Very, very cool.

This is one of those things along with having Make Magazine and Popular Mechanics around the house. And of course getting the monkeys involved in Scouts.



Penny Arcade - Exile from Guyville


Pirates of the Carribean Quote

If you can't figure out why I love this quote, I can do nothing for you:

Jack Sparrow: I love this song. Really bad eggs. Ooh.
Jack Sparrow: When I get the Pearl back, I'm gonna teach it to the whole crew, and we'll sing it all the time.
Elizabeth: And you'll be positively the most fearsome pirates in the Spanish Main.
Jack Sparrow: Not just the Spanish Main, luv. The entire ocean. The entire wo'ld. Wherever we want to go, we'll go. That's what a ship is, you know. It's not just a keel and a hull and a deck and sails, that's what a ship needs but what a ship is... what the Black Pearl really is... is freedom.



ShellShockers host International Friendly

Just saw this. Really wish they would get their mailing list worked out:

Shell Shockers Host International Soccer Stars - New England Revolution to play Honduras’s Olimpia in March

March 5, 2007

On Sunday, March 25th the New Orleans Shell Shockers will welcome international soccer superstars Olimpia to the Crescent City to compete in a match against Major League Soccer's formidable New England Revolution.

The friendly will kick off at 5PM and will signal the beginning of the Miller International Soccer Series which draws quality soccer to the city every year. New Orleans Shell Shockers head coach Kenny Farrell said, "This is the second time we have hosted Olimpia. Olimpia's presence signifies the potential of New Orleans to be an off-season training ground for international soccer clubs. I expect it to be a great game featuring top players."

The match will take place at Tad Gormley Stadium in City Park; giving local soccer fans a chance to witness top-notch soccer in a more intimate setting. Both teams have trophy cabinets crammed with titles and are more accustomed to playing in front of enormous crowds.

Olimpia hails from the town of Tegucigalpa, the Honduran sister-city to New Orleans, where their reputation is comparable to that of Real Madrid or Manchester United. The Lions boast more titles than any other team in the country, and have bragging rights for winning the CONACAF club championship twice.

US soccer fans will be able to catch a glance of some of their favorite players when the Revolution takes to the pitch on Sunday. The New England Revolution competed in the MLS Cup Final last year and their roster reads like a who’s who of US national team members.

Shockers President Michael Balluff said, "We're thankful to Olimpia for adjusting their schedule in order to play in New Orleans. It is their belief in the city of New Orleans as a future training ground for professional soccer that allows the Shell Shockers to bring top-level soccer to the region's Gulf Coast fans."

Coach Kenny Farrell believes that bringing international talent to the city surpasses entertainment value and hopes to solidify New Orleans as a city which could be a valuable host for pre-season training for some of the best teams in the United States and Latin America.

"This is the perfect match to showcase New Orleans as a gateway for off-season professional soccer training while entertaining the region's diverse base of soccer fans and families."

To purchase tickets or for additional information please call 504. 207.1905.

If you'd like additional information about this topic please contact Tey Stiteler at 814/279.1286 or e-mail Tey at tdstitel@loyno.edu.
Ticket Locations for the Olimpia v. New England Revolution Game

* Riverside Indoor Soccer
* Deporte Sevilla
* Sabor Latino
* Metro Soccer
* Soccer Station
* Club Soccer


New Orleans Zephyrs Schedule

First home game will be April 13th against Nashville:

April 13 vs. Nashville - 7:00 PM
2007 Home Opener
It's the 2007 home opener, and the Zephyrs will be celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the opening of Zephyr Field. It's also Entergy Night, and there will be a postgame FIREWORKS show!
Sponsored by Entergy/WNOE/AIG Insurance


Ocean's 11 Quote

This is how I am starting to feel:

Basher: It will be nice working with proper villains again.


Once Upon A Time In The West Quote, pt 2

Second favorite piece from the movie:

Harmonica: The reward for this man is 5000 dollars, is that right?
Cheyenne: Judas was content for 4970 dollars less.
Harmonica: There were no dollars in them days.
Cheyenne: But sons of bitches... yeah.



What's Left of the Flag - Flogging Molly


The Irish Rover - The Pogues and The Dubliners


The Wild Rover - Dropkick Murphys



Bruce Sterling: Wonderful World of Storytelling

BoingBoing linked to this essay in addition to Wil Wright's SXSW Keynote:

Bruce Sterling. The Wonderful Power of Storytelling


Literary Freeware -- Not For Commercial Use

Game conference speech: "The Wonderful Power of Storytelling"
From the Computer Game Developers Conference, March 1991, San Jose CA

Thank you very much for that introduction. I'd like to thank the
conference committee for their hospitality and kindness -- all
the cola you can drink -- and mind you those were genuine
twinkies too, none of those newfangled "Twinkies Lite" we've
been seeing too much of lately.

So anyway my name is Bruce Sterling and I'm a science fiction
writer from Austin Texas, and I'm here to deliver my speech now,
which I like to call "The Wonderful Power of Storytelling." I
like to call it that, because I plan to make brutal fun of that
whole idea... In fact I plan to flame on just any moment now, I
plan to cut loose, I plan to wound and scald tonight.... Because
why not, right? I mean, we're all adults, we're all
professionals here... I mean, professionals in totally different
arts, but you know, I can sense a certain simpatico vibe....

Actually I feel kind of like a mosasaur talking to dolphins
here.... We have a lot in common, we both swim, we both have big
sharp teeth, we both eat fish... But you look like a broadminded
crowd, so I'm sure you won't mind that I'm basically, like,

So anyway, you're probably wondering why I'm here tonight, some
hopeless dipshit literary author... and when am I going to get
started on the virtues and merits of the prose medium and its
goddamned wonderful storytelling. I mean, what else can I talk
about? What the hell do I know about game design? I don't even
know that the most lucrative target machine today is an IBM PC
clone with a 16 bit 8088 running at 5 MHZ. If you start talking
about depth of play versus presentation, I'm just gonna to stare
at you with blank incomprehension....

I'll tell you straight out why I'm here tonight. Why should I
even try to hide the sordid truth from a crowd this
perspicacious.... You see, six months ago I was in Austria at
this Electronic Arts Festival, which was a situation almost as
unlikely as this one, and my wife Nancy and I are sitting there
with William Gibson and Deb Gibson feeling very cool and rather
jetlagged and crispy around the edges, and in walks this
*woman.* Out of nowhere. Like J. Random Attractive Redhead,
right. And she sits down with her coffeecup right at our table.
And we peer at each other's namebadges, right, like, *who is
this person.* And her name is Brenda Laurel.

