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Today's Doctor Fun
My Life as a Blog
by Rich Carlson

Instant wisdom:

Chicken Heart
Lights Out
"the original version"

I don't know if you have ever heard Bill Cosby's classic "Chicken Heart" routine but it was based on an actual episode of the Lights Out radio show called, not surprisingly, Chicken Heart. Cosby heard the episode as a child and later created a comedy routine about how much the show scared him. It was one of Cosby's funniest stories and I would post it here if I could but you'll have to find it on your own.

If you have heard Cosby's take then you might appreciate the original version even more. If you haven't, it doesn't really matter. Kick back and have a listen to one of the silliest science fiction stories ever written (7MB .mp3).

IFComp 2003
Let's Get Interactive
"Interpreters and extra goodies included."

The results of IFComp 2003, the 9th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition, were posted a couple of weeks ago. The IF scene is so mellow, I nearly missed it. Some IF sites haven't even posted the winners yet!

As usual, it's another great showing for interactive fiction. The writing just keeps getting better and better each year, always exceeding the quality of writing in commercial games. I guess that's one of the reasons we keep coming back. I just wish they'd toot a horn or something.

To make things as easy as pumpkin pie, I put together a collection for your downloading pleasure which includes the toppermost: Slouching Towards Bedlam by Star Foster and Daniel Ravipinto, Risorgimento Represso by Michael Coyne, Scavenger by Quintin Stone, Gourmet by Aaron A. Reed and The Erudition Chamber by Daniel Freas. Nab it! (Interpreters and extra goodies included.)

While looking for the IFComp files I found a couple of off-beat fantasy IF games, Bliss by Cameron Wilkin ("if you dislike ho-hum fantasy games, this one's worth playing to the end") and Zero Sum Game by Cody Sandifer ("Savagely funny--a sort of anti-fantasy."), which are worth checking out. Last but not least, here's Trapped in a One-Room Dilly by Laura Knauth ("a single room IF puzzle game which includes lots of toys and gadgets to play with while you're trying to figure it out"). Happy Interactive Turkey Day!

Links of the Week
News from the Fringe
"Development Valley School Menus"

Drempels | Say Hello to ASIMO | Game Matters | Dali's Disney Film | Enterprise Physics Test | Inside Digital Eel: Toad Hall | German crowned world beard champion | World Beard and Moustache Championships | The Fantasy Trip | FAQ: Quantum Dots and Programmable Matter | Mars Then and Now | Jupiter Portrait | Development Valley School Menus

3 For 1
ASCII Art, Miller's Blog and The Mizendar Galaxy
"an Aethership"

Here's a bag of mixed nuts. Pining for some ASCII art? Pine no more! Try the light switch or live beneath the waves in a Yellow Submarine. Do you crave the deep thoughts of game industry insiders? Crave no more! 3D Realms' Scott Miller has fired up a brand new blog called Game Matters. Be sure to check it out because Miller's take is always interesting and provocative. Lastly, do you lose sleep yearning for more SAIS mods? Lose sleep yearning no more! Wydraz has released a cool new mod for Strange Adventures in Infinite Space called The Mizendar Galaxy. It's a classy little job with three versions of a new player ship (an Aethership; a "star galleon"), nifty replacement art, list changes and a gooey star field background that's better than ours!

To Mars And Beyond...
APOD Ketchup Time
"I've been busy/lazy lately"

There have been some terrific posts on APOD recently. (I've been busy/lazy lately and I nearly missed them, so I thought I'd post them here, now, to catch up and share the pictorial love. Yay, another nebula pic!) So, here are links to LL Orionis: When Cosmic Winds Collide ("This arcing, graceful structure is actually a bow shock about half a light-year across, created as the wind from young star LL Orionis collides with the Orion Nebula flow."), Jupiter Portrait ("Every day is a cloudy day on Jupiter, the Solar System's reigning gas giant.") and Mars Then and Now ("Does Mars have canals? A hot debate topic..."). Enjoy! (And be sure to visit the Astronomy Picture of the Day site.)

Mars Then and Now    Jupiter Portrait    LL Orionis: When Cosmic Winds Collide

A Dark and Stormy Night
Scary Weather
"other folks do the writing"

A Dark and Stormy NightFrom the A Dark and Stormy Night post on APOD today: "It was a dark and stormy night. But on August 29th the red planet Mars, near its closest approach to Earth in almost 60,000 years, shone brightly in the sky against a background of stars in the constellation Aquarius."

Also linked at APOD is the October 2003 Aurora Gallery: "It's northern autumn and that means it's aurora season. The auroras on this page were triggered by a coronal mass ejection hitting Earth on Oct. 30th. The CME was hurled into space by one of the most powerful solar explosions in years--an X11-class flare from giant sunspot 486."

This is the kind of post I like, where other folks do the writing and I browse the pretty pictures. Happy Halloween!

Space Empires: Starfury
Aaron Hall Does It Again
"explore the galaxy at will and whim"

Click here to go to the Space Empires: Starfury website.Why is Shrapnel Games' Space Empires: Starfury more fun than Freelancer? Well, in Starfury you actually play a freelancer. That probably has a lot to do with it.

In Freelancer, plot points determine when new areas of space open up to you, and you have to play a dopey cartoon-macho character doomed to trod a linear storyline. In Starfury, you can explore the galaxy at will and whim, so you simply play the way you want to play. There is structure there if you need it, but you can ignore it and still finish the game.

SpacedockIn all ways Space Empires: Starfury is streamlined to the essentials. And because it wasn't a multimillion dollar production it doesn't suffer from the artistic excesses of games like Freelancer and the overdone "LSD trip in an ice cream shop" space art trend. If you like space dark and mysterious, Starfury looks good.

The designers and testers of this game clearly, and rightly, focused on gameplay, addictive features, length of play and replayability. Combine Elite, Star Fleet Battles and Freelancer with the extensive universe of Aaron Hall's Space Empires games, and you're bound to create a classic. Shrapnel Games did it and Starfury is just that.

Also, Starfury is mod-friendly with a sizeable community of enthusiasts already behind it, so be sure to check out the Starfury message board for the latest mod announcements and lots of useful information.

Ed "Big Daddy" Roth Halloween Masks
Rat Fink, Wild Child & Drag Lover
"the highest quality paint jobs"

Wild ChildThis is the kind of spam I don't mind receiving; an advertisement for funny monster masks from the Ed "Big Daddy" Roth online store: "New Ed "Big Daddy" Roth Halloween Masks - These masks feature the highest quality paint jobs. Made of latex and lifelike hair, these are totally brand new designs never before available. Demand will be high, so get your order in for Halloween now." Cool, daddy-o.

From Space to Spacy
The Sombrero Galaxy from HST/Drempels
"intricate details astronomers don't yet fully understand"

The Sombrero Galaxy From APOD a few days ago: "M104's spectacular dust rings harbor many younger and brighter stars, and show intricate details astronomers don't yet fully understand. The very center of the Sombrero glows across the electromagnetic spectrum, and is thought to house a large black hole."

View the original The Sombrero Galaxy from HST post with additional info and links here.

DrempelsScott Krol sent this along and it's nifty. It's called Drempels and here's the scoop: "Drempels makes colorful, swirling, hallucinogenic patterns that resemble a hurricane or tornado. It normally runs in your Windows background or "desktop", replacing your old still-image wallpaper with gently-animating visuals... and meanwhile, you can use your computer just like you normally would. It uses very little CPU overhead, so little that it even runs smoothly on a 233 MHz system!"

Download Drempels v1.4 here or here. (Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000 - DirectX 5 or later - MMX-capable processor - Drempels can also be used as a screensaver)

You can create and use your own 256x256 texture art (.bmp or .tga formats recommended) with Drempels or download the semi-official collections (#2, #3 and #4). View and download additional textures at Infinite Fish textures and at Iikka's texture site.

Links of the Week
News from the Fringe
"Plasma blobs hint at new form of life"

Valles Marineris: The Grand Canyon of Mars | SomaFM | World Beard and Moustache Championships | WOZ.org | Fish Intelligence | Plasma blobs hint at new form of life | 3D Art To Part | The Crab Pulsar | The Gospel of Supply Side Jesus | Defender of the Crown in your browser | Stars and Dust of the Lagoon Nebula | Zombie Infection Simulation v2.3 | The Sword of Fargoal remake | Monkeys know when they're getting ripped off

Digital Eel's Big Box of Blox
Four of Many
"a Phosphorous art tour de force"

Blok Atak, from Digital Eel's Big Box of BloxIikka, Bill and I, a collective entity occasionally known as Digital Eel, just released our fourth computer game called Digital Eel's Big Box of Blox. Iikka designed and programmed the game god knows how many years ago on his Amiga. When we looked at it again a couple of months ago we thought it was pretty darn cool so we revamped the game and turned Phosphorous loose on it. (Phosphorous is Bill's tongue-in-cheek artistic alter-ego.) B3 is definitely a "Phosphorous art" tour de force. Ohhhh ya. Check out the free demo if you have a chance.

Now we can get on with making the sequel to that other game.

Inside the Eagle Nebula
(And a bit about X Minus One)
"a brightly-lit workshop"

Speaking of space and science fiction...From the APOD website: "From afar, the whole thing looks like an Eagle. A closer look at the Eagle Nebula, however, shows the bright region is actually a window into the center of a larger dark shell of dust. Through this window, a brightly-lit workshop appears where a whole open cluster of stars is being formed."

View the original Astronomy Picture of the Day post, Inside the Eagle Nebula, here. (Additional helpful links can be found there as well.)

I guess you can start calling my blog The Nebula Site or Nebulae R Us or something like that. I'm always posting these things. But can you blame me for wanting to share these staggeringly beautiful pictures? And the darndest thing, to me at any rate, is that these exotic places are not science fiction!

Speaking of space and science fiction, I've recently listened to the first two seasons of NBC's X Minus One science fiction radio series from the mid-50's. I'm cataloging the better shows and I'm just getting into the third season as we speak.

X Minus One was an amazing series with stories penned by the masters of science fiction -Ray Bradbury, Clifford D. Simak, Fritz Leiber, Frederik Pohl, Isaac Asimov, L. Sprague De Camp, Robert Heinlein, Phillip K. Dick, Fletcher Pratt, Robert Bloch, Frederic Brown, Robert Sheckley, Murray Leinster, Gordon R. Dickson, Theodore Sturgeon and so many more outstanding authors. Note: This isn't kiddie fare -It's adult science fiction at its very best.

If you have a chance to listen to this series by all means do so. X Minus One collections are available commercially and on the www.

What really strikes you when you review X Minus One is that while each show is completely different the quality of the stories remains first rate show after show after show. (3 seasons/125 shows)

These stories are not derivative of other works or based on a formula padded with cliches, and the cumulative effect, after immersing yourself in the series for a while, is a kind of profound refreshment and a reassurance of just how much fun a good science fiction short story can really be. Proof enough for me that real honest-to-god science fiction writers are essential to good science fiction presented in any media. (television, movies, story-driven computer games, etc.)

Anyhow, do yourself a flavor (yum!) and listen to X Minus One and/or stop by your friendly neighborhood used book store and pick up a couple of "best of" collections of science fiction short stories from the 50's, 60's and 70's. Keep an eye out for the authors I listed above if you're not familiar with them. This was truly the golden age of science fiction and you need to get into it to find out that it isn't about nostalgia. It's simply about really good stories.

Stars and Dust of the Lagoon Nebula
"it can be seen without a telescope"

The large majestic Lagoon NebulaFrom the APOD website: "The large majestic Lagoon Nebula is home for many young stars and hot gas. Spanning 100 light years across while lying only about 5000 light years distant, the Lagoon Nebulae is so big and bright that it can be seen without a telescope toward the constellation of Sagittarius."

View the original Astronomy Picture of the Day post, Stars and Dust of the Lagoon Nebula, here.

What's in the box?What's in the box?
A treasure map? A clockwork detonator? Pandora's demons? A magic talisman? A giant ruby? An ancient curse? A jack in the box? A severed head? ....More boxes?

All will soon be revealed.

Ossman's Audiola
Weirdly Cool Music, Firesign Comedy, Found Sounds, Free Association
"expect to hear everything from Edison cylinders to MP3's"

Firesign Theatre's David Ossman The best radio in the world is happening in Seattle. FM radio the way it used to be done, and the way it should be done more often. Community radio station KSER (90.7 FM in the Lynnwood/Everett area) is presenting Ossman's Audiola ("Weirdly Cool Music, Firesign Comedy, Found Sounds, Free Association") every Saturday in September, and since it is September that means now. Here's the scoop:

David Ossman returns to KSER after a ten-year hiatus with OSSMAN'S AUDIOLA, live from the KSER broadcast studio every Saturday afternoon in September.

