Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hello, Internet? Your Meme's Escaped

Yeah...

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade totally got Rickrolled:

Nostalgia-Buster

This evening, after everyone had left, Sunny was napping on the couch while I was sitting at the computer doing a little light web surfing. As I picked up my coffee mug my elbow knocked a pen off the corner of the desk, and as I reached down to pick it up, I noticed something on the shelf next to me.

A copy of Halo : Combat Evolved on the bookcase.

I honestly had forgotten I had a copy. It was something I’d picked up out of the pre-owned bargain bin at Gamestop when we bought our current computer about three years ago.

Having played an awful lot of Halo 3 recently I decided to install it and take a look for nostalgia’s sake.

I really wish I hadn’t. Oh God, I wish I hadn’t.

The game started up and for a split second I thought something had gone wrong with my computer. You know how when you’re playing some games and there’s a bit of a delay between the environment loading and the textures popping in? It was like that, only the textures never actually popped in. Then I realized there was nothing wrong. This was just what the first Halo game looked like.

It’s amazing just how bad it looks. The Jackal’s shields were laughable. Instead of the subtly animated, faintly glowing, ultra-soft, variable transparency effects you’ll see in Halo 3…we have a static painted texture that looks like finger-paints on Perspex. There are no shadows, no glossy sheen on the Elite’s armor, no glow effects… If I had to sum it up in a single word, that word would be ‘crude’.

Basically with current gen hardware, if you want your bad guys to have glossy metallic armor, they have glossy metallic armor. At the time of Halo 1, the best you could do was to just paint a couple of white dots in strategic points on the texture to represent reflections

In all seriousness, it looked like something I’d expect to see on a cellphone game today. Really muddy low-rez textures, pathetic lighting effects…and the first time I fired my rifle and saw the muzzle-flash effect I was honestly shocked.

Did I ever really play this game? You see, I play games mostly for their story, and while I always thought the gameplay of the Halo series was wildly overrated, I always liked the actual story that Halo was built on.

How did I manage to get emotionally invested in the story of the Master Chief and Cortana if this was what I was seeing? It would be like trying to get seriously and honestly emotionally invested in a play performed completely by sock puppets.

Then I looked in the manual and regretted that as well.

Halo 1 was released in 2001.

2001.

Given that we’re at the very end of 2008, that means that Halo is almost ten years old. I was still a freaking teenager when it came out. I was 19. nine-goddamned-teen.

So, I suppose the moral of this story is that if you get the chance to play Halo 1 again…don’t. Because not only will the crude 2001 visuals punch through your rose-colored nostalgia glasses like a 30.06 round through damp tissue paper…it’ll make you feel really, really old.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What's the point?

After going to bed at 11pm last night I’ve had almost zero sleep because my wisdom tooth is hurting so badly it feels like the right side of my face has been dipped in acid.

This coming Tuesday I get to go to the oral surgeon and pay him $25 dollars just for the privilege of being quoted a price I won’t be able to afford for at least two or three months, meaning I get to put up with this pain until around march.

The pipes under our Kitchen sink have been leaking for about the past month, meaning the wood underneath has become a rotten, moldy mess…and I have neither the money or expertise to fix it.

I was awoken this morning by the unmistakable sound of water dripping in the hallway outside our bedroom. This means the repair job on the roof didn’t hold and I get to spend more money I don’t have and spend yet more time up on the near roof in the near future.

Winter is here with a vengeance, meaning it’s impossible to keep this piece of shit house about 60 degrees.

I’m 27 years old. I’ve been out of work for four years. I have no job, no money, no car, no drivers license and no friends. I live in a house that’s falling apart. I have the equivalent of three Associates Degrees and a Bachelors Degree, but not even the local Walmart will hire me, and every single goddamned day I apply for every job I can…all the while knowing I won’t even get a ‘Thanks but no thanks’ in return.

Why the fuck am I even bothering getting out of bed in the morning?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Buttholes

A little while ago a game entitled “Left 4 Dead” was released.

On paper, this game could have been created specifically for me. A game that casts you and three of your friends as survivors of a zombie apocalypse. A game that follows a simple formula: Get from Point A to Point B through various creepy environments while coming under constant zombie attack.

I played through the demo on single player and the experience was nothing short of awesome. Walking through an eerily dark and silent subway tunnel, running low on ammo when a flood of zombies suddenly bursts through a door…or seeing one of your fellow survivors get grabbed and dragged off into the darkness, while you make the split second decision to shoot or not shoot because your bullets can kill your friends as easily as your enemies.

Unfortunately, I will never buy this game.

You see, playing this game singleplayer only gives you about 10% of the experience. Most of the enjoyment of this game comes from the people you play it with rather than the game itself. Think of the game as a playground. It doesn’t really matter how good the playground is if the only people you can play with are gigantic gaping assholes.

That’s the big problem with co-op multiplayer. It only takes a single player to ruin the game for everyone else. For example, if you’re playing a shooter where you’re playing against other players, it doesn’t really matter if the other players are all gigantic douchebags. In a co-op environment you’re put in the position where you have to work with and rely on those other players…so one idiot can easily ruin the whole thing.

Let me give you an example.

The first time I played the Left 4 Dead demo online, I got really lucky and the game was an absolute pleasure. You see, Left 4 Dead is a game that requires teamwork and tactical thinking and flat-out punishes poor teamwork.

So in that first game, we got to the subway part, when at the other end of the tunnel we saw a hundred-zombie ambush running towards us.

“Quick.” Said one of the other players. “Get in the subway car!”

It was a sound plan. The doors to the subway car would act as a bottle-neck, stopping us from getting surrounded and allowing us to concentrate our fire and save ammo.

I was the last to get to the subway car because I was in the lead when we got ambushed and I was pleased to see that one of my teammates, rather than just running inside with the others, had waited by the door and was covering me as I made my way towards the car.

It was directly out of a movie. He was standing on the ground next to the subway car, firing burst after burst of SMG fire at the advancing horde behind me while I ran past him and leapt into the subway car.

“Come on!” I shouted as soon as I got through the door. “I got you covered.”

I started firing my shotgun into the rapidly closing crowd as my teammate stopped firing long enough to leap up into the subway car

“Shotguns in front!” I shouted, figuring two shotguns trained on the door would hold the zombies back easier than the sub-machine guns. Again, I was delighted to see the other shotgun-holding player on the team get into place next to me as we opened up…the bottleneck was working beautifully. A few seconds later I heard an SMG start firing behind me.

“Wait!” Said another voice. “Save your ammo until the shotguns need to reload.”

Again, another excellent decision. The zombies would have to get through a single door to get to us, so two shotguns was more than enough to hold them back. The downside was that shotguns take ages to reload and only have 8 shots each. A few seconds later my shotgun had run dry.

“Reloading!” I shouted, and like a well oiled machine, the same player who’d covered me on my run to the car took a step forward and put himself between me and the zombies. As soon as I reloaded I took a step forward again and we managed to finish the last of the ambush.

It was awesome.

Well, let’s just say my second game wasn’t quite up to the same standard, or the third, or the fourth…

The next game I played started as usual. We started on the roof of a building next to a table loaded with weapons, ammo and first aid kits.