So what do I say? I say to this total stranger, I say. "Hey. Are
you the Brenda Laurel who did that book on *the art of the
computer-human interface*? You *are*? Wow, I loved that book."
And yes -- that's why I'm here as your guest speaker tonight,
ladies and gentleman. It's because I can think fast on my feet.
It's because I'm the kind of author who likes to hang out in
Adolf Hitler's home town with the High Priestess of Weird.

So ladies and gentlemen unfortunately I can't successfully
pretend that I know much about your profession. I mean actually
I do know a *few* things about your profession.... For instance,
I was on the far side of the Great Crash of 1984. I was one of
the civilian crashees, meaning that was about when I gave up
twitch games. That was when I gave up my Atari 800. As to why my
Atari 800 became a boat-anchor I'm still not sure.... It was
quite mysterious when it happened, it was inexplicable, kind of
like the passing of a pestilence or the waning of the moon. If I
understood this phenomenon I think I would really have my teeth
set into something profound and vitally interesting... Like, my
Atari still works today, I still own it. Why don't I get it out
of its box and fire up a few cartridges? Nothing physical
preventing me. Just some subtle but intense sense of revulsion.
Almost like a Sartrean nausea. Why this should be attached to a
piece of computer hardware is difficult to say.

My favorite games nowadays are Sim City, Sim Earth and Hidden
Agenda... I had Balance of the Planet on my hard disk, but I was
so stricken with guilt by the digitized photo of the author and
his spouse that I deleted the game, long before I could figure
out how to keep everybody on the Earth from starving....
Including myself and the author....

I'm especially fond of SimEarth. SimEarth is like a goldfish
bowl. I also have the actual goldfish bowl in the *After Dark*
Macintosh screen saver, but its charms waned for me, possibly
because the fish don't drive one another into extinction. I
theorize that this has something to do with a breakdown of the
old dichotomy of twitch games versus adventure, you know, arcade
zombie versus Mensa pinhead...

I can dimly see a kind of transcendance in electronic
entertainment coming with things like SimEarth, they seem like a
foreshadowing of what Alvin Toffler called the "intelligent
environment"... Not "games" in a classic sense, but things that
are just going on in the background somewhere, in an attractive
and elegant fashion, kind of like a pet cat... I think this kind
of digital toy might really go somewhere interesting.

What computer entertainment lacks most I think is a sense of
mystery. It's too left-brain.... I think there might be real
promise in game designs that offer less of a sense of nitpicking
mastery and control, and more of a sense of sleaziness and
bluesiness and smokiness. Not neat tinkertoy puzzles to be
decoded, not "treasure-hunts for assets," but creations with
some deeper sense of genuine artistic mystery.

I don't know if you've seen the work of a guy called William
Latham.... I got his work on a demo reel from Media Magic. I
never buy movies on video, but I really live for raw
computer-graphic demo reels. This William Latham is a heavy
dude... His tech isn't that impressive, he's got some kind of
fairly crude IBM mainframe cad-cam program in Winchester
England.... The thing that's most immediately striking about
Latham's computer artworks -- *ghost sculptures* he calls them
-- is that the guy really possesses a sense of taste. Fractal
art tends to be quite garish. Latham's stuff is very fractally
and organic, it's utterly weird, but at the same time it's very
accomplished and subtle. There's a quality of ecstasy and dread
to it... there's a sense of genuine enchantment there. A lot of
computer games are stuffed to the gunwales with enchanters and
wizards and so-called magic, but that kind of sci-fi cod
mysticism seems very dime-store stuff by comparison with Latham.

I like to imagine the future of computer games as being
something like the Steve Jackson Games bust by the Secret
Service, only in this case what they were busting wouldn't have
been a mistake, it would have been something actually quite
seriously inexplicable and possibly even a genuine cultural
threat.... Something of the sort may come from virtual reality.
I rather imagine something like an LSD backlash occuring there;
something along the lines of: "Hey we have something here that
can really seriously boost your imagination!" "Well, Mr
Developer, I'm afraid we here in the Food Drug and Software
Administration don't really approve of that." That could happen.
I think there are some visionary computer police around who are
seriously interested in that prospect, they see it as a very
promising growing market for law enforcement, it's kind of their
version of a golden vaporware.

I now want to talk some about the differences between your art
and my art. My art, science fiction writing, is pretty new as
literary arts go, but it labors under the curse of three
thousand years of literacy. In some weird sense I'm in direct
competition with Homer and Euripides. I mean, these guys aren't
in the SFWA, but their product is still taking up valuable
rack-space. You guys on the other hand get to reinvent
everything every time a new platform takes over the field. This
is your advantage and your glory. This is also your curse. It's
a terrible kind of curse really.

This is a lesson about cultural expression nowadays that has
applications to everybody. This is part of living in the
Information Society. Here we are in the 90s, we have these
tremendous information-handling, information-producing
technologies. We think it's really great that we can have groovy
unleashed access to all these different kinds of data, we can
own books, we can own movies on tape, we can access databanks,
we can buy computer-games, records, music, art.... A lot of our
art aspires to the condition of software, our art today wants to
be digital... But our riches of information are in some deep and
perverse sense a terrible burden to us. They're like a cognitive
load. As a digitized information-rich culture nowadays, we have
to artificially invent ways to forget stuff. I think this is the
real explanation for the triumph of compact disks.

Compact disks aren't really all that much better than vinyl
records. What they make up in fidelity they lose in groovy cover
art. What they gain in playability they lose in presentation.
The real advantage of CDs is that they allow you to forget all
your vinyl records. You think you love this record collection
that you've amassed over the years. But really the sheer choice,
the volume, the load of memory there is secretly weighing you
down. You're never going to play those Alice Cooper albums
again, but you can't just throw them away, because you're a
culture nut.

But if you buy a CD player you can bundle up all those records
and put them in attic boxes without so much guilt. You can
pretend that you've stepped up a level, that now you're even
more intensely into music than you ever were; but on a practical
level what you're really doing is weeding this junk out of your
life. By dumping the platform you dump everything attached to
the platform and my god what a blessed secret relief. What a
relief not to remember it, not to think about it, not to have it
take up disk-space in your head.

Computer games are especially vulnerable to this because they
live and breathe through the platform. But something rather
similar is happening today to fiction as well.... What you see
in science fiction nowadays is an amazing tonnage of product
that is shuffled through the racks faster and faster.... If a
science fiction paperback stays available for six weeks, it's a
miracle. Gross sales are up, but individual sales are off...
Science fiction didn't even used to be *published* in book form,
when a science fiction *book* came out it would be in an edition
of maybe five hundred copies and these weirdo Golden Age SF fans
would cling on to every copy as if it were made of platinum....
But now they come out and they are made to vanish as soon as
possible. In fact to a great extent they're designed by their
lame hack authors to vanish as soon as possible. They're cliches
because cliches are less of a cognitive load. You can write a
whole trilogy instead, bet you can't eat just one...
Nevertheless they're still objects in the medium of print. They
still have the cultural properties of print.

