Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Machine Men

It is time now for another Versus post. The rules are simple: we take two fictional races and test them in our Patented Combat Simulation™ to determine who are the superior characters. In today's episode: The Borg versus the Strogg.

Superficially, these two have a lot in common. Both are malicious cyborg races that either assimilate or destroy every culture they encounter. They use advanced technology to enslave other species and add their biological and technological distinctiveness to their own, the result is inevitably a huge empire composed of dozens of unique races hideously transformed to suit the needs of the collective. Yet, there's still plenty of cultural differences left in these soulless automata that would make them such good enemies.

The Borg, ruthless, implacable (at least until Voyager). They adapt quickly and assimilate faster. They have consumed whole planets and subsumed entire species. They have created or stolen technology vastly superior to anything their enemies posses. Yet individual drones are slow moving and zombie-like. Besides, I have a sneaking suspicion those tubes get easily tangled in those dark crampt hallways they spend so much time in. Are the Borg really ready to wage a full scale war? After all, they're actually here to help, improve the quality of life of everyone they encounter. They want to be our friends, they just have a funny way of showing it

On the other hand we have the Strogg who are definitely not in the business of making friends. They are a culture dominated by war, with no such thing as civilians. Every last Strogg is either a soldier or worker devoted expressly for building new weapons or transferring subjects to become more Strogg. Their home planet is an industrial wasteland of rusting, grimy factories and bunkers. They show no individuality, since they're controlled by "neurocytes" in their brain that overrides all higher functions. Basically, they're your typical video game bad guys.

Quake to be specific, but only the second and fourth games. I never bothered to play Quake IV because it was so similar to Doom 3, same physics engine, same dark hallways, they even reused some of the sounds from Doom. Total faux pas.

The Strogg's approach to cybernetics isn't very sophisticated either. Where as the Borg take time to make proper augmentations, their rivals are just interested in getting a soldier bolted together as quickly as possible. I mean that literally by the way, because the process of "Stroggification" involves a lot of pneumatic nail guns and saws. You can watch it for yourself if you can stomach the over-the-top bloodshed.

But they do have a few things going for them. For one thing, the Strogg can actually run. Clearly this is superior to the Borg's corpse-like shuffling. Plus, they've obviously put more thought into their weapons, giving their soldiers proper guns unlike the Borg who inject nanites into people and hope for the best. In fact, the Strogg's guns aren't always energy based. Sometimes they shoot bullets, something the Borg's shields can't adapt to.

With such firepower they wouldn't have any problem with the slow, ponderous Borg right? No.

At the very start of Quake IV we see Human spaceships attacking the planet Stroggos with almost complete impunity. The only resistance comes from missiles fired from the planet's surface, no Strogg spaceships in sight. Now, by this point they've been fighting a long war with Humanity and have been backed into a corner. Maybe their forces were depleted by that point and didn't have any ships available to protect their homeworld. Fair enough but that raises some serious issues, namely the fact that the Humans even have a fighting chance against them.

The first time we see a Borg cube on Star Trek it casually destroys a whole thirty-nine Federation ships like it was swatting at flies. Basically, it's immediately obvious that the Humans in Quake aren't as advanced as Star Trek Humans, not by a long shot, so the whole question of space superiority becomes quite simple:

If a less advanced Humanity can destroy the Strogg's fleet, what chance do they have against the Borg who can steamroll the same species, even when they have replicators and warp drives and all that jazz?

Using Humanity as the standard of measurement, it's obvious the Strogg's battleships (which we've never actually seen) are horribly outclassed by the cubes, heck, even a single cube.

My verdict is thus: In a ground war the Strogg have the clear advantage and would quickly overpower any drones so bold and foolish to beam down to the surface of their planet. But once enough cubes are in orbit they'll be able to bombard the enemy with virtual impunity, safely whittling away at them until the Nexus is destroyed. After that, it'll be as simple as cleaning up after themselves and assimilating those fancy dark energy guns they use.

But I know what you're asking yourself, "Can the Borg defeat the Cybermen!?"

I honestly don't have a clue, they're so similar any fight between them might as well be a stalemate. Really, I think it would be much more likely for them to join forces and rule the galaxy as one. Now that would make interesting fan fiction!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sticky Business

It's been a refreshing break these past couple months, but map making has once again swung into high gear. In order to get back into the swing of things I've been taking a little retrospective at my old optical illusion coffee table books, especially Adventures with Impossible Objects by Bruno Ernst. While getting myself back into the proper mindset for this project I realized that I've overlooked something pretty interesting.

