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Jon Bishop

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On September 11th and Generational Blindness

Thursday, September 11th, 2014 - by Jon Bishop

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I was in seventh grade, and it happened at lunch. I don’t know what we were eating — chicken nuggets, most likely.

I wasn’t aware of it right away, but already there were whispers:  something happened in New York City, at the Twin Towers. Was it an accident? Or was it a malevolent act?

We’d find out later. My English teacher told us that planes had struck both lead towers of the World Trade Center. Another had hit the Pentagon. Strangely, I didn’t think anyone had died. I assumed the buildings were damaged and that they would later be repaired.

At the end of the day we were called down to an assembly and we were told that the whole thing was an accident. They gave us the usual spiel: talk to your parents; we’re here if you need us; it’s okay to cry.

I went home and turned on the news and stayed glued to it. They kept replaying the crash and the carnage: the explosions, the screaming. I was horrified.

This, of course, was no accident.

Obviously, I knew that what took place was a terrorist attack. But I couldn’t decipher the motivations.

And this led to something funny, perhaps darkly so: I recognized immediately that the Twin Towers were the two tallest buildings in New York City. So instead of viewing the attack as a Huntington-esque “clash of civilizations,” I assumed al-Qaeda wanted to destroy large buildings.

Our middle school was, I thought, the tallest building in town. Were we next?

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‘Weird Al’ Yankovic’s 10 Best Music Videos

Thursday, July 17th, 2014 - by Jon Bishop

“Weird Al” Yankovic, America’s favorite musical parodist, has a new album out. It’s titled Mandatory Fun and it features such songs as “Tacky,” which is a parody of Pharrell Williams’s “Happy,” and “Word Crimes,” a send-up of both Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and poor grammar.

But, if you’re a fan of “Weird Al,” you don’t only like the songs. You like the videos, too. So, in honor of all that, here are the top ten “Weird Al” music videos.

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Clickhole, the Onion’s New Parody Site, is Hilarious.

Friday, June 13th, 2014 - by Jon Bishop

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Go visit Clickhole to see ten chairs that think they’re people and to find out whether you’d share some french fries.

That the Onion decided to launch this site shows how much the Internet has changed – and whether that change is good or bad has yet to be determined. Still, it’s a good thing that it’s getting satirized — especially since the “content” style of blogging can generate some, well, amusing posts, such as when this writer discovered the existence of genre conventions.

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Interstellar Looks Astounding

Friday, May 23rd, 2014 - by Jon Bishop

It’s moving, breathtaking. And, again, it’s a trailer. Usually, that’s a bad sign, for it means that the studio wants to fill seats, but I don’t think that’s the case here — especially since Nolan is one of our most talented directors.

I’m calling it now:  this is going to be his best work. It’ll blow us all away.

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Is ‘#Selfie’ by the Chainsmokers A Shot At Millennials?

Friday, April 11th, 2014 - by Jon Bishop

1. The Chainsmokers selected perhaps one of the most obnoxious-sounding people on the planet to “narrate” the song. It’s almost caricature.

2. The beat is in a minor key, often used by musicians to designate something dark or ominous.

I could be completely wrong, of course. Still, what are your thoughts?

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This Sandwich Told Me He Wants to Run for President

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014 - by Jon Bishop

Standard-turkey-sandwichI met him at a small restaurant on a rainy Friday afternoon. He showed up at my table and said hello. I was surprised:  what was a toasted turkey sandwich doing at a burger joint?

And then he told me.

“I’m running for president,” he said.

He was unhappy with the rest of the menu. The candidates had too many tomatoes, too much honey mustard dressing. But he was just right.

I was skeptical. Many sandwiches have told me that they’re just right, and I believed them — only to be fooled in the end. They either tasted strangely or were overcooked or had missing ingredients.

I mentioned my concerns. He laughed. That’s why he was at the restaurant.

“I was hoping people would give me a chance. I didn’t want to be defined by the media,” he said.

It had happened before. He ran four years ago and was defeated when commentators found out that he contained cucumbers instead of pickles. Some of them tried to explain that pickles and cucumbers are, in fact, the same thing, but no one would hear it. They’d set the narrative. He was an elitist sandwich.

He wanted to know if I’d be willing to have a small bite. Right now? I asked. But I’d already eaten lunch. Still, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to sample a potential ’16 contender. So I obliged.

