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November 15, 2006

'Game On! The Unauthorized History of Video Games'

It's a two-hour special airing on CNBC (DirecTV channel 355) at 9 p.m. Eastern tonight.

I'm gonna watch it if I'm still awake.

Jose Antonio Vargas, in his front-page story in today's Washington Post Style section, wrote that "If you fall into that vast I-get-it-but-not-really gray area... [this] is the perfect primer, a comprehensive crash course on the relatively young history of the form."

Sign me up.

Here's the Post article.

    Video Game Primer Sticks With Easy Points

    For the most part, you either get video games or you don't.

    But if you fall into that vast I-get-it-but-not-really gray area, CNBC's two-hour documentary tonight on the history of video games is the perfect primer, a comprehensive crash course on the relatively young history of the form.

    That's two days before the launch of the PlayStation 3, four days before the Nintendo Wii drops, exactly 40 days before Christmas. In games, as in television, timing is everything.

    Narrated by CNBC anchor Bill Griffeth, "Game On!" pins the birth of video games to 1958, when Henry Higginbottom, a nuclear scientist at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, created a game called Tennis for Two. An engineer named Ralph Baer, considered the father of video games, took the game out of the lab and into the living room with the Magnavox Odyssey, a game system that sold 300,000 units in the early 1970s. A flop.

    It wasn't until Atari's Pong took everyone's quarters at an Andy Capp's Tavern in Silicon Valley that the modern video game took off. And except for what game historians gloomily refer to as the "crash" of the early 1980s, the industry has been on an incredible roll ever since, transforming the entertainment landscape along the way.

    Gamers, you've been warned. Nothing new here. If you're a hard-core gamer, it may be a little painful and somewhat embarrassing to hear Griffeth announce that "video games make fantasies come true" at the top of the show. And Keith Feinstein, a game historian, says that whether it's driving a race car, skiing down a mountain or being in a war, games "let you do what you always wanted to do."

    Where's Henry Jenkins, the MIT professor who's known as the "thinker" of the gaming industry and the author of the recent book "Convergence Culture," to talk about the influence of games on movies? He's not in the documentary.

    Still, there are some factoids that even the most fervent gamers might not know, and non-gamers might find fascinating. For example: Apple's Steve Jobs, a gamer himself, got his start at Atari, which was founded by Nolan Bushnell, who in his quest to market games outside the arcade also founded Chuck E. Cheese. Says Bushnell: "Children the world over are the same — they like fun, food, entertainment and games."

    No other entertainment medium is as influenced by technological advances as games. Every five years or so there's a reshuffling — from Sony's original PlayStation to the PlayStation 3, from Nintendo's Super Nintendo Entertainment System to the Wii, from Microsoft's Xbox to Xbox 360. "Game On!" chronicles the evolution, briefly but effectively, of Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft, now in an all-out war to get their share of a $30 billion global business.

    Inevitably the documentary also touches on the issue of violence in games, especially after the Columbine shootings. Sens. Joe Lieberman and Hillary Clinton make appearances. Last year, after a hidden sex scene was discovered in the ultra-violent and phenomenally popular Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the two lawmakers were the first to attack the industry.

    The documentary packs a lot into two hours, highlighting icons of the industry — Shigeru Miyamoto and Will Wright, two legends of interactive storytelling — and introducing some gamers. There's an 8-year-old cancer patient who makes his own video game that shoots cancer cells and puts cancer in remission. Then the two strangers, one in Philadelphia, the other in Seattle, who find romance in the online role-playing game Asheron's Call. And a married couple who are making real cash selling virtual items in the online community Second Life.

    Too bad "Game On!" doesn't focus enough on gamers. In hoping to appeal to those who don't get games, it shortchanges the viewers who do.


Note: if you miss it or fall asleep you can try again this coming Sunday evening, November 19, 2006, when it'll air again at 9 p.m. Eastern.

November 15, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Purrfect Cat Mood Detector — 'Check on your cat's state of mind without disturbing it'


Say what?