“Hey everyone.” I said into my headset. “How…”

The sound of shotgun blasts split the air, and before I knew what was going on, another player had shot me in the back of the head before turning on the other team members. Before I knew it, my headset was filled with squeaky-voiced racist epithets.

The game after that? One player insisted on running as fast as he could through the whole level, inevitably getting ambushed and killed…which of course made him start screaming ‘NOOBS’ at the rest of us because we ‘obviously didn’t know how to play’.

The next game? I quit after spending ten minutes listening to two other players bitch, moan and argue at each other. What ever one suggested, the other suggested the opposite. There’s almost nothing that’s less fun that getting killed in a game because two of your team mates would rather bitch at each other than actually shoot at the bad guys.

That was the average experience from then on in.

So, the problem is that I don’t have four friends that have Xbox 360’s, and even if I did, convincing them to spend $60 each on a game that would only be fun on the rare occasions we could all play at the same time would be a pretty tough proposition.

This leads us to an already known conclusion. Douchebags are destroying the internet.

I wonder how many people who, like me, are not going to buy this game for exactly that reason? I wonder how many people leave their consoles off line for that reason too?

We really do need a douchebag-free channel on Xbox Live.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Shit.

Well, it turns out that as well as being a humorless sadist, my dentist was also a liar.

When I was told yesterday that they couldn’t remove my problem wisdom tooth and they’d have to refer me to someone else, my first question was one you’d expect from someone with no dental insurance.

“What will it cost?”

Oh, Mr. Dentist was suddenly Mr. Happy Optimist. Probably $150 for the extraction and about another $100 for sedation.

I mentioned how $250 was kinda out of my price range. I’d originally borrowed $300 from my parents to get the three teeth extracted at his office. Luckily, the two I needed extracting only cost $150…but that still left me with a hundred bucks to come up with out of thin air.

“Well, this ‘oral surgeon’ is a really nice guy.” Said the Dentist. “He does payment plans.”

Well, I called this nice-guy dentist this morning:

“Hello.” I said. “I was referred to you by Piedmont Dental about a wisdom tooth extraction. I was wondering if you could tell me approximately what it would cost to have my lower right wisdom tooth removed. Piedmont said they couldn’t extract it because it had turned sideways slightly.”

“Wisdom teeth are anything from $150 to $350.” Said the receptionist.

Shit. I thought A hundred bucks more than I was told.

“And another $250 for sedation.” Continued the receptionist. “although it could be more depending on whether you need a local or general anaesthetic.”

That’s right, kids. Four hundred bucks minimum…possibly $600…of which I have $150.

“Uhhhhh.” I said. “Piedmont said something about the possibility of a payment plan?”

“Well, all he’ll let you do is pay for half on the day of your visit, and then he’ll hold a check for the other half for thirty days.”

Did I mention it's also going to cost $25 just for a consultation to work out exactly how much this will cost?

The sad truth is I just don’t have four hundred bucks, and with Christmas coming up, I’m not going to have it any time soon.

Shit.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I really do hate that man.

So today, I went to the dentist.

Have I mentioned I hate the dentist?

Have I mentioned I’d rather break my collarbone than let one of those freaks near my mouth with a pair of pliers?

Well, things didn’t start out too well. You see, despite the fact I was getting three removed, and all three needed extracting…only one of them was actually causing me any pain. Hefty chunks of both my top wisdom teeth and my bottom right wisdom tooth had broken off, but it was my bottom right that was actually hurting. The bottom right was the one that had actually made me visit a dentist.

Well, it turns out the roots of one of my wisdom teeth had turned sideways in my jaw, meaning the dentist couldn’t remove it, meaning I’d have to visit a nice expensive dental surgeon.

Can you guess which one it was?

Yup, the one that was causing all the trouble in the first place. I sit here typing this minus two broken, but otherwise problem-free teeth. Now I’ve got the pain of my toothache, plus the pain of two empty sockets.

So after being told they wouldn’t be able to remove the problem tooth, the dentist assistant asked if I still wanted to get the other two removed there, or wait until I saw the surgeon and get all three removed at once.

You can guess what I chose to do. After dreading this all week and having to be physically dragged from the car into the dentists office by Sunny, I wasn’t going to wait even longer and draw it out.

“Relax.” Said the dentist as he put the world’s biggest needle into my mouth. “This will be a little uncomfortable.”

He was right, two injections into the roof of your mouth is uncomfortable, if by ‘uncomfortable’ you mean ‘absolute, white-hot searing pain’.

“Ok, I give in.” I said to the dentist after he was finished torturing me. “I’ll talk…just put the needle away! I hid the microfilm in the ambassador’s briefcase!”

His assistant laughed while the dentist just gave me a very puzzled look. Turns out that as well as being a sadist, he had absolutely zero sense of humor. His wife must be thrilled.

He left the room while I waited the for anesthetic to work.

“I hate that man.” I said to the assistant. “I hope he accidentally sits on his own needle.”

All too soon the dentist was back. Suddenly my chair was laid as far back as it would go and the fucking bastard was working me over with a pair of pliers.

“You’ll feel some pressure and you may hear a scraping noise. It might be a little uncomfortable.” He said.

Five seconds later I was devising a training program for the dentist.

First of all, I’d sit him on a hard wooden bench for an hour, and then write ‘Uncomfortable’ in big letters in a whiteboard. Then, I’d stab the fucker in the groin and while he was writhing in agony, I’d write “Pain” on the board. Then I’d punch him in the face and tell him to learn the difference.

“Doc.” I said, shortly after the assistant had pushed half a pound of gauze into my mouth and the dentist was heading to the door. “You won’t be heading outside to the parking lot any time soon, will you?”

“No, I don’t think so.” Said the Dentist, again looking puzzled.

“Probably for the best.” I said. “Because if I see you out there as I’m leaving, I’ll probably run you over…on purpose.”

Again, the assistant laughed, but the dentist just looked confused again.

He was a real barrel of laughs that guy.

Anyway, the numbness is really starting to wear off and my sockets are starting to wake up.

Isn’t it awesome that I get to go through all this again when I get the remaining tooth removed?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Quick Note

Tomorrow I get to go to the dentists and have three wisdom teeth pulled.

Aren't I lucky?

I fucking HATE the dentists.

The Great Experiment

Yesterday I had the pleasure of finally meeting up with blogger friend Evanescein08 for an online game of Halo. Not only did this mean playing Halo online was about a billion percent more fun…I got a lot more data for my ‘experiment’ and it supports my initial hypothesis.

What experiment, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

Being as generous to myself as possible, I can best be described as a completely average Halo player. I lose more often that I win and in team games, when my lackluster performance can be cancelled out by a team-mate’s excellence, my performance usually ranks me as third out of my four-man team.

In other words, I’m not very good at the game, but I’m not particularly bad either.

About a week ago I was playing online when Sunny walked through the door…and a funny thing happened.

Usually, I’m a pretty ‘tense’ Halo player. I concentrate hard and do my best to win. This time, however, we were only about a minute in, my team was getting slaughtered and when Sunny came home, the only reason I didn’t just stop playing was because quitting early loses you an experience point.