And man, was he good. He was honestly the best sandwich I’d ever tasted. I told him as much.

“Thanks,” he said. “Tell your friends. I want to start getting more name recognition.”

So that’s why I’m writing this post. Look out for turkey sandwich. Make sure you greet him when you see him sliding across town. Support him in the primaries.

He won’t let you down.

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4 Ways Websites Get You to Click

Sunday, March 9th, 2014 - by Jon Bishop

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Viral “content” dominates the Internet. We see it whenever we log in. Articles ask us to recall favorite items from our childhood or smile at funny animals or applaud someone’s accomplishments.

And we almost always click. The top stories from Facebook — and, to a lesser extent, Twitter – confirm it.

So how do they get us to do it?

4. Brevity

Once you click, you’ll notice that the information contained therein isn’t long. The articles are filled with pictures and pithy captions—which are almost always exclamatory. The writer wants to bring you into his piece, so, he’ll adopt the conversational tone of the internet:  abbreviations, questions, hyperbolic statements.

In fact, without the pictures, these pieces wouldn’t work as well as they do. Take a look at the Tumblr “Buzzfeed Articles Without the GIFs.” It looks like the online journal of a really excited high school student.

But that’s what gets you to read. Most people who are wasting time on Facebook and on Twitter are doing exactly that—wasting time. They’re not taking a break—or slacking—from work in order to read Denis Johnson’s latest story in the New Yorker. They want to zone out for a few minutes. As Derek Thompson observes:  ”For lack of a better term: [These stories are] entertainment.”

So people will scroll through something like this and then get back to the daily grind.

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Where Does the Left vs. Right Fight Come From?

Friday, January 31st, 2014 - by Jon Bishop

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We too often assume that the left and right divide began with the eruptions of the ’60s or with the presidency of FDR. It is in fact much older — ancient, even, for it is not out of the question to assume that Greece and Rome faced similar questions. So Yuval Levin, with his The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left, has done modern American political discourse an incredible service by reminding us to always consider the historical context.

Levin takes the reader on a guided tour of the Enlightenment-drenched late 18th century and demonstrates how Burke and Paine, who serve as Levin’s representatives for conservative liberalism and progressive liberalism, respectively, adapted the thinking of the age to their approach to political questions. He draws from both their letters and published works — which make for great reading, by the way. Both, after all, were wonderful rhetoricians.

Their two defining moments? The French and American Revolutions. Paine supported both, because he viewed them as serious expressions of Enlightenment liberalism — the crushing of institutions and traditions, the releasing of the individual from various constraints, the basis of all things on reason. As Levin notes, Burke, though he supported the American Revolution, was horrified by the French Revolution, viewing it as a “mortal threat to liberty” (29). He of course believed that good, free regimes were based upon habit, sentiment, and communal association — with the dead, the living, and the yet to be born.

If you are familiar with political philosophy, then neither of their positions will come as a surprise. What I think is most important about Levin’s book is this: he reminds us that the United States is not really heir to a truly conservative tradition. For instance: Burke was a conservative Whig. This is why a strong, objective sense of history is important. As Levin writes:

The revolutionaries who adopted Paine as their own would too often infuse his historical memory with socialist sensibilities that would have been largely foreign to Paine himself. And a great deal of the commentary (and even the scholarship) regarding Burke, particularly over the past century, has seemed to want to make him (even) more temperamentally conservative than he was, in the process overlooking important strains in his thinking (225).

Our nation was founded by a revolution, which, as Levin notes, is why many modern conservatives tend to sound like Paine in denouncing the excesses of the state while triumphing the individual. But they are also quite willing to craft policy that closely resembles the communal, tradition-based conservatism that Burke articulated (228-229).

The questions that so plagued many late 18th century thinkers remain: Was America, like Burke thought, a separation from England, but maintaining a form of its institutions? Or was it, as Paine would imagine, a total break, a completely new, reason-based nation (225)?

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Audrey Assad Is A Great Musician

Sunday, January 19th, 2014 - by Jon Bishop

I’ll admit that Christian rock isn’t my favorite music, but I’m always willing to make some exceptions — especially for someone as good as Audrey Assad. She’s got a nice, relaxed sound. It’s reminiscent of Norah Jones or Fiona Apple.

Anyway, I’ve posted one of my favorite tracks:  “O My Soul.” Check it out.

