Monday, November 26, 2007

Get the Sega portable from Coleco

I don't know if this is still available on the shelves of retailers, but a few months ago, I bought this small portable system by Coleco (that old toy company that made the Colecovision in the early 80s) that had over 20 Sega Master System and Game Gear games built right into the system. It was on clearance, I think I spent less than 10 bucks for it, so it might be hard to find now, or it will be. Anyway, if you can find it, I'd suggest picking it up. It's just classic gaming action on the go. Some of the games haven't aged that well, but just being able to play Columns again makes it really worth getting. Columns was a Sega puzzle game that was popular on Genesis and the Game Gear back in the day; I loved it, I think it's much better than Tetris. This has the Game Gear version, which is my personal favorite.

I remember having a Game Gear back in the day, and at one of my first jobs, a hotel, I remember hiding in an empty meeting room for hours and playing Game Gear in the dark. And this game can sink you in. I know it's gonna happen all over again, and it's very bright, so it's perfect to get into a game. It also has Super Columns in it, which I've only played once but it seems like a pretty good game. A couple of Sonic games, Altered Beast, Fantasy Zone, and a bunch of SMS games are included. So if you can get it, definitely do so.

Genesis Music Medley

I found this great video on Youtube, very well-edited in particular. It's an assortment of stills from classic Sega games, accompanied by memorable music from these games. Just a big thrill for an old school gamer like me. It has some of my favorites, like Golden Axe II, Columns, and Sonic the Hedgehog.

Candidates are hypocrites on the pot issue

Barack Obama is a center-right candidate like Hillary. While speaking about medical marijuana recently, he first said that he smoked pot as a teenager, then went on to say that while he doesn't support medical marijuana, he supports more research. This is typical doubletalk (or even tripletalk) from these lousy politicians. On top of the utter hypocrisy that every modern politician has expressed on the drug legalization issue, they even balk at supporting substances like marijuana for medicinal purposes. There doesn't need to be more research, a vast litany of it already exists that supports the use of medicinal marijuana.

"Research" is the new way for candidates to avoid giving a clear, definitive answer on an issue. Taking measures on climate change? No, we have to wait for more research to come in. Reforming a seriously wrongheaded drug policy? No, let's have some other bureaucratic agency write another report.

I never expected much out of this guy, Obama, but he's just another cheap suit. They all are.

Friday, November 23, 2007

An Incredible Invention

I found this on the Popular Science website. There is a recycling machine that pares down everything put into it, into oil. After just posting about American consumerism and Buy Nothing Day, it'd be pretty swell if this machine came to wide fruition. A Long Island auto-recycling plant is actually the first client.

Commercial for Buy Nothing Day

Here is a commercial of Buy Nothing Day from last year that sums up (in 30 seconds) what this is all about. The images of the effects that American consumerism has are very sobering. Even now, at 1 AM in the morning, there are hordes of people waiting outside department stores and shopping malls. I'm trying not to sound self-righteous about this, but I know I'm miserably failing at that. I just find gluttony of this nature really embarressing, especially when it's being viewed from the eyes of others in the world. Some time ago, I saw a documentary about Star Wars fandom. There's a scene that juxtaposes footage of people at a Toys R Us store at midnight when toys from Episode One went on sale, with footage of U.S. soldiers throwing food to kids in Serbia.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Buy Nothing Day

Tomorrow, which is considered Black Friday since it's the first day of the holiday shopping season, is also Buy Nothing Day. Over the years, BND has gone from being an escape from our obsession with consumerism and buying things, to a special occasion that symbolizes the importance of consuming less in this age of climate change.

A big flaw that I see in what's called sustainable development or buying green is that it's just a band-aid. If you're still consuming resources at a super-high rate, like most Americans (or Europeans), it isn't really going to matter if you're driving a hybrid car or buying eco-friendly stuff. Our very survival can depend on all of us shifting away from our rampant need for more and more stuff.

I went to a Target last year on Black Friday, when they opened at 6. I wasn't planning on it, I just couldn't sleep so I figured I'd walk there and check it out. It was embaressing to be a part of it. The line was pretty much wrapped around the store. And once the doors was chaos. People everywhere, carts smashing into each other. I got a few Simpsons DVD sets, and a quart of milk, and was probably the first person to check out of there. Everyone else was in a shopping, zombie-like frenzy.

But I'm no better than them. I was still there. I ask every time I shop, "do I really need to be buying this?" When I have a day off from work, I always used to like to go out. Now I find myself staying at home more, reading a book or watching a movie. You don't need to get up at 4 AM and get the newest TV or game system, when the one(s) you have are probably still working just fine. Think about what little acts like this can do for the Earth.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I know what I want for Christmas

This is Starbucks' 600 dollar espresso machine, co-designed by BMW. It looks so good. It'll help me on those long nights studying cases and legal theories. So, if you care about me and visit this site, go to the Starbucks site and net me one of these bad boys :)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Some appreciate democracy more than others

This is an article on Ukraine's young democracy and the exciting, offbeat things that happen in it during election time. The article contrasts Ukraine with Russia, where election results are often fixed and demonstrations are quickly dispersed, sometimes violently. But I was also thinking of the differences between Ukraine and us here in the U.S. Ukraine has a vibrant populace who are passionate about politics, and a media that actually asks the tough questions. Contrast that with the almost total apathy here (or in a few cases, blatant hostility) and the corporate media that marches in lockstep with whatever administration is in power and suppresses a lot of controversial stories.