So, I just started talking to Sunny and was barely paying attention to what was happening on the screen. Usually with every death I call up the scoreboard to see where I’m ranking and who’s winning…but this time I honestly didn’t care.

Then I noticed something. In the five minutes that Sunny was in the room, my team had clawed our way back from a twenty kill lead, and I was responsible for getting 15 of them…which also put me as ‘kill leader’ by a significant amount.

My attitude changed. We had a damn good chance to win now, and that win would put me in spitting distance of getting my Sergeant rank. I started to concentrate and started trying to win.

Within a couple of minutes we were losing again and I couldn’t get a kill for love nor money. I rapidly dropped to the bottom of my team’s kill scores.

So I relaxed again. We’d already lost, so screw it. I went back to talking to Sunny again and barely paying attention to the game.

Five minutes later it was all over…and my team had won and in the last few minutes of the game I’d clawed my way back up and become team MVP.

I turned off the Xbox and started to think. It was something I’d noticed before. When I don’t actually care if I win or lose something, I’m far more likely to win because I just relax and enjoy myself instead of getting tense and wound up.

So, yesterday, when I was playing online with Evanescein08, we were playing in a series of team games with us both on the same team.

However, while we were playing, it wasn’t like we had any kind of plan and we weren’t ‘talking tactics’ over our headsets. To be honest, the game became almost secondary to the conversation…as a result, neither of us were paying the amount of attention to the game that we would if we were playing alone.

Now, here’s the thing. I performed significantly better during those games than I normally do. For example, according to my stats, in 65 games I’d never scored a ‘Killing Spree’ (that’s killing five opponents in a row without dying yourself)…but in the eleven games I played yesterday, I got no less than five Killing Sprees.

Evanesce didn’t do too badly either, getting pretty much every possible medal in one game, including ‘extermination’, where he took out the entire opposing team with a single grenade.

So basically, the results of my experiment is this:

If you want to win, the best way to achieve that is to not care if you win.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to want to win and not care if you win at the same time…rendering the whole experiment useless.

At best, if you want to be better at Halo, find someone interesting to talk to as you play.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I don't wanna...

Little over a year ago, I was sitting on my couch eating something when a hefty chunk of my bottom right wisdom tooth broke off.

So I had a great big gaping hole in my wisdom tooth, but the weird thing was that it didn’t hurt. Not even a little bit.

Since then, I’ve also lost a good portion of my upper-right and upper left wisdom teeth as well.

Now, there are probably people out there in blogland getting ready to admonish me for not getting them fixed right away. Just because a broken tooth isn’t causing you pain is no reason to not get it fixed.

Well, to those people I would like to point out my lack of a job and lack of dental insurance. Unless my teeth were causing me physical pain, I have better things to spend my money on…like food and electricity.

Well, last week my right-side wisdom teeth suddenly realized that they’d been mortally wounded and decided to let me know about it. I don’t know what it is about tooth pain, but I honestly think I’d rather break a finger than have toothache.

My wisdom teeth have a constant dull ache, and every couple of hours it feels like the entire right side of my face has been dunked in acid. Imagine having a red hot knife pushed through your teeth, down into your jaw and up behind your cheekbone, and you’re in the ballpark of what it feels like.

Long story short, I get to go have three wisdom teeth pulled this week. Everyone keep your fingers crossed that they prescribe vicodin for afterwards.

JJ Abrams Star Trek

Well, I just watched the latest trailer to the new Star Trek movie…and I have to say I’m really not sure about it.

I’m the first to admit that the most recent Star Trek films have been absolute crap…but while I’m fairly convinced the new effort will be a good movie, I’m not really convinced it’s going to be a good star trek movie.

Making a Trek movie is dangerous ground for any director. You see, as a Trek fan myself, I have no problem with pointing out that Trek fans are rabid, unforgiving, nit-picking gigantic nerds.

Basically, unless you’ve been a life-long Trek fan, it’s difficult to make a movie even with the original cast. Star Trek fans can, and will, complain just because someone messed up a bit of techno-babble or the plate on a door said deck eight when crew quarters are clearly on deck seven.

So, ‘re-imagining’ Star Trek, with all new actors, sets and a totally original story is going to be dangerous ground. Getting a dedicated trek fan to buy a new actor as Kirk or Spock is going to have a lot in common with trying to convince a fundamentalist Christian that Jesus might have been a woman.

I mean, I was delighted to see Simon Pegg cast as Scotty, because not only am I a huge Simon Pegg fan, Simon Pegg is a genuine Nerd and trek fan. However, John Cho (better known as Harold from ‘Harold and Kumar go to White Castle’) wouldn’t have been my first choice for Sulu. Frat-boy comedies and Trek don’t really mix.

Well, anyway, I’ll definitely be going to see it, but I think the only reason my nerd-alarm isn’t at Defcon 1 is simply because the original series isn’t really my Star Trek. As a child of the 80’s, The Next Generation was my Trek series…and I’d have much more of a vested interest if they’d re-cast Picard or Data.

Anyway, keep your fingers crossed that it won’t suck…unless of course you’re not a Trek fan, because then I don’t give a crap what you think.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Governmentphobia

Is Government-phobia, the fear of dealing with the Government, a real thing?

If it is, I think I have it.

This week, I finally got my Social Security number squared away. While the process for this was relatively quick and painless…let’s just say there was a reason it somehow kept finding itself on the back burner.

You see, while I have what most people would call an ‘irrational fear’ of having to deal with any form of Government entity…it may be irrational, but it is born of first hand experience.

To be too terrified to get on a plane is an irrational fear. Not so much when you’re rolling around the airport in a wheelchair because you lost your legs in a horrific plane crash.

Unlike some lucky people…Kelly…who took less than six months to go from first application to getting her Visa, it took me two whole years to get mine…and every step was like pulling teeth.

People have asked me what the Visa process is like, and if I was 100% honest about it I’d say: “It is one of the most expensive and stressful processes you will ever go through. Be prepared for long periods of waiting interspersed with moments of abject terror.”

Basically, you’re spending an awful lot of money and time on something that is the most important thing in the world to you (imagine if the ability to live in the same country as your spouse was in someone else’s hands)…and a simple mistake on a form can either stop you from getting a Visa all together, or send you all the way back to the beginning of the process.

For example, when I went for my final interview at the embassy in England, it didn’t matter that all my paperwork was in order. It didn’t actually matter that I was completely and totally 100% legitimate. If the guy interviewing me just got a ‘feeling’ about me, he could deny me my Visa.

Then, when I actually got my Visa and moved here, the whole thing started over when I applied for my Greencard. Don’t ask me how, but the DHS somehow got the idea that instead of applying for a Visa, doing a buttload of paperwork, tests and interviews then moving to the US…that I’d simply arrived in the US as a tourist, got married, and then contacted them.

Follow that with two whole years of sending forms, going for interviews and doing a lot of stuff I’d already done…all the while being told that it was perfectly normal and just to obey any instructions I was given. Things only got straightened out after four letter and about twenty phonecalls when they wanted me to spend $800 on a medical I’d already had.

Luckily, I’m through all that now. Once I get my SSN I can go apply for my driving license, and then in a couple more years I can go for citizenship if I want to.

