Here’s my final Machinema!
Here’s my final Machinema!
Written by Monica Parker
Directed by Beena Raghavendran
Edited by Benjy Cannon
And light filled doG’s visual receptors, if you could really call them that. He’d done the surgery himself, pulled his organic eyeballs from their sockets with a pair of sterilized orca-tweezers. It wasn’t as if it didn’t hurt; but pain was a suitable price for attaining the sight, for no one could see beyond the present, beyond the immediate states of being with mere eyes. Past, present and future lay open to all those who could afford replacement parts. Their vision would transcend three dimensions, allowing them to envision any era they saw fit. But for most of the world, like doG, it was out of reach. Unless you were brave or stupid enough to do it yourself. He had help, of course; issaC and kurT had procured the parts, douglaS had fitted them in. The sprawling underbelly of York was at the service of only those who had the resources to make it their own way. doG knew that no Bogeious elite would last a second in the tunnels underneath the old castle walls, and they knew better than to bother him. It wasn’t worth dying when you could see forever.
No normal life that would drive a prole like doG to seek the sight. Ordinary concerns like where to eat, drink or charge, matters of the present, kept the majority of doG’s folk from ever looking for anything more. Why on earth would anybody be bothered with what happened before and what will happen again when they don’t know where they’ll even be able to plug in at the end of the day? doG saw things differently. He knew there were lengths in that matrix of space-time that the bujees would dare not traverse; answers they would dare not seek. For them, there was safety in what was known, danger always, in the dark tunnels of that which they did not. In knowledge lay power, and in money lay knowledge, or so the axiom held. Until doG learned that that he could piece together just enough rudimentary technology to jack in. He’d get the answer, learn the truth about the gods and creators, and blackmail all of them into submission.
There’s a toll that the site takes on the body, a price to pay for its gift. You can’t see it all and not age, not change. The mind only can learn only as much as years can fill it, or so the proles had always been told. doG was different. The pain of the surgery, self inflicted as it was, had purified him. His organic eyes had left unwillingly, and the scar tissue etched into his mind had made him strong. The blank orange orbs in his old sockets clashed horribly with the putrid green camo of the tunnel dwellers. The hair on his head and face was long and unkept, neglected from years of traveling through the world as no one in his day could know it. He’d fasted for weeks before his final journey, before jacking in to learn the truth, to learn that awful secret that the gods had kept for so long. He didn’t fear dying, for he had little left to lose, and if he did, well so it goes, as kurT had always said.
Before he took the plunge, doG had spent years preparing, traveling through the veins that connect the entirety of human history, the avenus that would lead him to see that which had always been hidden. To navigate the sight, you need to know where to look, which is why doG had found trouT, the best guide in this era. trouT knew the fourth dimension like the inside of his pupils, and doG knew that knowledge was his only avenue to truth. Him and trouT sat hand in hand as they closed their eyes as they prepared to really open them. Once they did, they found themselves in: May 21, 2061, at a time when humanity first stepped into the light. The question came about as a result of a five-dollar bet over highballs, and it happened this way…”
Everything about the Mitzpe Ramon, a crater in Israel’s south, was put into perfect perspective as it rendered, somewhat inelegantly, on my screen. At first, upon my initial, vertical approach, I could decipher the Mediterranean sea and Jordan River framing the tiny country. As I zoomed closer still, the contours of the Negev desert in Israel’s south fell into sharper relief. Still, the image was too fragmented to identify the crater itself without the help of the search feature, so I transliterated Mitzpe Ramon into the search box. It appeared close to the point of observation I had found myself at.
The zoom feature then took me to the town adjacent to the crater’s edge. I could recall, vividly, the wind in my hair and the sand in my eyes as I looked out from promendate towards the endless expanse, a feeling notably, necessarily absent from its digital counterpart. The flatness of the town was a stark contrast to the three dimensions in which the crater’s edges were presented in, and I sat digitally where I had physically two years ago, looking out into the rocky expanse.
