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Comment: Re:All we have are Origin Stories (Score 2) 339

by _Quinn (#36912576) Attached to: What Happens After the Super-Hero Movie Bubble?

Quite frankly, it's because the origin stories are always the best ones. From one perspective, it's because they include all the stages of the monomyth. From another, because it's far easier to identify, as a normal Joe, with Peter Parker than with Spider-Man. Origin stories are also explicitly about character development. In contrast, the usual superhero plot is episodic, because the next writer has to be able to take over -- and any change away from the status quo implies the possibility that the series might end. (Equally cynically, if I'm doing a movie without character development, why pay the licensing fees for a character?) The drama (in the technical sense) of character development helps the origin story appeal to a wider audience.

Considering movie-making from the business point of view should answer your other question. If what makes your movie pitch attractive is a particular twist on, say, the concept of the responsible use of power, why not tell a real-world story which will attract a wider audience (and be cheaper to boot)? Spider-Man wants anonymity to avoid exposing Mary Jane to danger, but when J. Jonah Jameson publishes proof that Spider-Man killed a bunch of thugs by knocking them out on a beach below the high-tide line, what does he do when people rightfully demand some accountability? (Maybe the cops ignored it when he called them in. Maybe the tide was unusually high that night because SHIELD was experimenting with a new weapon. Maybe he just screwed up by the numbers. Maybe he was too busy disarming a terrorist nuke to get them. Who knows?) US Navy SEAL #17 wants anonymity to avoid exposing his wife to danger, too, but the New York Times publishes proof that he killed two dozen Americans that one night in Afghanistan, what does he do? (Maybe the embassy ignored him when he told them to come fetch their employees. Maybe they were hostages, killed by a freak mudslide while he was scouting the exfiltration route. (Maybe the mudslide was caused by SHIELD testing a new weapon. ;)) Maybe he just screwed up by the numbers. Maybe he was too busy disarming a terrorist nuke to get them. Who knows?) You may gain some sharper moral contrasts by using a super-hero (Spider-Man has never killed anyone, but that the SEAL's job), but that's about it.

Likewise, the Bond movies provide a thin veneer of plausibility over the general trope of 'unlikely hero saves the world' -- but he's a trained super-spy! He's not unlikely! Everybody knows how good the British intelligence services are! Magic or the equivalent super-high tech just concentrate power in a visually-pleasing and obvious way, and let you "play for high stakes" with a very small and simple cast of characters. It's less a flaw of the genre and more a question of why Hollywood would ever bother to film anything in expensive genres that don't require that expense. (Aside from spectacle, the answer is usually aversion to political risk; consider Avatar.)

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Land Rover Unveils "World's Toughest Phone" 146

Posted by samzenpus
from the crushed-by-the-foot-of-a-humble-ant dept.
Land Rover says their new S1 mobile is the world's strongest phone. Testing done by Land Rover and the staff at The Sun showed the S1 would still work after being stepped on by an elephant, run over by a Land Rover, dropped from a second-story window, buried in mud, soaked in a pint of beer, and roasted in an oven at 150 degrees centigrade. A forklift truck proved to be its match, and was able to crush the S1 under its three-tonne weight. The phone comes with 1,500 hours of battery life, a 2.0 megapixel camera, an extra loud ringtone and an unconditional three-year guarantee.

Comment: Re:We already have faster-than-light communication (Score 1) 627

by _Quinn (#27445615) Attached to: Quantum Setback For Warp Drives

This doesn't seem like it could be the right explanation. Suppose you measure 2^10 of your electrons on the x-axis. Some time later, I come along and measure the equivalent electrons in two groups of 2^9 each, half on the x- and half on the y- axis. One of those two groups won't be correlated, and one will. (If the probability isn't high enough, use more electrons.) That gives me one bit of classical information with an arbitrary degree of confidence.

Comment: Re:Good thing it's a beta (Score 1) 496

by _Quinn (#27106327) Attached to: UAC Whitelist Hole In Windows 7

So on a technical level, Microsoft could certainly use some TPC magic to allow the keyboard and mouse drivers to emit signed events, so that you could be certain that they came from a person. (Well, from the hardware, anyway.) Similar magic would allow trusted libraries to sign the conversion from mouse event to command. At that point, you could avoid prompting the user to confirm their action, because you know they did it. Now the question is: for things that don't have direct OS-level call mappings (e.g., aren't Explorer), what do you do?

I think the principle of least astonishment applies here; kind of a variant of what another poster suggests with SELinux-style capability-base computing. There are certain things you probably don't expect applications to do (very few should send e-mail, for example). Figuring that list out and reducing 'false positives' is an ugly, ugly task. MS might be able to do it because the control the whole application stack, but if they design it finely-grained enough to be really useful, all the other application developers will try to lazy out of it and give themselves too many privileges, and become exploitable.

