Coming of age in the games industry: The Collective Agreement

by Michael Smith

It’s no secret that the video games industry likes to compare its successes to those of the film industry. For several years now, game sales have surpassed the box office. The recent Avengers film set an opening weekend record, grossing $200 million in its first three days. Compare that to last November’s hit game, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, which did $400 million of business on day one. And that doesn’t even get into the recent revolutions in social gaming and the ironically named free-to-play games.

In spite of this, the film industry continues to lead the games industry in one important way — a sustainable business environment. Continue reading

Stuart O'Steen is not a crook

But he is Richard Nixon.

Stuart, longtime friend to S&R, is a veteran stage actor who portrays the former president in the Longmont (Colorado) Theatre Company‘s ambitious take on Frost/Nixon.

I had the great pleasure of recently seeing the production. As a politics junkie and student of American political history, particularly of the Watergate debacle, I couldn’t pass it up. And I anticipated from having seen Stuart’s remarkable performance as Robert Scott in 2009′s Terra Nova that he would surely immerse himself in this unique role as well.

My high expectations were Continue reading

Supreme Court ruling on video games only an assault on bad parenting

by Tom Shortell

The Supreme Court ruled Monday it’s unconstitutional to ban the sale of violent video games to children, striking a severe blow to lazy parents across the nation.

In a 7-2 decision that cast aside typical alliances of the court, the court ruled that video games as a medium are protected under the First Amendment as free speech. The decision struck down a 2005 California law that forbid the sale of games “that depicts ‘killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being’ in a way that appeals to a deviant or morbid interest of minors” to anyone under the age of 18. Continue reading

Aliens and the Imagination

What is an alien? Someone not of my own species? Of my own country (cue political flatulence)? Of my own neighborhood? How about of my own planet? How have governments used UFOs? All of these were subject to lively (but short) series of talks this evening at the British Library, where tonight’s talks focused on Aliens and the Imagination. We had a pretty good line-up—fantastic, in fact: Gwyneth Jones, one of my all time favorite SF writers; David Clarke, who among other things is the UFO consultant to the National Archives here; biologist and mathematician (and science and SF writers) Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart; film director Gareth Edwards, who brought us Monsters; and writer Mark Pilkington, who also helps run the Strange Attractor blog. As usual, I thought the problem was too many people and not enough time—but these are all really interesting people, and I could have sat there all evening. Too bad there was no time at the end for the speakers to ask each other questions, or for questions from the audience.
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GBTV? Glenn Beck on the Internet? All Glenn, all the time?

Would you pay between $4.95 and $9.95 a month to watch conservative talker Glenn Beck for two hours a day on the Internet?

Beck will launch, with partner Mercury Radio Arts, GBTV, an online video network, on Sept. 12. Here’s Beck himself in a five-minute pitch describing his “global plans” and how he will be “champion of man’s freedom” for the mere cost of a “cup of coffee in today’s world”:

Whether Beck is certifiably insane is not the issue here: Rather, he and his partner need to insure that revenues exceed costs. Now that he’s leaving the ready mega-megaphone of Fox News on June 30, that’s not a certainty.
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Real News terminated by Arnold coverage

by Jane Briggs-Bunting

Who cares about Arnold?? I feel very sorry for Maria Shriver and most sorry for all the children involved in the mess, but it shouldn’t be dominating the national news. Adultery, sadly, occurs frequently. Shriver is not the first nor will she be the last cuckolded spouse.

But there is real news going on all over the planet that is getting less coverage as the media hounds the other woman, Arnold himself (who cares about him anyway? He’s a former and future actor who used to be governor of financially broke California).

I did care about the arrest of International Monetary Fund managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, just until he stepped down overnight. Now he is no longer running the IMF he is unimportant except for what it says about what he’s seemingly gotten away with as an alleged sexual predator for years.

I do care about real news–like what is going on in Libya, Pakistan, Iraq, India and Syria. Continue reading

More than marketing: The Blueflowers and the New Wave of Americana

I’ve never much cared for the musical genre broadly known as Americana, and lately I’ve been thinking about why this is. I suppose it’s acceptable to say hey, I’ve listened to a lot of these artists and most of them just kinda bore me, but that seems unsatisfactory for a guy who thinks about music like I do.

After some reflection, I think it comes down to a couple of issues. The first one, I admit right up front, is objectively unfair of me, but there is a part of me that associates Americana with the Baby Boomers, and in particular sees it as a late, faint attempt by the post-Reagan iteration of the cohort to recapture lost authenticity. Continue reading

On Richard Pryor: It was something he said

Richard PryorThe great medieval poet Geoffrey Chaucer created timeless characters in his Canterbury Tales; archetypal personalities such as the Wife of Bath and the Miller endure to this day. Through them Chaucer could readily celebrate, criticize and satirize different aspects of the society of his time. Additionally, Chaucer, as a public servant and man of the people, preserved a vernacular that may otherwise have been lost.