…but this doesn’t mean dealing with the Government is any more pleasant or any less terrifying.

You see, a few months ago I applied for my SSN, only to send it off and be told that the form I sent was the ‘old’ form and I needed the new one. So I got the new one, and after sending that was told that my fully-notarized copies weren’t acceptable and I needed to send the originals. Not feeling like sending my passport and greencard through the mail, we went to the local Social Security office.

After a nice long wait I got to see someone, handed everything over…to be told that my passport wasn’t acceptable as ID because it had expired. (I don’t understand that. I can see why I wouldn’t be allowed to travel on an expired passport…but why is it suddenly not good enough to ID me because it went out of date a month ago?)

So, just to be double-awesome, after waiting outside the office in the rain at 7.30am, we had to drive all the way back across town to get my birth certificate, then drive all the way back…and wait in line again.

Finally, the guy looks over my form checks out my documents and says:

“Ok, Sir, if you’ll just bear with me for a moment.” Then he gets up and walks away. I turn to Sunny:

“This is the bit I hate.” I said.

“What?” Said Sunny.

“When they act all nice to you, but then get up and leave.”

“Why?” Said Sunny, looking puzzled.

“Because this is where I think there’s been a misprint on my Greencard, and my alien registration number is missing a digit or something, so they think it’s fake. He acts all nice, he walks away, and before I know it, security turns up, puts me in handcuffs and I end up deported before I can prove I’m here legitimately.”

Well, there wasn’t a misprint and he just came back with a form letter telling me when to expect my social security card…but he could have been calling the fuzz. It’s just a matter of time.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Moral Panic Master Class

I’ve talked a lot about ‘moral panics’ in the past. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, a ‘moral panic’ is essentially when the whole country decides that ‘something’ (usually a form of popular entertainment) is totally immoral, harmful and must be banned immediately.

However, in the real world, a moral panic is far more likely to be a media-induced morality crusade against something that is a relatively harmless so it can be used as a scapegoat or a timely distraction from a real issue…or a way to score political points or get yourself on TV.

For example, on April 20th 1999, Two high school students shot up their school, killing twelve people and wounding 23 others.

How did the nation react? Did they ask how two highschoolers managed to get their hands on high-powered semi-auto rifles and get them onto school grounds? Did they ask how these kids’ parents and teachers failed to notice how disturbed and maladjusted these kids were? Did they look deeply into these kids’ home lives to discover the cause of their murderous rampage?

Nope. Everyone blamed Marilyn Manson.

Anyway, Last night, I stumbled across this old PSA on the ‘dangers of pornography’. While it is undoubtedly hilarious, it’s also a classic example of how to incite a moral panic. So watch the video, and see how many bullshit tactics you can spot.

So, how many did you spot? In case you missed them, here they are. An all-inclusive guide on how to start a moral panic in order to enforce your narrow viewpoint on everyone else:

1) There is no such thing as over-exaggeration.

From the video:

“…I’d like to be begin with a fact. A simple yet shocking fact. It is this. A flood-tide of flith is engulfing our country in the form on news-stand obscenity.”

Really? A couple of 60’s era Playboys count as a ‘flood-tide of filth’?

2) Everything is always about ‘The Children’.

Ah, ‘The Children’. It appears that no matter what people are arguing against, they can always somehow make the point that their point of view ‘Protects The Children’.

“…and is threatening to pervert an entire generation of our American Children.

3) Make outrageously false claims while representing them as 100% cast-iron fact.

Firstly:

“This same type of rot and decay caused 16 of the major 19 civilizations to vanish from the earth…all crumbled away, not because of the strength of the aggressor, but because of moral decay from within.”

Really? Empires crumbled because of porn, and not all that other stuff like invading armies, economic factors and all those other reasonable, well researched reasons I read about in history class?

“We know that once a person is perverted, it is practically impossible for that person to adjust to normal attitudes in regards to sex.”

You didn’t know that, did you? Not only will seeing a picture of some boobs turn little Timmy into a total pervert, once he’s so much as glanced at those boobs…there’s just no hope for him.

Of course, I could write a hundred thousand word dissertation on the above quote alone, however, what really cracks me up is the idea of a person ‘becoming perverted’ from looking at a Playboy, and the idea of ‘normal attitudes’ towards sex. Exactly what is a ‘normal attitude’ towards sex? In my experience, being terrified that a playboy is going to turn an entire generation into perverted rapists is far from a ‘normal attitude’ to sex.

4) Be sure to never mention your sources for these ‘facts’.

This is so you can say whatever the hell you want, no matter how ridiculous or untrue, and still sound authoritative and informed:

“Yet, much of this material has been described as an illustrated, detailed course in perversion.”

Yes, a pictures of naked ladies have been described as such…by you, and the people paying for your film. I would also like to point out that much of your film has been described as complete and total bullshit.

5) Pick a popular societal ‘villain’ and drag them in somehow, it doesn’t matter how big or unreasonable the leap is.

“…He is even enticed to enter the world of homosexuals, lesbians, sadists, masochists and other sex deviants!

Yep, little Timmy looking at playboys and its many pictures of boobs is probably going to make him mad for cock at some point in the future. I can’t remember the number of times I looked at pictures of gigantic boobs and thought “Hmmm, I wonder what it’s like to suck a dick?”

Oh, wait, I didn’t…because I’m not gay!

6) Feel free to just make shit up.

Seriously. No matter how ridiculous, no matter how paper thin your story, even if it can be blown out of the water by three second’s rational thought.

“They can be bought openly by anyone in drug-stores, grocery stores, delicatessens, terminals, malt shops, cigar shops, newsstands, all over the community. They can be bought by children.”

You know, I live in 2008, a time that’s far more permissive sexually than when this film was made…and yet in my entire life, I’ve never seen hardcore gay porn being sold at my local grocery store or deli.

7) Make your audience feel powerless. There is nothing they can do…apart from support you and your cause, of course

“…and it is important to realize that even if you knew that your own children would never, under any conditions buy or read this material…if you knew this, and you can’t know this…you must realize that they are constantly exposed to those who do read this material, and who might be triggered into compulsive acts of sex violence.

Yep, just parenting your own kids isn’t enough. You have to enforce your morality on the rest of society, because if you don’t, your kids will be turned perverted and gay from porn…and even if they don’t, they’ll get anally raped by someone who has.

Ok, ok, I know by now a lot of you are laughing at how stupid the video is, and how ridiculous the claims are…but the truth is that this same shit is happening today.

Think of the things the media has said about Rap Music, Hip-Hop, Video Games and the Internet. I’ve talked about these things often enough in previous posts, so I won’t go into it here…just the next time you watch the news and hear about how something is going to destroy society…think about it before you jump on any bandwagons.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What Would Lindsay Lohan Do?

I was watching the local news last night when during the opening, one of the anchors said:

“…and see one of the many reasons that Obama’s election campaign turned down Lindsay Lohan’s help.”

I sighed inwardly.

Since when is anything Lindsay Lohan does newsworthy? Isn’t that the sort of ‘news’ that’s meant to be reported in the supermarket tabloids and magazines? Believe it or not, I don’t actually give a damn what Lindsay Lohan says. I don’t care if Brad and Angelina are having trouble and I really don’t care about the latest exploits of Tim Cruise.

