Sunday, June 24, 2007

Obama Does Not Get It

[Above: Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill, speaks at a campaign stop in New York, Friday June 22, 2007.]

Sen. Barack Obama told a church convention Saturday that some right-wing evangelical leaders have exploited and politicized religious beliefs in an effort to sow division. "Somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and faith started being used to drive us apart," the Democratic presidential candidate said in a 30-minute speech before the national meeting of the United Church of Christ."Faith got hijacked, partly because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, all too eager to exploit what divides us," the Illinois senator said. "At every opportunity, they've told evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their church...."

I know of someone else who divided a lot of people in his time. His name was Jesus of Nazareth. Our faith is based on scripture, for faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Scripture discusses pagan societies that sacrificed newborn babies to their gods. Man looks at the outer appearance, but God judges the heart. Do you know what this means, Mr. Obama? It means that I doubt God makes a distinction between helpless newborn babies being thrown into the fire and unborn babies being butchered in abominable ways. With our tax dollars, without our consent.

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing. I cannot help but speak out against this atrocity that our country has embraced. Which is more disrespectful- to push a national agenda of infanticide, or to speak truth?

There is one God, He is Holy, there is one Lord over everything. There is one king. He is Jesus, king of glory, strong and mighty. He said "In as much as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto me." Think about it.

Dear Jesus, I am upset this morning. It is not just abortion that condems us, but my own sin. My sin. My sin put you on the cross, yet I regard it so flippantly. I rant about societies ills, but ignore my own. Please forgive me and cleanse me. Here is my sin. Please take it from me in my weakness and help me to see clearly. Please help me, a spoiled rich man. I can do nothing on my own. Awaken your Spirit within me. I love you. Glenn

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Spore Part One

Ok, I have been wanting to write about this for a while, but have put it off until now. The subject today is an up-and-coming release from Will Wright, creator of The Sims, Sim City, Civilization and various other simulation type games. He is quite famous in gaming circles and his products have moved the industry and made billions. [Above: Will Wright demonstrating Spore, which is under development]

The name of the game is called Spore. You begin the game as- get this- a microbe. A small bacteria swimming (or drifting) in the water trying to find a way to survive. As you travel, you happen upon certain different types of food source, which can help in different ways. You also have to try to avoid getting eaten. Some rare foods include ways of making your cellular structure more complex. There are choices involved here. Do I make myself more resistant to predators with an improved cell wall? Do I give myself a better means of locomotion? Do I obtain a better method of acquiring food? Do I increase the complexity of my DNA? This is simple evolution of a sorts, and is part of what makes it so fascinating to me as a science teacher. Additionally, all graphic animations are magnificently detailed and are drawn by the computer procedurally. In other words, as you play the environment is instantly developed and maintained by the computer with no lag.

Eventually, your little critter becomes a protist, a slightly larger creature which resembles a tiny dot swimming in a glass of pond water. Here, one can manipulate genes (obtained from the last growth phase) in order to purchase certain body types. Then the next phase of the game begins, this time with your customized little "swimmie," once again evading predators and trying to find food and obtain genetics which will allow it to mutate and adapt even more. At each stage in this process, more choices are made. Should I spend my development points on better brainpower? (A swimming brain is nice, but its kind of hard to survive when you can't move well, have no defenses, and no way of attacking food which now has developed ways of avoiding you.) One has to consider the payoffs and drawbacks in designing their creature.

After this phase is complete (and you have proven yourself successful at surviving in the environment) your little creature develops a backbone, and then it gets interesting. The mutation screen allows you to play with your creature as if it was a combination of Play Doh and Mr. Potatohead. There are all kinds of eyes, ears, legs, arms, tails, noses, grasping appendages, methods of eating, stingers, etc. Each is sizable, mutatable, rotatable and can go on any part of the body you want. You can put eyes in the back of its head and have its nose located directly over its rear end. You can have 1, 2, 3, 4 - heck even 12 legs. Each of these things costs points, but the great thing about it is that based on the number of legs and the spinal configuration, these creatures are brought to life by the computer and they move in the manner in which you designed their body. Make a one legged armadillo, for example. Because it hops to move, and cannot move fast, the only way it can protect itself is to spin and drill itself into the ground.

