Saturday, December 9, 2006

Video games do not help obsesity problem, report shows

The National Institute on Media and the Family released its 11th Video Game Report Card in late November, warning parents that certain games are making their children fat, stupid, and lazy yet aggressive. One claim in the report states that half of all obese gamers are aged six through 17, while "the amount of time kids spend playing video games is correlated with poorer grades in school and attention problems." There was also something...that...uh...oh yeah, the Institute also insinuates that "research shows that violent video game play increases aggression in young players in the short term," which may stay with the child as they grow older.

"It's really time to focus on the parents and urge parents to pay attention," said Senator Joseph Lieberman (D I D, Conn), who actually made a little sense as he joined the Institute during their news conference. Douglas "I Goenstein" Lowenstein, president of Entertainment Software Association, shot back, but then agreed anyway, arguing, "Finger-pointing and demonizing a form of entertainment that is embraced by the millennial generation is fruitless. Partnering with parents to help them help their kids pays off." Sadly, neither side discussed sterilizing parents.

The Institute recommended parents stick to these guidelines:

1. Follow the ratings.
2. Use Parental Controls.
3. Put your kids on a media diet.
4. Set limits and be willing to say "no."
5. Watch what your kids watch, play what your kids play.
6. Don't pee on your kids.

The last one wasn't on the list, but should have been. The Institute also released a list of bad games and good games. Nintendo wasn't cool enough to make the naughty list, but there were a few titles on the angelic list, including "Mario Hoops 3 on 3," "Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz," "Brain Age" and "Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: The Secret of the Ooze The March of the Minis."

The full report, which is only mildly inaccurate and misleading and does contain some useful information, can be read in its entirety here.

Nintendo doubles the pleasure, doubles the fun, doubles the controversy

Nintendo is enjoying its recent launch. The company of Mario and Zelda sold 476,000 Wii consoles in November, more than twice as many as Sony sold of its PS3, according to Reuters. To be fair, Sony only shipped a thousand PS3s to retailers. Microsoft can claim that it was the console leader in November, moving a whopping 511,000 consoles off shelves, but both the Wii and the PS3 launched in the middle of the month. If sales continue as they have, Nintendo will outsell both Sony and Microsoft in December, a crucial sales month due to, well, the holidays and all. Santa Claus is going to bring good little boys and girls a nice new video game console, unless their parents are poor; then Santa doesn't much care for you or your hovel.

While Nintendo continues to expect bountiful sales as its newest console launches in Europe, there have been some problems arising. As you may recall, Wii-motes have been flying out of people's hands due to vast amounts of exuberance mixed in with incompetence, leading to a recent CBS news report where Nintendo President Satoru Iwata noted that a few people were "getting a lot more excited than we'd expected," causing Nintendo to figure out a way to "to better communicate to people how to deal with Wii as a new form of entertainment." There were similar problems with wooden bats when baseball first became a sport; one story suggests 39 windows were broken in 1948 during a game between the the Bridgeport Yellow Stockings and the Allentown Black Mucous Cough Team.

However, the flying controllers may not be an issue if Interlink Electronics gets its way, according to a CBC News Report. The company is suing Nintendo for violating patents it was granted on February of last year, which includes "associated technical drawings for a 'Trigger Operated electronic Device,' which depict a device similar to a television remote control with a trigger under the front end." Interlink is seeking lost royalties and profits as well as other damages plus interest, and is requesting that the court "issue an immediate and permanent restraining order against Nintendo to halt the alleged infringement." Should the company succeed, it would obviously destroy Nintendo and the happiness of millions. However, if history is any indicator (lawsuits are usually decided based on facts, the law, and historical anecdotes), Nintendo should prevail, much the same way it did when Dakota Fanning claimed that the company illegally used her likeness for their character Cackletta (see below).

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Gil Meche to the Kansas City Royals for five years at $55 million

Yes, everything you read in the title is correct. Gil Meche. To the Royals. $55 million. This raises a few questions:

1) Where did the Royals get the money?
2) If they had the money, why didn't they spend it in previous years when the free agent market was cheaper and better?
3) Why would anyone want to spend five years with the Royals?

With the Red Sox, who had cried poverty last season and claimed they couldn't compete with the Yankees, spending money like Paris Hilton in a shoe shop, various mid-level players getting long-term, high-priced deals, and now the Royals ($37 million dollar payroll last year) bumping up their payroll an extra $11 million per year on one guy (career ERA/ERA+/WHIP 4.65/96/1.44), you have to wonder what the hell is going on in baseball. Has the amount of talent available on the free market made even the spendthrift teams lose their cool trying to get available scraps? Have teams simply lied about their financial issues in the past in order to placate fans angry about losing? Did the Phillies really give Adam Eaton 3 years at $24.5 million (4.40/92/ 1.36)?

