I finished Larry Niven’s Ringworld last night and there was much sighing

Last time I posted about Niven, John Till pointed out that Niven is pretty conservative and pretty sexist. I had been oblivious to this when I was reading Niven back in my youth, but some Googling confirmed that he is indeed an old dude with old views I no longer hold. I said then then I would “proceed with caution”. Having finished re-reading Niven’s masterwork, much of the wind has been taken out of my sails w/r/t a deep dive into Niven’s work.

I can forgive to a certain extent the portrayal of Teela Brown, a passenger brought on the mission to the Ringworld because she is the end result of a puppeteer-engineered breeding program to isolate genetic “luck” — i.e., she is the ship’s good luck charm. Ostensibly, I assume that there are men who are similarly “luck”-bred, and who protagonist Louis Wu would, as he does Teela, consider “maybe not even human” and would be as incessantly naive as she is. And she purports to be in love with Louis, and so despite his implication that the other reason she is on the voyage is simply to serve as his concubine, I can at least assume that, well, she chose to be in that position.

But then we meet Prill.(i.e., Halrloprillalar Hotrufan), one of the Ringworld engineers’ descendants. And she is, surprise, a space hooker. Sure, she was a crew member for literally centuries on a ramship, but since she was one of only three women out of a crew of thirty-six, Louis says, “I think we don’t need to guess at her profession.” Right, because her being in the minority — and having been able to set herself up as a god for the primitives on the Ringworld, as well as run the police station that captures Louis and Speaker — must mean that she was a ship’s concubine. Seriously, the RIngworld engineers could build an artificial world three million times the size of earth, but they were baffled by gender equity? (Or, more accurately, Niven can conceive of mind-boggling, hard SF concepts, but he can’t conceive of women in roles beyond sex work?)

Anyway, the dated sexuality — more and more present as the book progressed — just started to wear on me. It was doubly saddening given that the works I’d read up to this point, while dated, weren’t nearly as overt in their sexism; women actually had speaking roles that did not hinge on providing sex.

So, now I’m a little torn. I don’t want to completely write off Niven, but I also honestly feel like there’s so much other SF that doesn’t not grate against my present sensibilities that I may be better off acquainting myself with that instead of reacquainting myself with Niven.

(The bloom is also now definitely off the rose w/r/t my running the Ringworld RPG.)

http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Ringworld

I finished Larry Niven’s Ringworld last night and there was much sighing Last time I posted about Niven, John Till pointed out that Niven is pretty conservative and pretty sexist. I had been oblivious to this when I was reading Niven back in my youth, but some Googling confirmed that he is indeed an old dude with old views I no longer hold. I said then then I would “proceed with caution”. Having finished re-reading Niven’s masterwork, much of the wind has been taken out of my sails w/r/t a deep dive into Niven’s work. I can forgive to a certain extent the portrayal of Teela Brown, a passenger brought on the mission to the Ringworld because she is the end result of a puppeteer-engineered breeding program to isolate genetic “luck” — i.e., she is the ship’s good luck charm. Ostensibly, I assume that there are men who are similarly “luck”-bred, and who protagonist Louis Wu would, as he does Teela, consider “maybe not even human” and would be as incessantly naive as she is. And she purports to be in love with Louis, and so despite his implication that the other reason she is on the voyage is simply to serve as his concubine, I can at least assume that, well, she chose to be in that position. But then we meet Prill.(i.e., Halrloprillalar Hotrufan), one of the Ringworld engineers’ descendants. And she is, surprise, a space hooker. Sure, she was a crew member for literally centuries on a ramship, but since she was one of only three women out of a crew of thirty-six, Louis says, “I think we don’t need to guess at her profession.” Right, because her being in the minority — and having been able to set herself up as a god for the primitives on the Ringworld, as well as run the police station that captures Louis and Speaker — must mean that she was a ship’s concubine. Seriously, the RIngworld engineers could build an artificial world three million times the size of earth, but they were baffled by gender equity? (Or, more accurately, Niven can conceive of mind-boggling, hard SF concepts, but he can’t conceive of women in roles beyond sex work?) Anyway, the dated sexuality — more and more present as the book progressed — just started to wear on me. It was doubly saddening given that the works I’d read up to this point, while dated, weren’t nearly as overt in their sexism; women actually had speaking roles that did not hinge on providing sex. So, now I’m a little torn. I don’t want to completely write off Niven, but I also honestly feel like there’s so much other SF that doesn’t not grate against my present sensibilities that I may be better off acquainting myself with that instead of reacquainting myself with Niven. (The bloom is also now definitely off the rose w/r/t my running the Ringworld RPG.) http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Ringworld]]>

The rest of the population — or the digitally created simulacra thereof — is required only to die en masse, to cower in terror, and to watch in wide-eyed, worshipful gratitude. That is just what this movie expects of you: acquiescence. It wants you to believe that it’s on your side. Don’t be fooled.

