Less is more…is less…

•February 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment

If there is anything more stifling to the artistic spirit in terms of writing than the character / length limit or requirement, I would love to know.

For those more inclined to attack white space like cancer and assault it with vowels, prepositions, and sentences, the writing requirement often means condensing thoughts, slashing sentiments, and leaving things unsaid.

For those who struggle imprinting their minds on the page, the length requirement seems a harsh requirement, only reachable by the creative addition of clauses, thoughts, and oodles of prepositions that do a great job of saying nothing.

…and we’ve all, I’m sure, hit that Facebook creative brick wall that is the character limit in post replies. If you ever want to have fun, write a post about a controversial topic, then sit back and listen to the resounding groans as people ram their keyboards screeching into the spot where it doesn’t let you type anything else…

History, though, shows a funny trend when it comes to how it views length in terms of writing.

Pre-20th century, it seemed the world had firmly decided that more was indeed MORE. The Greeks, whether represented by the playwrights or Homer, certainly had no need for brevity, as their epics spanned what had to have been countless rolls of papyrus.

When Dante was told to shorten the number of rings of hell, he consequently put literary editors as a permanent fixture in the 10th ring.

Chaucer and Spencer gave literary reductionists resounding middle fingers as they went on to pen two obscenely large and overly wordy works, “The Canterbury Tales” and “The Faerie Queene”. People would go on for years to use these weighty tomes as makeshift barbells.

Shakespeare, in a paranoid fit to avoid only getting 15 minutes of fame, made sure Henry V’s speeches went on long enough to make the audience fall asleep, all so he could sift through the crowd and steal their valuables as retirement security.

Pope and Dryden battled it out in the Renaissance in what could be the most verbose pissing contests in history.

Thomas Jefferson had to be forcibly tied down, while John Hancock and John Adams hacked and slashed verbiage out of the Declaration of Independence. Historians will note his permanent rope burns and fixated look of horror on his face.

As Rachel K., the literary critic most likely to fix a good martini, once stated, Charles Dickens was paid by the word. Once he found this out, “Oliver Twist” went from a two page vignette to the monstrosity that is now barely supported by our bookshelf legs.

But alas, times change, and the 20th century brought in a new thought – Less is More.

William Faulkner in “As I Lay Dying” wrote an entire chapter that reads – “My mother is a fish.” Yes…that is the entire chapter…and yes…his mom smelled pretty bad.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, realizing he was writing THE American novel, shat his pants and his quivering hand only let him write in short, terse bits.

Hemingway, in between shots and cigars and lap dances by Havana pole dancers, didn’t write so much as he blurted notion after notion into barely coherent and connected rambles. When he woke up with a pounding hangover, he read his works, vomited, then said ‘fuck it’ and sent it off to the publisher.

Now…we stand in the modern era. Writers seem to have learned the value of less is more, but with an eye that when its good, and the thought is great, more can be more.

The fate of modern language, however, sits in the hands of a population straddling both concepts. On one side, we have those who shorten EVERYTHING…because, well, ROFLMAOLOL WTF hehehe lawls BRB AFK =/

On the other side, we have those adding MORE letters and words to EVERYTHING. Annnnnd I meannnn like eveeeeerything allllllll the times…like you know becaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaause we love love love annnnnnnnnnnnnnd all the stuuuuffffffffffff the langgguageee…

Fad? Maybe. Trend? Most definitely. Well see where this all heads. Meanwhile I am about to hit the character limi

Contradictions are the new black

•February 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I LOVE contradictions in life…whether they exist in science (like splitting something as small as an atom can cause something as devestating as a nuclear blast), politics (like certain unnamed political parties that believe in things like killing abortion doctors to save lives or waging ware to ensure peace), or other more personal aspects (I am a very private person, but I LOVE to blog), I can’t help but find a mothlike attraction to noticing and dissecting these things.

I also like video games…Elga would say something more inflammatory like “addicted”, or “obsessed” but for the sake of modesty I am going to stick with “like”.

Luckily, these two aspects have been colliding a bit more recently =)

For example, take Fallout 3. For those who don’t know, Fallout 3 is one of the more engrossing and superb games to come out in a very, very long time as it follows the life of a person who crawls out of a bomb shelter existence 200 years after nuclear war between China and the US has left almost the entire US a pile of rubble.

The soundtrack to the game consists of classic 1930’s to 1950’s era tracks to match the social themes, and consist of music from Ella Fitzgerald, Bob Crosby, Cole Porter, Billie Holliday and others.