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Drunk at Dawn

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014 - by Jon Bishop

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Bill was drunk. He’d spent all night at his friend Eric’s party, where he became deeply acquainted with the contents of the bar—and that meant beer and whiskey and a mixed drink or two. He was awkward so he needed the alcohol.

He’d just started work at Miller and Jones, a small public relations firm that catered to those in politics or entertainment. This was his plan:  he would write about office life and he would send it to one of his clients and then he would sell books.

At least that’s what he told himself.

He was fired from his newspaper job three weeks ago. He was never a good journalist—he’d get facts wrong, miss deadlines, misquote people. But he also didn’t put in the effort. He wanted to write fiction. Doing this, he thought, was an impediment to that goal.

So he scanned the classifieds and he found an advertisement for this startup. He sent in an application. To his surprise they asked him to come for an interview. He scheduled one. They hired him.

On his first day of work, he met Eric, and they hit it off immediately. They talked books; they both liked to write.

Eric said:  “Hey, I’m having a party at my place this weekend. You should come out.”

He paused. He didn’t like parties. But he figured that, if he didn’t, it would destroy the blossoming friendship, and it would leave him alone, and he would have to find some other place to work.

So he said yes. And that was how it started.

Now it was about four in the morning and he had just finished attempting to talk to a really pretty girl whom he saw sitting on the couch. He asked her where she was from and what she liked to do but she had nothing to say. She only nodded her head slightly, as if listening to an enjoyable song, and then she shut her eyes and slumped over.

“Forget it,” he said, and then he left. He waved to Eric, who was eating a breakfast sandwich in the kitchen.

He spent most of the night drinking and people-watching. He figured he could get some good material for a story. Someone was bound to do or say something stupid or strange or frightening.

But he heard mostly run-of-the-mill office talk. Attendees discussed sports and hours and such. And Bill, of course, knew no one, and whenever he tried to join a conversation, he would stand next to someone or a group, expecting to be noticed or engaged. It didn’t happen.

The city was quiet, save for the occasional passing car.  It was still dark—and it was cold. He shivered and he rubbed his arms. The mist created by his breathing appeared in staccato puffs.

He walked up the street, found a park bench, and then he sat down. He had sobered up a little bit, but he wanted to wait a few more minutes before calling a cab to take him home.

He looked up at the sky and he saw that all things were bathed in a navy blue. Off in the distance were streaks of purple and orange.

Something deep within him stirred. He knew he wanted—had to, really—to write about this, so he pulled out his phone. He’d often make notes and save them. That way, he’d remember his projects.

He put it away and again glanced skyward and saw that it was now engulfed by an explosion of colors—oranges and reds and streaks of pink.

He sighed. This was better than anything he could have gleaned from the party. The cab can wait, he thought.

He smiled and waited for the rest of Creation to begin anew.

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Art Is Work. It Isn’t Theory.

Thursday, November 28th, 2013 - by Jon Bishop

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It is.

We forget that artistic talent — whether in writing or in painting or in music — comes from hard, grueling work. We tend to imagine that people like Michelangelo merely materialized and, once “inspired,” began producing great pieces. Or we assume that there exists some sort of theory that, if studied, will allow us to all become geniuses.

Robert Pinsky, the poet laureate from the United States, reminds us that this isn’t true.

Back in 2010, he wrote a blog post for Slate in which he discussed Michelangelo’s talent for poetry. The artist penned a depressing poem, one that details the struggle of undertaking such a large project as the Sistine Chapel. We can see how agonizing it was. I’ll post the first stanza below:

I’ve already grown a goiter from this torture,
hunched up here like a cat in Lombardy
(or anywhere else where the stagnant water’s poison).
My stomach’s squashed under my chin, my beard’s
pointing at heaven, my brain’s crushed in a casket,
my breast twists like a harpy’s. My brush,
above me all the time, dribbles paint
so my face makes a fine floor for droppings!

This does not sound like someone who effortlessly and breathlessly put together one of the finest pieces in Western civilization. In fact, he sounds like the rest of us: annoyed, tired, sick of the task at hand. We imagine that he probably screwed up and had to start over.

But he kept pushing. He overcame his misgivings, his stresses. And he left us with something eternal.

The Internet has given us a hyper-democratic age. Suddenly, everyone has declared himself an artist or a writer or a musician. But the key to greatness is not a blog or the empty praise of family and friends. It is not the five-subject notebook purchased at the local convenience store.