Ladies and gentlemen: Oscar Reutersvärd.

Born in 1915, Reutersvärd has often been called the "father of the impossible figure". Over the course of his career he created over 2500 paintings of impossible objects, each of them as isometric projections giving the illusion of depth. While he's often overshadowed by his more well known contemporary, one Mr. Maurits Cornelis Escher, he had a long, rich career. His most notable contribution is probably the impossible tribar, which he created in 1934. It caused a stir in the mathematical community when it first appeared, but slowly faded into obscurity. Later, in 1950 Roger Penrose accidentally reinvented the tribar and published a paper on it, only to realize later that Reutersvärd already created that particular impossible object sixteen years ago. Nevertheless, we still call it the Penrose Triangle.

Oscar and Penrose stayed in contact after their chance meeting, bouncing ideas off each other since. Then, in 1982, his home country of Sweden recognized his work with a series of stamps. Sadly they were only in print for about two years, with most copies being destroyed after a change in stamp value. Now long out of print, they're considered extremely collectable. Observe:

It's true, it really is hip to be square.

What at first glance appears to be an ordinary tribar morphs into an unprecedented eightbar. Extravagant!

Be honest, that would make one heck of a bookshelf.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Taking The Scenic Route

Ladies and Gentlemen, it begins:

Even though the Paranoia Trilogy is over, the abstraction might never end. So I cordially invite you to my next map, Lost Highway. It begins where Hypnophobia left off, after the player jumps into the swirling chaos of the Tunneling Entanglement Device and lands in an unknown region of time and space.

This is going to be a very different kind of map from the first three. Since the player is no longer trapped in the metaphysical prison of Paranoia, they're free to explore completely new, even stranger locations. To reinforce the importance of the player's escape and the change of scenery, Lost Highway will have a much different aesthetic from the maps preceding it. There will be no checkerboard tiles, nor spooky hallways. The emphasis is changing from dark, interior environments to substantially larger outdoor areas (relatively speaking, since the difference between inside and outside means little in such a place).

I've been wanting to do a driving map for a long time now, something crazy and huge like the ending of The Blues Brothers, but with more helicopters and the player being chased through space. In the meantime, I only have a few pictures for the scrap book. But if I can tear myself away from Dwarf Fortress long enough, there might be a new video later this week. No promises.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Abridged Version

Another day, another batch of microfictions. The rules are simple, as always; the story must be one hundred words or less. Besides that there are no rules, since it can be any genre conceivable. Heck, you could even write your own in the comments section if you felt so inclined.


The anti-rejection drug had been a complete success. So many parts from so many species had been grafted on that nothing recognizably Human was left. The test subject was starting to forget life as a normal man. He looked down at his claws and hooves and felt the heavy antlers on his head. A pool of blood was inching across the floor, but whose? His bloodlust had ruined what semblance of a life he had left and now he realized that Barbra was dead. Murdered. A mob was breaking down the door, the doctor led them. What had he become?

The Late Night Show With Ted Clarkson

"So you have a new movie out, tell us about that."

The actor could only nod dimly, he was staring dumbfounded at the studio audience as they scattered in every direction. Small bipedal hyenas, dressed in animal pelts were smashing the set, destroying the cameras with jagged bronze axes: Gnolls, the awful creatures were making a mockery of Clarkson's career.

"So how was it to work with Meryl Streep?"

The Gnoll chieftain leapt onto the stage, covered in war paint, brandishing an axe in each hand. Laughing, he smashed Ted's coffee mug. The whole tribe started laughing.

"This interview's over."


It was a freak accident, a one-in-a-million chance. The drunk driver managed to hit both her dogs: crushing one's pelvis and breaking the other's forelegs. They were crippled, but no veterinarian would help. She would have to make her own solution. Working at night, she started sewing them together, creating something altogether more than dog: a two-headed modern day Cerberus, kept alive with forbidden science. Thick stitches ran across it's twisted body. Both heads snarled and panted with hydraulic jaws, metal teeth glistening. It jumped off the table and out the window. Her creation was set free.

Neptune's Ultimatum

"This is the best birthday ever!"

Clyff looked up at his mom with wide excited eyes, holding her hand tightly and pointing wildly at the breaching humpbacks. He didn't want a party, he said, only to go on a whale watching cruise with her.

So much like his father...

They both laughed as ocean spray hit their faces. Suddenly, the boat rocked violently. A whale appeared on the bow, it's gaze met her son's. It's mouth opened wide over the little vessel and clamped down, swallowing Clyff whole. The sea had claimed another victim, just like his father before him.