Heroes Young and Old has arrived. The pdf is “pay what you want,” and we are awaiting a print proof, so a full color hardcover is on the way. All the old Playbook sets are collected here in one place, plus lots of new stuff and some nice new art.

http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/178319/Beyond-the-Wall–Heroes-Young-and-Old

http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/178319/Beyond-the-Wall–Heroes-Young-and-Old

“It’s a Men’s Rights loon’s dream of meathead orthodoxy, and leaves you wondering if Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens actually happened. Imagine Affleck, standing shirtless in a dungeon, repeatedly thumping a bus tyre with a sledgehammer. Got it? Good: that’s not just what the film feels like, it’s a real scene from it. And that’s all you need to know.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/film/batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice/review/

David Bowie: “Heathen” (2002)

This is a Really Good Fucking Album™, and would still be so if only for the track “5:15 The Angels Have Gone”. It starts  off as a fairly minimalist, almost offensively simple number, that then erupts into one of the most magnificent choruses  I’ve ever heard on a Bowie album. It a chorus that reminds us that Bowie is not only a legendary songwriter and a pop  iconoclast, but is also one the greatest vocalists of the modern era. To listen this chorus is to see the clouds part before  you and the heavens emit rays of golden voice-light that bathe you in the warmth of knowing that everything is going to  be okay.

Anyway, “Heathen” is a wonderful palate-cleanser after the plushy Sting-ness of “hours…” Bowie’s first album of the new  millennium sees him leave Reeves Gabrels behind and reunite with legendary producer and collaborator Tony Visconti, as  well as bring in some heavy hitters — Pete Townshend, Dave Grohl, Tony Visconti, Lisa Germano — to guest on a few  tracks. Carlos Alomar is back in the mix as well, and David Torn begins his stint as resident Bowie stunt-guitarist.  Wikipedia mentions that, though the songs were written prior to the September 11 attacks, the album nonetheless seems  to address the tension pervading the country at the time — Bowie himself had been living in NYC for some time by then.

The album definitely sports its fair share of slick production, but thankfully nothing as saccharine as “hours…” There’s an  organic quality to everything on this album, and the covers Bowie performs — the Pixies, Neil Young, and the Legendary  Stardust Cowboy — retain a certain rawness.

The only point at which this album falters, for me, is when we near the end and hit “Everyone Says ‘Hi'”. The more I  listen to the song, the more I enjoy it, but it’s still a little too… happy. And the follow-up, “A Better Future” just loses me  completely; it feels twee, at best. (That said, the remix by Air repairs a lot of the damage; I’d have preferred if it were  the definitive version.)

In all, “Heathen” has been a refreshing waypoint on my journey through Bowie’s output. A good chunk of his ’90s work  was just a tough row to hoe for me. As with any artists with such a long and productive career, I think we tend to pick  and choose those works that resonate with us. IMO, “Heathen” is an essential album to have in one’s Bowie collection.

Oh, an addendum: there are a lot of outtakes from this album, so if you’re enjoying it, seek them out. Some are new  songs, some are re-recordings for Bowie’s past, and all of them are wonderful.

http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Heathen_(David_Bowie_album)

David Bowie: “Heathen” (2002)

This is a Really Good Fucking Album™, and would still be so if only for the track “5:15 The Angels Have Gone”. It starts  off as a fairly minimalist, almost offensively simple number, that then erupts into one of the most magnificent choruses  I’ve ever heard on a Bowie album. It a chorus that reminds us that Bowie is not only a legendary songwriter and a pop  iconoclast, but is also one the greatest vocalists of the modern era. To listen this chorus is to see the clouds part before  you and the heavens emit rays of golden voice-light that bathe you in the warmth of knowing that everything is going to  be okay.

Anyway, “Heathen” is a wonderful palate-cleanser after the plushy Sting-ness of “hours…” Bowie’s first album of the new  millennium sees him leave Reeves Gabrels behind and reunite with legendary producer and collaborator Tony Visconti, as  well as bring in some heavy hitters — Pete Townshend, Dave Grohl, Tony Visconti, Lisa Germano — to guest on a few  tracks. Carlos Alomar is back in the mix as well, and David Torn begins his stint as resident Bowie stunt-guitarist.  Wikipedia mentions that, though the songs were written prior to the September 11 attacks, the album nonetheless seems  to address the tension pervading the country at the time — Bowie himself had been living in NYC for some time by then.

The album definitely sports its fair share of slick production, but thankfully nothing as saccharine as “hours…” There’s an  organic quality to everything on this album, and the covers Bowie performs — the Pixies, Neil Young, and the Legendary  Stardust Cowboy — retain a certain rawness.

