Pictures. A poem.

Pictures posted
A lifetime in pixels
Stolen by Facebook
Tumblr and Instagram
Social media vacuums
Consuming memories
That once were yours
Copywritten and stored
Locked away forever
By corporate greed
With no return

Digital Destiny and the Crux of Divergence.

This is a short uni piece I wrote some months ago. It was the second appearance of Alpha Girl, Beta Max and Me in my writing, and the feedback from those uni posts was what lead me to becoming a blogger. I’ve removed the uni academic references from this version.

 

(“So, what are you doing now?” says Alpha Girl, housemate and self-professed Steve-hater.

“I’m writing my latest micro-novel on Twitter,” I reply, reclining on the lounge and not taking eyes off my iPhone. “It’s an existential philosophy in 140 characters, with an unnecessary M.Night Shymalan-twist ending.”

“Writing? I didn’t even know you could read.” She obviously forgets I now steal her newspaper every weekend to read the movie reviews.

“Can’t read? What do you think I do in my room all the time?” I say.

“I shudder to think.”

“You might be surprised to know that I’m currently reading six novels and I’m enrolled in two uni writing courses.”

“Two uni courses? Will they get you a job?”

“They’ve improved my writing.”

“You’ve nicely avoided the question.”)

Advances in technology are opening up opportunities for writers to expand their story-making into new art forms. The digital realm (hereby referred to as the electro-microcosmic frontier, or for those who prefer a more minimalistic approach, the internet) has allowed writers to experiment with various ways of utilising animation, sound and divergence (not Veronica Roth’s novel) to provide innovative experiences for readers.

The course notes indicate some writers might face a certain level of anxiety due to the “bewildering array of tools to generate multimedia”. As a result, they might be hesitant to take up these new art forms.

I’m a bit of an IT geek, always have been. This may be partly due to some mysterious aura I give off, like a bad deodorant that reminds you of a seedy night club venue. When I was working, people would come to me to ask me for help with their computers. I would stand there and ask the inevitable “have you switched it on and off”, then show them how to switch it on and off and receive profuse thanks when the computer magically started working again. In my semi-retired life, my friends still ask me the same things. I have worked on an incredible array of systems and programs over the last 25 years. I pick up new IT easier than Superman juggles elephants. I have desktop publishing, programming and graphic design skills and can use such arty programs as InDesign, Paint Shop Pro, Illustrator, Fireworks and PowerPoint, to name a few. I’m ideally placed to take advantage of this opportunity.

I love art in all its myriad forms. I love electronic media. I love the invention and ingenious possibilities brought by their combination. I draw in my spare time, I compose music; I’m a bit of an artist already. But I don’t want to take on a new form of writing. I want to be a “straight” novelist and short story writer (my apologies to any LGBT readers who may feel I have used that term in a discriminatory fashion – that was not my intent).

Old fashioned? Maybe. But I’m a strong believer that if you invest yourself in a new art form, whether it be a flash poems, generative texts, micro-fiction, or shadow puppetry at the pub, you need to invest yourself wholly. And I don’t believe I would be committed to these new forms enough to do anything more than make a cursory attempt. I guess I just wouldn’t want to be known as a “dabbler”.

And do I think that digital culture may replace novels? Not really. The novel goes through cycles of popularity, much like any other form of entertainment. All it takes is a new Harry Potter and suddenly the world is filled with a gamut of new book readers. Digital media often tends to be free, but along with freedom comes a huge breadth of content, some of which is of questionable quality. But that’s the same for anything, digital or not. I think there is a place for all literary forms.

As long as there are stories to tell there will be people to read them, no matter where they are or how they consume their content.

(“So, what are you doing now?” says Alpha Girl.

“What he always does,” says housemate Beta Max. “Contemplating his navel.”

“Oh, ye of little faith.” I reply. “I’m writing the next smash hit screenplay, composed entirely in Haiku verse. Every character recites their lines of dialogue in syllable structures of 5-7-5.”

“You are such an idiot,” says Alpha Girl.