Celeb gossip has its place…namely in the papers and magazines read by teenagers and the intellectually subnormal. When I turn on the news, I want to hear about world events and things that actually matter…not that some celebrity bint’s shoes didn’t match her dress.

Anyway, when we finally got to the Lindsay Lohan story…I sighed again.

The big headline news story was that Lindsay Lohan thinks it’s a good thing that we have our first ‘colored’ President.

That’s the story. Lindsay Lohan mirrors the opinion of the country at large… but used the word ‘colored’.

My response was…Yeah? And?

First of all, thanks to the politically correct assholes, it really is difficult to keep track of what the ‘acceptable’ terms are from day to day.

I mean, first it was ‘Black’, then ‘Black’ was racist, so ‘Colored’ became acceptable. Then ‘Colored’ was declared racist and ‘African-American’ became acceptable. Then, of course, the same people decided that it was racist to say ‘African-American’, because there are a lot of black people who aren’t African or American…so ‘Black’ became acceptable again.

My point is that it’s purely a matter of opinion of what is acceptable and what isn’t.

Which brings me to my second point.

This was a headline news story. A rather untalented actress, while stating she thought a black President was a good thing, said ‘colored’ instead of today’s current ‘acceptable term’.

Basically, why would I give a fuck what some crappy B-list drug addict actress thinks about the new President anyway?…and why would I care that she called Barrack Obama ‘colored’? I mean, she obviously supports Obama considering she volunteered to help his campaign and was making a statement on how glad she is he got elected…so what does it matter what term she used for ‘black’.

Long story short, this wouldn’t have been newsworthy even if Lohan had said “I hate that fucking nigger! He should be picking cotton for his owner! KKK forever!” Because, honestly, who gives a fuck what Lindsay Lohan thinks? The fact she was so obviously not being racist makes it even worse.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s news, when Clay Aiken shows his support for an Asian congressman and accidentally calls him ‘oriental’ instead of ‘asian’.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

All it takes is a simple phonecall...

Ok, for this post I need you to imagine me with a big white beard, a khaki shirt tucked into some khaki shorts, while I’m crouching down with my hand on a malnourished-looking kid’s shoulder.

Every day hundreds of thousands of nice caring people are forced out of their Halo 3 matches by gigantic douchebags. Douchebags who don’t play Halo for fun, but treat it like a job. Douchebags who’ve spent months working out every exploit, every hidey-hole in every map…and play not to have fun, but instead to rack up kill counts in joyless, repetitive ways.

In the time it takes you to read this post, thousands of Halo players, wanting nothing more than an evening of light video-game based fun, will throw their controllers down in frustration…perhaps forever.

The situation is made worse because not only do joyless players turn a simple game of team slayer into a chore, Halo gamers also face the Mega-douchebags.

Mega-douchebags, through a mixture of inbreeding, social awkwardness and involuntary celibacy are prone to outbursts of racist, homophobic insults that are directed at strangers for little or no reason. To the mega-douchebag, the actual games they play online are secondary to their real motivation…acting like giant cocks and annoying people.

No normal person should ever have to be called a ‘Giant Shitcock nigger faggot fuckface’ (actual quote) for being slightly better than one of their opponents.

The truth is that Mega-douchebaggery is a disease effecting more and more teens and pre-teens than ever before. Symptoms include being obnoxious, inflated ego, vast over-estimation of own fighting ability and deep infatuation with the sound of your own voice. More advanced cases include talking incessantly about a non-existent girlfriend and talking about drug experiences that didn’t actually happen.

So, parents, if you hear your child shouting “Fuck you, you nigger cock-sucking faggot shit-fuck.” Or “Dude, my girlfriend was, like, bitching at me and I, like, didn’t care because I was, like, soooo high”…please take away their Xbox Live accounts. You’re not only helping them by being a parent, you’re helping the gaming community at large.

By forcing your little asshole…I mean, child, away from their console for a few days, they may actually begin to socialize with real people and learn the basic social rules that govern our society. For example, that it’s not acceptable to comment on someone’s mother’s sex life, and your alleged role in it, just because someone out performed you in a game. Also, by having real friends and genuine human contact they may no longer feel the need to hurl racist, homophobic epithets at strangers for no reason.

So, my friends, I leave you with a few simple requests:

Parents, keep an eye on your kids and understand that allowing them to act like gigantic douchebags online is just like allowing them to act like gigantic douchebags in a crowded restaurant.

Oh, and if you play Halo 3, and you aren’t a gigantic douchebag and like to play for fun instead of a need to feel better than other people…my gamertag is in the top right corner of this page. Drop me a line.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Omg TEH HALOZ!

Well, I took Halo 3 online for the first time today.

It was a lot more fun than the single player campaign, but like most online shooters I’ve played, you never know from game to game whether you’re going to have a hell of a lot of fun, or twenty minutes of pure unadulterated frustration.

I’m not a very competitive person…but on the other hand, spending hours at a time getting my head blown off over and over again isn’t my idea of entertainment either.

One of the things I was happy to see implemented was a ranking/skill system. The basic idea is that as you play, the game determines your skill level through your win/loss record. That way, when you play online, you’re matched up with people who are around your skill level.

The problem is that the skill system can be called ‘spotty’ at best. I played six games in all and out of the six, I played four games where one player was significantly better than the rest…and when I say significant, I mean significant. Winning with 25 kills while the rest of us have managed one or two significant.

Hopefully it’ll become more accurate the more I play, though, because I have to admit, six games isn’t really enough to determine my skill level.

Of course, the one thing that can’t be avoided or programmed out of any game is the douchebag quotient.

To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised for the first game or so.

A guy opened up on me, blasted away my shields as I jumped around like a lunatic…until finally:

That’s me in the gray armor, smacking my opponent upside the head, killing him.

“Shit!” Came a voice over my headset.

Here we go. I thought. Bring on the racist, homophobic abuse.

“…Heh, nice one, dude!” He finished.

See what I mean? It’s always…Wait…what?

I laughed. “Sorry, dude.” I said. “Beginners luck.”

The impossible had happened. Here I was, playing an online shooter…only the other players were treating it as a game and having fun, instead of just using it as an excuse to be a dick to strangers!

Of course, things didn’t stay that way for long. Two games later and I’d unplugged my headset. There’s only so much squeaky-voiced trash talk I can take.

Let me just state something here… If you can’t play a game of Halo (or any other online game for that matter) without whining and bitching every time you get killed…either don’t play or leave the headset off.

Anyway, that was my first foray into online Halo 3…but it won’t be my last.

Anderson Cooper : Not a Geek

This is totally late but it’s something I saw, thought “I’m totally blogging that!”…then promptly forgot about it.

I watched the CNN coverage of election night, and one of the things that totally cracked me up was the ‘Hologram technology’ they used to interview a couple of people.

If you didn’t see it, here’s what I’m talking about:

They put a guest in a greenscreen tent on location and through technological magic, they matched the camera movements on location to the camera movements in the studio. Basically, they could make it look like there was a hologram of the guest in the studio, even though it was just a plain old composite image.

So why was this funny?

