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Friday, May 09, 2008

Also For Sunday: Little Big Planet, Killzone Style

Part of me posts this simply because IGN's annoying ads actually plastered themselves ontop of the video when I tried to watch it - and I care enough about you to try and save you from that fate.

TV Watch: Lost, Cabin Fever

How the hell did I miss that Claire identified Christian Shepherd as her *dad* last week? Did we get that confirmed earlier and I missed that too? I knew it was a widely held assumption, but *damn* I gotta stop watching my recordings late at night.

So this episode was mostly filler, but I'm willing forgive this for two reasons. One is that what was not filler was ooey gooey John Locke goodness and quite honestly that's an easy formula to keep me liking the show. Setting parallels between John and Ben is narratively sound, quite interesting and makes keeping Ben around (he was, apparently, supposed to be only a minor character at one point) seem sensible and worthwhile. That John is a man who until his walkabout fought his destiny and now is the island's chosen warrior helps the entire story move along.

The second reason is that while the rest was largely filling in lines between dots on a map (getting Sayid closer to saving people off the beach, explaining the doctor's death, etc) - I can't knock the show for filling in a few gaps when I so frequently knock the show for *not* filling in the gaps. Gaps like how Ben could control the smoke monster or why Abaddon would at one point be working to get John on the island and one point working with Widmore.

See - I just can't help myself.

But with this episode the picture gets clearer, not cloudier, and that always helps. We can see how some leave the island, some stay behind (I doubt they all die at this point) and the island moves away (as we could guess by Widmore's inability to return to ti) and leaves the "war" in the state we see during the flashforwards.

Course, massive holes still abound. Like how Claire magically seems to be, well, dead. How dead people seem to appear in dreams and in real life on the island. How physical things on the island can seem to vanish and reappear - but the Jacob ... er, I mean, the island can't simply vanish a troup of psychotic mercenaries. Why a group of scientists would even be mixed in with said mercenaries in the first places (does Faraday really seem the type to wait around for people to get slaughtered? Or stupid enough to think the mercs would be doing anything else?). Stuff like that.

But for a show seemed mostly interested in padding it's own character subplots, the show has come a long way this season.

I don't think you've met my mom...

Mother's Day might seem like just another Hallmark style holiday to the untrained eye, but anyone who's worked retail knows that for some sectors it's essentially an abridged Thanksgiving. I can't back this up with any numbers, but I'm pretty certain it's Crate's third largest holiday (course there is a huge gap to number four, I believe ... sorry Father's Day).

Apparently this fact has obviously not escaped the attention of other sectors. While flowers and household goods might be obvious - it seems that some people want memory cards and DVD burners to be in the mix. Now look, and TigerDirect - I'm not saying that we should support any kind of gender bias here or anything, but I'm pretty sure even my *dad* would find a 22" LCD monitor a pretty damn lame gift on *his* holiday.

I get that we're a capitalist culture and all but c'mon ... wasn't killing Christmas enough?

For Sunday: Clone Wars Animated Trailer

Looks moderately sweet. I still think Genndy did an excellent job, but honestly it seems like anyone does a better job than Lucas when it comes to telling the Star Wars saga.

Of Breakpoints And Puppies

Work is pretty lenient with us being able to use the home as an office - which is most thankful as recently there's been a spat of SARS and root canals which honestly just feels a bit dangerous to me. For me that means that my day usually gets punctuated between phone calls, long IM chats, our 13 year old puppy demanding attention and lately - setting several breakpoints in the hopes of running down bugs.

On that last note - I am hereby swearing never to brag again about achieving something with iPhone development. The last time was when I uploaded a record to Salesforce and when I decided, moments later, to try the same code on the actual hardware ... it crashed. Yesterday it was when I figured out my memory leak when it came to threading and when I decided, moments later, to try the same code on the actual hardware ... it crashed. It's not a happy trend.

I'm actually installing the new SDK as we speak. Overall development has been pretty much a joy, but trying to track down a mysterious crash yesterday was pretty frustrating and apparently the very download I'm installing now corrupted our other OS X developer's compile - so I may have that to look forward to.

Alongside my three hour fight with breakpoints, The Girl pulled an 11 hour day - so the long of the short of all this is that we're tired and I won't be talking about Lost just now.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Brewing SAG Strike

Remember when the WGA strike ended? There was much rejoicing and then we *still* had to wait like a month for new episodes (since we still hadn't learned that these shows write themselves).

Following the Lostpedia Blog (because I am still at least that much of a Lost geek) informs me that we might have a SAG strike to deal with instead. Current contracts expire in the quickly arriving June 30th date, and there's no resolution in sight right now.

Still - would anyone in Hollywood want to repeat the last few months? I would hope that this alone would push some kind of agreement before July hits.

The iPhone Text Correct Is Kinda Whacked

I love my iPhone - but I wish you could turn off the text correction across the board. Especially in SMS, where my shorthand has been tranlated into such gems as:

Son I was strong - pushed to 2PM

Now ... Left u MSG

g almost terrorized a gold course

Not to mention just bizarre preferences, like insisting Wii is wiu. WTF is a wiu anyway?

Illinois Budget Cuts: $6.25 million out of CeaseFire

The governor also cut a $250,000 grant for Rockford CeaseFire, the grass-roots antiviolence program. In fact, he eliminated state funding for every CeaseFire program in Illinois, a total cut of $6.25 million.

Willie Ashford, violence-prevention coordinator at Rockford CeaseFire, said he didn’t know how much longer the program could operate without the annual grant, which accounts for roughly 75 percent of its budget.

