Not O.K. Computer

24 12 2006

A debate is raging inside my mind! Well. Not so much raging as pondering good-naturedly. See, my PC is giving me a metaphorical headache. I got it when I was in Grade 10, so it’s getting a little old in computer years. What I’m trying to figure out is if boosting my RAM will solve my problems. Sometimes what this rig likes to do is shut itself down 100%, without provocation or any sort of warning. (Its favourite time to pull this one is during a critical moment in WoW, usually.) This has only happened at a few random times, but it’s still irksome. That may be a problem with RAM or virtual memory, but I think it’s more likely that it’s just Windows being its idiotic, “I know better than you” self. I also get horrible lag sometimes when playing WoW, but I think, (I hope) that can be fixed with a RAM upgrade. This is evidenced by the improvement I see every time I reboot my machine.

The other big problem is my monitor. It has these episodes where the screen seems to be having some sort of crisis, and it goes all dim and then flashes back to normal, and then slowly fades dim again. It often seems like there’s a yellow-coloured gel (like the ones they use with theatre lighting) in between the outer glass and the inner electronic image, and then an invisible hand keeps adding more yellow gels making everything more yellow. It gives me this disturbing image of the contents of my screen drowning an awful death in mysterious urine.

But then, my other option is to just consider this old rig a lost cause and just update the RAM on my MacBook. (Which sadly has the same RAM as my PC. A month or two after I bought it though, they upgraded all the models substantially. Dag nabbit.) I might do this, but I have a feeling it’s going to be more complicated than if I just wanted to get my PC upgraded. Probably more expensive too. And besides, if I upgraded my Mac then it would be all the more tempting to get games for it, (what little are compatible) but I didn’t really want to use it for that. I’d much rather have a decent PC to play games on and leave my Mac as it is. Maybe I should just save up for a whole new one and try and sell this old guy, or at least parts of him. (Him? What’s wrong with me?)

Anyways, that’s enough of that. Today Pete and I went Christmas shopping for our families, although I only had one thing left to get. I’d write what I bought for my dad, but there’s a (very) slim chance he might read this so I’ll hold off on that info until after the big day. Which is the day after tomorrow. I can’t believe that. I didn’t get much into the Christmas spirit this year at all, which is too bad. I consider it my favourite holiday. If I ever end up making films one day, I’d sure love to make a Christmas film that’s loved as much as It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story. (Two words: Dream on.)

And yeah, the title of this post is a Radiohead reference. I’ve been enjoying quite a bit of them lately, especially the beginning of My Iron Lung, which has got to be one of the more pleasant musical arrangements I’ve heard recently. But then a short way into the song they ruin it and it goes nuts. It’s like Coldplay meets Killswitch Engage. Listening to it always makes me think of a paint brush delicately adding finishing touches to a great work of art, and then out of nowhere the artist throws his painting down a steep stairwell. And the stairs are on fire. Tragic.

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Snob?

20 12 2006

This is a post I’ve been thinking about making since, oh, sometime in October I think. It was ruminating a lot more profusely in my head back then, but hopefully I can muster up enough gusto to make this sensable.

Lately I’ve been struggling with the worth of academia – that is, scholarly knowledge. First, the basics: obviously in this day and age, education is very important if you want a good job and you want to raise a family, et cetera. Yet, there are definitely varying levels of dedication to one’s education. I think most people see education as a stepping stone, a necessary step to take on the road to that elussive “Success”. Success probably entails an exciting career obtained through that education, and the exciting plasma TV/car/house/private jet obtained through that rewarding career. Others see academia as a way of life. Life-long learning. Hmm. I’ve kind of lost track of what I’m trying to say here.

Let me say this: next semester I’m taking some courses that one might call a little “out there”. (Out where? Left field? I don’t know.) One of them is called Elementary Symbolic Logic. (I’ve posted about all of them on here before.) What on earth is the practical use of formal logic? The only thing I can think of is: Lawyer. Fair enough. That seems to be the extent of it though. What brought this idea to the front of my mind again was the discussion I was having below with Pete in the post just below this one about the movie Apocalypto. Pete and I have these discussions all the time because we both love arguing about that kind of stuff, even though it doesn’t really matter. One time when my parents were picking me up from my place in Guelph, I suppose I was unpleasant and they noticed. When asked what my problem was, I replied that I’d just been having an arguement with Peter on MSN. “What about?” The honest answer was, “we were arguing about the most acceptable method of arguement. What kinds of statements are acceptable, and so forth.” My parents laughed. Then my dad said something that really made me think. I don’t remember the exact wording, but it was along the lines of:
“Nobody in the real world cares how you argue. If you’re right, you’re right. I don’t know. Have a disagreement with some guy? Kick him in the balls. There, you win!”