However, you don't have to leave the water. You can develop a race of giant, talking underwater squid, like the aliens from The Simpsons. More about that next time though. In the meanwhile, here's some video goodness from Will Wrights Spore presentation at E3, for those of you with high speed internet. Enjoy. (approx 35 minutes)

Spore Part Two

Eventually, one enters a tribal phase where your successful species will interact in group settings [see above.] More complex social interactions are available for purchase, such as religion, the ability to produce music or fire, and various other cultural landmarks. Other cultures of different organisms will be in competition with your own. They have will different physical and cultural characteristics. And always, there will be predators that can eat you if you should stray too far from home, where group protection is afforded.

Cities become available, and the game changes again as societies compete for conquest or survival. This is all one game, mind you.

Eventually, inter-stellar travel is developed and one can visit other worlds in other solar systems where players from around the world have uploaded their worlds and their creatures!

Spore was supposed to be released on October 1st, 2007. I was counting down the months from Christmas of 2006. In April though, as often happens in the gaming industry, the release date was bumped all the way to April of 2008. This was to effectively remove computer bugs and glitches and to put finishing touches on the game. So often, companies will push product out the door in order to recoup the tremendous investment they have made developing a game. Although I am personally dissappointed by this, I realize that Wright chose to do this so that he would not have to say, "Well, we wanted to implement this feature into the game, but did not have time to get it in before publication."

Now I am counting down the months until next year, when Spore gets released, and I will be able to populate an entire planet with clones of Sherilyn Fenn. It's all about creativity, which in my book translates into fun!

Here's more video embedded goodness =) (18 minutes)

Friday, June 22, 2007

I Am Not a Number

In 1966, there was a show that questioned the thinking of society. It was the first show to challenge the idea that the government is always on the side of the people it represents. Not only that, it suggested that it is the government's will to subjugate, depersonalize and supress the identity of the individual. Such ideas were unheard of in 1966. We never learn the name of the protagonist (hero) for the entire run of the show. He is always referred to as the number assigned to him by his captors, Number Six.

It is the story of a secret agent, a british spy, who decides to resign and go on a long and well deserved vacation. Spies have valuable information. The government does not want that information falling into the wrong hands. So they abduct him and hold him prisoner in a bizarre, nightmarish village resort of sorts, one that he can not leave. The populace there are subject to periodic psychological tortures until they cave and give their abductors the information they desire. Number Six calls these sheepish citizens of the Village "rotten cabbages." They have no will. No desire. No individuality.

By contrast, Number Six is vibrant. Alive. Unwavering and unwilling to submit to the system. "I will not make any deals with you. I've resigned. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own. I resign." His rebellion against this system is re-affirmed in each show's opening theme:
"Where am I?"
"In the Village."

"What do you want?"

"Whose side are you on?"

"That would be telling....
We want information.


INFORMATION!" (Some fans hear "In formation!")

"You won't get it."
"By hook or by crook, we will."

"Who are you?"
"The new Number Two."

"Who is Number One?"

"You are Number Six."(May be an answer - You are, Number Six)
"I am not a number — I am a free man!"
(Laughter from Number Two.)

Note the double meanings. Explanations are not forthcoming. Much of the appeal arises from unanswered questions, character intrigue, excellent pacing and compelling scriptwriting, not to mention the acting. In one episode, not one line of dialog is uttered for the first 23 minutes of the show. This is not the meaningless, blathering idiocy that one receives from "24," where each ticking second of the clock I wait with baited breath for Jack Bauer to get blown up. 24 reminds me of a show designed and scripted for ADHD coffee addicts. Three split screens of non stop action. [gag] Not that there's anything wrong with that. I actually care about the lead character in this series because I understand and empathize with him.

The show was called "The Prisoner," and it was the brainchild of Patrick McGoohan (who some of you may know as King Edward the Longshanks from Mel Gibson's Braveheart.) McGoohan had complete artistic control over his show as creator and lead star, and the budget for the show was greater than for any other show in its day, approximately $200,000 per episode. (Compare with Star Trek, with a budget of $150,000 per episode in 1969, including special effects.) Such opportunity is exceedingly rare.

In my own not-so-humble opinion, "The Prisoner" is even more meaningful and apt today. We are taxed by our social security numbers. Nearly everything we buy is numbered for inventory purposes, and if we use plastic, a record of what we bought, when and where is recorded and stored somewhere. Every number we call. Every account we have. School numbers. Employee numbers. Utility ID numbers. Car tags, license numbers and VIN's. Don't believe me? Run for political office somewhere and watch what happens. I have a freind that used to be involved in political campaigning, and he left when he discovered what dirty, crooked business is done in order to obtain "power."