Meanwhile, and here is where the contradiction comes in, you spend your time crawling over a shattered land exploding bad guys in the most bloody, messy, limbs flying off ways possible – and thats only if you arent shotting a mini-nuke at them (complete with mushroom cloud). And if THAT werent enough – the scene goes SLO-MO so you can relish the slowly falling body parts. See video below for gory goodness.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnxYzYlKU6Q

Ella Fitzgerald and exploding badguys – contradiction enough?

My other guilty videogame contradiction has been playing a first person shooter called Battlefield 1943, which pits you as the role of a Japanese or American soldier fighting in one of the historic Pacific campaign battles of WW2…and this is as real feeling as it gets – snipers crouched around picking people off, planes flying overhead shooting and dropping bombs, more soldiers landing on the shores to help you take the flags – this is total WW2 immersion if there ever was such a thing.

While I am hunting down people, though, I have been listening to Chopin – and as the poet of the piano echoes through the room its always as I am about to stick a bayonette in the back of some poor schmuck.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqVNIY0xQPA

..and above all…the real contradiction? I am a total pacifist when it comes to anything not involving digital sprites and tons of “1”‘s and “0”‘s….

Racism vs. Prejudice…or “Why the White Man Should Be Quiet”

•February 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment

It happens every time something racially orientated hits the news circuit.

Spring follows winter, dogs follow cats, and after every racist news story and the appropriate outrage from the slighted community come the White folk clamoring that everything in the world is fair and equitable because they TOO, like their racially defined counterparts, have suffered racism.

It’s reactionary, it’s a mask for white guilt that society has ingrained (perhaps justifiably) on us, and it’s always COMPLETELY FLAWED. Note the following:

The definition of racism goes as follows:

rac⋅ism[rey-siz-uhm] – noun
1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

The second part of the definition is the stickier, but also happens to be the most important when it comes to who can claim in the United States they have had racism performed against them. Racism as a concept means more than just “that person acted against me because of my race”, it means “that person acted against me because of my race in the context of a society stacked in their favor”.

While I’ll be the first to champion the notion that we are progressing along race lines – we do have an African American president after all and that notion was unthinkable as little as 10 years ago – the United States still by and large exhibits trends and behaviors that indicate black Americans DO NOT have the same general opportunities as white Americans.

African Americans get paid less on average for equal positions as their white counterparts, get pulled over by police more, have a higher percentage of their population living under the definition of poverty, and the list goes on and on. We won’t even start on the cultural offshoot of racism – just fill out an application with the first name Jamal or Shaniqua instead of John or Sally and watch your chance at the position dwindle.

Aside from that, America was founded under slavery being legal, and even though it has been more than 200 years since the Emancipation Proclamation, the STRUCTURE of society is still not truly egalitarian.

And that – the fact that the system STILL has inherent advantages, no matter how subtle or behind the scene, to those who are white – is why no white American can ever justifiably claim they were the victim of racism.

“But wait but wait” gasps the Starbuck’s swilling, button up polo and khaki wearing white man. “I was in line once and this black kid called me whitey” or “I was in a Mexican food restaurant, and the Spanish only speaking wait staff served me after other Hispanics.”

Yes whitey sir, you quite possibly could have experienced prejudice, defined as:

prej⋅u⋅dice[prej-uh-dis] –noun

1. an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.

However, because the system is established in your favor because of your race THAT STILL IS NOT RACISM.

Prejudice is unfortunate, but prejudice tempered with things that can dramatically hamper your ability to succeed – law enforcement profiling you, employers looking more unfavorably at you, and such – is crushing and debilitating.

Until society is equal, and I am a firm believer we will be someday, take your lumps and enjoy your white guilt Mr. or Mrs. White American…and respect the fact that you are lucky to not be able to ever claim racism.

The Best Friend I Never Knew I Had

•April 29, 2009 • 3 Comments

Anyone remember Pokemon?

For those too old to enjoy the addicting but insanely repetitive pseudo-RPG for the Gameboy (or the later iterations in Nintendo’s wise quest to cash in on a fad), the goal of the game was relatively simple and stated boldly on the box – “Gotta Catch em all!” In this case, “it” referred to Pokemon, and by throwing a ball at a bunch of sickeningly cute creatures you could magically subvert them to your will, and in turn use THOSE creatures to catch even bigger, badder, and more doe-eyed creatures.

For a real kicker, observe just where these kids are entering Pikachu, perhaps the most famous of the Pokemon.