Culturally speaking they're capable of lasting a long time
because they can be replicated faithfully in new editions that
have all the same properties as the old ones. Books are
independent of the machineries of book production, the platforms
of publishing. Books don't lose anything by being reprinted by a
new machine, books are stubborn, they remain the same work of
art, they carry the same cultural aura. Books are hard to kill.
MOBY DICK for instance bombed when it came out, it wasn't until
the 1920s that MOBY DICK was proclaimed a masterpiece, and then
it got printed in millions. Emily Dickinson didn't even publish
books, she just wrote these demented little poems with a quill
pen and hid them in her desk, but they still fought their way
into the world, and lasted on and on and on. It's damned hard to
get rid of Emily Dickinson, she hangs on like a tick in a dog's
ear. And everybody who writes from then on in some sense has to
measure up to this woman. In the art of book-writing the
classics are still living competition, they tend to elevate the
entire art-form by their persistent presence.

I've noticed though that computer game designers don't look much
to the past. All their idealized classics tend to be in reverse,
they're projected into the future. When you're a game designer
and you're waxing very creative and arty, you tend to measure
your work by stuff that doesn't exist yet. Like now we only have
floppies, but wait till we get CD-ROM. Like now we can't have
compelling lifelike artificial characters in the game, but wait
till we get AI. Like now we waste time porting games between
platforms, but wait till there's just one standard. Like now
we're just starting with huge multiplayer games, but wait till
the modem networks are a happening thing. And I -- as a game
designer artiste -- it's my solemn duty to carry us that much
farther forward toward the beckoning grail....

For a novelist like myself this is a completely alien paradigm.
I can see that it's very seductive, but at the same time I can't
help but see that the ground is crumbling under your feet. Every
time a platform vanishes it's like a little cultural apocalypse.
And I can imagine a time when all the current platforms might
vanish, and then what the hell becomes of your entire mode of
expression? Alan Kay -- he's a heavy guy, Alan Kay -- he says
that computers may tend to shrink and vanish into the
environment, into the walls and into clothing.... Sounds pretty
good.... But this also means that all the joysticks vanish, all
the keyboards, all the repetitive strain injuries.

I'm sure you could play some kind of computer game with very
intelligent, very small, invisible computers.... You could have
some entertaining way to play with them, or more likely they
would have some entertaining way to play with you. But then
imagine yourself growing up in that world, being born in that
world. You could even be a computer game designer in that world,
but how would you study the work of your predecessors? How would
you physically *access* and *experience* the work of your
predecessors? There's a razor-sharp cutting edge in this
art-form, but what happened to all the stuff that got sculpted?

As I was saying, I don't think it's any accident that this is
happening.... I don't think that as a culture today we're very
interested in tradition or continuity. No, we're a lot more
interested in being a New Age and a revolutionary epoch, we long
to reinvent ourselves every morning before breakfast and never
grow old. We have to run really fast to stay in the same place.
We've become used to running, if we sit still for a while it
makes us feel rather stale and panicky. We'd miss those
sixty-hour work weeks.

And much the same thing is happening to books today too.... Not
just technically, but ideologically. I don't know if you're
familiar at all with literary theory nowadays, with terms like
deconstructionism, postmodernism.... Don't worry, I won't talk
very long about this.... It can make you go nuts, that stuff,
and I don't really recommend it, it's one of those fields of
study where it's sometimes wise to treasure your ignorance....
But the thing about the new literary theory that's remarkable,
is that it makes a really violent break with the past.... These
guys don't take the books of the past on their own cultural
terms. When you're deconstructing a book it's like you're
psychoanalyzing it, you're not studying it for what it says,
you're studying it for the assumptions it makes and the cultural
reasons for its assemblage.... What this essentially means is
that you're not letting it touch you, you're very careful not to
let it get its message through or affect you deeply or
emotionally in any way. You're in a position of complete
psychological and technical superiority to the book and its
author... This is a way for modern literateurs to handle this
vast legacy of the past without actually getting any of the
sticky stuff on you. It's like it's dead. It's like the next
best thing to not having literature at all. For some reason this
feels really good to people nowadays.

But even that isn't enough, you know.... There's talk nowadays
in publishing circles about a new device for books, called a
ReadMan. Like a Walkman only you carry it in your hands like
this.... Has a very nice little graphics screen, theoretically,
a high-definition thing, very legible.... And you play your
books on it.... You buy the book as a floppy and you stick it
in... And just think, wow you can even have graphics with your
book... you can have music, you can have a soundtrack....
Narration.... Animated illustrations... Multimedia... it can
even be interactive.... It's the New Hollywood for Publisher's
Row, and at last books can aspire to the exalted condition of
movies and cartoons and TV and computer games.... And just think
when the ReadMan goes obsolete, all the product that was written
for it will be blessedly gone forever!!! Erased from the memory
of mankind!

Now I'm the farthest thing from a Luddite ladies and gentlemen,
but when I contemplate this particular technical marvel my
author's blood runs cold... It's really hard for books to
compete with other multisensory media, with modern electronic
media, and this is supposed to be the panacea for withering
literature, but from the marrow of my bones I say get that
fucking little sarcophagus away from me. For God's sake don't
put my books into the Thomas Edison kinetoscope. Don't put me
into the stereograph, don't write me on the wax cylinder, don't
tie my words and my thoughts to the fate of a piece of hardware,
because hardware is even more mortal than I am, and I'm a hell
of a lot more mortal than I care to be. Mortality is one good
reason why I'm writing books in the first place. For God's sake
don't make me keep pace with the hardware, because I'm not
really in the business of keeping pace, I'm really in the
business of marking place.

Okay.... Now I've sometimes heard it asked why computer game
designers are deprived of the full artistic respect they
deserve. God knows they work hard enough. They're really
talented too, and by any objective measure of intelligence they
rank in the top percentiles... I've heard it said that maybe
this problem has something to do with the size of the author's
name on the front of the game-box. Or it's lone wolves versus
teams, and somehow the proper allotment of fame gets lost in the
muddle. One factor I don't see mentioned much is the sheer lack
of stability in your medium. A modern movie-maker could probably
make a pretty good film with DW Griffith's equipment, but you
folks are dwelling in the very maelstrom of Permanent
Technological Revolution. And that's a really cool place, but
man, it's just not a good place to build monuments.