I think this statement is a good summary of the way most people think. Nobody in the real world cares about the Official Laws of Logical Reasoning and Discussion. If you’re arguing with a representative from your insurance company, and he or she says, “we’re not going to cover you for this reason,” and you respond with, “Ah! But that’s a…logical fallacy!” (Don’t actually know any terms, haven’t taken the course yet.) If you respond like that, most likely the guy you’re arguing with is going to say, “I don’t care, that’s the way it is.”

I guess I’m trying to expand this idea to a lot of areas. I’ve studied a lot of Theatre this year, and I’ve written essays on how messages and themes existing in a script are reinforced and even parodied in clever set design. I’ve learned that it may not be the messages portrayed by media that are important, but rather the medium that is chosen to portray it. I’ve learned that children of a certain age, (I think it’s between 2 and 7 years old) cannot grasp the concept that a rolled up, small-looking ball of clay which is then flattened into a long, worm-like piece is the same quantity of clay. But does any of this really matter? Sure it’s interesting, but how will it serve me?

I think I’ve gotten way off track here, and this post must be a pain to read. I’m sorry. One thing I originally wanted to touch on, (hinted at in this post’s title) is the idea of scholarly knowledge, and a love of demonstrating that knowledge, turning into snobbishness. I guess the important thing is your attitude and how you choose to act with your knowledge.

Ok, I’m tired of this post now.





APOCALYPT….oh.

18 12 2006

I went to see Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto with Peter and Paul the other night, and still haven’t decided whether I like it or not.

The positives:
-Awesome, awesome camera work for most of it, except for in the beginning…which was bad. I felt like I was watching a pilot episode of a low-budget wannabe airing on Discovery. Other than that, it lives up to the excitement Gibson generated with camera work in Braveheart.
-It is powerful. Some of the parts are very emotional, albeit visceral.
-Some great cinematography, especially the footage in what I’ll call “the pit”. (Don’t want to give anything away, but if you’ve seen it you know what I mean.)
-Pretty good acting. I’ll admit that I’m pretty easily convinced, but considering some of these guys were pros and some had never been in front of a camera before, they did a good job. I couldn’t tell you who the experienced actors among them are, although the lead antagonist probably was.

The negatives:
-Totally unoriginal message. This is probably the most disappointing part of the whole movie for me, in fact I think I was muttering out loud to myself in the theatre when I picked up on it. The basic point of this movie is: if there is ever an apocalypse, it probably won’t come in the form of some kind of external catastrophe like a meteorite or the sun blowing up…or, in this case, a Spanish Inquisition. No, we will probably destroy ourselves first. There’s a part in the movie, a very obvious “calm before the storm” part where an elder is telling villagers around a bonfire a tale whose finishing line is something like, “man won’t stop until he has consumed all the earth has to offer.” Well thanks Al Gore, but if I wanted to know your Inconvenient Truth, I would have rented the documentary from Blockbuster.

I guess that really irked me because I was hoping that Mel Gibson, with all his fabulous power and charm, and presumably a desire to remove the subtitle of “antisemetic” from his name, would pull something utterly brilliant out of nowhere. Some profound revelation in Apocalyptic theory, if such a thing exists. But alas, it was not to be.

Sucky jaguar. Like I said, I don’t want to give too much away here, but…let’s just say there’s a part where they had some special effects that Peter Jackson or Lucas probably could have pulled off brilliantly, whereas Mel made me feel like I was briefly witnessing Kermit the Frog’s cameo in his first R-rated debut.

-Some unsuccessful balancing of realism. See, most movies strike a balance between realistic and fantastic events. In Casino Royale, Bond pulls off some remarkable stunts in an atmosphere and situation that is entirely un-remarkable. The audience eats it up though, because hey, it’s James Bond. There were maybe 2 parts in Apocalypto, though, where I was thinking, “Eh…this is kinda dumb.”