Although originating in Japan, the idea could not be more American – for no other reason than just to collect them ALL you went on this capturing rampage, dodging badly translated campy dialogue, capturing as many creatures as you could despite the fact you would most likley only benefit from a small percentage of them.

While Pokemon still persists today as an annoying TV show and half an isle in Toys r Us of overpriced toys, the concept has migrated to a new medium – Facebook.

In Facebook, one of the new self-promoting social websites that cropped up post 2000, the goal is simple and should sound eerily familiar. Start by finding friends, and through a simple user interface inviting them to be a part of your ‘community’. Once your supply of current friends is sought out, you instinctively move to your coworkers and add them. Once that battlefield is accomplished, loose acquaintances become your next targets, which in gateway drug fashion of course lead to searching high school friends, the cleaning lady that once spoke to you in the elevator for 2.3 seconds, and of course the nephew of the brother of the 2nd cousin of your 2nd grade football coach that you never actually met, but heard plenty about…because lets face it – no Facebook friend collection could be complete without THAT guy.

Meanwhile, like-minded souls creating their own wealth and store of Facebook friends will inevitably find YOU out, and out of respect for the capitalistic drive to conquer the landscape of friendship you of course acquiesce – becoming their Facebook friend.

It matters not if you don’t know these people. You might have heard of them ONCE back in high school when you ditched gym and overheard the principal talking about the bad kids? They worked for the same company you worked for two jobs ago and found one of your business cards wedged in the space heater? All reasons are good reasons, and on Facebook the language of friendship becomes a little looser, a little more distorted, and the normal bounds of allowed proximity remain safe through the barrier and shield that the Internet inherently provides.

So…the person who sat three rows behind you in third grade math just sent you a friend request – which you of course naturally accepted. Why?

It could be the fact that Facebook provides a relatively distant excuse to be myopic in a world that is increasingly empowering “1st world” populations to retreat within the castle of technology while simultaneously stimulating the need to CELEBRATE ONESELF. While modesty in the past has dictated social occasions, along comes Facebook, which boldly proclaims that not ONLY is every aspect, no matter how mundane, of your life super important to you, but it should also be super important to your following of disciple-like friends, which in turn only advance the feeling of self-importance. Have a thought? Post it on Facebook, because even Aunt Sue’s gardner cares that you had Cornflakes this morning instead of Cheerios.

Or…

It could be that capitalism, bred and inducted into all Americans since they crawl out of their mother’s womb, has let its natural mandate of excess and MORE so permeate our psyches that the concept of ‘friendship’ has been reduced from a nebulous concept to one more quantifiable, and subsequently numbers of interactions and friends replace more traditionally important concepts of friendship such as the quality and depth of your interactions.

Whatever the reason, people face a quandary when it comes to technology. The more connected we become – the more often you can email, text, or post on a Facebook wall – we become more connected and can easily keep in touch with more people as these tools provide both the facilitation of easier communication and the tools to track and manage these communications. Conversely, though, all of the afore mentioned activities are performed SOLO.

We text in our car. We pop in and out of Facebook throughout the day in order to post and respond to people’s comments. We send out and receive emails from the comfort of our cushy chairs with the speed of light. 

In our technologically induced solitude, though, quantity replaces quality, and in our mad dash to reach 1,000 Facebook friends or exceed the storage capacity for contacts in our cell phones we lose something vital – technology is a tool, not an end, and while capitalism teaches us to embrace excess, sometimes more is somehow less.

Gotta catch em all right?

After all – your old college roommate from freshman year would just find it hilarious that you burnt the spaghetti somehow…right?

More bang for the Buck – Video Games and New Added Content

•April 17, 2009 • 1 Comment

There is a GREAT trend going on in the gaming industry these days – with all gaming platforms from the PC to the X-box/Playstation/Wii being integrated with high speed Internet, game developers have discovered something revolutionary: its possible to not only MAKE a great game, but also extend its lifetime in a gamer’s liberary by adding free content at later dates.

This process has gone on for years now with MMORPG’s, but now the industry in general is catching on. A great example is Street Fighter Iv – with its huge single player mode and online modes already packaged with the game, the game has TONS to do and is a great entertainment value. It also recieved great reviews accross the board, with most major media outlets giving it a 9.5 score or better.

Even then – Capcom decided to EXPAND the available content FOR FREE, adding tournament modes and a system similar but much more expansive than the arena challenges in WoW.  This move is great business practice, making their existing product last longer, and also creating user loyalty for their products. Here is a press release they offered on the subject:

Championship Mode, in a nutshell, means hot tournament action and match replays that let you watch the best of the best. Championship Mode goes live for both PS3 and Xbox 360 on Friday, April 24, and it comes entirely FREE.