Okay. Now I live in the same world you live in, I hope I've
demonstrated that I face a lot of the same problems you face...
Believe me there are few things deader or more obsolescent than
a science fiction novel that predicts the future when the future
has passed it by. Science fiction is a pop medium and a very
obsolescent medium. The fact that written science fiction is a
prose medium gives us some advantages, but even science fiction
has a hard time wrapping itself in the traditional mantle of
literary excellence... we try to do this sometimes, but
generally we have to be really drunk first. Still, if you want
your work to survive (and some science fiction *does* survive,
very successfully) then your work has to capture some quality
that lasts. You have to capture something that people will
search out over time, even though they have to fight their way
upstream against the whole rushing current of obsolescence and

And I've come up with a strategy for attempting this. Maybe
it'll work -- probably it won't -- but I wouldn't be complaining
so loudly if I didn't have some kind of strategy, right? And I
think that my strategy may have some relevance to game designers
so I presume to offer it tonight.

This is the point at which your normal J. Random Author trots
out the doctrine of the Wonderful Power of Storytelling. Yes,
storytelling, the old myth around the campfire, blind Homer,
universal Shakespeare, this is the art ladies and gentlemen that
strikes to the eternal core of the human condition... This is
high art and if you don't have it you are dust in the wind.... I
can't tell you how many times I have heard this bullshit... This
is known in my field as the "Me and My Pal Bill Shakespeare"
argument. Since 1982 I have been at open war with people who
promulgate this doctrine in science fiction and this is the
primary reason why my colleagues in SF speak of me in fear and
trembling as a big bad cyberpunk... This is the classic doctrine
of Humanist SF.

This is what it sounds like when it's translated into your
jargon. Listen closely:

"Movies and plays get much of their power from the resonances
between the structural layers. The congruence between the theme,
plot, setting and character layouts generates emotional power.
Computer games will never have a significant theme level because
the outcome is variable. The lack of theme alone will limit the
storytelling power of computer games."

Hard to refute. Impossible to refute. Ladies and gentlemen to
hell with the marvellous power of storytelling. If the audience
for science fiction wanted *storytelling*, they wouldn't read
goddamned *science fiction,* they'd read Harpers and Redbook and
Argosy. The pulp magazine (which is our genre's primary example
of a dead platform) used to carry all kinds of storytelling.
Western stories. Sailor stories. Prizefighting stories. G-8 and
his battle aces. Spicy Garage Tales. Aryan Atrocity Adventures.
These things are dead. Stories didn't save them. Stories won't
save us. Stories won't save *you.*

This is not the route to follow. We're not into science fiction
because it's *good literature,* we're into it because it's
*weird*. Follow your weird, ladies and gentlemen. Forget trying
to pass for normal. Follow your geekdom. Embrace your nerditude.
In the immortal words of Lafcadio Hearn, a geek of incredible
obscurity whose work is still in print after a hundred years,
"woo the muse of the odd." A good science fiction story is not a
"good story" with a polite whiff of rocket fuel in it. A good
science fiction story is something that knows it is science
fiction and plunges through that and comes roaring out of the
other side. Computer entertainment should not be more like
movies, it shouldn't be more like books, it should be more like

I don't think you can last by meeting the contemporary public
taste, the taste from the last quarterly report. I don't think
you can last by following demographics and carefully meeting
expectations. I don't know many works of art that last that are
condescending. I don't know many works of art that last that are
deliberately stupid. You may be a geek, you may have geek
written all over you; you should aim to be one geek they'll
never forget. Don't aim to be civilized. Don't hope that
straight people will keep you on as some kind of pet. To hell
with them; they put you here. You should fully realize what
society has made of you and take a terrible revenge. Get weird.
Get way weird. Get dangerously weird. Get sophisticatedly,
thoroughly weird and don't do it halfway, put every ounce of
horsepower you have behind it. Have the artistic *courage* to
recognize your own significance in culture!

Okay. Those of you into SF may recognize the classic rhetoric of
cyberpunk here. Alienated punks, picking up computers, menacing
society.... That's the cliched press story, but they miss the
best half. Punk into cyber is interesting, but cyber into punk
is way dread. I'm into technical people who attack pop culture.
I'm into techies gone dingo, techies gone rogue -- not street
punks picking up any glittery junk that happens to be within
their reach -- but disciplined people, intelligent people,
people with some technical skills and some rational thought, who
can break out of the arid prison that this society sets for its
engineers. People who are, and I quote, "dismayed by nearly
every aspect of the world situation and aware on some nightmare
level that the solutions to our problems will not come from the
breed of dimwitted ad-men that we know as politicians." Thanks,

That still smells like hope to me....

You don't get there by acculturating. Don't become a
well-rounded person. Well rounded people are smooth and dull.
Become a thoroughly spiky person. Grow spikes from every angle.
Stick in their throats like a pufferfish. If you want to woo the
muse of the odd, don't read Shakespeare. Read Webster's revenge
plays. Don't read Homer and Aristotle. Read Herodotus where he's
off talking about Egyptian women having public sex with goats.
If you want to read about myth don't read Joseph Campbell, read
about convulsive religion, read about voodoo and the Millerites
and the Munster Anabaptists. There are hundreds of years of
extremities, there are vast legacies of mutants. There have
always been geeks. There will always be geeks. Become the
apotheosis of geek. Learn who your spiritual ancestors were. You
didn't come here from nowhere. There are reasons why you're
here. Learn those reasons. Learn about the stuff that was buried
because it was too experimental or embarrassing or inexplicable
or uncomfortable or dangerous.

And when it comes to studying art, well, study it, but study it
to your own purposes. If you're obsessively weird enough to be a
good weird artist, you generally face a basic problem. The basic
problem with weird art is not the height of the ceiling above
it, it's the pitfalls under its feet. The worst problem is the
blundering, the solecisms, the naivete of the poorly socialized,
the rotten spots that you skid over because you're too freaked
out and not paying proper attention. You may not need much
characterization in computer entertainment. Delineating
character may not be the point of your work. That's no excuse
for making lame characters that are actively bad. You may not
need a strong, supple, thoroughly worked-out storyline. That
doesn't mean that you can get away with a stupid plot made of
chickenwire and spit. Get a full repertoire of tools. Just make
sure you use those tools to the proper end. Aim for the heights
of professionalism. Just make sure you're a professional *game

You can get a hell of a lot done in a popular medium just by
knocking it off with the bullshit. Popular media always reek of
bullshit, they reek of carelessness and self-taught clumsiness
and charlatanry. To live outside the aesthetic laws you must be
honest. Know what you're doing; don't settle for the way it
looks just cause everybody's used to it. If you've got a palette
of 2 million colors, then don't settle for designs that look
like a cheap four-color comic book. If you're gonna do graphic
design, then learn what good graphic design looks like; don't
screw around in amateur fashion out of sheer blithe ignorance.
If you write a manual, don't write a semiliterate manual with
bad grammar and misspellings. If you want to be taken seriously
by your fellows and by the populace at large, then don't give
people any excuse to dismiss you. Don't be your own worst enemy.
Don't put yourself down.

