increase the amount of leg work to get something in front of a customer, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be worth it. I know I went through each book several times, making sure I found each possible outcome. I’ll be keeping a closer eye on this than their new take on motion comics.

 

There are two interconnected facts about data storage and data transmission.

First: data storage is always getting cheaper, smaller and growing in capacity.

Second: it will always be faster to physically move a modern high-capacity storage device than transmit that data over the same distance.

This is can affected by the geographic and developmental context of an area, of course. For example, sending a jump drive by carrier pigeon wouldn’t cut it in Western Europe, but it would in Central Africa. In Europe, you would be sending a solid-state hard drive down the Autobahn. In both cases, the physical data would arrive faster than the local data transmission frame-work, be it wireless or wired, would allow.

If you think about it, this is one of those “water is wet” sort of observations about technology. So why am I talking about it?

Because I’m going to build a short story off of it, and it is going to work like this:

It is the near, but not too near, future. Over the past half century, urban centers metastasized into blights of concrete, steel and pollution. This was unsustainable. We were unsustainable. So the cities evolved, changed by government order and corporate policy into self-sustaining hives of clean power and reclaimed waste. The environment apocalypse stalled out and a new world was born.

It is a new world where human kind is stacked on top of itself, where your every moved is monitored by the unblinking eye of the closed-circuit security camera, and where every bit and byte of your personal data is sold to the highest bidder. Privacy and personal data are a thing of the past, the new de facto contraband.

It is a world into which a pair of enterprising young twins have carved out their niche as the best data couriers money can buy.

Their rules are simple.

They’ll come to you. You’ll have two packages for them, wrapped in matching opaque static-free bags. The packages can weigh no more than 10 kilos each and must be able to fit in a small backpack. One of those packages will be the real item, the other will be a dummy. You will not tell the couriers which is which, and the couriers must not be able to tell them apart.

If any of these rules are broken, the couriers walk away, and all deposits are non-refundable. If the rules are adhered to, each courier will take a parcel and the job is on.

The woman, Zero, always goes high. The man, One, always goes low. They stay within eyeshot of each other, leapfrogging from point to point. They know how to avoid the CCTV cameras and the biometric ID scans and the random search sweeps. They move through the holes in the security net like water, tracing a fluid path through the rigid lines of the city, always moving toward their destination.

They’ve never lost a package. They’ve never opened a package. They’ve never asked about the contents a package. They know that not knowing is what makes them the best in the business.

The name of their little operation?

Binary Transport.

 

Their customer reviews can sometimes be a thing of boundless insanity:

Well, it’s been over a year since my last review. Since then my husband died of cancer in September, and my house burned down 20 days ago. Rough year, to say the least. Anyway, I came back to my review only because since my Sony’s burned with my house, I’m buying another pair.

From here.

Yesterday Amazon announced that they are setting up a Kindle marketplace for fan-fiction about approved properties. Their first test partner is Warner Brothers, which has licensed Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl and Vampire Diaries to be part of the experiment. Since those are all CW shows, there is not a lot of damage to be done to them by some not-very-good fan-fiction, but there is a great potential for some decent fan-fiction to make a boatload of money. The marketplace will open with 50 or so pieces of commissioned fan-fiction from approved authors, and will open up for public submissions at the same time. Of course, there will be content restrictions to keep this whole endeavor from drifting out of fan-fiction territory into slash-fiction territory.

But, considering Fifty Shades of Grey came from Twilight slash-fiction (on Amazon, too), I don’t think it will be long until people are slipping in works that skew more toward an R than a PG.

I really have to applaud Amazon for trying a lot of different things with digital publishing. They were the first to really open up their marketplace for user-published material, and their rates have always been more than fair. They are trying to coax the serialized story model back to life with their Amazon Serials and now they are embracing the ugly duckling world of fan-fiction. Now if only they would get around to selling me a digital deluxe version of a physical book that included a one-time use Kindle code for the same title…

My amazing wife sends me things throughout the day.

A few moments ago she sent me to Zac Gorman’s incredible Magical Game Time with the note: “This guy’s Zelda comics are the best.”