Of course, when the Royals or Phillies are stuck paying Meche and Eaton for sub-par work, they could always claim that the Yankees' (Mets, etc.) massive payroll made them overspend to try and compete, and then they will cry that they are stuck because they can't swallow mistakes while the Yankees can. Whatever. No one made them make stupid decisions. Cashman is playing it cool, and he's not the only one. Clubs like the Braves are ignoring the overpriced free agent market like they usually do, choosing to promote from the minors and make key trades. That seems to be the smart thing to do this off-season.

If the rest of the postseason plays out like it has already, with Zito making over $100 million and other free agents scoring big while the Yankees remain quiet, this will be a hot stove year to remember. I suspect, however, that some years down the road a few teams will be loathe to remember this off-season. Yes, it is true that the Yankees can make a terrible deal like they did with Carl Pavano and still survive. The question is, can the Royals do the same with Gil Meche?

Addendum: My friend might chastise me for making so few jokes in this post, so here's a gem from Jackie Mason -

My grandfather always said, "Don't watch your money; watch your health." So one day while I was watching my health, someone stole my money. It was my grandfather.

Now that's what I call journalism

Daniel McQuade of Philadelphia Weekly reported on his blog about a truck spilling its contents on Interstate 95. The contents? Bananas. His post included this gem:

Full details can be found here.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Wii proves too complicated for average moron

According to Pat Beall via the Cox News Service, a website called Wii Have a Problem has started to share stories of people who don't know how to use a Wii controller without flinging it across the room and breaking something. The article is more serious in tone than the website, going so far as to quote a Wall Street Journal article which cited people "complaining of sore elbows and wrists after especially vigorous gaming sessions."

Not everyone is a flailing loon, however. KB employee Alex Parus explained that he "put the wrist strap on and then I threw my arm as hard as I could," wherein nothing happened. No wii-motes flying into television screens or soft baby skulls. "Unless people are damaging it somehow, I don't see how [the wrist strap] could break," he said.

The lesson from all of this is to temper your enthusiasm for the Wii before you or something else gets damaged. If you're about to dislocate your shoulder, you are not playing correctly.

Albums of the Month for Octember

As is my ritual, I post about an album that dominated my ears during a stretch of time, maybe provide a little video, have a little talk, we nosh, we laugh, everyone has fun. With the site down, I missed a chance to discuss October, so I'm just going to mash October and November into one.


After wandering into the Blues Brothers' "Briefcase Full of Blues," I got an urge to listen to, what else, the blues. The album I listened to the most was John Mayall and the Blues Breakers' "Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton," traditionally known as the Beano album because of the comic Clapton is reading on the cover of the record (or because Clapton had serious farting problems in the mid-60's). The blues was popular in England in the 60's, and by 1966 Eric Clapton was known as a virtuoso. While he wasn't quite "king of the slide guitar" (as Elmore James was), Clapton was considered a god by at least one grafiti artist, which is higher up on the royalty scale anyway. Clapton and fellow blues players helped usher in heavy metal, with Clapton forming Cream and other blues performers developing bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. So if you want to blame heavy metal on anyone, you can blame American blacks, who brought us the blues to begin with.

Anyway, between the Yardbirds and Cream, Clapton played with the Blues Breakers, the record displayed his ability to sear solos across various types of blues, from rockin' tracks to more traditional pieces. For some reason, there are some who don't approve much of blues by white musicians the same way we dismiss white rappers, but Mayall, Clapton and company combined reverence for the source material with exquisite musicianship and creativity to create a collection of originals and covers that could stand with any other album in the genre. Mayall himself was a master of the art, and his band was a training ground for many famous musicians, including Mick Taylor of the Stones.

If you watch this little documentary on Clapton, it's amazing to think what a fantastic decade he had during the 60's. He played with four great bands before tanking and making numerous mediocre records for the next thirty years.


Savatage's 1987 release "Hall of the Mountain King" would be one of my guilty pleasures if I could feel guilt over enjoying entertainment products. Since I listen to things for enjoyment rather than status, I don't care what people think. Besides, if people can listen to the entire indie genre and not feel shame, why should I?