From the website:

    Purrfect Cat Mood Detector

    Watch your cat light up with the Purrfect Mood Detector.

    Wouldn't you like to see when your precious cat is happy?

    Takara's proprietary technology allows you to see when your cat is in a good mood!

    Purrfect Mood Detector contains a microphone and a red LED light which illuminates when the device detects the cat's happy purr.

    Simply place the Purrfect Mood Detector with the enclosed collar on your cat.

    Or, you can replace the enclosed collar with your cat's favorite collar!

    You too can be in a perfect mood when you see the Purrfect Mood Detector illuminate on your beloved cat!

    Works best with cats 6 months or older.

    Battery included


Alas, the item's being discontinued so there's a fire sale going on.

Regularly $14.99, now reduced to $8.99.

Don't hem and haw until next month when you decide it's the perfect gift for that special someone — because they'll be long since sold out.

And don't say I didn't give you fair warning.

And if we don't hear from Flautist re: this, someone better go knock on her door and make sure she's okay.

November 15, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Voice You Hear When You Read Silently — by Thomas Lux

is not silent, it is a speaking-
out-loud voice in your head: is it spoken,
a voice is saying it
as you read. It's the writer's words,
of course, in a literary sense
his or her voice, but the sound
of that voice is the sound of your voice.
Not the sound your friends know
or the sound of a tape played back
but your voice
caught in the dark cathedral
of your skull, your voice heard
by an internal ear informed by internal abstracts
and what you know by feeling,
having felt. It is your voice
saying, for example, the word barn
that the writer wrote
but the barn you say
is a barn you know or knew. The voice
in your head, speaking as you read,
never says anything neutrally — some people
hated the barn they knew,
some people love the barn they know
so you hear the word loaded
and a sensory constellation
is lit: horse-gnawed stalls,
hayloft, black heat tape wrapping
a water pipe, a slippery
spilled chirr of oats from a split sack,
the bony, filthy haunches of cows. . . .
And barn is only a noun — no verb
or subject has entered into the sentence yet!
The voice you hear when you read to yourself
is the clearest voice: you speak it
speaking to you.

November 15, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Contractor Space Pen


Zero hour, 9 a.m.

From the website:

    Contractor Space Pen

    The only pen you’ll need whether you work on the Space Shuttle or just around the house.

    Features include:

    • Ruler (cm and inches)

    • Level and cross level

    • Angle gauge

    • Plumb

    • Genuine pressurized Fisher Space Pen that writes at any angle on drywall, wood, metal, glass, plastic or rubber and in extremely cold temperature down to -50ºF.


All this science, I don't understand.


November 15, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

LEGO Fridge Magnets


From the website:

    LEGO® Classic Magnet Bricks

    Bricks for the fridge!

    Hang a favorite photo or card on the fridge (or any other metal surface) in LEGO style!

    Set includes 14 magnetic 2 x 4 bricks in different colors.


November 15, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Curbly — 'Love where you live'


Ben Moore is one of the founders of Curbly.

Okay, but what's Curbly?

I thought you'd never ask.

The short version's in the headline above.

The long version's in the blog: "Searches many diy/design sites."

In the list above meet all my new homeys (homies? I'm never sure...) who love sensuous, seductive surfaces as much as I do.

As Oscar Wilde remarked, "Only the shallow judge by more than appearances."

Or as I describe myself, shamelessly borrowing from Surface magazine's credo: "A mile wide and an inch deep."

Now where's my life preserver?

Maybe whoever occupied position 14 above grabbed it as they fell down the memory hole.

November 15, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bleak Wristbands


From the website:

    Bleak Wristbands

    All those bright rubber bracelets are so darned positive and life affirming.

    Don't any of those trendy folks that wear them ever have a bad day?

    Well, these bracelets are perfect for any day that is less than perfect.

    Wear one and you could be the tiny storm cloud in someone else's sunny day.


The set of 3 pictured up top is $5.95.

November 15, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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