security research, software archaeology, geek of all trades
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We Want to Live In a World Where Studio Ghibli Makes a Legend of Zelda Movie


Ghibli meets Zelda

Matt Vince is an artist and a visionary. In his series of concept posters, he created a world in which Studio Ghibli make a Legend of Zelda movie. Not satisfied with static images, however lovely, he has now created a fan trailer for said movie, and it’s gorgeous, and weirdly moving? Click through to behold the Great Ghibli-fied Deku Tree!

I can’t wait for the poignant story arc when Link is caught breaking pots for money, and a gruff-but-kind potter takes him and teaches him the ways of his craft.

[via AV Club!]

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1 day ago
Mountain View, CA
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The real news today…downticket

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It is good for a cheap laugh to flay the media for its obsession with horserace. This week’s ongoing ruckus with Phlegm-ghazi confirms that reporters cannot get out of their mental rut of some older storyline. In this case, the storyline is “Clinton is secretive.” Let us pause for a moment. She was concealing her pneumonia because the press would make a big deal out of it. And, wait for it…the press made a big deal out of it.

You, Dear Reader, are complicit in this. I notice that more of you click Presidential links than on the nifty Competitive Congressional District Finder. You like the Presidential horserace. My reason for generating the best prediction I can is to reduce the noise of campaign news. I thought it would clear mental space for thinking about policies, or downticket issues.

The Presidential forecast [methods] takes a low-noise snapshot of state polls, then adds possible drift based on recent elections and this year. Because of intense polarization, few voters are movable. The calculation says that Clinton’s win probability is 90%. The Senate forecast does the same [methods], but also factors in Presidential-year or midterm-year bias. It says that Democrats’+Independents’ probability of taking control is 72%, which is in the 20-80% range, meaning that things could really go either way. Other forecasts tend to count uncertainties twice, or to overestimate how movable voters are. Other forecasts are also under commercial pressure to attract eyeballs.

Still, the comment section is still peppered with anxious questions about Clinton’s chances. Honestly, some liberals can be total ninnies. You don’t see the conservatives in hysterics…though actually, here is their version of a meltdown. I take it back. You go.

Here are some news items that matter more. In Minnesota, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party (similar to Democrats elsewhere) failed in their lawsuit to keep Donald Trump off the November ballot. At a literal level, this didn’t matter because Minnesota is a safe win for Clinton. The real importance was in the three close House races in Minnesota, as you can see using our Competitive Congressional District Finder. In addition, the DFL is within striking distance of taking back a legislative chamber there. The lawsuit was a tacky move, but it would have been effective.

In a second news item, the National Collegiate Athletics Assocation (N.C.A.A.) decision to take all championship basketball games out of North Carolina is likely to have repercussions. North Carolina is crazy for basketball. The trigger was North Carolina H.B. 2, an anti-bathroom-access law that is directed at transgendered people. Republican Governor McCrory was the force behind it. However, he is already a median of 7 percentage points behind Democrat Roy Cooper in polls. Any possible anti-Republican backlash is more likely to have downticket effects on Deborah Ross’s effort to unseat incumbent Republican Senator Richard Burr. She is currently behind by a median of 3.5 percentage points. On average, between now and Election Day, Senate polls move close to 4 percentage points toward the winning Presidential candidate. That election should be close.

Ross is one of five Democratic women running in close Senate races. Their outcomes will determine which party controls the Senate after the election. No matter which side you support, these races matter quite a lot. You can contribute at ActBlue if you’re a Democrat, or at the N.R.S.C. if you’re a Republican.

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11 days ago
Valuable reminder: don't worry so much about Clinton, worry about the downticket races.
Mountain View, CA
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Find a competitive House race near you!

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This year, Republicans are going to lose seats in the House of Representatives – this is certain. How many seats, we don’t know. As analyzed by Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political Report, their majority is protected by aggressive redistricting efforts in 2010 and poor candidate recruitment by Democrats this year. Nonetheless, there remains some chance that a strong enough national popular vote win can flip the House.

