That day I blacked out I guess

August 4th, 2019 by harold

It was not long after Prince passed away in his elevator.

I was working on this TV show. 12 weeks, twelve to sixteen hours a day, six days a week. It was rough but I was holding up.

I was driving a lot, from LA to somewhere north of San Diego. We were over the hump, habits and routines well in place. On a return to the set from LA, I was driving alone in my minivan, leaving the 405 traffic to finally zip up south on the 5.

And then I arrived and couldn’t remember how. Black hole in my memory. Absolutely no recall of the past hour. None. All I could remember was “emerging” on the ramp leading to the parking lot and wondering who the fuck drove the past hour because I felt like I’d just woken up.

I could remember when I had left LA and the start of the trip. But right before Carlsbad, I couldn’t remember anything at all. I have a pretty good memory of everything. I’ve never experienced before or after such a memory failure/loss.

I remember ordering food, waiting in line while I was freaking out because the last part of the trip wasn’t easy freeway. It was mountain roads and ravines. Pitch black. And I had no clue how I had made it. I felt so vulnerable and scared.

I still don’t know how I made it. I’m happy I’m here and I still remember that day very well.

I didn’t quit but I was happy to be done with the gig. Exhaustion, man.

Disco

August 2nd, 2019 by harold

The Disco Sucks movement and its backlash were so toxic, people in the industry –people who were eating off of the record sales coming from dance music- were all afraid to be associated with anything disco, even the word on a small sign above a door. Something about that really enraged me. Until then I believed I was part of a wonderfully elite group who marched to their own beat. I had worked hard to get there. We were free. We all did what we wanted, said what we meant. We were the music business.

-Nile Rodgers in 1979, after selling millions of Chic records and realizing that that disco sucks thing was way more than a not very funny joke.

From his autobiography, that I recommend very much. Nicely written and candid. Amazing life.

It is some serious privilege to be able to disrespect something that allows you to live the life you live. It also shows a pretty serious lack of conviction and integrity to “ban” a certain kind of music, just because of its association with minorities.

The act of dancing has never ever been the same since those Disco Sucks days. It’s a loss.

The more I read about that moment in time, the less I get it, the more I understand.

Twitter lost its mind

August 2nd, 2019 by harold

I joined Twitter in 2007. It changed my life etc.

I always used third-party clients, because I sort of know what I’m doing with computers.

Twitter has APIs and for third-party folks like me, they let us use the old API, the one without algorithms.

The passive-aggressive thing that Twitter does is that you can’t connect a new third-party client to the old API. You can however use the ones installed before the changes. I have 3 old phones with 3 different old Twitter clients that still totally work. But I couldn’t install a third party client on my last phone.

I was like, fine, I’ll try the “new” (aka algo-filled) Twitter.

Jesus fucking Christ. I almost cried. No shit. I couldn’t recognized my 12 year old feed at all. Like, fuck.

Realizing how manipulating algorithms are, what they do to people who use Twitter like they pump gas in their cars, I just can’t. The interface, the funnels to get you to click, my god. Sure, I can finally read 240 character tweets (another funnel to keep you on the platform). Which are actually rare and not adding anything, really.

The default clients on Windows are those stinky ass web apps. The last interface change is piling up on the funneling. Twitter doesn’t respect its users at all. It uses them like tissues.

The most awesome thing about technology is that it’s impartial: it does what you want it to do, and doesn’t have stakes in what you do. It’s a tool.

Now technology does what it wants you to do for a bunch of dudes in the Bay Area. It’s a goddamn nightmare.

I want to fight @jack on a ring. No fists, just my legs hitting his meditating ass, gourmet food filled body.

Why I watch the WNBA

July 27th, 2019 by harold

It’s great basketball.

It’s happening when the NBA is on vacation so no conflict.

They play hard and congratulate their opponents at the end of every games.

Players follow through their shots, an important thing to do.

Games’ length is perfect. A bit shorter than the NBA (4×10 mn instead of 4×12 mn).

Games are close from start to finish within 5 points usually. Exciting.