Although some of the beauty seemed lost in blurriness I found myself suddenly liberated; I jumped from the tip of the cliff, once so limiting, and soared into the elegant rocky canvass that stretched below me. Every part of this massive crater was suddenly so accessible, every contour within reach. I spied the cars driving between the vallies, the stranger of the geological formations jutting awkwardly from the crater’s center and, as quickly as I had begun my journey it was at an end. The detail in the rendering left much to be desired and the crater itself seemed suddenly quite small. The fact that it was so easily navigable but without accessibility on the virtual ground level mitigated that natural gorgeousness; feeling as though you can see everything in front of you is simply tremendous. Now that I could fly there, almost touch every corner, I was somewhat less enthused.
Reading about this place is far more realistic than encountering it on Google Earth. Perhaps an issue with this particular set of photos, the fact that so much seems obscured by pixilation is antithetical to the clarity I felt upon being able to take in the entire crater from one vantage point. Descriptions of the weather and other crucial facets of Mitzpe Ramon were lacking, for obvious reasons, in Google Earth, although I think that their absence truly detracted from the experience. The sun and the shadows it cast could be replicated to some extent using the engine, but still, the render fell far short of the place’s glory, so much simpler to convey through writing. The degree to which I felt I could explore was thrilling at first, but disheartening upon learning that at least on this platform, there wasn’t much to see.
I hunkered down during Hurricane Sandy and played an awful lot of this game. Luckily, it’s chock full of interesting morality!
In many ways, this distinction is at the heart of the game, and manifests itself in a number of ways. The game, as implied by the name “total war,” is very much centered around harm. This is first and foremost in display during the sophisticated 3D battles controlled by the player. You command your men to fight others, with casualties routinely reaching into the thousands. Only by inflicting massive harm and violence can you grow your economy, expand your kingdom, and ultimately satisfy the win conditions of the came, which require the player to take and hold a set number of regions. The “taking” is impossible absent an ecnomy powerful enough to buy out the map, and enemies willing to sell it. In other words, attempting to care in M2TW is counterproductive.
This isn’t featured particularly heavily in M2TW. The tax system allows the player to increase or lower the rate paid by civilizations in the empire, but it’s done on the basis of economic and strategic considerations, rather than the concerns of the civilians. When the player enters into an alliance with other states, there is an expectation of gift-giving in order to keep the relationship strong. Usually, however this deters betrayal so that the ally can serve a strategic purpose, generally more war-mongering, later down the line. In other words, the fairness/reciprocity in M2TW only in order to serve a greater, geopolitical purpose. It certainly has no inherent in-game value.
This is incredibly important to the M2TW experience. Every facet of your empire, from individual generals to entire regions is affected by loyalty. Loyalty breeds happiness, as well as battlefield supremacy, and can serve every function from keeping an overpopulated city from rebelling to willing troops on the ground to hold their formation. As foreign territory is incorporated into the player’s empire, maintaining a sense of loyalty is essential to holding onto captured land — itself essential to winning the game. Loyalty is definitely elevated in M2TW, but it is worth noting that this role could serve as meta commentary on the Medieval time period depicted in the game.
This value goes hand in hand with loyalty/ingroup. Characters have an authority and respect value which affects both their battlefield performance and management of settlements. While less significant overall than loyalty, authority/respect still holds weight when dealing with other nations in the game. The military supremacy at the player’s command directly translates to the amount of authority — “diplomatic leverage” in the games terms — he is able to exert over his opponents. This doesn’t strictly translate into respect, aside from in the Machiavellian sense. Again, in-game it’s just another political tool in the player’s box.
Religion is a major factor in expansion. However, the game’s relationship with sanctity mirrors that of its fictional inhabitants. The people’s relationship with religion can spawn both crusades and defensive Jihad, meaning that religious commitment can be used as another means of military expansion. The whole thing really reads straight out of The Prince, with the player’s absolute authority and moral judgement (or lack therof) being the only really significant question at hand. All other ethical considerations are woven into the game to be manipulated and used to expand power, retinue and wealth. In fact, crusading armies, like any other in game, have the option of sacking cities and massacring their inhabitants. Purity is certainly, objectively devoid from this game world.