No, it is work and effort and failure and perseverance. And a lot of it.

Just think of Michelangelo.

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We Should All Be The Dude

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013 - by Jon Bishop

Everyone should try to emulate The Dude, the main character from the Coen Brothers’ cult classic The Big Lebowski. He’s a loyal friend. He’s adventurous. He puts others above himself. He’s virtuous.

And he is sustained by community.

Some might say, “But isn’t The Dude unemployed?” Well, yes. But viewers of the film will notice that Jeffrey Lebowski, the rich man who shares The Dude’s name, is successful, famous, powerful — and alone. Slacker Lebowski, who admits that he keeps busy with Krameresque odd jobs, is living a more human life than his counterpart.

And that’s why studying The Dude can help us combat the problems of our modern world.

We’re living in a paradox. We’re connected — perhaps more so than ever before — but we also, by choice or not, spend much of our time alone. The family continues to disintegrate. We maintain friendships through Facebook and the phone, but we recoil when we meet someone new. We prefer to stay attached to our devices, because they can help us avoid the awkwardness of genuine interaction.

And this is not a new problem. Many of us are trapped by romantic notions of individualism, forgetting that human beings are defined by their friendships and associations. I should know. Since graduation, I’ve worked as a freelance writer. And I’ve spent much of my time plopped on my couch, typing away on the laptop. Sometimes, during the day, my only interaction with others can come from social media.

It’s something I must stop.

I need to get out during the day — whether that means I go get coffee and introduce myself to someone new, head into the city and catch a show, or go to the mall. Anything will help. After all, stories come from lived experience. Locking yourself away and expecting to pen the next brilliant novel or essay or poem is crazy — which is why so many of the Romantic-era literati literally went insane.

But it’s not just me. Too many of us prefer to spend the evening locked inside, racking up the points on Candy Crush or clicking away on Tumblr or zoning out on Netflix. But why not head out with friends to a bar and drink until you’re giddy and then step outside and watch the stars shine as you stumble toward a cab? Why not get a group together and go hiking in the early morning so you can hear the birds sing and see the sun spill a kaleidoscope of colors across the sky as it makes its way higher, higher?

Why not go bowling?

The Dude abides.

thedude

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5 Ways To Defend Humanity With Anime Movies and Traditional British Philosophy

Thursday, August 15th, 2013 - by Jon Bishop
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In “5 Rules for California Roll Conservatives,” the beginning of this series, I explained how the world of sushi and conservative philosophy could align. Now let’s take a look at anime.

I recently watched Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.

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It is the tale of Chihiro Ogino, a girl whose parents are aloof and narcissistic. The family is moving, and Chihiro is unhappy about it. During the drive to their new home she spends most of the time complaining.

But then they take a wrong turn. They find a path that leads to an empty carnival and it is one filled with delicious, steaming foods. After assuming no one is around, her parents begin eating—but in gluttonous fashion. They soon morph into large pigs.

This is because Chihiro and her parents, without realizing it, have been whisked into a colorful and spiritual world.

It is in this world she learns the meaning of place and home, of friends and family. She overcomes her cowardice in order to become virtuous.  And then, finally, she is able to return home.

Miyazaki is a great filmmaker. His work dazzles and provokes. As such, I think Spirited Away has much to offer us beyond what you might read on Rotten Tomatoes.

It is another lesson in California Roll Conservatism.

Its principles: a prejudice toward the local, a respect for tradition, a recognition that man must be ordered toward God, the desire to pursue the permanent things, and the enjoyment of high culture.

So let’s get started.

For this installment, I’d like to introduce Roger Scruton, whom I believe is the ultimate California Roll Conservative.

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5 Rules for California-Roll Conservatives

Thursday, May 30th, 2013 - by Jon Bishop


I love sushi.

It’s delicious, refreshing, appetizing — any adjective applies, really. On weekends my friends and I can often be found snacking on sushi and drinking Mai Tais at our favorite restaurant. I personally like nigirizushi.

What’s funny is that I used to hate the thought of it. I hadn’t tried it; the idea of consuming raw fish made me sick. But then things changed.

One day at school the dining area was offering free sushi. I tried and was immediately hooked. Now it is one of my favorite dishes.

It’s also Jiro Ono’s.