I can mutter “this a bad bitch” or yell “GIRL YES” and it’s totally fine.

The mix of legging, short shorts, short short shorts, long shorts, make up no make up, long hair, short hair.

The mix of ladies my size all the way up to giants, playing together.

Every team has lefties. Sometimes 3 of them.

Bill Laimbeer, a 80s Detroit Bad Boy Legend who beat MJ’s Bulls for years, who didn’t like basketball and didn’t give a shit ever, has been coaching WNBA teams for the past 15+ years (and yes he’s good at it with 3 championships and maybe a 4th this year). I want to see the rest of the story.

It’s great basketball.

CS:20 (almost)

July 26th, 2019 by harold

I wrote about this game many times.

2000-2019. I joined with Beta7.

Prologue

I have been playing Counter-Strike for basically twenty years. I still play a match of two from time to time, against bots on CS:CZ because my machine can’t run CS:GO but whatever. Still watching pro games here and there. I spent a few years watching tons of pros play. Jumping off of my chair and stuff.

I’m struck at how the excitement of entering a large, dangerous area is still there, even with bots. Even after decades. Even after knowing absolutely everything about where to go, what to do. Because I’ll still get surprised and die stupidly or make the two best moves that allow me to place quick headshots. Crouch. Reload. Giggle (or not).

Only really great games carry excitement through emergent gameplay for that long. Many games do that for five years. Ten is a lot more rare. Twenty is quite exceptional. Only CS, Mario Kart and Go are there personally.

The Game

Counter-Strike is one of the best multiplayer game ever made. When it came out, I thought that we didn’t need any more multiplayer shooting games, or at the very least those with military things going on. Even though we got Call of Duty games every year since 2005, I still think CS should have been the end of that genre. From gameplay to matches’ length, it’s perfect.

Okay, Battlefield is fun too because it adds this entire new scope with vehicles and does it well. But to me it just makes gameplay more messy and clumsy for the thrill of doing silly things with your plane and your dune buggy. Nah. Essence, son.

When Counter-Strike came out the setting was actually refreshing, believe it or not. We didn’t have first-person games with current military stuff. At that time we had Half-Life, Tribes, Deus Ex, Quake, Unreal Tournament and other cyberpunk-ish ‘brosome aesthetics going on I guess.

CS was very different. CS was very subtle. CS afforded not very great players skill-wise to win games because they would play the clock, camp or bully you. It’s near impossible to win a 1 VS 2 or 1 VS 3. The first time you’re planting the bomb? Those few seconds where you’re absolutely vulnerable, while your teammates, hurt, are looking out for you, is one of the purest joy in computer games. Period.

CS is hilarious. As soon as you know the other team has no money to buy equipment, you know you have to be extra careful because them mofos will play dirty next round. Pettiness as gameplay. Nice.

I think that’s what made the game so viscerally human. The playing field was accessible where Quake or Unreal weren’t. I have many memories of always dying mid-match but satisfied because I knew I had HURT the team we were fighting and that I had had a big impact even though I was gone. That grenade and that submachine gun clip had done the job. The bomb was planted or about to. Mission completed (or close to).

But also, I think it’s the first and only game where sound –and the absence of sound- is a matter of winning or losing a game.

I can’t think of any game where it’s that absolutely crucial. It’s always about “I heard them”. Seeing the opponents means it’s too late. Pro games are so intensively quiet before the storm, it’s so unique and scary and exciting. Sound as game design. Dope.

The negative side of playing this game is well, teenagers. I was already grown when this game was being made, playing with brand new dads and young adults in a LAN setting. Being able to hear my friend I’d just eliminated shout “fuck!!” next door was good in many ways. “Come GET ME!” would yell my other friend next to me in the room, when he was the last player standing, with a shotgun –no range- in a tower. So many laughs.

Playing against 15 years old, weapon-lover, sugar-injecting kids online was different. Way different. Niggerrrrr different.