Really, this game is about harm/care (by which, I mean harm). Every other value is present in some senes, but only so that it can be used as a means of exerting further harm on the player’s opponents. The morality is logical and consistant but exists to be understood and utilized rather than respected. It’s an interesting, philosophical and, dare I say, realistic simulation of power.
I decided to create a distant reading visualization using the text of Charlie Chaplin’s “Greatest Speech Ever Made,” delivered, with the protagonist dressed as Hitler, at the end of his classic film, The Great Dictator. I was fascinated to discover that — despite somewhat extensive tweaking — the final product appeared to embody the very things it purportedly railed against. Chaplin’s speech is a takedown of machinery and automated intelligence, advocating for the reinvigoration of compassion into modernized societies Yet, the largest words were: men, hate, people, world, power — the very things the speech criticized.
In that sense, the visualizations outlined the problems in the world just as effectively as Chaplin’s rhetoric, but does not sufficiently account for the solutions, clearly mentioned less frequently over the course of the speech. It was important to me that the visualization featured literal shades of gray, in order to illustrate the binary Chaplin seeks to distance himself from in the speech. Still, given the style of the film itself, true color seemed to be inappropriate to me. All in all, given the dramatic emphasis of the concepts the speech clearly identifies as undesirable the visualization did not strike me as accurate, despite the manner with which it informs elements of Chaplin’s argument.
I would have loved a visualization tool that let me move words around so as to contextualize the words. For example, Chaplin constantly affirms that x is needed more than why (“more than machinery we need humanity, more than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness”). I think that redistributing the words within that framework would have served an enormously constructive purpose in terms of telling Chaplin’s story in fewer words. I think the use of objects and shapes, in addition to words, would have added to the images. There is almost a chart-like nature to the way the speech is delivered (“men who despite you, enslave you, who regiment your lives”), so adding lines and boxes would allow for adjectives to be more easily matched with their respective nouns, enhancing the narrative of the image. In terms of animation it would be extremely cool for the adjectives to shuffle and then be replace with their positive alternatives (“dont fight for slavery,” becomes “fight for liberty,” with the key words dancing in and out, matching up with other phrases to convey the terminological dance of the speech).
Greg’s “Angel:” http://mith.umd.edu/arguing/admin/items/show/103
I’m not sure how a dog that large can be labeled either a puppy or an angel. To begin with, angels should possess both divine attributes and the ability to fly. I find it exceedingly unlikely that this god can provide irrefutable proof of the existence of god and angelic beings, leading me to conclude that the title of this picture is misleading at best, and sacrilegious at worst. The odds of this dog taking flight strikes me as implausible, especially given its lack of wings or mechanical apparatus with which it might be aided. Thus, the angelic nature of this dog, as described by the title, cannot possibly be true in any literal sense of the word.
The only other description Greg provides, is that this dog is his “puppy.” I am neither a vet nor a biological anthropologist, but I have never seen a puppy of that physical magnitude before. If this animal is neither of the things Greg has described it to be, I must conclude that the love and joy it allegedly brings him is equally fabricated. I am happy that Greg sees himself as happy, but do not think that this dog, if it exists at all, belongs to him. The qualities he ascribes to it are simply too inconsistant with the evidence he provides.
The Fallacy of Beena’s “Front Pages:” http://mith.umd.edu/arguing/admin/items/show/88
The faux innocence which emanates from Beena’s “favorite” “front pages” is enough to send even the most docile of political observers into hysterics. It does not take a genius, or even the most primitive of laypeople, to see Beena’s cunning, despicable plan for global domination at the forefront of one of her supposed “great publications.”