He constantly thinks of sushi — how to prepare it, serve it, reinvent it. He has since he was a young boy. It’s why he was able to ascend to the top of the international sushi industry. His restaurant is one of the few awarded three stars by the Michelin guide. In order to eat there, you have to reserve a spot a few months in advance. And bring cash — about three hundred dollars or so.

Ono is the subject of the film Jiro Dreams of Sushi, which premiered in 2011. It’s currently streaming on Netflix. Throughout the film he imparts much wisdom unto the viewer. We learn, for instance, that he considers the practice of making sushi a craft — not surprising, especially since he is seen as a master. But it becomes increasingly clear that his life is one of virtue, prudence, hard work, and tradition. He honors family by passing down his sushi-making techniques to his sons, as well as his apprentices.

The film is rich, powerful, engaging, and thoughtful, and as such it has many ideas to teach its viewers; think of it as “California-Roll Conservatism.” As mentioned, sushi is an art — a craft — and those who enjoy it can discern the difference between a good and bad product. So, in a sense, there exists a hierarchical order in the world of sushi.

I would like to take this Asian cultural insight and combine it with traditionalist conservatism — the kind associated with some of my favorite thinkers such as Roger Scruton, Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk, and many others.

These are its principles: a prejudice toward the local, a respect for community and tradition, a recognition that man must be ordered toward God, the desire to pursue the permanent things, and the enjoyment of high culture.

A quick aside: As with sushi, I used to hate conservatism. This was back in high school or so. I started drifting to the right around my senior year. Everything clicked for me, however, in college:  it was when I discovered Leo Strauss, Scruton, and the meaning of the tragic in human affairs.

Here are five life lessons courtesy of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, and the beginning of coming to define California-Roll Conservatism.

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The End of Backwards Compatibility?

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013 - by Jon Bishop

Bryan Preston, in a recent post here at PJ Lifestyle, wrote:

Sony says that as things stand now, backward compatibility is not built into the PS4. Gamers will not be able to play legacy games on the new system, which may impact some of this year’s bigger releases like the Tomb Raider reboot. They say they’re working on it. They may be setting up to sell multiple forms of the PS4, some that will include backward compatibility for a price, and some that don’t. Backward compatibility can be gotten around via streaming games, but that requires hefty bandwidth that most American households still don’t have, or via downloads, which will take up valuable hard drive space and may create other issues. We’ll see. But the failure to provide backward compatibility from the get-go is an ominous sign that Sony may be looking to roll out their new box at one stated price, which is not the actual price gamers will end up paying if they want to keep playing their old Call of Duty titles on their shiny new systems.

I agree with him, but, sadly, backwards compatibility appears to be on the way out. According to Mark Deering of Gadget Insiders, the Microsoft 720 won’t be backwards compatible, either. It appears only Nintendo will allow its customers to play older games.

But it makes me wonder if Microsoft or Sony were ever interested in it at all.

Speaking from experience:  Microsoft only offered some backwards compatibility with its 360. And those games they said that worked often didn’t. So I gave up playing them on my system.

 

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VIDEO: Maggie Smith Goes 16-Bit in Retro Downton Abbey Game

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 - by Jon Bishop

The Super Nintendo and the country house — now, there’s a combination I don’t think anyone has ever imagined. According to Vanity Fair, Bill Kiley decided to bring Downton Abbey back to the 1990s and turn it into a game modeled after those of the now-defunct SNES.

Julie Miller writes:

Kiley began by simplifying the show’s theme song down to a video-game-befitting synthesizer remix. Over “a few really late nights,” the Downton buff culled images from video games including Clock Tower to mock up the resulting excerpt. By assuming the role of a new Downton footman, players are asked to complete several tasks from Lady Mary (spying on Mrs. Patmore to see if she is trying to poison Matthew), Anna (“If you can fluff five pillows in 20 seconds, I will let you read a letter from my jailed husband”), and Robert.

In dialogue that is spot-on for Super Nintendo (but might make Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes cringe), Lord Grantham asks, at one point, “Footman, I require assistance! I have misplaced 10 of my most cherished cigars . . . I have guests coming over for a fancy cigar party. Without them, I’ll be ruined . . . I need you to explore the estate and the surrounding grounds for my fancy cigars.”)

It seems like retro, eight-bit mock games are in right now. They’re all over the Internet. What’s interesting is this: they seem to be popping up — the same can be said of shows like Downton Abbey — as we continue to fly toward that elusive, seductive place called “progress.” I think this is a playful signal from the culture. It’s saying: Whoa. Uh, pump the breaks, please.

