Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Drafting the Forever War

It's time. After extensive time with both the Xbox 360 and the ps3, I will finally end the argument. System supremacy will be declared. There will be no further discussion of this topic.

Graphics, loading times, joystick sensitivity, high def specs... no. Done to death. It got us nowhere.

Thunderdome Living [[melee and lethality]] - Sony's ps3 is heavier, and has sharper edges. The black shell, though unfortunately glossed, is better for stalking prey than basic 360 white. Neither system has stock wired joysticks, so you can forget the morning star modes of fighting afforded by previous console generations. As ranged weapons, the 360 controllers hit a little harder. Advantage - ps3.

The Kessel Run [[smuggling your weed]] - With removable faceplates and optional casings, the 360 wins this category faster than you can say "twelve parsecs". Additionally, the 360 can be purchased in stoner friendly Halo green. Advantage - 360

Remember the Alamo [[coonskin cap replacement]] - Because of technology's exponential curve, each successive generation of consoles have made better hats than their predecessors. The ps3 and 360 are perhaps the finest example of this dynamic yet. Hollowed out and strapped as head wear, both systems provide a wide ceremonial outline and plenty of enigmatic lightwork. However, while the potentially dual colour rings of the 360 are swanky, the ps3's sleek imperial linework and formidible leading edge make it the beangear of choice for a hopeless last stand against Santa Anna and a horde of excited Mexicans. Advantage - ps3

Sexual Chocolate [[rocking the porn bot]] - While neither system has a hole big enough fit your junk in, the smooth rounded edges of the 360 make it the obvious choice for anything past second base. It also comes in a variety of sexy colours, and again, optional faceplates spell win in the secret language of Sorayama. Advantage - 360

It's a tie! We knew that. The correct answer is always "D) Stack both systems on top of your Coleco Adam and play all three."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Being There

Darwin Day. I like it. A science holiday! Even though no one stays home and there are no presents. It's ok, we'll work on that. It will evolve.

The only part that bugs me is the "Darwin". Evolution has two dads.

History and convenience have naturally selected Charles Darwin as the spokesmodel for natural selection. Which is fine. Darwin did a lot of good work and he did, technically, make the discovery. But then he sat around with it. One of the most important ideas in modern history languished in a notebook while Darwin refined data and fussed over numbers.

Meanwhile, Alfred Wallace wandered around the jungle taking notes. The guy was a dauntless adventurer and explorer. Extremely clever. David Quammen wrote a wonderful book called Song of the Dodo that tells the story better than I ever could, so I will simply point you in that direction for further edification, rather than trying to recount it all here. But Alfred Wallace figured out evolution too. Just by wandering around with it. Wallace decided to actually share the information with the world, and started writing up papers.

A mutual friend of Darwin and Wallace alerted Darwin that he was about to lose his precedence. At which point Darwin finally discovered natural selection for the rest of us. Bio-nerd facepalm. To be fair, he shared credit with Wallace. They had an amicable relationship and Wallace himself was a staunch defender of Darwin's work. I do not mean to imply that there was bad blood between them, or that you should dislike Charles Darwin.

But it's Darwin Day. If we're going to have a science holiday, it shouldn't be tainted with stolen credit. Science has enough of that already.

Charles Darwin may be evolution's dad, but Alfred Wallace was evolution's cool dad. We should be thanking both of them.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

They have a plan. [Just kidding.]

While we're on the subject of television, I guess I'll cover Battlestar Galactica too. It's been one of my favorite shows for a couple of years now. Like Lost, it just picked up again. Unlike Lost, BSG has finally reached the endgame. We're two episodes into the ten episode finale.

Since the finale of last season, the show has gotten a little strange. The writers are purposefully rocketing towards darkness, and they're doing it well. [It's led to some amazing performances. Edward James Almos in particular.] I don't doubt that the show is doing exactly what the producers want it to be doing.

The problem is, what they're doing isn't any fun. It's bleak. Everyone is unhappy, and once again the fleet's leadership is in turmoil. Which is fine, except we've seen this arc. We've seen it more than once. Roslin vs. Adama. Zarek vs. Roslin. Lee vs. Adama. Lee vs. Roslin. Baltar vs. Roslin. Blah vs. Blah.

It's a real let down to get all the way to the ending, just to watch the same horse get beaten one more time. Yes, I know, the horse will get beaten harder. It will be even more gritty, dark, and vicious than it was the last six times we watched it...

People's faces will turn red. Guns will be pointed. Unthinkable executions will occur. Ambiguous nobility and faux realism will clash to the sound of an angry drumbeat while handcams wobble and obscure the action. [The drum and wobbling camera will help you understand just how intense and gritty the action really is.]

Worse still, the traditional Battlestar Galactica "serialize as you go" system is finally catching up with the storyline. The farther we get into the ending, the more it looks like this last season will retroactively cheese up all previous installments. I'll explain...

For the first sixty-something episodes of Battlestar Galactica, the whole concept of the show revolved around the cylons "having a plan". They reiterated the cylons and their plan at the beginning of every single episode. In season four they just dropped it, and apparently the cylons have a lot less of a plan than they did before. So now when you go back and watch the old ones, it just comes across as a campy lie born of formulaic television plotting.

I'm even more concerned about Head Six. The Caprica Six ghost that only Baltar can see. There was an episode where we learned that Caprica Six also sees a Baltar. I've waited very patiently for that to be explained. We don't seem to be getting closer to any kind of answer.

"Two people from completely different species simultaneously developed a unique new mental disorder."

If that is the final explanation, as it appears to be at the moment, then every episode of BSG just got much, much dumber than it was before. They don't even show Head Six anymore. On a personal level I find it very disappointing; the cleverest idea on the series now threatens to transmogrify into the lamest thing to hit science fiction since Jar Jar Binks.

Of course, it's not just those two things. As important as those two plot lines are, they still aren't the whole show. It's many little things.

Last season ended with a "cliffhanger' that had no emotional resonance whatsoever. It was supposed to be this big important moment, and an overwhelming realization. Instead it just felt empty.

They got to Earth. Earth was dead. No part of me cared.

I'm the guy who cries at sad car commercials. To have me watch your big emotional moment and just shrug... that shouldn't even be possible. Especially not with characters I've known and liked for years. Yet the Galactica writers pulled it off.

Then they revealed identity of the fifth cylon. That was built up for longer than a season. The answer was meaningless. It may become meaningful, but at the moment you make your big reveal, your big reveal should have some weight behind it.

Ellen Tigh? Who cares. It didn't change anything. Watching the show knowing "Ellen Tigh" is exactly the same as watching the show without knowing it.

It's starting to look like the old OP was autobiographical material.

They had a plan. It got lost somewhere between seasons. Just like the writers.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Hush now, Clarence Boddicker.

Lost started up again. I miss Shannon.

She was the bratty little rich girl that wandered fussily around the island for the first season and half. It's possible she annoyed you. To understand why I loved Shannon, you have to rewind to the beginning of the show. It went something like this:

"We've been on this island an hour and half. Jack, you're the mayor and sheriff. Kate, you and Hurley start building a windmill out of coconuts. The rest of us will construct a village and form hunting parties!"

Meanwhile, Shannon sat by the luggage and stared at the ocean, waiting for the boat to show up and rescue them. She had an organic sense of inertia. Like any normal person.

Shannon was the anti-Locke. Perhaps that's the key to my chagrin. I find John Locke as grating and insufferable as many people found Shannon. Now that everyone on the show is essentially Locke, I miss her even more.