Total Annihilation

The guest were drunkenly throwing bananas at each other. Glitter covered every available surface. Worse yet, everything smelled of passion fruit. Patricia was desperate to clean up the champagne glasses, only to find them full of decorative feathers. The police sent to break up the part had long since joined it, engulfed in the chaos. Music drowned out the sound of cars plunging into the backyard pool. To think, it all started so innocently enough. Now Patricia was the eye of the storm, both the cause and the last line of defense against this madness. But it was too late.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Creepy Crawlies

You know what the world needs more of? Music videos of mutant insects. Thankfully I found one:

I mean look at that, I can't even tell what half of those things are. It's all photo-manipulation of course, but I would love to see creatures like that in real life. Honestly I don't know what I like more: the crazy cubist looking arthropods or that I have no idea how this was made. I mean, if I had to guess I'd say they layered multiple videos over one another, so what we're seeing are actually multiple shots of the same bug at once, turning them into the monstrosities in the video. But that's really just a guess. I especially like the praying mantis with the headdress, or how the millipede is the only normal one in the bunch.

Now that I think about it, it reminds me of this video by Simian Mobile Disco:

I like this one almost as much, chiefly because it's so colorful. But it could definitely use some help in the kaleidoscope insect monster department.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Byrne'ing Down The House

Ladies and gentlemen, I'm afraid I have a pretty serious announcement to make:

...I found some more album covers.

You Slut! by Critical Meat

This first cover was submitted from our long-time associate Mackdombles. From the looks of things, I'd say the Killbot prototypes aren't quite ready for mass production.
Manifesto by Rhymester

When Renaissance Fairs go horribly horribly wrong!

Everything That Happens Will Happen Today by David Byrne and Brian Eno

Everything will happen, but only as long as you have a copy of The Sims installed.

Fabio After Dark by Fabio 

Because, apparently, Fabio only comes out at night. Make sure to leave a bottle of Herbal Essence on your door step to appease him, otherwise he'll come into your house and seduce your wives and daughters.

Uh-Oh by David Byrne

Uh-Oh is right! Bonkers died for your sins and now he's back with a vengeance.

Jesus Use Me by The Faith Tones

Sorry ladies, but I think you scared him off with your enormous planetoids of hair. What were you hoping to do? Catch birds with those things?

Love This Giant by David Byrne & St. Vincent

Okay, this is pretty sensible; nice font, good color coordination, bulbous faces that look like a spider's trying use their discarded skin as a disguise...

...Wait, what!?

Oh My God

It goes without saying; Fabio's operation didn't go very well.

The Many Facets Of Roger by Roger

And somehow, every last of of them is glittery enough to double as a disco ball.


Heino has returned! His death-ray satellite ensures that you will comply with his demands, lest you loose your precious polar ice caps!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Mystery Shad, Oregon

Just a quick post for today, mainly because no one needs to hear my political opinions, I did enough whining last month.

Instead, know that my sister and I have been watching Gravity Falls this week after I get home from work (I'm still working with my contractor friend you see). It's a cartoon of course. After all, we need something to watch while you-know-what-show is on hiatus.

It's about two kids spending the Summer with their great uncle, solving bizarre mysteries around town. We've only seen the first three episodes but I've already been hooked on it. Imagine The X-Files crossed with Twin Peaks. Sure, it's not high entertainment, but if I wanted intellectual stimulation I'd read a book. If I want gnomes, talking wax figures and sea monsters, this will do it.

I think the real reason why we like this show so much is because we're both a just a little bit unnerved by how much the main characters remind us of each other. For example, Mabel is constantly wearing garish tacky sweaters and going on bizarre tangents that don't relate at all to what's happening around her. Meanwhile Dipper is introverted and thinks there's conspiracies absolutely everywhere. Consequently he spends most of the show obsessively flipping through an old book full of esoteric codes. Plus, he doesn't ever smile for pictures. Just change some names, add a mustache and a pair of glasses and bam, it's us.

Mother, if you're reading this you know what I'm talking about. It's downright eerie.

And there you have it. We'll probably still be watching this next week since my sister said she won't be watching you-know-what-show anymore even if the third season starts in four days. Apparently, it's too girly for her and the fan base has gotten too creepy, she doesn't want any guilt by association. Oh and before I forget; I found out as I was writing this that apparently Puerto Rico voted to become a state. So we probably have fifty-one now! That's a new record! See, here you are thinking you can't get good journalism from my blog.

Oh yeah, one last thing, I'll just leave this here: