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PANDORA'S DOCS 5/10/2013

Lifting the lid on the documentary films of Adam Curtis. (more...)

THE BANALITY OF GENIUS 11/9/2013

You can identify a Very Important Person because they get the proper VIP treatment: they come surrounded by an entourage of PR gurus, secretaries, agents, media handlers and bodyguards. Access to the VIP is limited and controlled, their public appearances are stage managed, their speeches are delivered and reported in soundbites.

You can identify Very Important Culture — a piece of Great Art or literature or music — because it gets the same kind of treatment. (more...)

POSITIVIST PROGRAMMING 5/8/2013

As anyone working in software can tell you, computer programs suck. They're full of bugs, they're unreadable, unmaintainable, and inflexible, and they require a huge support structure to keep working. Furthermore, the knowledge they contain is obscure and esoteric, jealously guarded by a priesthood of programming nerds, most of whom don't even comprehend what they are guarding. A great deal of research in computer science and software engineering is devoted to solving these very problems, and some researchers — I was one of them, for a while — are convinced they know the answer. They think computer programs suck because they're written in procedural languages; the solution, they say, is to write them in declarative languages. (more...)

WAYS OF OBJECTIFYING 17/7/2013

When people complain about sexually objectified images of women in advertising and other media, a typical MRA troll move is to counter that men are also sexually objectified. Male models are sex objects too, says the troll: impossibly ripped and handsome studs, sexy and sexualised, a masculine ideal we can never hope to match. They should intimidate us every bit as much as female models intimidate women — but you don't see us complaining.

The trolls are talking shite, of course, but it always helps to illustrate why. (more...)

THE ELDER SCROLLS IV: OBLIVION 24/3/2013

Some critical comments on Bethesda's pisspoor RPG. (more...)

THE CULT OF BAYES' THEOREM 20/2/2013

I'm no longer a skeptic, but still I can't resist the old skeptic urge to do a bit of debunking. After all, there are a lot of crackpots out there. There are people, for example, who believe that a superintelligent computer will arise in the next twenty years and then promptly either destroy humanity or cure death and set us free. There are people who believe that one of the best works of English literature is an unfinished Harry Potter fanfic by someone who can barely write a comprehensible English sentence. There are even people who believe the best thing you can do to help the poor and the starving is become a city stockbroker or Silicon Valley entrepreneur! And more often than not, the same people believe all these crazy things! (more...)

BRONIES AND THE NEW SINCERITY 8/2/2013

How grown-up My Little Pony fans will save your soul. (more...)

MY PROFESSIONAL WRITING CAREER 22/12/2012

I'm an amateur writer, but I haven't always been doing this stuff for love of the medium and my own voice. There was once a time, back in the middle of 2008, when I wrote for the promise of cash. It didn't last long or end well. And now that the dust has settled, now that the guilt has withered away, now that another Olympiad has come and gone, I feel it's time to tell the story of when this amateur turned pro. It's a long story — at least the way I tell it — and not a story from which I emerge with any credit; but I believe it's a story worth telling, and that somewhere deep inside there is a lesson for us all. (more....)

YOUR BALONEY DETECTION KIT SUCKS 3/9/2012

I still remember the thrill of first encountering a summary of Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit. Reading through the list of logical fallacies, I could feel a change come over my being and my posture: my biceps bulged, my abs hardened into a carapace, and my gonads turned to solid granite. I had discovered the secret weapons cache of the elite commandoes of reason, and now I felt invincible. Armed with Sagan's checklist, I was sure I could survive any argument undefeated. Creationists, paranormalists and fanboys alike would fall before my big guns of logic: I'd mow them all down like Arnie in Terminator 2. (more....)

DRAGON AGE: ORIGINS 15/8/2012

Some critical comments on Bioware's excellent RPG. (more....)

A SARCASTIC RESPONSE TO ONLINE ABUSE 21/7/2012

Andy Warhol's prophecy will definitely come true: one day, we will all have our share of celebrity. You can already see this happening on the Internet, where everyone is a celebrity of sorts. Stick something on the Web, and people you'll never meet or hear of will form an opinion of you. (more....)