Big brother is watching. Can ya hear me, ya bastards? I admire Number Six for his intelligence in observing this pattern and his bravery to stand up against what is wrong. By the way, for those of you who are government agents keeping tabs on me through my writings, I have found the buffet at Golden Corral to be particularly good.

Thanks to Mom for getting me the series for my birthday =).

Linkage goodness:

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Simon Cowell vs. Chef Gordon Ramsey

Sorry for my lack of posts- I am on summer vacation. To whet your appetite for more thoughts from my unusual brain, I decided a post on two tv reality villains would be in order [if you will pardon the puns.] What would happen if two of the most difficult of critics, Chef Gordon Ramsey and Simon Cowell were to meet and become critical of one another? Read on, dear reader, to discover what happens!

Chef Gordon Ramsey: Well, I can't believe we're on the same stage, here at Hell's Kitchen.

Simon Cowell: You belong nowhere near a stage.

Chef Ramsey: What???

Simon: Perhaps your simple mind cannot comprehend honesty. I said....

Chef Ramsey: [turning bright red] Oh, I HEARD what you said, I just can't believe it. What gives you, a gibbering, simpering...

Simon: You not only have no talent, you have negative talent. They should ship you to Iraq to feed the troops. Better yet, perhaps the local McDonalds has an opening.

Chef Ramsey: [Sneering] You little... tart! You're not even that, you're a pop tart! A pasty, bleached, artificially flavoured, [sic] chemically-filled, vacuous IDIOT!

Simon: [Smiling] The truth hurts, doesn't it?

Chef Ramsey: [Face contorting in anger] No one... has ever... used those words to me beforeinmyownkitchen. Sous Chefs! Get out here! We have someone to eject from Hell's Kitchen. Simon, give me your jacket.

[The sous chefs come out and stand behind Simon Cowell.]
Simon: You see... Gordon... or shall I call you Gordo? Perhaps Clamsee or Clumsee might be a more fitting term, hehe. Your sous chefs know which show has the higher ratings. I hired them earlier today to be my personal attendants, and tripled thier pay. The networks love me, the people hate me. That gives ME the power.

Chef Ramsey: I see the game you're playing Cowell. [Ramsey throws a knowing look at his sous chefs.] Well, then, I really don't mind doing what I am about to do. You know, Cowell, they don't call this Hell's Kitchen for nothing.

Cowell: [looking smug in his chair] Puh-lease, Clumsey. You're washed up. A joke. You are a cheap rip-off of... [Simon pauses as the sous chefs move around to stand behind Chef Ramsey.]

Chef Ramsey: [Smirking] Remember all those really BAD auditions you had to give? Don't bother getting up, you'll find you are quite incapable of doing so.

Cowell: What? What? What's happening? I CAN'T GET UP!

Chef Ramsey: Well, they are all back. All the bad ones that is. They are here to audition for you over and over again.

Cowell: You have super glue in my seat? Ok, ok I give! The joke is over!

Chef Ramsey: Oh, not quite. [A queue or line begins to form along the side of the dining area. A spotlight appears on a small side stage off to the side of the dining room.] Chefs! It's time to open Hell's Kitchen! [Two teams of chefs, a red team and a blue team line up in the kitchen.]

Contestant: Here is my song for you: [singing, badly would be an understatement] Micheal, row your boat ashore... halleluiegh....

Cowell: [shouting] No! No! No! This can't be happening!

Chef Ramsey: Not only that, but all the food that does not pass my quality inspection; the underdone meats, the burnt vegetables, the overly salted and cold, mushy, gritty, and pasty dishes that my inadequate chefs prepare- it's all coming straight to your table! Jacques! See to it that our customer receives and consumes all of our rejected food.

Matre' D Jacques: Yes, Chef!

Contestant: Michael, row, your boat ashore....

Cowell: You can't do this to me!

Chef Ramsey: Oh, well, I DID give you a chance to leave, didn't I? Pity....

Theme song from Hell's Kitchen: FIH-YAH! Woo woo woo wooo wooo woo! FIH-YAH! .....