The late Richard Pryor, often hailed as the greatest comic to ever take the stage, is the American Chaucer. A master storyteller in the grand tradition of West African griots, fired by passion and pain, possessed of keen insight, he was also a brilliant impersonator with amazing range, an intuitive actor who never got his due, a social critic, a writer, a folklorist, a philosopher, and, most importantly, one funny motherfucker… Continue reading

GOP Madness 2012: Strother Martin and Barney Fife Brackets

My life is complete–I managed to work Strother Martin and Barney Fife into the title of a post. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Strother Martin Bracket

Gingrich is our winner. A very interesting result. By far the most credible arguments in the comments section were made for Huckabee–commenters agreed he’s likable, generally competent, and seasoned while Gingrich is brilliant but carries more baggage than all the airlines in the world put together. Still the wisdom of the voters says that somehow Gingrich will manage to emerge from this bracket in the lead. Implicit in that, I suppose, is a belief that either the backing of the Tea Party is not the trump card most Huckabee-fans think it is, or more likely that all the carpetbaggers chasing that vote  (Palin, Trump, Cain, ad nausem) will cancel each other out. Interesting. Continue reading

Hard times for the pure of heart: is it possible to live ethically in modern society?

I think we’d all love to live every phase of our lives in happy accord with high moral and ethical principles. We’d love it if we were never confronted by logical contradictions and cognitive dissonance, by cases where our walk was at odds with our talk. But the truth is that we live in a society that’s complex, at best, and a cesspool of corruption at worst. It’s just about impossible to get through a day without compromise, and every time we compromise it’s difficult not to feel as though we’ve failed a little.

Some people are better at dealing with the conflict than others, whether through denial or a well-developed, pragmatic knack for keeping things in perspective. Unfortunately, I don’t do denial at all and while I like to think of myself as having a strong pragmatic streak, in practice my principled side tends to dominate my decision-making in ways that occasionally deprive me of convenience and pleasure. Continue reading

Dear Netflix: I give up

by Lisa Barnard

I’ll say it: I think my Netflix account has been taken over by a ruthless, vengeful android. I know this sounds crazy, but hear me out.

I’m sitting there crying on my couch after watching a really touching film about something like childhood prostitution, an exonerated convict, or genocide in a far away land (I watch a lot of documentaries), and Netflix catches me off guard and at that moment “innocently” asks me to rate the movie, immediately. I feel like I owe it to these people in the movie to express my concern for their plight and my gratitude to the director for making such a powerful film by rating the thing 5/5 stars. “More people should watch this!,” I think to myself. What an idiot.

Netflix wastes no time in using my moment of weakness against me. My account fills before my eyes with only the most depressing, horrific movies. Romantic comedy? Ha. Continue reading

Detroit, the once grand Motor City, reels from census losses

by Jane Briggs-Bunting

Poor Detroit. Still reeling from a decade when the three auto companies, formerly known collectively as the Big Three, imploded with two of them taking federal loans to survive, the Motor City lost almost 25 percent of its residents, according to U.S. Census figures released this week.

In its heyday in the mid-20th Century, Detroit was the fourth largest city in the nation. Now it languishes at 18th.The new population count by the census folks is 713,777, the lowest in a century. One in every four residents left the city during the past decade. Michigan, as well, was the only state to lose population despite an increase in the U.S. population during the past decade.

The implications are harrowing for a city with huge deficits, a school system with a state appointed fiscal manager, decaying neighborhoods and vast swaths of empty lots. Downtown, a vibrant retail area in the 1950s and 1960s which once boasted three major department stores along its main artery, Woodward Avenue, now has none. In the old neighborhoods where small clusters of houses remain, selling prices, if there are buyers, are in just the four and five figures.

And to add insult, it looks like ABC will cancel the show Detroit 187 after just one season. How much more of a battering can the city take? Continue reading

The painted kipper (pt. 5): an end note

Part 5 in a series.

In a piece about the American cult writer David Foster Wallace, who committed suicide on September 12, 2008, James Ryerson writes: Continue reading

The painted kipper (pt. 4): "measuring culture" and the Orwellian trifecta

Part 4 in a series.

One way to get the measure of a person – their temper, as in mood, their dispositions, both emotional and intellectual, what they glean from life, how they “see” the world this way rather than that way – is by understanding those other voices to whom they listen, about whom they think, and from whom they draw.

Most immediately and obviously for Reith his father, George Reith, a minister in the Free Church of Scotland, was a powerful influence. Reith told Boyle that from beyond the grave his father had had a profound effect on public service broadcasting. (38)

There were other influences, though – or put somewhat differently, two individuals with whom Reith identified, in one case somewhat paradoxically. In 1929 Reith was asked by the former Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin – who had been elected Rector of St. Andrew’s University in Scotland – if he had any ideas that he might use in his inaugural address. Reith recommended Tyndall’s 1874 address to the British Association, and urged him to study the ideas of Dr. Thomas Chalmers, “in his view one of the greatest Scotsmen who ever lived…” Continue reading

Pekar Tribute 12, the Finale: Bill Alger

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Pekar Tribute 11: James Smith

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Pekar Tribute 10: Zina Saunders

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