For anyone that wants more than will fit in a nutshell…

Tournaments:
The tournaments offer a new take on classic SFIV competition. They are broken out into 5 different levels, which means everyone can participate and find a good challenge without getting blown out of the water or bored. You score Grade Points (GP) for tournament wins, and as your GP total grows, you’ll become eligible to enter into more exclusive tournaments. Winning tournaments will also net you Championship Points (CP). The CP work basically like “prize money” up for grabs in the tournament. The higher the GP skill of the players in a particular tournament, the bigger the CP prize!

 

In true tournament tradition, character selection is double-blind. With the CP purse on the line, you won’t be able to see who your opponent has picked until you’ve both made your choices, and the battle is set to begin.

The tournaments are run according to a standard type of single-elimination bracket, but your opponents are generated dynamically. This means the matching system will automatically match you with a player of your skill level participating in that tournament type, so you don’t have to wait around. Since the tournaments are already seeded by player strength, you’re assured quality opponents at your same skill level, as fast as possible. If you can advance through the rounds to take a top placing, you’ll score GP and CP. As your points increase, you’re eligible for tournaments with increasingly strong opponents.

–SG Championship (SUPER GRADE): 5 rounds long. The highest grade championship in which only top players can participate.
–G1 Championship (GRADE 1):5 rounds long, for advanced players
–G2 Championship (GRADE2 2): 4 rounds long, for intermediate players
–G3 Championship (GRADE3) 3 rounds long, for beginners
–FREE Championship (Free Grade): 4 rounds long, open to anyone regardless of their level.

The tournament system is set up to reward you for participating. At G3, you actually score a point even if you get knocked out in your very first match. At G2, you don’t gain points for a first-round loss, but don’t lose any either. Similarly, you never lose points by participating in the FREE rank tournaments. Only in the top G1 and SG tournaments is it possible to lose GP, and even then you only ever lose 5 points for a first-round loss.

One of the best things about the new mode is that can play in tournaments in just the same way you can use the “arcade request” feature, so you’re free to play in arcade mode while waiting for your next tournament challenger, who will be chosen automatically based on your rank.

Last, but most certainly not least, disconnecters, aka pullers, aka ragequitters, your days are numbered: If you disconnect during a match, the system will also dock you your progress in the tournament, so pullers will never be able to advance into the higher ranks of tournaments. What’s even more fun is that the system also happily displays your disconnect percentage, so if you’ve got a bad habit, it’s right there for everyone to see.

Replays
Replays are generated straight from the Championship Mode tournaments. The top 5000 Championship Point leaders will be given the option to upload a replay, which are then available for anyone to watch. Everyone on both X360 and PS3 will have be able to watch any of the replays on their platform, but there are also some system-specific extra features on the replays:

On PS3, viewers can watch your replay and vote in real time according to characteristics like “beautiful” or “funny.” For the nerds, you can vote once every 30 frames (that’s 2x a second!), although there is a cap to avoid total vote spamming. Replays will be ranked according to the user-submitted reviews, making it easy to find the flavor of replays you want to see.

On X360, you can’t vote on the matches, but you can watch and then save a number of your favorites. While watching your saved matches, you’ll also have the option to turn on input commands (just like the Training Mode option), so you can see the gritty details of exactly what button and joystick inputs the top players are using to win.

And just for good meansure, the full press release is below:

Update to Street Fighter IV: Championship Mode comes free!

Capcom is bringing new options to Street Fighter IV with an eye towards serious players. Street Fighter IV’s Championship Mode update expands on the fighting fun by offering players the chance to compete in tournaments and to watch replays of the best tournament matches. Best of all: it comes to you at no cost! The Championship Mode update will be available for both PS3 and Xbox 360 owners on Friday, April 24 (times TBD).

Championship Mode offers you the chance to compete in 5 different grades of tournaments, creating the right challenge for players of every skill level. You’ll score Grade Points (GP) for tournament wins, and as your GP total grows, you’ll become eligible to enter into more exclusive tournaments. Winning tournaments will also net you Championship Points (CP). CP are like “prize money” up for grabs in the tournament. The higher the GP skill of the players in a particular tournament, the bigger the CP prize!

Replay Mode allows you to select and watch the best Championship Mode tournament matches.

