Observation

Observations. These posts are akin to journal entries.

I Literally Cannot Title This Anything Save “Some Japanese Game”

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I can’t quote publications, but I’ve heard that Seattle is 12 times more culturally influential, per capita, than New York or Los Angeles. This is exactly the sort of self-aggrandizing comment that Seattlites love, and you can almost feel the populace rolling this idea around in their heads like a lozenge in their mouths.

It’s really kind of egotistical and gross. (more…)

Apropos To Our Phone/Tablet Discussion…

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This Link is Shamelessly Stolen from Eli Jones

Windows Phone OS On a 12in Tablet from Lizard Pro on Vimeo.

This afternoon, Eli linked to this video, showing the Windows Phone 7 interface running at 1280 x 800, AKA Tablet Computer resolution.

After my post a couple of days ago, I figured you guys might be intrigued. I was!

Microsoft, you are crazy if you don’t use this interface on a Tablet device.

Phones, Tablets, and the Future

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Windows Phone 7 Alongside an iPhone

I’ve been thinking a lot about technology, recently.

More specifically, my friend Eli Juicy Jones (Eli’s Blog) and I have been talking and thinking about the future of mobile devices.

Not too long ago, I was tapping a Facebook message into my iphone when I realized that it had been three days since I had last used my desktop computer. I was surprised by how capable my little digital Swiss Army Knife had become, despite (or perhaps, because of?) having seen its feature set grow through software updates and third party apps.
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Things I Am Fascinated With #1

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Hallway-Long History Exhibitions That Do Not Reside In Museums or Other Such Buildings of Record, Except Possibly Libraries, Depending On How Large and Museum-Like the Library Is.

Prospectors buying supplies in Seattle

The other day, I found myself utterly captivated by a long pictorial exhibition of Seattle during the Klondike Gold Rush. As I wandered down the long hallway upon whose walls these sepia toned memories hung, I realized the great incongruity of my experiences with these pieces and the experiences of the hurried businesspeople who walked the halls alongside me. As their shoes and rolling laptop cases CLICK-CLACKED down the subterranean tunnel between the Hilton and the conference center, I heard instead the sounds of the Seattle train yards of the 19th century. They were rushing to meetings; I was mentally running my fingers over the leather and wood seat of a merchant’s stagecoach. And while they chattered into their cell phones, it was all I could do to keep my teeth from chattering, so real was the icy chill of Chilkoot Pass to my imagination. (more…)

Scott Pilgrim vs The World

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Two days ago, I had the good fortune to see an advance screening of Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. When I left the theater, I had the distinct impression that I had learned a lot, about movies, about games, and about culture, and it’s taken me a couple of days of near constant thought to suss out my feelings about it.

So, is it good? Maybe. I certainly enjoyed myself. But I couldn’t help but feel that Scott Pilgrim succeeded in all of the ways that I expected it to fail, and failed in all of the ways that I expected it to succeed.
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My New Favorite Books, or, IT’S REESE’S PUFFS CEREAL!!!!!

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Reese's Puffs Cereal boxWhen a politician changes their mind, they are labeled a “flip-flopper” and are thus incentivized to stick to their ideological guns, evidence and personal growth be damned. I, however, harbor no such limitations, and it is in this spirit of personal fluidity that I change my favorite things quite frequently. I recently discovered and read what is my current favorite book, and I have been dying to get the time to share it with you here.

It’s two books, actually. Two books, seemingly unrelated, but like peanut butter and chocolate, they combine two great flavors to create not just Candy for Breakfast, but Reese’s Puffs Cereal! Except for your brain’s taste buds. Or something.

Anyway. I will extricate myself from this sticky swirl of a digression and deliver to you a literary combination that the painfully hip employees at the University Bookstore seem to be unaware of, given their generally uninspired shelf of Staff Recommendations.

I can’t be too harsh, though. It’s rare to find a long collection of fictional stories like The Years of Rice and Salt that can pair so well with a dense, data-enriched non-fiction book like Guns, Germs, and Steel. But here are two book so grounded, yet so grand and ambitious, that they can’t help but enrich each other in fascinating ways. (more…)

Kick-Ass

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Sometimes, it’s the movies that I like best that are the most difficult to write about.

