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Monthly Archives: September 2007

Cracked » 10 Best Animated Movies…with a twist

Cracked.com has an uplifting sort of top 10 list of the best cartoons for kids. These cartoons, filled with cuddly animals and exciting superheroes, teach kids valuable lessons as well as entertain. But not all cartoons are so innocent. This top 10 list looks at the animated movies that will traumatize kids. And while there are some animated staples on this list, you will never guess what number one is. And after you see it, well, words cannot describe it.

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Hacking wars go mainstream

Within days hackers cracked the iPhone like the glass touch screen rolled over by car tires. Apple released a new firmware that freezes hacked or modded iPhones preventing users from accessing programs or services, possibly permanently.

The mainstream press has followed the thus far short give-and-take between Apple and iPhone hackers, and this sudden firmware update looks like a powerful win for Apple. But this is only because the mainstream hasn’t seen hackers battle and beat corporate America over and over again.

Video game consoles have been fighting a back-and-forth war between hackers freeing up console firmware. The console maker than updates the firmware, often for the sole purpose of blocking the hackers. But within a few weeks, a new hacked firmware gets released. Nothing is perfect.

Apple will discover the same painful challenge. In a few weeks or less, this new iPhone firmware will be cracked and people will once again be able to customize their iPhone until the next firmware gets released.

But as Between the Lines points out, Apple’s battle with hackers might cause more bad than good:

We do know none of these hacks to unlock the iPhone would be necessary if we had carrier choice. What’s the cost differential between adding a few carriers to the iPhone and wasting time developing software to outflank hackers?

Even with an extremely successful launch for the iPhone, Apple has started seeing their power getting the better of them. The mass of attention on their products, from the media to the early adopters to the general public, means little information can hide. Most people will never know or care that Sony blocks PSP hackers every chance it gets. But Apple battling hackers will get attention and at some point, the once sweet Apple might get too many sour stories affecting the taste. Apple thrives on rapid evangelical early adopters. After forcing users into one phone service, announcing a major price cut early, and now freezing people’s phone, there might not be enough of a good thing left to adopt.

Last Halo 3 post…today at least: Record-breaking opening

Halo 3, from Bungie and Microsoft For someone who couldn’t care less about playing Halo 3, I certainly do love writing about it. Well Microsoft has announced Halo 3 smashed all media records pulling in $170 million in only 24 hours. This beats the $150 million opening weekend for Spider-Man 3 and the massive sales of Harry Potter books.

Viva Pinata, from Rare Of course, with video games costing $60 each, Halo 3 sold far less units than than these movies and books, but who’s counting. Still, Halo 3 sold an amazing 2.5 million copies in 24 hours and made September 25th the most active day on Xbox Live history. Don’t forget to eat people. And if anyone’s interested, I’ll be playing Viva Pinata.

A hint of the Final Crisis to come…

Final Crisis, from DC Comics A new crisis is coming and to no one’s surprise Grant Morrison is behind it. Next spring, DC Comics will launch Final Crisis from Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones, in an apparent attempt to…uh…fix…yeah, I’m not sure what Final Crisis’ purpose is. Recent artist Gene Ha may have leaked a bit of what Morrison may have planned. When interviewed by Newsarama.com about the lateness of Authority #3, Ha said: “Grant is busy redesigning the DC Universe.” This might be more than just fixing continuity mistakes. Maybe we’ll get some real Ultimate-ized Superman and Batman. Or we might just get punched by Superboy-Prime all over again.

What can I write about that isn’t Halo 3?

Halo 3, from Bungie It’s hard to write a geek blog without paying attention to the big stories, but sadly, I am one of about three people who doesn’t care about Halo. Aside from first-person shooters making me motion sick (I put up with it for BioShock), but I’m always terrible at multiplayer. I think my record for staying alive in Gears of War was 25 seconds. So I’m sure that makes me a bit untrustworthy, but I promise you, I am still a huge geek. In fact, this week won’t be geek-free. I’ve got more than enough to keep me busy while the rest of you play your Halo 3. And for the other two people who don’t care about Halo 3, my dad being one of them, here are some ideas you can do to keep your spirits up while the rest of the world disappears into a next-gen marathon.

  • Beat some games I haven’t finished
    So I have somewhere between 10 and 100 games I’ve yet to beat. Maybe since nothing good’s coming out this week (wink wink), I might finish the first Ratchet and Clank or my most recent purchase, Eternal Sonata.
  • Read Cerebus
    Hey, there’s a lot of comics I haven’t read. And I’ll bet you haven’t read them all either. Get working on that. I sure will be.
  • Retag all my music files
    I no longer feel Green Day is alternative. Frankly, all-new iPods calls for all-new mp3 tags. Maybe now I can make the time to do so.
  • Learn a new language
    Hey, with the PS3 and the PSP having no region-lock, I better start brushing up on my Japanese. Gonna have to import a lot more games now.
  • Interact with people
    I think the last time I went out was to buy a SNES (remember, that was a time before Amazon.com would ship you your consoles).

