Friday, June 27, 2008

By "Chunnel" to Paris...

Yesterday I accomplished what Hitler never could -- a crossing of the English Channel. (Take that, Hitler!) Under the Channel by way of the Eurostar high-speed train, I'm now in lovely Paris (make that, lovely and huge Paris) for stage two of my whirlwind business trip.

Paris is an impressive place, and though I've only got 48 hours here, I've already got a sense of how much there really is to take in here; just on the cab ride between the train station and my hotel, I managed to put eyes on the Louvre, the cathedral at Notre Dame, the tomb of Moliere, and lots of croissants.

(A note on the cab ride: it was like a scene straight out of Ronin, with freakin' Jean Reno as the cabbie, racing through the streets of central Paris weaving in and out of traffic with literally inches separating us from high-speed collision at every turn. The man knew his trade!)

Business today and then I'll try to get to the cemetary at Montparnasse (where I'm staying, in the 6th arrondisement) so I can view the tombs of all the great French: Inspector Clouseau, Tintin, Madeline, and Pepe Lepieu. By random coincidence, my amigo Tom Anderson is in Paris for a music festival, so we'll try to hook up for dinner later.

I'll report again before I leave, to let you know whether or not I'm successful in my two major goals here, which are to start a sanitation strike (that one should be easy) and to cause the capitulation of the French military (a bit tougher, but still shouldn't be a huge problem.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cheerio from England!

I'm writing this from picturesque Bath in the west England countryside. It's been a long day -- it began at 4PM Pacific time in San Francisco with a 10-hour flight to London. (Actually, a pretty cool flight; Virgin Atlantic provides an entertainment center at each seat, so I was able to watch Brit-coms, I Am Legend, and There Will Be Blood all in one trip, plus documentaries about the Royal Marine Commandos and Muscovite skinhead gangs).

I landed at Heathrow at 11AM Greenwich Mean Time, meaning that I basically sacrificed a night's worth of sleep heading eastward. I caught a Noon train at Paddington Station and ended up in Bath around 2:30PM, with a business meeting waiting for me in the morning. You can do the math -- I am now operating on roughly zero sleep over the past 24 hours, and I somehow have to make it another four or five hours before sleeping in order to get my bio-clock reset for tomorrow.

Now I've settled into my hotel (the MacDonald Bath Spa) to get some eats. The hotel has a colorful history; it was a frequent war-planning retreat for Winston Churchill and his WWII cabinet, and has also hosted such dignitaries as Halle Sellassie. I've already been down to the ultra-British "Colonnade Bar" for a glass of wine, and room service is on the way, so I'm going to watch some British "Deal or No Deal" and try to make it 'til dark for a proper night's sleep.

Then it's two whirlwind days of biz meetings and on to weekend in Paris, where I was hoping to see Lou Reed play (but it's sold out -- crap!). Updates as Internet access allows...

Monday, June 23, 2008

The boss's trove of occult reading

In a world of workplaces where everyone loathes their Boss, it's with great pleasure that I serve the president of my company. Mine is full of cool surprises, and his latest put a big smile on my face.

It started with a simple email to me: "I have something for you…Stop by." Down to the corner office I went, with zero idea of what might be in store, and when I poked my head in I found him grinning above a stack of bizarre-looking documents.

"I was cleaning house this weekend," he said, "and I was going to throw all of these out. But then I thought of you and decided I'd offer them up if you want them."

What he had on his desk was a cache of arcane documents from his days in London's conspiracy-underground scene – like myself, he's got an enthusiastic interest in the nutty, self-published underground of conspiracy theorists, magickal practitioners, visionaries, and doomsday cults. (He's the only other person I know who owns a recording of the audiotape made by the Jim Jones cult during its infamous mass suicide in Guyana.)

And here was a treasure-trove of Seventies- and Eighties-era mimeographs, booklets, and propaganda tracts, much of it impossible to find anymore. Among the gems:

A published archive of People's Temple documents containing mimeographs of incredible Jonestown records such as the contract members had to sign ("will treat heat and cold alike")…xerox of the cult's propaganda booklet ("Jonestown: A Model of Cooperation")…postcards produced by the cult…and a complete transcript of the "death tape."