The only point at which this album falters, for me, is when we near the end and hit “Everyone Says ‘Hi'”. The more I  listen to the song, the more I enjoy it, but it’s still a little too… happy. And the follow-up, “A Better Future” just loses me  completely; it feels twee, at best. (That said, the remix by Air repairs a lot of the damage; I’d have preferred if it were  the definitive version.)

In all, “Heathen” has been a refreshing waypoint on my journey through Bowie’s output. A good chunk of his ’90s work  was just a tough row to hoe for me. As with any artists with such a long and productive career, I think we tend to pick  and choose those works that resonate with us. IMO, “Heathen” is an essential album to have in one’s Bowie collection.

Oh, an addendum: there are a lot of outtakes from this album, so if you’re enjoying it, seek them out. Some are new  songs, some are re-recordings for Bowie’s past, and all of them are wonderful.

http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Heathen_(David_Bowie_album)

What hardware are you using for Hangouts gaming?

This is not strictly gaming-related, but that’s my primary use for this tech, so I’m putting it in this collection.

I’m still pretty new to Hangouts, but after one session of using my earbuds and inline mic I knew that I needed more suitable gear.

First, I got a Logitech H650e headset; it’s intended for conference calls, but I figured it would be my speed. While it worked okay, it was lacking something. It was light enough to be comfortable, but I still felt like I was straining to hear others, or at least like I had to seriously concentrate.

Digging deeper, I recently bought a Sennheiser GAME ONE PC Gaming Headset. It’s pricy, but HOLY WOW is it an improvement. Despite being larger, it’s more comfortable than the H650e, and it uses a standard audio jack instead of a USB port. Bonus, it’s also a really nice pair of open-back headphones; I’ve used it with a Fiio DAC/amp to listen to music and they sound great. Audio sounds ambient instead of buried deep in your head. (I am now totally sold on open-back headphones.)

As for video, currently I’m using the built-in camera in my MacBook Pro. It works fine, but the angle — having to look down, hunched over my laptop — and how it handles the light in my study makes me a look a little weird. Ergo, I’m considering adding a Logitech C920.

Part of me wonders if this is overkill for playing RPGs via hangouts, but given than I’m sitting for 2-3 hours at a clip trying to communicate clearly with other people it seems like a worthy investment. Hangouts gaming is the most compatible with my married-with-a-kid status, so making that experience as delightful as possible seems worth it.

David Bowie: “hours…” (1999)

After the piledriver of electronica that was “Earthling”, the pillowy “hours…” comes off as almost adult contemporary; one critic mentioned in the Wikipedia article says this is Bowie as a “highbrow Sting”. Honestly, that seems the most apt description to me. I found this album pretty toothless, which is generally a big sin for me. The smooth, mushy production dulls even Gabrels’ normally angular guitar. 

What’s doubly-damning for me is that none of the songs really rise above this cushy treatment. “The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell” tries desperately to rock out in almost Tin Machine fashion, but it’s so syrupy that it simply makes Bowie seem like an over-the-hill rocker failing to recapture his former glory. “New Angels of Promise” almost takes us back to Berlin, but misses its connecting flight. And “Seven”… I don’t even know what to do with this strummy, block chord acoustic number that’s just plain beneath an artist of Bowie’s caliber. I will say that “Thursday’s Child”, the first single released for the album, is definitely a brainworm, though it’s also possibly the most “Sting” of all the songs, and I mean that in a bad way.

In all, given that Bowie has been building up to the end of the millennium for quite a few albums now, this last hurrah before Y2k feels more like a whimper — partying like it’s 1998.

http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Hours_(David_Bowie_album)

David Bowie: “hours…” (1999)

After the piledriver of electronica that was “Earthling”, the pillowy “hours…” comes off as almost adult contemporary; one critic mentioned in the Wikipedia article says this is Bowie as a “highbrow Sting”. Honestly, that seems the most apt description to me. I found this album pretty toothless, which is generally a big sin for me. The smooth, mushy production dulls even Gabrels’ normally angular guitar. 

What’s doubly-damning for me is that none of the songs really rise above this cushy treatment. “The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell” tries desperately to rock out in almost Tin Machine fashion, but it’s so syrupy that it simply makes Bowie seem like an over-the-hill rocker failing to recapture his former glory. “New Angels of Promise” almost takes us back to Berlin, but misses its connecting flight. And “Seven”… I don’t even know what to do with this strummy, block chord acoustic number that’s just plain beneath an artist of Bowie’s caliber. I will say that “Thursday’s Child”, the first single released for the album, is definitely a brainworm, though it’s also possibly the most “Sting” of all the songs, and I mean that in a bad way.

In all, given that Bowie has been building up to the end of the millennium for quite a few albums now, this last hurrah before Y2k feels more like a whimper — partying like it’s 1998.

http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Hours_(David_Bowie_album)