I get the feeling that the bigwigs at CNN had spent so much money on the gimmick, that they’d ordered everyone to draw as much attention to it as possible and talk about how clever and awesome it was.

Wolf Blitzer came across as an excited schoolboy. I was sitting there, wanting election news and instead was faced with Wolf Blitzer talking to someone for ten minutes about how he was talking to them. The best part was the way he was so commited to keeping up the charade that he could actually see the ‘hologram’ (he couldn’t) while going on about how awesome and groundbreaking it was.

Anderson Cooper, on the other hand, was obviously really pissed off at the gimmickry and resented the hell out of having to talk about it so much. I mean, he eye-rolled and sighed his way through every segment that used the ‘hologram’.

If you recorded it, go back and watch him closely. Seriously, every time someone says ‘hologram’ you can see his eye twitch. If you could have read his thoughts, I have no doubt you’d have heard something along the lines of:

“This is the Goddamned election! We’re about to elect the first black President of the United States, and instead of getting to report on this historic moment like a journalist I’ve got to talk about this fucking gimmick! Ooooh! We can put one image over another just like they’ve done on the weather for decades. This is obviously waaay more important that the fucking election!!

However, while Cooper’s reaction was awesome, the best part was when Anderson Cooper used the ‘hologram’ to talk to Will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas. The main thing I learned from that interview was that Will.i.am is a closet geek.

During the interview, Cooper asked:

“So…(gigantic eye roll)…what do you think of this new hologram technology?”

“It’s cool,” replied Will.i.am, “it’s just like Star Wars.”

“Yeah.” Said Cooper. “It’s just like Star Trek because we beamed you here.”

Then, in one of the best bits of TV ever in the history of the world, Will.i.am goes:

“N….uh…bu…(longish pause)…Yeah.”

My geek-sense tingling, I heard the internal dialogue in Will.i.am’s head as his geek side battled for control of his mouth:

“No, it’s not like Star TREK, you smacktard! It’s like Star WARS. This is a hologram like when Darth Vader talks to Emperor Palpatine, or the one Leia recorded of Obi Wan. It would only be like Star TREK if you’d actually brought me here bodily. It’s a HOLOGRAM, not a transporter! Transporter…Hologram…there’s a difference!

It was awesome.

On the one hand Will.i.am’s geek side was screaming at him to set Anderson Cooper straight on the difference between hologram and transporter technology…while on the other, his rational side was screaming at him to shut up because not only would displaying that amount of geek-knowledge seriously damage his hip-hop credibility… CNN during a historic Presidential Election probably isn’t the time or the place to discuss ‘wars vs. trek’.

Well, I gotta say I feel for you Will. I’ve been there and I’ve had that internal argument…like when I overheard that shit-eating twelve year old tell his friend that that the Enterprise D could easily beat an Imperial Star Destroyer.

I mean, come on…the little shit hadn’t even taken the Star Destroyer’s compliment of TIE-Fighters or Assault Shuttles into account….or that the Enterprise D only has one ventral and one dorsal phaser array and two torpedo tubes versus the Star Destroyer’s hundreds of Turbo Laser cannons…or that the Enterprise is a mere 642.5 meters long while the Imperial Star Destroyer is over a mile freaking long…and don’t even get me started on what the ImpStar’s ion cannons would do to the Galaxy-class ship’s shields.

Yeah, I made the 12 year old cry…but the little shit shouldn’t be talkin’ trash if he can’t back that shit up.

Asshole.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

This Definitely Said During The Development of Halo 3

“We can pretty much ignore the single player experience, right? People are only buying this for playing online anyway.”

“Just cut and paste, no one will notice.”

“You know what I really enjoy? Being lost. Can we put that in?”

“Can we make this level a little easier to get turned around in?”

“The player will fight his way all the way through this complex, then backtrack all the way out again. We love the second level so much we’re gonna send the player through it three times!”

“Bosses? We already have the Scarab tank…just give a regular enemy a fuck-ton of hit points and a new texture.”

“You know what would make Master Chief even cooler? If we give him a totally clich├ęd B-Movie action hero voice. Find the best guy we can hire for fifteen bucks.”

“No, I don’t find the idea of hinting at a romantic relationship between a genetically engineered super-soldier and a semi-naked computer AI is creepy at all.”

“This is the fifth place that the player will be put into extremely cramped, close-quarters with the bad guys with one hit kill weapons….what?”

“Ok, the grunts. We’ve made it obvious that they’re only fighting because they’re being forced to, made it obvious they don’t actually want to fight and added dialogue to show they get honestly shocked, sad, appalled and terrified when one of their friends gets killed. Plus, they’re about three foot tall and pretty goddamned weak…is there any way we can make the player feel any worse when he has to shoot one?”

“Actually I think it adds to the challenge of the game the way the Arbiter randomly walks of cliffs or just stares at walls instead of helping the player.”

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Facebook Sucks...There I Said It.

I was talking to Kelly for a few minutes on the phone today and she complained that I hadn’t accepted her Facebook friend request.

Now, the truth of the matter is that I fucking hate Facebook. I signed up for the sole purpose of tracking down and old friend from England, and when I found that the Anthony Halley listed on Facebook wasn’t the Anthony Halley I was looking for…I signed out of facebook and haven’t been back since.

Kelly then made the mistake of asking why.

The short answer is ‘Facebook is retarded’. Facebook is nothing more that an extra conduit for people to send you bullshit and spam. It’s like email, but email that only accepts forwards, eCards and crap.

So, why on earth would I start using Facebook? All the people I know and like have my private email address, skype info and phone number already.

For example, I just logged into Facebook for the second time ever and apparently Sunny has sent me ‘two pieces of flair’, a ‘hug’ and a ‘wrapped gift under my Christmas tree’.

Why? Oh dear God why?

We live in the same fucking house! If you want a hug, actually hug me. The ‘gift’ was a picture you could have just called me over to the computer to show me…and the pieces of flair were just more pictures made to look like badges.

Why? Why send me something when we use the same computer? I’m sitting less than ten feet away!

At this point, Kelly accused me of sounding like a ‘Grumpy Old Man’…and you know what, she was absolutely fucking right.

When it comes to the internet, I am a grumpy old man. You see, I saw those same ‘funny’ forwards back in 1995. Those ‘awesome jokes’ I get fifteen copies off because everyone in my address book forwards it to everyone else in their address book come from BBSs that pre-date the internet. The novelty factor of an eCard or anything similar wore off over a decade ago.

So, yeah, I am a grumpy old man. I’m the old guy sitting in the restaurant, shaking my head at the two kids who are sending text messages to each other from opposite sides of the table.

Long story short, it’s not ‘social networking’, it’s just a way for people to send each other cutesy crap because it’s still a novelty to them. It’s a way to say something to someone when you don’t actually have anything to say.

Basically, imagine how you’d feel if all your friends and family got their first ever telephones and were calling you every fifteen minutes for absolutely nothing just because talking on a telephone was brand new to them.

That’s what Facebook, MySpace and all those other social networking sites feel like to me. You might find those jokes funny, but I’ve read them a hundred times. You might think it’s cute to send someone a ‘hug’ or a ‘smile’ over the internet, but I just see it as more junkmail to deal with.