I have my own prejudices and probably more than my share, but I
still think these are pretty good principles. There's nothing
magic about 'em. They certainly don't guarantee success, but
then there's "success" and then there's success. Working
seriously, improving your taste and perception and
understanding, knowing what you are and where you came from, not
only improves your work in the present, but gives you a chance
of influencing the future and links you to the best work of the
past. It gives you a place to take a solid stand. I try to live
up to these principles; I can't say I've mastered them, but
they've certainly gotten me into some interesting places, and
among some very interesting company. Like the people here

I'm not really here by any accident. I'm here because I'm
*paying attention.* I 'm here because I know you're significant.
I'm here because I know you're important. It was a privilege to
be here. Thanks very much for having me, and showing me what you

That's all I have to say to you tonight. Thanks very much for

Will Wright at SXSW

From Wonderland:

All those pics you just saw from the Hubble I thought I’d inflict on you, and I broke my arm skiing, and I’ve had way too much coffee today so we’re going really fast today.

I figured SXSW is this filmy, interactive thing, festival, so I thought I’d talk about story, then about a week ago I read the description of what I was actually supposed to be talking about, which is Spore ... so I’ve done a mashup of story and Spore for you here.

So a few thoughts on storytelling. First why .. I hate stories, stories that my computer tries to tell me. Story’s been the model from movies, it’s kinda our heritage. But first of all the nature of story... I look at the world as a simulation. Here’s a world stage. Lots of things cascade into the next stage. And certain things cause changes in other things.

Story causes a chain and conveys it to a viewer... a story’s all about the chain of events, very linear, unchanging, you’ve all seen the same version of Star Wars.

But games are very open ended. Also, movies are primarily visual. Games are primarily interactive. So when we take away the control from a player, we’re taking away the most important thing from them. It’s like going to the movies and showing a blank screen...

Different games have different levels of interactivity, in some sense... here’s chess... [..] we’re trying to generate the largest rulespace in a game. This is the opposite of science, where we try to find simple rules to describe all this data. There’s this topological difference.

It’s because of the POV. When you’re telling a story in a movie, it’s from a chosen POV, it’s all controlled, but games, games look like this [screen of wiggles and randoms]. You go up here, you lose, so you go back to the beginning. Over here, you lose, try here. Back to the beginning. So movies are far more compelling than interactive drama, because interactive drama is quite flat.

But empathy is really important to me. Movies have these wonderful things called actors, which are like emotional avatars, and you kinda feel what they’re feeling, it’s very effective. Films have a rich emotional palette because they have actors. Games often appeal to the reptilian brain – fear, action – but they have a different emotional palette. There are things you feel in games - like pride, accomplishment, guilt even! – that you’ll never feel in a movie. I felt so bad about beating my creature to death in Black & White.

Stories are about empathy, and games are about agency. I’m causing what’s going on on screen. Can I do this? Can I accomplish this? These models are cognitive technology. They’re the original educational technology. They involve abstracting the world. Both of these respond to being stuck in time, but we wanna move experiences outside time... so...


A lot of stories start out with here are all these characters [Leia, Luke]... and the structure is pretty fuzzy. A much wider set of possibilities can unfold from the beginning of the movie; think about Star Wars. Causal links. Think of that scene from Indiana Jones and all these traps are going off, you’re filling in all these possibilities yourself, what if he falls in the hole, what if , what if .. and that makes it interesting. Star Wars grips you in the realism of the backstory, the fact that the ships were dirty [tells you something]…

With linear stories you want to start amplifying. In Star Wars, it all comes down to these two possibilities – the rebels are crushed, or the Death Star blows up. One of the fundamental things I’ve found as an interactive storyteller is that in linear stories the director knows the future. He or she knows the minor details that are important to present to you. But we [interactive storytellers] don’t know those things. Ours are chaotic systems. Very minor initial conditions can lead to wide-ranging end conditions.

In a linear drama you can show the causal chain; in interactive drama you can’t so much. We’re playing with it in movies in interesting ways: interesting sub-plots (Magnolia); one of the things that keeps your interest is your wondering how these back stories are going to come together. This is a common thing that people do with causal change. Timecode is another version of this. It's parallel multi-threaded storytelling.

One of my favorite types of movie is one that’s going along, la la la, and then suddenly it takes a crazy turn and it’s like holy shit! This is not the movie I was expecting to see…

Memento is really interesting causal change. As events unfolded, each point caused you to re-evaluate what happened before. You had to reconstruct what happened – it’s like a puzzle game. One of my favourite gamelike movies is Groundhog Day. You have this sequence, and then... it’s back to the beginning. And it happens again. And again. It was a really interesting example of the director knowing the future as well as the past. Every day you’d seen the differences... you’d cover an eternity of experience.

This is something we really should be doing with games, if a player has failed on the same miserable level three times in a row, shouldn’t we let them skip that level?

’m going to attempt to try to tell you about game stories and player stories, which I find far more interesting. You may be familiar with CAVE OF TIME books. Here’s this Branching model. But this is very expensive. Too many branches. Here’s a Gating story: Quake’s kinda like this. You can do what you want, as long as you find the key to get to the next level. Hybrid is another model… Gated plus Branching... but a player will actually play a very small percentage of these trees. So this has been the downfall of these tightly topographical branching narrative stories. [They’re expensive and inefficient.]

Here’s an interesting version I want to present to you: Generated. You have story fragments, with triggers... you can put them together like Legos, and form a story over time. It sort of makes causal sense. It’s a form of procedural storytelling. One of my favourite short stories of all times is Maneki Neko by Bruce Sterling.

There was this karma computer in this book. The more the protagonist obeys this karmic computer, the more other players would help him. I find this fascinating to think about with multiplayer, where other players could help you […]

Media is malleable in this new generation. A computer used to be a fancy calculator, but nowadays it’s really more of a communications device. So I think we are looking at technology as player-centered rather than broadcast-centered... the masses are creating their own cool stuff and they share it around with each other.

Players invariably come up with stories about what they did in games. They’re never describing a cut scene. I categorise these as Unintentional, Subversive and Expressive.

Unintentional is when a player comes up and finds a bug, and they make a back story.
(e.g. spontaneous combustion in early versions of The Sims).

