August 28, 2012 at 10:30pm
I like SAI, I really do. But instead of suggesting that Apple will come out with some new technology that lets you magically beam music into devices without any receiver, they should stop for thirty seconds and think how completely ridiculous that sounds.
If there *is* an AirPlay Direct coming, it’ll be Bluetooth 4.0-based, and likely only work with receivers that support it. And it sure doesn’t have anything to do with the new dock connector.
August 20, 2012 at 8:23am
Fake Journalism With a Capital J
I’m watching The Newsroom and The West Wing in parallel, and the combination of the two seems to have thrown me into an alternate reality where Aaron Sorkin is God, if God took an inordinate amount of interest in the inner workings of American politics, news media, and nothing else.
At least, that’s what I was thinking until I read this excellent piece by the AV Club’s Phil Dyess-Nugent on how The Newsroom’s semi-reality differs from The West Wing’s sixteen-year Clinton administration alternate-reality. One of the more interesting points in the article (and there are many) talks about how failure has to be inevitable for the intrepid young journalists at Will McAvoy’s News Night because of the show’s reliance on actual issues to provide the centerpiece for its episodes.
I’ll admit: this has been driving me completely insane over the last few episodes. For those who haven’t been following the show, the plot lately has been focused on the staff of News Night temporarily abandoning their journalistic values for the sake of ratings in order to convince the RNC to adopt a new, more challenging debate format for the Republican primary. Those of us not living in Sorkin-land know that doesn’t happen, that the Republican primaries are mostly the same vapid media circus we had all expected.
Where I think Dyess-Nugent goes wrong is when he makes the point that this tears down what seems to be Sorkin’s primary motivation for creating the show, that a “serious, well-reported news show can make a difference.” I actually think that the frustration and inability to change reality that’s inherent in this sort of storyline is a deliberate choice by Sorkin and makes the experience of watching The Newsroom much more important than watching The West Wing.
In The West Wing, those frustrated with the Bush presidency could tune into the Bartlett administration and ensconce themselves in Martin Sheen’s two terms of benevolent liberalism. In The Newsroom, there’s no second term, there’s not even any progress day to day. The media continues to be broken and nothing about McAvoy’s “mission to civilize” will do anything about that. You’re not waiting for the next episode for the issue will be resolved; you’re waiting for Fox News to close its doors and Us Weekly to go out of print. Neither of which is exactly likely.
I think Sorkin’s goal isn’t to say “look at what the (presidency / media ) could be like”, it’s to say “this is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.” But, as a consumer of the media, which of those statements is going to make you more uncomfortable? Maybe Aaron Sorkin knows that captive eyes and ears for advertising make the media what it is, not some ideologue trying to bring us out of these journalistic dark ages. Sure, the Sorkin rant in the first episode about what’s wrong with America felt good to hear for (what I assume to be) the fairly liberal and well-educated HBO viewership, but it sure as hell didn’t make them uncomfortable.
Watching Will McAvoy fail to change the world week after week won’t provide a safe haven for people to pretend that journalism is perfectly okay for an hour at a time every Sunday; it’s a call to action that extends beyond wishing you lived in a fantasy world. I think Dyess-Nugent’s point, that issues get resolved in The West Wing that can’t possibly be dealt with in The Newsroom, is not an oversight. In fact, it’s the show’s greatest strength. Maybe instead of complaining in general terms that news is worthless in America, people will see how and why it’s worthless every single week. Maybe it’ll keep being broken, frustrating, and awful until it isn’t any more, in McAvoy’s world and our own. Or maybe News Night will convince the GOP that the new debate format is worthwhile and the worlds will diverge into the real and the ideal. That’s up to Sorkin. I just hope that critics would stop bashing him for making the braver of the two choices.
August 19, 2012 at 9:49pm
Late To The Mass Effect 3 Party
I remember going to festivals and fairs several times a year growing up, and seeing rows of booths proudly featuring works of local artists, usually selling paintings of some sweeping plains landscape or high-contrast black-and-white photos of the same. Sure, they were beautiful to look at, but about as challenging to the genre as running a 5K on a Segway.
If these pictures of animals standing serenely in a clearing were XBox 360 DVDs, Mass Effect 3 would be right up there with them, behind the Tilt-a-Whirl and next to the guy selling fried Oreos on a stick. It was a good time, definitely not something anyone should be ashamed to put up on their metaphorical living room wall, but we’re clearly not looking at a Picasso here. ME3 is no Braid, it’s no Portal, it’s not even a BioShock. It’s a damn fun game with some pretty lousy dialog and just enough storytelling to make the killing bits actually seem worthwhile.
Now, the first thing that the ‘gaming populace’ (which, nowadays, we just call the ‘populace’) will say is: “Oh, this must be another fan upset about the infamous ending. Here, we’ve got a petition for you to sign.” At which point the personified gaming populace sends me a “letmegooglethatforyou.com” link to some e-Petition that apparently has raised close to $100,000 (no joke) from disgruntled fans.
Man, the sheer ridiculousness of people spending $100,000 to change the ending to a $50 video game never really hit me till I saw it in writing.
Anyway, no, the ending was fine. Good, even. Well, good to the extent that it had the exact same ending as Deus Ex: Human Revolution, but I certainly didn’t see a $100,000 petition to ret-con that game. The part people should be concerned about is the middle. The hours and hours of laughably poor dialogue that could have come straight out of a Michael Bay summer blockbuster. The system of “choices” that involve either you being a total asshat to everyone around you, or being a choir boy with a submachine gun. The other games in the series at least made you WANT to snap at one of the myriad NPCs, either for plainly refusing to believe that some crazy alien invasion is coming, even when one of said invaders kills the entire galactic equivalent of Parliament (not the band, thankfully, but the governing body), or for being needlessly coy for an entire 20 hours of gameplay (looking at you right in your shiny electric eyes, Martin Sheen). I guess when the aliens have finally landed and you’re the only interstellar space-hero that can stop them, the average citizen won’t quite be as much of a dick to you. Makes sense, but it certainly makes you feel bad when you gleefully rub it in that you were right all the time about the aliens who are now mercilessly slaughtering their families.
The game picked up at the end, thankfully. As someone who has played the same save file through the entire series, across multiple hard-drive backups and OS reinstalls, a lot of the final moments were fairly touching. Not “Saving Private Ryan” touching, but “hey, I just spent about 70 hours total with these games over the last five years, I certainly don’t hate these characters” touching. In fact, despite my attachment to these collections of emotive polygons and their painfully underwhelming voice actors, I didn’t find it nearly as sad as when I lost a character at the end of ME2. And that’s all because of how the story was designed. All of the “side-quests” in the previous game involved bonding with your team-members to form the most effective and cohesive group to stop the vast, largely-unknown alien threat. The quests in this game were about politicking with various factions to get them to give you more guns to blow up those aliens. And what’s more fun: Making friends, or getting people who hate each other to get along for enough time to blow something up? Would you rather be the guy talking to everyone at a cool party or Barack Obama before the airstrikes on Libya? Exactly.
In the end, I finished the game, not because I thought it had anything great to contribute to gaming as an art form, or because I wanted to see this thing through, but because it was fun. Crysis was fun. Doom was fun. I was hoping for more than fun. I’d rather see the end of a series that I cared a lot about hung up on the wall of the Louvre than the state fair.