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Related at PJ Lifestyle:

7 Times Downton Abbey Has Jumped the Shark

5 Covert Conservative Lessons in Downton Abbey

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Dikembe Mutombo’s Save The World Is Hilarious And Highly Recommended

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012 - by Jon Bishop

Oh, Dikembe. You had me at “The Blurgpocalypse.”

Old Spice has created an ingenious ad — yes, an ad — that allows the player to control now-retired basketball player Dikembe Mutombo as he joins his friends Science the Bear and Random Turkey in a quest to stop the Mayan Calendar from reaching December 21. Along the way the player will encounter references to Gangam Style, Furbies, Twilight, and lots of munching on food. What makes this hilarious is the voice work by the real Mutombo. His gravely, dead-panned, accented delivery brings an extra bounce to what is already clever writing.

The link is here.

There are only two more weeks to play. Check it out. It’s worth your time — especially if you like basketball, fun pop culture references, and you appreciate old, eighties-style games.

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Related at PJ Lifestyle:

Why You Should Take the 2012 Apocalypse Seriously

VIDEO: Official Trailer of Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie

With Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, Video Games Edge Closer to Movie Territory

Why I Stopped Playing Video Games

VIDEO: Ohio State University Marching Band Recreates Classic Video Games

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The Halo 4 Case for Greatness

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012 - by Jon Bishop

Like many others, last Tuesday I picked up a copy of Halo 4 before going to oust our president. I immediately noticed that the game raises some interesting questions.

First: the meaning of greatness. Some context: The genetically-engineered super soldier and protagonist Master Chief is the last of his kind. And he, of course, saved the galaxy from the theocratic — shades of Al-Qaeda? — Covenant, a group of alien races that serve as the series’ primary villains.

A character in the game questions this. He certainly likes to kill, the character asks. Doesn’t that make him a sociopath?

The doctor who created him dismisses the claim. The Chief is a good man, she says. Look at his accomplishments.

Fans of the game will know that Master Chief stopped at nothing to defend humanity. He cares not for himself. He nearly died. And when we last saw him, he sat frozen in a ship, forever caught in the eternal drift of space.

Second: bioethics. As mentioned, characters begin to question the purpose of the SPARTAN program that created Master Chief. They’re right to do so: the leaders of the program stole children from their parents and replaced them with clones. They altered their DNA to make them perfect. And they fitted them with incredibly advanced armor. The kicker: all of the other SPARTAN soldiers died. Master Chief survived. Does human nature, then, even burst through the attempts of the technocrats and authoritarians who wish to play with it? These questions will likely be further explored as this new trilogy progresses.

We live in uncertain, turbulent times. Our president won re-election, and now he’ll attempt to complete the fundamental transformation of the United States, the dream of progressives since Woodrow Wilson.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

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VIDEO: Politics Should Be Just Like Mortal Kombat

Monday, October 8th, 2012 - by Jon Bishop

Via Romney’s Road Kill:  The GOP Presidential nomination contest staged as a video game fight.

On the road to the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney ran up quite a body count, from Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul and Rick Santorum. Now as the former Massachusetts governor gears up for his first debate with President Obama, Slate V is rolling out Political Kombat ’12, which recounts the story of the campaign as a series of video game fights.

Those growing up in the ’90s remember Mortal Kombat — the game in which you would pummel people to the sound of an epic yet cheesy soundtrack. It was violent. It was bloody — but cartoonishly so. Thus, it’s not hard to see what Slate is upto here. They — as many have throughout this election cycle — are making a comment on the supposed brutality of the Republican primary.

Well, yeah — but, let’s be honest. Politics has always been like that. What we’re seeing now is nothing different from the past. In fact, as Reason  points out in the video at the bottom of the page, attacks of history were sometimes worse than what we’re seeing today.

Which is why any student of history or politics should laugh at the language in the above quote:  “Mitt Romney ran up quite a body count.” (Emphasis added.)

The establishment media — even when joking, as Slate is here — never stops decrying the supposed “lack of civility” present in today’s politics. Oh, those SuperPACs! They’re frightening! And those mean, vicious ads — how dare they!

Their whining reminds me of the controversy that arose when Mortal Kombat first arrived. Worried parents refused to buy it for their children. It led to careerist lawyers filing lawsuits against game companies. They feared the violence it depicted.