Even if the House does not change control, a closer seat margin increases the ability of the minority to get legislation passed by peeling off votes from the majority. Under a Hillary Clinton Presidency, this will affect legislative priorities that cut across party lines, such as an increase in the minimum wage.

If you want to make a difference for your side, you can volunteer for a campaign in a contested district. In response to my wish, PEC reader Sharon Machlis has developed the Competitive Congressional District Finder, a cool application in which you type in your address or ZIP code, and get back a map showing competitive races near you, as identified by the Cook Political Report. Whether you support Democrats or Republicans, these are the races that matter. Give the app a try – and get out there!

Sharon used Google Fusion Tables and the Searchable Map Template, which was created by civic tech builder and open-government advocate Derek Eder. Many thanks to Sharon for her fast work. Talented readers like her are a major source of gratification.

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15 days ago
It is absolutely vital that we flip both houses of Congress this year.
Mountain View, CA
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Sewer Socialism | Itinerant Urbanist

Sewer Socialism | Itinerant Urbanist:

Sewer Socialism

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7 days ago
30 days ago
Mountain View, CA
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Webcomics Binge Read: Homestuck

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I’m fit. I’m hydrated. This is it. Today I begin reading the entirety of Andrew Hussie’s Homestuck. Launched in 2009, Homestuck ended this April as one of the most wildly successful and passionately loved comics online. I knew something was going on when my college-age cousin came home with a full sleeve tattoo of Homestuck fan art, and I didn’t know what it was, Mister Jones.

I’ve previously attempted the archives twice and been forced to retreat over a trail of dead sherpas. But this time it’s do or die.

I dedicate this ascent to Jason Thompson, whose 48-hour Naruto binge read ( stands as an inspiration to all archive trawlers.

Here goes.



  • Homestuck was the fourth comic Hussie serialized on his website, MS Paint Adventures. Previous comics were scripted on the fly by taking suggestions from readers, and the early installments of Homestuck carry over the audience-participation element. But by this point Hussie’s fanbase was too big for the interactive element to remain workable, and it was mostly abandoned within the first year. Homestuck opens with a PC-game prompt asking you to enter a name for the protagonist, but you don’t actually get to choose one. He’s John.
  • Old-school video games form the central aesthetic, from the pixilated art to the game-based ways the characters interact with their world. For example, John and his friends have to handle items by turning them into “captchalogue cards” and placing them in an inventory. This gets confusing when they start playing a video game with its own rules within their already video-game-based world.
  • In the opening pages, Hussie plugs merchandise for his previous MS Paint comic, Problem Sleuth. I respect the hell out of that.
  • Hussie and I share a love of bad movies in general and the work of Nicolas Cage in particular. I didn’t know this when I mentioned Con Air in my own comic, and now all the nerds think I was making a Homestuck reference. Nic Cage exists beyond our petty mortal webcomics world, people.
  • “You pull up to your COMPUTER. This is where you spend most of your time.” John spends the next 50 pages IMing his online friends while making half-assed efforts to leave his room and check the mailbox. The narration isn’t kidding around here.
  • Okay, the plot. John receives a video game called Sburb for his thirteenth birthday. As he and his online friends Rose, Dave, and Jade begin toying with Sburb, they discover that it allows them to manipulate reality. It’s unclear whether they’re surprised by this. They’re already living in a world where objects can be turned into punchcards.
  • “You decide to space out on the computer for a while before doing anything important.” I’m going to keep track of every time there’s a line like this. God is telling me something.
  • As Homestuck goes on, it incorporates more and more multimedia elements. Panels consist of animated gifs, while big events are full Flash-animated cutscenes. You get the option of reading the characters’ online chatlogs, which you’d better do or the story will make even less sense. There are musical interludes and minigames. There are links to other websites. I get the feeling that, for Hussie, this formal experimentation is the most interesting part of comicking.
  • Several hundred pages in, John uses some of the peculiar machinery burped up by Sburb to create a glowing blue apple, and then a meteor crashes into his house. It doesn’t make any more sense in context. End Act One, and whew.