For each four-hour broadcast, Ossman promises a free-associative exploration of his highly eclectic (if not eccentric) archive of music, comedy, found sound and audio theatrics. His shows usually follow odd themes of one kind or another: given the word 'shoe' Ossman could lead listeners from Paul Whiteman's 'Stairway to Paradise' and Paulo Conti's 'Happy Feet' to Nick Danger 'walking again by night' and so to a slice of 'gum-shoe' soundtrack from 'The Big Sleep'.

September listeners should expect to hear everything from Edison cylinders to MP3's, music from Bare Naked Ladies to downtown ragtime and uptown tango to Golden Age Broadway and Silver Screen Hollywood; the voices of Beats, Hipsters and other Rebels with Poetic Causes; tributes to 20th Century Comedians, Composers and Artists' up-tunes and weirdly cool, funny stuff.

Now the really cool part is that you don't have to live in Washington to tune in. KSER is online live and if it's Saturday you can literally click here to listen to Ossman's Audiola (Windows media player stream). The show begins at noon; 12pm PST.

Dice History 101
Dice: Deception, Fate & Rotten Luck
"the guy who throws cards faster and farther than anyone else"

Ricky JaySomething different this time: Last Wednesday NPR rebroacasted a Terry Gross/Fresh Air interview with magician/magic historian Ricky Jay. Who? You've seen him playing a con man in movies like House of Games and Heist -and he's the guy who "throws cards faster and farther than anyone else." In this interview Jay talks about his recent book, Dice: Deception, Fate & Rotten Luck, which is a hardcover collection of essays about the history of dice and the history of cheating with dice. Sounds like another fascinating read from the guy who wrote Cards As Weapons (out of print), Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women and Jay's Journal of Anomalies (Conjurers, Cheats, Hustlers, Hoaxsters, Pranksters, Jokesters, Imposters, Pretenders, Side-Show Showmen, Armless Calligraphers, Mechanical Marvels, Popular Entertainments). I'll put Dice: Deception, Fate & Rotten Luck on my Christmas list of presents from me to me.

Oh yeah. Click here or here to listen!

Rod Lord's H2G2 Guidebook Graphics
CGI the Old-fashioned Way
"Lord's clever guidebook graphics are still convincing."

Rod Lord created the guidebook "computer graphics" for the television version of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy first broadcast in 1981. The guidebook displays were actually hand drawn cel animation. CGI was not a common technology available to television companies at that time.

Now, after twenty years, Lord's clever guidebook graphics are still convincing. In fact, they look great. They underscore, exemplify and punctuate the guidebook narration perfectly with color, graphic simplicity, inventiveness and humor. Not a chance is missed. Not even the cursor blip sound which is tuned to the key of whatever background music selection is being used at the time. It all works together (with Peter Jones voicing The Book) to help make the television version of the guidebook the best version of all (radio show, books, records, game).

The BBC's Douglas Adams cult page recently posted a number of images from Rod Lord's original guidebook cels. You can download them here or view them by clicking the thumbnails below. Good stuff especially if you're an H2G2 fan. Be sure to check out the H2G2 Douglas Adams tribute page and the original H2G2 website that Adams helped to create for more DNA lore and H2G2 information.

Babel Fish 1 Babel Fish 2 Babel Fish 3
Belcerebons Deep Thought 1 Deep Thought 2
Magrathea Ningi Pandimensional

Links of the Week
News from the Fringe
"You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike..."

The Planet, the White Dwarf, and the Neutron Star | Exotica Games Gallery | Truck Dismount | Some Features you may Need on your Computer | The Periodic Table of Dessert | Eigenradio | Spychecker.com | Flash at its best | The official Frank Brunner website | You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike...

Flash At Its Best
"an amazing little interactive puzzle-story"

This is Flash at its very best. It's an amazing little interactive puzzle-story, untitled, rather short and sort of like "Myst meets Terry Gilliam." Check it out here. (Thanks to Iikka for sending this along.)

Elements of the Swan Nebula
And Other Tales
"That's why we've set up banks of computers...."

Elements of the Swan NebulaFrom the Astronomy Picture of the Day website: "In the depths of the dark clouds of dust and molecular gas known as M17, stars continue to form. Also known as the Omega Nebula and Horseshoe Nebula, the darkness of M17's molecular clouds results from background starlight being absorbed by thick filaments of carbon-based smoke-sized dust. As bright massive stars form, they produce intense and energetic light that slowly boils away the dark shroud...."