DORK APOSTATE - TOMBSTONES OF AN APPROPRIATED GENERATION 9/7/2012

In which I endorse a local band who vandalise 90s rock classics. (more....)

STAR WARS: DARK FORCES 6/7/2012

Today's established computer game genres — first person shooter, RPG, platformer, and so on — predict nothing about my enjoyment of a game: I like and detest examples of all the above. So like any true freedom fighter, when I buy a computer game, I try to ignore the categories imposed on us by sales and marketing departments. Instead, I consider the only genre distinction that matters to me: is it a Doom game, or is it a Dark Forces game? (more....)

PURITY 2/7/2012

Believe me, I've nothing personal against Randall Munroe — he seems like a nice guy in every sense of the term. If I keep carping about his work, it's only because xkcd so concisely and consistently encapsulates so many things that are wrong about the nerd mindset. For an apostate like myself, this makes it a valuable resource. It's a convenient shorthand for many of nerdism's worst excesses, and a great launchpad for polemics. (more....)

THE JOBS EFFECT 8/10/2011

I've had an Apple MacBook for the last five years. It's the best laptop computer I've owned -- it's fast, light, reliable, easy to use, virus-free, and looks nice. Given the alternatives available, I'll probably get another when this one gives up, and maybe even before that.
That said, I feel no allegiance or loyalty towards Apple, Inc., which is a scummy tax-dodging slave-driving lawsuit-slinging corporation like any other. And though I like my Macbook, when it comes to other Apple gadgets I remain defiantly asexual. I'm simply unable to lust after the various erotically-styled Pods, Pads and Phones that others find so desirable. Truth be told, I don't even like my MacBook that much. (more....)

WHY I AM NO LONGER A SKEPTIC 28/8/2011

This is not a tale of how I found Jesus, of how acupuncture cured my haemorrhoids, or of how my alien abductors revealed the ultimate truth about 9/11. I still have no faith in anything supernatural, mystical, psychical or spiritual. I still regard the scientific method as the best way to model reality, and reason as the best way to uncover truth. I'm no longer a skeptic, but not one of my core beliefs has changed. (more....)

I HATE TWITTER, BUT IT'S PROBABLY A GOOD THING 29/3/2011

Bores blogging about their breakfast in 140 characters. Touchy, vacuous celebs begging an army of morons to magnify their vanity. Smug new-media types basting in their own self-justifying shit. It's easy to sneer at Twitter, and most of the time, correct. But let me remove my irony antlers for a moment, and say something genuine: as much as I hate it, I think Twitter is probably a good thing. (more....)

INTERNET ICONS: THE SMUG SKIM-READER 25/3/2011

As one who defaults to an ironic mode of expression, I'm used to being misunderstood on the Internet, particularly by academics, well-meaning liberals, and denizens of the far western reaches of the Empire. But sometimes the misunderstandings are so bizarre, the reactions so out-there, that I have to wonder if the reader has suffered irrevocable damage to his reading comprehension -- perhaps in a Tweeting accident. In these cases, the reader hasn't just missed the irony, but has also inserted some weird hallucinatory content all of his own. This content alone forms the basis for his response, which is invariably self-satisfied and dismissive. (more....)

MY FIVE-STEP PLAN FOR FAME 14/3/2011

On Sunday, my ad hominem page finally hit the big time. Sure, it's made the front page of Reddit now and then, but Reddit nerds don't have the cultural capital. To get noticed by the right people, Metafilter is where it's at -- and that's where I was at on Sunday afternoon, front-page news, my words being raked over by Williamsburg's finest. (more....)

REVIEW: ENDER'S GAME 25/7/2008

The best way to distinguish a work of pornography from a conventional narrative is to look at its structure. All narratives, to some extent, are concerned with such things as character, plot, exposition, development, climax and resolution; but in pornography these are merely nods to propriety, threadbare garments which barely conceal the real purpose of the narrative: to deliver a particular kind of gratification again and again. (more....)