Midnight Sister – “Doctor Says”

Midnight SisterJuliana Giraffe and Ari Balouzian (who recently scored the Pepe The Frog documentary Feels Good Man) are two multi-disciplinary LA artists recording under the name Midnight Sister. They'll release their album Painting The Roses, the follow-up to 2017's Saturn Over Sunset, through vaunted indie label Jagjaguwar next year. Today we see the video … More »

Dog-sledding drama The Red Lantern is out now

Have I mentioned I used to work with sled dogs? While it’s only the most interesting thing I’ve done in the last ten years, I reckon I’ve bored the ears off everyone I know gabbing about it ever since. The Red Lantern, then, is a game for the part of me that’s desperate to pack on fifteen layers and get back into the snow with a band of huskies, riding off into the Alaskan sunset of an Epic Games Store release today.


To the Enemies Surrounding Our Castle, Please Understand That I Often Privately Disagreed With Macbeth’s Policies

“Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said that he’s disagreed with President Trump . . . but he’s always brought up his concerns privately — rather than publicly criticize the president. Cornyn is the latest Republican senator to distance himself from Trump amid fears of a potential electoral blowout.” – Axios

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I am Second Murderer. I lied for Macbeth. I killed for Macbeth. And now that Malcolm’s and Macduff’s armies are closing in to take this castle, I want everyone to know that I often privately disagreed with the bloody tyrant. I know, I know — I assassinated innocents to entrench Macbeth’s power, and I trumpeted my role in plunging the country into a violent crisis — but balanced against that, there were many times when I quietly confided to my fellow killers a secret disapproval of Macbeth’s approach to governance.

Listen here, Malcolm, I had naught to do with your father’s death. And I want you to know that I broke with Macbeth’s policies quietly even before he was King. One midnight, after he and Lady Macbeth had murdered your father King Duncan in his sleep, they woke me to help wash the blood from their garments. As I scrubbed their crimson raiment over a washboard, I whispered in disgust to the porter beside me that Scotland’s global standing would be forever stained by Macbeth’s ruthless cuts to the military, all to build a useless southern barricade, when everyone knows invaders arrive by sea, from the East.

Hear me now, young soldiers who fight in Banquo’s memory. It is true that Macbeth told me to slay Banquo, who trusted him like a brother. And that I slayed Banquo, per my orders. But that evening, when the King retired to yet another of his extravagant feasts, I boiled with rage and told my kinsman privately that Scotland would never be free of sin until we put a stop to Macbeth’s profligate spending on dinner parties. My kinsman assassin — who also serves Macbeth with private reservations — will confirm this account, and has himself complained in whispers that Macbeth makes us lodge at his derelict golf estates.

Listen please, Macduff, I can see you are roaming these grounds furiously in search of vengeance. And yes, I personally attacked your family, but you don’t have the full context. The King had just met with three witches. He spent seven hours a day obsessing over their prophecies, as if they would somehow validate his need to be someone he was not. At his command, I ambushed your home and cut the throats of your wife and all your children and servants. But what they didn’t tell you, Macduff, is that just after the massacre, the other sellswords and I made a promise. We agreed right then and there to confront the King and tell him never again to waste the day with prophecies, when he could instead accomplish so much more by entrenching the rule of nobility over the serfdom.

Oh — hello there, King Macbeth. I am glad to see you take the field against Macduff. Do not mistake me, your Grace. Though I differ on the finer points of statecraft, I am no traitor. My allegiance to you will outlive your very life, and nothing shall ever—

Good god, Macduff! Is that Macbeth’s severed head you’re holding up? Well then, good riddance, he was a coward and a liar. Did I ever tell you that he disparaged our soldiers at their graves? And what a terrible family role model he made by neglecting his Queen’s illness. I will gladly give legal testimony about how Macbeth hosted a priest infected with Black Death. And for a speaking fee of five shillings, I’ll unfold to you a tale of such wicked ideas I overheard in his discourse, such outrageous proposals — for example, to lay a new tax against the land of his own gentry, to build a hospice for commoners, to purchase Greenland even — what a fool!

Hail, King Malcolm! Long Live the King!

How to online conference in 2020? Make a MUD!

Using Game Design to Make Virtual Events More Social. A thoughtful writeup of how this years's Roguelike Celebration conference was designed as a MUD-like social space, avoiding some of the pitfalls of online events in 2020. "Instead of using Zoom and Discord, what if we built our own event platform and social space, built from the ground up to foster the sorts of intimate social interaction that made the in-person event special?"

The Japanese Sustainable Forestry Technique Called Daisugi (Platform Cedar)


Daisugi is a sustainable forestry technique that originated in Kyoto in the 14th or 15th century. The tops of Kitayama cedar trees are carefully pruned so that a stand of very straight branches grow straight up from a main platform. From Spoon & Tamago:

The technique was developed in Kyoto as a means of solving a seedling shortage and was used to create a sustainable harvest of timber from a single tree. Done right, the technique can prevent deforestation and result in perfectly round and straight timber known as taruki, which are used in the roofs of Japanese teahouses.