Of course, with this season of games, I won’t be waiting too long for distractions. When does Mario Galaxy come out again?

If a first-person shooter makes you cry, is it art?

BioShock, from 2K Games An ongoing debate among gamers and culture critics of all variety has been asking whether video games are art. The Washington Post published a short piece asking Pulitzer Prize winning book critic Michael Dirda if the critical-acclaimed game BioShock can be considered art.

After playing the game, with some difficulty, Dirda recognized BioShock “obviously [had] artistic value” but “would hesitate to go that far” as to call it art.

Various articles and “art” critics have been chiming into the debate. Roger Ebert recently backtracked on his 2005 statement that video games are “inherently inferior to film and literature,” now saying video games can be art, but not high art. In Ebert’s 2007 column, he wrote: “Anything can be art. Even a can of Campbell’s soup. What I should have said is that games could not be high art, as I understand it.”

The problem I find in these arguments is there is little defining of what art is. This is the challenge because defining art becomes the kind of thing you can’t describe but you know when you see it.

Ebert, for instance, says video games are limited as a art form because of player choice whereas movies and literature force your path (he’s never played Final Fantasy has he). Dirda claimed art needed to make you sad, which video games don’t. But this only says why something might not be art. It doesn’t describe what is art.

Frankly, I subscribe to Scott McCloud’s broad but meaningful definition of art in Understanding Comics as anything done not for survival. This means even solving a math problem can be considered math. I say this because I don’t think there is a difference between art and high art. I prefer to call things good art and bad art. This is very subjective but does not ban any medium as a whole from being consider art. Each unique piece is evaluated on its own merits. To a mathematician, a simple equation to solve a complex problem might be beautiful art whereas a cubism painting might have no meaning and be deemed bad art. The math problem and painting are not being compared to each other. Instead, they are being evaluated for their own qualities.

This is why Ebert and Dirda’s definitions make little sense. Ebert says personal choice makes video games more like sports than art. But what about martial arts? Sometimes martial arts can be brutal sports or artfully crafted dances. What about improvisation in acting or jazz music? Personal choice already has a part in popular art forms. Video games pushes that limit like no other medium. Dirda’s argument that art must be sad, well, everything that isn’t the English Patient suddenly becomes trivial.

Moreover, niche mediums like video games and comic books often get slighted for their artistic merit, much like the way science fiction and fantasy movies are snubbed by awards and critical acclaim. “Higher” art forms might be threatened by the encroaching competition or simply think to highly of themselves. Michael Grade, executive chairman of UK network ITV criticized video games as a “moral vacuum” for their violent content” claiming television violence was morally superior because of its storytelling format. Of course, he probably doesn’t mind when video games make games based on violent television shows.

The truth is video games are a young medium. There are many technological hurdles to overcome, much like film, that slow the development of an understood artistic language. But video games and other mediums should be compared on their own merits. I would never play a video game in place of reading a book. The two are different in the way they give me information and the way I process that information. I gain different skills and different experiences from both and both are equally valuable. One might be for learning, the other for enjoyment, but life requires both. And that doesn’t make a book or a video game a bad thing. But it just might make it art.

The real challenge of video games: making them

Fire and water have something in common. They don’t look very good in video games. Popular Science posted an excellent article looking at the most challenging aspects of making video games, from the complex programing needed to make realistic looking fire and water and to produce quality artificial intelligence and processing power. What’s surprising is how accomplished the technology already is and yet there is so much farther to go. The next leaps aren’t toward realism, but photo realism.

A moment of silence for the NYT paywall

After two years, the New York Times is finally joining the Web 2.0 fad and sharing its content with the interweb. The Times spent the past two years charging $49.95 per year, or $7.95 each month, for archived content and its columnists under its TimesSelect program. Today the times announced its plans claiming their TimesSelect program met subscription expectations, but more growth could be found in advertising. “Our projections for growth on that paid subscriber base were low, compared to the growth of online advertising,” said Vivian L. Schiller, the senior vice president and general manager of NYTimes.com.

Finally. One of the last major paywalls has fallen under the realization that the web is a big place. If you won’t let people get your content, they’ll find the same thing somewhere else. With the Times’ news and commentary blocked by credit card charges, other web sites like the Huffington Post and Daily Kos were happy to fill the void. Now the Times has to make up for lost ground.

Obviously the New York Times will and has been a credible voice on the web. But the Times, as such an influential force, could have built the legitimacy of web media faster. Maybe they would have put more effort into creating original, interactive content rather than just replicating the newspaper.

I also wonder how web advertising might have accelerated had the Times opened up its decades of news stories to everyone. Everyone from random browsers to researchers could make use of these millions of new page views from a company that can get the big advertising deals. This could have generated millions more in web advertising as well as maybe exploring new advertising models and venues.

But now the Times can fully make its mark, as a fully Googleable resource of information. And we all know Google as the search engine of record.