Click here to view the original Elements of the Swan Nebula post on the APOD site.

Eigenradio is a trippy idea. Combine and digitally mangle internet radio station broadcasts in real time to create something that sounds like... A] A hyperwave interstellar broadcast. B] Gas music from Jupiter. C] Robo-Muzak. D] Garbage.

Can you hear the beauty in the beast?

From the Eigenradio website:

"All those stations, playing all that music, all the time! There's at least 40 different songs being played every week on most radio stations! Who has enough time in the day to listen to them all? That's why we've set up banks of computers to do the listening for us. They know what you really want to hear. They're trading variety for variance."

"Eigenradio plays only the most important frequencies, only the beats with the highest entropy. If you took a bunch of music and asked it, "Music, what are you, really?" you'd hear Eigenradio singing back at you. When you're tuned in to Eigenradio, you always know that you're hearing the latest, rawest, most statistically separable thing you can possibly put in your ear."


On the home front we recently released the Mac OS9 and OSX versions of Strange Adventures In Infinite Space. Digibuy "purchase and download" versions first, they're available now, with the retail CD version from Cheapass Games to follow. Hooray!

I Wannabe (A Rockstar)
Margo Buchanan's Dedication to Douglas Adams
"because he liked the song"

Douglas AdamsI'm sure that you've heard by now that Douglas Adams passed away two years ago. He was 49; his death was untimely, as it always is. As one would think, Adams had books, scripts and other projects in the works, not the least of which was a development deal with Disney to make an H2G2 movie.

As it turns out, a film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is currently in preproduction via Spyglass and directors Hammer & Tongs (Garth Jennings and Nick Goldsmith). Apparently Arthur, Ford, Zaphod, Trillian and Marvin will continue their adventures without Adams but this is often the case with great stories and storytellers.

Margo BuchananAnyway, I'm not writing this entry to eulogize or promise that an H2G2 movie will actually exist in the near future. I just wanted to post a couple of links to Rockstar, a nifty pop song which British session vocalist Margo Buchanan released as a free download in dedication to Adams shortly after his death (because he liked the song so much). I Wannabe (A Rockstar) is a really nice track and Margo's voice and sense of humor are perfect. It's in .mp3 format and you can download it here or here.

More links: Go here to read about DNA's illustrious life, universe and everything else. Go here to read more about Rockstar and Adams' musical interests. You can play the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy game here or here.

Blog Wars: A New Scroll
Plus A Secret Message

Time to begin a new scroll and post this message to a special friend.

Ygnailh ygnaiih thflthkh'ngha Yog-Sothoth. Y'bthnk h'ehye - n'grkdl'lh.
Don't ask.

Archive the 3rd
Still Playing
Boris the Dodger
Some Get It and Some Don't
Links of the Week
It's Alive
The Sun's Surface in 3D
Something To Hold On To
Links of the Week
Mr. Kosmik Sneez
Digital Eel Summer
Late News
A Sonic Boom
Report from the Skink Works
M17: The Omega Nebula
Attention Gwog!
London at Night
Light Echoes from V838 Mon
Monsters, Surrealism and the Kustom Kulture
BushWorld and the Trees of Mystery
Links of the Week

Archive the 2nd
Wizardry vs. Telengard
Links of the Week
M42: Wisps of the Orion Nebula
News (Really) Bites
Dumbbell Nebula Close-Up from Hubble
Links of the Week
A Beautiful Game
The Columbia Tragedy
The #secretlevel Awards
BHR 71: Stars, Clouds, and Jets
Links of the Week
The Reflecting Dust Clouds of Orion
Three Shades of Darkness
The Creeping Crud
Story Time
Links of the Week
Post Holiday Update Thingy
Ketchup Date
Story Time

Archive the 1st
Independent Games Festival finalists announced
IGF, SAIS and Links of the Week
FST Thanksgiving show axed by NPR
Links of the Week
Links of the Week
Two New Board Game to PC Ports
How to Write Science Fiction Without Really Trying
The Sum Total of All Human Knowledge
What is the next entry?
Story Time
Little Ghost
The Plasmaworm Collection
Liquid War
Two From Space
Firesign Theatre
Lord of the Rings
The Doctor Fun Page
certain maxims of archy
Flog the Blog

Remember me?

Digital Eel | B3 | DBO | SAIS | Plasmaworm | The Gratis Gamer

Caricature by Gabriel