Zac Gorman - Magical Game Time

I think I am completely inclined to agree.

(The original is here, and you should click through to see it in full moving gif glory.)

Years ago, there was a plucky game company in Saint Catharines, Ontario by the name of Silicon Knights. It started out making PC games, then moved into the console market.

Their first big break was launching the seminal Legacy of Kain IP with the release of 1996′s Blood Omen. This put them on the map, and should have put them on the path to bigger and better things. But, instead they sued Crystal Dynamics, their publisher and patron for Blood Omen, when Crystal Dynamics moved to do the next game themselves. It was settled out of court, but enough interviews were done in the meantime that gave the impression that something was a little different about how Silicon Knights did business.

After their break with Crystal Dynamics, Silicon Knights announced a new, original sci-fi game dealing with the cybernetic alteration of humans in the 25th century. The game will be called Too Human, and they tease it at the 1999 E3.

Too Human is intended to be released on the original Playstation, but before work gets too far along, Silicon Knights is locked into an exclusive deal with Nintendo, every developer’s dream gig. Nintendo is tough, but fair, and their pockets are near limitless.

Silicon Knights was able to snag this deal because of the impressive work they showed Nintendo on an in-development game for the N64, Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem. Nintendo had realized that they were losing audience to the more mature titles on the Playstation, and Eternal Darkness’s esoteric insanity-focused horror would help bring that audience back.

Nintendo bumps up Eternal Darkness up to the GameCube, and  it is released in 2002 to critical fanfare. Two years later, Silicon Knights follows that up with a remake of Metal Gear Solid, which is also well received. Development on Too Human has also continued, behind the scenes.

Soon after the Metal Gear Solid remake is released, Nintendo and Silicon Knights end their relationship. There are lots of rumors as to why this happens, namely that both sides found the other hard to work with, and these rumors probably have a fair bit of truth to them.

Regardless, Silicon Knights next found itself partnering up with Microsoft in 2005. The goal of this partnership? To complete the nearly decade-old Too Human, now a Diablo-esque action RPG based around Norse mythology that replaces magic with technology. The game is released three years later and is one of the biggest disasters in video games history.

It is a disaster so severe that it leads Silicon Knights’ founder and head, Dennis Dyack, to the bizarre conclusion that the software vendor that licensed Silicon Knights the game engine for Too Human must be to blame. So, Dennis Dyack directs his lawyers to sue that vendor: Epic, one of the most powerful software companies in the video game industry.

The basis of the suit was that Epic withheld advancements in their software until Epic used those advancements to release their own games, at which point they would release the new features to their software customers. This wasn’t some dark secret, or even something Epic tried to hide. The new shiny in their games was a marketing tool used to sell companies on licensing their game engine. But, for Dennis Dyack, that practice was malicious and willful harm to his company.

Silicon Knights lost their lawsuit, and they also lost the counter-suit that Epic brought against them. They lost it so hard that the judge ruled all copies of Too Human had to be collected and destroyed.

At this point, the only thing keeping Silicon Knights afloat was the generosity of the Canadian government, and that they already had Activision on the hook for an in development X-Men game, X-Men: Destiny. When it finally sees the light of day in 2011, X-Men: Destiny is even more of a disaster than Too Human. I’ll let Kotaku explain why.

With two back-to-back bombs and nothing to follow it up, Silicon Knights was doomed and within a few months all but a handful of employees were gone. Not long after, the twenty year-old company was nothing more than a legal entity on a piece of paper, unable to close because of legal proceedings.

This brings us to the present, the birth of Precursor Games, and a much talked about Kickstarter for an Eternal Darkness “spiritual sequel”.

Precursor Games is a new studio that has scavenged people, software and hardware from the ruins of Silicon Knights. Nearly all (of the less than 10) employees are formers at Silicon Knights, with Dennis Dyack is acting as the creative director for the studio. Their first big initiative is a crowd-funded, episodic game they’re calling Shadow of the Eternals, the “spiritual sequel” Eternal Darkness.

