Monday, November 13, 2006

Stoked About Nintendo's New Console. Ser-Wii-ously.

With the election come and gone, it is difficult for me to say that I'm as enthusiastic about its outcome than I had been in my last post. As I wait for the dust to settle and the smoke to clear, I thought it best to post about something entirely different in the interim: Nintendo's new video game console.

The Nintendo Wii (pronounced "we") is set to be released in six days and will be the greatest Nintendo console ever released - nay, the greatest console ever released by any company. Period.

I say this in all seriousness as I was raised on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) of the 80s and have made video gaming a "hobby" ever since. Unfortunately, I have become terribly bored with video games as of late. Every year the industry is watered down with titles like "Shoot A Lot of Freakin' Aliens 9" or the 300th installment of Madden. Consumers are being asked to shell out $300+ every five years to play the exact same game we've been playing for the past 20 years simply because of graphical enhancements.

I came to fully realize this two weeks ago when I saw the new game Gears of War on an Xbox 360 stand in the mall. Initially, I was in awe of its beauty (the graphics are absolutely outstanding). But, after watching an individual in front of me play the game for several minutes I was bored out of my mind and headed home. I then proceeded to plug in my old NES and have a blast with Super Mario Brothers 3.

The Nintendo Wii will revolutionize the gaming industry for several reasons. It does not possesses the graphical power of the Xbox 360 or that of the mind-boggling, psuedo-thermonuclear-device that is the Playstation 3 but it has one of the greatest innovations in gaming history: a controller that senses a full range of 3-Dimentional motion in space. For example, to play tennis, you simply swing the controller (shaped like a small television remote) just as you would a tennis racket. In fact, you can put spin on the ball by simply twisting the remote as you swing. In the new Zelda, you swing the remote to slash away at enemies and even use the remote as a pointer in shooting games to aim your gun. It may not sound like a big deal, but everyone who has played a game as graphically inept as "Wii Sports" cannot stop talking about how incredibly fun it is to play.

Another exciting feature is the ability to play games from every Nintendo console ever made, as well as some Sega Genesis games. For a minimal fee - like with iTunes - I can download games like Ice Hockey for the original NES, Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo or even Super Mario 64 that was released for the Nintendo 64 and play them on the Wii. In effect, Nintendo is not simply making available to the public their new generation of games, they are releasing their entire catalog of games over the past 20+ years.

While there are still a host of other features yet to be mentioned, the most exciting for me is online connectivity. Games that I have had a blast playing with friends and family when I come to visit, such as Mario Party and Super Smash Brothers, can now be played over the internet, thereby rendering distance constraints irrelevant. This means I could call up Mel, Eric, Yoj, etc. across the country and be like "Hey, you wanna' play Mario Party?" and they'd all be like "Fo' Shizzle!"


Because Mario Party and Smash Bros. are fan favorites within the fam and extended fam (shout out to the D's!), I've included links to some videos of the upcoming renditions of these titles. Some of the mini-games for Mario Party in particular look incredibly fun with the new controller:

Mario Party 8 videos

Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Note: The picture at the top is a photoshopped rendition of Homestar Runner, a web-based comic character, accompanied by a Wii remote and its "nunchuck" attachment. Homestar Runner pronounces the word "Seriously" in the same manner as the phonetic spelling of "Seri-Wii-ously" and it was my lame attempt at wit.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Ballad of Jack Johnson (John Jackson)

I don't believe I've posted anything on politics to date, which is quite unsual given the amount of time I spend arguing political issues - with other people, in my head, or otherwise. So, with an over-hyped election coming up in a week, I figure now would be as good a time as any and what better way to begin with a little Futurama:

The scene is Bender, Fry, and Leela watching a political debate for the President of Earth.

  Johnson: It's time someone had the courage to stand up and say: "I'm against those things that everybody hates".

  Jackson: Now I respect my opponent. I think he's a good man but, quite frankly, I agree with everything he just said!

Fry: These are the candidates? They sound like clones. [He looks a little harder.] Wait a minute. They are clones!

Leela: Don't let their identical DNA fool you. They differ on some key issues.

  Johnson: I say your three cent titanium tax goes too far.

  Jackson: And I say your three cent titanium tax doesn't go too far enough!

Fry: If I were registered to vote, I'd send these clowns a message by staying home on election day and dressing up like a clown.

Ah, subtle satire.

If the age-old axiom that "the more things change, the more they stay the same" is true of life then it is especially true in politics. To further stifle any progress hoped for by our founding fathers, we're stuck with a two-party system that resembles two conglomerates competing for nothing more than greater market share. Unlike a corporation, however, there is virtually no accountability. If a business continually fails to meet its projected revenue forecasts or repeatedly fails to satisfy the needs of the public the corporation will more than likely collapse as a better, more efficient company who can do these things replaces them in the market because there is such a vast and diverse number of corporations competing. Such is not the case in American politics; it is the corporate equivalent of a duopoly.

Currently neither political party lives in the fear of being disbanded or becoming “bankrupt,” nor does sending a “message” by voting out a particular candidate do anything to actually further the cause of progress. Whereas corporations sell us a quantifiable good or service, the political parties sell us rhetoric because they do not have to meet our expectations or accomplish goals; they only have to be a better option than the other guy. The Democrat’s strategy for elections over the past couple elections should be evidence enough. They have not presented an actual, tangible plan for resolving global issues that is better than the Republicans (which is tragic because there are plenty out there) but rather have trumpeted how terrible the current incumbents are and how they, like Jack Johnson, are nothing like John Jackson. After all, who else are you going to vote for? It’s either them or us.

Furthermore, accomplishing goals and finding real solutions to problems is counterproductive to this political model because it would effectively eliminate a means of maintaining power. Where would Republicans be without abortion? Where would Democrats be without the elderly in fear of losing social security? This problem is even further exacerbated by a single political party possessing market share over the whole of Government. That is why I’ll probably be voting Democrat this election year. Until a third party can raise sufficient capital to compete financially with the two existing conglomerates, voting third party or independent will not be a viable solution.

As is, we are stuck with this system of Government and if the two party system is not healthy for America, a single party controlling all facets is the plague. As a conservative, I still believe that a Republican ought to hold the office of the Presidency for this position has far more clout than any other branch – which alone should raise some red-flags for those who think an actual “republic” envisioned by our Founding Fathers was a great idea – but as far as Congress is concerned, things need to be shaken up. The irony of the Republican Party is that they are most effective and most productive when they are the underdogs. Democratic control over the House, or at best Congress, would not be the end of the world for Conservatives. If nothing else, it would re-ignite the passion of the early 90s and remind Republicans of why they were elected in the first place. The Republican Party has become complacent, mediocre, and quite frankly infested with people who are anything but conservative.

Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House would be the most pleasant vile I’d ever have to swallow if it would bring true conservatism back.

I should note that voting for Bill Nelson may be an extremely difficult decision to make. If I do go through with this, I'll have to hold my proverbial nose while I vote. I know Republicans hate Katherine Harris, but the more I read and hear her, the more I like her. Ignoring for a moment the fact that Nelson looks like Frankenstein on Botox, there is just nothing I see that validates this particular man being in office. I just don't get it.