So, basically, it’s nothing personal. If you send me a friend request and I don’t accept it, it’s just because I never use Facebook. I mean, after all, if you’re actually my friend, you already have another hundred ways to contact me…and if what you have to say isn’t worth a regular email or a phonecall, it’s probably not worth saying.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Just f**king fix it.

I read Obama’s plans for Health Care this morning…and I have to say I think it’s a load of bullshit.

Don’t get me wrong, Obama’s plan is no worse than McCain’s was, it’s just that it’s still treating Health Care like a business. Health Care simply doesn’t work when it’s treated as a business…and here’s why:

Let’s talk economics for a moment.

I think most people understand the concept of supply and demand. Well when it comes to healthcare what we have is a complete and total seller’s market.

Getting treatment for a disease isn’t like buying a new car. You can’t decide to shop around, or decide to leave it until next year. You basically have the choice of paying whatever your hospital asks…or you can die.

This is why my hospital charged me $200 for a $2 pill that probably cost less than five cents to make.

So now we come to the topic of insurance.

The common idea seems to be that the way you get around the high medical prices is to buy insurance, so your insurance company will pay those high prices for you.

The thing people miss is that if your medical treatment costs a thousand dollars, your insurance company sure as hell isn’t paying for it out of their own pocket. The second fact is that the insurance companies are also businesses. They aren’t required by law to give you a good deal or make health insurance affordable…in fact, they’re required by law to make as much money as possible for their shareholders.

So, the way it works is that insurance companies have to keep premiums high enough to pay for all those five-hundred dollar throat-swabs, the sixty-dollar Ace bandages and the hundred-dollar a pill prescriptions…and still make sure there’s plenty left over as profit.

That’s why medical insurance doesn’t really work like insurance, but works more like a discount program. The problem is that just by the nature of medical treatment, when you add up what you spend on premiums versus the money you save…you’re almost always in the red.

Basically, you’re paying three hundred dollars a month to save fifty dollars a month on your prescriptions. However, you can’t stop paying that three hundred dollars a month, because next month you might need a ten thousand dollar hospital stay.

This is why I don’t understand why people seem to be so vehemently against the idea of socialized health-care.

Actually, scratch that, I do understand. It’s because whenever it’s brought up, some jackass stands up and says: “I’m in perfect health and I pay my own medical insurance! Why should I be forced to pay for someone else’s medical treatment?”

Well, here’s the thing:

If you have medical insurance already paying for other people’s medical treatment.

Seriously, do you think your insurance company takes your premiums every month and puts it in a pile that’s earmarked just for you?

No. Your money goes into a central fund that they use to pay off everyone’s claims.

There’s the truth of it. Socialized healthcare and private healthcare work in exactly the same way. Everyone pays a certain amount into a central fund that’s used to pay for everyone’s healthcare. The only difference is that with socialized healthcare there’s no slice of the pie being taken as profit, and as every working individual in the US is paying into that fund, the ‘premium’ is one hell of a lot lower.

So let’s look at what social healthcare would actually be like:

There are currently approximately 300,000,000 living in the USA. Let’s assume that roughly half of that number are at working age and are currently employed.

Now, let’s say that every month, about forty bucks goes out of your paycheck along with all the other taxes for healthcare. That’s forty dollars multiplied one hundred and fifty million people.

That’s six billion dollars a month, or seventy-two billion dollars a year to pay for healthcare.

Now, the other major thing I hear people complain about when it comes to socialized healthcare is that there’s a total lack of choice. Basically, if I’ve got tons of money, why should I be forced to go to the same state-run hospital as everyone else when my current insurance pays for amazing private hospitals?

The answer to this one is simple.

Socialized healthcare doesn’t mean the end of private healthcare. If you choose to do so, you can still pay for private insurance and treatment.

Yeah? But if I’m paying for private healthcare, why should I be forced to pay for socialized healthcare as well?

Ok, here’s the good part. Just like I mentioned at the start of this post, we’re currently living in a total seller’s market when it comes to healthcare. People pay ridiculous prices for medical treatment because they absolutely have to. What socialized healthcare also brings to the table is competition for private healthcare.

For example, say that you got sick and needed a two week hospital stay. That stay will cost you about ten thousand dollars. Right now, you’ll pay it because you have to, even if it means declaring bankruptcy when you get out.

However, if you had the option of getting that same treatment for free, only you’d spend those two weeks on a ward instead of in a private room…how many people would think the ten grand for a private room was worth it?

Basically, your insurance premiums are going to go down because the insurance companies find themselves in the position of having to attract customers instead of the ‘take it or leave it’ approach they can afford to use now. This means that even paying for socialized healthcare on top of your private insurance, you’re going to be paying less than you are right now.

I’d like to finish this post with one last point.

I’ve heard people argue and complain that socialized healthcare just doesn’t work, and they can quote a list of reasons as long as my arm as to why it won’t work.

My answer to those people is to look at England, Canada and most of Europe. In England and Canada you can break your arm, walk into any hospital and get it set and put in a cast…and walk out without it costing you a single penny. That’s socialized healthcare, and the last time I checked, neither England or Canada was being forced to the brink of bankruptcy because of it.

We don't use the 'S' word.

In October, Muslim Cleric Sheikh Muhammad al-Habadan called for women to wear a full veil that reveals only a single eye.

Why, you ask?

Because Muhammad al-Habadan said that showing both eyes ‘encourages women to wear eye make-up to look seductive.’

I read this and had a good laugh at it. That the use of eye-make-up might cause a man to lose control of himself and commit adultery…which of course would be the woman’s fault for being a total harlot...is ridiculous.

I mean, if you show me both eyes and you’re wearing mascara and eye shadow…how do you expect me to react when faced with such sexual indecency?

Then I stopped laughing.

You see, last year a vaccine for the cancer causing Human Papilloma Virus was developed right here in the US…and quickly became the cause of a hell of a lot of controversy.

Why? Was it too expensive? Were there tons of negative side effects? Did it kill people?

No.

The HPV vaccine is surrounded in controversy because a bunch of parent’s with their heads up their asses said that giving teenage girls a potentially life-saving vaccination against a sexually transmitted disease ‘will encourage teen girls to have pre-marital sex’.

Yeah. We laugh at the middle east being backwards because they demand their women be completely covered up to hide their sexuality in case it ‘inflames men’s passions’. But right here in the US people who will deny their own daughters a potentially life-saving vaccine…because they can’t face the thought that their seventeen year old might have sex before marriage.

That makes about as much sense as refusing to teach kids to swim because teaching them to swim will encourage them to go into the water and be at risk of drowning.

Not to mention the USA’s ignorance only…sorry, I mean abstinence only… approach to sexual education, because if we teach our children how to have sex safely, they just might do it.

Yeah…there are enough ultra-conservative religious crazies right here in the USA without us having to look to the middle east.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

This Post Available to Gold Members Only

I’ve spent the past few weeks getting accustomed to Xbox Live.

A few days ago, I finally got around to ‘re-wiring’ the living room, meaning it’s not such a huge hassle to get the 360 online, and as I mentioned in a previous post, I managed to get a headset for eight bucks.

Then, with all this in place, along with finally getting a game that someone I actually know has, I was ready.