To say the crowd-funding initiative has been met with a tepid response would be…overly kind. For example, their Kickstarter ask is for $1.5 million, and they’ve raised barely $88k so far. Expectations are low that they are going to even be able to break a tenth of what they are asking for.

Why is that? Well, not to put a fine point on it, but: Dennis Dyack. For the last half decade the sort of people who would fund a Kickstarter like that have watched Dyack destroy one of those most interesting developers in the industry for entirely personal reasons. They know that he hasn’t been able to repeat the success of Eternal Darkness because he hasn’t had the tight control that Nintendo used put on him. They know that he’s just going to screw it up, so why should they give him any money?

Apparently the team at Precursor are as aware of this as everyone else. The other day, they posted  a video of him responding to that Kotaku article and some other comments that have been floating around in various Internet cesspools.

Warning, this is long, it is awkward, and it never should have seen the light of day.

I have a theory about that video.

I think that the two business shirts at the end of it told Dyack that he was going to do this video or find himself unemployed. I also don’t think it is about Dyack apologizing, or bringing facts to the table, or clearing the air, or anything like that. I think it is about making him seem weak, confused, old and awkward. Traits that evoke pity, traits that allow us to forgive him.  I think that’s why they didn’t edit him, why they let him stumble over words, why they made him say those stupid usernames.

I think they turned Dennis Dyack into a public sacrifice to the god of crowdfunding.

And I don’t think it worked.

original

From Gizmodo:

The ion is trapped in an electromagnetic field within the small cube at the centre and cooled with lasers to just a fraction above absolute zero. The lasers are fired through three of the glass shafts emanating from the cube, but must be carefully directed out of the other side to prevent them scattering within the clock, which is why there are six shafts in total.

Once the ion is cooled, another laser makes it resonate between two energy states with an incredible regularity governed by quantum mechanics. It gives off a regular pulse of optical radiation exactly 444,779,044,095,485 times per second.

Strange how something created with nothing but function in mind has such incredible form.

Hiroshima_10km-615

This recently discovered photo was taken from an elementary school about ten minutes after the Enola Gay delivered Little Boy and ushered in the Atomic Age.

From The Atlantic, where they’ve got more information.

The go-kart race. What did you think I was talking about?

The other night I had this amazing dream:

It was election night, and it was too-close-to-call. But, there was some obscure clause in the Constitution that allowed for too-close-to-call elections to be decided by a literal race between the candidates. And, for some unknown dream-brain reason, the person who was polling last got to pick the method of the race. And, for another unknown dream-brain reason, that person was Newt Gingrich.

Who picked go-karts.

So it was Obama, Biden (I don’t know either), Romney and Gingrich. On go-karts. To decide the fate of the free world.

Obama and Biden screeched out into an early lead, with Romney tepidly following them up and Gingrich’s kart showing a lot of sound and fury, but really signifying nothing.

At this point I’m expecting Obama and Biden to easily take it. But, suddenly, Gingrich starts clawing his way up the field. Apparently he’s like Bowser from Mario Kart: really slow to accelerate, but with an insane top speed. He blows past Romney like a blistering wind. Biden tries to fight him off, but is clearly outmatched. For a minute I think Obama’s going to hold him off, but something’s wrong – the President isn’t using his top gear! He doesn’t even know it is there! Without that extra power, Gingrich-Bowser easily takes the race. And the presidency.

For a few moments, everyone is freaking out. How are they going to tell the American people this is how the election was decided – with a go-kart race that the least liked candidate won!?

It was all ok, though, because I kicked Gingrich in the balls before the Secret Service protection officially transferred over to him.

Oh, brain. What will you think of next?

Starting on Monday, I’ll be the new Senior GUI Specialist at St. Jude/ALSAC. Meaning, that instead of making the pretty work for Combustion, I’ll be making the pretty work for them.