It's granted that our government has been around much longer than Ukraine's has, and as our democracy started out young and wild and grew old and bitter, so too will probably Ukraine's. But after living under tyranny for so long, Ukraine realizes the importance of democracy much more broadly than we do.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"They" Say the Economy Will be Slowing . . .

Another great post from the Contemplation of Preponderance blog. It covers the absurdity of the current use of the term "inflation" and how our standard of living has fallen exponentially since the 70's and 80's. We squander a substansial amount of our paychecks in filling up our cars, we can't afford homes, yada yada yada. But the way she outlines this is just stunning. And it hit a chord with me. I recently had a career shift due to parting ways with my employer, I'm making less money now than before, I realized that I have a degree that's difficult to market, and now I'm returning to school next month to supplement my education. I'm not entirely complaining, I'm pretty excited about the program that I'm about to take and I'm confident that it'll take me to a place that I'd want to be. But I'm realistic in that I'm not going to have lots of money, or be able to buy a home like my parents. Our generation is really fucked.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Radio series examines consumerism

A new series on public radio (that you can listen to over the Internet) focuses on the consumerism of the American people. It's pretty rare that you see a business-themed program cover a topic like this, as it's examining what's pretty much the foundation of our economy: our endless need to have more "stuff". I'm going to try to listen to these segments (which are around 3 minutes long) in the coming weeks.

Something interesting in the segment I just heard was an interview with a longshoreman in California. A few years back, there was a strike and the cargo wasn't being moved. Within a week, Bush had to call everyone back to the table because shelves were starting to empty. And he also says that cargo deliveries can only increase, as our appeitite has no plans of slowing down anytime soon. Thanks to the Bru Notes for posting about this.

Voices of Uncertainty

When the network heads are talking to their shareholders about the Internet and digital content, they're telling them that they're making billions of dollars. That it's the wave of the future. But when a writer asks them? Than they say that the company isn't making any money on it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bring the Real World Home

This is a very good column in the New York Times about the Al-Jazeera English network. Al-Jazeera is an Arabic news network that became well known after 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan. They have launched an English version of the network. Our soldiers stationed in Kabul even watch it, but it's available in very few homes here. Many cable companies are pressured not to carry it by far-right wing groups.

I have never really seen Al-Jazeera; I remember visiting their website a few times, particularly when they had photos and video of dead American soldiers in Iraq. They are derided by "patriots" here for their supposedly slanderous coverage of America, and their positive coverage of Al-Qaeda. But since I've never seen it, I really can't comment on that. But any alternative to our commercial news media here is a great thing. The media's antics during the onset of the Iraq war, from the high-tech graphical themes with the booming music, the slogans ("Fight for Freedom", "The War Against Saddam"), the "embedded" reporters, were embarressing to me as an American.

I remember when those photos of American soldiers killed in combat were posted on Al-Qaeda's website, many people were very angry at them for showing those images. I lauded what they did, because in that time, many media outlets (especially in the U.S.) were engaging in the practice of sanitizing the war. You didn't see dead Americans, or mutiliated Iraqis on the 6 o'clock news. Those photos should have been a sobering reminder of what war is.

As Cohen states in the column, it's essential for Americans to expand their horizons and get their news (if they get it at all) from more than just Fox News or CNN. Our status as a country and a beacon is diminishing rapidly due to our blinding ignorance.

A Very Cool Thing

A couple of Army wives have started an organization to provide gaming systems and video games to our soldiers in Iraq. This is a great idea; games could certainly provide an escape from the troops' daily routine of evading bullets and mortar attacks. They're a great stress reliever. While I don't support the war, I fully applaud acts such as this.

To donate, please go to the Fun For Our Troops website.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

WGA Strike

I haven't really posted in the past few days because I've been following the strike by the Writer's Guild of America. If you haven't heard, which isn't surprising since the mainstream press has given it next to no coverage, the WGA walked out and went on strike last week after failing to come to an agreement with the media companies on the terms of a new contract. The WGA is a guild for screenwriters, the people who create and put the words in the mouths of the stars in our TV shows and movies. So they're basically the creators of a lot of the content we see on the screen, and as long as this strike happens, it won't be too long before we see a TV wasteland of reruns and crappy reality shows.

Which is a big shame. I'm a huge TV guy. I don't spend ridculous hours in front of the set, but I do have a lengthy list of shows I try to watch. By next month, all these shows should be in reruns, and due to the strike, it'll stay that way until it's settled. For an example of how bad this is, "24", my favorite show ever, has been postponed indefinitely. It's become a tradition to roll 24 out every January, with a 2-night, four hour premiere, and have it run for the rest of the season without a break. So, as I've read someone post elsewhere, this is like moving Christmas.

