Tina K. Russell

December 16, 2008

A Fitting Epitaph

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 12:37 am

“Look, I believe everybody should just tell the truth and pursue the truth and be truthful and then you do that and everything’s fine,” he said.

Yes, Rod Blagojevich really said that.


December 12, 2008

The Physical Impossibility of Debt in the Mind of a Museum Curator

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Tina Russell @ 10:10 pm

Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles at Financial Turning Point – NYTimes.com
Yet by putting art ahead of the bottom line, the Museum of Contemporary Art has nearly killed itself. The museum has operated at a deficit in six of the last eight years, and its endowment has shrunk to about $6 million from nearly $50 million in 1999, according to people who have been briefed on the finances.

You know, I’d think cutbacks would be really easy at a postmodern art museum. Would anybody notice?

(And doesn’t an empty exhibit just make a big statement?)


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 3:48 am

Op-Ed Contributor – Grand Theft Nautical – NYTimes.com
There was some semblance of law and order in 2006, when the Islamic Courts Union, loosely linked with Al Qaeda, took over much of the country and imposed Shariah law. Though there were cruel tradeoffs, the Islamists virtually eradicated piracy. The crime was a capital offense punishable by beheading.

When Ethiopian forces, supported by the United States, replaced the Islamists with an ineffective transitional government in 2006, piracy returned with an intensity not seen since the 17th century.

It is evident that no nation can impose its will on Somalia; the colonial British and Italians learned the hard way. And certainly no nation can force Somalis to stop the best business in town. But if the West really hopes to eliminate the scourge of piracy in these strategic shipping lanes, then it should consider involving the courts union, the only entity that has proved it could govern the country, and its militant wing, Al Shabaab, in a new government.

If there is movement to talk to the Taliban in Afghanistan, then there should be some effort to talk to the fundamentalists in Somalia. If the Islamists were permitted to form a viable, functioning and effective government, this shattered land might be able to return to the community of nations — and supertankers will be able to deliver oil to the United States without fear of getting hijacked.

Yes, you read it here first. Who needs human rights when we have cheap oil?

I’ve written here before that I don’t think the West should be obsessed with keeping the “Islamists” out of power in Somalia; I don’t approve of religious rule or Sharia law, but it’s not my place to decide what governments other countries should have. (That, and bloody, endless wars hardly advance the stated aim of upholding human rights.) The concept of international intervention is hotly contested, but I think we can all agree that it’s the sort of drastic step with such dramatic consequences that it should only be used in international emergencies, such as genocide. If we fired our guns on every country with a miserable human rights record, we’d have to start with Saudi Arabia and China on down, a mess that would hardly justify itself.

This op-ed writer, though, takes the opposite extreme; we should endorse cruel, abusive regimes in the interest of stability. We should help them come to power. (I should note that the sort of desperation caused by war, the kind of war advocated by militant idealists and interventionists, is what helps extremists come to power, but that’s a separate subject.) Yes, yes… that’s why the West installed or helped install the Shah in Iran (twice!), Pinochet in Chile, the Taliban in Afghanistan, etc. In fact, he doesn’t even discuss any human need for stability, speaking only of a need for safe, cheap passage for oil tankers. Anything else would be unacceptable!

I need a shower.

December 11, 2008

Animal Cussing

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 6:40 am

Remember, the N word is okay, so as long as it ends in an “a,” the “a” has a grave accent, the “N” has a tilde, and it’s being said by an electronic sheep.

Discussion questions:

  1. Do androids dream of foulmouthed electric sheep?
  2. Those accent marks would roughly describe how the word is pronounced by Colonel Stinkmeaner of The Boondocks, wouldn’t they?

December 10, 2008

Know your platform

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 9:29 pm

Edge on The Conduit, the upcoming first-person shooter for the Wii (and the Wii’s major test in that genre):

The Conduit: Back to Basics | Edge Online
High Voltage Studios has been very vocal lately in decrying what it sees as the technical under-achievements of other developers’ work on Wii. The Conduit is therefore the studio’s line in the sand, an intended new benchmark for Wii’s graphical capabilities.

[They discuss the game’s beauty and detail; not on par with Xbox, but quite impressive for Wii]

The payoff, however, is that the demo we’ve played takes place mainly in identically styled dark, dingy corridors, occasionally lined with crates and boxes for cover and taking a right-angle turn now and then.

[…] In all, the level design feels distinctly last-generation, with much valve turning and switch pressing to be done. Enemy AI, meanwhile, will generally manage to find cover and retreat from heavy fire, but otherwise shows little intelligence – a point the game perhaps tries to explain by referring to them as puppets.

[They discuss the story and the control schene]

But as close as the scheme can feel to a mouse and keyboard at its best, at its worst it’s more awkward than it needs to be. The main problem is that accessing such controls as the minus button (reload) and D-pad (to switch weapons or zoom in) tends to throw out your aim. The issue is with the Remote’s less- than-ergonomic button layout for anything other than A and B, and it’s one that makes you question Wii’s fundamental appropriateness for games that require controls as complex as those needed for a modern FPS. The Conduit, nevertheless, could well prove Wii’s best example so far, even if that’s rather faint praise.