"Hall" is chock full of delicious solos, catchy riffs, and energetic vocals. "Price You Pay" and "Strange Wings" are some of the most enjoyable songs Savatage has ever recorded, and in fact this might be their best album. The songs are addictive, not overly syrupy like technical power metal or too cheesy like pop metal, but just right. Goldilocks would have approved, had she not been viciously mauled by three angry bears.

This was Paul O'Neill's (not the baseball player or White House guy) first collaboration with the band, and you could see the hints of future concept albums in "Prelude to Madness" and the title track. Also of note, and perhaps appropriately due to the season, O'Neill and Savatage went on to form the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Here's the music video for the title track.

I guess sometimes all you need is a midget and a topless old man to make a video work.

If that floated your boated, then you may also enjoy the video for 24 Hours Ago off the same record.

Monday, December 4, 2006

After the fact, predictions of Wii success

Back in September, I linked you to an article by Sean Malstrom about Wii Fallacies, wherein Malstrom discussed different ideas about the Wii and its potential for success, including market disruption. As the Wii is currently selling well, major journalists are now thrusting the idea out there as if it were remarkable.

Jack Uldrich of the Motley Fool, who at least gets credit for discussing the idea, talks about market disruption and then quotes a Wall Street Journal article saying the same thing. The gist is that Nintendo is reaching a heretofore unreached market for games, and Sony better get its ass in gear if they don't want to miss the banana boat.

(via Joystiq, which was sent to me via reader CNE)

Demo-listen, man!

One thing Nintendo has lacked in the past is a widespread ability to sample games via demos. Well, with the Wii, Nintendo is changing this. According to the German language Cynamite website, "jetzt ist es offiziell: Neben Virtual-Console-Spielen werden Wii-Fans mit Internetzugang auch Demoversionen von Wii-Titeln herunterladen können." Ist wunderbar!

What's that, you don't speak German? Well, roughly translated, what the article says is that Wii owners can download demos onto either the internal or external memory, so long as you can actually download stuff (in other words, an Internet connection is required, preferably not Verizon DSL as that drifts in and out like an alcoholic on painkillers).

The first round of demo titles shall be announced soon, or at the very least, you'll know what they are when they become available to download.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

I will wait here for my Wii tonight, it's easy when you're big in Japan

In a move to mimic the style of Western gamers, video game fans in Japan have also been buying Nintendo's newest console, causing the Wii to be sold out in stores across the island nation. According to Masaki Kondo of Bloomberg News, Nintendo expects to sell four million Wiis across the globe by the end of the year, twice as many as Sony expects to sell.

"Unlike Sony, Nintendo has enough production capacity," said Etsuko Tamura, an analyst at Mizuho Investors Securities in Tokyo. "The company can achieve its sales target of six million in the year through March 2007," so long as it believes in the power of love and solid marketing.

In other news, Nintendo will release four Virtual Console games every Monday, according to Gaming (Naughty) Bits. The first foursome is due on the fourth of this month, with Donkey Kong Jr. of the NES ($5), Victory Run of the legendary TurboGrafx16 ($6), Columns of the Sega Genesis ($8), and Ristar of the Sega Genesis ($8). It's a good thing those games are available digitally, because they would surely be sold out otherwise!

Chris V: Victory Run? Also, I bought Sega's Smash Pack for the Dreamcast for less than $8, and it came with Columns along with 11 other games. Color me underwhelmed.

Hard Drivin'

I love commercials like that. It takes me back to the days of slapstick with luminaries such as Buster Keaton, Charles Chaplin, and the Stooges of Three. Well, maybe not, but it still makes me laugh. It's that type of random violence that keeps people watching "Family Guy," in part.

This isn't the first commercial like that, of course. There is this one, which someone claims Jetta ripped off (I doubt it; it's not an original idea), and this one, which is different and not quite as good. I also remember watching a commercial where a pregnant woman was complaining about wanting food in the middle of the night, so her husband reluctantly agrees to go out and buy ice cream or some other such food, because, well, he "loves her." As he's backing out of the driveway, a truck mashes his car. Believe it or not, I think it was a commercial for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, with the message being something like "be good to your family and your God because your ass is going to be annihilated soon." Something like that.

Atari published an arcade game called "Hard Drivin'" (hence the title of the post) which only did well due to the fact that players could crash and then get a slow motion replay of the spectacular accident (while the timer ticked down, of course). Trying to get the best looking wreck was the only goal for people, as the driving simulation itself was too unwieldy and lacking in fun.