  • John’s neighborhood has been demolished and his house teleported to a void. According to Rose, who is still able to text him, similar disasters are striking Sburb players around the world. We get flash-forwards to a post-apocalyptic future where a mysterious figure, the Wayward Vagabond, relays commands to John in the past. Got all that? Good. We’ll check back in with the plot later.
  • Mordicai Knode, in an article for, wrote, “Homestuck is the first great work of genuinely hypertext fiction.” (Thanks, Wikipedia.) I guess he’s never heard of a little thing called Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork Girl. There: now I can say that taking a class called “Hypermedia and Phanopoeia” in college in 1996 was in no way a waste of my parents’ money.
  • The thing is, I suspect Knode is right. There’s a good chance Homestuck will be admired by future generations and I will look laughingly blinkered for kind of not getting it. I accept this and embrace my fogeyness.
  • Homestuck features a webcomic-within-a-webcomic, Dave’s deliberately bad comic Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff, with its own hideous website and buggy archives. It’s first linked to during a scene where Dave is reading another webcomic, a takeoff of previous MS Paint series Problem Sleuth. (“Even though the adventure began recently, it’s already over 3000 pages long. You just don’t have time for this bullshit.”) This is some Italo Calvino shit up in here.
  • Holy crap, Topatco actually sells all the self-consciously terrible merchandise advertised on the Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff site. I hadn’t realized Homestuck fandom had gotten that out of control, even after seeing my cousin’s tattoo.
  • John, the narrator, and the mysterious figure from the future are all arguing with each other in the narration text. This is pretty great if you’re into metafiction and read all the footnotes in Lanark: A Life in Four Books.
  • Or, all right, all the footnotes in Infinite Jest. I’m trying to prove that my junior year abroad in Dublin to study Irish and Scottish postmodernism was also a sound long-term investment.
  • Wouldn’t it be great if you were transported to another dimension where everything worked like Minecraft? No, it wouldn’t, because it would take ten million steps to walk up a flight of stairs and you’d have to keep stopping to fight pixilated monsters. And that’s why video games are the worst.
  • The cross-cutting between multiple characters at different points in time reminds me of my second-favorite video game ever, Day of the Tentacle, the sequel to Maniac Mansion. My favorite video game ever is Maniac Mansion.
  • The plot isn’t important, anyway. Homestuck is more about the innumerable jokes, digressions, weird conversations, and running gags Hussie can spin off each new incremental progression in the action. Right now, for instance, Dave is trying to shove a puppet down a garbage disposal, but is hamstrung by the fact that he can only give himself orders using a limited number of letters. This has been going on for pages. In the words of Enid Coleslaw, the movie version with the troubling sexual attraction to Steve Buscemi, it keeps going from bad to good and back around to bad again.
  • The animated cutscenes are getting more ambitious. The artwork remains at the same level of one-step-up-from-stick-figures sophistication, so Hussie wisely puts his effort into choosing strong images and cutting them together effectively. Like a good low-budget anime series, Homestuck does a lot with limited resources.
  • Act Two closes with a lengthy visit to the future as the Wayward Vagabond tries, sort of, to escape from his underground fallout shelter. He finally succeeds in launching the shelter into the sky and flying away on top of it, and it’s a beautiful scene. Like if they made an eight-bit NES game based on a Studio Ghibli movie. That never happened, right? The closest we got was Little Nemo: The Dream Master.
  • The clinical term for attraction to Steve Buscemi is “Busexuality.”