So there you have it. Do remember though, this is only my opinion, which, as my old Media professor would say, says a lot more about me than the film. What’s the final word? The movie’s got some very good points and some not-so-goods, but I think I’ll like it better once I see it again. In fact, right now I feel like it’s something I’d like to own on DVD when it’s out.

Just a side note: Something I’ve noticed with films lately is that films that you expect to be really “epic”, (a term my friends and I throw around a lot lately) often aren’t. I think it’s got something to do with growing up and losing a lot of that juvenile sense of wonder, or…something. I remember going to see Disney’s Tarzan in the theatre as a kid and thinking that was epic. (I still love Phil Collins though.) As I’ve grown older though, a lot of the movies you expect to blow your mind and just be hugely entertaining fall short of the mark. Examples that come to mind are the Spiderman movies (only somewhat), the Harry Potter movies especially, The Da Vinci Code, and so on. The next film I expect to be mind-blowingly awesome is Zack Snyder’s 300, a movie based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller depicting the battle of Thermopylae (300 Spartans versus a freakload of Persians). The cinematography in this trailer alone is enough to make me jump up and down in anticipation like a little kid. I hope it doesn’t disappoint.





Ding

13 12 2006

I’ve decided to write a post exclusively about World of Warcraft in honor of my main finally reaching 60. I won’t go into a lot of detail but I’ll try to at least make sense of the last sentence. Also, the images in this post can be viewed in their full glory by clicking on ’em.

Actually, if you read my previous post which was the essay about YouTube, I talked a bit about WoW and I think I summed it up pretty well. The premise is that you make a character that is of a certain “class” (each class has different abilities, and therefore a different role in groups and a different playstyle) and then you play with that character for as long as you want. “Playing” consists of exploring a pretty huge digital world and going on adventures, fighting monsters, collecting loot and game-money, and battling other players on the opposing faction. Every character enters the world at Level 1 and then garners enough experience to reach Level 2, and so on. The current “level cap” is 60, meaning that is the highest level characters can achieve right now and can only continue to get stronger by acquiring better gear.

“Getting a character to 60” can take anywhere between a few weeks and a few years, depending on how often you play and how efficient you are. For me, I’ve had the game since just after its release, which was in late 2004. But because of how addictive it is I’ve had to take breaks for up to 6 months at a time, and I’ve also played with more characters than I could ever recall because I sometimes get bored of the same guy. However, my “main” (character), a tauren druid named Bothar has finally made the last level jump and joined the ranks of all my friends who play. (I started before all of them though.) So I got to thinking, just how much time have I spent playing? One interesting feature the game has that you can ask it how much time you’ve spent logged in on a character. It gives you the exact count of the days, hours, minutes and seconds you have spent “logged in” with that character since its creation. So I decided to investigate the playtimes of some of the characters I’ve spent the most time playing on and see if I can tally up one grand playtime. Here are the numbers:

Bothar – 60 Tauren Druid – 22 days
Exodus – 35 Night Elf Druid – 8 days, 20 hours
Renfrew – 44 Dwarf Rogue – 13 days, 4 hours
Ripclod – 42 Orc Warrior – 5 days
Piter – 21 Human Priest – 1 day, 15 hours
Flaumag – 17 Orc Shaman – 21 hours
Thykk/Thyksson – 3 days
Many, many other characters – approx. 3 days

Note: Thykk/Thyksson” is my friend’s character who I played sometimes when my own account wasn’t active. There are actually two of him because the original was tragically deleted in a nasty twist of fate, and so my friend remade him and took him to 60 again. So those last two values are just conservative estimates, but I think they’re pretty close.

So, crunch those numbers and you get… (I just did this quickly in my head by the way, but…)
56 days, approximately. Or 1344 hours, spent in-game. Wow. Below is a shot of Bothar’s final “ding”. (A term used to describe the act of leveling up because of the sound that plays.)


