Saturday, February 01, 2003

Shit, shit, shit


Friday, January 31, 2003

Quick Hits

Senor Poindexter passes along a link to

Being Antiwar: It's not just for lefties anymore.

Good for a chuckle.

Microsoft: "Houston, we have a problem."

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Visionary ... or Satan's minion?

Nolan Bushnel, inventor of the video game, turns 60 next week. I guess now is as good a time as any to ask: did he simply create the epitome of crap, or did he change the world for the better?

If you ask my brother, video games are the pinnacle of worthlessness. Kids today (specifically, his nephew -- my son) should throw away the video games and spend all of their free time in the great outdoors. Kind of ironic, considering my brother was the kid in the family with the Colecovision in his room. And he swears that his kid will never play a video game.

Of course, this is the same man who once assured me that he would never have kids.

I think there is room for concern about video games. Certainly there are games that tend to be anti-social. And sometimes I wonder if truth is stranger than fiction and we're training a new generation of cyber warriors.

At the same time, the latest generation of video games can be quite compelling and challenging in an intellectual sense. Sure, your basic shoot-em-up may rely more on hand-eye coordination, but many of the top games feature challenging puzzles that must be solved. And the more complex games demand a sense of time and space. I've played multi-player games with my son and quickly found that he had a much quicker grasp of the wheres and whens of a given level -- even when both of us are equally new to the universe.

Talk about frustration -- try going one on one with an 11-year-old who "frags" you before you get a chance to get your bearings. Such things certainly engender conversations about "fair play" and "good sportsmanship." And those are lessons that can be applied across the board. After few sessions of "Medal of Honor" leads to an interest in World War II history ... and books. It's not just about killing Nazis anymore.

I do think that like anything, moderation is the key. If my son were the type of kid who did nothing but play video games, I think there would be cause for concern. As a parent who grew up in video arcades, I understand the lure of that "alternate universe." There's nothing wrong with stepping in and directing a kid toward another activity -- that's part of what being a parent is all about.

Video games can be a spur toward achieving other goals as well. My son recently said, "I want to be a game designer when I grow up. What do I have to learn to do that?" Good question. We're starting with a summer school "camp" where he'll learn about classic games such as chess and get a chance to design and produce his own board game. He's after me now to help him find some software to allow him to build his own computer-based games.

There's nothing inherently wrong with video games. Like any other diversion, they can be abused. But they can also be a gateway into positive change. And for that, I think we owe Nolan Bushnell a big thank you and a wish for a very happy birthday.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

I think one of the crappiest things so far this century is the prediliction of rightwingers to declare as un-American anyone who doesn't adhere to the party line espoused by Bush & Co.

The right has a long tradition of browbeating into silence anything or anyone they perceive to be the "opposition." Once, it was the blacklist and other McCarthyite tactics. Today, it's the label of "anti-american" or, worse yet, "liberal."

Criticism of the President, questioning the policies of his administration or calling the bluff of his supporters are not un-American. If they were, then a wide swath of the right wing could have been labeled un-American when Clinton held office. Teddy Roosevelt said it best: "To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."

Now it seems that rightwingers are in a high dudgeon because some "un-American traitors" are calling for a boycott on Rush Limbaugh. Such a boycott impinges on Limbaugh's right to free speech, they say. It's just another outrageous example of political correctness, according to these folks.

But where are all the conservative "defenders of free speech" hiding when it's the minions of the right calling for boycotts? When radical rightwing Christian groups were calling for a boycott of Disney a few years ago, where was the outrage? When conservatives call for a boycott of PBS, where is their love for "freedom of speech?"

This country was founded on ideals that make dissent one of the key components of being "American." The right wing would rather stifle debate by marginalizing dissent with viscious name calling. And THAT is truly un-American.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Pause rewind replay, warm memory chip

This idea from Gibson strikes me as, well, a load of crap.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all about technology. I have a digital audio workstation I use for home recording. The most recent Melodyboy recordings were done digitally. That said, we kept the digital nature of our project in mind and looked for ways to "rehumanize" the tones we were getting. Call me old-fashioned, but there's just something to be said for the old school.

It also strikes me that this technology that Gibson is shooting for is really nothing new. For years, musicians have been able to purchase MIDI systems for their guitars, which allow the player to do any number of things to their sounds. I can't recall the last time I saw anyone actually using the system in a live application. As for myself, I've even gotten away from active electronics and solid-state equipment in my bass setup. Some call it retro. I call it a clean tone.

I don't think that musicians will be jumping to adopt the Gibson system, either. (At least guitarists. Keyboardists are a different breed.) Oh, it might find some fans in the computer-based recording circles, but I can't see it being very useful in a live performance. If the guitar uses Cat5 cable to connect, then won't you need a special RJ45-enabled amplifier? I suppose you could jack into a laptop and then go from there to the soundboard, but what happens when you have a system crash? Yeah, I know that the guitar will feature "traditional" pickups and outputs as well, but then what's the point in the first place?

"I'm sorry, we'll restart that version of '21st Century Schizoid Man' as soon as our guitarist reboots." Ugh.