“You won’t be saying that when Hollywood is at the door for the rights.”

“I wish you’d go out the door. And not come back.”

“Love you, too.”)

The Laid Back DM #2 – New-fangled Electronic Gizmos?

Welcome to the second of my Dungeon Master (DM) columns. (Didn’t catch the first one? Click here.)

Today I’m going to talk about all these new wiz-bang apps and stuff that you can use during your sessions. (“What did he say?” Says the old grognard, raising his ear trumpet. “What’s an app? Is that some kind of new pill?”) Yeah, old timers. It’s like Viagra for your RPG sessions.

Android

The Spellbook – Every D&D 5E spell. The spell opens as a drop down, so you don’t have to go back and forth between pages. Sortable, and you can create and import custom spell lists. Free – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.troublesomeapps.dnd.spells

eRPG Tools – Designed for you to enter party and encounter data, keep track of initiative and combat. Or you can use it for monsters, spell and magic item look ups. Also has treasure and NPC name generators and dice roller. Free – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mentiromano.erpgtools

5th Edition Spellbook – For magic using characters, contains every spell. Each spell has room to add individual notes. You can add new spells, create custom lists, and save multiple character spellbooks. Free – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.spellsdd5

Loot Generator for D&D 5e – Generate treasures, magic items and spell scrolls randomly, by challenge level, and for individual monsters or hordes. Free – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.dante.paul.lootgeneratorfordnd5e

Dice 3D – Awesome dice rolling simulator. You can add any number of dice to the table top. Tilt the tablet to roll the dice and listen to the sounds of the dice rolling (I love it!). Free – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=fr.sevenpixels.dice

iOS

Most iPhone/iPad apps are paid, but a few are free. Not as many apps for D&D 5E as on Android. Go to the App Store on your phone and search to find these ones.

5E Spell Book – at first, you’re annoyed, because the spells are NOT pre-loaded. But there’s a link on the REDDIT page by a nice person who has manually coded all the spells (NOT the developers, I might add. Talk about lazy!). The update process for each spell is a bit tedious. You can sort by name and level. Supposedly you can add custom spell books, but to do this you have to create them individually. Possibly the most in-User-friendly app I’ve EVER used. If you just want a sortable list of all spells using the REDDIT link, go for it. There’s not a lot on iPhone for 5E spells. Paid app.

Fifth Edition Character Sheet – Update and maintain multiple characters. Pretty basic, but does the job. Free app.

Fight Club 5 – The free version allows you to create and save one character. More attractive than the previous app; I have some players who use it regularly and think it’s great. Free/Paid app.

Game Master 5 – lets you enter campaign and encounter information, run combat, includes compendium of spells, monsters, items. Compatible with Fight Club 5. Paid app.

Natural 20 – critical hits and critical misses. Provides variety for your crits, for weapon and spells. The effects add variety, however they are NOT balanced, so discuss with your players before you decide to use this. Free app.

DiceandDragons – Dice rolling app. Create customised dice rolling options for your characters. Create combos and add damage automatically. Flick the dice with your finger on the screen to roll them. Free app.

PDF versions of manuals

I own every D&D 5E manual and adventure in hard copy. Despite this, I find it easier to have the manuals in PDF on my tablets, especially when travelling around for games. I know some of the PDFs I own have been scanned illegally, but as I’ve already paid for the books I think I have the right to use them.

Come on WoTC – get with the program and provide proper PDFs for your manuals and adventures–other companies do. You could include a digital code inside each manual sold. That way you have a list of all the codes used so people don’t give them to their mates. I’d rather have a proper, pristine PDF version of the original book than a dodgy OCR version, scanned manually.

 

These are just a few examples. You don’t have to use electronica in your sessions. But it sure could save some time.

For more on RPGs, check out my Top Ten favourite Roleplaying Games, or if you like D&D inspired poetry, my D&D Haiku Tetralogy.

Clickbait! The what’s and wherefore’s

My teenage son, Padawan-Nerd-in-Training, stayed over on the weekend (as he does every weekend, so nothing new there).