It may sound like a lot. And it is. But I know of people, that is, there are people I’ve met in-game who claim to have over 200 days logged on a single character.
Is it excessive? Probably. But I try not to judge other people for their decisions. Maybe they’re not as fortunate as I am, with as many opportunities laid out for them as I have. Maybe their real lives are very unfulfilling. And that’s an interesting concept: fulfillment. It’s a pretty widely accepted truth that everyone’s deepest desire, what we want more than anything else is just to be happy, to be fulfilled. I’m not saying that playing a computer game can ever replace real-life, face-to-face social interraction. It can’t. Yet, I can’t accept the opinion that time spent having fun while playing game is time 100% wasted. Just because we don’t know what kind of effect so much time spent in a digital world will have on a growing person doesn’t mean it will all be for nothing, does it? I don’t care what people say. You’ve obviously gotta have friends, and you’ve gotta go out and accomplish things and learn and grow in the “real” world. Still, a few of the fondest memories I have involving my closest friends in the last couple of years take place in WoW, and I don’t regret that at all.

An old picture of Peter, me, and Paul standing on a pile of bones in Razorfen.




Broadcast Yourself

13 12 2006

This is the final paper I wrote for Languages of the Media. It was a great class, and I’m going to miss having it. My thesis is that YouTube, like other modern phenomena, is following a trend of egocentricity that I’ve noticed popping up all over the place these days. Oh, and if the footnotes at the bottom end up looking messy that’s Blogger’s silly fault, not mine. Anyhoo, enjoy…

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For many decades, the dominant mode of communication for human beings has been Television. When people want to know what is happening in their community or globally, when they want to know what kind of weather to expect, when they want to know what music is currently popular or when they simply want to be entertained, people have turned to Television. Since the advent of the World Wide Web, however, things have been changing rapidly. One of the most recent Internet success stories is YouTube, the website that allows anyone to upload video content to the web for anyone to access. This service is proving to be an incredibly revolutionary form of entertainment. YouTube, now owned by Google, is currently worth about 1.65 billion dollars and receives around 65 000 uploads a day.[1] There is no denying that it is quickly becoming a dominant entertainment medium, but what does that mean? What are the implications? That is what I shall explore in this paper, and perhaps, in the end, be able to identify a direction in which our own culture is carrying us.

Not long ago, a very popular video blog known as Lonelygirl15 was found out to be fictional to the surprise of millions of viewers. Lonelygirl15 is a series propagated on YouTube that depicts a teenaged girl named Bree in her bedroom, talking about her life on her webcam. Bree, (whose screenname is “lonelygirl15”), is played by an actress from New Zealand named Jessica Rose. The series got started out of the Beverly Hills bedroom of Mesh Flinders, with the help of his friend Miles Beckett. What is so different about this show is that, up until recently, the viewers did not know they were being duped. They believed Bree was a real person, and corresponded with her by email. (Another woman was hired to play Bree off camera and reply to all the email she was sent.)[2] Sometimes the viewers’ comments and such were even featured in the show, and in this way, the audience heavily influenced the direction the show took. (Interestingly, once the viewers found out that Bree wasn’t real, many of them were still content to correspond with the fictional character.) Rose plays Bree very well, and except for a few minor faults the whole setup has quite high verisimilitude. Lonelygirl15 is a prime example of the transformation our modern entertainment, and ultimately, our whole culture is starting to undergo. Not only does it blur the line dividing reality and fiction, it is also largely interactive. The Lonelygirl15 video blogs have garnered over 24 million views.