The technique is not really used in forestry anymore, but daisugi are popular as garden trees and bonsai. There are lots of terrible videos about daisugi on YouTube, so I’d recommend watching this one from NHK about how Kitayama cedars are pruned & harvested, what the wood is used for, and a short segment on daisugi near the end.

Tags: Japan   trees

What If Friendship, Not Marriage, Was at the Center of Life?

Rhaina Cohen writes about the people who prioritize friendship over romance for The Atlantic Many of those who place a friendship at the center of their life find that their most significant relationship is incomprehensible to others. But these friendships can be models for how we as a society might expand our conceptions of intimacy and care.

The Northwestern University psychologist Eli Finkel identifies three distinct eras in American marriages. The first, running from the colonial period until about 1850, had a pragmatic focus on fulfilling spouses' economic and survival needs; the second, lasting until about 1965, emphasized love. Finkel makes the case that starting around 1965, the "self-expressive marriage" became the ideal; spouses expected their partnership to be the site of self-discovery and personal growth. (Excluded from these structures for most of the nation's existence were the tremendous number of Americans who were denied access to legal marriage, namely enslaved Black Americans, interracial couples, and same-sex couples.) Throughout this evolution, Americans started relying more and more on their spouses for social and emotional support, with friendships consigned to a secondary role.

In many ways, Americans are already redefining what loving and living can look like. Just in the past several months, experts and public intellectuals from disparate ideological persuasions have encouraged heterosexual couples to look to the queer and immigrant communities for healthy models of marriage and family. The coronavirus pandemic, by underscoring human vulnerability and interdependence, has inspired people to imagine networks of care beyond the nuclear family. Polyamory and asexuality, both of which push back against the notion that a monogamous sexual relationship is the key to a fulfilling adult life, are rapidly gaining visibility. Expanding the possible roles that friends can play in one another's lives could be the next frontier.

Political (Dis)Engagement

Here’s a piece I’m thinking about today, in the New York Times: The Real Divide in America Is Between Political Junkies and Everyone Else.

The opening grafs from the article:

The common view of American politics today is of a clamorous divide between Democrats and Republicans, an unyielding, inevitable clash of harsh partisan polarization.

But that focus obscures another, enormous gulf — the gap between those who follow politics closely and those who don’t. Call it the “attention divide.”

What we found is that most Americans — upward of 80 percent to 85 percent — follow politics casually or not at all. Just 15 percent to 20 percent follow it closely (the people we call “deeply involved”): the group of people who monitor everything from covfefe to the politics of “Cuties.”

What the article describes is… fairly accurate in my experience? My own circle of friends is pretty political in general — either being political is part of their identity, or their identity is political, or both — but outside of my circle of friends are family, acquaintances and neighbors who largely don’t engage with politics with the same attentiveness or fervor. When you are a politically-oriented person, it’s easy to forget that many if most people don’t engage with politics with the same intensity.

I’ll be the first to note that this doesn’t make sense to me — I am of the opinion that politics is only slightly less important than breathing — but then again I was and am a professional opinion-haver. I think you all will recall that I was a newspaper columnist back in the day, and in that column I was writing about current events, including politics. And of course for the last twenty-two years I’ve been writing about it here and elsewhere, too. I have to acknowledge that both professionally and personally, it’s possible I’m an outlier.

And you might be, too! If you are a politically-oriented person, it’s not really that much of a surprise that your immediate circle of friends might be politically-oriented as well. It’s not that much of a surprise because whatever one’s enthusiasms, it makes sense that the people you like spending time with might have similar enthusiasms. Did you know: I write science fiction novels? Do you know what it is that quite a lot of my friends and acquaintances read (and write)? Science fiction novels! And yet, immediately outside of that circle of friends, the number of people who read and write science fiction novels drops off precipitately, into the realm of people who read science fiction novels seldom, or, indeed, at all.

Politics is more important than science fiction, though, you might say, and I wouldn’t disagree with that. But just because something is important doesn’t mean people give it importance. Cishet white folks most of all can make that choice, but I don’t think it’s something that only cishet white people do; I know friends of various marginalized communities who have expressed frustration at others in those communities who are not as politically engaged. Some people don’t care, or think it’s important, or, at the very least, don’t think it’s something they need to think about all the time.

Does this mean that they won’t be responsible voters every couple of years? I think the knee-jerk reaction of everyone who prioritizes politics is to say that they won’t be responsible voters — this is where cranky people say things like “I would rather they don’t vote at all!” — but I think that’s uncharitable. I think it’s possible for someone who doesn’t live and breathe politics to take some time prior to voting to catch up on the big stuff and vote responsibly. And if they don’t… well, as I said in a previous entry, I don’t think political parties really see that as much of a problem. They’re just as happy with someone who will go in and reflexively vote a straight line party ticket as they are with someone who sweats their choices in every race, and maybe even more so, since the person who is really thinking about it might make a non-party-line vote.