Comment: news site suggestions? (Score 1) 206

by _Quinn (#26440639) Attached to: Saving Journalism With Flash and Java

Maybe I just haven't looked hard enough, but I'd like is a fast site that worked /more/ like a hard-copy paper. It seems like every news site I've ever looked makes it as hard as possible to browse their news. I /want/ an editor whose biases are clear selecting stories, and I /want/ to be able to read the first paragraph or two of a given story without having to wait for a page load. Print newspapers fit two to four stories with multiparagraph lead-ins on the top half of their front page; CNN, for example, manages 1 lead-in, three headlines with summaries, and a dozen hard-to-read headlines in a column to the right. The other two-thirds of the width of the screen is totally wasted; scrolling down reveals a dozen exceedingly arbitrary categories with two headlines each. The BBC's new design is even worse.

Now, I was just thinking of using multiple columns and not having ads on the front page -- I mean, if I all want is headlines, I can get them a dozen other places and ways without going to your site -- but you could also do fun stuff like javascript articles in and out of the way. Now, I've never seen column-to-column wrapping done in a way that doesn't end up looking really silly. That being said, clicking on something [near what] I'm not going to read to pull the next article of that section into the same column is an interesting idea. I'll probably middle-click on an article I /do/ want to read, but you could do same thing on the single-article page, too. In terms of an emphasis on speed, I don't want shorter articles, I want to make looking for articles I'm interested in faster. (Yes, searching; but I need to know what to look for. That's part of the editor's job.)

At any rate, I feel like I spend more time navigating the site than reading at most news websites, specialized-interested ones excepted. (Ars Technica, for example, does a pretty good job of layout, although I'd like it to use more of the page horizontally and/to give a bit longer of a lead-in. But it can get away with a single chronologically-ordered column because of its narrow scope.) As I said earlier, I do /want/ something from the editors: the daily paper's website should decide what from the last day is important enough (given its well-known and undisguised biases) that I should know about it; I can get headlines from anywhere.

Comment: Re:Am I the only one... (Score 1) 378

by _Quinn (#22299194) Attached to: The Dungeons and Dragons Fourth Edition Preview Books
My primary objection to having a character's primary abilities be per-day limited is that it usually means that they don't do anything* every round. This is Not Fun, so it has to go. The implication is that there's good reason even for non-munchkins to "go to Motel 6" really frequently: the design of two of the four usual characters mean half the players stop having fun after some small number of encounters.

The extreme reaction to this was the Book of Nine Swords, where there were /no/ per-day limits. The problem with this is that it meant that the player did the same thing every fight. Part of that was flexibility; part of it was lack of resource management. As a general rule, I don't find "resource management" (which almost always means "speed" for adventuring parties) all that appropriate in every adventure of the high-heroic campaigns my group likes to run. In some cases, of course, it can be very dramatic and effective: can the party take the shortcut through the underground passage and warn somebody in time? (This is especially effective if the players are then expected to help the defense, as it gives them another factor to balance.) I think the key to doing per-day-limited abilities is going to be making the per-encounter and at-will abilities strong enough that the per-day abilities can be easily saved to compensate for bad luck. As the game is balanced now, you can't save your most powerful abilities for later, because you won't get there.

I think you think the 4E rogue will be only a DPS-machine because that's all they've mentioned about the class. But it's key; D&D is really about combat (mechanically). In the end, in our group, we've generally allowed the rogue to sneak attack whatever s/he wants (with the appropriate), because otherwise they just sit down and go home -- and that has exactly the same problem, if different causes -- than the wizard running out of spells.

FWIW regarding "everyone does damage", the books mention that they don't particularly like the name "blaster" for the wizard's role, because they recognize the importance of status effects and combat control -- the latter so much that they invented a new character class to make it happen! (The Defender role /really/ depends on the ability to control the battlefield, which is why 3E fighters who like the role and do well at it at low levels and in dungeons always end up disappointed.) I actually approve of "everyone does damage" to a certain extent; it's the most direct way of helping your buddies out in a fight. (Compare this to an ability like turning, which either wins the fight or does nothing. The alternate rule for doing damage is less flavorful, but better for teamwork and utility. A lich doesn't ignore the cleric because of its turning bonus; it's just much more likely to only take half damage. On the other hand, some of the pressure might fall of all-or-nothings if they're serious about balancing the game for multiple enemies; there's enough randomness (and/or ability difference) between the different enemy's saves that you can effectively have all-or-nothings with partial effects...)

- _Quinn

*: Yes, a high-level wizard has an effectively unlimited number of magic missiles. But they almost never matter in a CR-appropriate fight.

Memory fault -- brain fried

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