“We’re going to have to look at different funding areas,” he said. “I’ve been writing some grants. We’re looking at some fundraising. We just might have to downsize.”
-- Gov. amends budget: Several projects won’t get state funding

This actually is from August, but it's coming out again in light of recent budget talks as well as the recent streaks of violence we've seen here in Chicago. I bring it up here as an example of lopsided government. Our governor spends over a million defending a fruitless challenge against video games because, according to him, they spur violence - but when comes to curbing actual violence ... he cuts the budget.

On the surface, CeaseFire seems like a solid investment. The average cost per site is $250,000 while every shooting in Chicago costs about $300,000 in court and hospital fees. Maybe if our politicians spent more time actually governing and less time trying to scare soccer moms into voting because little Jimmy might just play some Halo after school - we'd all be better off.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Grand Theft Childhood: The Scary Nightly News

When I interviewed Kutner and Olson for my story, they said right away that Grand Theft Auto was different than “typical violent videogames.” Olson spoke eloquently about how the kids they interviewed loved “the freedom” in the game. She told me that the kids didn’t want to become thugs when they grew up after playing San Andreas, but that they enjoyed playing as a thug.

The other thing they told me that made me want to drop to my knees in gratitude was that kids were totally capable of distinguishing between reality and fantasy. Olson said the kids interviewed knew they were playing, plain and simple. The kids also told her that they found the nightly news far more disturbing than Grand Theft Auto. That, they knew was real, and it scared the bejeesus out of them.
-- REVIEW: Grand Theft Childhood [Next Generation]

The book also points out a few other facts - for instance that 1994 marks the start of declined juvenile violence in the U.S. as well as being when the release year of the original PlayStation.

For Sunday: Family Guy Matrix

Thanks, New Launches.

Take Two Sues CTA Over GTA Ads

The Manhattan federal court suit claims that the transit authority and the external advertising agent violated contractual rights and the publisher’s free speech by pulling the six-week campaign of 385 ads within days of their April 22 debut. It seeks an order for the Chicago Transit Authority to re-run the ads and damages of at least $300,000, Reuters reports.
-- Take-Two Sues Chicago Transit Authority

So not only was the CTA being stupid and pulling advertising at a time when they're desperate for cash, leaving only the bus stand ads which don't actually support Chicagoans ... but it might also have been criminal as well.

So now the already cash strapped CTA might have to pony up cash because they decided to appease a knee jerk and fact free Fox News editorial. These actions aren't harmless. Let's look at one response to Rod Blagojevich’s misuse of state funds for a pointless attack:

Today, my office called each state agency in an effort to schedule meetings between me and each director to discuss their budget priorities.

I wanted to ask some of them why they allowed the governor to loot $1 million from their line items to pay for the administration’s legal fees defending his violent video games legislation, when their agencies had nothing to do with the litigation. Surely they could provide some suggestions on where to cut from their budgets, since based on their generosity to the governor’s legal defense, it seemed they had more than enough money to give.
- Statement from Rep. Jack Franks on State Budget

Now we have a similar brawl starting up. The agencies in questions were related to things like public welfare and economic development. Which do we think is more related to crime in the city - lack of support for underdeveloped areas or a video gamer being advertised on the side of a bus?

Shame on the CTA and shame on Fox News.

Monday, May 05, 2008

DVD Watch: OK, That Was Gay

This is just kind of a non-sequitur. I don't mean gay as in I'm some kind of closeted forumfeeder who thinks that "gay" should be a slur or that we just watched a lot of follies - I mean we happened to rent a couple of things with very strong lesbian undertones.

First up was Hex, which is a BBC TV show about the supernatural going-ons at a private university built on some hallowed witching ground or something. The occasional comparison to Buffy has been made here, but I really got to say that's something of a stretch. Buffy was brilliant, don't get me wrong, but it was still pretty formulaic in general and fell often to the "monster of the week" pattern. Hex builds up more like a drama as it digs up aspects of the main character's life and how it pertains to her creepy gothic surroundings.

All of this would actually get kinda boring as it takes a few episodes just to start rolling into anything resembling conflict - so the writers tossed in a smartass lesbian roomie subplot to spice things up. This was a good idea, because honestly one disc into the show and it's still the most interesting part of the whole thing. Hex shows promise in a slow and mildly suspenseful kind of way - and the twist in the first few episodes (won't spoil it here) really helps keep the attention.

Next was Tipping The Velvet - which honestly must stand as about the only lesbian epic I can think of off the top of my head. It's a three part BBC mini-series (so clocks in at around 180 minutes I think) based on the novel of the same name and follows the life and times of one Nancy Astley and her coming out in Victorian England. And by coming out - I don't mean as a debutante or anything, I mean even the title is a reference to a lesbian act and the BBC don't hold much back in their portayal of the book. The movie feels a little lopsided - there's some really strong performances but that's occasionally offset by overt symbolism which feels a little too film school for me.

All of this brings me to a point though - this is all BBC material. I can't imagine an American network handling either of these shows (except on cable). I'm not familiar with how they aired, but I think Hex aired pretty much like Buffy did and the show goes way beyond the simplistic handling of Willow's relationships in the first few episodes.

It's just another example of American puritanism. Because everything this month has to be brought back to GTA - it occurs to me as I write this that the most often noted act in the franchise deals with hookers. Mind you this is a game in which you can burn old ladies alive in glee - but think of the prostitutes seems to be the watchphrase.

Course the outrage seems a bit less this time. Maybe as games push these little moral envelopes, we'll get some better television eventually...

Dead Space Comic

This got sent across the desk a bit ago, but I only now had some free time over lunch to actually look at it. EA has a online comic for Dead Space written and illustrated by Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night) and Anthony Johnston (Wasteland). It's pretty entertaining and does a good job of it's given task of getting me actually interested in the backstory for the game.