September 2nd, 2014

Macbeth the Usurper

30 Years Since Freshman Year

Thirty years ago, I went to college. Wow. Wow oh wow.

I looked at some of my old diaries from that time. Judging only by those texts, one would concluded that I was concerned with nothing other than how to not be a total failure with girls, and other than that, had nothing interesting to say about anything. As best as I can tell, that's a pattern that continued over the next umpteen years. I occassionally rise to the level of incoherence about other subjects, but they context is so devoid of any anchors that you need to be me in order to figure out what I was even talking about. Sometime, even I don't know what I was talking about.

So, thirty years ago, I found out that I was weird. That's a label that I still reject because, as far as I'm concerned, I'm no weirder than anyone else. That label nothing to me. Weird meant that I did not get to be a human being, so I rejected that label.

By no coicidence, this also marks 30 years as a PC gamer, 20 of those years playing games from the bargain bin. For freshman year in Engineering, I was required to supply a computer, which for me meant an IBM PC Portable, complete with a 7-inch amber screen. I later upgraded the thing up to 640 kb of RAM, and I was rocking and rolling because I could now compile out of RAM. The first two languages that I learned were BASIC and FORTRAN. To be honest, my logical skills sucked rocks and my programming truly sucked. I would spend another decade spinning my wheels before I developed the cognitive skills for programming. As for PC hacking, that's where I shown immediately. When I encountered my first nasty problem, I told myself, "It's either me or the computer, and it's not going to be me."

My problem was that the disks provided to handle compiling worked badly on a one-disk system. I had to hit the book, rewrite batch files, and create a new way of compiling, one that required usage of a RAM disk.

The other thing that tested my ability to set up the computer was games. I went game nuts, first on Wizardry, then on Ultima 2 (both copied of course, because everyone copied games in those days). I played through Ultimate 2 in two weeks, which was (and still is) a horrifying short amount of time to do that game. I pretty much ate, slept, and played Ultima. That game directly contributed to my failing grades that quarter, which still doesn't bother me. I was not cut out for engineering, and as I progressed through school, kept learning that I was correct. So I happily walked over to English Literature, where my computer became my best friend. I was one of my few peers that had a word processor.

This also marks 30 years of buying music. My favorite album, All Over The Place, by the Bangles, came out that year and I listened to extensively. It was me and my red Walkman which ran on 2 AA batteries. The thing was a wonder of miniaturization, being barely larger than the cassette tapes that it played. It came with my first pair of headphones as well.

I suppose that I saw my first true XXX film then as well, but I don't actually recall what or where it was.

30 years also marks my introduction to the internet as a friend of mine had access to a mainframe with internet access. We're talking IRC in 1984. We could chat with Massachussets at that time, but we couldn't talk to some other local colleges, as the internet was rather spotty at that time.

My first home-away-from-home was the bottom bunk on metal bunk-beds. There was enough space in that room for two desks, one bunk-bed, two closets, and a sink. The room itself was closer to a state-room than the dorm rooms that you see today. Even then, it was a bit archaic. My much maligned room mate had a poster of a most naked blonde covering her uber-boobs, but I don't recall what I had on the walls. Heat was by hot water and there was no AC. On the plus side, the windows were big, there was no security in the building, and nobody cared when you showed up or when you left. That was a far cry from any of the co-ed for women-only buildings, where you always had to sign-in and sign-out.

As sketchy as this seems, this is the most that I've ever written about those days, or at least the most coherent. I do not represent the median experience of college in 1984, so do take this account with a bit of salt.

The thing that I miss most from those days is the music. I never knew what new songs would show up. Styles were always up in the air. I was the only person in any of my groups interested in my vein of music, so music to me was both comforting and alienating.

The TV shows of the day, especially on Friday night, were Knight Rider, Air Wolf, and Miami Vice. Each of those shows bored me, but they entertained my friends. Don't ask me about any of those shows as I did not watch them. I do recall the watching a few episodes of Night Court, which improved greatly over those first few shows and ended up having a rather respectable run.
Macbeth the Usurper

Doctor Who - S8E2

In this second episode of Doctor Who this season, we got some story arc development and some Daleks.

As best as I can tell, Moffat wrote the Earth bits of this episode, which look to set up more story arc elements, as the main writer produced the bulk of the episode.

But forget the episode. I want to talk about cameras and color-grading. Visually, I have rather enjoyed the season so far. I am absoutely convinced that the team changed their cameras, and I like the change. I like the new way that these cameras are set up. When they do natural lighting, the images are downright gob-smacking.

Color grading is very important in this season. It's color grading that tells you where you are, from the very natural and almost beautiful grading to the very white and artificial. Every location seems to have its own key. This greatly helps the viewer track the story. I like that the team thought about color grading and how to use it. These days color grading is often used so poorly and so much like a sledgehammer, while here its used to support the story.

I also like the art-like special effects in places. There a point in the episode where our heroes cross a barrier, and in that moment, beauty is revealed. (I wonder if that will be a theme?) They did not need to put beauty there, but they did, and I like that they did. I like that they made a special affect special, not by throwing more effect at it, but revealing beauty through it.

I should look up who the art director is. I really like the decisions being made in so many places. It's as if they decided to shake up the look and the art just as much as they shook up the character of the Doctor.

The Daleks of this episode have a more armored feel to them. This time, they feel like the soldiers that they are supposed to be. They look more like soldiers. They are little rolling tanks of extreme prejudice. That fits in with a theme as well.