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Archive for September, 2008

This was on my friend Steve’s site, and I just couldn’t resist. They’re just so darned cute! And yet, I wonder if I would have thought they were cool when I was 9.

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Complexity

The world is undergoing a revolution.  In fact, it isn’t irrational to claim that ever since the invention of the telegraph, the world has been undergoing one massive media revolution composed of many smaller revolutions.  With each extension of our bodies (as McLuhan defines a medium), we reconfigure ourselves—we reconstruct the ways our minds view reality, and this is supremely important.  

This week I’ve been thinking in particular about video games.

Video games are often left off of the list, and they have also often gotten a bad rap.  In the academy, I have often gotten the feeling that video games are seen as one of the lowest forms of entertainment—one that rots the brain, and it would be much better for one to simply read some good theory or a new novel—anything that is high culture, for goodness’ sake! Video games often get this bad rap for two reasons: the fact that they are unapologetically pop culture, and some specifically objectionable games that usually make the news (Grand Theft Auto, etc.).  

In the days of Pong, gaming was a simpler affair, and now games have much greater sophistication and greater graphics.  The goal of many of them is to feel more realistic, and those who see the video game glass as half empty usually see games as a form of the feelies or the centrifugal bumblepuppy.  There are distinct movements within gaming that point to a larger movement, and game designers and game consumers have both begun to be louder in their desire to be taken seriously as cultural contributors and as artists. 

Halo, for example, is an extremely sophisticated cultural artifact and as such speaks to issues as varied as environmentalism, humanism, globalism and globalization, the use of science, military criticism, political activism, religious extremism and violence, and technophilia.  Halo is a fascinating study for those interested in how new media work, because to understand Halo is to understand global business and economics, the cutting edge of digital art, wikis and user-based production philosophy, visual artistic expression, and most importantly, the concept of connection and communication in the 21st century. 

The nuance and sophistication of the artists who created Halo, the merciless demand of quality and subtlety required of so many of those consuming Halo, the knowing reconstitution information and product into countless re-presentations—all of these things speak to the organic quality of this piece of cultural production.  Halo, like many projects on the far forward curve of gaming production, has transcended the status of a mere toy.  It utilizes multiple media, multiple forums of expression to tell stories and create pieces of art.  The producers employ subtlety of narrative style, formal shifts and non-linear rabbit holes that keep the project expanding.  They are inventing new forms of communication.  These bricoleurs are largely the D&D nerds, the computer geeks, the people who in high school were the ones the jocks wouldn’t touch with a jousting pole.  These minds—the ones who have learned to see digital code in novels, colors in the street, philosophical material in virtual form, are the ones creating these new forms, and once again, they are largely ignored.  To be sure, they are part of the corporate gaming engine, but their enterprise is on the verge of becoming more than anyone could ever imagine even four years ago.  The way Halo—just one game, albeit the most successful console game in history—has reshaped the world speaks to the growing complexity of the culture and the desire for expression and community within the growing population of the world of those under 40. 

The world is growing, and growing restless.  Some see video games as a form of soma, but the games themselves play with the very idea artistically and reshape the conversation as it is happening.  

 

This week’s assignment: Google Halo 3.  See if what you find is representative of your conception of what video games are.  See if you can easily assimilate the meaning or complexity of the content and the form of all the hits.  Expand your view of communication, and embrace the vast panoramas that make Halo so unique.  These panoramas of structure, meaning, art, representation, and expression.

www.ilovebees.com

 

NEW MEANINGS FROM PIXELS

NEW MEANINGS FROM PIXELS

 

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I just got back from vacation, and it was awesome.  I needed to go somewhere far away and unwind, and this totally did the trick.  The scenery was totally high-res, except for a couple really lame places that bordered on analog, but for the most part it was really nice.  My wife really liked the solitude of our trip the best, but I liked the depth of the design and the rich color palate.  It was so much better than the stuff I see at home.  

 

   

The Hotel Lockout
The Hotel Lockout

 

 

This is a picture of our hotel in the northernmost part of our trip—a lonely little place called Lockout.  The lodging was kind of Spartan, but since we only were there for two nights, it was ok. 

While we were there, we visited an archeological dig camp—get this—in the snow! and got a great shot of the moon rising and the sun setting. It had an unearthly feel to it, and it wasn’t quite as cold as it looked. 

the archeology dig camp in the snow at dusk

the archeology dig camp in the snow at dusk

 

After two nights, we went to another spot—an astronomy camp!—away from the cold.  The typical mode of transport for the region is a kind of airplane/helicopter thing they call a Pelican. This is a great shot of the one right before ours leaving the tiny shack they call an airport.

A Pelican

A Pelican

   

The local village close to the astronomy camp—very quaint.  I like how they worked the architectural style with the landscape.

The local village--beautiful view!

The local village--beautiful view!

 

 

ruined building--Mayan or Cambodian?  Not so sure...

ruined building--Mayan or Cambodian? Not so sure...

An old building we explored next to the camp.  A great place for a picnic.  Apparently you can see the remnants of both Central American and Southeast Asian style in the architectural design.  At least, that was what the brochure said.  I really can’t see it…I hope it wasn’t a tourist façade like some of the Old West towns in New Mexico and Colorado that I’ve seen.

 

This part of the trip was maybe the most exciting for me.  We were able to work with some pretty well-known astronomers and actually use the equipment there to take some photos of stars and stuff.  It was pretty cool.  You can see some of the arrays in the distance.

Astronomy array--really pleasant and reminds me of Rohan!

Astronomy array--really pleasant and reminds me of Rohan!