Looking at the staggering success of YouTube and its content such as Lonelygirl15, some theories start to take shape. Why are these entertainment media so successful? When asked to comment on the success of YouTube, its cofounder Chad Hurley has said many times that, “Everyone, in the back of his mind, wants to be a star.” This conviction aligns itself well with the website’s slogan: “Broadcast yourself.” It seems fair to say that there is a great a deal of emphasis these days on ego. Just look at the title of YouTube. Half of Apple’s products, from gadgets to software, all begin with the letter i. The very nature of Lonelygirl15 is that it is essentially a public, digital diary that you can be a part of! Broadcast yourself. In other writings I have discussed the way the movie The Last Kiss tries to establish a strong connection with the audience by making them feel included in the events, and also that modern music is far more self-centered than music used to be. In his book, How to Read a Film, James Monaco describes the way media tends to construct a convenient reality for us to subscribe to. What he says of this is, “And one implication, at least, is beginning to become clear: we are losing our grounding in reality. We are well on our way to David Bowman’s fearful cage.”[3] The “cage” Monaco refers to here is the supposed Virtual Reality we construct for ourselves, a beautiful cage because it looks so open and free but really it is a false reality. (Think: The Matrix.) YouTube isn’t the only one jumping on the egocentricity bandwagon. Another cultural phenomenon in its own right is the emerging video game genre known as the MMORPG, which stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. An MMORPG has users create a highly customized character that represents themselves in the digital game world, in which they go on adventures and do battle with hundreds of other player-controlled characters inhabiting the same world. (The leading MMORPG on the market, World of Warcraft, has a subscriber base of over 7.5 million people worldwide.)[4] The MMORPG, which began as an obscure subculture, is slowly but surely finding its way into a mainstream status. And, lo and behold, it possesses the same characteristics as all the rest: the point of the games is to improve one’s own “self”, (ie. their character), plus it takes place in a virtual reality, and it is very interactive.

By now it is clear that YouTube follows the conventions of exceptionally modern multimedia, that seem to focus on catering to people on a very individual, personal level. Like “David Bowman’s fearful cage”, YouTube and its contemporaries are user-defined media that can be as truthful or conversely fantastic as the users want them to be. Whether or not these are positive changes remains to be seen, for all of this is so new that its long-term effects are nearly impossible to fathom. Perhaps the answers will be clear around the time companies find an effective way to use YouTube as an advertising medium, but until them, we will just have to wait.


[1] Garfield, Bob. “YouTube Vs. Boob Tube.” Wired Dec. 2006: 222+

[2] Davis, Joshua. “The Secret World of Lonelygirl.” Wired Dec. 2006: 232-239.

[3] Monaco, James. How to Read a Film. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2000. 560.

4 Garside, Ryan. “Burning Crusade Dated.” Bit-Tech.Net. 10 Nov. 2006. 21 Nov. 2006 .





Alive

13 12 2006

Just updating to inform that yes, I am alive, and feeling bad for not posting here lately. I wrote my last final this morning, and now I’m back in Hamilton and pretty much walking on Cloud 9 because of obvious reasons. I’m done for a month. That feels amazing to say. I’ve got quite a few plans for my extended stay at home too. A lot of good things happened today, but one of the best highlights was getting my final paper back for Languages of the Media; an assignment I started on way too late and almost didn’t hand in at all, and ended up getting 79 on. It was 3 pages in total, and yet other people in my class wrote paper that were 10 and 12 and 14 pages in length. I’m looking forward to finding out how they did, because this prof does not give out 80s and such very easily. 79 is excellent with him. So that was great, I’ll probably post the essay itself up tomorrow, and I also have a big post I want to write, hopefully tomorrow also, about something pseudo-important that has occurred.

Did I mention that I’m in a great mood? If you need to ask me for something, although I can’t imagine who would, or for what…now would be the time.

Anyways, further/real updates on the exciting life of Dave coming up tomorrow, promise.

Edit: After reading this later, I see that it’s almost unintelligeble. Sorry, I was practically sleepwalking at that point.





Woopsie. Also, Finals.

4 12 2006

So it turns out my niece’s name is Ava. My bad. A little research says Ava might come from the Hebrew “Chava”. It also has connections to “life”, and is a commonly excepted phonetic variation of “Eva”. Saturday night I went to see them with my folks. We took some pictures, but to be honest none of them turned out very well so I think I’ll hold back on posting them until I get some better ones.

As for me…I’m finished all my classes! Yeah! It’s weird. I’m writing my first final tomorrow at 2:30. Today me and a bunch of people in my class got together at the library and studied together for about…4 or 5 hours I guess. Cool bunch of people.

After that, I have 3 more finals this week and then my last one on Tuesday the 12th. And then I’m off for a month! Woot. So yeah, since I’m pretty busy I won’t be posting here much in the next week. I’m busy studying for one thing, and won’t have anything to write about for another because I’m not doing anything besides work! That’s the hope, anyway. For now, the good old Beatles are keeping me company as I go over Machiavellian vs. Socratic views on Law. Thank goodness for those guys, (the Beatles), seriously.