On the PlayStation Network, you can rate matches while you watch according to characteristics such as “awesome” or “funny.” Replays are then ranked based on these vote ratings.

On Xbox Live, instead of rating the matches, you can choose to download and save your favorite replays to study the players’ techniques. You’ll also be able to turn on the input commands from both players to be able to review their button and joystick motions in precise detail.

Norman Bates Hides Out Online These Days

•April 17, 2009 • Leave a Comment

EEK EEK EEK EEK!

A consummate classic film that even the newer generations of movie watchers have internalized, “Psycho” is remembered best for the shower scene and accompanying screeching of violins. By today’s horror film standards the whole scenario is pretty vanilla – sawing your arm off to escape a nightmarish scenario or watching a creepy girl crawl out of the TV screen towards you because you didn’t pass her tape along make a scrawny guy in a wig with a kitchen knife seem a little laughable.

What is a little creepier about “Psycho”, though, is that it involves a person so deluded and mentally unbalanced that they assume another gender (he dressed as his mommy after all) and run a hotel as a front for his serial killing designs.

Hahaha…imagine a mentally unbalanced guy pretending to be a woman and using some kind of organization to vent off his baser and sometimes malicious desires…THAT wouldn’t happen these days!

Except, well, there is this relatively new social medium called the Internet, where the anonymity of the medium has not only given the Norman Bates’ of the world a new feeding ground (ever watch one of those “To Catch a Predator” shows?), but has also brought out the inner Norman Bates of even those people only slightly marginalized.

Case in point – recently after three years of playing World of Warcraft (as Humbert Humbert would say in “Lolita” – “Gentle reader, don’t judge me too harshly” lol) a group of five to seven people decided to pool their thoughts together on just WHO this mysterious person was who was in part leading the guild (along with their inner council of other people called “guild officers”). This person, although fiendishly and obsessively paranoid, challenged others to find out who she was in a “I did this, but you’ll never find me, so ha ha!” manner. Naturally, as a challenge was issued, people set forth casually to conquer it. 

Through some very easy, brief investigation into the scraps of sloppiness the person had let slip out, a funny thing happened – “she” turned out to have a penis, and from there things began getting more and more clear as a Bruce-Willis-realizing-all-the-clues-that-meant-he-was-really-dead occured. Eureka indeed!

Here was a person many of us trusted – not only had we relied on this person’s judgment to make the experience of our hobby go smoother, we had ridden into battle with this person, slaying dragons, demons, and even god’s in an effort of teamwork that always had its foundation in the trust of the other people in the group.

Yes…I am a big dork – but there are 12 million big dorks out there with those same WoW aspirations, and that’s a mighty powerful coalition of dorks =)

Consider the following:

  • This person lied to more than 300 people over the coarse of three years about their gender, often going to great lengths to keep up the facade. (Norman Bates would wear wigs and dresses to enact in gender subterfuge).

 

  • When a voice-over-Internet system was used during online gaming, this person would occasionally speak – in a high pitched and ridiculously fake attempt to sound like a girl. Often times this would result in laughter from anyone who heard it – which made the fact that you have to push a button to talk over the Internet via this protocol a true blessing. (Norman Bates would also imitate his mother’s voice in an obviously false attempt to sound female).

 

  • When confronted about it, this person tripped over and contradicted himself in ways that only cemented his online duality.

 

  • On a more serious note, two people who no longer played the game even once warned other members that this person could very well be a real life menace to another member that ‘she’ had threatened to drive over and commit violent acts against, and they were genuinely concerned for this person’s physical health and safety. (We all know it was generally a BAD idea to be left alone with Norman :P)

To this day this person clings to the fake identity, despite everyone knowing it is false, like a raccoon clutching a piece of shiny metal that won’t fit out of the hole.

On the Internet, wiser folk will realize that if you are dealing with someone you ONLY know from online, you should always take what they present as the truth with a grain of salt. The anonymity of the Internet can be a truly wonderful thing – its a great equalizer, and can often seamlessly do away of many of the social hindrances of life such as racism, sexism, or the other nasty -isms that continue to plague and distort our real life social interactions. Most Internet acquaintances don’t see color or religion or sexual identity, and the basis of ones esteem is often how well the present ideas and interact with other over textual mediums.

The internet also, though, has unlocked something a little deeper, primal, and much darker in a lot of people, which regrettably casts a very suspecting shroud over all interactions.

After all – no one wants to be caught off guard when Norman rips open that shower curtain knife in hand….not even dorks killing pixelated dragons =)