Good month for Boston

My teams certainly know how to deliver a birthday present (although the Pats were a bit late...)

Red Sox

Besides hitting four consecutive homeruns on my birthday, the Sox dominated the Yanks so far this year. And I know the only thing more April-Rod than April-Rod is the Red Sox, but I am (as always) carefully optimistic. Why? The pitching staff. Last year, Schilling was inconsistent, Beckett was... bad, and there really wasn't much depth beyond those two other than steady Timmy. Love TIMM--EH! Southpark fans: timmy!, timmy!, timmy!

This year, Schilling is consistently placing the fastball, Beckett is throwing more pitches for strikes (less reliant on his fastball), Dice-K shows promise (needs to throw more strikes when ahead in the count--challenge hitters with his screwball, slider and gyroball rather than trying to get them to chase fastballs), Timmy is TIMM-EH, and John Lester should be in the rotation by June 1st. The bullpen is perhaps the best (or at least the most underrated) in baseball (Okijima, Timlin, Donnelly, not to mention that Papelbon guy. He's o.k.). The Red Sox don't have to win games 8-7 this year. Now they can win them 8-4. Their tied for the best record in baseball and Manny Ramirez is hitting below the mendoza line. Anyone who thinks Manny will be hitting below .250 by the all-star break, please, please, please tell me you are willing to bet a large sum of money. Please


Besides Sox nation, the Pats are showing that their is a method to their madness--that just because you don't give money to some free agents doesn't mean you don't give money to any free agent. I'll trade Branch and Givens for Thomas and Stalllworth any day (perhaps others wouldn't--but if you look at the money, that's essentially how the moves work out). The Pats, as exhibited with their 49ers trade, plan for tomorrow. The idea is to build a franchise, not a team. They are the anti-thesis of the Redskins and the early-ought Titans, and I would say the plan is working. Could the Pats have used a running back this season? Sure. But now they'll pick up a veteran, and still get the 49ers first-round pick next year. And chances are the 49ers will struggle without Norv Turner--Alex Smith has to prove that he can learn a new system and maintain progress without one of the best offensive co-ordinators in the history of the game. Good luck.

Finally, a few people have emailed me regarding the receiver formerly known as Randy Moss. He will know be known as "one of Tom Brady's options." And he will like it. Remember when Corey Dillion was a problem child? When the Bengals made an "addition by subtraction." Yeah, that was awesome. Dillion cost us a second round pick, so there was something at stake there. Moss? A fourth rounder? Act up, get cut. They've even worked that into his contract restructuring (which went quickly and without fuss). Like Dillion, Moss has been stuck on terrible teams, blamed for problems that are far beyond his reach, and played with a string of quarterbacks and offensive systems below NFL standards. He does have more character issues than Dillion, that I'll admit.

But, on the Patriots, he'll win. If he and Stallworth can learn the extremely complicated passing routes employed by the Pats (and there's a string of compitent wideouts who can't--see Doug Gabriel for the latest victim), then they will create incredibly difficult matchup problems for any team. Add to that a couple of underneath threats--Welker, Washington, Caldwell, Gaffney, and hopefully Brown (who, respectively, rock as 4-5-6 receivers rather than as 1-2-3) and the Pats offensive looks lethal. Oh, the five-wide out set. Oh, add to the mix Ben Watson. Oh, the matchups. Can't wait for Madden 08.