Copies of "Rapid Eye" magazine, a newsletter of London arcanum, with one copy featuring an interview with William S. Burroughs that I'd never even heard of, much less read. Burroughs raps at length about the increase of random street violence he has noticed in New York lately, and details his personal-armament response to the terror.

And my favorite, a November 1988 news bulletin of the occultist punk band Psychik TV, including a mayhem-filled description of a "psychic attack" that the band endured which the band members believed was inflicted on them by the staff of DC Comics, as revenge for the band using the Superman logo without permission.

Terrific stuff all around, and some of it probably damn-near impossible to obtain anywhere. All he asked in return was a nice bottle of wine if I ever sell the stuff on eBay. Now that's a boss.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dan on Russian soil -- kinda

I ended up at a cocktail party at the Russian consulate in San Francisco, which is -- according to international law -- technically sovereign Russian territory. I'm sure this doesn't stop Uncle Sam from bugging the holy crap out of the place, but hey, this is international relations. Of all the reasons for a cocktail party at the Casa de Putin, this was a party thrown by a Russian videogame company.

The consulate was full of miniature CIS flags and dour-looking diplomats in horribly bad suits. These guys all looked straight out of central casting; if you'd challenged me to pick the seven guys who were consulate diplomats out of the 100 people present at the party, I swear to God that I would've successfully picked all seven out of the lineup. Not that they made it hard for us; in a crowd of videogame-industry people, these Kremlin apparatchiks stood out like priests at a porn convention.

The comrades seemed genuinely delighted to be hosting a cocktail party with videogame folks. After all, their usual parties must be dismally dull affairs filled with semiconductor salesmen and trade representatives and the like. On this night, there were hot rent-a-blondes milling about and computer games to be played. Talk about diplomacy! And nothing warms the heart like seeing a Russian bureaucrat in a bad suit having the time of his life playing a racing game with a life-size steering wheel.

Passing by the security checkpoint where a grim young dude was stationed, I was tempted to walk up to him and say, "I wish to defect -- the knowledge I possess could advance the Soviet videogame industry by ten years." But I couldn't work up the nerve to try out the joke.

When I left the party, I was presented with an actual Russian babushka hat to keep as a gift. That's some hospitality! These guys aren't so bad...and watching their faces light up at the sight of videogames makes me wonder what that whole Cold War thing was all about anyway.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Presenting "Qore"

Huge news! I've been a bit radio-silent on this blog for a couple of weeks because I've been eyeball-deep in finishing a secret project that's been filling my plate for many months now. Yesterday, my company (Future US) finally made the joint announcement with SONY (our partner in the project) and I'm delighted to be able to share it with friends and family too.

Late last year when Future partnered with Sony to become the official media partner for the PlayStation brand, we dreamed up a new media product that would essentially be a "digital magazine" for games previews, screenshots, etc – downloaded through the PlayStation itself and controlled with the gamepad. I secured a little R&D funding from my bosses and went to work on a prototype with the very talented guys I manage in the Future Studios group.

The result is finally here: "Qore, Presented by the PLAYSTATION Network." You can get a video preview by following this link, but the short version is that it's a monthly downloadable program full of hi-def video previews, game footage, and lots of cool extras like hi-res screenshot galleries that you can scan-and-pan with your gamepad. Best of all, Sony is bundling the product with exclusive game demos and betas, starting with a major game called SOCOM: Confrontation.

Burger King, Universal Pictures, and several videogame publishers are already involved as advertisers. Sweet!

This is causing a nice stir in digital-media circles – profiles in the SF Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, L.A. Times etc -- and (particularly gratifying to me) it's also getting props from some of the leading venture-capital news sites, where "the next big thing" often finds a tough audience. If a blog like VentureBeat is impressed, then I'm a very happy camper.

Anyway, this is a big day for me, and I'm glad I'm finally able to unveil this project to the world. The gamers among you can look for it on a PlayStation 3 near you…