Here’s what I wrote in the comments:

This makes me kind of sad because it seems like the developers didn’t realize they were making a Wii game. With Metroid Prime: Hunters (for DS), the developers knew they had to keep controls simple, colors bright, and silhouettes distinctive, and they created a deep and engaging game from there. Likewise, if it’s hard to push any buttons other than A and B while aiming, the devs should have had the game focus on those two actions (say, jump and shoot) rather than try and stuff a PC FPS onto the Wii Remote. (Then again, what do the Nunchuk buttons do? Those are pretty accessible.)

In addition, it seems like they tried to make the graphics look like a 360 game, which anybody could have told you is a fool’s errand on Wii. In fact… everything about it sounds like they made a last-gen game by trying to make a PS3 or 360 game on a platform that is, by the narrow standards of PS3 and 360, last-gen. Of course, Wii has its own tricks up its sleeve that make it a great console, different strengths and weaknesses to set it apart from the competition, but it sounds like the devs didn’t capitalize on them.

Even capitalizing on the weaknesses could have been a bonus! By simplifying graphics and controls—to avoid direct comparisons to PS3 or 360 games that this game would lose—they could have found space to innovate in new and exciting ways. Dammit!

Limitations can be freeing, because they tell you what not to focus on.

December 5, 2008

The economic crisis, in sum

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 8:16 pm

Paul “Tails” Krugman:

Op-Ed Columnist – Lest We Forget – NYTimes.com
One answer to these questions is that nobody likes a party pooper. While the housing bubble was still inflating, lenders were making lots of money issuing mortgages to anyone who walked in the door; investment banks were making even more money repackaging those mortgages into shiny new securities; and money managers who booked big paper profits by buying those securities with borrowed funds looked like geniuses, and were paid accordingly. Who wanted to hear from dismal economists warning that the whole thing was, in effect, a giant Ponzi scheme?

December 3, 2008

The Cutting Edge

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Tina Russell @ 7:24 am

From Edge’s review of Mirror’s Edge (no relation):

Review: Mirror’s Edge | Edge Online
Its story is so ethereal you barely know it’s there,‭ ‬and when you do you wish it wasn’t.‭ ‬Its puzzles scarcely evolve beyond the obvious,‭ ‬its combos beyond sequences its levels can’t sustain.‭ ‬Attempts to infuse the recurring,‭ ‬utilitarian environments with something‭ – ‬anything‭ – ‬dynamic produce disastrously signposted boss battles,‭ ‬bumbling arcade sequences and the gross indulgence of Faith’s lesser-known talent:‭ ‬turning valves.‭ ‬Run,‭ ‬grab it,‭ ‬run

But the real tragedy of the game,‭ ‬with its dedicated time-trial modes and leaderboards,‭ ‬is its failure to capture anything of what popularised parkour to begin with.‭ ‬There’s no freedom or empowerment in constantly failing to make a predefined jump hemmed in with dead ends.‭ ‬Nor is there sustained momentum,‭ ‬nor any real sense of verticality beyond what passes beneath your feet.

This is what I sincerely appreciate about Edge. A lot of game publications spend so much time previewing a game, hanging out with the developers, fighting off PR reps, etc. that when they finally review a game, they feel a sort of obligation to gloss over its faults. Edge feels no such obligation; whatever you think of their opinions, they’ll give them to you straight. They can also, in the manner of Zero Punctuation (spectacularly filthy language and visuals warning!), be counted on to complain about the things that bug you about games, all the little annoyances that chip away at a game’s unique world.

On the subject of Mirror’s Edge… I’m disappointed that the game isn’t more freeform. Some of my favorite games—most notably Crazy Taxi and Jet Grind Radio, both masterpieces—are basically simulators of getting from point A to point B, repeatedly, whilst avoiding obstacle C. (That’s really the basic premise of Pac-Man, a founding document in gaming culture.) The trick is to give the gamer an open city in which to do crazy cool stunts, so he or she can keep finding new ways to cut corners and show off, to look cool and get the job done. In Crazy Taxi, Jet Grind Radio, and Pac-Man, you’re never given a preset order, and are forced to make things up as you go, which is at the core of what makes them fun. In Mirror’s Edge, it sounds like, levels are more linear and predetermined, which sounds like exactly what would kill a game like it, which is tragic because I liked the idea of a first-person game where it doesn’t feel like your character is a human Steadicam.

Note to the uninitiated: Most first-person games, defined as games in which you see the world from the eyes of the main character, have you move forward and look around with robotic precision, unlike the real world in which your viewpoint bobs around as you walk, run, or do crazy stunts while avoiding totalitarian government agents. The idea of a first-person game with no guns, one about using your wits and athletics alone to escape the Man, sounded really compelling to me. It’s sad that it sounds like the game didn’t reach that distant rooftop it was leaping toward.

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