Gamedev

The story is of course, weird and dorky. Minh Le is Counter-Strike’s main designer and Jess Cliffe is the producer. They started the game, developed the game’s various designs, named it etc. Valve saw the potential very quickly and got involved in the first months of the beta.

One of the most important thing about Counter-Strike: the maps. They didn’t have much when they started and thanks to a few brilliant level designers, maps showed up and were almost immediately, perfect.

The interesting thing is that a handful of dudes created half a dozen maps that have been played for billions of hours. And most of those guys were Europeans, and not necessarily experts in level design! As often in this industry, they disappeared. Some worked on level design at Valve, some left, others quit level design all together…

Counter-Strike is very lucrative. Last time I checked, CS:GO –the last iteration, created in 2012- was bringing something like $200M a year and as I’m researching now and looking at numbers (Valve doesn’t disclose them), it appears that it’s probably closer to half a billion dollars a year? Yup. Lucrative.

The game is now F2P.

The two OG game designers worked there for years. One left, the other might have gotten fired over some catfishing scandal. It’s pretty disappointing to see. I’d love to read the full story of how the two designers met, what was the fire for them, what design decisions they fought for the most, which ones were the hardest to maintain, the different CS versions through engines etc. It’s probably super interesting. I want to know everything.

Left-Handedness

When I started playing the game, I felt uncomfortable with the weapon model stuck on the right side of the screen. Because Counter-Strike is a Half-Life mod and that you could switch models to the left side with that game engine, so could I in CS. And, that changed everything. It immediately felt natural and now I could focus on team work and actually aim properly. I just discovered that Minh Le is left-handed too and would switch its weapon model, just like me (which is why early screenshots of the game show lefty stuff).

The thing is that 20 years and hundreds of first person shooters later, CS is still the only game that allows real lefties to enjoy playing. It boggles my mind that an entire industry just can’t bother to accommodate left-handedness, pushing people away from enjoying games more. The software industry can be more rigid and conservative than a rock in Virginia while having all the latitude to change things: it’s just code. Sigh.

Criticism

I wish voice over wasn’t so skewed towards making the counter-terrorists speak English with no accent. It’s not about realism. Voice over was the same for both sides back in the day and it was just fine. It’s not a good design decision to play on that and make it “funny” for some people. There should only be a CT team and a T team and nothing else. Fuck your underlining pointless stories, it’s a multiplayer game. Honestly, they should even have gone with a paint ball theme, add some women models and go away from military settings. At least make a version like this, call it CS:SOFT I don’t care.

Enough military/police propaganda. Enough.

Anyway. Counter-Strike is still one of the most played/watched game on earth. And I kinda want to launch a game real quick now (I did; it was, as usual, fun).

More

July 23rd, 2019 by harold

We’re in the middle of an incredible race when it comes to selling products.

Virality. Everything is using viral channels to grow fast and faster. Netflix, the news, Twitter, Epic Games etc.

Two downsides: it’s a perpetual movement and there is no stopping (prepare for burnout). When it pays off it sure pays off but there’s no way to know for sure if it will (prepare for unemployment).

While we like to believe this is the new order, I think we subconsciously enjoy sustain because it’s the mother of everything: it’s because the earth –as an ecosystem- is stable and sustaining itself that we were able to exist and thrive. It’s when the economy is stable and purring that societies make progress etc.

So we know deep down that we need not to constantly run to have a good life.

Why are we trying to move more and faster, thinking we’re so smart, I don’t know.

We Continue painfully

July 15th, 2019 by harold

Elijah and Sadie in the past ten days. Murdered. Philando Castile was killed three years ago live on Facebook. It was Sandra four years ago. All the Ferguson activists in the past five years. Murdered.

Just plain innocent black folks minding their own business and/or trying to make things better, one day at a time.

Murdered.

NBA Teams

July 12th, 2019 by harold

The NBA off-season has been nuts this year. In a bad way.

I don’t know what is worse: the amount of money players get or the contracts that mean nothing.

Sure, the league is powerful and teams have been ruthless with players too. Now that it’s the opposite, are we happier?

