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Archive for February, 2011

So much to do, so little time…

February 15, 2011 Leave a comment

One thing about college that I’ve always found to be rather comforting is that there’s always something to do. Idle time is wasted time, really. If you’re watching TV, you’re procrastinating on an essay. It’s stressing, but in a lot of ways I cannot stand idle time anymore. I think, more than anything, my time at the University of Michigan has taught me how to use the time I have to the fullest advantage (else I feel extremely guilty).

Admittedly, I still love free time. To some extent I think I may rationalize free time as non-idle time because I’m doing something which, in some way, expands my mind. It could be, for instance, learning Russian (Привет. Меня зовут Лжошуа.) is a good use of my time. Managing this blog and the related social networking devices is a good use of time, and I learn a lot about the programs and adding content requires research.

I’m going to miss being a student after I graduate in April.

Art of Video Games

February 14, 2011 1 comment

Via Joystiq, the Smithsonian American Art Museum is going to put video games on exhibit as art on March 16, 2012. I’ve been involved in a lengthy and academic debate on the legitimacy of video games as a form of art, so of course I support such an exhibit. I’m not naive enough to believe that this will settle the on-going debate about whether or not video games can be seen as art, but I think that this exhibit will give the debate itself legitimacy.

I gather that the main arguments against video games as art has to do with the highly subjective nature of the video game experience, not to mention the way in which the industry is organized. It’s highly profit driven, but each video game is made by a team of people who work on different aspects, such as art, coding, story, production, sales, advertising, and so on. I don’t think that these arguments are all that valid, primarily because art has many different definitions and forms. I do think that video games represent a new way to look at art.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum has a website to vote on which video games you’d like to see exhibited, which can be found here. The voting covers five eras and four different game genres for each era.

I look forward to seeing where this exhibit will take the debate of whether or not video games are art. I think that, like Science-fiction or comics, people have a prejudice against thinking of video games as a legitimate form of art, though I cannot fathom why. Hopefully this exhibit will change that.

Political Polarization

February 8, 2011 Leave a comment

This post by Ezra Klein at the Washington Post shows that the 111th Congress was the most polarized of all of the congresses.

In an earlier post I wrote about language and politics, and explored how political polarization plays into recent rhetoric. I think Klein’s article shows just how polarized Washington has become. I don’t know if it’s a “top-bottom” effect or the reverse, but it’s interesting to note  that the most polarized party was the Republicans. Of the Democrats, Klein says:

Democrats…were pretty well within their historical norms.

This graph shows the polarization of each party. It’s fairly striking, but it seems to make a lot of sense when you examine the rhetoric from the Republican party and the grass-roots. I can’t help but wonder how a legislature can function when the political distance between the two controlling parties is as high as it is now. Of course, we’ve seen Republican proposals like the repeal of the Affordable Care Act fail, and many items on the agenda for the Democratic party failed miserably with Republican obstructionism. It seems as if there has been little cooperation and compromise as these past two years have dragged on.

The most interesting bit of news, and one that falls into political language, is how Republicans have been attempting to redefine rape. Georgia Republican State Representative Bobby Franklin proposed a bill which does the following:

To amend Titles 16 and 17 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to criminal law and criminal procedure, respectively, so as to change the term ‘victim’ to the term ‘accuser’ in the context of a number of statutes making reference to circumstances where there has not yet been a criminal conviction; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.

This is all partisan and ideological bluster, but I think it’s noteworthy to think about how the Republicans have been trying to change the definition of rape and introducing laws to curtail abortion such as the proposed law in Ohio restricting it to when the heartbeat of a fetus is first detected.

I’m inclined to see this as an assault on women’s rights. As far as I can tell, most of the legislation from the House that has attempted to redefine rape as well as the Georgia state law, have been proposed by men. As anyone with keen powers of observation knows, men don’t have the biological capacity to get pregnant (and I’m fairly sure we lack the mental capacity to deal with pregnancy–just being honest).

I find it disheartening that there is so little female representation on this topic primarily because it deals with issues of a woman’s body and reproductive rights. It’s probably why there’s been so many draconian proposals put forth by Republicans in the recent month, who feel empowered with their recent electoral gains.

I don’t think that any of the federal laws have a chance of passing, but some of the state proposals might. I don’t know enough about politics in Ohio to comment further on that, but such laws seem highly unfeasible at the national level. I’m inclined to think that these are nothing more than political stunts to pander to the base, but it’s disturbing; furthermore, I think it’s a symptom of the deep political divide in this country.

Jon Stewart’s cries of “BE REASONABLE!” are more direly needed than ever before.

Poe House in Danger

February 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Via tor.com, Baltimore has decided to cut funding for the Poe House.

The article, by S. J. Chambers, states:

“Since December 18, 1977, the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum at 203 Amity Street, in West Baltimore, has been run by the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP), a division of the Department of Planning with the City of Baltimore,” the announcement explains. “Unfortunately, the city, suffering under intense and continuing budgetary problems—and perhaps hoping that hardly anyone will notice—has decided that the Poe Museum must become self-sufficient or it must be closed.”

I am an avid reader of Edgar Allen Poe, and I have most of “The Raven” memorized. It’s a shame to see Baltimore cut the funding for this historical house. Poe is a cornerstone of American culture and writing, and has influenced such great writers as Jules Verne and Sir. Arthur Conan Doyle. If there is one American writer who deserves to be carried into posterity, it is Edgar Allen Poe.

Chambers’ article lists ways to protest the closing of the Poe House, including sending the mayor a personal e-mail or letter (the addresses are listen in her article). If you chose to do this, please keep it respectful and polite.

There’s also a petition you can sign, found here.

Hopefully the city will reverse its decision and keep the Poe House open. I haven’t visited it, but I have always wanted to.

New Page: Writing Contests

February 8, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve decided to add a new page for writing contests. I don’t have many listed yet, and two of them are only for undergraduate students, but I’ll add more as time goes on.

I encourage all aspiring writers to enter writing contests of all kinds. It goes without saying that the publishing industry is very tough to get into.

Customizable Controls for Disabled Gamers

February 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Via Joystiq, apparently Visceral Games is adding customizable controls to Dead Space 2.

From the article, written by Mike Schramm:

Garratt is trying to play the horror sequel on PC, partly by pushing a mouse with his chin, and is unhappy that he can’t assign the “walk forward” command to a mouse button.

This story brings to light interesting aspects of game-play that I’ve never considered before. Since I don’t have any disabilities that interfere with my ability to play video games (unless I lose my glasses), I really can’t imagine what it’s like for Garratt to play a game. I do think that Visceral Games deserves a lot of credit for adding customizable controls for disabled players like Garrett, and hopefully other publishers will follow.

If you’re interested in signing the petition, you can here. I highly encourage you to do so.

Killzone 3 “Making the Game” Trailer

February 7, 2011 Leave a comment

There’s only 14 days left until the release of Killzone 3. In the meantime, here’s a making-of type trailer that provides an interesting look into the process of making a game:

It’s short, but it’s really cool to see Malcolm McDowell talk about motion-capture acting.

I am a huge fan of Killzone 2, so I’ve been looking forward to the release of this game for quite some time.