Sunday, January 01, 2006

Animated Minions, Unite!

It's interesting, and rather depressing, to occasionally do a Google News search for the word "philosophy" (although the results are far less depressing than a search on the word "kitten").

At the moment, the top, er, philosophy article is from our very own Oregonian, which discusses the coach of the local NBA team, and his coaching philosophy. I'm not a big basketball fan, but there's apparently some debate about who gets to start at point guard, or something.

Another top article comes to us from the Khaleej Times of Dubai, luridly wringing its hands about Hindu extremists in India.

There's a piece titled My Philosophy, from The Stranger, an alternative paper out of Seattle. You know for sure that the author's not totally shallow, because hurricanes and tsunamis get a brief mention in his list of regrets, sandwiched in between Hunter S. Thompson offing himself, and all the indie rock and hip hop albums that sucked this year.

This looks more interesting: A French mention of a British book titled Monsters and Philosophy. A nicely eclectic list of source materials and topics: Aristotle, conjoined twins, unicorns, Hegel, creationism, and so forth. Although I suspect that the original essays are far less interesting than the titles would suggest. Academic writing has an odd way of being simultaneously tedious and silly. You'll have a few hundred pages of dense, impenetrable prose, all to prove the thesis that that the Revolution is right around the corner now, and after it comes, the world will be run by an anarcho-syndicalist commune of unicorn-riding conjoined twins. Or something. Anyway, the book's sure to sell lots of copies in France, given their surprising penchant for the odd and grotesque, e.g. Grand Guignol, or I guess Cirque du Soleil for that matter, or their longstanding fascination with Edgar Allan Poe.

Speaking of odd and grotesque, I recently came into posession of a ghastly book of eldritch incantations, a black grimoire of unspeakable things mortal man was not meant to know, a vile tome of instruction in the dark arts. I speak, of course, of "Developing for Microsoft Agent", subitled "Microsoft ActiveX Technology for Interactive Animated Characters". In layperson's terms, it's the Clippy Construction Kit. Yes, you too can build your own horrific, unkillable animated minions, and send them forth across the net to offer "friendly advice" and otherwise torment and bedevil the world of the living. I think it might make for a fun, geekish practical joke, but I have to wonder if that itself is part of a sneaky ploy by the Beast of Redmond. No doubt they've realized you can get GenX types to do just about anything, if you can just make them think doing it is ironic. So maybe it's all a ghastly trap laid to ensnare unwary developers. I didn't pay a cent for the book, and I haven't broken the seal on the CD yet (apparently the previous owner never got around to that... or didn't survive long enough...). So the CD remains there in its clear envelope, all silvery and shiny and beautiful, beckoning to me, calling to me....

Oh, uh, anyway, I also picked up a book about BeOS at the same time. When you touch the two books together, unearthly green sparks shoot around the room, your hair stands on end, and clocks start to run backwards. I'm still trying to figure out the exact mechanism here, but it may be a promising source of energy if I can figure out how to harness it. My biggest concern is that BeOS books are almost certainly a limited, nonrenewable, and dwindling resource. Maybe we need to start a federal Strategic BeOS Reserve, sort of like what we did with helium.

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