But the game was substantive. It had a story and memorable characters. Each of them had something to gain or nothing to lose. Some were good, others were evil, and they all fought for a reason. By today’s standards the graphics are primitive, but at the time they dazzled. Overall, it was a well-done game that still holds up today. And its impact cannot be denied.

We should be thankful that Slate is comparing the primary to Mortal Kombat. It shows that our politics is still at least somewhat robust.

If the media and the civility police had their way, then political life would be nothing more than Pong.

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A Season Pass to Assassinate

Thursday, October 4th, 2012 - by Jon Bishop

We’re not talking about football.

Ben Miller of Examiner.com reports that Ubisoft has created a “season pass” for players who are interested in downloadable content. It will be available at a discount. Buying packs separately, according to the piece, is more expensive.

Obviously, this will be good for antsy or frugal gamers.

Something else that’s interesting: one such story will be about “The Tyranny of King Washington.” As quoted in the piece:

As the revolution comes to a close, a new and most unexpected enemy emerges. Driven by the desire to secure the fate of the colonies, the greatest hero of the revolution, George Washington, succumbs to the temptation of infinite power. The new King is born and his reign leaves no one untouched. To return freedom to the land our new hero must dethrone a tyrant he once called friend. Today, Ubisoft announces the Assassin’s Creed III Season Pass offer, granting access to all five upcoming downloadable content packs to gamers owning the original game on PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system, Microsoft’s Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system, and Windows PC.

Assassin’s Creed III downloadable content will feature “The Tyranny of King Washington,” an all-new single-player campaign told through three episodic content packs that lets gamers experience an alternate history of the events following the American Revolution.

Cool, cheap season pass: Check.

In-game lesson on the nature of limited government and ordered liberty: Check.

This is one game that you shouldn’t miss.

****

More video games at PJ Lifestyle:

Super Mario In Post-It Note Form Running Around the Room

When Will Video Game Consoles Take Up a Room in Your House?

Why I Stopped Playing Video Games

 

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The Slender Man Cometh

Saturday, August 25th, 2012 - by Jon Bishop

Sometimes, simple is better.

The freeware game “Slender,” which was made by indie developer Parsec Productions, is scary. I mean, like, really terrifying. I played it recently, and it gave me chills.

The plot: You’re a girl thrust in the midst of creepy, long, ominous woods. The sky is pitch, and there are no lights. You’re hit with the instruction: “Collect Eight Pages.”

That’s it. You’re off.

You find the first page and then you begin to hear loud slams — great, terrifying thumps and bangs. They’re steps.

Something is chasing you.

Not much more needs to be said. What’s impressive about this game, though, is that some guy made it on his computer. It cost pennies. A major developer would have spent a fortune and the product, sadly, would not have been as disturbing.

Charles Onyett, in a review for IGN, said the following:

Few horror games thrust you so directly into the heart of fear. All of Slender’s elements – the lack of a map, the threat of instant death, the slight element of unpredictability of the page locations – all contribute to a pervasive sense of hopeless vulnerability as you frantically flee an unknowable predator who may or may not be directly behind you.

He’s absolutely right.

Parsec Productions understands that large expenses are unnecessary to frighten. All that is needed is what’s primal:  the feeling of being lost in the woods, the darkness of night, the claustrophobia, the noises.

Everything hits the right note.

The best part is that it’s free. Head to their website and download it.

This is a great lesson to developers. When things become too convoluted, then you lose sight of the game. Keep it simple. People will come.

A note to those who might be interested: play it in a dark room and put on headphones. Wait until nightfall. Oh, and try to be near a light. You probably won’t sleep much.

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Gaming Forecast: Sunny With A Chance of Cloud-Based Software

Monday, July 9th, 2012 - by Jon Bishop

Ryan Lawler of Techcrunch.com reports that Sony has purchased Gaikai, a cloud-based company, for $380 million, which he says is a move that could potentially change the face of the industry:

Sony’s purchase of GaiKai could be a harbinger of things to come. For those unfamiliar, GaiKai provides a cloud-based service for accessing more than 40 popular video games online, without the need for any sort of fancy hardware. Early reports pointed to the possibility of extending PlayStation games to other platforms where games could be made available — including mobile devices, tablets, and kiosks — creating a sort of “PlayStation Anywhere” type of service. But I think the impact that the acquisition could have on Sony’s next game console could be even more dramatic.

