Letters to the Editor: Video Game Skeletons and the F-35

We got mail!
December 4, 2016, 10:00pm
Image: Alex Barth/Flickr

Hello, loyal Motherboard readers, and thank you for tuning into another edition of Letters to the Editor, where we share some of your insightful and hilarious emails with the rest of the group because it would be incredibly selfish to keep them all to ourselves.

We apologize for being away for a few weeks, but you know how it is between Thanksgiving and Christmas and soon the end of the year that just keeps on taking, 2016. But we're always reading! So don't worry, and please keep sending in those letters.

Now, let's get right into the important issues, like video game skeletons.


RE: Video Game Skeletons, Ranked


How could you not include Bones from Quake 3 Arena?




Hello Norbert, thank you for your email.

Since the publication of my very important list of video game skeletons, I have received a lot of messages, tweets, about various baggabones that should have been included. The Dry Bones from Mario, Mort from Planescape, some skeletons from Zelda, Minecraft, and you feel the skeleton from Quake 3 Arena was snubbed. There are many skeletons in the world of video games. You could fill cemeteries with them. Some video games have. I respect your concerns but I feel like I should address the way I created this list.

First I printed out pictures of all these skeletons, like Sam Jackson in Iron Man 2, a table full of portraits of skulls that are polygons and skulls that are pixels. Who are the greats, I thought. Who stand above the others. A list of the best skeletons must not merely be skeletons who are good, but skeletons who are important, who stand out from the other bones. Skeletons that I can look at and think, "If I ripped my flesh off like the nerd in Poltergeist who ate the possessed leftovers, who would I see? Would I merely see a blue or green skeleton as if I died drowning in toilet cleaner, or would I play guitar? Would my skeleton wear a headband? Would my skeleton be really huge?"

Your favourite skeleton is not insignificant, but the record should address only the exceptional. And, most importantly, the guy who made Ecco The Dolphin liked my animated gif.

Zack Kotzer, Motherboard contributor


RE: Eliminating Money, Taxes, and Ownership Will Bring Forth Technoutopia

Dear Mr. Istavan,

I read your latest article "Eliminating Money, Taxes, and Ownership Will Bring Forth Technoutopia" with great interest.

I am all for techno-communism, technocracy, or whatever you want to call it, and have been advocating such for nearly 15 years now. It simply makes no sense for anyone to lack what they need for a good life with the level of automation and technology that we currently have available to us. But, having studied the nature of cities extensively, these futuristic utopian city concepts won't work, even though they do make for some very pretty models.

This is, simply put, just more post war modernist utopian planning, and we have seen time and time again that this kind of city doesn't work.

The problem with modernist utopian planning, in a nutshell, is that it conceives of the city not as a living thing, but as a machine. In other words, it doesn't see the city as something that grows, changes, and adapts over time to the changing needs and desires of its population and changing socioeconomic circumstances.

A city must have a plan that allows for incremental growth and change over time, or else it will suffer from "over-specialization" in evolutionary terms, and it will fail when the population changes or when socioeconomic circumstances change from what the builders originally envisioned. Postwar sprawl was born of the exact same kind of utopian, inflexible design. It no longer works because we live in a vastly different world from when these places were built, but these places were conceived of and built as being finished/complete, with little/no flexibility built into the plan to allow for future growth/change.

I have developed my own ideal city concept based on the principle of maximizing utility/happiness, which allows for both incremental and rapid growth, so that it does not suffer from the problems of utopian planning.

To provide a sketch:

High-speed, high capacity main roads should be spaced about 1 mile apart, forming the edges of a "superblock." These main roads will be designed for mass transit, taxis, trucks, bicycles and pedestrians. The interior streets of the superblock will be narrow, low speed, and built in a grid pattern that feeds into the main roads. Commerce (distribution areas) will be located at the corners of the superblock, where two main roads intersect. Elsewhere along the main roads will be space for higher-density housing (walkup apartments). Lower density housing (detached houses) will occupy the interior of the superblock. At the center of the superblock will be a community park, and located near the park will be space for schools, a community hospital, police and fire stations, and other civic uses.

A single superblock can function independently as its own "town." To grow a city, superblocks can be "tiled" next to one another, forming a "supergrid" out of the main roads. The city can also grow incrementally, one block at a time, using the superblock as a "template." The ability to support both rapid and incremental growth is one of the chief strengths of this concept.

With this arrangement, convenience and safety are both maximized. The residents can easily walk to whatever is needed and efficient, high-speed transit is always nearby. High-speed vehicles are restricted to the main roads where they are not a hazard and a nuisance to residents.

Each superblock would have a population of, ideally, around 12,000 people, resulting in a density of 12,000 people per square mile. This is high enough to support all the services and amenities required by a complete neighborhood, while still allowing for a large number of housing units to be detached houses with yards, which is something that is nearly universally desired.

This pattern is not radically new, and many elements of this pattern can be found all over the world. The most successful places are those places that follow this pattern most closely.

I hope this reaches you and provides some food for thought. I look forward to your next article.


Patrick McCleery


Re: The F-35 Stealth Fighter Is Politically Unstoppable—Even Under President Trump

One of the primary reasons for Lockheed's price rise was that Boeing was the darling of the democrats.

Yes the F-35 is over budget. However, as a taxpayer I am getting a whole lot more for my money buying F-35's than from Obamacare, luxury benefits for illegal aliens from the moment they cross the border and the administration's "welfare for the wealthy" deals with the banksters and "green energy insiders" .

Steve D


To your point—Boeing is certainly fretting right now about Trump as its commercial business is heavily invested in China.

With the F-35, the most important question to ask is whether Americans can trust it to keep their pilots and soldiers safe. Not just air-to-air but air-to-ground, as the Joint Strike Fighter will take over for the A-10 Warthog. If you were a soldier on the ground, which one would you prefer in a pinch?


Robert Beckhusen, Motherboard contributor


RE: Canada's Police Allowed Journalists to 'Embed' to Argue For More Surveillance

The security/surveillance agencies of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance have long complained about 'going dark' as the communications they seek to intercept has gone digital. The RCMP is just the most recent. With vivid cases of suspected terrorists, drug gangs and child abusers operating beyond the law, it is attempting to persuade a skeptical public that it needs more powers. However, the RCMP and its partner agencies, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and Communication Security Establishment (CSE), are much less forthcoming about the ways in which going digital has provided them with far more data about the movements, affiliations and intimate activities of Canadians that they ever had before.

As Edward Snowden's whistleblowing has exposed, our security agencies have already greatly expanded their digital surveillance capabilities. The key to this is 'metadata,' which is pretty much whatever their formidable computers can pull out of the masses of captured communication. But CSE keeps insisting deceptively that "Metadata … is contextual and does not expose the content of emails, phone calls or text messages." Metadata is much more revealing than previously understood, but receives a much lower level of legal protection than communication 'content' enjoys.

These agencies say very little specific about their extensive metadata practices. When the lid is occasionally lifted, what we learn can be disturbing. This year alone CSIS was found to have acted illegally by indefinitely storing information about people not suspected of criminal wrong doing. And CSE admitted to years of unauthorized sharing Canadians' metadata with the US National Security Agency (NSA).

Instead of the RCMP, CSE and CSIS pretending that there is a clear difference between metadata and communication content, apparently so they can continue covertly accessing data on millions of us, they should come clean on what they actually do with our information. Rather than adopt a strategy of focusing exclusively on selected poster child cases, however genuine, without giving a Canadians a more complete picture, they dazzle and distract more than illuminate the vital public debate.

Andrew Clement.