Democracy & Despotism

How to tell if your community or country is sliding towards despotism – a useful guide both then and now.

I ran across these two videos, created by Encyclopedia Britannica back in the 1940s, and I can’t share them enough as they seem perfectly (and terrifyingly) appropriate for today’s political and social climate:

In 1945 and 1946, immediately following the end of World War II, Encyclopedia Britannica’s films division produced two educational short films, one on democracy and one on despotism, exploring how societies and nations rank on the spectrum from democracy to despotism by measuring the degree to which power is concentrated and respect for individuals restricted.

A community is low on a respect scale if common courtesy is withheld from large groups of people on account of their political attitudes, if people are rude to others because they think their wealth and position gives them that right, or because they don’t like a man’s race or his religion. Equal opportunity for all citizens to develop equal skills is one basis for rating a community on a respect scale.

I highly recommend watching both of these videos – being from the era they are, I think they know better than we do what they’re talking about.

Let’s Play

I try my hand at producing a “Let’s Play” video for the first (and probably last) time.

Wait, what?

In case you don’t know what I mean by “Let’s Play,” let me explain.

In a nutshell, a “Let’s Play” is a walkthrough and/or commentary on a video game, sometimes done via screenshots and text (as in a forum), or (more often these days) via video (e.g., YouTube). If you enjoy watching DVDs with director commentary, you might like watching a Let’s Play video.

Basically, you watch someone play through a game as they provide commentary. While this might sounds somewhat boring on the surface (and it certainly can be), it can also be absolutely awesome (think: Mystery Science Theater 3000, but for video games).

YouTube is absolutely chock full of Let’s Play videos, and sites like  (along with others) keep archives of older Let’s Play series (many older ones are screenshot/text instead of video). Some of these are true gems, witty and fun to watch. It takes a bit of effort to make a quality Let’s Play video, because you have to:

  1. Set up the recording (usually involving screen capture or video capture for best quality)
  2. Edit the recordings (often to take out boring stuff, such as random battles in RPGs)
  3. Provide some sort of running commentary which needs to both be interesting (harder than it sounds) and usually be done in real time, as you are playing the game; and,
  4. Typically, you also need to not suck at the game you are playing

Now, where am I going with all this?

Well, basically I’ve been watching a lot of these sorts of videos of late. It’s fun to watch people play through all the old games I used to enjoy as a kid! But more than that, it sort of inspired me to give it a try – I mean, how hard can it be?

Well, as it turns out, it can be pretty hard. As I said, YouTube is absolutely chock full of Let’s Play videos, which means just about every game you can think of has already been done by someone who is probably better at it (both the game and the commentary) than you. Plus, as I pointed out above, you have a bunch of other, let’s call it “production related” stuff to deal with as well. So it’s not just “sit down, play a game, and talk about it.”

Nevertheless, I decided I was going to give it a go – I even decided on a game to start with, a game which has surprisingly little coverage (at least, as of the time I started – it seems like there are more videos now). The game I decided to play? The Legend of Zelda. That’s right, the original NES classic.

I mean, hey, I used to be pretty darned good at this game, and I do still remember where pretty much all the secrets are, so it shouldn’t be too hard for me to do.

Well, it took a bit longer than I thought, and I learned a few lessons along the way (surprisingly, balancing the audio is really hard, especially if you don’t have an external mixer), but in the end, I finished the game, and the videos.

So, here it is – my first (and, honestly, probably my last) attempt at doing a “Let’s Play” video series – featuring the original Legend of Zelda for the NES.

You can watch the whole thing on YouTube here if you prefer.

(Please excuse the crappy framerate and volume for the first 4 videos – I did all of them at once, just to try things out, and they were before I really got the hang of what I was doing.)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this, or at least find it somewhat amusing!

Happy Birthday to GNU!

GNU (that’s “GNU is Not Unix,” in case you were wondering) turns 25 years old this year. Apparently, Stephen Fry has made a little video to help celebrate – and I think it’s wonderful and you should definitely go watch it right now.

In fact, you may want to watch it and send it to a friend – after all, it’s free!

Happy 25th, GNU!

Animusic – Pipe Dream

I had this video on my computer from long, long ago, and I only just realized that of course it must be on YouTube now.

It’s sort of a Rube Goldberg-like musical instrument – if you’ve never seen it before, I highly recommend it.

I still think it’s a really cool video!

Do You Like Waffles?

I laughed my head off when I saw this video. Then I showed it to Amanda.

Her response?

“You’ve lost your damn mind.”

Maybe so, but at least I’m having fun!!