Subversive are where players are trying to push the envelope in different directions, exploits and cheats, etc. In Battlefield ‘42 you get coordinated cheat activities done as a group, filmed by players and uploaded.

Expressive are more like what we see in The Sims where players have an intentional message. Here’s GTA: I spent my entire time creating a character, a semi homeless person hanging out with my homeboys and doing tricks on my bike. The Sims... people started playing it, and they’d be verbalizing the story as they played it. They were reducing it to a linear story - so we put up a web page for them to upload these stories, and we ended up with hundreds of thousands of them. Players became performers. The game became a storytelling tool. People were writing their own ‘levels’. Machinima takes it even further.

[Player stories]

So kinda thinking about storytelling, looking at the computer and looking at entertainment, it’s more about listening to a story rather than telling a story. It’s about listening to the player stories; those are the ones they care about. We can map this. With neuro-linguistic programming you’re taking a real sentence and decomposing it: there’s something very similar in stories I think.

You can have the computer understand, “Oh I see, this is a boy meets girl story”, etc. If we know what the goal states are, we can present dramatic obstacles, things to amplify the drama. The whole thing comes down to an epic struggle, perhaps. If we can parse the players intended story, we can change the lighting, the music... the events! If it’s a horror story, we can add spooky music... we can add zombies. Maybe we drive events to clarify a story, and then actually you’ve created a movie. I think this [generative power] might happen by observing lots of parallel players and pulling the data out of that.

I’m thinking the Truman Show, where you would allow the player to run around with a certain amount of free will, and the computer is like the director, who controls the envelope around Truman but can’t directly affect his movements. The Truman Show is basically a game. I wish games were more like the Truman Show. Can you bust out of the game? Groundhog Day is like a game for mapping out the possibility space around you...

There’s this concept in games called the magic circle. When people play together, they sit and respect the rules. People outside the magic circle don’t need to observe those rules. But if you enter it, you’re agreeing to be bound by those conventions. Story’s the same thing. It’s a shared experience. Story circles started around campfires, and has evolved into more structure environments... we have these huge formal things in movie theatres, but it’s shrinking back again with television. Shorter shows, in the living room, or even on video iPods. This is like fractal storytelling. I don’t have to go to a movie theater or a living room to watch a story now, I can do it on the bus.

Interactive is riding this generational wave. It’s a cultural overtake process. There’s a lot of people who’ve spent a lot of time with linear, but this whole generation is coming up… who are more comfortable in interactive. Games are being thought of as a tool for self expression, like a hobby but also like a tool or ...

Players love making content in games. We’ve been riding that wave a lot. They love sharing and collecting content. Some people love just organising it. The power of that collective effort is amazing. You’re seeing this on social network sites. But most of the content is not so good, and a smaller percentage is great, but as we give them better and better tools, we’ll increase the quality of what they’re doing.

Not only is it of value to them, but to others as well. So we can model the players ... we can understand what they like and what they’re doing. How they move across the game play landscape. What they buy. We can look at social networks. Or even social interaction frequencies ... are they being mean, or nice, are they friendly? We can build elaborate models predicting this behaviour.

So with Spore... if we could give a player a tool to build a tinker toy, and the computer takes that and presents it back in hi-res oitput: this is creative amplification on the player’s efforts. What if we could take those assets and collect them all on a server and categorise those, and then predict what they’d like and bring it back into their world? This is what Spore is like. I wanna take the player out of the protagonist of Luke Skywalker, and put them in the world of George Lucas. This is SETI, Drake’s Equation... here: I’m going to show you a quick demo.

A lot of the work on Spore is about player tools. In the Sims it was about... you had to create the assets outside the game. There was lots of friction for players to create stuff. So the process in Spore of playing is the process of making assets. And we collect and redistribute these assets automatically as part of the game. We’re able to build a kinda infinite sized world …

Here’s your little creature. He eats food pellets. He grows. We’re going to transition between many orders of magnitude as we grow up. [Gets eaten] you finally move out of the water and onto land… so it starts like 2d Pac-Man, and it evolves... into a 3D 3rd person... here’s my little guy... we’re on land. We’re a slimy slug thing. This world… at this point it’s a really simple game of evolution: eat, survive, and reproduce. [Gets eaten]

Damn I wasn’t supposed to die. Okay.


We want this to feel very tactile and toylike. This bit is really like play. Here’s a mouth, here’s limbs. I’m putting mouths on his arms. The game tries to interpret the player’s intent. A lot of these parts have little morph handles... each part represents several hundred [states]. It has aspects of clay, Lego, Mister Potato Head.

So now I’ve created this 3D mesh in mere minutes, we’ve reduced 3 days of art gruntwork into a few milliseconds. Now we have to bring it to life, the computer will analyse where the legs are, how it dances, how it poses... we well as how it fights, eats. Stuff like that. The computer is dealing with mesh, texture, animation, all on the fly procedurally. And every different property is going to behave differently in the game.

We want the computer to be totally focused on what the player has made. It has to be front and centre... here, he’s grown up a bit... [Skips ahead] so over time you end up managing whole tribes of your creatures, and civilizations... eventually they can build spacecraft. I want this game to bring up lots of interesting issues for the player. Where might life go? The future of life? The effect that life can have on the universe, it’s philosophically staggering.

I studied Montessori’s philosophy and methods. She basically wanted kids to explore the world themselves using toys and objects, learning the meaning of things... and I want to build a game where a player is going to come across the Copernican Principle, say, and you walk away thinking of the meaning of life. Or what the future might take.

[Wright chooses a Star Trek machine model]

One of my real aspirations of this is I wanna see interstellar wars between Care Bears and Klingons.


The cloud ray here increases the greenhouses gases... we can play out The Inconvenient Truth here. You can see oceans rising, cities destroyed... I can heat it up too and I can combat the rising levels by heating the planet enough to melt the oceans but that sort of kills off everything. My planet’s melted!


So in some sense the entire planet is a toy.

One of the really nice things with a toy like this is you can give people long term dynamics over short term sense. It’s so hard for us to think over the long term, longer than 100 years, but by using these toys we can help people to think and understand [..]]

See this planet. It has primitive life, as we play through evolution, we’re trying to capture most of the dynamics of evolution. As we move into the future I want the game to focus on fictional landmarks we have. Lots of these levels are based on my favorite science fiction... here’s my Monolith tool. I’m looking at my favorite sci-fi movies and figuring out what the landmarks are. So see... they’ve built a tribal society around this monolith, and let’s see, maybe I can get them to worship me... I have to be careful. Hmm. I don’t think he wants to worship me right now.