I should be clear that how one votes matters, and once again, I think voting for Trump this year is an intrinsically bigoted and dangerous act, not to be excused by “well, I’m not really that political.” One can act politically even when one doesn’t engage with the field of politics. But I do think that those of us who live and breathe politics do well to remember that it’s not an all-encompassing thing for a whole lot of people. They’re not ignorant, or dimwitted, or apathetic. They have a different set of priorities regarding how they want to apportion their brain cycles. One can agree or disagree with those choices, but it doesn’t change the fact those choices are being made.

— JS

Majoring in sports

A Washington Post op-ed argues that colleges ought to create academic departments for sports. The idea is that athletics would be treated as another liberal art, and that the academic departments would function like music, dance, or drama departments, with a "sports performance" major. Coaches would be professors or instructors, but the departments would also offer traditional academic classes in addition to instruction in athletic activities themselves. Appeals are made to the ancient Greeks.

We Care A Lot

About what? About roadies (multi-link live YouTube post).

The music industry has obviously been hit hard by COVID-19, and while artists may be able to livestream sets and sell records, that's no help for the long suffering road crew. Guitar techs, drivers, merch, tour managers, sound and light engineers, anyone on tour from a DIY punk band playing in a sweaty back room, to a stadium filling K-Pop group will probably have at least one person with them.

It's a profession that's full of independent people and small businesses, doing it as much for the love of music as to make a living. They're now now without an income.

Slaves On Dope have put together this Kings Of Quarantine (fundraising bandcamp) cover of Faith No More's We Care A Lot, featuring members of Anthrax, Brutal Truth, Czarface, Filter, Korn, Mastodon, Men Without Hats, Our Lady Peace, Quicksand, Refused and Run DMC, along with one special guest at the end.

You can donate to the Save The Roadies fund here in the USA, or to Stagehand here in the UK.

In terms of fundraising for grassroots venues, there's also Save Our Stages in the US from the National Independent Venue Association, and Save Our Venues in the UK from the Music Venue Trust.

Tigers Jaw – “Cat’s Cradle”

Tigers-Jaw-I-Wont-Care-How-You-Remember-MeThe Scranton post-hardcore band Tigers Jaw has now been around for so long, and been through so many different incarnations, that there's now a whole band of ex-Tigers Jaw members out there making music. (Pray For Pain released their debut EP Pain back in June. All three members of the band -- including … More »

The Queue: Nine days!

We are only nine days away from Halloween! Have you bought a dangerous amount of candy yet? Trick or treating may be different this year because of *gestures vaguely* everything — but at least there are bite-sized chocolate bars! I’m going to say something controversial now too… I like candy corn. I think it’s tasty.

While I’m dodging the flaming pitchforks and angry mobs, I take you now to — the Queue.

Two Quick Links for Thursday Noonish

I don't know if a monopoly is to blame, but Google's search results for many things have been *awful* for years. SEO garbage has swamped the genuinely useful and thoughtful results. [washingtonpost.com]

The Heaven's Gate cult still has a few members left who keep the website going and field inquiries from people who want to join the group. [vice.com]


Note: Quick Links are pushed to this RSS feed twice a day. For more immediate service, check out the front page of kottke.org, the Quick Links archive, or the @kottke Twitter feed.

What The Golf? swings onto Steam with a new level editor

Like most jolfing pitches, playing a round of What The Golf? on PC has, until now, the domain of those snooty folks up at the Epic Games Store country club. But no more! The king’s game has been democratised, and you can now thwack in a few holes with Triband’s wonderful ball-smacker over on Steam, arriving with the tools to hand-craft your own golfing nightmares.


Hearthstone's next expansion is Madness At The Darkmoon Faire, and adds PvP Dungeon Runs

A spooky carnival in art for Hearthstone's Madness At The Darkmoon Faire expansion.

The Old Gods bloody love the circus, apparently. For the final Hearthstone expansion of 2020, Blizzard are taking us way back to 2016, the last Worst Year Ever (in real life), when C’Thun, Yogg-Saron, and the eldritch squad first came to Hearthstone. Today they announced Madness At The Darkmoon Faire, arriving in November. Thankfully, Hearthstone was one of those constants I always went back to in 2016, with the tentacle-infested expansion playing a big part of my first year at uni when I should’ve been revising for exams.


Immortals Fenyx Rising might actually be great, for kids and adults alike

As I have now stepped through the dread portal to my 30s, I have noticed with horror that I sometimes start sentences with, “When I was young”, which is basically the same as, “In my day”. Might as well fall into my own grave now. But I do think – no, honestly, listen – that children’s entertainment isn’t as fun and grim as it used to be. Every parent I know complains mightily about a small pig at the moment, but if you go back in time then you have to pass through the terrifying talking phone on Wizadora and the unrelenting misery of The Animals Of Farthing Wood before you even get to old women being eaten by wolves.

Point is, I am firmly of the opinion that kiddies are made of sterner stuff than we often give them credit for – and if we’re going to teach them that monsters are real we should then take the next logical step of teaching them that you can kick seven shades out of the monsters, cut them open and get your granny back. All of which is to say that I have played the first four or so hours of Immortals Fenyx Rising, and I think Ubi’s Ancient Greek-themed action adventure (no not that one) might have managed the titanic feat of being something that children and adults can genuinely both enjoy.


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