There are problems with this software. For instance: “the infrastructure just might not be there yet to support it.”

Let’s face it, a lot of gamers — even those who subscribe to Xbox Live — are still stuck on DSL connections, which might not support the type of HD-quality graphics game providers would like to build.

There are also issues with cost and size and scope. That said, a move to cloud-based software would make sense for the industry. Streaming movies — and other media — onto a computer continues to soar in popularity. It would be absurd for video game companies to not consider something similar. Consumers, then, should expect to see test-runs of cloud-based systems within the coming years. Nothing will be immediate. As Lawler notes, “Microsoft and Sony already probably have their plans mostly hashed out for the next generation of hardware.”

Don’t be surprised, though, if the successors to the Playstation, XBox, and Wii resemble something like Netflix.

Stores like Gamestop should prepare for the change or else they will face extinction:

If the current issues surround cloud gaming are resolved – and with Sony now fully on board they surely will be – it could change the face of gaming forever. Our recent poll suggested people still want to be able to buy games at retail and own them on disc, but just as has happened with iTunes and Spotify for music, and Hulu and Netflix for television, it only needs services that work well for people to come round to the idea behind them.

Big things are coming…

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Supersize Me: Nintendo’s 3DS Goes XL

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012 - by Jon Bishop

Nintendo has announced that a larger version of its 3DS, appropriately titled the XL, will be released later this summer. Mashable.com reports that the system had slow sales and system problems. Nintendo says that the latest edition will correct these issues and hopefully lead to higher sales:

The refresh comes after initially underwhelming sales for the 3DS — a console that creates 3D images without the need for 3D glasses or other accessories. Nintendo has sold 18 million units of the 3DS since its launch in March 2011, but was a drag on earnings for the company that year. The company slashed prices earlier in the year for its Nintendo 3DS consoles from $249 to $169 to help boost sales, but the move ultimately backfired and influenced a hit on revenue.

The Washington Post has updates on the improvements which Nintendo made to the device:

The 3DS XL will boast a new 4.88 inch stereoscopic 3D display screen, an increase from the 3.53 inch screen in the current Nintendo 3DS model. The system’s secondary display, the touchscreen, will also see a size increase from 3 inches to 4.18 inches.

The new system will also boast extended battery life. Nintendo estimates that the 3DS XL will offer 3.5 to 6.5 hours of play time with 3DS titles, six to ten hours when playing DS titles.

The 3DS also operates as a sort of tablet computer, in that users can access the Internet, watch movies, and read books and newspapers. It has  received positive reviews. IGN referred to the 3DS as “the natural evolution of the Nintendo DSi system” and said that it was “impressively sharp and clean.”

What’s interesting about this is that it again demonstrates Nintendo’s willingness to innovate in an ever-changing market and pursue demographics beyond its base. This device should appeal to not only serious gamers, but the more casual user interested in fun mobile devices.

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Dr. Mario. Literally.

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012 - by Jon Bishop

According to an article in The Times of India, researchers from UC Berkley, the University of Rochester, and the Rochester Institute of Tehcnology have discovered that adults with lazy eye respond positively to video game-based treatment. Doctors previously thought the condition, amblyopia, to be untreatable once a patient reached maturity.

Now, however, things have changed:

In collaboration with Daphne Bavelier, PhD, of the University of Rochester and Jessica Bayliss, PhD, of Rochester Institute of Technology, Levi has been working on a new approach using video games for visual training.

The goal is develop a new type of action game that will combine the fun and excitement of video games while targeting the visual skills needed to improve visual performance in the weaker eye.

Initial clinical studies suggest that video games may improve several aspects of visual performance. In one recent study, this approach to perceptual learning led to recovery of three-dimensional stereo vision in adults with established amblyopia–even after decades without normal binocular vision.

And games not only assist patients. Doctors, too, have noted the advantage of using them for their medical training:

A reported 98 percent of medical students surveyed at the University of Michigan and University of Wisconsin-Madison liked the idea of using technology to enhance their medical education, according to a study published online in BMC Medical Education.

For example, a virtual environment could help medical students learn how to interview a patient or run a patient clinic. In the survey, 80 percent of students said computer games can have an educational value. (University of Michigan, 2010.)

Take note. Now, whenever some sanctimonious fool tells you to shut off the Wii or Xbox or Playstation, tell them: “I can’t. Doctor’s orders.”

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