  • Hussie has teased the first on-panel appearance of Jade, the most recalcitrant member of the SUBRB-playing gang, for a long time, and now she finally appears. She’s cute. She even gets a little introductory minigame where you can make her play a flute, a testament to Hussie’s ongoing efforts to see how multi he can make this media.
  • Speaking of, an increasing number of pages are full-on animated sequences. Is Homestuck technically even a comic? Was it ever a comic? Or was it always one artist’s personal sandbox game sprayed with a thin veneer of comic-ness? This is when I really need the ability to pull Marshall McLuhan out from behind something.
  • First mention of the Trolls. These are the characters with candy-corn devil horns you see 300 teenage girls cosplaying as at anime conventions. I’d gathered that much about Homestuck from the lady internet before starting this binge read.
  • The lady internet is also where you learn which male Avengers should be making out, besides all of them.
  • “Oh look, there’s some more mad science crap over here.” This specifically refers to the underground lab Rose has found herself in, but it could apply to a lot of Homestuck.
  • Right, the plot. At the moment, each of the kids is penetrating an inner sanctum where he or she may hope to find answers, or possibly just more machines with overly complicated interfaces. For Rose, it’s an underground laboratory hidden beneath her cat’s mausoleum. For Jade, it’s the bottom floor of her island super-science tower. For John, it’s his father’s room, which he’s been kinda sorta trying to get into since the comic began. Dave is unavailable. Outside, the world is still ending.
  • None of them learn much, but Rose gets a kitty, so that’s cool.
  • Throughout the comic so far, much the action involves characters avoiding adults and looking for places to plug in their laptops. I’m starting to understand why it has a huge Millennial fanbase.
  • With Act Three, I’m starting to enjoy Homestuck. I’m not sure if it’s because the comic’s getting better or because it’s trained me to follow its peculiar logic and pace, like that fungus that makes ants climb trees so it can burst out of their heads and spore.
  • At long last, the kids have succeeded in booting up a second copy of Sburb, which should allow all four of them to play. Since turning on Sburb seems to trigger a meteor apocalypse, this seems like a bad idea, but they worked awfully hard to do it. And Jade says maybe Sburb didn’t cause the apocalypse; it was just a coincidence. So, um, go kids? And so long, Book Three.



  • A 200-page digression into the Problem Sleuth-like webcomic-within-a-webcomic. I take back everything I said about getting into the rhythm of Homestuck. This is cruel.
  • So this sequence follows the Midnight Crew, a group of toughs who previously appeared in Problem Sleuth, as they assassinate a bunch of green guys who all have different time- and probability-based powers. It’s a neat concept, albeit probably only here because Hussie hit a block on Homestuck and needed to switch to something different for a while.



  • John has crossed into a dark universe with luminous mushrooms and rivers of oil. Rose has entered the equally mysterious Land of Light and Rain. Jade and Dave are setting up their video-game server. That these three plot threads are treated as equally interesting, with a slight evident preference for the server stuff, sort of sums up Homestuck.
  • With the time travel and all the alternate-universe variations on the base setting, this is starting to remind me of Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, which was a boss game.
  • Every time I think I’ve finally got a rough idea what’s happening and I’m starting to get into the story, it cuts to, say, a past version of one of the post-apocalyptic survivors delivering a parking citation to an imp queen in an evil castle, and I’m like DAMMIT HOMESTUCK.
  • Sometimes Homestuck is fun, and sometimes it’s like watching someone else play a deliberately frustrating 1980s text adventure game. Which I guess could also be fun, if you’re drunk. I’d better get drunk.
  • Roughly 80% of the characters exist to provide exposition to the other 20%, and I still have no idea what the living hell is going on.
  • “YOU STARTED SOME [line break] SICK FIRES BRO” No hate, but some of these panels seem cynically designed to be lifted for social media gifs.
  • In the Homestuck universe, Internet trolls are aliens from another planet who also play SBURB. There are twelve of them, they communicate over IRC even to each other, and each has a different irritating way of typing wrong. I am not liking the Trolls so far.
  • The Trolls expend enormous effort to manipulate John into flying a jetpack. There’s sort of a reason, but it mostly happens because it makes a cool gif.
  • Happily, John is saved by the power of friendship. Anime is a huge influence on Homestuck.
  • I am so drunk now.
  • A wild cartoon Andrew Hussie appears to recap the plot and clear up points his readers were probably arguing over in the forums. (“John… accidentally prototyped the sprite with his grandmother’s ashes, transforming it again. This prototyping had no effect on the enemies, since he was already in the Medium, and the kernel had already hatched.” Oh, well, then.) For you, constant readers, I read all 5,590 words.   I now hate you all and have a slightly less murky idea of how time loops work.
  • John enters Rose’s room. This is worth noting because it’s the first time, thousands of pages in, that any of the four protagonists have met in the flesh. It would be kind of a big deal except Rose sleeps through the whole thing.
  • Did I mention that in addition to all the different realms and planets and time periods there is also a dream world with its own laws of reality? I only mention it because now one of the characters has turned into a pony and another into a hat. I think. Goddamn it.
  • Now John is making baby clones of himself and his friends that are destined to go back in time and become them. Okay, fine, that makes a kind of sense, and Andrew Hussie is good at drawing babies.
  • No lie, I laughed at the big Nic Cage-themed animated cutscene.
  • Crap’s getting real now. There’s a war breaking out, asteroids descending, armies of little blobby people getting mowed down by a giant demon clown, the whole nine yards. The main characters all get cool battle outfits, so you know it’s serious. Most important, Homestuck is only seven acts long, so I should be over halfway through by now.