I support the writers 100 percent. The sticking points in why they've walked out and are picketing at studios every day are the issue of residuals for DVD sales and "new media" (meaning the Internet and IPods). A writer makes less than a penny on the dollar for every DVD of a TV show that's sold. And they receive no money at all when someone watches one of the shows they've written over the Internet. The producers (studios) claim that there's no money in the Internet. Or that it'll take them years before they figure out whether it can make a profit. I can tell you that that's bullshit. When I miss a show, I catch it on the Internet (which is very handy, I do have to admit that I love it). But there is advertising during the shows on the net as well. This ad time is being paid for, just like it is when you watch commercials on television. So the networks have to be making money on "new media." And they don't want to share any of that with the writers.

The tragic thing is, I don't see this ending well for the writers. They are going up against the mega-corporations that own the media and churn out the content that these people write. And the companies have bottomless pockets. Contrary to what you'd think, most screenwriters and television writers aren't millionaires, but simple middle-class people who are trying to pay their mortgage and raise their families. And writing isn't a constant, regular job. One of the reasons they're fighting for residuals is because writers go awhile in between gigs, and while they're finding that next job writing an episode, they live on the residuals they make.

This is a great link to a letter sent out by Shawn Ryan. Ryan is the creator of "The Shield", one of my favorite shows ever. It's entering its final season, and as Ryan wrote this letter, filming was about to begin on the final episode of the series. And Ryan won't be on the set because he's in solidarity with the writers. It really shows what's at stake in the strike.

I just hope I'm able to see the final season of "The Shield", and the new season of "24". But that all depends on if there's a limit to the studio's greed, which I'm not counting on. It might be just as well, I'm starting school next month and this'll give me more time to study. But give me new episodes of "24", "The Shield", and the 10 other shows I watch every week.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Another Example of how the Mainstream Media Distorts the Truth

I was watching CNN this morning, and there was a segment on a scheme by some state governments (including New York's) to give illegal immigrants drivers' licenses. The anchor said there was a "big debate" over the issue. Shortly afterwards, she turned to a poll (I'm not sure if it was traditional or online) asking people if they supported it or not. 83 percent said that they did not, while a mere 17 percent said they did.

That wasn't surprising to me. It's obviously a very unpopular idea, and one that I'm against as well. But how can it be a "debate" if over four-fifths of people don't want it? A debate is when it's split at 50-50, or 60-40, or even 70-30. But when you have more than 80 percent opposing something, there's no debate, it's a clear, overwhelming majority saying "we don't want this."

Yet another example of the corporate media trying to shove their own agenda down our throats.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Can lower consumer confidence be good?

Consumer confidence dropped last month. This is used as an indicator of where the economy could be headed, and is often used as a doom 'n gloom type of threat from economists. But as the Bru Notes points out to us, lower consumer confidence can be a good thing in the long run. You only have to take a look at the state of the planet to see where this constant consumption has gotten us. While it may sound good, in terms of maintaining domestic stability and keeping our jobs, it can have devastating effects in other areas.

To quote Tyler Durden, "I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need."

Sunday, November 4, 2007

One culprit for climat change that hasn't really been talked about

Cement, which is used to make concrete, makes up 5 percent of global CO2 emissions, more than the airline industry. This good article from the New York Times (thanks to Bru Notes) shows some of the inherent contradictions involved. While the world's largest cement maker, LaFarge, is pursuing green initatives in lowering emissions, this can be considered to be largely meaningless as they're making more cement than ever before. And some of the places where they're making this cement, like Ukraine, aren't regulated.

Man Robs Gas Station With NES Zapper

This story sounds like a "dumbass of the day" blog, but the consequences of this are kind of tragic. Two men in Kentucky robbed a gas station using an old NES Zapper, which was an orange light gun. They made off with only a hundred dollars, and needless to say, probably didn't get very far. They were sentenced to ten years in prison. One is 18, the other 20. They're kids.

They probably were represented by some dirt-poor Kentucky public defender. They didn't even go to trial, they pleaded and got the maximum sentence. They might as well have just taken their chances at trial.

Bush attacks Move On bloggers

See this video, in which Bush gets a sustained standing ovation after taking a shot at and Code Pink. But that's only one noteworthy part. He actually mentions Osama Bin Laden's name (remember him?) and has this to say about Congress:

"Congress needs to put the needs of those who put on the uniform ahead of their desire to spend more money."

This douche never ceases to amaze me. You'd think that after Iraq, that the absolute last person on Earth to take shots at anybody else over spending money would be W. Congress has nothing on Bush when it comes to spending (and wasting) countless amounts of OUR money. This is the guy, who every few months, comes hat in hand asking Congress for another 70 to 80 billion dollars to fund Iraq.

On top of that, the quote above makes no sense. What does Bush mean when he says that Congress has to consider the needs of those in uniform? He means that they have to spend money. So the desire to spend more money and to consider the needs of our military are really one and the same. So why does Bush want to send all our money over there, instead of having it put to use over here, where it's truly needed?

I'm back

After a short break, I'm probably gonna start posting regularly again. I just felt I needed a break from the blogging scene, and I've had other things going on, like enrolling in the program. So look for me to start posting again today.