No. The core thing is that basketball is a team sport won with a bunch of individuals who stick together to win against all of the others, fastest, strongest and smartest teams. Teams win, not players. If you watch games, you know this. What does it even mean to follow a team now? One year you have a bunch of dudes and the next one you have an entirely different bunch of dudes. No legacy, no history, no meaning.

Watching NBA players acting like bitches because wE gETtinG pAiD when they’re all millionaires by default, while we’re all sweating to barely get a season pass or just a ticket, while the WNBA is traveling in coach, is absurd and disrespectful.

I hope the league does something or better, that players come back to the fucking ground.

New Otomo

July 9th, 2019 by harold

I am of course, beyond excited for Katsuhiro Otomo’s new projects.

I was definitely disappointed with Steamboy. A new Akira project from Akira’s father can only be amazing. I don’t think cyberpunk gets any better than this masterpiece of a universe.

Now what strikes me is again Japan’s ability to set things up. Here’s the official plot of his new movie called Orbital Era:

The plot takes place in the near-future on a space colony under construction. It is an action-adventure story following the lives of some young boys surviving in this peculiar environment and society as they are tossed around by fate. “The reality found in mankind’s future” will be depicted through their perspective.

Japanese sci-fi loves near-future because it makes it so much more relatable. Without pictures or sound, we can immediately start up our imagination engines.

Space colony is simple, yet genius because it’s not only relatable –we have the ISS- but it makes sense that we create space colonies before going to Mars or further away. It’s just de facto much more coherent than sci-fi that starts somewhere with humans already doing whatever they want on a hostile planet or the very hostile empty space. A space colony setting creates a strong continuation of what we have in the world right now and makes it immediately, again, relatable. Or very interesting.

Under-construction. That is also kind of genius. That theme “modifier” is obviously relatable because everything is under-construction, all the time, everywhere on earth. We constantly build or fix things. But also in the space colony context, it creates beautiful freedom in terms of plot, universe etc.

Are humans happy in those fake metal worlds that are never done? What do you see when you go to the edge of such a colony? What kind of society, what kind of values are driving people in a finite world with probably a lot of restrictions? There’s a sense of care, fragility and nostalgia underlying this setting described in a few sentences. I fucking love this.

Most games and action movies plots are so phony compared to this, it’s embarrassing. They all have the “some bad aliens/relics/resource” trope and think they’re really cool.

This one can go in any direction –drama, comedy, romantic, pure action- and be awesome.

It probably will. Can’t wait. Hopefully not for ten years though, take your time, Katsuhiro Otomo.

Radiant Heating Floor

July 9th, 2019 by harold

I was lucky to partially grow up with those.

When I arrived into my family from my foster family, the house I entered was a ruin. My parents were young but the house was raggedy. Nothing was completed at all. I bathed in a bin for quite a while.

One day, looking at my dad laying down electric cables on the ground where he was supposed to pour concrete for the future house’s floor, I wondered, “the fuck is this?” or something like that.

He explained to me that those cables would heat the floor and be controlled by a “computer” (technically yes, but more like a calculator) that would know what the temperature is outside and warm our feet accordingly. It was 1985-86. That was kind of science-fiction-y and I thought my dad was doing too much.

I’ve pretty much never met anyone who had/has radiant heating floors at home. That shit is brilliant. I just have this memory of myself going down the stairs –wood- to go to the bathroom, dreading the moment I would have to put my feet on the cold tiles because I had forgotten my slippers…Not. The tiles were warm. Meanwhile, it was snowing outside, sometimes around Christmas. I remember thinking, “oh now I totally get it; this is great”.

Sometimes it created mayhem because the electric load would be too heavy and we had to choose between warming up the floor or having clean clothes but hey, shit happens.

If there’s one device I miss from France it’s that one, which I can’t ship to Cali. The floors are cold here too and instead of getting blown hot air in the face, I’d rather have some mild heat coming from the bottom. Much more comfortable and efficient.

So simple yet, so wonderful and underrated. Tragic.