I’ve got mixed feelings about the move. On the one hand, it is exactly what I wanted. I get to keep doing what I do, but with peers who know more than I do, and at the end of each day I know that what I need helped garner the funds to save a child’s life. I get to put a hash mark in the good karma column. But, the other side of it is that I’m leaving a family that I’ve spent the better part of a decade with. I’ve worked at Combustion off and on since the summer after my freshman year of college, with the last “on” stretch lasting seven years. Nothing in my life has lasted seven years before that. Pretty much every marketable skill I’ve got I learned here, and it feels really quite terrible to walk away from that. But it feels even worse to walk away from those relationships that I’ve built up over that decade. Those people saw me change from a cocksure teenager into a grimaced and unhappy 20-something into the happy adult I am today. And that’s just something that you can’t replace.

Today, it is a achingly beautiful day in Memphis. And for the first time ever, I’ve got the windows open in my office. I’m airing it out for the new guy (or gal), and maybe reminding myself that there is another world out there, too.

Guess I’ll have to get around to editing my sidebar bio, huh?

This petition appeared on the White House’s We The People section on Monday.

Make, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS), a legal form of protesting.

With the advance in internet techonology [sic], comes new grounds for protesting. Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS), is not any form of hacking in any way. It is the equivalent of repeatedly hitting the refresh button on a webpage. It is, in that way, no different than any “occupy” protest. Instead of a group of people standing outside a building to occupy the area, they are having their computer occupy a website to slow (or deny) service of that particular website for a short time.

As part of this petition, those who have been jailed for DDoS should be immediatly [sic] released and have anything regarding a DDoS, that is on their “records”, cleared.

They make a curious argument about their preferred method of attack. DDoS attacks, after all, are the virtual equivalent to a sit-in protest, albeit one that you can’t call the in police to stop. Those kind of attacks don’t do any real damage to a website, and they aren’t violating any laws since they’re just banging away at the public side of a website.

But, an important counterpoint is that for a DDoS attack to be successful against most large websites, the DDoS’ers need to have control of thousands of systems. One lone PC isn’t bringing down PayPal. And, generally, the method of accessing and controlling those systems are completely illegal.

Which brings us to question if a form of protest can be legal if it is dependent on an illegal action to pull off. Sort of like the Mexican drug cartels buying anti-pot legalization ads (which may have happened in this last election cycle).

Personally, I’m fine with DDoS attacks as legal protesting, provided you’ve got an army of real people behind computers furiously mashing away at the F5 key. But, if you’re using malware to bot-out the machines of unwilling participants? Not so much.

Post Script: The guy that submitted this is probably utterly mortified that he misspelled technology, and is probably being hacked to all hell by the FBI and NSA right now.

The writing has been on the wall for a while, but the hammer finally fell today. Projects that subsist entirely on goodwill and volunteer time, but with floundering audience numbers and lessening chances at material gain, are doomed to a slow death. This is something I know all too well.

I hadn’t realized that Live From Memphis had been around for twelve years. Which might mean that I’m officially old, since I can remember using it as a reference to keep track of which punk show I was going to on what night of the week, and I haven’t gone to shows like that in over a decade. But, the great thing about LFM was that it sandwiched those shows between the next Memphis Symphony Orchestra or Ballet Memphis performance. Beyond that, Live From Memphis acted as an early kind of blog aggregator for the area, pulling a lot of the best local bloggers in under one umbrella so they could talk about what was going on out there in the urban wilds.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that Life From Memphis was important and, for its time, utterly singular in its mission. As Craig Brewer just put it “You were there for Memphis when Memphis wasn’t there for you.”

…But, then there’s that last paragraph in the farewell note.

To Memphis, demand more from your leadership. Stop celebrating mediocrity. Stop funding crappy advocacy groups and meaningless brand campaigns. The creatives of Memphis need more than just cheerleaders. Filling out the check box is no way to make change.

One hell of a zinger to go out on, and if you understand what’s being said, one hell of a message.

Because, in this space that comes after, I don’t hear a clarion voice. I hear a cacophony of voices trying to shout over each other, and I can’t make out what any of them are saying.

Laurel pointed this out to me first thing this morning, from the Wonkblog.

rapist_visualization_01

You want to make your millions in the near-future urban sprawls of China, India, Europe and the States? Then make what I’m about to talk about into a reality.

It starts with cheap, easily assembled parts – ideally from an open-source 3D printer template – that form a basic, quad-rotor drone. Then, you source old cameras from cellphones. Stuff in the 640×480 pixel range, that’s pretty shit for quality but can get basic shapes in high contrast. Finally, you tack in a cheap cellular GPS unit. Not even one that talks to satellites – I’m talking about one that gets all of its location information from cellular data towers. Hopefully, a decent power supply will give the thing at least a 15 mile round-trip radius, which will can cover most major cities with just a few “base-nodes” for the drones to work out of.

This is your courier. It is cheap, highly mobile, and can transport small packages. Things like left behind cellphones or jackets, legal documents, hard drives, or lunch orders. Things, that for a few bucks a pop, it would probably be more convenient for some one else to move for you.

Requesting a courier could be done through a simple web or device-based app. Give a pick up location, a drop off location and specify if it’s a rush or not. Then, you leave your package in a special pick-up grid somewhere that the drone can get to it – say in your backyard or on a balcony. The drone recognizes the patterning on the grid thanks to the camera, and it knows where to make the pick up. For drop off, it just finds the grid at the end location in the same manner. Clients can be notified of estimated arrival time by email, text message or phone call. And if a client puts out a package that’s too heavy, they can be notified in the exact same manner.

With this drone-based system, you’re cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions from car-base couriers and delivery drivers while opening up a whole new market for personalized delivery and convenience. Plus, as the economy of scale kicks in, the drones will become less and less expensive to manufacture and maintain.

Expect the urban spaces of the future to have a constant thrum of drone engines.

 

Of course, all of this brings up a whole other set of problems.

 

This is most likely Not Safe For Work, unless you have headphones or work in a place where they are perfectly fine talking about oral sex, anal sex, sex toys, sexually transmitted infections, 50 Shades of Grey, and Robots From the Future Built to Fuck Your Face.

(Hello, Google Search results!)

I am truly amazed Launch Memphis still let me do these things. And thankful, as well.

Oh, Twenty Twelve, what a sort of year you were. It was the year the Mayans may or may not have tried to kill all of us with our own media. It was the year I watched not, once, but twice, as our elected officials decided that talking points were more important than the world economy. It was the year that I turned thirty. It was the year that my birthday dinner turned into monthly culinary explorations. It was the year that I did pretty much nothing creatively. It was the year that I went to Disney World and rediscovered what creativity was and why I need it. It was the year that I closed one door and opened another.

But, more importantly than anything else, it was the year that I got married to the love of my life.

And, for that alone, I’ll always look back on it favorably.

Before we go, here are some leftover bits of recommended consumption from the end of the year.

Three Comics You Should Read

SagaBrian K. Vaughn + Fiona Staples - This is BKV’s first large scope book since the end of Y: The Last Man, and Staples’ first book to get her the attention she’s been deserving for years. It is a space-opera about star-crossed lovers that is charming, frightening, exhilarating, small and huge all at the same time.

FataleEd Brubaker + Sean Phillips - The team that brought us Sleeper, Criminal, and Incognito is doing an “ongoing with an end” that’s pretty much Lovecraft meets noir gangster fiction. So, simply put, peanut butter and chocolate in horror comic form.

The Manhattan ProjectsJonathan Hickman + Nick Pitarra -Hickman is taking apart 20th century’s super scientists and sticking them back together into something that it too complicated to explain, but completely approachable and completely him. It doesn’t hurt that Nick Pitarra’s art is utterly gorgeous and reminds me of a less restrained Frank Quitely.

Sidenote: Three books, all on-goings, all with top-level talent, all creator-owned, and all published at Image and not the Big Two. Expect more of this as time wears on.

Three Video Games You Should Play

DishonoredThe third outing from France’s Arkane Studios, and their first internally created IP. Dishonored is what happens when Deus Ex: Human Revolution, BioShock, anything Steampunk and the Combine from Half-Life 2 are put in a blender. What comes out is absolutely delicious, if just a little flat on the back-end.

XCOM: Enemy UnknownFiraxis’s re-do of the classic PC strategy game is an awkward masterpiece. Masterpiece because the unflinching brutality of the original hold firm to the new sleek, modern bones of the update, but awkward because you can tell that somewhere along the line this got upgraded from being a direct-to-download title to a AAA holiday contender. Some of the edges could use a bit more time to be smoothed off.

Borderlands 2The sequel to Gearbox’s smash-hit that no one saw coming is honestly a little less fun than the original, but an absolute improvement on the formula. The game manages to hit emotional highs and lows that should’ve been impossible, but pulls them off with aplomb. And Handsome Jack may go down in history as one of my most hated villains ever, which might also make him one of the most successful.

Three Albums You Should Listen To

Murder by Death – Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon - This year’s release from one my favorite bands is their most polished entry yet, which is both good and bad. On songs like Lost River and I Came Around it lets them tell more affecting stories, but when they double track the main vocal on certain other tracks, the result is less compelling.

The Protomen – Present: A Night of Queen - The Protomen took a break from making records about video game people to show the world just how good they are by covering Queen better than anyone ever has.

Make-Up and Vanity Set – 88:88 - An album written for an experimental film that MAVS also did the score for. Wonderful and simplistic yet deeply atmospheric, provided you are into that kind of thing.

And for this year? The Twenty Thirteen? What of it?

No resolutions, because as my wife pointed out on New Year’s Eve, they are simply set-ups for failure. Or, they are limp-wristed, inconsequential things that you probably didn’t need to make in the first place.

Instead, we have goals. Things to achieve and do that will result in objects of substance. For I declare this year to be the Year of the Concrete, the Year of the Tangible, the Year of the Existent.

I have four goals. All simple, yet still tricky.

  • Cook a meal that I’ll never forget.
  • Write a story I am proud to share.
  • Take a picture that came out exactly as I wanted.
  • Then do all of them better.

Oh, and I’ve got one hell of an announcement about where I’ll be spending most of my time, but you’ll have to stay tuned for that one.

twentythirteen

It is the near future, in an aging urban corridor where congestion brought on by antiquated city planning and high gas prices has destroyed the 20th century notion of the car as the great liberator of the modern American.

The city has become a near impenetrable bivouac of occupied human spaces. Residential mated to commercial, with storage and food spaces hanging off them like lampreys.

Between those spaces, there is a noise: the ceaseless thrum of plastic and metal rotor blades pushing against the air.

This is the noise of the drone swarm. Of a million wirelessly controlled delivery and service machines moving products for us. All on modular frames with solar panels and high density battery packs, and nary a carbon toeprint amongst them.

For they are the servant class of the digital age; ferrying our take-out food, our Amazon purchases, our dry cleaning, all of the consumptive bits of our lives, to and fro so we don’t have to. All of it controlled and maintained by a joint commercial and government cooperative to ensure that economic stimulation is as easy as it could possibly be.

But, there is something else in the skies, too. Something newer than the drones in the swarm…something malevolent.

Drone predators.

Instead of being simple pack mules, these drones prey upon their pacifist kin, seeking the profitable treasures held within their cargo nets. iDevices, physical media, designer clothing, anything that can be sold quickly and easily over the local Internet grey market is what the hunters are after, but, in a pinch, the prey drones themselves can be torn down and sold for parts.

Their method of capture varies wildly, from nets to signal scramblers to firewall-penetrating viruses. Some drone predators are even large enough to simply scoop up their prey whole and deliver them back to their criminal handlers, the smaller drone struggling the whole way.

Local and federal security agencies have fielded drone-hunting counter measures, with mixed success. Larger attack drones are able to eliminate the drone predators, but are hard to maneuver in tight urban spaces and destroying drones doesn’t generate leads toward finding the drone’s handler. Interdiction and tracking operations can score individual successes, but tactics used by the security agencies are quickly countered by the handlers and how-tos spread like wildfire through the darknets. Evasion is the most low-tech solution, but it remains the most effective countermeasure. Drone delivery paths can be randomized, destination data encrypted, and redundant protective systems installed.

It is still a numbers game, though. And some percentage is always going to get caught.

Which is why for a small service fee, most retail outlets will gladly insure your package against drone-theft.

This is the shape of the future, and  of the new ecosystems forming in its cracks.



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