The juxtaposition of the “Pursuit of Happiness,” and the “End of the World,” is most telling. The fact that these count themselves among Beena’s proudest moments reveals an insidious intentionality about her desires. Only a tyrant, thirsty for power and domination on a global scale could derive joy from such sights. The conquest aspect of Beena’s plan is illustrated by her joy at the end of the world, as well as the medium, journalism through which her schemes are expressed. Beena hopes one day to be employed the media, the primary propaganda tool of the impending New World Order. She alone will benefit and reap joy from earth’s destruction, as her people will carry it out to suit their needs. The fact that this was created while she was a mere high schooler, and the fact that she cites design as her greatest challenge, only underscores the threat Beena poses to free society.
BBC News – 2:00 PM
On September 11th itself, the “story” of the day was distinctly lacking in a narrative structure. The footage displayed, the time delay between shots playing and audio all revealed the apparent and understandable lack of cohesion in the report. Although Osama Bin Ladin’s involvement was already suspected in the attacks, but the blame game was running rampant through the program; the shots cut jaggedly from Palestinian protestors in the streets of East Jerusalem to confident analysts in suits. Still, there was an air of attempted journalistic integrity. Between the interviews with Yassar Arafat and Hamas’s spiritual leader, was an activist laying out his hope, tragically in hindsight, that the Arabs and Muslim religion wouldn’t be blamed collectively. It contrasted strangely with the depiction of Palestinians as ostensibly obvious collaborators in the terrorist attacks.
If the first clip was chaotic, the second was just bleak. It showed carefully cut images of the New York stock exchange opening, with the “decimated skyline” of downtown Manhattan. This time there was a story to be told, and it was one of a tragically slow recovery for New York and the United States. Everything the viewer was exposed to was broken and disillusioned, which contrasted sharply with the feelings of unity so pertinent in my own memories. In a lot of ways, I found it far more depressing than the initial reaction, as the BBC’s story only seemed to bring a greater sense of hopelessness and loss, perhaps replacing the confusion that marked the actual event.
CBC- 8:00 PM
On 9/11, the eight o’clock news began with a recap of the day, initially focusing on the Pentagon in Washington DC. It was well structured, edited and fluidly told. The point was clear: motives, political implications and anything to happen in the future was not yet known, so speculation was kept to a minimum. Discussions of evacuating DC with coupled with clips showing it. Every voiceover was matched with a corresponding piece of footage. The sequence of the day was all that made sense, but I have actually never seen such a comprehensive recounting of it. It was straightforward, calm and incredibly informative.
The second clip nationalized the incident, focusing almost exclusively on Canada’s reaction to the attacks. Detailing the lively debate in Canadian parliament as well as the latest figures coming in from the stock market, this segment was mostly sound bytes from politicians and economic analysts. It was really interesting to consider how the United States’ neighbor grappled with military spending, respect for international law and moral obligations to Western values in the face of 9/11, and the number of points of view packed into the segment definitely revealed the diversity it was attempting to explore. As somebody who experienced 9/11 from DC, I gave little time to consider the impact it had on country’s not directly involved in the attack and its aftermath (US, Iraq and Afghanistan). Yet, the economic and philosophical questions permeated every aspect of every society, as shown so eloquently in this piece of news.
Benjy Cannon is a sophomore Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is the president of J Street UMD, as well as the chair of J Street U DC/Southeast region. He is an employee at the Computer and Communications Industry Association and a Community Engagement Intern at the University of Maryland Hillel.
Benjy was born in Oxford, England to an Orthodox Jewish family on February 27th, 1993. His parents were teachers at a Jewish boarding school there. In 1995, Benjy’s father, Jonathan, received an offer to head up the Carmel school in Hong Kong, China. In 2001, Benjy and his family moved to Potomac, Maryland, where he attended the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School. During his time there, he was captain of the Mock trial team, president of a student group, which discussed the Arab-Israeli conflict from an Israeli and Palestinian perspective, and the co-founder of a blog, Table Talk, with a similar mission.