 

 

We got to see this new space station that was made in space, and we took some cool pictures of it. 

 

Station from a distance

Station from a distance

The station with the sun behind it

The station with the sun behind it

Closeup view

Closeup view

Extreme closeup of the surface--really cool! What these engineers come up with these days!

Extreme closeup of the surface--really cool! What these engineers come up with these days!

 

 

 

The day we left there was some kind of malfunction in the space station and there were all these fires on it—I guess they had to evacuate and everything.  But that’s this picture—the last one I got. 

 

On fire--I wonder how much this cost NASA?

On fire--I wonder how much this cost NASA?

 

 <End Program> 

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Two weeks ago Melody and I visited Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve—which to some sounds downright nerdy, but to those who enjoy getting away from the bustle of the city and work and the confines of a clock or wristwatch, or the constant nagging cell-phone-ring-reminder that we have become slaves to our technology, it was an absolutely beautiful day.  I wrote the following at the beach:

 

We woke up pretty well-rested, despite the cargo trains lumbering on their tracks 50 feet from our heads. As soon as we stepped out the abnormally heavy and loud sliding glass door, the cool breeze hit our skin, ruffled our hair and pushed it back from our foreheads, and hugged us good morning.  We sat on the porch for a few minutes, looking at a very glassy Pacific Ocean that, at that hour of the day, looked as though it was hundreds of miles deep with its deep blue hue.

 

We walked the five minutes parallel to the beach to a small coffee shop—our typical morning haunt, called the Kailani Coffee Company.  The café mochas are always uncomfortably sweet, and I wonder sometimes if there is any coffee at all in them, but the lattes are not any better.  The bagels, though, are wonderful, and although the atmosphere is not superb, it’s the beach at San Clemente, and we sit outside, eating our bagels, drinking our oversweet brew, and watching joggers, bicyclers galore, and the odd Metrolink commuters walk by right in front of the Metrolink station.  The people who bring their dogs are the best, and the little patio outside the coffee shop is a truly excellent place to people watch.  I try to read my novel for class, but people and dogs keep stealing my attention from my book, and Mel and I talk together about what to do that day.

 

We decided to visit the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.  It’s a place we’ve never been to before, but we’ve read a lot about it.  It is one of the most significant birding places in Southern California with over 300 species of birds confirmed there.  We are always up for exploring an unknown place, so we got into the car and drove the 50 minutes or so to the site. 

 

As soon as we got out of the car, we realized it was going to be a unique day.  The preserve is a large area of wetlands with inlets from the sea creating a flat marshy area that resembles several different rivers sitting side by side.  There was a parking lot and a path that ran from the lot over a sturdy and low wooden footbridge, which we started towards, then stopped.  Across the inlet we saw more than a dozen white blobs, so we immediately reached for our binoculars.  They were Snowy Egrets, not a rare bird, to be sure, but they are water birds, so not often seen in Redlands, and almost never in these numbers.  The Great Egret is much larger, about the size of the Great Blue Heron, which we also saw in large numbers. 

 

Walking across the footbridge, we stopped and looked down into the water.  The shore was riddled in reeds and low vegetation, but towards the center of the inlet the water got deeper and clearer, although it remained shallow enough to see the bottom until it was more than five feet deep.  On the bottom, beds of clams sat, sifting the water, and hordes of small sea snails crept slowly around the bottom in their pretty spiral shells.  Round stingrays the size of dessert plates skimmed the bottom here and there, and schools of fish—tiny silver slivers of color—were ever-present under the long 150 meters of footbridge. 

 

We walked on in this beautiful place and saw Black Skimmers catching tiny fish in their bills as the skimmed the surface of the water, and when they caught something, their bills clapped shut like a trap. On one large strip of sand was a vast bird nursery where hundreds upon hundreds of birds had nests on the ground; there were also hundreds of Brown Pelicans, Terns of all kinds, shorebirds galore, and the two most interesting finds of the day for me: three Reddish Egrets, a very rare bird in Southern California, since it typically lives further south around Baja California, and a small Grey Houndfish Shark swimming slowly in very shallow water.  He was probably all of two and a half feet long. 

 

Yes, there wasn’t any shade.  It was hot.  But there were birds and wind and ocean and no time constraints—no looking at watches and saying we should probably be getting back; no schedules or rules or technology to get in the way.  Just the outside world—nature—and us.  And now I’m back in San Clemente, sitting watching the waves and feeling the breeze, and I have absolutely no idea what time it is.  We ate when we were hungry, and we’ll eat again when we’re hungry again.  But as for the time, I have no idea.  And you know what?  I don’t care.

 

Tomorrow we’ll get up when we want to.  We’ll watch the waves.  Then we’ll have some coffee and read.  Then we just might decide to go on another adventure.

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My first post!

I have read blogs for a long time.  I read them for fun, and use them in my research.  But I feel that for the first time, I have taken a big boy pill and traded in my myspace blog for a real blog.  I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoy writing it.  I have been blogging on myspace for a while; in fact, that is really the only thing I have used it for, but one day I had a moment of clarity, as I was wrestling with the controls to my blog.  (They weren’t responding to my pleas and were being downright belligerent, refusing to post the body of my post, which really was rather counterproductive, since that was exactly what the blog function was supposed to be doing–allow me to post my blog)  Whew!  

Anyway, I’ve taken a huge step forward when it comes to blogging, and I’m excited to have this space represent my ideas–good, bad, or ugly.  I’ll be writing about travel, media, spirituality, philosophy, and anything else that I think of.  So sit back with your laptop and enjoy.  I know I will.

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