Padawan is a YouTube fan and has a number of channels he subscribes to. I, being an antiquated, internet hating has-been, try to avoid anything internet related other than this blog. Padawan showed me a few videos that were really interesting, about why crap videos and news stories attract so much internet attention.

This video talks about the theory behind clickbait, fake news headlines and human behaviour:

For more about clickbait, the YouTube algorithm and why we as an audience click particular types of stories, check this video out:

After watching all that, you’re either astounded and keen to learn more, head-tripping, or bored out of your mind (or all of the above).

Please feel free to comment below if you would like to talk about this in a high-falutin’, quasi-sophisticated, philosophically-questionable discussion.

 

For more videos from this YouTuber: The Film Theorists, The Game Theorists

Letter to a Facebook Friend

This is a uni piece I wrote some time ago. It was meant to be a letter to a friend about something I was very serious or concerned about, using real referenced materials. I went with satire and irony. I’ve removed the referencing from this version.

 

Dear Matt,

I’m writing to express my concerns regarding your increasing addiction to Facebook. According to your news feed you hardly ever leave your room anymore, don’t respond to texts or phone calls and were recently fired from work – all over your constant need to stay in touch via Fb.

Each of my Facebook friends (all 1524 of them) are concerned about your circumstances. I read on your mother’s feed the other day that you are now refusing meals and that you have barricaded your bedroom door (and blocked your mother on Fb).

In 2014 Facebook had well over 1.2 billion users, making 41,000 posts per second –  I assume that you were responsible for a good portion of those. Although Facebook remains a wonderful place for social connections, news and advertising profits, it is also a source of increasing cyberbullying, social reclusion and distraction. For example, British companies are impacted by billions of dollars of productivity loss each year because their employees spend so much time on Facebook.

Matt, my Facebook Friend, your other Fb friends only want the best for you. We’re not saying you should give up the ‘book, just detach yourself occasionally to eat and drink. And perhaps work for a living.

Looking forward to your next post!

Regards

Steve

Apple iTunes Bunnies Don’t Jump, They Just Annoy

(“Aghhh!” I cry. “This software is making me thirsty!”

 Beta max picks up on the joke and does the George Costanza version. “This software…is MAKING ME THIRSTY!”

 Alpha Girl sits on the lounge reading a magazine. “Can’t you two go be thirsty somewhere else? Especially you, Steve. New Zealand, perhaps?”)

  

If there’s one thing that irritates me a lot, it’s iTunes.

I’ve been an Apple user for about 15 years or so. I’ve seen their products improve over time, and I’ve seen iTunes (the program that allows you to update songs and data and backup your iPod, iPhone and iPad) evolve. I really like Apple products, for their durability, simplicity and ease of use. But iTunes…

iTunes was originally designed just for updating iPod, the first digital music player. It was simple to use, as it was only meant to load songs onto that device. When the iPhone and iPad showed up, iTunes was asked to do more and more. Various additions were made, making it more complicated for the average user. Over time, iTunes has become a bit of a clunky mess (apologies to the Apple software designers – I understand you have to work with what you’ve got).

Over the years I’ve had numerous problems with iTunes, and the latest is it won’t allow my devices to sync (a process that allows you to back up and update). I’ve read the online forums and used their suggestions i.e. reset devices, reboot computer; all to no avail. I’m now trying to download iTunes to reinstall it. Four times it has failed to download. My internet connection is good, but it keeps failing.

I don’t have that much hair left to pull out. I’m vocalising my frustration with very un-Christian language.

I’m now at a loss as to what to do. iTunes will play music on my laptop, but won’t update my devices.

Maybe I should just buy a new laptop, but that seems a little extreme for a fix (it’s also not a financial option).

If anyone has a suggestion, I’d love to hear it.

 

(“Have you tried turning your computer off?” says Beta Max.

“First thing I tried,” I reply. “Switch off, switch on. It’s the IT fix-it mantra.”

“No, I meant just leave it off,” he says.)

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