We have this idea of a “Sporeopedia”. It's how we categorise everything you’ve seen so far in this world. This Sporeopedia builds automatically; we took stuff from x-files, star trek, war of the worlds. Eventually you can pull out into interstellar space around our star and we have lots of... look, Hubble objects. The player can go around like a tourist, visiting this little space zoo. It gives people context for things they’re seeing. Here’s an unexploded star, they’re like the birds of the universe, these beautifully coloured things…

Every star system will have planets you can interact with, and many will be inhabited by other players’ species. We’re seeing thousands of stars... but this is a small fraction of the galaxy we’re building here. So basically that is Spore.

[rapturous applause]

You can take any human technology and take it as a new extension of our body. Telescopes extend our eyes, cars our legs, telephones our voice. Computers do a lot of these things but the most important thing is that they extend our imagination.

This is a very powerful thing, an amplifier for imagination.

We use computers for entertainment, education, social spaces. How is this going to impact the world going forward? Every now and then the world goes through a huge paradigm shift... sometimes by social shifts, sometimes only once or twice in a lifetime. Some are grass roots, some are top down, and some take us by surprise.

We have a lot more heading our way. More political and social issues. Obviously environmental issues. Some people are issuing warnings.

But when we look at games specifically and entertainment in general, games often have this perception of mindless toys, but they can be much more than that. They can help us develop systematic thinking. They can help us build accurate models of the world around us; and hopefully these things will help us change the world just a little bit for the better.

Warren Ellis on the Semiotics of Sunglasses

Because I am one who sometimes like to anger my gods:


When was the last time I wrote a character wearing shades? Was it Spider? Jones has his goggles, but he doesn’t wear them much.

I was watching this video Fraction sent me. It’s a collection of the last thirty seconds of teasers from a bunch of CSI MIAMI episodes — the bit before they smash-cut to the main title sequence. Now, you know how CSI works — the teaser sets up the crime, the protagonist cranks off a smart line, smash in the titles. Right?

This video — it’s on YouTube - is surreally compelling. David Caruso - the Carusobot, as we know him — hits every one of his last-line zingers with the same cadence. “What are you going to do, Carusobot?” “We-e-e…are going to find ourselves a bear rapist.” Crash in The Who, main titles.

But in almost all of them, he does the same action. “We-e-e…” …and he puts on his shades before doing the rest of the line. (Apparently, they’re referred to on set as “the sunglasses of justice”.)

The shades are crucial to CSI MIAMI, as they are to cyberpunk fiction (and the techno-thriller, both of which CSI shares DNA with). For the Carusobot IS a deranged, implacable machine. You cannot see his eyes. He therefore shows no human emotion. It’s the Uncanny Valley equation: you can pull the face into any expression you like, but the eyes are dead. In cyberpunk, as Bruce Sterling said in MIRRORSHADES, the shades are vital both to conceal emotion and to hide the fact that you’re unslept, drugged half to death and blatantly insane.


To don the shades at the beginning of a story is the equivalent of Superman changing into costume (or, in a more obscure read, James Spader putting on a black shirt at the top of SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE).

With so many stories behind me, I have to be careful about repeating visual tics. But I love the idea of putting mythic weight behind something as simple as putting on a pair of shades.

The semiotics of shades. I tell you, I am fucking losing it…

(crosspost from Bad Signal)


Why isn't film knowledge being passed on here?

What comes next is a rant. All based on hearsay and from what I see. Maybe things are different, but I am not hearing or seeing they are. And I need to rant, so this is as good a space as any. So, here we go:

Recently David Fincher spoke to UNO's film school students. This is the first time I can remember hearing of a director in town making a movie going to speak to the UNO Film School. We have had director's of all types come through New Orleans and the state as a whole, but this is the only one I know of who has gone and done a lecture there. When I lived in Austin, I remember hearing about directors speaking at UT all the time. From what I read and have been told the talk was very good, and Fincher enjoyed doing it and had even wanted to do it. But apparently working with UNO was like pulling teeth to get things set up.

Right now if one wants to intern on a film here, you have to belong to UNO's film school. This is a rule set up by the local union, and they have no real apprentice system in place. This means there really isn't a system to bring in new grips, gaffers, or a lot of the other technical jobs needed to get a film made. I know very few films school students who want to work in the more technical field. Most want to work in the more artistic side. I know before Katrina, Delgado was setting up to have a program to tech students how to be a grip; but I believe it was completely independent from the union. A union or a guild is supposed to not only look after a worker's rights; but they are also there to help bring in new workers. Not training a new generation means films will increasingly have to bring in people from out of state; which means the union really isn't helping locals much at all.

I see also know clear program to develop and produce local filmmakers. We should have programs going into the grade schools throughout the New Orleans Metro Area. Orleans Parish schools (and yes I realize they have a lot to do to recover, but part of recovery is getting the chance to set some things right) should have a film program equal to that of its jazz program. Delgado and UNO should be working together and bringing along people to not just work in the more artistic fields, but also to bring in students who can work in the technical fields. And finally, the State Film Commission should be working with local film commissions to bring out and help produce films made by locals, both features and documentaries. There should be a grant system set up to help local filmmakers get started and a system set up to help them find more grant money for film projects. I would love to see UNO have a program like at UT where they can actually produce one or two feature length, low budget films a year.

The Louisiana Film Commission is a joke to a lot of people I talk to. They are mainly known for having a flashy website without much substance. Someone one wanting to work or make films here should be able to go to that site and find everything they need. Instead most people turn to private sites such as Solomon Street Films or LIFT to get the info they need.

Louisiana and the New Orleans Area should be serving as not just a place for films to be made, but as a place for filmmakers to come from. We should be turning out regional filmmakers and films. This should be a breeding ground for black filmmakers, for the emerging hispanic filmmakers, and any other filmmakers in the area. All the resources are here; but the system is broken at worse and byzantine at best.



Disney Hand Drawn Animation Film Set in NOLA

Dis drawing on N'awlins charm

By Georg Szalai and Paul Bond
March 9, 2007

In New Orleans for its annual shareholder meeting, the Walt Disney Co. announced Thursday that "The Frog Princess," the company's first hand-drawn animation project in years, will be set in the Crescent City and feature what John Lasseter called "the very first African-American Disney princess."

Disney Animation has started production on "Frog Princess," which harkens back to classic Disney fairy tales and is set for a 2009 release. "Aladdin" and "The Little Mermaid" creators Ron Clements and John Musker are the creative forces behind the musical, which will also have a "soulful singing alligator," said Lasseter, chief creative officer for Pixar and Disney Animation Studios

In a surprise, Randy Newman, who spent his childhood in New Orleans and is writing the music for the film, performed a song from "Frog Princess" for the shareholders and received big applause.