…Just in time for my one month free ‘Gold’ subscription to run out.

Ok, this isn’t as big a deal as I’m making it out to be because when I got the hard drive I also got a free three-month gold subscription that I haven’t used yet. However, I don’t want to go ahead and use that until I’ve saved all my pennies and bought Halo 3.

The big problem I have here is that I just don’t understand why Xbox Live isn’t completely free.

Most of this is because I’m a PC gamer, and I’ve been an ‘online gamer’ since about 1995, and in all that time I’ve never had to pay anything to get on a multiplayer server. Basically, it feels a lot like I’ve bought a new car and now the roads I used to drive on for free have suddenly become toll-roads.

If I’m completely honest, an Xbox Live Gold subscription doesn’t exactly break the bank. I think that right now it’s about fifty bucks a year which is literally pennies a day. The point is that it’s Microsoft, the richest corporation in the world, that runs Xbox Live. Surely they can afford to give us a few free servers.

Now, this might just seem like an “I want free stuff!” rant, but it’s not. Charging for Xbox Live doesn’t make much sense.

Here’s the deal, while it doesn’t actually cost a lot, there are still hundreds of thousands of kids (and husbands) trying to explain to their mothers (and wives) why they need another fifty bucks after paying hundreds for the console and at least $60 on a game. Then, of course, you have the kids saving their allowance and choosing whether or not to get a Gold subscription, or an actual new game.

Here’s the truth of it. Out of all the Xbox 360s that have been sold, way less than half of them are actually online.

One of the things Xbox Live offers is advertising. The difference between this form of advertising and your usual pop-ups is that it’s ultra-targeted advertising that the user actually wants. You see, while I don’t like getting penis enlargement spam in my inbox, what I do like is turning on my 360 and getting to see what new games are coming out in the next few months…especially when this is delivered in entertainment form.

Basically, Microsoft is missing a trick. There are a ton of people out there who don’t have their 360s online because they don’t feel like multiplayer is worth the cost. However, the vast majority of those people would take multiplayer for free. That means more users on Xbox Live, which means more eyes on ads…and the simple truth is you’re going to make more money by charging game developers to get their product in front of millions of potential consumers than by nickel-and-diming your users.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Congratulations Senator Obama

One of the things that honestly made me laugh during last night’s election coverage was when they showed Jesse Jackson ‘crying with joy’ after the news came in that Obama had won.

I turned to Sunny and said “Well, he’s changed his tune.”

Just to remind everyone, Jesse Jackson was the one who not too long ago was criticizing Obama for ‘not being black enough’ saying ‘He talks down to black people’…and in an outstanding gaffe said “I’d like to cut his nuts off.” when he didn’t realize his microphone was on.

I honestly dislike Jesse Jackson, simply because I believe he’s doing just as much to keep racism alive and well as any white supremacist.

I honestly wonder if that’s the reason he was crying. Not because he was so happy at the incredible milestone of our first black president…but because now that there’s a black man in the Whitehouse, the vast majority of his hate speech gets shown as the hollow, overblown rhetoric that it is.

In other words, Jesse Jackson complaints that opportunities are closed off to black people because whitey is holding them down…his opponents can simply point to the black guy from a ‘broken home’ who is currently the most powerful man in the free world.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Ha!

The Office of Government Commerce, a branch of the treasury in the UK, recently designed and implemented a new logo. This logo was put on office stationary, mousemats etc before anyone noticed there was something a bit dodgy about it.

Can you spot what's wrong with it?



(Hint: Tilt your head to the left).

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Can You Hear Me Now?

When I heard about ‘Tom Clancy’s Endwar’ for the 360, my attitude could best be described as one of ‘cautious optimism’.

Endwar is a real time strategy game, but rather than following the usual console RTS approach of trying to fit all those menus and commands onto a single controller, Endwar does things a little differently by allowing you to control the game with your voice. You press a single button on the control pad, say your commands, release the button and the game reacts.

To be honest, I had no idea if this would be a giant leap forward in gaming or an unmitigated disaster.

You see, my experience with voice recognition hasn’t been great. I’ve tried three or four different speech recognition programs on the PC, and despite hours and hours put into ‘training’, they’ve only ever been about 70% accurate.

So, on the one hand I was drooling at the idea of issuing voice commands, thinking of the level or realism and immersion it would offer…but on the other I was imagining screaming into the microphone:

“NO YOU IDIOTS!!!! I SAID ATTACK, NOT RETREAT!!! COME BACK YOU SONS OF BITCHES!!!”

In an RTS, 80 or 90 percent accuracy isn’t enough. You need 100% accuracy…otherwise your main attack force heads in the wrong direction and your entire army gets slaughtered.

Anyway, today I downloaded the demo from Xbox Live and have to say I’m impressed…and I mean really impressed.

‘Training’ the game to recognize your voice takes less than a minute. All you do is talk for a few seconds so it can adjust the gain on your microphone, then read four or five commands off the screen. Then, you’re good to go.

The first time I played through the demo (thanks mostly to an unclear tutorial), I was talking like a robot as I issued commands:

“Unit…three…attack…hostile…four. Unit… One…Move to…Bravo.”

It was 100% accurate, but having to leave long spaces between words wasn’t my idea of immersion... unless I was supposed to be playing the part of a battlefield commander with a severe speech impediment. Luckily, a tip popped up during a loading screen that said the game would have an easier time if you speak in complete, natural sentences. I gave it a try, and it wasn’t lying.

Speaking naturally (in my English accent, btw) the game responded quickly with 100% accuracy.

It was absolutely awesome. No pointing and clicking, no trying to remember hundreds of button combinations or going through menu after menu. If you want your tanks to attack a particular target, you just tell them to.

I’m hoping that the full game works just as well as the demo and the idea of voice control spreads to other games.

Voice commands in a game like Endwar isn’t only the perfect solution to a user-interface nightmare…it adds a level of realism and immersion that you can’t get with a controller or even a keyboard and mouse. What can be more natural and make you feel more like a real military commander than simply radioing orders to your troops?

Also, there are some games that are just screaming for voice control.

For example. Voice Recognition and Star Trek go together like peanut butter and jelly. There isn’t a trekkie alive today who hasn’t dreamt about playing a trek game where you verbally issue orders to your bridge crew. And how many times have to played a tactical squad based shooter and wished you could just tell your team-mates what to do instead of going through five or six button presses and having to take your crosshairs off the bad guys to point them where you want to go?

It also adds the possibility of whole new genres. Imagine a Splinter Cell type of game, only instead of playing the Sam Fisher role…you’re guiding him and warning him of dangers over the radio as you keep an eye on things from hacked security cameras.

…and did I mention Star Trek? Maybe it’s time for Bridge Commander 2.

Anyway, I want to close today by passing on a little tip from blogger friend OzzyC.

Any 2.5mm headset (such as a cellphone hands-free kit) will work with your 360.

I was at my local CVS a few days ago and managed to get an awesome 2.5mm boom-mic headset for eight bucks. It works perfectly and has amazing sound quality. Considering the cheapest ‘official’ wired headset you can get for the 360 is still around thirty bucks….you’d be stupid to not buy a generic one for much cheaper.

That is all.