It’s easy to pull apart and examine films that aren’t great. How to Train Your Dragon, for example, was a decent, though not spectacular, family-oriented animated romp. Its visuals were great, though lacking the polish of a Pixar film, and its story was cute enough, but it dragged somewhat to start and could’ve had a stronger script. C+, B- is its final score, in my opinion.

See? Easy.

On the other hand, approaching a film like Kick-Ass, a film so superbly crafted, so incredibly choreographed and so wittily incisive, is a tall order. Where do I start? Do I focus on its excitement, its beautifully bad-ass fight scenes that pit interesting, flawed, yet relatable heroes against shrewd enemies? Should I instead choose to focus on its commentary, the brainy aspects behind its perfected pugilism, and laud the fact that it examines and challenges the idea of vigilante justice in a similar way as Watchmen? Or maybe I should begin by talking about its quasi-realistic, Tarantino-esque style that intermixes images of brutal violence with the fantasy of superheroism?

I suppose that the most succinct way for me to communicate how I felt about Kick-Ass is to say that I’ve seen it three times, and believe that it was well worth it. It takes what I thought were the most interesting parts of Watchmen, namely the critical examination of normal people acting as a vigilante, costumed superheroes, and throws away all of the “inside baseball” type comic industry and culture trappings that make Watchmen somewhat difficult for non-fans to understand and take seriously. If you have any interest in watching an exciting action movie with interesting characters, you should definitely check it out.

In an entirely unrelated observation, anthypophora is so useful, rhetorically.

Nook 1.3: Now With Web Browser

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More buttons have been added to the home screen

The latest update for the Barnes and Noble Nook is out today.

This update adds

  • More speed improvements when reading books
  • A more robust Wi-Fi manager
  • Interactive Sudoku and Chess games
  • A beta version of a web browser

This is the most encouraging software update to the Nook yet. When I first heard about the Nook and thought about how a color touch screen interface would be utilized by an e-reader, I imagined that the touch screen would be used like a window into the e-paper screen. It could be used to display small sections of whatever is displayed on the top screen, presenting the user with a scrollable, touchable interface to make selecting words for highlights, notes, and reference simple and easy.

Of course, when the Nook shipped, it didn’t do this it all. Instead, it had a kludgy interface where a virtual D-Pad appeared on the bottom screen to control a cursor on the top screen that moved about as slow as a molasses.

The virtual D-Pad.

This update doesn’t fix this.

cwknight.com rendered on the Nook's new web browser

But what this update does do is show that at least one person doing software development for the Nook platform understands this idea. When surfing the web in the Nook’s new web browser, the bottom screen behaves in exactly the sort of way I described above. The top screen shows a black and white image of the entire page, and features a selection box exactly the size of the bottom screen overlayed on the web page. By scrolling with their fingers, the user can move this viewing box over the web page, and its contents are shown, interactive and in full color, on the Nook’s touch screen.

Shall we play a nice game of chess?

Playing games is done in a similar way. Again, the touch screen shows a sliver of the top screen’s action, and the user can smoothly scroll the view, allowing full and direct interaction with what is displayed on the top screen.

So while this update doesn’t add these same sorts of features to reading e-books for interacting with text, it is good to see that the Nook team is working on the problem and that they actually do understand exactly what the touch screen interface can do for them. It’s clear to me now that, in the long run, the Nook is the better choice for people interested in investing in a dedicated e-reader platform.

For those interested, I’m currently reading The Years of Rice and Salt.

Artists

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I just read Roger Ebert’s latest.

My addition to the cultural dialog:

If a bunch of people can get together with a stage, a set, a director, some lights, a script, and some imagination and make art, then why is it’s art-ness suddenly nullified when the director invites every member of the audience to play the starring role?

Here’s a photo gallery of the first 10 people that popped into my head when I thought of gaming’s auteurs.

For each of these men and women, I can say, without a doubt, that I interpret the world differently after having interacted with their work.

And for that, I thank them.

Wretched Writing

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How wretched you are, Writing!
Page upon page will never endure,
But ten lines can last forever.
A verse on a scrap can wrench hearts and minds
While gold trimmed volumes might warp only shelves.
A poor sculptor’s work is forever a thing
An ugly tchotchke on a loved one’s mantle.
But a writer’s failure has no grip on the world.
Where can I find the purity to write for Eternity?
Or must I find the courage to face sure obscurity?

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