New Media, Video Games, and Interactivity

Feels like forever since I put up a quality post, hope to change that today. I've been copyediting a forthcoming book on new media and its impact on traditional conceptions of mind and body. Essentially, the author convincingly argues that new media continue / engender the deconstructive project: that mind and body can no longer be "split," that consciousness can no longer be considered as stable or unified. He seeks to show that our media have always intended to cover up this lack of unity (even going as far back as spoken language, a move that decontextualizes meaning from presence--every move away from presence continues a fragmentation of consciousness). Good book, I'll write more on this later. In discussing new media, the author brings up Lee Manovich's exceptions to describing new media as "interactive." The argument: media have always been interactive, since all literature requires the participation of human cognition. I feel this is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard in academia. Serisously. Especially since our first method for articulating digital text production on the internet (HYPERtext) stresses a-linearity. User participation. Its been a few years since I have written anything in this area, but I still tend to agree with Espen Aarseth: much of new media does stress interactivity (what Aarseth refers to as ergodic textuality), actually relies on it--not just to ascribe, decode, realize meaning, but more importantly to order, arrange, generate, enact plot / narrative. Not all video games, therefore, are ergodic. But this is a direction that some gaming genres are moving in: I think a great example is the early Silent Hill games, where character choices determine ending. There are certainly even more fluid environments (Fable comes to mind), not to mention dynasty sport games, second life simulation games, and MMO-RPG games. What makes these new (mediated) forms of experience is that people can interact in unpredictable ways to control the direction of the story. Sure there's still FF games, which, despite presenting expansive environments, follow linear plots. But to ignore the depth of interactive experience new media invloves is, well, quite ridiculous to me. I never mean to insinuate that humans can do without story. Far too much Aristotle and Johnson as an undergrad for that (and I'm a plot junkie to boot). There will always be an exhiliration tied to a great twist--an affective attachment to the unfolding of the unknown. But there is a new exhiliration available to a wide range of people-not an unfolding of the unknown, but the construction of it. An this is an equally affective experience. For instance, I am currently playing MLB: 2007, The Show, trying to make the Red Sox as a third baseman. Recently, I got called up to the majors, only to sit on the bench behind perennial all-star and gold glover Mike Lowell. I even asked Terry Francona (my manager) for a spot start twice--and both times he laughed in my face. That hurt. I really mean, I had a visceral reaction to failure--I felt frustration. And this frustration feeds into a plot that is dynamically emerging. Now, back in triple A, every time I hit a homerun (10 in 130 at bats) or drive in a clutch RBI (34 ribs in 31 games), I imagine what the Boston media might be asking Francona: when will the kid get a chance? And everytime I stirk out (which, I am ashamed to admit is quite often--I currently have six walks and 31 strikeouts), I imagine Francona and Epstein reminding the media that there 19 year old prospect needs to learn more plate discipline (earlier in the year I had a 21 walk to 23 strikeout ratio in double A, time to relax at the plate). My point, if I have one, is that video games facilitated cathartic / affective responses in "new" ways. So, I think I can make a strong case for how video games (if we consider them among new media) mandate that interactivity remains a key term in discussions / definitions of new media. Up next: how the internet is fundamentally interactive. Oh: I saw a trailer for this new game Portal this morning on G4tv. Looks VERY cool. Hope it comes out for Wii. Hope I can finally find a f@cking Wii.


DIS iz crAZ

One technolog that I haven't adopted is text messaging. I must admit, I don't get it. Why not just call someone? O.k., enough grumpy old chat, but I came across an interesting post today by a secondary teacher who instructs students to write their marginalia nots in IM. And that makes sense to me (empowering them to use a "cool" language with which they are comfortable). But I, for one, would certainly need a translator.


Steven Johnson Interview

While his new book doesn't sound as appealing to me as some of his other work, one of my favorite writers is back. Found a link to a very cool interview today. Good stuff.

I like Johnson's work because he makes me think about stuff I otherwise wouldn't. Of particular interest in the interview:

  1. First, I like how he discusses his relationship to science--framing it as a positive one rather than a deconstructive one. I'm working toward that. I hope.
  2. Second, I like his response to corporate/cosmopolitan development of third world cities--building them in London's shadow. As the interviewer points out--he's not going to win many post-colonial, humanities friends. But his one line response to the accusation that he's enacting the very imperialism that we spent almost an entire century deconstructing is priceless:
    “Be like London. Do it our way.” I mean, wasn’t that sort of the original imperialist mission?
    Yes, that’s right, though it depends on what “Be like London” is. If “be like London” is, “separate the drinking water from the waste,” then ...


Japan will never be the same

I've been having a really good week: I deposited my prospectus, set a defense date, won a multimedia writing award, gave a conference presentation without reading from a paper or notes, received a summer research grant, and got a job evaluating AP exams in Daytona this June. Not a bad week.