Rorschach Tets Image

Been all around today, and here it is:

Labels: ,

David Fincher interview from the Times-Picayune

Camera ready

Famed filmmaker praises New Orleans as a movie town

Wednesday, March 07, 2007
By Doug MacCash

Post-Katrina New Orleans is ready for its close-up.

"People here have real faces, like human beings," director David Fincher said of the New Orleans extras who've fleshed out the scenes of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," the big-budget motion picture starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett that's nearing completion after four months of shooting in and around the Crescent City.

Unlike the pool of camera-conscious Hollywood extras he's used to, New Orleanians lack the "weird nose job, and that lip thing," Fincher said. "They look like they have real lives."

Fincher, the renowned director of contemporary noir classics such as "Se7en," "Fight Club" and the newly released "Zodiac," addressed 250 communications and film students Sunday afternoon at the University of New Orleans Performing Arts Center. The intimate two-chair format was similar to the Bravo TV series "Inside the Actor's Studio," with university provost and film critic Rick Barton posing questions.

Fincher, 44, was raised in Marin County, Calif. -- George Lucas was a childhood neighbor -- during a filmmaking boom in that part of the state. Once, he said, his grade-school classmates came to school with their heads shaved, having been extras in a science fiction movie.

Inspired by the 1969 movie "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," he edged his way into movie-making, first as a special effects technician at Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic (on "Return of the Jedi"), then as a television commercial director (Nike, Coca-Cola, Levi's) and music video director (George Michael, Paula Abdul, the Rolling Stones). In 1992 he directed his first feature, "Alien 3," a production marked by studio meddling and critical drubbing.

Fincher, wearing a chocolate-colored suede jacket, suppressed a cough throughout Sunday's interview, but nonetheless charmed the crowd with wry, expletive-laced recollections of behind-the-scenes filmmaking. He warned his eager audience that the process may not be as rewarding as they imagine.

"It's hard to go through all the nonsense of getting a movie made," he said, citing the early mornings and bad coffee. "The only satisfaction you can get is by doing the work the best you can. . . . There is no actual ego justification for the self-mutilation we put ourselves through."

He laid part of the hardship at the feet of actors.

"I don't believe in coddling actors," he said, referring to his demanding shooting schedule. "We pay them enough. . . . I don't want (to hear about) their hangovers, being tired or being cranky."

Fincher recalled that perennial bad-boy Robert Downey Jr. complained of the long hours and fast pace on "Zodiac." The director joked that one sure technique for getting actors to leave their trailers was to lure them with a fishing line baited with a mirror or cell phone.

"Actors want to be liked," Fincher said. "I don't believe in that; it's obsequious."

As the director groused conspiratorially, audience members, many dressed with Spielbergian insouciance in baseball caps and worn tennis shoes, guffawed with approval.

Not everyone on the other side of the camera came in for disdain. "Benjamin Button" star Brad Pitt, who also starred in "Se7en" and "Fight Club," is a Fincher favorite.

"There's something amazing about him," Fincher said. "He can say horrible (things) and if he smiles at you, you say, 'Oh, OK.'

"I trust him. When he says I've got to do this this way, you go, 'OK.' "

No matter how profitable, studio executives, Fincher lamented, are rarely pleased with the outcome of a film. The critically acclaimed "Zodiac" was based on the frustrating real-life pursuit of a 1960s and '70s serial killer who was never caught. Fincher said that although he'd warned executives repeatedly that "Zodiac" would have a much different tone than his 1995 edge-of-your-seat cop thriller "Se7en," executives were disappointed that "Zodiac" didn't mirror the fictional action film.

"When they saw it, they said, 'It's not "Se7en." These people just sit in a room and drink coffee from Styrofoam cups.' "

He seems to anticipate a similar misunderstanding when "Benjamin Button" is finished. Loosely based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, it is the tale of a man magically born at age 80 and who gets younger as time goes by. Or, as Fincher described it, it's about a newborn who looks like "a cross between Einstein and a Shar-Pei," but, "because of his good fortune, gets to be Brad Pitt."

Along his reverse-chronological path, Button/Pitt falls in love with a woman who ages normally (Cate Blanchett), which led studio executives to embrace the project as a simple love story. Not surprisingly, perhaps, Fincher feels the story is a bit darker and more complex.

"I think it's a story about death," he said, "to love somebody enough to be there when they breathe their last breath."

Fincher said his father died two years ago at about the same time some of his friends were having their first child.

"It's easy to have babies; it's hard to be there when somebody dies," he said.

Fincher said he considered shooting the Victorian-era period piece in Baltimore, where the short story was set, but decided on the Crescent City instead.

"We looked at Baltimore," he said. "It lacked a certain warmth. It lacked the sense of history and patina of New Orleans."

Fincher praised New Orleans as a location, noting that both rural and urban sets were easily available. To realize the city's "enormous potential," as a movie-making magnet, Fincher said, "you need four or five large, workable sound stages, an influx of cash to make a real workable physical plant."

Asked to discuss the complications of filmmaking in the post-Katrina environment, Fincher minimized the hardship.

"The challenges of shooting after Katrina," he said, "were the same as for anybody moving back: getting labor, getting plywood."

. . . . . . .

Art critic Doug MacCash can be reached at dmaccash@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3481.



USS New Orleans

USS NEW ORLEANS is the second SAN ANTONIO - class amphibious transport dock and the fifth ship in the Navy to be named after the largest city in the state of Louisiana. She is scheduled to be commissioned on March 10, 2007, in New Orleans, La.

General Characteristics:
Awarded: December 18, 1998
Keel laid: October 14, 2002
Launched: December 11, 2004
Commissioned: March 10, 2007
Builder: Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, Avondale, New Orleans, La.
Propulsion system: four sequentially turbocharged marine Colt-Pielstick Diesels
Propellers: two
Length: 684 feet (208.5 meters)
Beam: 105 feet (31.9 meters)
Draft: 23 feet (7 meters)
Displacement: approx. 24,900 tons
Speed: 22 knots
Well deck capacity: two LCAC or one LCU and 14 Expeditionary Fighting Vehicles
Aircraft: landing platform for all helicopters and the MV-22 Osprey; maintenance facilities for one CH-53E or two CH-46s or one MV-22 or three UH/AH-1s
Crew: Ship: 28 officers, 332 enlisted
Crew: Marine Detachment: 66 officers, 633 enlisted (can be expanded to 800)
Homeport: San Diego, Calif.
Armament: two Bushmaster II 30 mm Close in Guns; two Rolling Airframe Missile launchers