  • Turns out the later acts are so long they get split into multiple parts. GODDAMN IT HOMESTUCK.


Part Two to follow…

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43 days ago
If you have been wondering what the deal is with this Homestuck thing but are reluctant to invest the time in reading the entire gigantic archive, consider reading this summary instead.
Mountain View, CA
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Brand New Subway

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Whoa, this is the coolest! Jason Wright's Brand New Subway allows players to alter the NYC subway system as they see fit. You can start with existing maps and the choices you make affect ridership and the price of a Metrocard.

Players can choose to start from scratch or one of several NYC subway maps (including present-day, maps dating back to the early 1900s, or maps from the future). They can build new stations and lines to expand the system to new areas, or tear it down and redesign the whole thing. The game intends to evoke an imaginative spirit, to empower people to envision transportation according to their needs and desires, and to arouse the fun of tinkering with maps.

This project is an entry in The Power Broker Game Design Competition, the goal of which is to adapt Robert Caro's The Power Broker into a playable experience. Wright explains how his game hits the mark:

Bottom-up vs. top-down design. Moses was infamous for his top-down approach to urban planning. He held "the public" as a concept in high regard while simultaneously showing contempt for the individuals who made up that public, in the form of arrogance, spitefulness, and an utter lack of concern for the millions displaced for his expressways and parks. Later on in his career, as the span of his projects increased, Moses would make monumentally important decisions about the fate of a neighborhood without once setting foot there. He was known for building 13 bridges and hundreds of miles of parkways despite never driving a car.

Although Brand New Subway might appeal to someone who enjoyed SimCity but who has never set foot in New York City, it's targeted primarily at those who actually ride the subway and who might feel invested in what they design. In that regard, it inverts Moses' paradigm by encouraging players to improve on transportation in their own neighborhoods and in ways to which they have a personal connection.

I reeeeeeally didn't want to spend the rest of my day playing with this, but that super express train from Manhattan to JFK isn't going to build itself! (via @byroncheng)

Tags: cities   Jason Wright   NYC   Robert Caro   Robert Moses   subway   The Power Broker   video games
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49 days ago
50 days ago
Mountain View, CA
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2 public comments
49 days ago
This is a browser game, for folks who are maybe giving this a miss because they think they need a platform to play it.
Portland, OR
47 days ago
I could spend endless hours and days messing with this. But then I get so eye-twitchingly angry about the vast underserved swaths of the city, and it stops being a fun game.
51 days ago
This is wonderful.... but somebody please hide this from me.
New York, NY
46 days ago
Whoa. I've never gotten much into sim games but I love maps and public transit and this sounds really awesome.
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