So, to reward myself, I bought a new game. I had just bought Fight Night 3 a few weeks ago, but it kinda stinks. Great graphics, cool interface (you spin the right analog to throw puches--quite cool, actually). But the career mode, well, sucks. Utterly. Completely unrealistic records, no meaningful stat tracking, and none of the depth or sophistication of Madden, NCAA, or MLB the Life. Glad I only paid 20 bucks.

New game: Samurai Worriors 2: Empires. I've played for about an hour--gut reactions:

  • Deep game, you could sink 200 hours into this thing no problem. There's somethig like 10 scenarios, each scenario gives you the option to play as one of 20 clans. So, do the math...
  • Combat is a bit simplistic, and the battle camera needs some work. But its not too bad, essentially you hit the square button a lot. So far I'm winning about half my battles--the problem I'm running into is I'll find myself (playing as the general) surrounded by about 35 opponents. And if your general dies, then the battle is over. I'm trying to get better at running away
  • The strategy isn't too deep--but you do have a number of choices (whether to research weapons, recruit armies, forge alliances, etc.)

Have to see if this one holds up for more than two weeks. I almost bought God of War II--but that's my reward for finishing my first dissertation chapter.


Another Top Ten: Albums

Sure its cliche, but I was thinking about this today on the drive into school--the ole "what ten albums would you take to a desert island?" question. Here's what I'm packing, in chronological order.
Miles Davis, Kind of Blue, 1959
I never claim to be a die-hard jazz fan, my jazz collection is about ten albums. I love writing to this album (along with Coltrain and Monk).
Jimi Hendrix, Radio One, 1967-8 [recorded]
Well mastered, live in studio tracks; the version of "Burning" on this disc is my probably my favorite Hendrix recording. I know they have re-released the complete BBC recordings, but this was the 3rd CD I ever bought--sentimental value runs deep
Jimi Hendrix, Electric Ladyland, 1968
This was the last album I put on the list--because there's some tracks on this album that I really dislike... but as a whole, this is the most sublime album in the history of guitar playing. From the jam of Voodoo Child to the "oh-my-fucking-God-that's-just-ridiculous" licks of the final three tracks (all competing in my top ten all-time tracks), EL is a master virtuoso performance. Though, if I brought this album to the island, I'd have to bring a guitar--I can't listen to this album and not pick up a guitar
Allman Bros, Beginnings, 1973
O.k., its a double album. And a re-release. Chill out. Eat a peach.
Guns 'n' Roses, Appetite for Destruction, 1987
I have to keep reminding myself that this is twenty years old. Many of my students weren't born when this album came out.
Pixies, Doolittle, 1989
Again, a college disc. But its hard to fathom how many other bands were influenced by the Pixies. My wife's a bigger fan of the earlier albums; I like them all but consider Doolittle a nice mix of polish and ferocity
Sublime, 40oz. to Freedom, 1992
This album reminds of college--and the sheer range of musical stylings and influences on this disc makes it still worth a listen. "Ball and Chain" ranks up high on my favorite all-time tracks, but I'll save that list for another day
Soul Coughing, Ruby Vroom, 1994
Few albums can claim to be unique. This album is one of them. I never felt any of their follow-ups captured the sophistication and energy of this CD. "True Dreams of Witcha" is the hightlight--smart, profound, and carefully crafted (without being "sound-painting")
Pearl Jam, Vs, 1995
I love Ten, too--but its too polished. There's a certain "rough-around-the-edges" violence to the mixing of this album; I'd rather be with an animal.
Ben Folds Five, Ben Folds Five, 1995
I'm a big fan of all Ben Folds's work, but this first CD remains my favorite. But that's just my philosophy.

Looking at the list, I feel a bit old. Nothing from this century (sigh). Number 11 would have been Lucky Boys Confusion--terrible name for a band, but a very tight sound with pretty incredible harmonies. Also kind of surprising that Metallica didn't make the list--despite the 25 or so CD's in my collection. I really like Metallica, but I guess there's no one CD that I couldn't live without.

Of course, I'll probably look back at this list in a day or two and realize I'm forgetting some other album "I couldn't live without."